Thursday, July 7, 2016

Wake up, America.

Alton Sterling. Philando Castile.

I won't reiterate the horrific tragedy of what happened to these two men, because it honestly makes me sick just thinking about it and I can't get those videos out of my head.

In no uncertain terms, those men were murdered. And it's heartbreaking. It's disgusting. It's wrong. It's terrifying. It's beyond comprehension.

And it's not going to stop until people wake up to the very real problem of racism that is still rampant in this country. To my friends who are POC, I am so, so sorry. I am sorry for the fear you must feel on a daily basis. I'm sorry for the lack of safety and acceptance you are given just because of the color of your skin. I am sorry for the people who hate you. I am sorry this society is so undeveloped we haven't moved past racism. I am so sorry.

No, I do not hate cops. There are many times in my past that cops have rescued me and loved ones from dangerous and volatile situations. I respect good, hardworking cops for what they do and what they risk. And just like not all men are rapists or misogynists, no, not all cops are bad cops or racists, but you know what? THERE ARE WAY TOO FREAKING MANY THAT ARE. Two innocent black men were gunned down for no reason by white men with badges, men who were supposed to serve and protect them. And cops like this make it really freaking difficult to recognize the cops that aren't like them.

I got backhandedly accused by a woman that I know, whose husband happens to be a cop, of not caring about cop killings because I'm outraged by what these particular cops did. NO NO NO NO NO. Calling cops who execute innocent black people murderers does not mean I endorse the murders of cops. I am just as sad about the snipers who killed cops at a protest in Dallas tonight. Murder is murder. Murdering these cops is just as much murder as what happened to Alton and Philando.

I've managed to lose friends in the past 48 hours because of what I have posted on my Facebook and Twitter over all of this. But you know what? I frankly don't care. I refuse to stay silent when my friend has to explain to her 6 year old adopted from Africa why he'll have to take extra caution not to draw suspicion or negative attention; black children are having their innocence ripped away from them. I refuse to stay silent when I see ignorant comments from police apologists who ignore reality to stay safe in their own bubble where their white privilege is a made up war from progressives and Democrats. I refuse to stay silent when my friends talk about feeling like they need to wear full-body bulletproof suits sos as to not be "shot down like wolves." I refuse to stay silent when I have nightmares about some of my best friends, my brothers, being murdered by cops and wake up realizing that those aren't so farfetched dreams. Silence adds to the problem.

But those snipers in Dallas who shot 11 cops, killing 4 of them and leaving 3 others in critical condition, they are not the answer. They are also adding to the problem.

Wake up, people. Racism is alive and well. Black people are disproportionately attacked by police. Not all cops are bad. No one, cop or civilian, deserves to be murdered. And it's up to us to stop it. Each and every one of us.

How many more innocent people have to die before we wake up and do something about this? I'm scared to see what it will take.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Smiles

I got to talk to my favorite British boy today.


And the best part is that he has a Mac now which means he has a webcam which means I actually got to see his face for the first time while talking to him in I don't even know how long.

But that's not even the really good part. The part that made me feel so good is that I think this is the first time all week that I've really smiled. And by "really smiled," I mean that I was happy enough to forget about everything else that has been weighing me down.

There's more than 3300 miles between us and it's been nearly 8 years since we've seen each other in person, but Jay and I still have this incredible bond that I'm so thankful for. Sure, we've had rough patches and times when we haven't spoken for a bit, but when we do, we just instinctively know how to help each other and what we need. It sounds weird to say this when we have so much time and distance between us, but he really is one of the people I trust most in this world, and I'm pretty sure he'd say the same. I truly don't know where I'd be without him. When I say that my friends are what keeps me going when things are hard, he's included in that.

It was only about 35 minutes today, but this did me so much good. And when I thanked him for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to get on and chat for a bit because it helped, he told me "anything for you."

I'm so thankful for my British love. I know that this bond is one for the ages. And that is a beautiful gift.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Now, I continue to wait.

I went to the doctor yesterday. To my surgeon Dr. H, specifically.

It was a combo post-op/let's discuss what to do next that won't kill you appointment.

I wish there were more exciting things to update about but my life is pretty much this crap and job searching.

In short, I have to go to a new surgeon, Dr. B, because Dr. H does not do open abdominal surgeries, and there's not a snowball's chance in hell we're trying a laparoscopy again.

