Saturday, December 21, 2013

Home for Christmas...and a new life

For over 7+ years I have wandered through Second Life from Real Life locations in Baghdad, Singapore, and Washington DC...with trips to Egypt, Indonesia, Paris, Qatar, Lebanon, Thailand, London, and my family's home of Omaha, Nebraska

I have gone from an active duty Marine in the Middle East, to being " lent" to several Government agencies, to now being self-employed in my own successful business. I have served many masters along the way.
I have seen "my" Marine Corps move from a place that excluded gays to an organization that now welcomes us. We have all witnessed governments all around us opening up the institution of marriage to gay people and have seen attitudes change with breathless speed.
I have evolved from a closeted Marine to an openly gay married man, with many turns and obstacles along the way.

The one constant in my life has been the friends and family I have found here in our LGBT community in Second Life.
No matter where I have been, who I was working for, what I was going through in Real Life....My Second Life here, has always been an anchor. It's been the constant in my life for over seven years. The friends I have found here....the people that I have shared with, have been here for me at some of the most important crossroads in my life.

I have brought John, my husband home to spend the holidays with my family. This morning we spent hours delivering food to needy families and had a glimpse of the "other side"  It was a chance to reflect on how lucky we are and be thankful. Tomorrow we will go shopping for the meal we will all share on Christmas Eve. I'm looking forward to John being at my family table sharing, and counting our many many blessings.
When I first came into Second Life and our LGBT community, I was stationed in in a "fortress" called the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad. Not much to do or much to see. The work was constant and every week I saw the ugly side of humanity and lost many friends during that tour and the two I spent in Iraq before then.

Second Life was my refuge. A place of calm and escape. It was also a place where I developed as a gay man, living in a gay community, living a gay lifestyle. As the Real world changed around me, it allowed  me to transform my real life from what I had become in my Second Life. I'll always be grateful to those of you that helped me along the way.

I want you all to know that the community the you are a part of, the community that you have helped build here, has made the world a better place. Yes we have raised money for charities and causes and that has helped many people around the world....but it's often the little things that have helped cement our community together and make us a strong and lasting part of each of our lives. A hug to a forlorn friend, an offer to help build or an intimate moment in the virtual world that transcends into ones real life. Don't ever be embarrassed about the family you have here or diminish the power of just being here.

It's a cool night in Omaha.
The sky is clear, the air is crisp, and I'm sitting by a warm fire pondering my life and my blessings over the past several years.
I know I have rambled on a bit....but I want you to know of the power of community and how our community has helped me grow and transcend my fears into real life success. I want to thank you and encourage all of you to support our Second Life LGBT community in all it's facets, and depend on the friends you have here and the institutions we have created. Be willing to make new friends from another part of the world and "walk" in another's shoes. Offer your help and always be there to give someone a "virtual" hug. The bodies my not be flesh and blood, but a hug transcends our digital world and it's warmth can be felt on the "other side".
This is a time of year for reflection and a time for all of us to examine what we can do to bring a little kindness and love into the world.
From myself and my new husband I offer all of you my best Christmas wishes and hope for a Happier New Year.
Be kind to each other and recognize the exceptional in everyone you meet.....whether they are in digital or real form.

Love all of you

Doc Spad

Thursday, December 12, 2013

From my virtual world to Reality...

On Saturday afternoon at 1PM I will become a married man.
Legally married within the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia.
Seven years ago I could be described  as a closeted Marine, hiding who I really was, living in a straight mans world, always looking over my shoulder and worried about being "found out".
Then I discovered Second Life and the gay community here that welcomed me and made SL my home away from home. For all intents and purposes...I came "out" here in SL. I became the gay man that was hidden inside me and flourished in our gay community. It was the friendships and relationships I developed here that gave me the motivation to transform my Real Life into what I had already become in our virtual world.
After serving as a US Marine for over 13 years, I  left the Marine Corps.
Today, I am an openly gay man, committed to my partner, building a business and a family.
A few years ago I came out to my family, or rather was outed by a well meaning brother, and was shocked that my father, brothers, uncles and aunts, accepted me with open arms. They have accepted my soon to be husband into the family and made him feel welcome part of our extended family.
I have never been happier in my life and never been more certain about the commitment I am about to embark.

