My Voice For Pride

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June is Gay (or LGBT) Pride Month.  Many of you know that, but I didn’t want to assume…..so there you go.  Many people, I’d venture to guess, think of men dressed as women dancing of floats or scantily dressed men dancing around poles, or dykes on bikes rolling down the road when they hear “pride” or “Pride Parade”.  Those images can be very accurate for many pride parades, and I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with any of them…..but to me “pride” is much more significant than “just” these images.

I also believe many, especially in the heterosexual world, wonder why we need pride anything.  I mean, some very nice friends of mine post quotes to say things like “why can’t we just have human pride and hang out and get along?”  Some even say, “why aren’t there straight pride months or events?”  Both are great questions.  Look, I don’t have all the answers, but as a lesbian I can share my perspective and heart if you care to continue reading.

First, it’s important to note that June was selected for LGBT Pride month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that occurred in 1969.  And, incidentally, not all Gay Pride parades or events happen in June, but I digress.  LGBT didn’t always feel as open or safe as many do today, and in fact many were persecuted and violently discriminated against in years past. Many, especially in the “T” world (transgender), are still in a very insecure and dangerous space in our society today.  So, it’s important to note that Pride is an attempt to shine the light of said discrimination and tries to turn the views towards LGBT toward positivity, aiming for reduction of violence against LGBT, creates a call for dignity, equality, and attempts to celebrate their existence instead of hiding in shame.  I don’t expect many who are not LGBT to understand this, so I will try to explain.

Many of you may remember when you hit puberty and the awkwardness of the hormones taking over your body, which was changing in ways you’d never experienced before.  Consider also realizing for the first time you were very different from the other kids of your gender and that only made you feel more confused.  You probably didn’t freak out and think you were broken.  I did.

Many of you probably didn’t look at someone of your own gender and feel your heart skip a beat and then become horrified that someone noticed, and then immediately inwardly berated yourself for being this ugly, sinful thing.  I did.

Many of you probably didn’t spend almost every night crying out to God from the age of 13 to 35, begging to be fixed.  Because I didn’t “choose this lifestyle”, and in fact invested everything I had in me to change what I am.  Everything.  And I lived in self-hatred and fear that someday, someone would see the lie I lived as I acted like a heterosexual.

Many of you probably didn’t work with your whole heart to love a person society said you should, while hating yourself for being a fake and a phony.  You probably did not feel the added guilt of receiving the love from that person who was an innocent in all of this.  I did.

Many of you didn’t have to decide what “sin” to live – being honest about your sexuality or continuing to lie to everyone in your life.  I did.

Many of you, when you finally stopped running from the truth and met the love of your life, didn’t need to hide it for five years because you’d lose your job, lose many of your friends, lose some of your family, lose your church.  I did.

Many of you haven’t lost a job due to the person you love. LOVE.  I did.

Many of you who wanted nothing more to be monogamous, committed, and live forever with the love of you life in a legal relationship recognized by your country…..but  were instead told you were an abomination and that it was against the law.  I was.

Many of you who have tried to get a driver’s license with your legally married name and were told you could not because your marriage license was not accepted in that state.  I was.

Most of you will not wake up each day and wonder if someone will get in your face – or even attack you – for loving someone.  LOVING SOMEONE.  I do.

Most of you will not be called names or be accused of pedophilia just for holding your spouse’s hand.  I have been.

Many of you do not have to demand basic human rights such as the right to work, the right to see your loved one in the hospital, or the right to have your spouse on your insurance.  I have had to.

Most of you don’t have to be told it’s okay to love your spouse, or that it’s okay to worship in church, or that it’s okay to have kids and raise them in love.  I have.

Most of you don’t have to be assured that no one in this country will speak of death camps, or arrest, or insist violent groups will not be able to attack you for just walking down the street.  At times, I am assured of those things.

Most of you won’t be accused of having an agenda by just be open about LOVE.  I am.