Dr. H is going to call Dr. B this week and inform him on my case and the whole cardiac arrest thing. She's also going to see if there's any way I can get in to see him before next Friday the 8th, when I already have an appointment set up, but that's not a guarantee.

So I'll see him, then set up a new surgery for as quickly as I can get fit into his schedule.

The only unnerving thing about the whole appointment was that I learned my heart was actually stopped closer to two minutes than one, but what can you do? I am alive now.

After that, I went to my regular women's health care doc at the student health center to get the referral for the new surgeon, and I begged her into giving me some Vicodin because I almost passed out in Dr. H's office because of the pain from this week.

I know July 8th isn't really that far away, but I'm so tired of living in this pain all the time. And I'm just praying that it doesn't take weeks for Dr. B to get me into his surgery schedule.

Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying and waiting.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Not My Time Yet

The surgery on Monday didn't go like we planned, to say the least.

And by that, I mean they couldn't even do the surgery. Because it was a laparoscopy, the first step was to inflate my stomach with gas. Usually, when they do this, a patient's blood pressure and heart rate slowly decrease to a low level and remain there during the surgery.

Well, with me, the queen of freak extreme reactions, my heart rate went from 60+ to 0 in just a few seconds.

Yeah, zero.

I flatlined.

I was clinically dead for about a minute, until they managed to restart my heart with drugs and chest compressions.

Needless to say, they stopped the surgery there. I woke up from the anesthesia as they were wheeling me to the post-op, and I remember my first thought being "I should be in a lot more pain than this." Not long after that, the anesthesiologist started talking, and I could only catch bits and pieces of what he was saying, but those bits and pieces were plenty.

"couldn't do the surgery" "heart stopped" "a minute" "epinephrine" "chest compressions"

It's hard enough to figure out where you are when you're coming out of surgery. That's one hell of a wakeup greeting. I immediately started sobbing, but they had an oxygen mask on me, so everything was super dry, so there were no tears, just my whole body shaking. It was...not pleasant. Holly could barely speak when they brought her in there and I told her what happened.

They kept me overnight to monitor my heart and run a couple of tests, just to make sure that my heart was okay and that this was indeed just a rare extreme reaction to the gas. I figured it would be, because I've never had a problem with my heart, surgically or otherwise.

Once I got upstairs, I had to deal with this crazy old lady roommate, so it was about an hour before they moved me and I actually got somewhere comfortable. She was screaming because some friends of mine from church called to pray over me, even though I had headphones in and was speaking barely above a whisper. The nurse was in and out doing things, so I even confirmed with her that I was not being loud (because I know that sometimes I can be without realizing it), and she looked at me and mouthed "No, I'm so sorry." So they moved me to a different section of the floor where I didn't sleep (because I never do in hospitals more than a couple hours) but I at least had some peace and could talk to people without being screamed at. Hospitals make me incredibly anxious when I'm there alone. I was not going to apologize for talking to my people.

The best part of the whole time was getting to FaceTime with two of my soccer boys. They were so, so sweet, and it was really humbling to see how worried they were about me. Don't get me wrong; obviously, I knew they love me, but I just never really thought about how important me being in their lives is to them.

The first one told me that losing me was something he didn't even want to think about as a possibility, and so I just tried to reassure him like "Hey, I'm right here. I'm fine. I'm right here." I was kind of cracking jokes and trying to laugh it off because that's generally how I process stuff like this at first, and he said "You're suppressing the emotions, aren't you? This is the last thing you should be laughing off." I told him that if I didn't laugh, I'd cry, and not long after that, he started crying. That broke my heart. This kid is the type of guy who is always Mr. Stoic, cool, it's all good. The only times I've seen him remotely upset outside of a soccer game loss are the first time he saw me have a seizure and the night he found out I got bullied. So to see him that emotional just at the idea of something happening to me was so, so humbling. The cutest part was that he was practically falling asleep while on FaceTime, but he refused to hang up until he knew that the second guy was awake and was going to call me. He told me "I can't leave you alone right now," but I think that was more for his own sanity than it was for me.

