A Gay Dad Sounds Off on the Day Donald Trump Ruined America

trumps tansphobia

On Wednesday, Donald Trump, the master manipulator and “line crossing” provocateur went too far. Has he literally ruined America? Maybe not yet, but what he did today starts that process.

He took a major step over the line of decency towards doing so. I mean this in a way that is greater than all of his misogyny and racism previously. Today he went further.

I admit, I was blurry when I first saw the news. It was just before 6am, and my smartphone beeped with a notice of the morning headline. It stated that Donald Trump had proclaimed a ban of transgender people from serving in the military. I blinked my eyes. Surely, this was a gag, “fake news”, an alarmist Alt-Left site exaggerated the already outlandish behavior of a reality TV star gone wild.

It was the Washington Post. Worse, the news was true.

I have become somewhat jaded with the Trump shock and awe technique. As an American, I am embarrassed about almost everything the man has done while in office. I expect him to do unprofessional, undignified, offensive and generally unproductive things. It has become part of the territory.

This time, his wound went deep. At first, I thought my reactive anger and hurt was due to the fact that I have many transgender friends, and consider each one of them to be a personal hero to me.

My reaction was about more than that however. It was about America being ruined.

The United States was founded on a set of principles. Those principles embraced the realization that all are equal, and should be treated so in the rights they have as human beings in our society. While we were founded on these ideals, those ideals were short on realization, especially at first. Women were not included, non-landowners, black people, immigrants, etc. were all left out. Over two hundred years we grew and progressed, evolved and have been correcting those mistakes, if not in full actualization at least in intention. One of the most recent achievements towards our becoming the best of our ideals was the achievement that LGBTQ people had the right to serve in the military and to marry.

Now, Donald Trump has sent the nation into a state of regression. He is removing rights. By declaring that transgender people could not serve in the military, he trampled the dignity, aspirations, hopes, and life plans of 15000 Americans who had committed and were serving our country.

Donald Trump has started the process of enshrining the principle of “all are not created equal”. While he has started with transgender people, we can only speculate as to who else on his target list will have basic rights stripped away.

The destruction of America has begun. But not without a letter from me:

Dear Donald,

I think you have been berated for your Transphobic actions already today by much of the American public. Many have pointed out your lack of class in stripping a target population of their rights on the anniversary of Harry Truman giving another besieged population an affirmation of their dignity as citizens.

It has been pointed out already that you, a five time draft deferment entitlement child, have attacked some of the bravest among us, while you held onto your own timidity in serving in the military yourself to instead, only serving yourself.

I am also not going to point out that the money you claim to be saving in transgender medical costs would be nullified significantly if you gave up golf, and your wife had moved into the White House when she was supposed to.

Instead, I want to tell you about an interaction I had with my dad, a retired Lt. Colonel in the US Marine Corp.

I was 24 years old and he had just been informed, not by me, that I, his only son and namesake, was gay.

The conversation we had was the worst of my entire life. He told me that while I was his son, and always would be, he loathed what I was. He did not know if he could accept it, and he hated it.

It was all I had feared of his reaction to the revelation of who I really was. I sat and listening to his rant, feeling small, humiliated, the supreme disappointment to him.

Finally he said, “You know. I sat on many a panel in the military judging homosexual men and voting to have them thrown out of the military.”

With that confession, I found my voice. “That is horrible dad. You were part of ruining their lives. And they were just men like me.”

As I said that, the look in his eyes changed. The anger, the hurt, the disappointment left his face. He had the realization that I had turned into the karma he had dreaded. I was, at that moment, payback for an injustice he had been part of that he did not feel good about. His son was the type of man he had judged before, and I was not going anywhere. He would have to face me the rest of his life.

The look in his eyes was now one of shame.

It ended our conversation that night and we never, ever discussed my homosexuality again. Over the following decades he grew to tolerate who I was, then to accept it, and then finally to celebrate it in ways big and small.

He grew, because he had something you seem to lack, Mr. Trump. A conscience.

As I said, you crossed a line… and there may be no return for you. A conscience at this point, might be horrifically painful for you should you find it.

My dad had to overcome the guilt of trampling the lives of half a dozen men, and he over came it with love extended to one…. Me.

If you were to feel shame, yours would be much larger. By fifteen thousand fold.

I was my dad’s karma. I do not know who will be yours. I just know it is coming.

I am glad I am not you. I am glad you are not my father, and I wish you were not my President.

He is a hero, military and otherwise. The men and women you are threatening to discharge are heroes, militarily and otherwise.

You , Mr. Trump, are not a hero. You have no worth.

You are simply the snake oil salesman who sold out America’s principles.

