Greetings my friends and welcome to my first post for the 2014 Hop Against Homophobia & Transphobia. As one of the organizers, I want to thank you for joining us in our third year. If you recall, we began this journey in conjunction with the International Day Against Homophobia and there are a lot of useful links and information over there. Give them a looksee when you have a moment.
I hope you find interesting, thought-provoking posts that you feel the need to share with family and friends. Remember, word of mouth is the best way to pass along understanding and encourage change.
Before I go any further and because I have more than one post in mind for the next week or so, this will page will act as my master post to the HAHAT. So check back with it if you think you've missed something. There will also be a list of links for all the participants in the HAHAT at the end of all my posts.
I have a few topics in mind this year, including one on LGBT athletes in professional team sports. I'll also run a couple of interviews—which I really enjoy organizing because then I get to sit back and let others introduce and speculate about themselves, and the world around them.
My first topic is mentoring which I believe is very important in any community, but especially one so encased with so much negativity and rejection. Mentorship is defined "as a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. However, true mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue, and challenge."
My belief is that mentoring is key tool in validating the feelings and overall well-being of our youth. I live in a city of over a million people, and though we're considered a "cowtown" and not very forward thinking in gay issues as some others may be, we do have mentoring programs including a Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. I encourage you to check out your local mentoring programs and offer them your support.
To help me in my first post of the HAHAT and to give you his views on what mentoring means to him, please welcome a familiar face to my blog. Benjamine Heath—or Benny Morecock, he answers to both. He was kind enough to do an interview with me last year, along with his partners Jake Jaxson and RJ Sebastian, and he's back this time around. If you haven't read the interview from last year, it just so happens I have a link.
Jake and RJ will (hopefully) be doing their own interviews later in the week but for now, let's concentrate on Benny.
If I'm the brains at CockyBoys, Jake Jaxson is the vision and RJ Sebastian is the body. I handle all the technical website work, and I curate the images and content of the site so you see our most beautiful work. I try to incorporate healthy living into my work and personal life, through yoga, meditation, and compassion, so that we can create safe and loving environments for ourselves, our employees, models and fans.
Thanks for being here again, Benny. Since we did a pretty insightful interview last time, I thought we'd concentrate on something specific this time around. From my intro, you can see I've chosen mentoring as my topic de jour. Here we go.
First of all, what does mentoring mean to you?
Mentoring to me – it’s about being guided through the journey and obstacles of life. It’s about when you come across a situation that you don’t quite know how to navigate, that you can have someone that’s already been there and done that—and maybe even made the mistakes that you’re about to make—and knowing that you have a guide with a map to gently point you in the right direction.
Did you have any specific mentors when you were growing up? Were you more apt to look up to people you knew and had actual contact with or were your mentors public figures that you looked up to? Do you still have mentors or is that something people outgrow?
I didn’t have a lot of mentors or role models growing up—so I had difficulty finding my own way to becoming a good, responsible person. The only person that I can remember as a mentor was one of my stepfathers. I remember distinctly that he was the first person in my life that ever taught me table manners, responsibility, dedication, being truthful. He was only with my mom for about a year, but I still remember his guidance as having one of the largest impacts of my childhood. It would have made growing up much easier had he been around longer.
Now that I’m older, I still have many mentors. The difference now is that I know the importance of having mentors, and that we have the power to cultivate healthy relationships in our lives. I feel lucky in that I have the privilege of knowing many amazing people with depths of experience that I can tap into.
Because life is difficult. We’ll make right choices, we’ll make wrong choices, and more often we’ll have no idea what choice to make—especially within the gay community, where we can sometimes be surrounded by hate, or become engaged in unhealthy lifestyles. So often, especially in our youth, we make bad life decisions and mistakes because we haven’t recognized that fact, “Hey, maybe I don’t know all the answers.” And most importantly, making the choice to surround yourself by healthy people.
There are a lot of online support groups that could be considered mentoring programs. Do you think such programs or even just individual online contact in a mentoring relationship, are as effective as meeting someone in person? Is sharing your private life with the public, for example the dynamic of your relationship, a form of mentoring as well?
There’s nothing more powerful than having a face-to-face connection with someone. However, if you don’t have that ability, for instance if you’re in a community where it’s harder to find mentors, then I think online contact can be just as helpful and making you feel connected. However, I think too many people think of social media—especially Twitter and Facebook—as replacements for this. People think they can be a mentor to someone with 140 characters, and that’s just not the case.
I've read statements by some of the young men you employ who consider you, Jake & Rj to be mentors to them. How does that make you feel? Do you consider yourselves mentors in that capacity or is all just part of caring for others?
It’s just part of how we do business. Our business is so integrated with our personal lives in that we can never really unplug from it. Because of that, we can only do business the same way that we live our lives—ethically, making sure our models are making the right, healthy choices for themselves, and creating a safe environment for everyone involved. Otherwise, we just wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
This question isn't asked from my personal views, but even good deeds breed negativity so I'm going to put it forward. Have you received any negative feedback about being called role models considering the work you do?
Of course. Even with the people that feel we’re their mentors—it’s so easy to become resentful of someone that you’ve come to see as your “father figure”, because we also won’t put up with or engage bad behavior, whereas maybe their friends enable the behavior because it’s “fun”.
However, it’s absolutely important for me to say: we never actively look to become the role as “mentor” to people. Actually, if we were smart, we’d steer very clear of it. However, it’s just the way that some relationships develop.
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom about mentoring? What can people do to help and support gay youth?
Just be compassionate, be genuine, and be loving. If everyone took a moment to embody these qualities, the world would be a beautiful place.
Thanks so much for being here, but just like last time, you're not quite done. How about a few choices to lighten the mood a bit? PS – one of these is a repeat, I want to see if your answers have changed – no cheating. ;)
Books or films? – Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham
Black & white or colour? (I spelled it the Canadian way – did you notice that?) – Colour!
Yoga or running? – Yoga is an absolute must for me, but actually I want to get into running more. I’m reading a phenomenal book called Running with the Mind of Meditation, also by Sakyong Mipham.
Cher or Beyonce? – Can I say neither? They’re cool and revolutionary within pop culture and what-not, but I don’t get the big deal.
Beach or mountains? - Mountains!
Tattoos or piercings? – Tattoos.
The sun or the moon? Sun during the day, moon during the night.
Kisses or hugs? – Hugs.
Romeo & Juliet or Hamlet? – Romeo & Juliet.
Thank you, Benny! Now as in other years, I'm offering a giveaway during the HAHAT and using Rafflecopter to do my ultimate choosing of winners. There are a few ways to enter and I'd really love it if you left a comment here as well. Everyone likes and needs feedback, right? And I'm sure Ben would appreciate it, too.
MY 2ND HAHAT 2014 POST - MUSIC FOR THE CAUSE
MY 3RD HAHAT 2014 POST - BEING AN ALLY
MY 4TH HAHAT 2014 POST - JAKE JAXSON TALKS MENTORING
MY 3RD HAHAT 2014 POST - BEING AN ALLY
MY 4TH HAHAT 2014 POST - JAKE JAXSON TALKS MENTORING
HOP AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA & TRANSPHOBIA