So Pride, to me, is wanting to say “yes, I am a lesbian” today in the hopes that someday the topic won’t even come up.  I do not say it to shove it in your face, to recruit you, to gain special rights, to reject religion, to break the law, to promote sin, to insist you live like me, or anything else.  I celebrate pride to say, I am here, and I am just another human (yes, even an American) who just wants to live.  To marry my wife.  To call my Dad on Father’s Day.  To have friends over for dinner.  To get a flat tire and call AAA.  To go to work and wish I won the lottery instead.  To get the flu and act like a baby.  And in it all, I don’t want to be “Gina the Lesbian”, but just “Gina”.  And until that day arrives, I will gather and say “being Gina is not an abomination.  No.  I am me.  You are you.  And we are all better than this.”

This is my Pride.  This is my life.  Peace.

 

 

 

Questions

It has been ten months since my mom passed away.  Of course, dealing with that has been a journey; sometimes something reminds me of my mom and I laugh, or sometimes I get tears in my eyes, and I often miss her.  That is all normal…..to be expected.  Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror – especially when my hair is wet and slicked back away from my face – and I get a little freaked out because I look so much like her.  Sometimes I just ruminate about my life with her, the moments we’ve shared, etc.

I have been traveling to Kentucky for work lately, and I never expected it to create such a stir with memories about my mom…….I never thought it would create a serious of questions that I have no way to answer.  My mom moved to Los Angeles when she was two years old and lived in California the bulk of her life.  When she and my dad divorced in the early 90’s, she was working for her brothers.  However, some were retiring and eventually the company was sold.  I BELIEVE my mom lost her job at that point.  Not sure what she was going to do to support herself, she and a friend she met at work moved to Kentucky, where her friend grew up.  I was a young mother at that time, focused on taking care of baby Kirstie and making my own marriage and life work, so I wasn’t as involved in my mom’s life as I usually would be.  I remember we exchanged letters during this time, and honestly she was pretty bitter about her divorce and I emotionally pulled away since I felt I was put in the middle of it.  But, the bottom line is she moved away from everyone she knew, went to a place where she basically knew no one, and was on her own.

Being here, I wonder where she lived.  I wonder what she thought about the green hills, the pictures of horses everywhere, did she like the Bourbon BBQ that is so prevalent here?  She ended up getting a job at a Taco Bell out here, she really couldn’t find work (the economy was struggling at the time) and I wonder how the heck that felt.  I wonder if she was scared, if she felt isolated.  In one of her letters she mentioned that there was only one phone in the neighborhood she lived in and the owner would take messages for the neighbors and it was difficult to connect.  She said she got a message that someone called her but they didn’t think to get a name, so she wondered if it was me.  Reading that letter in my mind now and being in this state triggered so many things to wonder about.

And that led me to so many other questions.  My mom was born in 1935 – she was alive during all years of WWII and was 10 years old when it ended.  How did that impact her life?  Did she and her family have rations during this time?  Did she fear Germans at this time, when Germany was easily the targeted “enemy”?  Was she ever scared that the war would come to California?  Does she remember the Japanese Internment Camps and what did she think about them?  And why the hell did I never think to ask her about this?  I know SO MUCH about my paternal Grandma during the depression, even about her early marriage during this timeframe, but not my own mother?  I have no idea why.  And now I can’t even ask my mom.

So, here I am early in the morning blogging about it.  I feel a connection to my mom here in Kentucky and that also seems strange.  But I guess while I write this as a form of personal therapy, I also yearn to remind you something you probably will nod at but maybe not think about again – treasure the time you have with family.  Don’t take it for granted.  Inquire about life details that may not seem important really now and maybe even feels mundane, but are actually pieces of gold that will be lost forever if you miss the opportunity to ask.

And mom, I miss you.

Firsts

Life is filled with “firsts”.  First laughs, first steps, first time driving, first kisses.  So many momentous occasions that we often look back on with smiles and warm feelings.  I remember clearly the day Kirstie was born 26 years ago – my first day as a mom – as the feelings were so fantastic and amazing.  I am sure you have a list of “firsts” as well and understand what I am describing.

But there are other kinds of firsts, too.  Your first speeding ticket.  Your first broken bone.  The first death in the family.  Your first heartbreak.  These events aren’t as sought after and do not bring the cozy feelings we often like to sit through as if a great movie has shown up on the TV.  No, these sort of memories are the ones that definitely impact our lives, but we don’t embrace them when they come to mind.

