Tag Archives: LGBTQ

I’m a Vigilante. And Here’s Why.

“Sometimes justice is better served by those who have experienced the pain.”
― Mark W. Boyer

October 1. We all remember it, and will for years to come. The day that a lone madman decided to rain down bullets on an unsuspecting crowd of country music fans at a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. Our hearts broke for our brothers and sisters as we could only imagine what they must have been going through.

And then, as some idiots among us never fail to do these days, some decided to turn this horrid, random incident into a political one. No, not just to discuss gun rights (which is a worthy discussion that needs to be had) – but to place the blame on one “side” or the other.

Cue a local preacher rant.

I live in a small, highly conservative town in North Carolina and one man – a man of “God” – decided to post on Facebook about what happened. He posted a news link to the shooting and used the following words as his caption:

“Welcome to multiculturalism. Thank you Democrats, the media, and liberal education.”

Okay, let me give you a minute to let that sink in.

Take all the time you need.

Yes, my friends, you read that right. This PREACHER – a man of “God,” – decided to place the blame for this lone, white, unaffiliated, non-religious madman’s actions on multiculturalism (different races and religions living amongst one another), democrats (you know – most of whom want to tighten gun safety laws), the media (because um…yeah…I got nothing), and liberal education (whatever the hell he wants to claim that is – acceptance of LGBTQ? Beats me.)

So, needless to say…this pissed me right the hell off.

I screenshotted this atrocity and shared it on social media. I posted it to the church’s website (to no avail because it didn’t seem to bother them).  I contacted the preacher directly who told me, and I quote, that this was “none of my business” and that he would not “stand by and watch liberals destroy his county.”

*Ahhem.*

And then, as some would enjoy telling me over the next few weeks, I became a “vigilante.” I continued to post about it – to remind people of who this man was and what he was teaching his congregation. I continued to post on the church’s website, even though they continued to delete my posts. I even thought about posting a sign on their church to show them who their preacher was. (I decided against that one because it was blatantly obvious that the powers that be didn’t care who he was – they apparently agree with him. Or at least they don’t disagree with him enough to do anything about it.)

Eventually, I was told even by people who agree with my stance on this that “vigilante justice” was not the way to go.

Now, before we go any further, I have to just go ahead and admit that I’ve never been one to listen to anyone else when they try to tell me what to do. Whether they’re on my “side” or not, and whether they’re even “right” or not. Is it healthy for me to continue to feel this anger towards this preacher? Maybe not. Is it productive? Maybe not.

But am I going to stop? Nope. And here’s why.

You know what “vigilante justice” is? I looked it up. While it’s often accompanied by ‘destruction’ (I haven’t torn anything up…yet…) it’s basically just simply taking “justice” into your own hands….whatever that justice may be. It’s also defined as being rationalized by: “the concept that proper legal forms of criminal punishment are either nonexistent, insufficient, or inefficient.”

Okay. I can dig it.

So, basically, what everyone is saying is that since there is no “law” against what this man has done – then I’m taking the nonexistent law into my own hands and seeking some other form of “punishment.” Some other rectification.

Well, hell yeah!

That’s exactly what I’m doing.

This man is leading a congregation. He is shaping minds. Some minds are already formed and agree with what he has to say, but the ones I’m concerned with are the ones that aren’t shaped yet. The young minds. The children.

Let me tell you my story.

I have two children. I have a 19-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter. For a large part of their childhood, I was a single mom. I was tough and I did what had to be done, but I’ll admit it: I was lonely. I was lost. I had a very religious grandmother who had a large hand in my raising who had instilled in me that it would be wrong of me not to raise my children up in a church. So, for the most part, I did just that. Now, granted, I skipped around to different churches and never really found one that suited me or my beliefs so I didn’t stay in any for very long. But I did go. And I drug my kids along with me.

My daughter? Let’s just say the church thing never really stuck with her. She has always been wise beyond her years and was always a ‘questioner.’ She was a bit like her mom – just didn’t quite “fit it” anywhere. I’m not saying she doesn’t believe in a higher power – that’s between her and her god if she chooses to believe in one. I’m just saying that she was always a questioner of the “rules,” – especially the ones that didn’t make any sense.

But my son? Now that was another story. I honestly thought (and still do sometimes) that he’d end up becoming a preacher. He has such a deep sense of belief and a black and white sense of “right” and “wrong” that leaves no room whatsoever for questioning. He knows what “is” and “isn’t” and that’s just all there is to it. Period.

