It’s Been A Beautiful Journey

Change is hard.

When I started this blog, I had hopes that it would be like a journal to track this amazing progression. From not knowing anything about life to making my life into something great. And it’s been a really wild thing. I went from abstract writing pieces to mental health advocacy to political work to coping mechanisms and then some. And that’s been really cool.

But I can’t justify keeping this blog open for the nostalgia of it. I start more blogs than I finish, I post once a month and I’ve lost my passion somewhere along the way. And that’s not what I wanted. Now I’m at a crossroads. I can try to “fake it til I make it” and put fluff pieces up until I feel real again, or I can say goodbye.

I started out with great intentions. I wanted to be edgy and hipster and fantastic-with pieces that changed people’s minds and opened their hearts. But somewhere along the way, I lost that. And I can’t wait for it to come back. I have to go out and find it.

So this isn’t goodbye forever. This is goodbye until.

Until writing makes me feel alive.
Until blogging is passionate.
Until I discover what it is that I’m searching for.

Change is hard. But I was never meant to live on the sidelines anyway.

I’ll check the comments for a while-because I’ve made such wonderful friends along the way and I don’t want to lose you. I just don’t want y’all to feel like I dropped off the face of the planet without notice.

Live well.

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Life Update

Captain’s log, Star Date 93978.45 (Yes, I looked it up and made sure it was the right date.)

In all the wonderful things which may happen to a person, this week (for reasons which I hold firmly in my belief system) has been such a bountiful treasure. My little apartment garden is up and thriving (little cilantro and tomato plants are cropping up!), I’ve had THE most successful blog I’ve EVER done (thanks you guys!) and I’ve been offered an interview at a place I’d love to work on Thursday. On top of that, I am now a contributor for The Mighty! I’d like to thank and welcome my new followers, and extend many loving thank yous to my lasting followers. I am beyond blessed.

I have chosen to believe that all things will work out for the best. That I am going to be able to do what I have set out to accomplish, that I will make it with some success and that I will be happy. And depending on how this interview goes, we might be moving closer to my new job. Which is also pretty cool. But we haven’t really decided anything yet, and therefore I cannot speak about that much.

I cannot be so presumptuous to think that these masterpieces of situations are all due to me. I know that somewhere out there, I’ve had a lot of prayers whispered over me, I’ve had the guidance of the best parents, the hopes of teachers who truly cared, and the blessings of the deities who watch out for me. I just start the ball rolling. It’s all about where I put my intentions.

Coming up this week: be on the look out for a blog about the “grey areas of suicide” and the “realities of self-harm in a post-emo adult world” as well as something about my topic of existence: bodily safety. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll write something a little more artsy-fartsy about purpose and meaning in life, but we’ll just have to see.

This is my masterpiece. And I won’t stop til it is beautiful. (Thanks for those words, Andy Grammar.)

Walk Away

There are days which comes at me a little more harshly than others. I feel like although this could probably be glanced over, maybe it’s still important to get it out in the open. Who knows, maybe someone else will have a similar story.

In three days, I will have been married to my husband for two years. In those two years, we have grown as a couple in ways that I didn’t think we could. We now can anticipate each other: he moves, I move. We know each other’s schedules-not just for day to day life, but days that are hard, moods, all of it. It’s really nice sometimes, sometimes it’s really annoying. (Sometimes I just want to be mad by myself, you know?) But anyway, it isn’t that that bothers me. I love being able to say I am married. And watching people look with their disapproving little heads at us. So many people thought we’d made a mistake getting married young, but we’re stronger now than we were, and we’ve now seen each other at our worst. He and I believe that you should work on a marriage every day, and that having each other is a gift to treasure, not a safety net for convenience.

Around this time, a lot of my Facebook friends have also gotten married. I smile at each and every one of them, hoping they have a good life, a life full of love and happiness. I was invited to several of their weddings, but somehow never managed to make it any.I have a very real issue with new places, new people and large quantities of them. That makes me exceptionally frustrated when I receive an invitation and in a mania state say “yes, I will be attending” and then find the day of the affair that I’m mid depression, full of social anxiety and unable to get dressed in “street clothes” let alone make my way to a glorious event. I’m not making excuses, I’m just highlighting an issue I wish wasn’t an issue.

