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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What is Sexual Assault?


Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

Let's be clear. He who shall not be named was not merely bragging about his sexual exploits. He was bragging about committing sexual assault. I don't know a single person who was offended by his use of the word, "pussy" on that recording. It was purely about the fact that he said, "I don't even wait. Just start kissing," and that he justified it by citing his socio-economic status as granting him permission to do as he pleases to any person's body without gaining consent, 

"And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.

It is clear exactly what is being said here. This is not just locker room talk. This is beyond that childish "boys will be  boys," bullshit. This is a person clearly saying that they don't need permission, consent, or even a hint of reciprocity, they feel that their fame and fortune grant them access to other people's bodies in the most intimate of ways, regardless of how the other person feels. And if you are defending him, you are just as disgusting, repulsive, and abhorrent as him. Grow the fuck up and realize that your candidate is a vile human being, and should absolutely NOT represent what the United States of America is about, in any sense whatsoever. And get the fuck out of my face with your disgusting defense of sexual assault. 

Here's where my reaction to this comes from, as a woman who grew here  in a country where rape culture is so prevalent and yet so quickly dismissed as myth or exaggeration, I experienced the following: 
1.  By the time I learned what it meant to be a virgin, I realized that my virginity had been taken from me long ago, without my permission, and by someone close. 

2.  When I tried to discuss the sexual abuse with my parents, I got the response, "You have to learn to get along  with everyone." They didn't even get it, what I was trying to tell them, and my vocabulary didn't even hold the words "rape" or "sex" or even "bad touch" yet. 

3.  When I tried to tell my priest about the sexual abuse, he actually did grab me by the pussy and asked me, "Is this where he touched you?" and then went on to tell me how God only punishes naughty girls in this way.  Years  later, when I went to the Diocese to report that abuse, my claim was dismissed because the school mysteriously lost all record of my attendance there, even though I still, to this day, have year books, report cards, and letters from my teachers. 

4.  Riding on the school bus at 13 years old was a treat when boys would randomly grab my breasts.  One time one boy actually stuck his hands up my skirt. He blamed the bumpy ride for his fingers pushing into me, but I knew better and left a pretty good bruise on him. He didn't try that again.

5.   At 19 years old, I endured a male manager who conveniently dropped his pencil under the desk and needed to bend down there to retrieve it  every time I wore a dress or skirt to work. When I caught on and switched to slacks, he stopped being so clumsy. 

So don't talk to me about "innocent locker room talk" or "school boy banter." Men who talk the way that orange pile of shit talks about women are the reason we have kids like Brock Turner raping unconscious women and then spending less time in prison than I spent recovering from pneumonia.  And if you can't understand that, you have much bigger problems than your feigned outrage and defense of the indefensible.  
And now I need a shower.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Remembering Chopper

I woke up this morning remembering Chopper's funeral. I suppose I was dreaming about it last night. When I checked in on facebook while I sipped my morning coffee, I saw this post in my Memories section, from where I wrote it years ago on another morning that I awoke with Chopper on my mind. 

His death still haunts me, and  I wasn't even as close to him as some of his other friends were. But I loved him. I loved his attitude, his personality, his style, his charm, and his intellect. I think about the  world we have today, where  people seem to meet people like Chopper with even more aggression than they did back then, and I wonder how he would have fared in today's world of ugliness.

Chopper never felt like he belonged. He hurt. Badly.
I connected with that, because I never felt like I belonged either. I was never really a white kid, and never really fully a Mexican kid. I was told to pretend I was just white. I was told not to check Hispanic on job applications and school forms... I was taught to be ashamed of who I was born to be.

To everyone who has ever told me, "Don't tell people that you are half Mexican." or "Don't let them know you are gay." or "Try to avoid the topic of your past with drug abuse." I say to you, FUCK OFF!

It is exactly that type of judgment and criticism that led that gentle, sweet soul to take his own life before it ever even had a chance to get started. And it is your prejudice and bigotry that fed his insecurity. And mine. 

In memory of a great guy who died entirely too young. RIP my friend. I hope you found peace. 
Amy slunk into homeroom late that morning after missing first period altogether. Her usually perfectly tousled and teased hair was disheveled and matted from the pillow's friction and I was pretty sure she still had on yesterday's clothes. Her eyes were red and puffy and she looked completely lost.
"Chopper's dead."
The words rolled off her tongue so softly that it took a moment to sink in.
I turned my full attention to her, noticing that her shoulders were slumped and face was solemn.
"What? How? Oh my god, Amy, OH MY GOD!"
The finality of what she had just told me was sinking in, and I wanted no part of this knowledge.
Instantly, flashes of Chopper ran through my mind. Chopper and Amy and I were a threesome during summer school. We stuck tight, hiding in Amy's car to smoke our parent's cigarettes and make fun of the kids who were there not because they skipped too much school, but because they just couldn't pass. The three of us were alike. We showed up on test day and aced it. Why bother showing up the rest of the week? And that's the attitude that landed us together that summer with all the kids who hated us for who we were. The outcasts. The strangely dressed, strange acting and hard to understand Others. That was us. We had each other's backs in that crowd of football players and cheerleaders, basketball stars and future wrestling coaches.
We had to, kids like us were open targets.