So here I have two very different children, now almost grown adults.  One who’d end up leaning towards the conservative, Christian way of life, and the other who’d lean toward the progressive, open-minded way of life. One strict rule follower and one champion of the underdog. Very different people, to put it mildly.

And then…bam. A few years ago, my daughter announces that she’s gay.

Suddenly, momma has to put her money where her mouth is. I’d spent my life running from this religious teaching that being gay was a “sin” because I just didn’t believe it. And now, I had the chance to look all that indoctrination right in the face and decide, once and for all, what I was going to do with those heaps of spoon-fed “knowledge” I’d been given all my life.  What did I choose?

To hell with it.

This was a turning point for me. No longer would I drag my children into a place that was going to tell one of them that she was “dirty.” No longer was I going to open up a dusty old book written by men a couple thousand years ago and that told me that my child was going to burn in hell. Screw that noise.

I’m out.

But that posed a problem. I still had a son.

As of this writing, I have not seen my son in a month. We have not spoken – in person or by text – in over two weeks. He has decided (after a multitude of disagreements – not just his sister’s sexuality) to “cut ties with his liberal family.”

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I don’t care. Because I do. When I allow myself to think about it, I can’t stop the tears. But here’s the thing. I’ve spent my entire life overcoming men who have told me who and what to be and think. It has taken me years to discover who I really am and to teach my children to be who they really are. Am I going to undo all of that so my son will love me?

I can’t.

I just can’t.

So, why am I so angry at this preacher?  Why can I not leave well enough alone and let it go?

Because I’m angry at myself. I want to prevent other mothers from making the same mistake I did. I want the scared, lonely single mothers of the world who are looking for a place of refuge to know that places like the one where that man spouts off his vile hatred have the capacity to turn your children against you. I want to give them the knowledge that I didn’t have. I want to stop them from leading their child by the hand into a place that tells them that their cult-like beliefs are worth more than their own family.

I want to stop them from doing what I did.

Vigilante justice, huh? When you have a personal connection to something, you are more passionate about it. I am a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. When I hear of a fundraiser to raise money to help fight this disease, I’m more apt to donate to it because of my personal history with the disease. Am a “vigilante” against lymphoma? Sure. There’s no “law” against lymphoma, but you can bet your tushy that I’m going to fight it when and how I can, even if it’s just with a small donation when I can afford it.

The same goes for bigotry.

If you’re an individual who believes in everything the Bible says – if you believe that homosexuals are going to hell and “liberals” are evil – then here’s the thing: I’m just not going to like you. That’s all there is to it.  I don’t think you’re a good person and I don’t want to be your friend. Sure, you’re allowed to be who you are. Go ahead. But I don’t want to be around you and I don’t want you to be around my children. However, my children aren’t children anymore.  They are grown and they can make their own choices. My son can make his own choices and he might very well chose to have people like you as his best friend. And he can choose to shut out the people like myself and his sister.

But would he have made these choices if I hadn’t exposed him to this line of thinking?

I don’t owe anyone an explanation. But here it is nonetheless. I just can’t stand down. I can’t watch this man slowly inch his way in between more mothers and sons of the world. I can’t watch him welcome more innocent minds into his cult and not at least warn them about it before they step into his fold.

I just can’t.

Call me a vigilante if you must. But I want to stop this from happening anymore than it has to.  If I prevent just one child from being indoctrinated into that madness, then I will have done what I set out to do.

I miss my son.  And this is all I know to do.

***

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Silent Marchers: “Dave”

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

My  name is “Dave.” (But not really.)

I did not march. My reason is fairly simple.

I was afraid.

I was afraid of the sheer size of the crowd. (I do love visiting NYC, but even those crowds can start to get to me quickly.) But even more than the fear of the crowd? I was afraid of some major act of violence being perpetrated by those who disagreed with the march. I couldn’t help but picture some crazed gunman or a bomber…I suppose in retrospect that sounds lame. But at the time, it was a very vivid, very real concern.

daveI feel as though I let people down. Many of my close friends went to the march. I don’t really know if they were concerned about violence, but even if they were, they went. One of my dearest friends has major anxiety and an auto-immune disease, but she went. I just kept my original plan to go and visit family for the weekend, but kept track through Facebook. I was blown away by the sheer volume of people in attendance, and incredibly thankful that there was no violence.