The second brother called me while I was saying goodbye to the first one, and I ended up going out in the hallway to talk to him because at this point it was really late. He told me some of the same things the first one did, about how badly it scared him when I sent him the first text about my heart stopping. He said he and the first guy (they're close friends) had texted each other when they first got my message freaking out. He told me that he refused to let himself cry all day until he got to talk to me because he thought that if he did, he wouldn't stop. That made me feel so bad for scaring them like that, but again, it was just so humbling to hear that stuff from him, about how losing me or something happening to me would kill him. He told me some of the reasons why I was so important to them, and it was honestly so mind-boggling to hear it spelled right out for me. Like I said before, it wasn't that I didn't know they love me, because of course I do, I just didn't really realize how important having me in their lives is to them. They really would miss me if I was gone, and that's something that is incredibly humbling for me, especially because I spent so long before I met these boys really feeling like no one would care if I disappeared. I'm so lucky to be so loved. Anyway, this second brother and I basically spent the rest of the time just cracking jokes and laughing with each other, which is the norm for us, I think because he just didn't want to let himself get emotional over what happened.

I texted them the next morning to let them know nothing had happened overnight, and they told me thank you. Not even kidding.

Tuesday was when the reality of it all really sunk in for me. I mean, I had the words of the anesthesiologist ricocheting around my head all night (I only slept about two hours), but it still sort of  seemed like a dream. No one really wants to think that would happen to them. I broke down crying after I talked to the doctors because it was sinking in for me, but my nurse gave me a hug and helped me calm down. And when I was getting the echocardiogram (basically an ultrasound of my heart) and the tech doing it said that "asystole" was in the order for the scan I was sort of like "Oh crap, this is real. This really wasn't some bad dream."

I got home at like 6:30 on Tuesday, and I was so physically, mentally, and emotionally drained that I basically just collapsed in the chair and didn't move unless absolutely necessary for the next three days almost. Everything about me was exhausted in every sense of the word, but because I was finally in the comfort of my own home and had peace and quiet, the nightmares came out.

All I could think when I was awake about was the fact that I was dead for a minute and barely more than 24 hours after the fact, I was home almost as if nothing happened.

And when I sleep, I've been having variations of the same nightmare: people are nonchalantly telling me I'm gonna die soon and there's nothing I can do about it, and I just keep saying over and over again, "I don't wanna die. I don't wanna die."

You know, I think I do a pretty good job most of the time at accepting the difficulties of the life that I have. A lot of the time, I can even honestly say that I'm grateful for it, because of the ways that I know it has helped people and given me ways to support others through their own struggles. At those points, it's easy for me to focus on the purpose that my life has.

But this week, I've really been struggling with understanding what the point of what happened on Monday was. Why did I need to have another near death experience? This was supposed to be a relatively minor surgery, compared to a lot of the other ones I've had. Is it not enough that I have all of these medical problems to deal with? Does treating them really have to be so freaking complicated, too? Isn't the story I have to tell great enough?

Basically, I'm at that point where I just really wish I could get a break from having to fight so hard to do the most basic things. I don't like feeling or sounding self-pitying, but that's the truth. I'm tired.

So little of this makes sense right now. I feel like I could be handling it a lot better if I just had a little bit of a clue as to what the point is. I know that God's ways are greater than mine and I'm not always supposed to understand, but I'm kind of going, "Can't you just give me a little bit of a clue?!" right now.

It's not a matter of me doubting my faith or anything like that. I know that God is good and faithful as much now as I ever have, and I am so, so grateful to have made it through that surgery alive.

I'm lucky to serve a God who is greater than medical standards and explanations, because God has made it clear that it's not my time to go yet. I guess that, for now, all I can do is try to make the best of the extra chance I've been given.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Love and Prayer

I made it through today without a seizure.

I think God knew how much I really needed to hear the sermon. It was on the power and importance of prayer.

And between today being Father's Day - and the fact that having my birthday, the anniversary of my dad's death, and Father's Day all in the same week can be emotionally draining - and having surgery tomorrow, I really needed to be in God's presence with my church family.

I was getting choked up during the sermon for some reason, and my friend Dorothea could tell something was up with me, so she just reached out and held my hand for the rest of the time Pastor Ben was talking.

But the most beautiful part of the day came after the service. A group of 9 or 10 of my friends literally surrounded me and covered me in prayer for my surgery tomorrow. The anxiety has been bad, so the fact that they were willing to do that meant so much. It was a beautiful reminder of not just how truly NOT alone I really am, but also of God's presence in the midst of all of this and with me as I head into surgery tomorrow. He showed me how much He loves me through them and the way they love me.