2016 presented itself with a few firsts I’d rather have avoided – I was attacked for being gay for the first time this year.  That truly sucked and changed a lot about me, though I am working through that.  What really hit me harder than I expected, though, was going through my birthday, Christmas, and the New Year for the first time with my mom not being on this earth.  I have not lived in the same state as my mom since December 2009, so it’s not like I had recently SPENT those events with her.  Even so, not being able to call her or hear her voice……to hear her say, “when am I going to see you again?” (as she always asked that), and to tell her I love her hit me pretty hard.  And, for some reason the pain and the loss I felt surprised me.  And that was a first of sorts as well.  Perhaps it was exacerbated by the fact my older kids were not with me for Christmas this year for the first time as well, which magnified my sense of loss.  But it was hard, across the board.

I am not sharing this to complain or fish for “poor Gina” comments.  I guess I wanted to share that sometimes life is hard……even when we think we have things under control.  And, well, it’s okay that it gets hard.  It’s okay that we sometimes feel punched in the gut and we had no idea to even prepare for it, and it is no measurement of our strength (or lack thereof) when this happens.  There is no deficiency in our faith or belief in heaven when we miss those that are no longer near us.  And finally, that sense of loss and pain is not permanent, even in the case of my mom.  I was able to see my older kids the week after Christmas, and I am surrounded by my mom’s paintings and tons of memories.  I was also in California recently and spent some time with my brother David, and he gave me one of my mom’s favorite rings that he found as well as the Bible that Edgar and I had given her on her 52nd birthday.  THAT surprised me, given that I am almost that age myself!  Ha.  So, really, this post is to acknowledge that we have highs and lows…….to acknowledge and feel both…….but to step up and move to the next segment.  I didn’t say that well, but hope you get the drift.

Happy New Year, and may 2017 be filled with more highs than lows, but know you are loved through them all!

A Voice

Differences exist, everywhere.  I personally have this weird aversion to tomatoes; it’s not that I dislike them, it’s more that I don’t like them mixed with certain things…..and those things are usually where tomatoes are usually found.  Burgers, salads, sandwiches.  So, I will often say “no tomatoes”, though many in my family and throughout the world may look at me and think, “Gina, you’re crazy.”  Conversely, I LOVE garlic.  I could add garlic to almost anything; eggs, meat, pasta, burgers……literally, almost everything.  So many would prefer that I not eat it, and even if they like garlic, would not use it as often as I would like to do.

Who is right?

And that’s the thing……differences have existed since the dawn of mankind.  They manifest themselves in so many ways; preferences, religion, clothing, politics, entertainment, sexual attractions (and no, I am not just referring to homo or heterosexual realms – but to what we are attracted to).  Some like to live in busy, loud cities where “the action is”, while others would instead find joy in the quiet and slower paced “country”.  Some would rather spend their money helping others while others would invest in corporations that are developing new technologies.  Some listen to gangster rap and enjoy it while others think real music is found in the nuances of classical music.

Who is right?

You may be thinking at this very moment, “why does someone need to be right?  That’s just silly!”  And that’s my initial point – we too often work from a place of correctness.  We seem to, more often than usual nowadays, want to or feel like OUR way is the “right” way. Oh, that’s not new – especially in the realm of religion and politics – by any means.  But it sure seems like social media or rhetoric or just our very hearts have taken this phenomenon and made it SO……MUCH……BIGGER!

So, having said that, now my voice comes in.  In my estimation, beliefs and preferences and backgrounds don’t define our value or establish “what is right”.  Voting for Hillary or Trump doesn’t make someone right or wrong.  Being a Christian or a Muslim doesn’t make someone right or wrong.  Burning a flag, not burning a flag, peacefully protesting on the streets or kneeling during the National Anthem doesn’t make someone right just as  always standing and never protesting doesn’t.  Owning a gun legally or despising firearms doesn’t make someone right or wrong.  Only marrying someone in your religion/race or marrying outside of them does not make someone right or wrong.  All of these make us HUMANS with our morals and backgrounds and world views and preferences, and none of them break any laws.  Yet, especially today, it seems many of the loudest voices use these areas as the foundation for their measurement of “being right”, and all I see coming out of that is division, animosity, and arguments.  All when “right” remains nebulous at best.