 

 

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Image: Mathais Wasik

 

 

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She May Be a Trans Hero, But Don’t be Caught on an Ill-Fated Cruise Ship With Her – Here’s Why

julia scotti evol2

“Me give up the last seat on the last lifeboat? F that!”                                                      The life of a working gal comedian from New Jersey

Guest post by Brody Levesque

The Grey-haired old lady made her way to centre stage as the crowd of over 2500 in Pasadena, California’s historic Civic Auditorium politely applauded expectantly. What happened in those next couple of minutes last March, would propel the former middle-school English Language Arts teacher into public consciousness and validate her life-long held dream of being a recognised stand-up comedienne on the national stage.

From that initial audition on Simon Cowell’s wildly successful variety entertainment programme on NBC, America’s Got Talent, Julia Scotti has rapidly filled her schedule with engagements and shows. The YouTube videos of that first appearance have altogether garnered nearly 4.3 million views thus far and her fan base is rapidly expanding.

These days, a year later, finds her happily gigging from Florida to the Northeast, around her native New Jersey, as well as the metropolitan Tri-State New York City area. But what hasn’t changed, is her personality and the essence of who she is and where she came from albeit with a slight bit of a unique twist in her story.

I think I was around five and back then we’d watch the Ed Sullivan Show on CBS every Sunday night, and I’d wait to see the comedians- I’d skip the opera singers, the bands, the other performers, but when the comics came on? I knew that was for me.”

Comedy wasn’t the only element on that stage that night she says. She made a decision to answer a question from one of the AGT celebrity judges, Howie Mandel, that she knew was going to be life altering.

Oh my god, you are a joy,” Mandel had said her before adding, “You have so much to offer- can I ask you a question? Why did you start so late in life?” She hesitated before answering with the one line that stood out, as she related that from her early career she was known as “Rick Scotti,’ a revelation that brought cheers and applause from both the judges and the audience.

There had been a natural hesitation to come out on national television given the context of how the LGBTQI community, especially the Transgender community, has been perceived in some segments of society she noted. But she says, she fully intended to say something. It was though this moment built on everything which had occurred previously in her life.

I knew, well let me say that there was something in the back of my mind, I couldn’t exactly put a finger on it, but I knew I was different and from an early age. I sucked at being boy wasn’t any good at it. Later on I felt I wasn’t any good at being a man either.”

Growing up in Fairview in North Jersey, Catholic and Italian-American to boot- you just would not have thought about coming out she says. That and she knew she wasn’t gay joking she did try but wasn’t a good fit for her, but instead feeling just different- it just was something that made her feel like an outsider. The escape was being able to laugh and then make other people laugh too.

The hilarious stand-up comedy acts of Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin and plus from an early age, Lou Costello in particular, were her inspirations and her motivation. It was her escape from the pain of dealing with a home-life dominated by an alcoholic father and an abusive mother. Her ‘come-to-Jesus-moment’ occurred on May 31st, 1980, when at age 28 she wandered into an open mic event at the Jade Fountain Restaurant in Paramus, New Jersey. The audience reacted well and from that point as Rick Scotti, she would spend the next 20 years as a working comedian.

She remembered working the room one night at Budd Friedman’s Improv in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, when famed stand-up comic Rodney Dangerfield, also a ‘Jersey boy’ wandered in.

I sold him a joke for fifty bucks which was a pretty big deal. He’d come in to watch the younger comics do their shtick with these 3 by 5 cards, writing their jokes down and then he’d flip through them You knew which ones he disliked- they’d end up getting tossed on the floor.”

Along the way she related she had gotten older, many of her friends and peers from the comedy circuit around the Tri-State and Northeast had gone on to fame and recognition and she felt as though her career was languishing so that her getting a “shot at the brass ring”   wasn’t going to happen. Plus by then being married, having kids, and a need to go ‘legit’ to support her family, so she left comedy and at age 48 went back to college to finish her degree and then to work as a middle school English Language Arts teacher. That morphed into an eleven year break from comedy. During that same time she says, oddly enough it was her wife who pinned the exact cause of what had been her life long discomfiture with herself.

My ex wife- she’s a therapist- she said to me that my problem was that I was a woman inside trying to break free. I felt like a blackness in my chest lifted and suddenly things fell into place for me.”

The road to transitioning into her authentic self did come at a cost, as it resulted immediate nonacceptance and a lengthy separation from her family, her kids and the struggles in her newly found sense of who and where she was as a person. After her surgery at one point, came the friction with society’s conventions that didn’t have a buffer nor allowances for being a Transgender person.