I want to thank all of you in our Second Life community for being a part of my life and making me feel welcome into our virtual family. I absolutely know that the advances I have made in my Real Life have been built upon my experiences I have had here. For all of you in Second Life that have taken the time to know me and befriend me... I thank you. There are a few special people out there, and they know who they are, that have really been the rocks that have helped me grow and blossom into the Real Life man that I have become...I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I'll be around next week after the wedding, and then go home for Christmas with my husband, followed by a ten day honeymoon..... I'll see ya'll when I return and please be good to each other and live the season.

Merry Christmas

Doc Spad

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Second Pride: Who I am voting for and Why

After two years of helping to bring Pride to a much better place from where I found it, my only hope is that we elect INDEPENDENT  and thoughtful people to the 2014 Board.  With that in mind I am sharing with you my choices.
I'm certain that everyone will not agree with my choices, but I hope you will consider these people...they deserve your support.

neither of the candidates excites me, both did things during the campaign that are questionable at best. But DAMIAN is not running on a ticket and I think the rest of the board will be able to control him or at least
help him assume his responsibilities.  He comes to the Board as one vote among nine.
Dex is coming to the Board with an agenda, much of which will be agreed upon before the Board ever meets. If he and his "team" are elected they will  in effect neutralize the rest of the board and narrow the future of Pride to their vision.  I'm voting for DAMIAN.

Secretary Co-Chair:
ANDREA LONG ...she is independent, thoughtful, and would be a strong independent voice on the Board and be a needed advocate for the lesbian community.

SquirtN Wonder
SquirtN did his job last year in a competent, responsible and thoughtful manner he deserves your vote of confidence and your trust as Treasurer.

Events Director:
This is a hard one. Mz Marville is earnest and passionate  but lacks the experience in the Club and DJ community that Hotboy has.  She was also asked to run by Dex and her independence is questionable. I guess experience trumps passion. I'm going with HOTBOY.

Community Relations Director:
Garret is one of the people that Dex asked to run, and I fear that his independence  is in question.
Josuadrew and Karl both seem to me would be great members of the Board. Both are independent, and thoughtful and either one of them would be a great choice. On the basis of their answers in the forums, Karl nudges Joshie by a hair. I'm going with KARL..

Building Director
Mr Gracemount
Mr G delivered the best build that Pride has ever experienced. He deserves your vote of confidence.

Security Director :
Gaius Tripsa
liked his answers in the forums and deserves your vote of confidence

Marketing Director:
Tylo Mabellon
Tylo did a stellar job this past year and deserves your vote of confidence.  He also brings an independent an thoughtful voice to the board.

Communications/IT Director:

jaggernaughton resident
By his own admission, Jagger is not all that experienced, but his enthusiasm and passion for Pride show that he deserves your vote. He also has stated that he might need help. Let him know you are willing to help him in this most important of Second Pride Board positions.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Second Pride...another perspective on Truth

Over the past several weeks I have seen what could have been a “normal” election process crumble into a mud-slinging free-for-all rife with rumor, innuendo and  attacks from all sides.
It’s been reduced to personal attacks directed at people that just wanted to run for office of an organization this is supposed to bring the LGBT community together. Instead I see the entire process as as pulling the community apart.
I’ve been torn over the past 36 hours or so as to what to say or do. What can I do to try to stop the dissension without making it worse. Every time I look at FB or the forums I see more behaviour that has hurt Pride and created more strife.
I have been involved with Pride for over 6 years. I have seen earlier Boards deal with the same issues and over the past two years as Prides chairman have done my best to limit the drama and turmoil that have plagued Pride in the past. Personally, I think we did a fairly good job. Pride has grown substantially in members, vendors, sponsors, and attendees.. Donations have reached a point where the Board is in a position to make contributions to the good work of other LGBT nonprofits and make a substantial donation to RL groups as well.  However, the unnecessary drama and lack of truthfulness that have publicly  emerged during this election have taken all the hard work of restoring the credibility of Pride and wasted it.

My actions over the past two weeks have been to do what I can to quell this fire without adding new fuel to it. I fear that there is no way to accomplish that and after I finish writing and posting this response it might make matters worse. But I feel the membership needs to understand my motivations and and why I contacted Cortez in the first place. I disagree with some of what Cortez Brandriss said in her statement to the Board, but do understand her ire, as my notecard on “tickets” must have encouraged a great deal of communication directed to her that she did not deserve. I have the chat logs that might explain better what really happened during that discussion but in releasing them I would bring more undue attention to someone that just wanted to serve our community and never deserved being drug into this. I apologise to her for my role in this whole affair.