But there’s something else, which creeps into my heart and creates an emotional disease. When I got married, Ben was in a suit, I was in a cream colored dress from Victoria’s Secret.

crochet (It was this one, as a matter of fact. No, this isn’t me.)

Ben and I were married in a classroom at our college, by one of Ben’s Political Science professors. It was an intimate ceremony, my parents, his dad, his best friend and his best friend’s parents, my siblings and maybe a straggler or two from the university.

I’ll tell the full story on our actual anniversary, because that’s a really epic story, but here’s the part that makes me sad. The professor brought his guitar and played us a song-our first song as a married couple. It was Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. I actually liked that song before, and knew the lyrics ahead of time.

“So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while”

We came back from our weekend away and waited for pictures. We hadn’t hired a photographer, we just asked everyone there to take some. My mother took a video recording (so she and my father are exempt from this).

Every picture was blurred.

I know it sounds trivial. I know. And I’ve gone back and forth for these last two years about how silly I sound. But I have no pictures from my wedding. They all are shaky, blurred images of my backside, of the professor, of the group of people who were there. I have the blurry images, and trust me, they were blurrier as I cried about it.

So I look at Facebook, and all of my friends who got married and the weddings I couldn’t attend. I look at their pictures, the photos they will have forever. And I can’t help but get a little gloomy. I hope they all have the best lives they possibly could. But I also wish that I too had photos to share.

As I listen to that song each anniversary, I can’t help but be reminded of the lines I quoted here. I am left with the memories in my head. And my brain isn’t the most reliable of things, let’s be honest.

jealous

I told Ben that I was upset because when I am old and don’t remember who I am anymore, I will have nothing to show for our wedding day. That’s certainly half of it. But it’s more than that. I also feel incredibly jealous that although I know and he knows that we got married, I have nothing to share with my friends. I can’t show them how happy we looked, our very first moments as a married couple, nothing. And they can all show me.

So I made it my mission to take as many pictures as I could from then on out. I’m working to save up more money for my anniversary tattoo, and I’m going to make sure that although I have no pictures of my first moments as Mrs., I will have enough proof to show that it wasn’t short lived.

(And for those of you interested in the video, there isn’t any audio, and it’s only the back of our heads.)

 

May the Fourth…Be With You

Even with the current political climate, I will continue to blog about women’s issues, human rights and mental health. (I may do an expose about political climates, but at a later time.)

I recently commented (on Facebook) on a local news station’s announcement of the discussion of banning non-essential traffic from Ohio to North Carolina, because of the “bathroom bill”. Me being me, I had to comment-I love human rights issues (because they are opportunities to expand my awareness and activism). Here’s what I expected going in, and what I hoped for:

trans equal

Expect: People to disagree, challenge my views.

Hope: I could change someone’s mind.

What I didn’t expect was the vicious content that would ensue. I will retype here what I typed there, and then tell you about the responses.

The thing is, rapists and sexual predators have been coming after women and children for years, decades and no one has bothered to put up this amount of riotous behavior. It isn’t about bathrooms, just as it has never been. It is about the average person not understanding that which they fear. If it was their children, their siblings, who were transgender or transsexual, then perhaps the tides would change towards equality. However, with all this being said, I am incredibly proud to call Ohio my home, and Columbus my city. It is incredibly easy to cry foul play when you feel like your rights are being infringed upon, but the reality of the situation is that the rights of the cis- have always been safe. It is now up to the minorities, those who have not had access to the same rights, to rise up and cry out as loudly as they can. Freedom isn’t free, and equality isn’t universal. Yet. But with a little understanding, a little empathy and some patience, perhaps we, as the American people (and Ohioans!) can usher in a new era of acceptance, love and humility-putting aside the fear mongering, the hatred and the ignorance. Thank you, Columbus City Council. May love prevail!

Now, yes. It does sound like a naive college student with liberal ideas wrote that. You’d be reading that same view point in all of my blogs. However, what I said was (in my mind) respectful, and reflected my true feelings. I didn’t name call, I didn’t stoop to low levels, I tried to remain calm in a conversation topic where tempers run rampant.

Some of the responses included (I copied and pasted-so any misspellings or poor grammar are as they were written by the original posters):

“What love? U certainly show none”

“Jared fogel and friends loves and thanks u”

“Pedophiles or rapist to pretend their transgender to exploit it. If you don’t think they will do that you need to take off your love cures all blinders right now. They are liars, manipulates and they will do anything to fulfill their sexual desires.”