When I transitioned, I was not allowed to change my birth certificate until I offered proof of surgery, even though I was living as Julia. It was the most stressful year of my life. When you consider that all a state has to do to legally change one’s birth certificate is eliminate either the “F” or the “M” and replace it with its opposite, the idea of the gender legitimacy is reduced to some nameless, faceless, government clerk. But it is so damned important to the people who are affected by that stupid little consonant.”

Teaching was a joy and she loved her kids but she grew tired of what she saw as a non-responsive bureaucracy, and most of all having to ‘teach to the test’. She saw that as stifling both her creativity as well as her student’s. Another one of the points of aggravation before she finally left teaching was when she tried to speak out for the kids in her school who were trying to organise a Gay-Straight student Alliance, the school’s administration shut her down.

I was kinda of a rabble rouser, that and since I was tenured, they couldn’t fire me. It really bothered me that they acted as though Gay kids just don’t exist.”

A comedian friend of hers, Chris Rich, not long after told her she needed to get back into comedy. She missed it and with the now ability to be fierce and authentic as herself- Julia, she hit the circuit again.

It’s the one performing art that everything you do for yourself, you write, you create, and then you perform. It’s addictive as hell too. Everyone wants, they need a laugh, for a comic too. You’re in a room full of strangers and you have 30 seconds to a minute max to get them to connect with you. That’s an intimate bond you create with them and for the next 35 to 45 minutes it becomes a close knit relationship.”

Every once in a while a person will stumble into your life in the most unexpected and oft times profound way. For Julia it was her manager and friend, Cathy Caldwell, who became the driving force in getting her reestablished and back on the road to success as a comedienne. Cathy also made her realise that being herself was an absolute formula for acceptance by audiences and also reaffirmed who she was as a Transgender person.

Getting back in front of audiences was hard at first, but my comedy is based on imagery more so than stories I think which makes them relate to me better.”

Her hard work and Cathy’s guidance landed her gigs ranging from club appearances to being a popular motivational speaker, even appearing at seminar sessions for her former profession of teaching.

In December of 2015 she says she got an email from scouts for America’s Got Talent which she wasn’t sure she really was comfortable with. Cathy on the other hand was in the “you’re crazy if you miss this opportunity” mode and so they journeyed across the Hudson to Queens College in New York City for the audition that ultimately would send her on to Pasadena a few months later.

What is it like now a year later in comedy now at age 64? Busier than ever but even so she says, acceptance as her authentic self can sometimes not be exactly there. She recently performed a show in Florida where a lady came up to her afterwards. She told Julia that she and her husband nearly left- not because of the comedic content of her act but because of who she is. Julia later ended spending time afterwards with them and parted ways in an “agree to disagree” sort of way.

She sees stand-up comedy as something that she’s going to keep doing regardless of age, a metaphorical lifeboat in her life that she’s aggressively unwilling to surrender her last seat in to anybody.

Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist & currently the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement Web Magazine and the former Washington Bureau Chief for LGBTQ Nation magazine. Additionally an amateur historian, he published his first book on early U.S. presidential automotive transportation in 2015 and is working on his second book detailing the rise of a closeted gay American religious figure in the early to mid-twentieth century. He lives and works in New York City.

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Killing Transphobia With His Song

jaimie evol

He’s just a little country and kind of a little different; meet Jaimie Wilson who’s strumming his way to success

Guest Post by Brody Levesque

For twenty-one year old Jaimie Wilson, nothing beats the feeling of rambling along in his custom Jeep Wrangler 4X4, headed for a gig to perform his beloved country music in his adopted home state of Florida. Shirtless, tanned, fit, and blonde haired, he looks like most every other young man his age who is entering adulthood trying to figure out where his path will take him.

As the Jeep rolls down the freeway, his guitar and overnight bag perched in the back seat, windows rolled down, he sings along to the radio or a CD, the oversize off-road tires humming as the miles fly by for accompaniment.

But, it wasn’t always like this, and for Jaimie, life was actually pretty difficult. He grew up the youngest of four children in rural Livingston County, Michigan, near its county seat of Howell. An area of Michigan that is deeply red, religious, and conservative. He and his three older brothers lived on their family’s horse farm, and Jaimie had a secret which he knew he couldn’t share with his closest friends or his own family. He knew, from as early as age five, that he wanted to be a boy, in fact, Jaimie knew he was going to be a boy. However, a decade went by before he began to realise his dream, for you see, Jaimie, was born a girl.

He described growing up as difficult, hardly permitted to be even a true Tomboy by his deeply religious and conservative family, who were opposed to anything related to the LGBTQI community, to the point there was never, ever, any mentioning of LGBTQI people.