Last year, early in the election, I had, myself, suggested to some of the other candidates that they form a “ticket”. After some thought, I decided it was a bad idea, and nothing was ever done with regard to the formation of any alliances. A new Board was elected and a very diverse group of people took their positions on the Board. I had worked with Khar and Tootsie on the previous Board and knew them both well. None of the other people on last year's Board were friends of mine. I knew who they were, but none of us were close friends. It was a diverse Board with people having new and fresh ideas. No one or one group “controlled” the board and because of that there was a lively and effective exchange of ideas and I think the success of the Pride Festival this year showed  what a diverse and independent group of people could accomplish. I was but one vote on the Board and many times my ideas were “shot down”.The independence of each board member allowed for a dynamic effective Board that worked on the basis of “what was best for Pride”.

This year, before all of the candidates even declared, a group of people did in fact create an alliance This alliance was formed by Dex and included several other candidates  running for various positions, most of them selected by Dex and asked to run by him. There is nothing in the by-laws that prevents this. There is nothing wrong with Dex asking others to run for some of the other offices. I was concerned by the prospect of having a single group of people led by one person, in control of the Board. Were these people assembled because of the abilities they brought to Pride or because of the votes they could deliver from the various groups they were affiliated with.?   I felt that a slate might stymie and restrict new ideas and in effect place one person in control of the entire Board. These concerns grew as the election progressed and the selected slate of candidates both denied the nature of their alliance while simultaneously making statements hinting at rule changes and other actions that they had apparently agreed to, but which they were not discussed in a public forum.  We have seen this in past Pride boards and it resulted in stagnation.The board was run from a perspective of “my way or the highway” mentality. This created drama and because of a single perspective being the only way, Pride suffered.

When I looked at the candidates for Event Director I was encouraged by the entry of Cortez. Here was a person that could bring great things to Pride. She had experience running events that resulted in huge involvement from many communities and I was excited seeing her in the running. As far as I was concerned she was head and shoulders above the other two candidates and would bring great things to Pride. Then I learned about the “ticket” created by Dex. Another candidate for the Events chair, MzMarville was part of his “team” as were others. I was alarmed in hearing about a threat to Cortez, and  I contacted her. I asked her if she might consider joining forces with Hotboy in an attempt to garner greater support and counter the effect of the “ticket” against her. They both brought different talents to the job.  She suggested that she could concentrate on the fundraising and social events and he had great experience in working in clubs and DJ’s. She even suggested that the next Board divide the job up into two board positions. Not a bad idea. But her dismay at knowing that MzMarville was allied with “someone running for Board chairman” disturbed her and in her own words...”this process, people changing rules and adding people to their ticket in the middle of an election just seems to completely insult all of the work that has gone into making this election process happen”. The end result was that Cortez pulled out of the election.
I assume responsibility for bringing news of the "ticket" and the idea of how she might counter that strategy. In my enthusiasm to see a worthy candidate elected, it violated her sense of fairness. In retrospect, it was an error of judgement for a board chair to take this role. I wish I had approached it in a different way. I’m saddened and dismayed that Cortez left the election. She was one of the most qualified and talented people that has run for a Pride office in a long time.  My only intention was to present to her a means of countering what I considered a formidable challenge to her candidacy.Unfortunately, my motives and  my intention backfired in a way that was wholly unintended.

After some thought I decided to send the note card out concerning “tickets”.  A notecard to the entire membership that specifically stated that there was nothing “illegal” about forming such tickets, but that people might consider voting for people because they are the best person for the job and not because they are part of an alliance. I was hoping to encourage candidates and voters to consider that there was more at stake in this election than getting elected, that Pride’s independent Board was at stake.
Apparently, this note card, where I mentioned that “a candidate” had dropped out because of the “ticket”, brought considerable and undeserved attention to Cortez and she wrote the Board a private note explaining her reasons for withdrawing and condemning me. I can understand her wrath at me after she had received numerous IM’s from people and her feeling that I used her as an example in my note  card. That was never my intention. I believed she was an outstanding candidate - one that would win in a normal election in which the best candidates were chosen based on their qualifications and not their affiliations with other candidates. All I attempted  to do was try to suggest a way to counter an organized alliance that was detrimental to her candidacy.