“Where does this end, at what point do pedophiles get granted their rights.”

“Seriously, I think it’s just another card to pull, I have a male friend who is gay, he always says, if they talk to me like that, I’ll pull the gay card, if I get fired I’ll pull the gay card, that’s all I hear… Where the hell is the straight card? It’s all about control and money…”

“Play every last PC Card like a typical liberal. Call common sense “fear mongering” to try’n get your way. Grow a pair while your at it.”

Now, at this point I have to mention that my comment to the last one was (It’s my favorite comment):

And if I did, in fact, “grow a pair”, NAME DELETED, would that allow me to use the rest room in peace? My career is in human rights, so you’ll forgive me if I continue promoting equality instead of pulling America backwards.

I have been called a murderer because of my stance on abortions, I have been called all the usual things that men call women who are strong and opinionated. I have struggled with my identity and ideas in light of these things, and I have to say, I believe I have come out of this ordeal (and others) a stronger, more sure person.

equal

I was asked if I believed that someone would willingly submit themselves to a future if they weren’t even part of the group. I had, at that point, answered that although I consider myself bisexual, I had played the part of “lesbian girlfriend” for several of my friends who were in a situation that merited my actions. So when I think of that question now, and try to apply it to this topic, I can only be reaffirmed by my ideas before.

I know I’m a very passionate, outspoken, opinionated individual. I know that I do my best to listen to other people’s ideas, and that I try to be respectful at all times. I also know that I have to stand up for what I believe is right. That’s what it means to truly live. And so I will not be hurt by the people calling me names, or making suggestions about the way I live my life. I will continue to fight for justice, as long as I live.

I don’t think that all Americans believe this way. I don’t even think it’s a majority of them. But what I do think, is that there are a large portion of people who have opinions about this and other issues who choose to remain silent. I can’t remain silent while my friends, old acquaintances, family members, find themselves fearing for their basic rights. I have plans, I have hopes and dreams, and because I ally myself this way, because I belong to several minorities (which will be a blog post on its own), I may be forced into some tight spots. But I choose to believe that justice and love with shine through, and I will not remain silent.

Bullseye

I woke up this morning and could just smell the injustices of the world. You know, it just hung like smog around the earth. And I knew I had to do something about it. What did I want to do? Blog? Eventually. Protest? Protest what? Spend my money where my alliances lign up? Yes indeedy. I decided I was gonna don the robe of justice and bring my voice to the masses.

I went to Target today. I’ve been there, but never bought anything from the store before. I “dressed up for justice”.. I did my hair, my makeup, put on my nicest clothes, grabbed my “power” heels, my husband and my wallet and drove to the store. Did I need anything from Target? Not necessarily. But what I needed was to make sure that I supported a business who supports equality.

Now I must add some comments about my attire, because the choices were very deliberate. I decided I was gonna rock the body I so seldom ply truly love. I was proud of the way I looked. What you may not be able to see are the three rings I am wearing. One is my engagement ring/wedding band combo. That one is very obvious as to why I should wear it (and he’s the one who took the first photo). One is a moonstone, which represents femininity and one is just a piece of costume jewelry that I love and use only on special occasions-with this being a holiday and all, I thought it was a good enough reason. On one of my wrists I am wearing a blue and pink bracelet and the other I am wearing a rainbow one. Obviously the rainbow one is for gay support, but the other one is for bisexuality support. I have many friends who are L/G and I belong to the “bi” category. I chose a black and white striped dress because a white and black flag is the one used by straight allies. As I have said, I do not fit in the “straight” category, but I am an ally and I’m not transgender or transsexual, so I thought it was fitting. And grey leggings because grey is the color for asexuallity, which brings us almost completely to all the letters of LGBTQIA. And the heels? Those are my “I’m gonna sue you” heels. My eyes have teal eyeliner, because that is the color for sexual assault awareness. All in all, this is my first day of dressing up for what I believe in, and it marks the start of my career in human rights.

I needed to know what it felt like to look business professional for something I truly believe in, because that is going to be the rest of my life. I’m adding pictures as proof that I actually went there-and bought stuff, because words are just words, you know?

