Be Safe ~ Outside the Margins with Edmond Manning

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Edmond Manning OTM

Before heading to Minneapolis GLBTQ Pride, I wrote an optimistic/gloomy post on Facebook:

“In about ten minutes, I’m going to leave home. I will spend today in a gay pride booth celebrating authors who write books about love. We think love is important. I sincerely hope I’m not eviscerated with bullets by someone who disagrees. If you’re the praying type, or candle-lighting type, or whatever, please send up some good thoughts for everyone’s safety.”

An hour later, a friend sent me a private message to ask if I was okay. He ultimately wanted to know how much of what I wrote I truly believed.

I wasn’t sure.

These days, do I fret about nut jobs with assault rifles? Yes. That Saturday, did I genuinely worry it was too dangerous to attend this downtown celebration? I don’t know. Mostly no, with a tinge of pink, raw “yes.” Dragging my luggage full of heavy books through downtown Minneapolis and setting up our booth didn’t feel risky. Tedious, yes. Like the book nerds we are, we fussed over how to display our free bookmarks and postcards so the wind wouldn’t blow them away.

Was arranging bookmarks risky? Too political?

The teachers and children at Sandy Hook Elementary School weren’t taking a big risk, going to class that Friday in 2012. And yet…

In response to my Facebook post, amazing, sparkling friends gushed beautiful thoughts and expressed love—sending me light, blessings, protective prayers, everything. It felt fucking great. What love pours into us from the Internet! Several responders told me to “Be safe,” or “Stay safe,” and I found myself annoyed by the sentiment. A few of my friends explained this is a “mom prayer” to a departing kid. I understood and appreciated the loving intention behind the words, but on Saturday, the words themselves irked me.

I wondered why. I pondered.

Was it really my responsibility to “be safe?”

Should I be constantly scanning for assault-rifled gunners who haven’t dealt with their amassed childhood issues? That’s my responsibility now?

When I go out with friends, should I be taking note of all exits?

Should I keep a knife handy in case something goes down?

Better yet, a gun?

I was irked.

At Minnesota’s biggest, gayest, most-rainbowiest party, I felt irked. Grumbly. IMG_5350

The day got hotter.

Then, hotter.

Turns out, two water bottles are insufficient for eight hours in the 90+ degree sun and thick, humid shade, while talking almost nonstop. It was discomfort to make a grumbly person more grumbly.


Despite the heat,

the noise,

my irkedness,

the never-ending, club music pounding its THUMPthumpTHUMPthumpTHUMP into my skull,

the greasy smell of cheese curds,

my lack of water,

and my low-grade gun anxiety,

a curious thing happened.

Because, in the booth next to us were firemen. Being brave.

Across the way, a leather group. Being brave.

Down the street, the men wearing barrels: Naked Minnesota. Being their own flavor of brave.

All day, parading in front of me, people held hands. Loving each other. Openly. Happily.

Chunky, overweight people wore tiny bits of clothing—something I would never wear—but they dared. They were bold. These folks decided they were beautiful, so wore clothes that made them feel beautiful. How could I not admire their thrill of courage?

People around me were brave and gorgeous. And not just adults.

I told a six-year-old boy his princess dress was absolutely beautiful, and he beamed. He was so happy over my compliment, he showed me the dark-haired princess whose face was on his breastplate jewel. His mother smiled at me. He was six and brave. His mom was brave.

And the balloons. Oh, hundreds and hundreds of cheerful balloons! Red! Orange! Yellow! Green! Blue! Indigo! Purple! It’s hard not to feel safe around a group of people who party hard with balloons.

Every year, at the big Minnesota Pride event, hundreds of tents and booths scatter themselves around the man-made Loring Park pond. Booths are occupied by activist groups, corporate sponsors, softball enthusiasts, gay musicians, bumper sticker sellers, flag wavers, and a lesbian-owned business that will pick up your dog’s backyard poop. Over two hundred unique businesses and organizations came to celebrate.

On a break from our booth, I took an extended walk around this giant festival and came upon an international insurance company’s gay employee group. I recognized their name. One of my best friends worked for them for many, many years. He was often out of the office with medical issues, and they always granted him sick time. They treated him well during a time when his life was very hard.

He died a few years ago.

I approached and asked if anyone among them remembered Ankha Shamin.

One woman said, “Oh yes, Ankha. I knew him! I miss him.”

I miss him, too.