As one might surmise, Dex was thrilled in receiving her note. Ms Bradiriss' justifiable anger made it look like. I was behind some grand conspiracy. The Board discussed this in a Skype conversation. I wanted to issue an apology to her in public assuming responsibility for my part in this.( I did send her an apology personally).  Dex wanted her private note to the Board released to the public. Cortez was contacted and she expressly asked that her note remain private and that she did not want to be bothered about this any longer and that she would continue her PLATINUM sponsorship next year at Pride.
Evidently, Dex thought he knew better and decided to release her note against her wishes. In doing so Dex deliberately violated Cortez’s trust and unilaterally went against what the Board had decided.  This unfortunately resulted in a subsequent communication form Cortez where she pulled entirely out of Pride and will not be participating in future Pride festivals. . Dex's unilateral decision to publish this information - knowing that one of our largest sponsors was already angry and had expressly asked us not to, did not just rob me of an opportunity to apologize for my role, but more importantly  illustrates a calculation that the damage it would do - to me - to Cortez - and to the credibility of Second Pride was less important than his own short term gain.

I have always attempted to lead Pride from the perspective of “what is best for Pride”. I’ve always encouraged others on the board and all members to look at Pride from that perspective. Yes, I may have made some mistakes in this whole affair, but my intentions were doing what I thought “was best for Pride”. I have swept many, MANY situations under the rug concerning Dex but I choose to keep quiet about them rather than bring any discredit to Pride. In a recent blog posting, Dex purports to express his outrage and declares that "when I am chair I will not stand for the lack of transparency".. I agree. In view of the information Dex has chosen to release thus far, , membership deserves to know more about our actions in recent Days. Specifically, Dex has made several attempts within the board both to eliminate his only opposing candidate, and to purge questions he does not feel it is fair for him to answer from the public forums. At the eleventh hour he tried to convince the Board that the cut off needed to be rolled back 12 hours, thus disqualifying his only opposing candidate. In effect allowing him to run unopposed. .. After the Board sent out notices to the membership defining the cut off times and dates which were published for over a week and a half.  Dex demanded that we change these cut offs retroactively and eliminate his opposition This after the Board agreed to and sent out notifications to the membership stating the cut off dates and times over tens days before. Of course it is easier to win an election if you are able to remove a candidate through a backdoor maneuver.

I pose this question... were Dexs’ actions in releasing Cortez’s note against her wishes...”the best for Pride” ?  Does it help people make a better choice on who to vote for?  Remember, I am not running for office. No.. he released it to discredit me. Dex and I have had issues all year... and I have done my best to keep them quiet for the sake of Pride. His only motivation in releasing this private notecard was to hurt me. I’m a big boy and yes maybe I should get a trip to the “woodshed” but his releasing of her note does nothing to further voter’s knowledge in choosing was an attack on me. And I’m sorry that Dex’s and my issues have distracted voters from the real issues.

There is plenty of blame to go around this year for these elections being reduced to a mockery from BOTH sides. Dex’s “scorched earth” mentality justified by his sense of “principle” has harmed Pride. Damian’s use of an alt asking Dex questions was obvious.

An independent Board is the only way for Pride to effectively manage the attainment of Prides’ Mission. Would it have been easier this past year for me to manage the Board if I had a bunch of hand picked “yes” men ? Absolutely!! Would it have been the best for Pride. Absolutely not!!

Independent board members allow for the expression of many more ideas and a more dynamic governing body. Yes, it’s messy. People argue and make their case, but in the end each board member independently makes a decision and in most cases reaches a decision that works best. Each member represents one vote. If one Board member is out in “left field”  the collective Board tempers the crazy ideas and comes up with a decent solution. I as the Chairman have many times had to bow to the collective will of the Board and then stand up in the end and speak the Boards wishes. That is leadership. That is doing what is BEST FOR PRIDE.

All I ask is that each of our members vote based on what is best for Pride. And vote to create an independent board. My time here is over. Term limits and a desire to “get my Second Life back” have brought me back to being just a member, just like the rest of you. Yes I would like to see Pride continue to grow and build upon what myself and many others have done, but that will have to be left to whoever we elect this year. I trust that the collective will of the membership will bring Pride a thoughtful and dynamic and independent board that will move us in a positive direction. I also pray and trust that all of the division and strife over these elections can be but in the past and WE ALL WILL DO WHAT IS BEST FOR PRIDE.

