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Ask Michael: Standing against fear and threats
Ask Michael: Standing against fear and threats
by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

The Seattle Times reported January 7 that 11 Gay bars received letters threatening ricin attack. They listed these bars as The Elite, Neighbours, The Wildrose Bar, The Cuff, Purr, The Seattle Eagle, R Place, Re-bar, C.C.Attle's, Madison Pub and The Crescent. Some readers will think nothing of this. Some will become afraid.

Every Saturday in the month of January, I, for one, am going to spend time and money in each and every one of these establishments. The owners and employees of these businesses contribute much to the GLBTQ community in Seattle and neighboring towns. They contribute to the local economy and they are the Ambassadors who represent Seattle to GLBTQ visitors from around the world. In my opinion, these businesses need the continued support of patrons especially in light of these threats.

My initial reaction to this news of a potentially serious threat was one of alarm. I immediately thought about people getting sick, hurt, or killed. The thought that someone would want to do that to anyone startled me and I could feel my caution and fear kick in. Then my anger bubbled up. I thought, "there is no way I am going to live in fear and let this dictate how I live my life." At that moment I made the commitment to support the community by supporting each and every one of these businesses. I will take charge and walk through my fear and live my life.

Fear is a highly motivating emotion. It quickly and easily overrides the rational/logical parts of our brain and tries to influence our behaviors for the sole purpose of self-preservation. Fear is a very necessary emotion in certain circumstances. The only question is, how do you react to your own fear?

The issue in this circumstance isn't the fear response in and of itself. If this news invoked some fear in you, that would be normal. The issue is, how does each individual want to react to the fear? Do you want to stay out of these establishments until the threat has passed? Do you want to chronically worry about something bad happening and stop going to any of these bars altogether? Do you want to continue to get out and enjoy socializing with your friends, networking, and enjoying these establishments and being a part of the community? Each individual has to do what is best for them. I could easily do any of the above. I've chosen the one that is going to serve me best: being a part of the community and socializing and networking with people that are important to me and supporting businesses that are crucial to our community.

It is undeniable that there are unstable, psychotic people in this country who would like nothing more than to instill fear and inflict devastating harm in any GLBTQ community at the individual and/or community level. We cannot rationalize, educate, pray for, medicate, or appeal to their better sense in any way. The nature of their psychosis keeps them entrenched in their delusional beliefs and their desires to do harm to us.

However, as individuals and as a community, we must stand in our pride and strength and never allow another to have control over how we feel about ourselves as LGBTQ men and women. We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, clergy, firefighters, clerks, police, laborers. Most importantly, we are family, friends, parents, and partners and, yes, we are GLBTQ. We have the right to exist and be healthy and happy!

Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who spent four years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, said in his book, Man's Search for Meaning, that (and I paraphrase) awful things can happen to us but no one has control over how we feel about it. Only we have control over how we feel and react to a situation. This was never truer than it is now.

Under these circumstances, and in general, reflect upon the role that fear has in your life. Know that fear is normal and can be healthy. Yet, challenge it sometimes and do things you thought you were never able to do because you were afraid. Stand down a threat and stand up in confidence and pride. Let your actions reflect how you feel as a GLBTQ woman or man. And remember, no matter what happens, and yes, bad things can happen, no one ever has control over how you feel about it - only you!

I look forward to seeing friends, colleagues, and others out enjoying themselves at the bars over the next few weeks!

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and a contributing writer to the SGN. He writes a bimonthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net .

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