They are my people, and I am so lucky to have them. My prayer is now that I can love them (and others) the way that they have loved me. Deeply, selflessly, unconditionally.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Made it through another year.


Sometimes I just sit and stare at his picture. Trying to memorize his features. Hoping that maybe, if I stare long enough, I'll remember what it was like to see him in person. Wishing that pictures weren't all I have to go on for the person who is literally 50% of me. I miss him, even after 17 years. I don't think I'll ever stop, and I hope I don't, because his death is something that defined my view on the world and on relationships. I don't want to forget the little bit I have to hold on to. I can't change what happened, no matter how much I wish I could, so all I can do is hope and pray that he can see me and that I'm making him proud. I love you, Daddy.

RKJ ❤️ 1-29-62 -- 6-17-99 


P.S. Fuck you, cancer.


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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

24 feels good.

And it was a good birthday, too.

First thing this morning, I got up and went back to the Student Health Center to see a primary care doc other than the one I usually see in order to try to get medical clearance for surgery. Luckily, even though my usual doc was being stupid and giving me trouble and then lied to me, this doc was super awesome and spoke to me for like 10 minutes before she decided she thought I'd be fine and would fax over a clearance letter today. (I even confirmed this afternoon that she did it, so yay. No trouble there.)

I came back and ate a quick lunch and then went to a meeting with my buddy August and his boss. I think they're hiring me for a side job, which, I know, like I really need one more thing to worry about, but it's something I'll be good at and I could really use the money. So we'll see how that pans out.

Holly got home a little after 4:30, went to pay this month's bills, and then we went down the block to this Italian restaurant because I was craving their lemon pasta. My throat wasn't cooperating so I couldn't really enjoy it, but it was still good and it was sweet of her to take me.

After that, we went up to Midtown and saw An Act of God on Broadway. Holly surprised me with tickets. It was absolutely hilarious. Granted, as a Christian, there were pieces of it that I found slightly offensive, but I kind of figured that would be the case when I walked in. It was overall so, so good, though. I could not stop laughing. I've loved Sean Hayes, the star, since he was on Will & Grace way back when, and he was perfect in this role. We were a few minutes late because of traffic, so when he saw us being led down the aisle by the usher, he totally called us out. And I loved every second of it.

Then, we came back down to our neighborhood and had a couple drinks.

Finally, around 10:00, August and his girlfriend came over and ate ice cream cake with us. August got it for me for my birthday, and it was delicious. We ate and hung out and talked and I may or may not have rapped for them until about 11:20 when August was about to pass out on our couch.

I also got phone calls from some of my favorite people throughout the day, and like 15 minutes after August and his girlfriend left, Tunji FaceTimed me and we spent like an hour and a half basically just laughing at each other's jokes. It was a perfect ending to the day.

Here's to chapter 25.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I can't sleep.

As soon as I think I'm tired enough to actually sleep, I start thinking about Orlando again, and it doesn't stop.

All of these mass shootings make me sick, but for some reason, this one has affected me more than any other. Aside from the few hours that I was watching the Tony Awards, I've felt like I've been swallowing a lump in my throat and fighting back tears every second since I woke up Sunday morning and saw this terrifying news.

I think I was in shock at first, but as I read more details, it began to sink in.

And then the numbers came out. And the names. The names of the forty-nine people taken in this violence came trickling in, and it became very, very, sickeningly real.

It's one thing to know people died. It's another thing to see their faces and learn their names. To stare at their pictures and have it punch you in the face that these really were actual living, breathing human beings with real lives and loves and dreams, not just a story on the news.

I think about the one victim, Eddie Justice, who, while trapped in a bathroom by the gunman, texted his mother begging her for help. One of the last messages he sent her was "I'm gonna die." Can you imagine getting a text like that from your child? In the middle of the night? When you had no idea anything could be going wrong?

I think about the investigators who had to walk through that nightclub. As was told to CNN, they had to walk through scores of dead bodies listening to phones ring as family members and loved ones called desperately trying to check on them. And they couldn't touch the phones to turn them off or answer the calls because it was...well, a crime scene. So they just had to listen to the ringing while staring at utter carnage.

I saw a post online where one of the doctors at the trauma center that was, thankfully, only two blocks from the club, who posted a picture of his blood-soaked tennis shoes and talked about what it was like treating fifty-four injured people and how he's keeping those blood-soaked shoes as a reminder of how he felt that night.