"Shot himself. This morning. His mom called me. He gave me this last night..."
She shoved her hand my way, which cradled a pewter dragon and wizard, Chopper's favorites.
"He told me he wanted me to have them. But I didn't know...I didn't know..."

The rest of that day was a blur. More information came in about how Chopper died. He picked a beautiful spot by the pond in the park and then blew his brains out, leaving his mutilated corpse there for some poor lady to find on her early morning jog.
I wonder if she still jogs.

I was perpetually grounded in those days, for one thing or another, and never allowed to use the phone, leave my room, have company, or do anything. I left a note on the kitchen table for my parents, asking for permission to go to the funeral, and was surprised that permission was granted.

I'd been to many funerals in my too short life already. Family and friends alike had died in my 16 years, enough that I had a couple of outfits designated for funerals already.
I picked one out and headed off with Amy to say goodbye to a bright, intelligent, and extremely humorous young man.

The funeral was surreal. There was a giant photo of Chopper, propped up in the middle of the funeral home, no one needed to see what was left of our friend, no one. We stared at the larger than life photo and reminisced about the events leading up to this. Chopper's mom was distraught beyond belief and I could hardly bare to look her way. After losing her daughter in a car accident the year before, I couldn't imagine what she must have been going through now. When the minister took the podium to conduct the services, I was relieved, hoping for some words of comfort.
As I pulled myself out of oblivion and focused in on what he was saying, I was mortified.
He told us that our dear friend, her son, would never see the fruits of heaven, and would be eternally burning in hell because he had committed the worst sin of all, suicide. To this, Chopper's mom began to sob hysterically. Someone placed their arms around her to comfort her, but I don't think it was much relief at that moment.
I turned back to the minister, who was by now in full exaltation, speaking with a zealotry I'd never before witnessed. He scared me. He told us that we were all sinners and would suffer the same torturous fate as Chopper if we didn't turn our lives over right this very moment to his Christ and if we didn't go out and save others from burning and suffering like Chopper.
I couldn't get the image of my friend, a good soul, a sweet, kind, loving person being chained in a lava filled, fire engulfed pit and screaming for help.
He was just sad. He was just a sad boy who didn't see any way out. He made a mistake. A very big and final mistake. How can this man stand here and tell us all how horrible and grotesque Chopper was? Did he even know him? Did he know the boy that would stand up for anyone who was being bullied, even if it got his own ass kicked? Did he know the boy who would give his lunch money to homeless guys? Did he know the guy who looked out for everyone else's best interest before his own? I didn't think so. Because if he had known that guy, he would never be able to stand in front of all of us and say these horrible things about our friend, her son, their cousin.

After the thing that they called a service, we got together and took Chopper's ashes to the pond at the park where he ended his life. A fitting place to sprinkle Chopper and set him free. We talked about the good times and remembered Chopper the way he should be remembered and did our very best to eulogize him in a more appropriate way than that which we had just witnessed.

I went home that day angry. Angry at Chopper for dying, angry at god for letting him, angry at that minister for all the things he'd said, angry at everyone who ever made Chopper sad...angry.
I'll never forget Chopper's funeral. I try to remember Chopper's smile and quick wit, but following that always comes the memories of Chopper's funeral. I've stopped being mad at Chopper and all the assholes that gave him a hard time. But I must admit, I'm still a little bit teed-off at that insensitive, arrogant minister who made Chopper's funeral one of the most traumatic parts of Chopper's entire, grotesque and sudden death.
I hope Chopper found some peace in death that he couldn't find in life. I hope Chopper's mom found some peace and comfort somewhere other than that awful man that presided over his funeral, and I hope that man isn't doing funerals for teens who've committed suicide anymore.

Friday, June 17, 2016

After Orlando, Speak Up and Speak Out

I've bit my tongue and held my breath since Orlando. I've quietly unfriended more than a few people after seeing their reactions and reading their comments on it. I don't need that toxicity in my life. I haven't the time nor patience for it anymore.

 I've developed a new-found respect for many who have stepped up and spoken out in ways I've never seen or heard them do before. And I personally thank them, each and every one.

But all is not cherries and roses.