I could elaborate on recent personal situations in my life where family, friends, and coworkers, in any of the above topics, have used their voice to imply my position or views were wrong.  I could even elaborate where I took the stance that my view was actually right, exposing THEIR error.  And there have been several instances where I chose not to react at all and let the interactions wash past me, only to realize that the resentment and hurt has stayed behind and festered deep within me.  Some of these exchanges were very deliberate – kind of “in your face”, as it were – and some started from a place of innocence that I truly believe were not meant to be offensive or abrasive.  In every case, it was clear that it was “me against them” or the focus was exclusively on establishing who was right.  Too often the root or measuring point was on the “winner”, and too often the interchanges left no room for listening, empathy, finding a shared middle ground – but instead worked towards finding the next zinger that incapacitated the other with their next arguments.

So, who really wins?

I assert, no one.  I am NOT talking about standing up for someone being harassed or attacked.  I am NOT talking about voicing concerns for injustices.  I am NOT talking about standing up for human or constitutional rights that may be in danger.  I am referring to interactions surrounding views/beliefs/”what is right”.

So, with that I challenge my 2.78 readers to step back and consider – what do you hope to accomplish in this realm?  Will your actions build relations?  Have you listened more than you have spoken?  Have you looked at the person you’re interacting with and seen their humanity more than your perceived opinion of them based on their views?  Perhaps we all could try more in this area…….

Further, I admit my background is Christian.  And due to that, I am reminded what Christ taught as recorded in the Bible.  It is not to win by any means.  It is not to annihilate my opponent and then scream out in victory afterward, “we tore that/them down!”.  No, instead He and His Apostles taught these concepts in the Bible:

To love our enemies and not feel justified to annihilate ANYONE based on their stances.  ENEMIES.  Matt 5:44-48

That perceptions or opinions, especially in the realm of social areas or in religious context and beliefs, are wrong to use to define who or how we interact with others.  Matt 9:9-13, Luke 15:1-7, 1 For 9:19-23

No race or religion has more worth or rights than others, but should receive the best from each of us as Christ gave His best.  John 4:5-54

And with that, I will say Au Revoir.  Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

It Takes A Word

Deana works for a large insurance company that makes billions each year.  They are “huge” and all that.  I have worked for a huge company before, and when I was employed there, we referred to customers as numbers and even referred to our coworkers as “FTEs”.  Day after day, financial report after report, I looked at these numbers and FTE references and lost a sense that they were PEOPLE.  I would expect Deana’s firm to act the same way, as they are even larger than the firm I worked for.  However, when they refer to the customers they serve, they say something like this (I totally made up the number for reference only):

“This month we added 12,254 souls to the account.”

SOULS.

“Soul” is defined as “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.”  In religion, the soul is often the immaterial piece that we consider to live beyond our physical death.  This idea varies widely and has a vast history as described here, but for the purposes of this blog I will stick to the soul being the essence within us that exists after our physical body dies.  It is the piece of us that defines who we are, it fellowships with others on this earth as well as our Creator.  It is deep within us.

I have always been touched by Deana and her firm for referring to people such as myself as a “soul”.  To them, we are not just a number.  Not just a paycheck.  And that got me thinking – how different would MY day be if I decided to think about every person I interacted with as a soul?  What if I forced myself to say “hello Soul Bob” in my head before anything else?  What if I forced myself to acknowledge, yep……that dude that just flipped me off as he cut me off has a soul and, as such, should not be chased down for his egregious behavior.

It was a simple question that changed over two dozen interactions this week that would have otherwise not have ended as well.  And, perhaps that is sort of what Jesus meant when He told us to love our neighbors (and enemies) as ourselves.  Just as Jesus didn’t clarify this command by including “Christians only” or “those who are in our denomination”, or “those who live in our country”, perhaps we need to expand our nets beyond our own little spheres.  Then, maybe we will allow room for our souls to interact in purity with other souls we normally would not want to interact with……

That’s NOT to say that I don’t think consequences should occur or that we should be friends with everyone, but those are different topics for different days.

So, here are some outputs of this walk of mine with the concept of “soul”…..