Even just writing this out makes me think I'm going to start sobbing. I don't know the last time writing a blog post about a news story seemed to physically hurt me this much. Maybe it's because I have people whom I love very much who are part of the LGBT+ community or Muslim, and I just imagine one of them being inside that club. I don't know. What I do know is that this hurts.

But the one sense of peace I feel is that in the midst of all of this is that there are still stories of love coming out.

There was a security guard at the club who managed to get 60 or 70 (his estimate) out through a back door as they were all crammed into a back hallway, saving their lives before the shooter found them. And all he could say when the news called him a hero was, "I wish I could've done more. There are a lot of people dead."

There are pictures and videos of hundreds of people lining up outside of blood banks for hours in the Florida heat to donate blood. Veterans showing up to give blood. Muslim men, in the middle of their Ramadan fast and at a time when too many people will blame their religion as a whole, coming out in droves to donate. An Orlando Chick-Fil-A spending Sunday (the day they're supposed to be closed) cooking hundreds of chicken sandwiches and orders of fries to give to people waiting in the heat to donate. Women and children, including Muslim women in their hijabs, going around giving food, water, sunscreen, and other help to the people in the lines.

I could write an entire novel about gun control and how the fact that we had 173 mass shootings in the 164 days of 2016 including Sunday in Orlando scares the hell out of me. But right now, I'm tired, and I'm sad, and I'm scared, and I'm trying desperately to hold onto hope that we'll go back to a world where mass shootings aren't the norm - where first graders can go to school, and African Americans can go to church, and family and friends can go to the movies without being scared of being murdered.

I really wish my brain would turn off so I can sleep, but even in thinking that, I think about all the people down in Florida who probably haven't slept since the shooting and are going to be haunted by this. And it makes all my troubles just seem silly.

Lord, be near. I don't know what else to say but Lord, please come and be with the brokenhearted.

These are the brothers and sisters we lost:

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29, of Jacksonville
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Amanda Alvear, 25
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Cory James Connell, 21
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Brenda Lee Marquez McColl, 49
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Frank Hernandez, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
[one currently unnamed]


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Friday, June 10, 2016

24

So remember how at the beginning of last month I posted that the lady I'd been seeing in the Women's Health department of the Student Health Center was sending me to an OBGYN specialist/surgeon to be evaluated for endometriosis? Well, I finally got to have that appointment today.

Many times in the past when I've gone to a doctor for the first time, it was a fight to get them to listen to me and work with me instead of acting like they knew my body better than I did. So I was honestly expecting to go in and have to beg this woman to fully evaluate me and agree to do the surgery. It didn't exactly work out like that.

The whole appointment took like twenty minutes. No joke. First the PA came in, looked over the paperwork I had filled out, asked me like five questions, and then said that because I can't have an MRI because of my shunt, we should just go ahead and do surgery, so he explained the basics of the surgery and then said he was going to go get the doctor. A few minutes later, the nurse brought me into the doctor's office. I sat down, and she asked me if I had any questions about what the PA said or the surgery in general. I said no other than when could we do the surgery, and this is where it got a little hard.

She said that after looking at my file and listening to what the PA told her, she is really concerned about what could be going on and wants do to the surgery as soon as possible. So she told me she has an available slot on the 20th and wanted to know if I could get a medical clearance from my primary care before then. The 20th of June. As in less than two weeks away. She said to give her a few minutes and then she would come in and examine me, so I told her I'd go ahead and call and see how soon I could get in to get the medical clearance. Well, I guess because it's summer and most students are gone, but my doc who is usually very busy could get me in basically any time I was available Monday.

Then the doc came in, started examining me and asked if what she was doing was hurting and where. I said all over, and she stopped and basically said "Yep, you need the surgery." I put my clothes back on, walked out, got a folder of pre-admission info, was told someone would call me tomorrow or Monday with info about where and when I needed to be for pre-surgery bloodwork and whatnot, and then I was gone.

When I walked out of the building, I felt like my head was spinning because it all happened so fast. That, and I wasn't expecting them to be able to do surgery so soon. It took more than a month for me to even be seen because she is such a busy doctor, so I thought it would be a while before she had an open surgery slot. Nope. Second, I found out that the surgery is going to be more extensive than I thought it would be because they don't believe in using the lasers like I was expecting.