 
The model looks like she’s resting on my head. And I’m pretty impressed with the amount of frizz that is absent from my hair!


There’s the frizz! In the mirror! But ultimately, I took this picture in the bathroom aisle because that’s what this is all about (and I really didn’t have to pee). I’m really pretty pleased with my selfie game here. Classy.

You know, I posted a status on my Facebook page about how I was going to go to Target today and if that offended anybody, they should unfriend me. I’m a big girl, it won’t hurt my feelings to lose “friends” whom I do not agree with on issues of human rights. It honestly should not come as a surprise that I support bathroom equality. Because it’s all about human equality. I do not identify as transgender nor do Iidentify as a transsexual. But I identify as a human being. And the thing is, statistically speaking, trans people are the ones getting attacked and sexually assaulted, not doing the attacking. And you know what else? If parents were worried about their kids being in situations which might be dangerous, why aren’t the parents going to the facilities with their children? My parents did up until I was old enough to know that I could use the restroom without help, and with the understanding that if something happened, I’d scream like murder (I’d say I was about 8, maybe 10).

The thing is, people are afraid of what they don’t understand. And that’s not how we should live. This blog is my stance. So to all you Chrsitians and Catholics who say that you love like Jesus did and then immediately cry for the persecution of transgender and transsexual individuals, you are the problem. Jesus didn’t only love the people just like him. He just loved. The end. No qualifiers, no categories. And you’re doing Christianity wrong if you love any other way but unconditionally. And you know what, that goes for all religions, including having no religion at all. If you’re for equality, for safety, for love, for humanity, for the future, for living to the fullest and you are anti this topic, you’re not living your life to the fullest capacity. You are, in fact, holding everyone else back. I know, I’m a radical millennial (I was born in 1992. I call myself everything but a millennial, but whatever.) and I haven’t “experienced” life yet. But you know what, I don’t need 40 or 50 or 70 years of life to know that there are good people and bad people in the world and that chances are, you’re only assuming that someone belongs in a certain category because you don’t understand it. Do I know what it’s like to be a trans individual? Nope. But I have friends who do. And I treat them like human beings. Period. Because that’s what they are.

I can only hope that if one of my future children identifies as a member of the trans community, that they know how much I love them as a person, not as a prescribed way of being. And I wish this “issue” were more personal for people. Because until you have seen and heard and been a part of the life of someone who is trans, you really don’t understand what the “big deal” is. And that is half the problem.


Forgive the mess! This is my favorite selfie of the day.

So thank you Target, for allowing me to enter your store, for placing store representatives who smiled at me and asked me if I found everything okay. Thank you for supplying products to a less than straight pagan woman in Ohio and her husband. Thanks for letting me wander around and take some selfies. Thanks for having the products that I was wanting to pick up and for putting those discount stickers on stuff.

But more than that, thank you. Thank you, Target. Thank you for serving the people of our fair country to the best of your inclusive ability. Thank you for ensuring that customers and patrons feel that they are protected and appreciated enough that they can be themselves. Thank you for remembering that we are all human in the end and that there is inherent good in the people of our human race. Thank you for embracing the things that make us all unique-even when there are so many who do not understand. Thank you for opening your hearts when others would have you open the door to bigotry and fear. Thank you for ensuring that the bullseye symbol which you have chosen as your brand does not stand for the way in which you “target” people different from you, but for the way it encircles all walks of life in one unified stance. And lastly, thank you for not giving in. I can only imagine what trans people feel when they see the hatred and fear coming from their fellow humans and I am so glad that you have provided a light in the darkness.

My PSA

April 1 marks the very first day of April (obviously) but it is the beginning of an entire month of awareness. April’s awareness topics range from Autism to Organ Donation, from several types of cancer to Stress. But there is one thing that it is, which needs to be mentioned loudly. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And it is that topic which is the focus of today’s message.

On a personal note, there are very few topics which get me so fired up that my big heart shows right through. This is one of them. I am VERY passionate about improving the conditions of women with regards to sexual education and safety. What started out as a tangent-concern (I’m a woman and of course, I’m concerned about those topics) quickly became an all consuming passionate need to improve the world around me. This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I’m writing a book about it, I’m going to school for it. I have lots of ideas, and I would love to share them all. If you want to know more about this topic, or any others that I blog about, please, just ask. Educating others is the biggest blessing I could ever have.