Trump, no matter if anyone feels you make bad decisions, you purposely refuse to pay small businesses under the guise of non-conformity to contracts, you do not respect women, or do not deserve to be president, your soul is worthy of kindness and respect

Hillary, no matter if you are a liar, deserve to be convicted in numerous ways, actually caused the murder of 4 in Benghazi, or just want to kill babies, your soul is worthy of kindness and respect

Evangelical Christians, no matter that some feel you have directly or indirectly caused LGBT to kill themselves, that you have allowed your religion to turn your backs on your own children in “righteous love”, that you insist that Jesus is political, use the Bible as a sword of condemnation and exclusion, or rejoice that your opponents will “burn in hell”, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Muslims, no matter that some believe your religion’s only focus is to terrorize and kill Americans, that you hate the One True God, your rape children, and you want to subjugate every woman in the world, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Atheists, no matter that many believe you have an agenda to turn our children against us, that you are getting your slimy hands on every educational platform in this country, and you want to throw Christians in jail, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

LGBT people, no matter that most would say your propaganda is focused on stealing traditional marriage from us, that you’re promiscuous and abominations,  that you are steep in the filth of HIV and AIDS, seek out our children in bathrooms, try to convert our children in schools, and insist on buying wedding cakes, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Black Lives, no matter that America says you need to calm down and show respect for authority, need to stop being in gangs in the inner cities, need to stop destroying your own cities in riots, probably should take less drugs, and probably should stop insisting that your lives are more important than ours, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Blue Lives, no matter that many say many of you use your authority in ways that would be called a crime otherwise, that corruption is the norm in your agencies, and racism is a core value, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Women, no matter that EVERYONE says you keep insisting that you need to be able to murder babies, that you are promiscuous and sluts and that’s the only reason why you insist on having access to birth control, and you expect to be treated like a man in pay and authority, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Trump Supporters, no matter that you’re racists, ignorant, hateful, misinformed, rich worshipers and poor neglecters, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Hillary Supporters, no matter that you all want to kill babies, you’re all satanists, you want to make Christianity illegal, you just want something for nothing, and you want to take away everyone’s guns, you all have souls worthy of kindness and respect

Gina, no matter that you used every negative stereotype you could think of to expose our own personal justifications for treating other people poorly, you have a soul worthy of kindness and respect

 

Perception

One of the definitions of “perception”, at least as noted in the Google dictionary, is “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.”

Perception can vary widely from person to person.  For example, one person might feel that waiting 1 minute and 39 seconds for popcorn to pop in the microwave is a miracle of technology, while another might feel as though the time spent waiting was nothing but a waste and that popcorn should not take that long to pop.  It’s all about perception.

If the Chicago Cubs swept the 2016 World Series in 4 games, Cub fans would say it might be the best World Series EVER!  But Indians fans would think it probably sucked big time.  It’s all about perception.

Over the years playing on youth sports teams, we often prayed before games and asked God to help us succeed in being victorious over our opponent.  We intuitively felt God was on our side and on our team.  Unbeknownst to us, the other team was doing the same thing and felt the same way.  It’s all about perception.  (And no, I don’t believe God was really going to help us…..at least right now that is my perception ha.)

I think you get what I am trying to say about perception.  We PERCEIVE things through our view; based on our upbringing, our locale, or religious beliefs, our emotions, our influences……so many things.  And those items often make us perceive things differently.  We hold our truths to be 100% accurate, though your neighbor’s truths may have a very different view.  Which one is right?

Do we base that on who wins the game, like I perceived during my youth sports matches?  Or as Cubs or Indians fans would?  What is the “real best time” to pop popcorn in the microwave?  How do we measure that?  Should we insist OUR perception is the measuring stick to defining things, or someone else’s?  Do we HAVE to assign “the best” perception, or do we acknowledge they vary and leave it at that?  Do we ignore all these questions and just say “let’s agree to disagree”?

I am not sure how to answer those questions.  I tend to feel that if we each acknowledge that our PERCEPTIONS impact how we see things and accept things, and acknowledge that other’s perceptions may vary (potentially by a BUNCH), we might all get along better.  But instead, many of us take our perceptions and try to dictate them as “the truth” and force our perceptions on others.  When others reject them, we treat them as outsiders/enemies/put negative adjective here.  When others agree with them, we group together and reinforce the idea that “our perception is truth”…..or really “we have the truth”.