And also, despite the fact that I've done this so many times, it's still surgery. I like to put on a face for a lot of people that stuff like this is old hat for me and just doesn't bother me anymore, but it does. It bothers me. It's still hard and scary and overwhelming. This is the kind of thing that doesn't get easy to deal with no matter how many times you do it. So by the time I got in the cab to come back home, I was not in a great mindset.

Luckily, I had the forethought last night to have some of my brothers praying for me. So I texted two of them and called one, and long story short, I got pep talks that only my boys could give. When I got to spend close to half an hour on the phone with Tunji, we had each other laughing hysterically. Laughter really is the best medicine. Then I got a nice long FaceTime date with Clayton which is always good for the soul.

But after I got off the phone with him because we were both exhausted, the silence set in. And maybe it's just my 100% extrovert personality or the fact that silence is terrifying for this generation in general, but when I have too much silence, I get way too caught up in my head, and that's when things get ugly. After a couple hours, I was a mess. Enter this guy.


This is my buddy August. He's one of the bouncers at the bar on the block that I mentioned yesterday.  I jokingly like to call him "my knight in a shiny purple headband." He was Jesus in the flesh to me tonight and not only made me smile and laugh, but also helped me get back to a place where I could focus on the truth: God is good and faithful and loves me, and all of this is just one more chapter to add to the incredible story I've been given the chance to tell. He is one of those people that just shines the light of Christ without even trying because of how deeply and passionately he loves everyone he comes across.

God is good, y'all. God is so good. I'm so thankful that I am getting this surgery taken care of, but even more than that, I'm so incredibly thankful for all of the people who showed up today. Near and far, I am surrounded by people who are invested in me, in my physical and emotional wellbeing. These are the people who pick me up when I'm down and refuse to let me go when they see me slipping into the darkness. Second to God, they are the reason why I have the strength that people see in me. There's no way I could do any of this without my Father, but there's also no way I could do this without my people. They are my lifelines.

I'm going to bed tonight with a smile on my face, and ten hours ago, I don't think I could've thought that was possible. Thanks be to God.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Boys, Girls, and the Root of the Problem

When the prevailing thought is "boys will be boys," girls will be garbage. - Ann Voskamp

You can't be on the internet this week without reading something regarding Brock Turner and the Stanford rape case. And since you're reading this, it means you've been on the internet, which saves me from the task of recapping this disgusting horror show.

There are so many parts about this that simultaneously make me sick, sad, and furious:
  • the sexual assault itself
  • Brock's lack of remorse
  • the joke of a sentence
  • the judge's reason for the "slap on the wrist" sentence
  • the white privilege 
  • the father's defense of his son
to name a few.

It scares me to live in a world where not only can a college-aged guy rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, but his father will plead for leniency calling it "20 minutes of action in his 20 plus years of life." Now, I don't know what it's like for fathers to raise sons (obviously), but I do know that kids learn mentalities and perspectives from their parents. When a man tries to make his convicted rapist of a son out to be the victim in a situation that he and only he caused, it's pretty obvious where Brock learned to believe that that girl was his for the taking. Brock still refuses to apologize for the actual assault, saying only that he wishes he hadn't gotten drunk or gone to that party. He and his father both say the problem is alcohol use and sexual promiscuity, but last time I checked, plenty of people in college get drunk at parties - most of them don't rape people.

It scares me to live in a world where a judge can give a 20-year-old convicted by a jury of multiple accounts of sexual assault a sentence of six months in county jail (not state prison), with the high chance that he'll be out in three with good behavior, and three years' probation because he is concerned that a longer sentence would have a "severe impact" on him. The judge showed far more concern for the perpetrator's wellbeing than that of the woman whose life he wrecked. Her life will forever be marked by what Brock decided to do, but Judge Aaron Persky was more concerned on not messing up Brock too badly. Because oh yeah, he just so happened to be a Stanford alum and the former men's lacrosse captain. An African-American 23-year-old just got freed from prison after spending 9 years in for murders he didn't commit. That means he was sent to prison at 14. But Brock, an upper class white guy, gets six months in jail for a rape he actually did commit.