In fact, Jaimie waited until the second semester of his senior year of high school to come out. Knowing that his family was hardly affirming, and like most LGBTQI youth, he had kept a very low profile. February 4, 2015 though, became Jaimie’s red letter day as he relates;

When I realized that I was “different” I decided I would never come out. It just wasn’t an option for me because I knew how my family would react. It was something I was just going to have to bury deep and deal with. But I woke up one morning and decided I was done living a lie.

A few days earlier I had watched a viral video by Ruby Rose titled “Break Free” and it was like a light bulb went off. I needed to break free. So I called a nearby salon and made the earliest appointment I could. I cut my long flowing locks. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it. I just came home that day with short hair and dressed in men’s clothing.”

Jaimie had spent countless hours searching YouTube and other internet portals, trying to find youths like him, trying to find himself and his place in a world where he could fit in. He describes grabbing hand me downs from his older brothers without their knowledge to wear as his way of being able to be a boy, at least partially, but always when he was alone. He related that he’d tuck his long flowing hair up under a baseball cap, throw a pair of jeans and a shirt and transform himself, at least for the moment, into his ‘real self’.

That winter day when he decided that he needed to live as his true and authentic self was traumatic.

My mom and dad did not react well. There was a lot of crying and confusion. A lot of ridicule. They made it impossible for me to stay with them. Still in high school I was forced to move out and fend for myself.

One of my brothers initially was supportive but his opinion changed shortly after I came out. My family (mom dad and brothers) have progressively just gotten worse about my transition and we no longer have a relationship.”

Jaimie’s anchor- in what had become a tumultuous and oft times drama filled life, was his love of music. He had started playing piano at around the age of five and picked up playing guitar when he was sixteen. His mother had an old guitar she was getting ready to throw out and she offered it to him first. Music, he says, became his escape.

One of the primary outlets for his musical creativity became YouTube. In a video posted on October 15, 2013 prior to his transition, Jaimie wanted to raise awareness regarding suicide among LGBTQI youth with an original song he’d written. He noted;

My hopes for this song is not to make you sad…but to inspire you to reach out to others, because a friend, can sometimes be a life saver. -Every single person is important, and if anyone ever needs a friend or someone to talk to I’m here.

Music, he explains, is much more than just a personal passion, it is a way to contribute- to give back.

Being transgender, I have always struggled with trying to make others happy but I want to show that it’s okay to break free. I’m hoping with these words I can bring the community together and encourage others in similar situations to be true to themselves.

It was the realization that his family was going to remain unsupportive and unyielding in their opposition to his decision to live his life authentically that crystallized his decision to move away from the confines of his Michigan hometown.

I like sun and water and warm places so moving to Southern Florida made sense,” he said.

That and he really wanted to move at least somewhere that would be a place he felt where he could transition comfortably and where he had friends who were supportive.

Jaimie however, knew that he was going to be proactive and open about himself. By this time and not shy at all, he documented his journey in countless pictorial posts on social media as he made his transition. Candid photographs and then several contests he sponsored for ‘binder’ giveaways to help fellow Female to Male Trans people like himself.

He picked an Instagram handle that was his bench mark, the date of his medical transition, June 15, 2015. His selected screen name? Tboy61915.

I started my medical transition 6/19/15 and top surgery in September 2015. It was important to me to get top surgery because I didn’t identify with having a female chest,” he said adding, “It was an amazing day and a weight off my shoulders!

I started my Instagram account June of 2015, a few days before starting hormone therapy. I started the page to document my transition and changes. In the early stages of realizing I was transgender, I would look at FTM guys on Instagram and look at their progress and top surgery and voice changes. It was extremely helpful and inspiring. I wanted to make sure I had a place to document my journey as well so I started an Instagram for that.

All the time, music is his outlet and his motivation which drives him to attain success. Yet, he also knows that as his story gained greater awareness on social media he wants to help out and not sit back and be silent.

My motive for being a Trans activist is spreading awareness. I am in a position to be able to help others and be visible so I do what I can. I had no support from family or friends so I know how helpful it can be to have someone give out binders, donate to their gofundme campaigns, speak for them when they don’t have the voice. It’s very important to me,” he says.

Before & After

Photograph courtesy of Jaimie Wilson

 

As he continues to rack up thousands of views on his YouTube videos and has built up to nearly Two Hundred Thousand followers on Instagram, he pursues his musical career, interweaving his music with an unabashed commitment to his Trans advocacy. On the subject of music and genre he notes;

I grew up listening to country music so that’s really my roots and what I enjoy to write and sing. I love all genres of music and get a lot of requests for pop covers as well.