Before you get all crazy, I am NOT talking about religious beliefs here, so RELAX.

How about I share a real life scenario about perception.  Many of my friends and neighbors believe in and recite the phase, “Make America Great Again!”  That goes in hand with supporting Donald Trump as President, but this blog post in not about Trump nor his campaign nor anything related to him EXCEPT this catch phrase.  I wanted to give Trump a fair shake and let his own words define his perception of “Make America Great Again!”, so I went to his campaign site (https://www.donaldjtrump.com)  to glean what that entails.  There are many things noted on the site that made total sense, including his plan on child care, education, and veteran affairs reform.  But see, already my perception is involved as there are many more listed that I excluded.  I will let you go to the site and check out how he intends to “make America Great Again!”.

One point taken from his “Immigration” Positions page, is the following:

Since 2013 alone, the Obama Administration has allowed 300,000 criminal aliens to return back into U.S. communities.

In essence, he will remove them from our communities and America will be great again!  I can’t say I dispute that, but I do have a different perception of that.

Earlier this year, I was attacked by a white male who happens to be in his 50’s.  He is a Trump supporter.  He does not like blacks nor homosexuals.  He thinks America is NOT great, because of blacks and homosexuals.  He believed me to be homosexual due to my Human Rights Campaign sticker on my car (they are an LGBT organization and in this case, his perception was 100% accurate ).  When I walked out of a public building, having used their restroom, he began to scream slurs at me related to my homosexuality, grabbed my neck, and threw me to the ground.  I sustained injuries to my face (lip, philtrum, and nose) and my knee due to the impact on the ground.  My iPhone was shattered, my sunglasses flew off of my face, and my keys flew out of my hand.  He continued his hate-filled screaming as I picked my face off the ground and remained on all fours, my mind going through a super slow but probably extremely fast panic as I wondered what I should do (should I ball up to avoid his kicks?  Should I run?  Do I flail my arms and legs?  Do I just try to punch and kick at whatever and hope it makes contact?  What if he has a weapon?  What if I die?).

My attacker is American.  He is also a convicted criminal, having been on parole for sexual assault.  Based on statements made to the police after his arrest, he truly felt I deserved the attack, and if they loved me at all they deserved to have their gay asses kicked, too.  He shared that the reason America was so screwed up was because of me (a damn homo) and blacks.  And that is why America needed to be great again.  It is not unreasonable to perceive, based on these comments, that he envisions an America with both groups removed.

Break – I UNDERSTAND that he does not represent all White Americans, Trump supporters, etc.  But he DOES represent a piece of society that so many of my friends are too scared to acknowledge.

You may expect me to share now that I think America needs to be made great because this man did such horrible things to me.  Or that I don’t think Trump should be focused on the MEXICAN or IMMIGRANT criminals in society, but rather the AMERICAN ones.  Maybe there is a hint of truth to that last sentence, but realistically and honestly I don’t want that.  No, more realistically I can and do accept that there are bad in EVERY country and EVERY race and EVERY community – that’s why those who break the law go to jail.  I don’t think we ever need to focus on one group but focus on the crime.  But I digress.

The truth is, MY perception is that America IS Great.  Despite this man who did horrible things to me FOR NO GOOD REASON other than his PERCEPTION, this world is filled with more that do NOT attack those who they do not like.  Most, no matter their social level, their bank account levels, even their citizenship…….would come to the aid of someone who is being attacked in broad daylight in front of a public facility.  Because, the day I was attacked, customers and employees of the public facility came to my rescue and grabbed my attacker.  They called the police.  They helped me wash the blood off my face and gave me ice.  They were witnesses and gave VERY detailed information that has helped tremendously.  Several appeared to be Latinos, maybe even illegals I really don’t know, but that didn’t matter to them and it certainly didn’t matter to me.  They put themselves in possible danger; they didn’t know if this man had weapons either, or if he was super strong and could throw them to the ground as he did me.  They could have decided to just record my attack on their cell phones and feel justified in supplying the footage to the police.  Or they could have participated in my attack, had they held the same perception as the man who threw me to the ground.  But instead, they saved me – a complete stranger, and a gay one at that.

