He has a new haircut every time we meet. He has a quick wit and great stories. His handle on Instagram is @scrapmetalshelf. Meet Michael, educator and advocate extraordinaire.
What is your superpower? Imploding my greatest anxieties and fears from childhood for good.
Who do you adore? Olympia Dukakis.
Describe your Brave Heart outfit. Black skinny jeans, colorful socks and a dark long sleeve shirt that will conceal the sweat blotches under my arms.
What book has shaped you? The children’s book, Tailypo! by Jan Wahl with illustrations by Wil Clay and the Old Testament.
What was the best trip ever? When I took a 24 hour Greyhound to Oklahoma to see my friend Mitch during my junior year of college. We met before I realized I was gay and he helped me to come out, while introducing me to Flannery O’Connor and Preston Sturges. The trip was like bridging this very adult experience I had as an awkward teenager to my adult (although still awkward) self.
How has your work changed you? I express my anger more often. I was at a bar with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. This guy bent over to pick something up and his friend started humping him from behind. I just looked at the guy and mouthed, “are you kidding me?” He looked up at me and said, “What do you know, you’re dressed in that Scooby Doo outfit.” I ignored him and went back to talking to my friend. A few minutes later, I suddenly felt this surge of fury. I started yelling at him as loud as I could, “You fucking pretended to rape your friend!” until my friend told me to stop or I’d start a fight. He never made eye contact with me and quietly left with his friends. I only remember a handful of women and kids I met on the crisis line and in shelter, but I have moments when I suddenly remember how angry their stories made me feel.
What/where is your happy place? Riding on my bike and whistling to the trumpet in Billie Holiday’s “I Wished on the Moon.” I might be 90 years old.
What’s the best advice you were given about your work? What do you sacrifice when you hide behind thin professionalism? You can’t expect others to do what you are not willing to do yourself. Also: this work is like love. You always have to keep reinventing reasons to stay connected. No one is keeping you here.
What is your shelter/refuge? Swimming laps and reading while doing cardio. You do not know awkward until you have read Toni Morrison’s Beloved on a Stairmaster.
What is your favorite word? Maybe.
What are the tools of your trade? Powerpoint and rehearsing everything I’ll say three times the night before.
What gives you courage? One day there will be no one alive who still remembers me. Whatever I do, I have to make it count for me and those who will forget.
How would your BFF describe you? “When he first meets someone at a party, he talks to them like he’s doing an interview.”
What do you want the world to know about your work? When I wonder if a huge, social, humanitarian and political issue like rape could ever be prevented, I think of telephone wire. There is telephone wire going to everything–from house to house, across oceans and rivers, winding through forests, weaving in and out of ground. It seems totally normal to us now (granted, a little obsolete with cell phones), but there really was a point in time when someone raised their hand in a meeting and seriously suggested that the solution to giving everyone access to a telephone required running wire to their house. Rape won’t be prevented if we’re not willing to ask audacious questions. Apathy is a natural state of being. Learning to cultivate hope is a skill.
Meet other Brave Hearts like Michael at 31 Days of Brave Hearts.