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Guest Bloggers

February 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

One of the reasons that I abandoned Facebook for personal blogging (other than their failure to pay a fair amount of tax) was due to the general lack of interest by others about the subjects that I wrote. It’s funny, I miss the discussions with the handful of people that did share my views and got involved, but also the opposing opinions of family and friends.

So I’ve been considering introducing a guest blog section and inviting other people that I know to speak about subjects that they are passionate about. I recently discussed species conservation after reading about extinction of the Javan Rhinos – which I initially got wrong! However, it lacked something that the other subjects like climate change, plastic pollution, and mental health always seem to elicit in me – a strong emotional response, a passion for the subject. Don’t misunderstand me, I have strong views about species conservation and some basic knowledge from my zoology days but there are people within my circle that have more knowledge and an obvious passion when they speak about this subject. I should ask them to write about this stuff, I thought.

Expanding on the idea, I thought that debate comes from views of all sides. I have a ‘need’ – sometimes an unhealthy desire – for trying to understand why other people think the way they do, and also sometimes trying to understand my own ethical reasoning. It’s a frustrating subject, especially for someone with mental health issues, but it’s important if we hope to make change for the better.

There are questions that I want to ask people, like ‘why don’t they believe that climate change is important?’, ‘why we teach the next generation that money is so important?’, ‘why purchasing unnecessary stuff rather than donating it to a developing community oversea takes priority?, ‘why people seem to joke about my small efforts to change the world?’, ‘has my mental health affected their lives too?’, etc, etc, etc.

And I wanted to understand the views, not only from my generation but from the generations before, and the future generations.

If I ask you to be a guest blogger, be privileged that I consider your opinion an important one – and be as open and honest as you like, because I won’t be editing it. And like Wendy, all writers will have the choice of writing under a pseudonym, so nobody gets to dismiss the words of a nine year old school girl who likes to dance, or a Cuban woman with political views, or a gay interior designer, or a black Jamaican women with mental illness, or a born-again Canadian wild man, or a Swedish conservationist, or a teenager on the road to Oxbridge, or a comedian in a wheelchair after a massive stroke, or a prisoner’s mother – or any of the other people I call family and friends!

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When I wrote a children’s book entitled ‘Fourteen Daily Farts‘, I read that female writers do better than male writers in the children’s section – so Wendy O’Bregan was born.

We had been told that my family name had been Anglicised from the original Gaelic – although we had also been told by my Nan that we were French royalty too – and I wanted my psuedonym to be connect to me in some way. The first name of Wendy had come from my first initial and the book Peter Pan, and because she sounded like someone I would like to know.

On New Year’s Eve, I decided to start writing again but this time I would be writing about personal experiences and opinions. I was not embarrassed about the subjects I would choose, as many had been discussed openly on my personal Facebook account, but I was concerned that I would be pigeon-holed by the readers and labelled – either as something that I wasn’t or was!

I thought about all the possible labels that I could give myself – my sex, my race, my age, my sexuality, my mental health. All of them would carry some prejudice and only my previous religious status was vague and ambiguous enough – hence ‘A Lapsed Catholic‘ was conceived and Wendy O’Bregan would front it.

I have and always will write as myself rather than Wendy, and want to raise awareness about things that I’m passionate about, like the environment, mental health, equality, ethics, etc. However, I don’t want to be accused of being embarrassed about discussing who I am – especially when discussing mental health. I have been diagnosed with the mental illness bipolar disorder and have worked very hard to raise awareness for mental health. I am very proud of my achievements and I’m not embarrassed to talk about my mental illness.

Today, I have a blog published on Black Dog Tribe under the name Wendy. For those of you who are wondering who Wendy is then she is me – my name is Wayne Banks and generally I don’t like labels but understand that sometimes labels can help other people to empathise and feel that they are not alone.

I was surprised at the negative press and general online comments that Jodie Foster received after her ‘I’m single’ speech at the Golden Globe this week. Do people no longer have the right to privacy when discussing their sexuality? Is this especially true for celebrities?

This was a speech by a 50 year old women with a tonge-in-cheek reference to rumours surrounding her sexuality but more importantly it was about privacy. She referred to the children she has with her ex-partner Cydney Bernard and spoke with genuine love for her.

“… my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love…. – I am so proud of our modern family”

She also spoke about having come out to family and friends a thousand years ago and that she is a private – and boring – person.

She didn’t mention the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, or any other label that people may choose to place upon her, and she didn’t make a speech supporting the great work of the charity Stonewall. But neither did she speak about supporting the great work of the charities dedicated to mental health and dementia, which her mother suffers.

“Mom, I know you are inside those blue eyes somewhere”

What she did was to speak openly and honestly about parts of her private life to the world but mostly to direct all of the sentiment to the people she loves – and I found that inspirational.

So back to my question…. Does coming out need to be a fan fair?

I watch a video yesterday by a young teenage boy called Harry Hitchens, who appeared on The Young Apprentice, called ‘I’m Gay’. This was a coming out to the world video and was performed in a very positive and informative way, and I won’t take anything away from this brave young role model. Harry is trying to question public attitudes, and in his latest video questions assumptions about where people live. He also lost 108 Twitter followers as a result of coming out, so please add your support by following him on Twitter and sharing his video.

George Clooney is a vocal support of equality, yet has chosen to stay quiet about his sexuality, stating that he doesn’t give a shit if people think he is gay or straight, and I think that Jodie Foster was in some way saying the same thing. Yet I seem to be in a minority as this article in New Statesmen summarises.

My point is that sometimes changing attitudes doesn’t have to involve in your face actions, demands, and unwavered support for the cause, but can sometimes start with changing the attitudes of the people closest to you and then the rest of the world, one person at a time.

The first openly gay American politician Harvey Milk said….

“Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better”

…. but he didn’t say how to do it.

Skivers v strivers: the argument that pollutes people’s minds

“The question has often been asked; Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? It does not matter what you call it. Buddhism remains what it is whatever label you may put on it. The label is immaterial. Even the label ‘Buddhism’ which we give to the teachings of the Buddha is of little importance. The name one gives is inessential…. In the same way Truth needs no label: it is neither Buddhist, Christian, Hindu nor Moslem. It is not the monopoly of anybody. Sectarian labels are a hindrance to the independent understanding of Truth, and they produce harmful prejudices in men’s minds.”

Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught with Texts