We chatted about my friend.

I told them how Ankha was arrested once back in 1970 because he and ten other people met in the upstairs of a private home to discuss gay rights. The address was secret for many months because meeting to discuss this could literally get them arrested. And it did. Leaving the meeting one night, they all got arrested.

Ankha knew the world wasn’t safe. But during the time I knew him, he laughed and chortled and giggled, and every other goddamn synonym for making funny sounds that come out of your mouth. He loved laughter. He always wore tie-dye rainbow gear. He loved Pride. He was soft-spoken with had big doe eyes. His spirit name was Outrageous Fairy. The world has evolved to a much more understanding place than when he was twenty-one.

Ankha Shamin.

Kaje Harper was among the other authors in our booth that Saturday. She wrote about young-adult trans relationships in Chasing Death Metal Dreams. She brought a cool giveaway I had not seen elsewhere: a small, discreet button with the words “I’ll go with you.” She explained these are to be worn by allies of trans people. If a trans person is out in public and needs to use a public washroom, that can be a scary thing these days.

But if a trans person sees you wearing the small and subtle button, he or she knows you will go with them to the bathroom. I will go with you. I will make it safe. I will create safety for you.

The world is not safe.

Ankha figured that out in the early 70s.

The trans ally community had buttons made because they figured it out.

We can’t BE safe—that’s beyond our control. But we can CREATE safe.

The problem was not with Facebook well-wishers who told me to “be safe.” The fault was mine, the assumption I made that I do not contribute to making the world more safe.

I’ve decided whenever I hear someone tell me to “be safe,” I will hear the words “create safe.” Create safe by being me. By standing up to bullying. I will create safe by daring to write books about men who love men. Maybe marching in a parade. Wear a button supporting someone else who needs safety as much or more than I.

I honestly believe we—as humanity—are evolving in the best possible way. We are growing compassion for people different from us. We are tolerating faiths instead of shooting first. We are tolerating lack of faith instead of shooting first. Yes, there are exceptions. Big exceptions with too much grief to bear. The old ways of thinking do not die easily, but they are dying.

I’m not saying everything will automatically get better. We have lots of work to do. We have to create safe beyond gay pride, Muslim pride, trans pride, women pride, black lives matter pride, military veteran pride, and more. We have a whole lot of world to create safe.

We can do this.

But first, we will need more balloons.


~Edmond Manning

About Edmond Manning

Edmond Manning is the author of King Perry, King Mai, The Butterfly King andFilthy Acquisitions. He spends a great deal of time standing in front of the fridge with the door open, wondering why it’s not stocked with more luncheon meats and cheese.

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27 thoughts on “Be Safe ~ Outside the Margins with Edmond Manning

  1. I love you Edmond Manning, I just don’t have the words to tell you exactly how much or all the wonderful ways in which I do.

    I could say a lot more, but those two sentences express my feelings about as accurately as I can be right now. <3

    • I think you’re doing just fine. Because I feel it. A lot. I look at the reviews you wrote for my books and I feel your presence and your heartbeat. I am feeling your love just fine, Helena.

  2. It’s weird, leaving the first comment on your own blog post. I wanted to clarify something. In the post, I mentioned Black Lives Matter pride. I want to clear that up. I picture a day when we celebrate that “black lives matter” isn’t necessary any more. That day is not today. But in the future, we will *celebrate* that our nation finally learned to fully love our brothers and sisters of color enough to shift the culture. That future day will be a time for celebrating the accomplishments of this group, Black Lives Matter. Bitch about their interruptions. But they are fighting for their very lives, so when this is fixed–and it WILL be–there will be a mighty pride celebration in every park, in every city, because love will have triumphed, once again. Booths will be dedicated to those who died because we will remember and celebrate lives. Parades for those who marched in defiance and said, “We deserve to live.” Dancing. Music. Tears for the horrors. Balloons. So many balloons.

  3. Edmond Manning, you are a treasure. changing be safe to create safe is a thought so simple, yet so profound it’s left me wondering why we as a society haven’t seen this as a simple truth. I adore you and I feel lucky to get to read your words. I cannot tell you how many lives you’ve enriched (I’m guessing thousands) but I can attest to mine being one of them. <3

    • My friend! I will see you wed! I’m coming to your GD wedding! And we will celebrate your love, Kate’s love, and our love, the three of us, for being friends. All the love (and chocolates) will be ours.

