Hey, people. Though I never announced my intentions of doing so over the board over the past few weeks, I did attend the latest B4U-Act workshop. It was an extraordinarily positive experience for me and it went beyond my expectations. It wasn't a sting operation, there were no LEO's there. I understand that many of my friends from the community did not want me to go, as many of them do not like or trust MHP's (Mental Health Professionals)...often for good reason. However, this workshop meeting made it clear that there is every reason to have hope for the future for our community. Some of them are willing to listen to us. Though it's not possible for us to hit them with our full agenda for MAA emancipation and youth liberation at this time, we are at least at the point where some of them are capable and willing to question the prevailing media-inundated dogma about our community. Every single one of the MHP's who attended were courteous and willing to discuss the topic of the workshop: stigma and demonization. I realized during this workshop that the MHP's also have stigma to overcome: the idea that they generally act as cheerleaders and supporters of the prevailing status quo above all else and that they put politics before their desire to help people. Interestingly, two of the MHP's at the workshop conceded that the average MHP is currently ill-equipped to counsel MAA's regarding their problems that stem from living in a society that is so hostile to our attraction base and filled with numerous stereotypes and misinformation about us, and that too many MHP's believe the dogma that the media spews rather than having a real understanding of us as human beings. I was greatly pleased to hear an MHP say this, and for their willingness to reach a greater understanding of us. It made me realize that there is real hope for the future, and though it may take a while for such people to become amenable to ALL of our goals and to fully accept our love as completely valid, we are beginning to make progress and slowly but surely beginning to step out of our seclusion in cyberspace and into the public arena. I am convinced that the B4U-Act workshops are worth attending and that they have the potential to make real progress for our community, one step at a time.
One of the highlights of the workshop was a very poignant and moving presentation from Paul Christiano about his personal situation following his outing by Wikisposure. All of the MHP's there were sympathetic to him, and I was pleasantly surprised to see one of the more conservative MHP's in attendance speak out on how ridiculous it was for the system and the vigilantes to treat Paul in this fashion simply for looking at pictures. This gave me even more hope that the current ignorant attitudes that society and the lawmakers have regarding this can be successfully and powerfully challenged in the future, once we take a few more steps forward. I got to know Paul as a person during the two days I was there and he is truly a warm and terrific human being who has handled great adversity with courage and dignity. In fact, Paul was my roommate in the motel we stayed at during the last night I was there, and we had a long conversation regarding our respective situations and I had a very good time doing so. It was an honor to get to spend this social time with him.
It should be noted that the MHP's who attended took nearly as much risk as the MAA's who were there, because they are risking their careers and professional reputations simply for treating us as human beings and their willingness to say that they do not think pedophilia is a sickness. And yes, many of the MHP's there were critical of the DSM and what it considers to be mental illnesses. So I DO believe that there are at least a handful (and possibly a growing number) of MHP's who are worth our respect and who are willing to engage in respectful conversation with us and to view us as a valid minority group and distinct sexual orientation rather than to see us all as criminals and/or monsters.
One of the interesting and positive moments of the workshop was when one of the MHP's there made it clear that she was fascinated and genuinely interested (as opposed to reviled) with the idea of a man my age thinking that a 14 year old girl was extremely amazing and someone that I would be interested in dating had the laws allowed it. I told her that I could go on for hours describing all the reasons that I think young teen girls are wonderful if the workshop had that time to spare, and the whole group shared a laugh. I think the fact that an MHP can show a genuine curiosity and fascination with the idea of an adult finding someone so many years younger to be attractive in all ways (not just sexually, but also emotionally, socially, etc.) to be a positive indication that in the future not everyone will see such an attraction as evil or "
sick" but genuinely intriguing.
Another highlight of the workshop was an opportunity for us to dispell some of the hysterial lies and myths spread about our community. One of the MHP's present, who has a strong desire to prevent children from being harmed, told us that she is concerned about the Internet making it easier for real predators to meet and discuss ways of abusing kids, and that as an example she has heard that there are message boards on the Web filled with child molesters who openly (and legally) discuss ways of locating and sexually abusing minors. Where have we heard this before? I told her that there are all sorts of fears expressed as rationalizations for the government curtailing freedom of expression on the Net, and that the media and talk shows spread endless lies about the "sexual predator" hysteria. I assured her that I have never seen such an open and public board of child molesters explicitely discussing places to go where minors can be kidnapped and sexually abused in all the years I have been on the Net, and that the boards I participate in have strong rules against advocating illegal behavior of any kind, and that most of the MAA's I meet there are perfectly ethical human beings who do not support abuse. I also used the example of Oprah Winfrey recently describing an alleged training manual posted online by pedophiles that supposedly instructed MAA's in explicit detail on how to sexually abuse kids as young as infants, including the use of implements such as knives inserted into bodily orifices. I assured her that in my nine years of association with the open and public MAA forums I have NEVER come across anything remotely like that, and I told her that the lies and exaggerations routinely spewed from the likes of Oprah and other influential media moguls are largely responsible for panicking the general public into extreme hatred and fear of MAA's and into supporting all sorts of draconian measures to police society towards the alleged goal of "protecting" kids. I was glad to get the opportunity to directly address the lies routinely expressed about our community by the media, and the MHP who expressed this concern was relieved to hear that the many stories of "Internet predators" was greatly exaggerated. We had a good side conversation about this after the workshop ended, and before we all parted company I shared a hug with this particular MHP. It was a hug that represented hope for the future, that one day society as a whole will embrace us as human beings. I was further convinced by this workshop (though I was always of this opinion) that those of our community with the ideology that things are NEVER going to get any better for MAA's in society are completely wrong, and I am happy to express this opinion.
The time that the MAA's and MHP's in attendance spent socializing and mingling during breaks and when we all had lunch together were wonderful moments, as the MAA's there were all openly MAA's during this socializing with Nons, and it was wonderful to be completely open about this aspect of my life without apology or regret and associating with MHP's as equals (rather than as a patient forced to undergo "treatment" by the law) with MHP's who were willing to listen to us. We all got along very well, and I openly encourage more MAA's to attend these workshops in the future since with my health problems I am not certain how many of them I can attend in the future and thereby officially represent the GL subsection of the overall MAA community (Paul and I were the only two GLer's present there; the other MAA's were BLer's). The fact that one of the young woman serving us during lunch was incredibly hot was another highlight of the experience, and I'm just glad she didn't totally distract me from the business at hand (I was on cloud nine when she smiled and said 'hi' to me).
I should also mention that this was the first time I have met any fellow MAA's in person (Eeyore, take note!). It was a terrific experience, despite the fact that I only knew three of them and I never really spoke to Paul that much on the board. We had a good time socializing and hanging out, we went out to dinner together, and it was wonderful for all of us to be ourselves during this time. I look forward to meeting other MAA's in real life in the future.
I would like to personally thank Mike Melsheimer and Richard Kramer for arranging this workshop, and I was greatly honored to meet them both and for Mike to invite me to the workshop. Considering my many rather radical views, I was honestly surprised to be invited, as I'm sure some people might question my ability to stay on topic during the workshop and not discuss matters that the public is not yet ready to engage in, and I like to think I purported myself well there. These workshops are a wonderful opportunity for all MAA's who are hoping to work towards progress outside of cyberspace (you are all free to use assumed names during the workshops), and thus far B4U-Act is the only opportunity available to us to do so. I understand how wary some of you may be for attending such workshops in the future in these paranoid times, but I would love to see more of us step out of cyberspace and into the public to engage the world at large on our issues.
Thank you again to Mike Melsheimer for inviting me to attend and for him and Richard Kramer giving me this opportunity.