I'm amazed by the number of people who are loudly outspoken about loving their LGBT friends and call upon their peers to do so as well, and then quote bible scripture supporting their position of love, only to then share a post from their famously anti-gay pastor who resides in a multimillion dollar mansion. A man who loudly and unabashedly preaches about the evils of Islam, and who blames all Muslims for the actions of the few terrorists.

These same people will say, "You can't blame all guns for the actions of one bad guy with a gun!" They decry, "Don't blame all Christians for the words of a few who don't practice my Christianity!" But they will openly blame all Muslims for the actions of one bad Muslim.

I am amazed when they say "Putting laws and restrictions on guns won't stop bad people from doing bad things!" But they are screaming at the tops of their voices about needing laws to prohibit any Muslims from entering our country. Blaming President Obama for Orlando, citing his not stopping Muslims from entering the country, disregarding the fact that this man was born in New York.

Homegrown. He was American. He was one of us.

My dear friends and family, stop. STOP! Take a step back and look at who you are quoting. Take a listen at your service this Sunday. When that murderer turn pastor starts preaching about the "sinners" who died in Orlando, remind him he too is a sinner. When that murderer turn pastor starts talking about the evils of Islam, remind him of the evils of his beheading that elderly woman in Texas so many years ago. When that homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobe starts talking about how God hates homosexuals, remind him that God also hates hypocrisy, murder, and greed. And remember that it was people exactly like Mr. I Killed That Lady But My Daddy's Friend Was My Judge So I Got Off The Hook, preaching their hate and intolerance that led to the awful massacre in Orlando. Remember that it was people just like you listening to people just like him who became radicalized and committed atrocities.

It amazes me when many of these people chant Trump 2016! While they boast of deleting the intolerant, bigoted friends who made snide comments about Orlando.

They have disabled children, bisexual, transgendered children, gay children, mixed race children...and yet they chant "Trump 2016!

And don't you dare tell me how you really don't care one bit about politics, but figure Trump is nothing more than a business man, and hey, wouldn't that be great fou the country? And then turn right around and say you'll never understand how Germany let Hitler gain power and control. You no longer get to speculate about that old German woman, and which side she may or may not have been on.

If you want to love and support your LGBT friends and family, stand up against religious intolerance, bigotry, and incendiary speech, even if it comes from your pastor, your family member, or your favorite politician.

Take a good, hard look at your pastor and your favorite politician, and honestly ask yourself if they are practicing the love and tolerance that you, yourself are demanding of your peers. And if not, please, please, please call them out on it like you have your facebook friends, and then go find a politician and pastor who's views and speech align with that which you feel in your heart is right. Otherwise, you are complicit in their incendiary behavior that leads to more and more and more of this violence.

Think about that.
Take it to heart.
And please, please, please take corrective action. Lives depend on it.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

How do you holiday?

USA Today says that every country in the European Union has at least four weeks of paid vacation time per year, by law. FOUR WEEKS!Here in the land of the free, the greatest country on earth, we get zero guaranteed paid vacation time. Absolutely none. When the retina specialist told me that I was going blind sooner rather than later, he also told me to "go out and travel! Make a list and see what you can while you can! Do it now. Don't let anything stop you. Your time to see the sights you want to see is very limited. Enjoy it while you can."I laughed and asked him if he was going to fund my travels. I know he was only trying to help, but for a person in my financial condition, meaning a person who lives paycheck to paycheck without much buffer in between, he was only adding insult to injury. I can't afford to go home, to Tennessee, to see family and friends. I can't afford to go to a cabin for a weekend without sharing the cost with 6 other people. How am I supposed to travel and see things before I lose what's left of my sight? HOW?My job is perfect for traveling. I can do it from anywhere as long as I can connect to the internet. Easy enough to manage in this day and age. The wife's is a different story. She's chained to her desk Monday - Friday. No telecommute opportunities for her. Oh, she has ample vacation time available to her, but trying to get approved to take any of it is a fucking joke. And if she could get the time off approved, where in the fuck could we go with our limited budget and car that needs brakes and tires and a tune up first, when we can't even afford to get the brakes, and tires, and the tune up? At this point, I'd take a nice meandering drive through Amish country with a stop off somewhere for lunch, and I'd consider that a god damned luxurious treat. Meanwhile I watch all my friends, year after year post travel pictures on facebook, and I wonder how did they afford that with children to care for? How did they get time off work to go to the beach? I don't understand how we can't make that happen, while so many others can. Sure, they get tax refunds each April, while we scrape together what we can to pay in what we owe yet. I want to travel. I want to see those places I haven't seen in years. I want to see the places I've yet to see. It's been a few years since the last time I was able to take a vacation, and that was with a family group, for just a weekend at a cabin an hour and a half away.
Sometimes I want to scream, "I'M GOING BLIND, GOD DAMMIT! TAKE ME TO THE FUCKING BEACH! I WANT TO SEE THE OCEAN JUST ONE MORE TIME!"or, "PLEASE, just let me see the fucking Rocky Mountains for 1 day, for fuck's sake! Just ONE DAY!"Is it that so hard? My sight is vanishing, and along with it are all my chances to see things like the slopes in Denver, or the northern lights, or an elk...But who would I scream at? It's no one's responsibility to make sure I get to go places and see things, but my own. No one else is responsible for that. It's my own problem that I didn't end up wealthy, well educated, and ready to take on the world. It's my luck of the draw that I got all the bad genes and get to lose my sight. And it's my luck of the draw that the only person I'd want to travel with is tied to a desk at a job that won't allow her to use her vacation days. And it's my luck of the draw that our combined income barely keeps our heads afloat as it is, much less trying to afford to travel anywhere. No wonder Americans die young. We're stuck at our desks for 8+ hours a day, sitting and staring at an LED screen, then we're sold garbage that's labeled as food, and then we're paid a fraction of what we're worth, and we never get to relax and unwind,and when we do, we're breathing in toxic, polluted air. If I was a religious person, maybe I'd pray about it. But I'm not, so that delusion of hope through prayer is absent. So now what? Nothing, I guess, except come here and write about it. 