America is great because one of my friends, who happens to be Hindu and Indian, bought me pepper spray and found out where I was eating dinner to deliver it so that I could protect myself from another attack (as she also was angry/crying/emotionally distraught that my attack even happened).  America IS great because a Christian friend of mine who holds a more conservative view of homosexuality but who has never broached the subject……despite this view of my sexuality reached out when they heard and shared their horror and sadness…..because that is Christian.  America IS great because of friends who offered to let me stay at their house instead of my planned hotel so I wouldn’t have to face the night after my attack alone.  America IS great because my friends and coworkers who support Trump have shared that what happened to me is wrong, and support my rights as an American to believe attacking someone in the candidate’s name is not right.  America IS great, because someone like me can be attacked in a very public way, with very public rhetoric and a super public slogan being thrown in my face, can still emerge with love and hope for their country no matter who leads it.  (Never mind, I DO believe God is in control and don’t quite understand fear otherwise.)

THAT is why I believe America IS great and we don’t need to make it so…….

But I would be non transparent if I left it there.  It is absolutely a trigger for me when I see signs or bumper stickers that say “Make America Great Again!”, because all I perceive is the shaded out face of my attacker and the ground against my face…..blood everywhere and the physical and emotional pain and scars that are now my reality.  I relate my very graphic situation with that slogan.  It is hard for me to separate these words from those actions.  I fully understand that you may absolutely get a sense of hope that things may get better if things pan out as you hope.  I get that hearing “Make America Great Again!” brings up positive perceptions and reactions.

But which perception is right?

I don’t know.  But maybe we need to stop asking that question and begin to realize – we are people, not slogans.  We are flesh and bones and souls, not statistics.  We are more than this, and we are great.

 

 

 

 

 

Humanness…..and Judgment

Life is……complicated.  Too often I (and perhaps we) are very quick to decide how things are based on limited knowledge or even limited scenarios.  Sometimes scenarios help us to avoid things in the future, but sometimes they could create prejudices or even judgments in our hearts.

Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about.

I was raised to trust authority, to believe they may not always be right, but more often than not, those in authority knew the best and wanted to do the best for me.  About 15 years ago, I was driving in my super sexy Dodge Grand Caravan with my then husband and Kenny, who was about 6 years old.  We were driving through an intersection, had the green light, when suddenly a truck that had a red light to our right entered the intersection to turn right and ultimately t-boned us.  Thankfully, no one was injured by the damage to my sexy mini-van was bad.  We pulled over, I called the police, while the older couple in the truck remained in their vehicles.  They did not ask if we were alright, the woman/passenger in fact continued to read her newspaper as if nothing had happened.  As our son was on the side that was hit, his father became very upset at the lack of concern on their part, though I encouraged him to wait for the police and see what happens.

The police came, took our story, and then spoke to the male driver of the truck.  We still had not interacted with the other driver.  The policeman came back to me (I was the driver) and told me the other driver was a retired police officer, his account matched mine, and therefore recommended no police report be filed as “then the other driver would not have to be fined”.  I trusted the police officer, and despite the lack of concern shown by the other driver, trusted his account and word due to the fact he was also a police officer albeit retired.

Big mistake.  When all was said and done, the other drive told his insurance I ran the red light and it was 100% my fault.  I, of course, told my insurance what really happened.  Since we had no witnesses and no police report, we were each charged as 50% responsible.  The truth, however, was that he was 100% responsible.  He lied to his insurance, he lied to the police officer implying he would not dispute what happened (though he DID tell the truth to him about the events), and he changed my view of SOME police officers – more on that later.

