As many of you may know I am an alumnus contributor to the Bilerico Project. Little did I imagine that this activity would be used in the manner it was here in Thailand. Firstly, I serve on the condo committee for an 880 unit building with a huge pool and a lot to maintain. There were a number of problems in a five-year-old building due to there previously being no managing committee and the previous management company who were incompetent.
We have a condo forum moderated by an individual in an adjacent building to ours which I read daily to apprise myself of concerns of the many residents here. It is an open forum and can therefore be observed and commented upon by anyone which is fine as it allows people from other buildings in Thailand share their solutions, criticisms and concerns. It even has separate posting areas for building specific issues. An individual (not myself) started this commentary thread. We were in the midst of the topic was the differences between Thai behaviors and Western behaviors. It involved attitudes toward maintenance, noise issues, pool maintenance, security, proper attire in public areas and so forth when out of the blue one "guest" elected to say:
"Why do you grumpy old men come to Thailand?, all you seem to do is moan about Thai people and their ways."
I suggested to him that we do not live in a Thai village, but a very Western building located in Thailand and that he should consider transferring to a rural village and spend one season in a rice field. He was not a forum member, but a guest commenting. Two other posters commented in a similar vein. A day later he came back with:
"You bunch of old goats would be better off buying condos in Florida."
I answered this immediately indicating that I had lived in Florida five years and four hurricanes, property tax and insurance issues made Thailand a superior fit for me. I also called him a "snot nose," (Hey, I don't take "old goat" lying down) and informed him that I am a six foot goat who can take care of himself. I further informed him that he knew nothing about Thai culture at all if he were speaking disrespectfully to elders. This is very true indeed and put him in a box from which he could not "reason" his way out.
Most people use a made-up name when they comment even on this small site. This allows for some outrageous and stupid things to be said "behind the veil." I comment under my own name (and would not consider doing otherwise for anyone) I was surprised by what happened next. I presume he googled my name, found Bilerico posts and linked to them. Firstly, he found my piece and linked it with a snarky remark "A Transgender Message from Thailand" and then had a confederate add an additional link to "Coming Out and the Revolving Door" and stated a single sentence of the post, out of context, to imply that I abuse children. I hope you like my response:
"Two individuals have apparently assumed that my opinions about building management would be smeared by the use of links to blog posts I have authored. Since my purpose in writing these was to give them the widest audience possible I would like to thank these individuals for the assistance. When you go to the Bilerico site I hope you also read my bio which includes my and my partner's community service in Chicago. My corporation even sponsored Little League in addition to Special Olympics, service to my community in drug and gang abatement, an orphanage, working with my neighbors forming block clubs, working with the organization "Citizens Assisting Police" CAPS, and years of service on the advisory council to the Chicago Park District.
I began as a Gay activist over 35 years ago and continued to become an active member of my community helping others. The rewards I and my partner received from direct community involvement we will always treasure. The impression you leave is that I am something I am not although I have always been an openly Gay businessman. Now I must ask, what have you done to help anyone, and what does this have to do with the topic at hand?"
I wanted to hit this accusation head on as sexual behavior with a minor is not just illegal, immoral and unethical for an adult, but this accusation defames the good work of eight additional people who serve with me on this committee as volunteers. We control the budget of the entire building. My fellow committee members, who also read this site, were quick to add their online support and the offending comments were shortly removed by the moderator with an apology to me and banishment from the site to those three who stated threats against my health and well being.
Oh yes, there was a third after my comment from a self-identified "skinhead." The moderator is a night owl and sleeps past noon so these comments were up for just six to eight hours. Unfortunately that also meant that the links to the Bilerico articles were lost, but as I have to consider the safety of my soon to be octogenarian partner, I will confess to being relieved to see these go should these individuals actually be violent rather than "behind the veil" cowards as I suspect.
I felt compelled to write this as I have so many times stressed to others in my comments the need to be careful (which has been misinterpreted by some to suggest I blame the victim) and to have an active network of those who support you. I have been a very fortunate man, and confess to taking myself far too seriously, as I know I am a person with many faults who has been more gifted by good luck than I often care to admit. Although shortness of temper I will claim, I hope that I never suffer from the fault of cowardice and realize that the chances I take for myself are not the chances all can or should take. I also realize anew that the chances I choose to take can have negative impacts on others.
So, I hereby give myself permission to be more careful. I do not regret a single word I have ever posted on Bilerico, but I regret a number of the comments I have made in the heat of the moment. As always, it pays to keep a cool head, always know as much as you can about your adversary, have a backup plan and never let them see you flinch.