Doc Spad
Outgoing Chairperson
Second Pride

Friday, February 22, 2013

A few thoughts on Gay Marriage

Throughout history, marriage as an institution, has existed in cultures throughout the world and has been supported through religious doctrine and legal decree. It has been so important to maintaining social order and advancement that it has been a cornerstone of most social systems worldwide and through time.
Marriage, in one form or another, has existed from a time before we organized religions, before we codified laws and before we came together in social settings. Originally, it was a means of a man “staking his claim” of a mate and securing his offspring as his own labor force. As religious doctrine developed, marriage became an important part of all religious belief systems and later  the body of laws and regulations made by or adopted by ecclesiastical authority. As civil secular institutions grew and developed and civil law was codified, once again, marriage was established and defined as a cornerstone to civil society. Keep in mind that in most cultures, which were paternalistic in nature, men were established as the head of the family and women were put in a subordinate position. Both religious and civil law have supported and encouraged this arrangement, giving the man the advantage in religious marriage doctrine and civil law. Certainly, there have been exceptions to this in maternal societies, but they are the exception and not the rule.
How we define marriage, however, has changed considerably through the ages. Marriages were generally arranged by families. The groom and the bride had very little say in who they married. This later changed to men choosing a bride, regardless of whether she wanted to marry or not. Through many cultures it was a woman's duty to find a husband “to take care of her” and men were supposed to make sure their blood line was maintained.  
As women's rights have developed, primarily through Western culture, women now have a voice in who they marry and generally have an equal stake in the marriage bond. The concept that one would love their mate is a relatively new idea. Romantic attraction now has become the basis of marriage. Even though religious scripture is full of examples of arranged marriages, many orthodox Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and other religions still cling to these beliefs, most religions today view marriage as a “partnership” based on mutual love. Loving one's partner has now become the generally accepted basis of marriage. Children, establishing social order, the establishment of the basic family unit, have all taken a backseat to love.
Today marriage runs on two separate tracks, religious marriage and civil legal marriage. As secular institutions have grown and the rule of law developed, a definition of marriage was required for societal order to be maintained.  It was needed to define “who got what” upon the death of a spouse or parent. Lineage, and laws to manage inheritance, were needed to insure social order.
In the past the “church” used baptismal and marriage records to establish lineage, Civil law adopted the legal instrument of a certificate as well. Today one can be married civilly but not be recognized by a religious authority. A marriage conducted  by a justice of the peace is NOT recognized by the Catholic church and the bride and groom are considered committing adultery if they are not married in the Church. One can also be married by a religious institution and not petition for civil recognition. Although religious institutions have changed how they define the basis of marriage, love, they still cling to ideas based on religious scripture where love had very little to do with the institution. Today’s debate, though, has little to do with religious interpretation or belief. I would not expect religious institutions to change their beliefs or canon law to accommodate changes in social mores and social evolution. The great controversy today concerns civil law, not religious law. Civil unions are one thing. Religious marriage is another.
Civil law gives married people certain advantages. Civil marriage provides for advantages of tax policy, spousal rights, inheritance and many other legal advantage shared by married people. If the basis of marriage is generally accepted as two people being in love, than we no longer can define marriage on the basis of religious doctrine. Civil law does not even require two people to be in love. All they need is mutual consent to enter the “contract” of marriage. For civil law to cling to a religious definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, it ignores the rights of individuals that define a “bonding” relationship otherwise. In the US, the equal protection clause of the constitution, should protect these “other” belief systems. Religious law should have no bearing on secular civil law. If we had used religious law as a basis of our civil law, we would still be stoning people in the streets, cutting off arms and tongues or “banishing people to the wilderness”. Civil law has grown beyond the confines of religious interpretation and it’s about time our definition of marriage grew beyond the archaic and ancient ideas of the past as well.
In the United States several states have enacted laws allowing for gay marriage. There are several cases coming before the Supreme Court on the question of gay marriage. My guess is that this court, based on 14th amendment reasoning and precedents established like Loving v. Virginia  and other precedent based on the 1964 civil rights amendment, will force all the states and the federal government to accept gay marriages and extend all advantage to gay couples afforded by are enjoyed by ALL married people. The solution will not come from legislative bodies, but from The Court.