Sunday, August 1, 2021

In his own words – Part 2 – Terje Haakonsen continues his personal growth journey

Terje Haakonsen. All photos courtesy Adam Moran

Life moves quick, even more so on the Internet. But when personal growth is the object, sometimes that same amount of time can creep by… That said, we’ve finally received and compiled Terje’s promised responses to this post from April in regards to supporting the LGBT community. Read on. – BG

ICYMI: Dear Terje – a response from the LGBTQ+ community

Terje in Pemberton, BC. Photo: Adam Moran

Jay C asks: What are you doing differently now other than your use of language and recognising that in the past it may have been harmful (albeit not on purpose). I think it’s great to apologise and recognise where we may have taken a misstep, but other than this, how do you think you can help the LGBT+ community going forward?

Hi Jay. That’s a good question. To be honest, staying mindful of my language and taking care not to to use words or terminology that can be perceived as offensive by individuals and groups alike is the main challenge, and I have to admit, it’s not always easy. So many variables to keep track of. I have always tried to be authentic and frank in my communication. A straight talker. And that automatically means not always hitting the right notes. I know that at times (often) this has made me seem blunt, insensitive or arrogant. So doing better with my communication, being more aware of how others might be perceiving what I say, is the ongoing challenge. Without compromising my own values of being authentic and speaking plainly.
But to answer your question about how I can help the LGBTQ+ community. The simple answer is, if anybody asks for help or support, I will give it. The longer version is that my whole career has been spent speaking out against the Olympics, and a huge part of that is because they stomp on human rights. I am a lifelong human rights advocate, and as part of that I consider myself an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, always have. I know my past jokes and misuse of the term ‘gay’ didn’t seem like I was/am, but that’s where appearances and intention are often not the same thing. As someone who considered themselves an open ally, I thought I could say those things without being seen as an enemy. I was 100% mistaken on that score. So, as an ally who has been called an enemy, moving forwards I aim to ‘help’ by expressing my support and respect for the LGBT community whenever the opportunity presents.

Terje. Photo: Adam Moran

“Drop Terje” says: Burton and everyone just needs to be done with this guy already. This apology is trash. A lot of blame shifting, gaslighting, and thinking that proximity to gayness absolves him of any wrongdoing. Glad you had fun at an LGBTQIA+ wedding, Terje, but you’re still a homophobic asshole who is utterly clueless. Get dropped, learn more, do better.

Some pretty straight talk here. Your response covers most of the negative comments I got for my apology – blame shifting, gaslighting and ‘thinking that proximity to gayness’ absolves’ me from wrongdoing. And that I am a homophobe. So I’ll try to answer those four here.

Blame shifting. I guess this is about how I said english was my second language. It’s true that using “gay” as a term for “not cool & lame” was something I learned as a teenager, from my U.S. peers. But I don’t say that to absolve myself from blame. It’s more about giving some context, like how and why, as a definitely-not-homophobic person, I would use the word like this in the first place. It was wrong to misuse the term like this, and an apology was needed.

Gaslighting. I had to look this one up. Apparently, it means manipulating other people into doubting their sanity. Hmmm, I don’t see how that could apply to my apology. The only thing I can think of: because I made comments or jokes that some considered homophobic, then I must be a homophobe – yet I say I am not a homophobe. And my answer to that is… I am not a homophobe, so there was no homophobic intention. In hindsight, I see they could have been interpreted as homophobic, so I’m not doubting anyone’s sanity. If I didn’t know me, maybe I’d have read those things and wondered if I was a homophobe too.

Proximity. I never claimed that my proximity to gayness absolves me from anything. I was wrong. I fully accepted my wrongdoing, and my apology was sincere.

Homophobe. If I have gay friends, if I started a family with a bisexual partner, if I openly supported LGBT rights and athletes around the Sochi Olympics (every Olympics) – am I likely to be a homophobe? Sorry if that is just repeating what I wrote in the apology, but it’s true.

Terje Haakonsen, Asakidake Japan, Hokkaido. Photo: Adam Moran

ICYMI: Dear Terje – a response from the LGBTQ+ community
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