To me, the march was about exercising the right to peaceful protest against the changes forthcoming in the new administration. Healthcare is being taken away from people who need it. Soon to follow will probably be other programs that assist the less fortunate. I’m not proud of it, but if it weren’t for some of those programs, I would not be here today. I spent the years of 18 to 24 without health insurance because I did not have access to it. I am well-accustomed to “the look” that you get when you push your cart up to the checkout and have to tell the cashier you’re paying with food stamps. (Most of the time, the look is from the person behind you, sizing up the items you lay on the conveyor belt, as if to say how DARE you buy name brand anything, let alone any sort of treat or snack. But every once in a great while, the look comes from the cashier, which somehow is worse.)

Protections in place that ban my employer from firing me simply because I’m gay are also at stake. Never mind the fact that I am damn good at my job, and being gay has no impact on my ability to do my job, there is now a distinct possibility that I, and many of my non-heterosexual friends, could be unemployed simply for existing.

For existing.

I just find myself stunned that people were more offended by Ashley Judd using profanity and talking about menstruation than they were by the fact that our president said it was okay to grab women by their most private parts, and never owned up to it or apologized for it.

I’m sorry…I’ve turned this into something about me, and it’s not about me. Many of the people in my life, to whom I look up and admire, and love with all my heart, are women. And women deserve to be respected and protected, and not seen as property or “less than.”

Here’s the thing: people are going to judge you for not marching, at least until they hear your reasons (and in some cases, they might judge you regardless.) There is nothing you can do about that. But know that the march is only the first step. There are plenty of ways we can still make a difference and make our voices heard. There are Facebook groups that promote local events – from peaceful protests on the smaller scale, to postcard-writing parties, to how to contact your representatives.

Don’t feel bad for not marching.

Just find out what things you CAN do, and do them.

My name is “Dave.” (But not really.)  And this was my Silent Marchers story.

***

“Most activism is brought about by us ordinary people.”
– Patricia Hill Collins

Silent Marchers: “Bethany”

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

Hi. I’m “Bethany.” (But not really.)

I really wanted to march in the Women’s March. I knew I couldn’t make it to Washington DC for the big march but I would have liked to march in a smaller, more local march. My reason for not marching was that I was out of town.

Sort of.

Okay, truthfully, I was glad to have an excuse not to march. Even though I feel strongly about everything the march stands for, I didn’t want to call attention to myself by participating.

Why?

Because I’m seventeen years old and I’m a lesbian.

Now, I’m not ashamed of this, don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t a choice, it’s who I am. I understand that and my parents understand that. Unfortunately, though, there are a lot of other members of my family who most definitely do not understand.

So I don’t tell them.

silentmarcher3The older I get, the harder it gets. I have a girlfriend – let’s call her “Jessica” – and we are very much in love. My parents and my siblings know, but the rest of my family doesn’t. My grandparents and aunts and uncles are very involved in my life and I want so much to tell them who I really am – to them how much Jessica means to me – but I just can’t. They are very religious and are the biggest Trump fans you’ll ever meet. It’s so hard to sit and listen to their conversations about how gay people are abominations and how they’re “going to hell,” all the while knowing that they are talking about me.

I don’t say anything though. Inside, I’m screaming. Inside I’m telling them how wrong they are and how hurtful they are being to someone that they are supposed to love. But outside? I just stay quiet.

I don’t like confrontation. I’m a peacemaker.

Prom is coming up and Jessica and I will be going together. It’s not fair to her or to me to not go. We want to be there and to experience this rite of passage that every teenager gets to have in their life. There will be pictures of us together so I know that the time of them not knowing is running out.

Honestly, I’m scared.

Not because of what they’ll think of me. I’ve learned to be tough and know that what I think of me matters more than what others think. No, it’s not that. I think I’m just afraid of disappointing them. I’m such a good kid in every way – I never get in trouble, I get good grades, I’m kind. But I feel like none of that will matter when they find this out. Knowing that I’m gay will wipe out everything else.

And that’s not fair.

So this is why I didn’t march. I just wasn’t ready yet. But equality for all is something that I’m very passionate about and as soon as I’m ready to raise my voice, I’ll make sure that it’s loud enough for everyone to hear.

Especially the others who are like me.

My name is “Bethany.” (But not really.) And this was my Silent Marcher story.

***

“I think people feel threatened by homosexuality. The problem isn’t about gay people, the problem is about the attitude towards gay people. People think that all gays are Hannibal Lecters. But gay people are sons and daughters, politicians and doctors, American heroes and daughters of American heroes.”
– Hollis Stacy

Attention-Seekers: The Women’s March on Washington

“The best protection any woman can have … is courage.”
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton

***

“We’re with a group of strong, beautiful women. We’re fine.”

metropicThese were the words that my travel companion and dear friend Cassondra uttered to her concerned mother by telephone as we made our way into Washington DC by metro train for the Women’s March on Washington early on the morning of January 21, 2017.