Flash forward to last year; Deana was driving to work in downtown Atlanta and an off duty police officer driving to work decided, in his personal car, that he needed two lanes to turn into his work’s parking lot.  From the left lane, with no signal, he turned right and didn’t bother to look to see if he was clear to do so.  He wasn’t – Deana was driving to the right and just behind him and he ended up turning into her left door just inches from where she sat.  This happened right in front of the police station, so when she called someone walked out almost immediately.  Very quickly in, both the off duty officer and the officer taking the report tried to convince Deana that no police report was necessary – “I agree with what happened, it was totally my fault.” Off Duty told Deana.  “I have already called my insurance company and they will take care of this.”  His co-worker backed him up, stating he would get a ticket or points on his record if a report was filed and that there really was no need for a report.  Knowing my history, Deana called me to get my opinion, and I told her to absolutely get a report because “you never know who you’re dealing with.  Just because the guy is a police officer doesn’t mean he’s trustworthy.  Humans are humans and some humans are not honest.”  So, she insisted on a report and one was filed.

It was GOOD that the report was filed, because Off Duty never called his insurance.  Our insurance, since it was not Deana’s fault, didn’t really get involved and just said “contact the driver’s insurance.”  That insurance company didn’t dispute Deana’s claims per se, but they refused to proceed without speaking to their client.  They left him over 10 messages, but he never returned their calls.  Finally, after about a month of this, we tried to call the department he said he worked for in the police unit.  That too was a lie.  I finally got hold of someone who was kind enough in the police department who looked up where Off Duty worked and sent me to his supervisor; I left a message there and explained how this employee of the City of Atlanta was not being honorable.  In the mean time, Deana had to pay for a copy of the police report, send it to his insurance, and pretty much brow beat them to fix our car.  I am not sure which path was the fix – his boss or Deana’s Latina attitude – but we finally got the car fixed and they accepted it was 100% his fault.  But bottom line, if we had “just trusted his word” we probably would have been screwed.

So, first of all, some police officers are dishonest.  They are human and bring forward weakness and selfishness and bad decisions and perhaps even lack honor. We ALL have those attributes at times, so I have realized just because they have a badge and gun does not mean they’re above board across the board.  Fortunately for me, these two situations did not involve guns or violence.

But……..

Just like with everything else in life, these two police officers do not represent all officers.  And even though many of us SAY things like that, there is this reality that we are impacted by negative experiences more so than positive ones.  At least, that’s what I seem to see in our society.  So, when so many police shootings against blacks or aggressiveness or whatever else, my first reaction in my heart was “there is another bad cop…..so many lack honor”.  And when I put that through MY experience filter, it makes sense.  I mean, TWO TIMES I dealt with dishonorable men and that made me feel that there might be more in the force than I realized.  Pretty soon, without me realizing it, my heart was really processing it like this:  “All cops are dishonorable, and only a few truly can be trusted.”……even though I said and I thought I believed “most police are honorable”.

The increase of fear and division and violence and rhetoric in our daily lives the past year has made me so………I lack the word.  It is like I wanted to sit in a small room like a bunker and wait it out with no windows for a decade and see what might be left.  Then the shootings on police started and I was sickened.  I was in shock and cried out to God, asking why violence was so prevalent in this world – why we thought murder would make things better.  I considered some comments a friend of mine made – an officer and an honorable one – and I had no place to go but prayer.  I wanted to run, but instead the very filter I didn’t know existed was exposed.  I was ALSO a human, and I was judging.

All to say, there’s nothing wrong for “being smart”.  If you are in an accident, get a police report.  Always.  People are people.  If you have been abused, avoid the situation in the future if possible.  If you are a majority, be a force for the minority.  If you’re white in a community that has institutional racism – by citizens or officers, be vocal.  If you are straight and you witness someone in the LGBTQ community being harassed, be vocal.  If individual officers violate the law, hold them accountable.  If citizens in the community violate the law, hold them accountable.  If you are oppressed and treated differently, don’t give up, stay vocal, but avoid allowing your anger to become violent (and hear me, the shooters of police are NOT associated with Black Lives Matter just as the bad cops don’t represent the rest).  But let’s ALL take stock of our filters – let’s admit we probably all have them and possibly don’t even realize they exist, and determine to try not to apply them broadly.  Let each individual be measured on their own actions and not the actions of a few (or their skin color…..or their religion…….).  Let’s not lump all – black, white, or purple – into behaviors that are not fair.  And, if someone does that to you or you realize you have a filter that has been doing that……don’t become violent.  Don’t let hatred dwell in your heart.  Acknowledge it, change it, and move on.

Peace and thanks for reading.