Recently I’ve gotten more into the production of music. I used to have my songs recorded at a studio but now I’ve been doing all of the production, recording, mixing, mastering myself. I’m looking forward to working with more people in helping them take their ideas and make them a reality.”

One recent song, ‘Soldier,’ posted to his YouTube channel last month talks about his take on personal battles people face daily, but also his conflicts as a Trans man.

I wrote the song to speak to everyone, because whether they show it or not every single person is going the through struggles in their life. We are all soldiers fighting our own battles. In the song I express that although life is difficult, love can help you overcome anything.

For me personally, the song soldier was about living my own truth while battling against hurtful words and actions. Even though coming out was very hard for me and I endured a lot of pain, I did my best and do my best to keep love by my side. Again, love can help you overcome anything.”

He also DJ’s around Florida as well as performs at Gay Bars, Pride events, and charity events.

When asked why he wasn’t living in either Nashville, home to Country Western or even Memphis, he was direct and blunt;

Nashville and Memphis are not Trans inclusive as far as the country scene goes. I think that country music does not have very much LGBTQ+ representation.  I would really like to break that barrier.

But that is something Jaime is convinced he can help change. Not long ago he says, a talent agency contacted him after watching his videos, they were excited about his work, but after they were informed he was Trans- suddenly they wanted him to perform in another genre other than Country-Western. Not something he’s interested in.

The support I have received from the LGBTQ+ Community and allies has shown me that anything is possible! I don’t need to have the country music scenes approval…I’m coming whether they like it or not!

I’m very thankful for all the support I have received and continue to receive. My supporters make this all possible for me, I don’t even think they know how much they mean to me.”

Is there room for a transgender country music star? Jamie is convinced there is.

Absolutely. I think doing so would really help make trans visible. I am a country singer who happens to be trans. For me it is very important to be open about being transgender, I take it as a opportunity to spread awareness. And yes, although some country stars may be accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, there is not much representation of LGBTQ+ artists in country music like there is in mainstream pop.

I think it would be amazing to change that. I’m not sure exactly what to expect being a trans man trying to break into the country music scene. But I grew up on country music, it has a special place in my heart, and I’ll keep singing it until I can’t sing anymore.”

He sees fellow musician Steve Grand, a singer, songwriter who’s been acclaimed by some to be the first openly gay male country performer, who was able to attract mainstream attention after building a massive following on social media and the internet; as an example that he can follow. But he’s dedicated to continuing his work building his own following and his own fan base. He continues to also remain dedicated to his advocacy work as a vital component of who he is as a person, and as a performer.

Jaimie’s response to the question of whether or not he writes for a specific audience and what he found for inspiration as a songwriter was quite poignant;

I don’t have anything specific that inspires my writing. Some days I sit down and write an entire song and it seems to just come to me. Other times I find myself emotionally returning to a past experience to get the inspiration to write about what happened to me in hopes someone else out there can relate. Some songs are just happy songs, others are intentionally written to take me, or people listening, to a place where they feel vulnerable.  Music is something I do to make myself feel complete; I would still be writing and singing even if no one wanted to hear. I don’t write with a specific audience in mind. I never want to limit myself or listening audience. I just sing and write what comes naturally to me, and I’m very grateful for anyone who enjoys!

Asked if he may consider auditioning for one of the popular talent shows such as The Voice, the X-Factor, or even America’s Got Talent he was coy but didn’t rule those possibilities out as he noted;

I do gigs around Florida, but I’m not limited to Florida. I have a 10 state tour and 2 international stops coming up this year.”

For now at least, he’ll continue to pursue his dream, working hard on building his fan base, writing and performing his songs, dee-jaying gigs, and strumming his guitar to his own unique tune.

 

Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist & currently the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement Web Magazine and the former Washington Bureau Chief for LGBTQ Nation magazine.

Additionally an amateur historian, he published his first book on early U.S. presidential automotive transportation in 2015 and is working on his second book detailing the rise of a closeted gay American religious figure in the early to mid-twentieth century. He lives and works in New York City.

 

Please like the evoL= Facebook page here.

 Follow us on Twitter @JandJDad

 

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A Gay Man’s Journey to Reclaim Life After Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Evol eq

(Kristopher Sharp, age 27, stares out of a window in Tulum, Mexico on April 1, 2017.)

Guest post by Kristopher Sharp

I want to begin with a confession: I almost lost myself in the struggle.

It’s often said that time is the remedy to heal most wounds. Frequently – more than I care to admit – I have found myself wondering just how much time is needed to be whole again after surviving two tumultuous relationships hallmarked by physical violence, infidelity, and emotional sabotage?