I’ve had to replay Cassondra’s words many times in my head in the days since. I’ve needed the reminder that those simple words provide. I’ve needed the strength, the affirmation, the love.

Because, let me tell you, the days following Saturday have not been easy.

The only way I know how to describe it is that I’ve walked out of a sea of love into a swarm of hatred.

I live in a small, conservative area. I don’t mean to use the word “conservative” with a negative connotation, but I’m just going to have to say it like it is. The minds around me tend to be small. They can’t (won’t) stretch far enough to take in all that is out there in this big world. I’ve become used to it. I’ve become accustomed to the responses I receive any time I go against the flow (which is pretty often). This is nothing new. I knew there’d be negativity. I was prepared for it. It’s pretty much the status quo for me.

But what I wasn’t prepared for?

What took me surprise?

The response from some of my friends.

My FEMALE friends at that.

“I’ll march at the ‘we’re all a bunch of hypocritical asshats that love to point out the splinter in another’s eye while ignoring the log in ours’ protests.”

“I didn’t ask anyone to march for me.”

“No one ‘fought’ shit. You guys walked around getting pats on your back from people who already agreed with you.”

“They’re just a bunch of attention-seeking whores.”

Lovely, huh?

And, oh no….these were not comments that I just plucked off of the internet, mind you. These were said by women I know personally. Women I considered friends. In fact, one of them was one I had even considered one of my best friends right up until the moment my eyes met those words.

I feel shell shocked.

I’ve been running their words over in my mind.

Attention-seeking whores.”

Women (and men) just looking for “pats on the back.”

I suppose there is some truth to some of it. Really. For example – attention-seeking? Okay, actually yeah. That’s exactly what we were doing. Exactly. Drawing attention to the things that get swept under the rug. The drastic wage difference between men and women. The daily cat-calling, condescension, and groping that women are submitted to.  The men who make their eight-year-old daughters cry because they want their hair cut but daddy refuses to “let them” because the Bible says they’ll go to hell. (Oh yes. True story.) The Brock Turners of the world who serve three mere months in jail for damage that a woman will live with forever, because it may have hurt his little swimming career.

The men who brag about grabbing women’s pussies against their will because they have the power to do so, and yet advance to become the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

Are we wanting attention? Well, yeah. I suppose you can say we are.

So, attention-seeking – I’ll give you.  Whores?  Hell, I don’t know. Maybe some of them out there have been paid for sex. Me, though? Notsomuch. So I’m gonna have to pull a snopes on you for that one. FALSE.

Now. Are we looking for “pats on the back”?

Hmmm. Actually, I think that might be the other way around. We were there to give those pats on the back.

nastywomanmanTo the woman I overheard trying desperately to hear on her cellphone as the crowd thickened and the decibel level rose because she was calling to make sure her son made it to soccer practice? Yes. That woman deserves a pat on the back. So, here. This pat is for you.

To the man who married a “nasty woman” and showed up to show his support and love for her and all women like her? This pat is for you, sir.

To the woman carrying the sign that said, “I’m the lesbian daughter of a Muslim immigrant?” This pat is for you, you strong, beautiful, brave woman. And here’s another one for your mom.

babyTo the many women in the crowd who carried their babies on their person for hours at a time so that they could be a part of an historical event to have their voices heard? This pat? Yeah. This one is definitely for you. What a story you’ll have to tell them. Kudos to you, momma.

To the little latino girl on her daddy’s shoulders beaming as she watched 6-year-old Sophie Cruz, daughter of Mexican immigrants, give arguably the most rousing speech of the day? That smile that covered her face as little Sophie told her, “I am here to tell the children, do not be afraid”?  Oh yeah, that one gets a pat on the back. And it would have gotten the biggest hug you’ve ever gotten from a ginger stranger if I could have reached you, you sweet little thing you.

hatefearTo the teenager holding the rainbow sign showing the USA and the words, “No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here”? A pat on the back for you, little warrior woman. I know full well how tough it is for a teenager who is “different.” How brave you were to walk through the streets of that big city and show the other kids of the world that you were on their side.

To the woman wearing the race bib on your shirt that said “Sarah bear”? Being a runner myself, I had to ask you about it. I thought it was yours. When you told me that you were wearing that bib in honor of your young daughter who had just passed away? I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring. You definitely get a pat on the back. A big one. You possess a strength that I couldn’t possibly know. You are my hero.

