Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA
Some folks are going to hate me for posting a “political” blog. Stay in your lane. Stick to dog training. I’m okay with that. Politics is only divisive and nasty when we make it that way. The word itself derives from the Greek for “affairs of the city.” The comings and goings of our common spaces. How we all get along. Our common ground.
I’ve long said that your dog has led us to the common ground on which we meet. That’s true for you and me. It has been for nearly 25 years now. Some of you identify as LGBTQ. Most of you do not. I speak freely about my husband, Tim. Some of you give pause. Most don’t. Some of us have spoken openly and respectfully about differences that don’t pertain to dog training (we both remember). That was cool. Most of the time we don’t. One of my clients prayed over me during a consult. That was awkward. Another pulled me aside as I was leaving and said kindly, (paraphrasing) We are conservative and devoutly Christian and we want you to feel comfortable here working with us. We respect you for who you are as a person. I thought about that for a long time and still do.
These are the affairs of our common ground, our idle comings and goings, our politics (Greek: Πολιτικά, politiká). Eventually, and inevitably, your dog reels us back in. He barks or growls or otherwise let’s us know he doesn’t like me nearly as much as you seem to. Back to work we go.
I don’t think I’ve every officially identified Michael’s Dogs as an LGBTQ+ owned business, not in 25 years. It seemed superfluous. Politics isn’t of much merit in our little town square, your home with your family, your dog, and me. And besides, politics can be divisive or nasty when it’s weaponized. Here’s the other thing. I’m gay. But, I’m also a cis white male. Cisgender means I identify with my gender assigned at birth. I’m white. I’m a man. I pass. And in daily life I pretty much get a free pass. No one worries much about the gay florist or the gay hairdresser or me, so long as we do our work and stay in our lane. Stick to the dog training. Let’s not get political.
I’m old enough, though, to remember the teaching of Harvey Milk. He was an out gay politician on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (like the city council). He was assassinated in 1978 (along with the San Francisco Mayor) after passing a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Again, this was 1978. The assassin was a fellow supervisor who cast the only vote against the measure. Milk’s teaching to LGBTQ people was simple. Be visible. Come out. It’s the teaching I remember today, this first day of LGBTQ Pride Month 2023. Stand up. Be seen.
Why? Because the affairs of the city (or the state, or the nation) are often a big and messy thing. All politics is local. Real politics is up close, one-on-one, in our homes, on this common ground right here with our dog. Milk taught us to be authentic with our family and friends because they already know us. They love us. It’s why I’m authentic with you now and always. I’m that guy who helped you out of a tight spot with your dog. I told you about my husband and our dogs. We had some serious talks because sometimes dog behavior issues are serious. We had some fun chats, too. It wasn’t political but really it was because what I’m talking about is how we got along. That’s what politics is all about.
Politics is only ugly when it’s weaponized, when we are divided so that someone else can wield power. Here was Milk’s strategy. Be who you are, open-hearted, calmly confident, without shame because there is no shame to be had here. Be yourself. Be visible. Be out. Be proud, so that when politicians try to gain power at your expense, your family, your friends (and yes your colleagues and clients) will know better. They will know you.
It’s hard to hate up close. It’s hard to cast a vote for someone’s demise when you know them – to wish someone ill – when you know them – to elect for someone’s suffering and take refuge in indifference – when you know them. So, know this. I cherish the common ground onto which your dog has led us. I see and know you. I take pride, take solace, sitting with you here, confident that you see and know me, too.
Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA teaches dog training and behavior. He lives with his husband, Tim, in Houston Texas.