There are days, sometimes weeks that have come and gone all the while my mind has been stuck in a seemingly never ending cycle of examining and then reexamining all of the red flags. Some I failed to see, some I willfully ignored – always asking myself the same fundamental question over and over again. Why did I stay?

Living on the streets of my hometown of Houston having just aged out of the Texas foster care system, I never really knew what love felt like; I fell in love for the first time. ‘My First’ was perhaps the very first person that I truly felt I loved. Having left an abusive home in his late teens for the streets, he was broken just like I was, and it was in that brokenness that we found each other. But, he was a drug dealer and yeah, pretty violent.

I’ll always remember the first time he hit me.

I had moved into my own apartment not long after enrolling in college, and ‘My First’ had just come home after spending several months in the county jail. Not long after some money went missing from my wallet. When I asked him directly about it and then after a brief exchange of words, he punched me in my face and I fell to the floor in our bathroom where I’d confronted him. Stunned, I struggled to get up and as I did he suddenly grabbed me by my hair and drug over towards the bathtub. I was screaming while he rammed my face into the edge of the cast iron tub, busting my lips open and giving me a black eye. When he finally let me go I curled up on the bathroom floor and cried as quietly as I could until he left.

We were never the same after that. It seemed that the only consistent thing about our relationship was a perpetual pattern of abuse. We’d have a disagreement about something small, words would then be exchanged culminating with his disappearance for several days but not before severely beating me. Time after time I’d promise myself that I wouldn’t let it happen again. But without fail, ‘My First’ would show up at my college, at my job, or some other place he knew I would be at. He would always promise me things would be different, tell me how much he loved me, and how much we needed each other. Unbelievably each time I bought it and each time I remained with him.

‘My Second’ happened much differently than ‘My First’.

Tall, handsome, smart, and ambitious – he was the type of man you fall in love with easily. We were introduced in the lobby of a hotel in California, and to me he seemed like magic and I fell hard for him.

During the first year of our relationship, he and I lived in separate states. As time progressed we’d take a break for several months, reach out and then with our relationship rekindled, we kept going and finally moved in together in the fall of 2015. To me it felt like a dream come true. We’d spend holidays together with his family, we got to know each other’s closest friends, we made our plans to get married, have children and open up a restaurant back in our mutual home state of Texas.

Our life was beautiful- suddenly it wasn’t.

I soon discovered ‘My Second’ had been glaringly unfaithful throughout most of our relationship and he was unwilling to change. One evening I remember him looking me in my eyes and telling me that if we were to be together, I would have settle with his infidelities. His contention was not being faithful to me as his partner was so deeply engrained in him that it couldn’t be changed.

Eventually ‘My Second’ decided that we should separate, and despite my objections, he insisted that we continue to live together. Things deteriorated rapidly over the next several months as I watched the man I fell in love with bring into what was once ‘our’ home, random guys he met on Jack’d. Then he’d pawn the Christmas gifts I had given him to go on dates, and finally openly and often boisterously flirt with other men on his phone in front of me.

I fell into a very dark place and began to isolate myself in my own home. Whenever ‘My Second’ and I did speak – it was always heated. He knew about ‘My First’, knew my history with domestic violence. Yet even so, he would routinely “run up” up on me with fists clinched and eyes wide with rage in the heat of an argument. He’d tell me afterwards how he never really intended to hit me, but the psychological damage and physical intimidation was equally, if not worse, than the would-be assault itself.

It was during this time that I began to fixate on comments ‘My Second’ would frequently remark about my appearance. Soon enough I was broken, alone, and depressed. My self esteem was shot, and in its place was a void filled with his criticisms that inevitably lead me to make dangerous decisions.

In the hopes of fixing an unknown brokenness, and perhaps rescuing myself from the darkness I was in I soon found myself on an operating table having spent almost all of my savings on a string of cosmetic surgeries — rhinoplasty, chin & cheek augmentation, a brow lift, and a number of facial fillers. Needless to say, it didn’t work.

Today in nearly a year removed from these experiences, I am still searching for the answers to so many of the questions I keep asking myself. It became important for me write this after searching for stories of other queer folks who have experienced domestic violence, and discovering how little is out there.

This story — my story — is shared by someone who is looking for answers to questions as they journey through the process of reclaiming the pieces of their life just as I am. If you find this, I hope you leave comforted by the fact that you are not alone for I too have labored this burdensome journey. Remain strong, believe in yourself, and know that you are worth every ounce of struggle it takes to reclaim all of who you are.

Kristopher Sharp is a 27-year-old native Texan currently pursuing studies in medicine. He formally served as a legislative aide for Senator Patty Murray and was a congressional fellow for the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus in the U.S House of Representatives.