To the woman who wrote this sign we found propped against a fence at the white house:

sign

This blog would go on forever if I kept up with all of these ‘pats on the back,’ so I’ll finish it up with one final one.

To the woman who stood by my side through it all. The woman I watched feed a homeless man; defend a woman who was being verbally attacked by a stranger on the street; force a parting of the crowd to help a woman break through to find her son. The woman who continually asked people’s stories. Who felt people’s pain. Who engaged everyone in conversation. Who shed tears on countless occasions simply because she was standing where she was and doing what she felt in her heart to be right. The woman who never wanted to be in front of the camera because she was too busy behind the camera –  documenting the happiness, the strength, and, sometimes, the pain. The woman who lost her job while we were on this trip because of a landslide in our small town, yet who set that worry and grief aside long enough to focus on the matter at hand, and do her part in preserving a piece of history. I laughed with her, I cried with her, I raged with her.

We became sisters.

cassondraSo, to Cassondra? An extra special pat on the back for you, lady.

*THIS* is what this trip was about. This is what this weekend was about. This is what that day was about. This was what that march was about.

Sisterhood.

Togetherness.

Connection.

Strength.

Love.

Determination.

We are going to be there for one another. We just are. Not just Cassondra and me. Every woman that stood there side by side in a collective love.  That day was just the start. The start of something big and beautiful.

And I will not…I repeat, NOT…let pettiness stand in my way.

There will be more stories to tell, I promise. Cassondra is a photographer and there will be photos coming that will blow you away. Her photos will tell stories that my words never could. Wait for them.

We are not through yet.

I just had to get this out while it was weighing on me.

I had to fight back against the oppression, even if it was coming from friends.

We won’t be stopped. You don’t have to understand this now. But one day you will.

One day you will.

not-over

Sign left outside a café the morning after the march in DC

This is Why

“Why can’t you just get over it?”

“What’s the big deal? You ‘lost.’ Move on.”

“Can’t we all just get along?”

“Give him a chance.”

“This is Sally. Sally voted for Trump. This is Bob. Bob voted for Hillary. Sally and Bob are still friends. Be like Sally and Bob.”

Oh yes. I’ve heard them all.

And so have you.

And each time I hear them, I stop for just a second and consider it. I mean, I like peace. Peace is pretty cool. I like when people get along. I like when we work together and hold hands and move forward. I like to forgive. I like to “let it go.” Those things feel good. And they sound great.

Ah. But then I remember.

I will not get over this.

“Why won’t you let it go?”

Let me try to put this in terms you might understand. Let me show you my why.

I want you to picture this in your mind. A man grabs my 16-year-old daughter and holds a gun to her head. He threatens her. He tells her that the life that she has known is going to change. He makes fun of her friends, her family, her.

I stand by and watch.

I wonder how this happened. Where did this man come from? What did my daughter ever do to him? Why can’t I stop this? He’s too strong. He holds the gun – the power – and I have no idea what to do. I hate him. I hate him for what he’s doing to her. I hate him for instilling this fear into her. I pray that he won’t pull the trigger, but know deep down that even if he doesn’t, so much damage is already done. So much.

And then.

Then I notice he’s not alone.

Standing behind him, is you. No, you aren’t holding the gun to my daughter’s head. And hey, you maybe even don’t agree with him holding it there. You think he’s being a little too rough. You know he’s not really going to hurt her. He’s just saying all that stuff, he doesn’t mean it.

And yet.

Yet.

YOU HANDED HIM THE GUN.

gunThat is my why, people.  THAT is my why.

The fear that this incoming administration has put into the hearts of so many in this country is UNFORGIVEABLE. And if you voted for it, you are to blame.

Are we really going to lose our insurance? Is the LGBTQ community really going to lose their rights? Are disabled children really going to lose protections within the school system?  Is the black community really going to again be looked down upon as the “less thans”?  Is there really going to be a wall built between us and our Mexican friends? Is our country really going to be besties with a dictator who has proven himself vile and evil? Are women really going to be treated as weak and unworthy of respect because our leader deems them so?

You know what? I don’t have those answers. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

But what I do know is this fear.

This fear is real. It’s debilitating.

And I know who is holding that gun.

And I know who handed to him.

Is he going to pull the trigger?  I don’t know if he will or not. But, as for me, the damage is already done.

No, I won’t be getting over this any time soon.

I will remember.

I will remember.

And I will fight with the last breath I have in my body to ensure that no one else will ever be held under that gunpoint again.

Watch me.

***