It scares me to live in a world where news sources reporting on a rape think it appropriate/relevant to post the swim times of the rapist because he happened to be a talented athlete. As someone on Twitter said: If someone is a rapist and an athlete, they're not an athlete who made a mistake, they're a criminal who can also swim. There are plenty of articles on this case that have spent time talking about how Brock was a good swimmer hoping to go to the Olympics one day, as if that is some cause for sympathy. It's no one's fault but his own that he is not going to go to the Olympics.

This is the thing, though: the problem isn't just rape. I was going to the deli the other night. A guy was sitting on a stoop about halfway between my apartment and there. He said "what's going on, baby?" and when I ignored him, he proceeded to follow me down the sidewalk until he saw me go in the deli and, I'm assuming, realized he wasn't going to get me alone. (Luckily, I live in a neighborhood where there is lots of activity every night, and I'm also friends with the bouncers at a bar on the block who would come to protect me at the drop of a hat.) The problem is that we live in a culture where a lot of guys think there's nothing wrong with following a girl down the sidewalk, or catcalling, or touching her without being given permission. And we can't seem to make them understand what's wrong with it because we can't make them experience what it's like to be objectified as something less than human, something put on this planet for the entertainment and enjoyment of boys masquerading as men. I know I'm not saying anything here that hasn't been said by countless others, but this is reality that can't be said enough until the culture changes.

Remember Elliot Rodger, the perpetrator of the mass shooting at and around UC Santa Barbara a couple years ago? He posted a series of 20 videos online outlining his plan for revenge on women because they wouldn't date him or pay him the attention he thought he deserved. He literally warned people in advance of his desire to commit violence. His parents called the cops when he was younger because they were worried, and the cops shrugged him off as being a "normal" male with pent-up aggression. Boys will be boys, right? Teenage boys want sex, right? Because authorities didn't see the situation for what it was, the girls in that UCSB sorority house that was his target stopped being college students living their lives and started being subjects who had failed to please this guy who thought he was owed their attention and their bodies because they were females and he was a male. This is toxic masculinity at its peak.

Or how about Chris Plaskon, the 16-year-old in Connecticut who stabbed Maren Sanchez to death in the hallways of their high school because he asked her to be his date to prom and she said no? This is another example of a guy believing that he is owed access to a girl and taking revenge when he doesn't get what he wants. If he couldn't have her, no one would, not even her boyfriend with whom she was already supposed to go to prom.

Teenagers have to learn this mentality from somewhere. And I'm not just blaming parents/fathers. I'm not saying blame parents for the actions of their children who commit murder. Guys also learn this from the world around them. Music that reduces women to bitches and hoes who are there to serve men with sex. TV and movies that create female characters that need boys/men to come in and rescue them and whose main job is to cook for the men and clean and do their laundry and take care of them. Advertisements that have women half naked for no reason other than to get the attention of men. Pornography, the ultimate scenario of women being used to fulfill men's fantasies and desires.

It doesn't have to be this way.

We can live in a world where the lives of women and girls are seen as just as valuable as those of men and boys.
We can live in a world where men honor women and their bodies as they were intended.
We can live in a world where girls don't have to be afraid to walk home alone at night or drink at a party with their friends.
We can live in a world where women are more than bitches, hoes, or objects to be salivated over.

We don't have to have Brock Turners who don't or can't see why taking sexual gratification from women who don't or can't say no is wrong. We don't have to have Elliot Rodgers and Chris Plaskons who think they are owed attention and sex from women.

But we have to do something to change the culture.

We can have people like Carl Arndt and Peter Jonsson, the two Stanford grad students who caught Brock in the act, chased him down, and held him until the cops arrived. One of them reportedly cried as he explained to the cops what he saw. They didn't blow it off as not being their business, and they didn't assume the girl wanted it. They thought something was wrong, and they did something about it. They are proof that it is possible to raise boys who respect women as fellow human beings just as valuable as they are.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'ma compel him to include women in the sequel. That's a line from Hamilton that has more necessary truth in it than you would think would come from a Broadway musical. Teaching kids that women were created equal to men is just the first step in changing the culture.

Lastly, I will leave you with this video. I don't know who this young man is, but he hits the nail right on the head. It's only about six minutes, and I implore you to please watch it.



"Stop telling women to watch their back, when we're the ones who stare at their backs as they walk past. Stop telling women that it's their fault, when we are the dogs who make the catcalls. Rather, speak up and teach boys and men these three simple things: Love people. Respect people. And do. not. assault."

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