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A Gay Dad Sounds Off on Donald Trump and Transgender Student Segregation

trump-shame-evol

An heiress and a ghost had it right.

Since the egomaniac and reality star Donald Trump announced his “long shot” candidacy for President, we have been “treated” to constant absurdities, deceptions, upheavals, dramas, skullduggeries and melodramas that have thrown public discourse into unprecedented upheaval.

Through it all, mixed messages and deceptions ruled any given day. This has been particularly true on the subject of LGBTQI rights. While making claim to be the most LGBTQI friendly Republican to grace the ticket, maybe ever, Trump filled his docket with supporting players who were, and are, easily characterized as LGBTQI philosophical enemies. They do not seem to be unfettered however. Rumors of a particular pending anti-LGBTQ executive order filtered out via social media, followed by news that the non-homophobic Ivanka had squashed it through internal efforts.

Then there was billionaire Betsy DeVos, nominated for the Secretary of Education. As a dad, I was worried about her credentials and the conservative reputation of her family. She would be a disaster I feared for the plight of LGBTQI youth in the public school system.

I was wrong. In the first battle on her plate, the question on whether to rescind the Obama administration guidance on transgender student public facilities protections, she came down squarely on the right side. She lost the fight. But she, the heiress, big campaign donor, was right. (Until she started them echoing the administration and calling the previous guidance “overreach.”)

Also the ghost of civil rights pioneer Coretta Scott King was right. A letter from her hand decried the credentials of the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. It pointed to his small mindedness and inadequacies standing for the civil rights of people not privileged with mainstream power. Her outreach from the past was as relevant now as it was then. He is the proponent of stamping out the students’ protective guidelines, and the Attorney General who chose to abandon trans students nationwide. He won the fight.

He, and the President he serves, are both wrong.

I know they are wrong on this issue because, being a parent in California; I have been through this battle before. In the summer of 2013, California led the nation in transgender teen protections in its schools. California Democratic Assembly member Tom Ammiano, along with his co-author, Democratic State Senator Mark Leno introduced, and successfully lobbied to pass the School Success and Opportunity Act. The law stated that; “a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

At the time, not everyone liked the idea. California dad, then Republican Assemblyman, Tim Donnelly, not only voted against the law, but announced that he would pull at least one of his sons out of the public school system because of its enactment. In an editorial he wrote, “My 13- and 16-year-old boys were horrified at the idea of sharing a bathroom and locker room with a member of the opposite sex, after having discussed AB 1266 with them.”

I had addressed Mr. Donnelly in one of my ‘Gay Dad’ editorial letters. I told him that as he was taking his sons out of public school, in turn I would remove my two boys out of private school and putting them into a public school- (which is what I actually did). Net for the school system… no loss. Don’t let the door hit you on the fanny on the way out, Buddy.

Since then, there have been exactly zero issues related to the law’s enactment. Months after the law’s enactment, anti-transgender activists hit California streets in an attempt remove it. Their initiative was a non-starter failing to even get it ballot qualification.

The retraction of President Obama’s guidelines should also have been a non-starter. It wasn’t, and it puts precious LGBTQI lives at risk. Here is my new letter to President Donald Trump.

Dear President Trump,

Your administration has rolled back the guidance on the treatment of transgender kids in schools. You believe that guidance is legally unclear, that decisions on the dignity of these kids should rest in the determinations of the individual states, that the original directive had been done “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

I have one question.

Why the hell does that matter?

When you championed yourself as an LGBTQ hero, you declared that the devastation in an Orlando Nightclub was one that you personally could have prevented. In your mind, the deaths of those young people were yours to save. In holding to your current principles, it is odd you did not declare that the circumstances around that tragedy to have been subject to the determination of the local government.

Let’s be clear, these directives are not really about bathrooms. They are about visibility or disappearance. They are about life or death. Actress Laverne Cox made the point beautifully in comparing the oppression of transgender kids with Jim Crow bathroom oppression of African American people in the south.

The intent was not about privacy—bathrooms are all private. We are each contained in our own, hidden from view, stalls.

The intent is to erase a group from public view. “What people should know about these bathroom bills that criminalize trans people… is that these bills are not about bathrooms.They’re about whether trans people have the right to exist in public space. If we can’t access public bathrooms, we can’t go to school, we can’t work, we can’t go to healthcare facilities ― this is about public accommodations and public accommodations are always key to civil rights. I can’t help but think about that moment from ‘Hidden Figures’ when Taraji P. Henson’s character has to walk 45 minutes to the bathroom ― Gavin (the transgender teen with a case pending before the Supreme Court) had to go to a special ‘gender neutral’ bathroom, a nurses bathroom that was way out of the way.” Cox observed.