"I said Venice, and you heard Vegas. Now I say either way, baby, let's go..."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Just. Keep. Swimming.

Often times I seek out change. I'm hard wired that way, I like variety and alternate views.
Other times, change seeks me.

I try to go with the flow and accept whatever change may take place, and remind myself that every change that has occurred in my life, no matter how hotly contested by me at the moment, has always, eventually, become the very best thing that could have happened, in the long run. 
I try. 
And that's really all I can do. 

I have two big changes facing me right now, and they were both presented to me on Tuesday. One I'm super excited about, the other has me gut wrenched and nervous. 

First, the company that I've been freelancing for has asked me to take on a full time role as managing client accounts and providing training, instruction, support, and assistance to our clients and their end users who are using our software.

I'm super stoked and slightly terrified, but more than anything, I'm grateful that I've been handed this opportunity to do the stuff that I love to do, and to do it for a company that I really enjoy working with. Learning the software well enough to teach it to end users is scary for me, but my boss insists she has "full confidence" in my ability. I'm glad someone does.

The other change is of the more sinister-seeming variety. It seems that we may be forced into making a move abruptly, in the very near future. There's a possibility that our landlord is selling the house we rent, and with that, a possibility that we will be forced to vacate. Nothing is set in stone, so I may be freaking out over nothing...then again, I like to be prepared for the worst.

We've rented here for almost five years now, and have never been late on the rent, not even once. That stands in our favor. But, we lost our house a little over five years ago, when we surrendered the deed in lieu of foreclosure, and that still plagues our credit rating just as badly as if we had let them actually foreclose. It was difficult finding someone to rent to us with two large dogs and less than ideal credit, and I expect it will be difficult again this time. But just as that situation of losing our house was so difficult to go through, once we landed here and found this house and she got her new job, we looked back on all of that and said, yeah, losing that house in Tennessee was the best thing that could have happened to us. We're here, we love it here, and we're happier. I also suspect that this move, if it happens, will be much the same.

I applied for a mortgage loan, but I got denied. My credit score is 15 points lower than the minimum required. My poor decisions earlier in life, my relatively recent disability, my student loans, and being self-employed for the last several years as a freelance agent have all put a damper on my credit rating. It takes time to rebuild credit ratings, and apparently time is not something we have a lot of right now. I'm more than a little bit stressed over it all, but I know that whatever happens, eventually we'll look back on it as having been the best thing that could have happened. There's a million rental properties in this city, and I'm confident we'll find something...but I'm not confident we can find something as awesome as this house has been, in as short of a time frame as it appears we may be given.

But, again, nothing is concrete yet, so all I can do is keep my head down and Just. Keep. Swimming.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Fuck you, cancer!

My friend, my former neighbor, my confidant and my gardening, cooking, and shopping buddy passed away Wednesday morning. She was only 50 years old. 50.

She was much too young, much too vibrant and full of joy to be taken from us. When I was sad, Maritza could always find a way to make me happy about again. When I was angry, she helped me find the humor. When I needed a hug, she was there with as many as it took, giving them freely and often.
The world has lost one of the most beautiful, caring, loving spirits that has ever been known. She was quick witted, funny, and nurturing to everyone and everything in her presence. She never encountered an animal she couldn't help or a person she couldn't comfort. She was one of my very best friends in this crazy, wild world, and she will be missed terribly. To meet Maritza was to love Maritza. If you ever met her, you know what I mean, it was impossible not to find yourself surrounded by her love.

Be free, my dear, sweet friend. I love you!