  4. I love that. Create safe. I just had this conversation with my teenager – to prepare her for that moment when she will be confronted with an opportunity to stand between the world and someone who needs her strength, even if it’s only to bear witness, or now, thanks to you and Kaje, the idea that she can go with you. Walk with you. Be with you as you create safe.

    Thank you for your words. L.

  5. Edmond, thank you so much for your words, your sentiments, and your beliefs.

    Thank you Kaje for sharing and wearing a button that spreads a message of hope. It reminds me of the signs hobos would leave for those who followed them, marking ‘safe’ houses that would give them food.

    I’m planning on ordering several, to wear and to share.

  6. Beautifully written. Your words brought me some peace amidst the ugliness. There’s a lot of power in small gestures – I love the idea of creating safe.

  7. Edmond,

    I am so grateful that you reminded me of sweet Anhkah. I can still see his gap-toothed grin. And that man knew how to share a hug. So, we carry on. Continuing to practice the art of hugging. And listening to each other. Sometimes the bravest thing I do is to quietly bless the needy child in me clamoring for attention, wanting to say something and be heard…by giving my attention and listening to another.

    And those buttons. They are pretty and useful. Win/win. I just asked some friends how many they want me to order for them.

    You have created more than safety by your writing.

    • Jim Lovestar! Aho!

      Thank you, brother. It’s fun to remember Ankha, isn’t it? His big gap-toothed grin and the way he laughed. Truly, he had the Sparkling Spirit inside him.

      I think you’re right…that ignored inner child who wants to feel safe and loved sometimes does stupid adult things like yell at strangers in traffic or buy a guy for “protection.”

      Well-said. More listening to inside and more listening to each other.

      Thank you for your kind words.

  8. Just reading what you had to say about creating safety made me feel a little better about the world around me. I wish so many people wouldn’t be afraid of the differences in others. I wish they could embrace love and acceptance instead of fear and loathing. I wish a lot of things these days, I wish I could fix it but maybe it starts with baby steps. I love you Edmond and I hope one day your words will touch the hearts of everyone like they have mine.

  9. I absolutely love how you view the world. Even when it isn’t pretty. And I love you. Someday I hope to meet you and I hope you won’t think it’s too weird if I just wrap my arms around you and hold you for a really, really, long time.

  10. “I’ll go with you”
    Create Safe
    This is the essence of Pride. Respect & Love. I love your post as it’s about humans uniting to help each other. Smiling at a child … reveling in the love of others for each other. Accepting each other as they are & wanting not to change them because they’re great the way they are. We need those buttons .. we need those t-shirts … we need those ball caps .. to keep saying we All have Pride in each other & welcome you into our bathroom & our safe shelter. That we will provide acceptance & understanding & best of all .. unconditional LOVE … because Every Life Matters! Thank you Kaje Harper & Edmond for making this an a-ha! Pride!! 💖 Love to ALL from Alaska 💖

  11. Thank you so much for this. I’ve been having panic/anxiety attacks almost daily since Orlando, since Alton Sterling and I don’t know how to carry this overwhelm, this grief, this everything–right. And this helps so much. I’m also irked, angry even, at people who tell me to “be safe” because as a queer black woman, I didn’t come here with the intention of hurting anyone, I just came here to be and I can be attacked (I have been), and killed (thankfully not yet. Why does this have to be a yet?) for that. And it doesn’t feel any kind of fair to be told that I should look out for myself because of that. I would hope the people who care about me would work with me so that I don’t have to be by myself in this fight anymore.


    “Create safe.” has rearranged the grief within me and thank you. I didn’t see a way out of this depression that I think I’ll always be in, but this phrase has made it so that maybe I’ll carry all this with me instead of being buried under it. That I can do something kind instead of waiting around for someone to do more un-kind to me. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for seeing us and for doing such great work. Hope you’re well.

    • Oh, dangerlove 12! You’re so brave! Not for being a queer black woman (that just makes you fabulous) but for your willingness to transform depression and (sadly…justified) anxiety into something that allows you to breathe in your own life. That in itself is an act of courage! And not just courage, but gorgeous, purplish-pink, fresh-bread smelling, crunchy celery, pink lemonade, birthday-surprise kind of courage. You will inspire others. When they see you laugh, when they see you recover from fear…you will inspire. You inspired *me.* I commit to making the world safer for you.

      You blessed me with this reply.

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