The message is clear. “We want you erased. We want to pretend you do not exist.”

That is the issue. Mr. President, the kids this is targeting hear that message, and what is worse, they act on it.

Studies show that between 45 and 51 percent of transgender students attempt suicide. That is a far greater rate than any other category of student. 78 percent of transgender students report abuse. That statistic goes down significantly in schools with transgender-supportive programs. Most transgender students do not pursue continued education after experiencing the harassment of high school.

In short, Mr. President, as the result of this action by your administration, like in Orlando, young people… children… will die.

This time, someone’s child, their teen, will die not because of an extremist. They will die because of you. Statistically, it is certain this will happen somewhere, somehow, in one of those less progressive states that you “left it up to”.

A child will die.

I am a dad. You are a dad. Would you not seethe at the leader who allowed that to happen to your precious son or daughter?

A child will die, and you could have kept it from happening.

A study had shown that by the state embracing marriage equality, less LGBT teens have died. Can you imagine the effect of a law that was not just tangential to their current life, but one that gave them dignity and support in the present? Pure logic shows it would have an even greater effect. You are taking that life affirming support away.

For what purpose does this action accomplish sir? You would be over-riding a mistake misguided homophobes want to make that has protected exactly no one. California has had these protections for our transgender kids statewide for four years and in the Los Angeles area for thirteen. How many crimes, how many incidents have these permissive laws inspired? Exactly none.

Through these actions of your administration, a child will die. When he or she does, please do not think we will look away. We will look to Orlando, and we will look at you. We will know despite your claims, that in Florida, you were not in fact the potential savior. Those young people would have died no matter what you did.

In the trans teen suicides to come, we will know that you were worse than the man who did not save kids. You, and your administration were the ones who pulled their triggers.

Twitter won’t save you. Crying “fake news” won’t save you. You will have grieving parents and a vast grieving community. We will not fall from your view with the next news cycle. We will never forget this moment, and we won’t let you forget it either.

It will have been the moment that you could have done something life saving and important.

But you didn’t.

Once upon a time there was a teen who called herself Leelah. She could not tolerate the rejection and invisibility of trying to live being transgender. She committed suicide but begged the world to let “her life matter.”

Her life and the lives of all trans kids matter to me. They matter to a lot of people.

Their lives, and their visibility, should matter to you.

If they don’t, you will demonstrate that you are merely an “Apprentice” President, and you should be done. You work for us, as a nation, and it is our mandate to turn to you, and feed you back your own trademark reality-TV line:

“You’re fired”

If you are a transgender person thinking about suicide, or if someone you know is, find worldwide resources at http://www.stop-homophobia.com/suicideprevention.htm . You can also reach the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. LGBT youth thinking about suicide can also reach out to the Trevor Project Lifeline (ages 24 or younger) at 866-488-7386.

 Thanks to Brody Levesque for edit help

Picture: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

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Support this suicide prevention card project and help us to save lives: click here>http://bit.ly/2mbHB3M< To help.

Posted in Equality, Hatred, Mixing religion and politics, Politics, Prejudice, US Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

All Are Welcome At San Francisco Zen Center! (…to join us in resisting Trump)

No Zen in the West

The San Francisco Zen Center Abbots and Abbesses – all of whom I know, love, and deeply respect – are in the unenviable position of threading the needle of a public response to the election.  They reached hard for the High Road, for real love and compassion, and they gave it a good shot.

Compassion can sound like condoning, though, and calls for unity can sound like a blurring of deep and important differences.  And so there has understandably been some pushback from the wider SFZC community on this statement of unity and love.

As someone more free than the Abbots to say what’s on my mind, I’d like to offer an alternative, another approach to unity.  It might sound something like this:

San Francisco Zen Center unequivocally rejects the hateful worldview of President-Elect Donald Trump, and vows together to actively oppose its implementation.  All are welcome to join us…

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Academia, Love Me Back

Racism persists. Please pay attention.

TIFFANY MARTÍNEZ

My name is Tiffany Martínez. As a McNair Fellow and student scholar, I’ve presented at national conferences in San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami. I have crafted a critical reflection piece that was published in a peer-reviewed journal managed by the Pell Institute for the Study of Higher Education and Council for Opportunity in Education. I have consistently juggled at least two jobs and maintained the status of a full-time student and Dean’s list recipient since my first year at Suffolk University. I have used this past summer to supervise a teen girls empower program and craft a thirty page intensive research project funded by the federal government. As a first generation college student, first generation U.S. citizen, and aspiring professor I have confronted a number of obstacles in order to earn every accomplishment and award I have accumulated. In the face of struggle, I have persevered and continuously produced…

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