Trigger ALERT: This post contains information on sexual assault/rape. If you find those topics to be triggers, please, know that you are not alone and that life is still beautiful-even if your skies are grey.

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Before we get into the “heart” of today, we need to know what it is that this month actually means.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include: Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape, attempted rape, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body, fondling or unwanted sexual touching

This list is only a partial list, however. According to Marshall University the list also includes:

Sexual assault includes:

  • Rape—sexual intercourse against a person’s will
  • Forcible sodomy—anal or oral sex against a person’s will
  • Forcible object penetration—penetrating someone’s vagina or anus, or causing that person to penetrate her or himself, against that person’s will
  • Marital rape
  • Unwanted sexual touching
  • Sexual contact with minors, whether consensual or not
  • Incest (Sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion between family members.)
  • Any unwanted or coerced sexual contact

Let me break it down for you: if it is physical contact that is in any way sexual (kissing, touching, feeling, etc) and you didn’t want it-it is sexual assaultALL rape is sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape.

I always assumed that the word assault meant “violent”. That sexual assault basically equaled rape, or some sado-masochist stuff that you see in Law and Order: SVU. Turns out, I was wrong. It doesn’t have to be violent at all. I didn’t know the actual definition of sexual assault until I was 23 years old. And that’s exactly what’s wrong with America today. Someone grab your butt? It counts. Someone kiss you without your consent? It counts. And that’s the start of why so many people don’t report it (of course, there are other reasons).

If you don’t even know it’s sexual assault, then why would you report anything?

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According to the Center for Disease Control, “1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape, and about 1 in 15 men have been made to penetrate someone in their lifetime. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.” (CDC) But the statistics do not stop there.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)

·         Every 107 seconds, a sexual assault happens.

·         68% of these will not be reported to authorities

·         About 293,066 people are assaulted or raped EACH YEAR

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Some effects shown by the victims are: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Self-Harm, Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases (STI/STD), Depression, Substance Abuse, Sleep Disorders and more.

1 in 4

Here’s what RAINN recommends you do if sexual assault happens to you.

1.       Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.

2.      What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.

3.      Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).You’ll be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area. They will direct you to the appropriate local health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault. Some service providers may be able to send a trained advocate to accompany you.

I’m going to just attach the link to RAINN about reporting assault, which includes some reasons people may not.

https://rainn.org/get-information/legal-information/reporting-rape

So there are the facts, and the data and the definitions. Now, we need to look at the real life faces of an issue that has made its way into our society. It’s time to make prevention personal.

Baylor Story                 Self-Blame                    Devalued, Discounted and Unprotected

Huffington Post, Kesha

These links are from people (or are about people) with real lives, real concerns. And in the effort to be fair, here are some links with resources and “help” information.

Good Therapy        Victims of Crime       S.T.A.R.S.

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If you took the time to look at the links above, you’ll notice one strikingly concerning thing. The phrase in question is:

It’s not like I was raped…

Let me say this in the plainest English I can:

It. Does. Not. Matter. 

You. Are. A. Human. Being. Worthy. Of. Respect. And. Love.

Seriously. “Just because it wasn’t rape” doesn’t make it less awful, nor does it negate the effects. Rape is awful. That is true. But NO ONE asks to be assaulted. NO ONE. And it doesn’t matter if you were at a bar and someone comes up to you and gropes you, or someone comes up to you and starts kissing you and “feeling you up”. It doesn’t matter if you knew the person or if they were a stranger.

If you didn’t want it: it’s sexual assault. And that is a crime.

If you are a victim, you are not alone.

A Letter

Dear Senator Sanders,

         You do not know me, but I am a young Democratic voter from a very small town in Ohio. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it was named after a Polish officer who fought in our revolution. In that tiny little spot, there are no stop lights, and plenty of dirt roads. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word, or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support that I am thankful to have had.

         I’ve been privileged to have had some wonderful friends, all of whom helped me grow into the outspoken, passionate woman I am today. And part of that stems from having a deep love of people who are different from myself. I deeply enjoy looking into other cultures, ensuring that I have the best, most thorough information available, so that I can make that small town proud of the ways in which I impact my world. As an anthropology student, research into cultures and attitudes are kind of a requirement. So I took the time to do a little research on you, Mr. Sanders, and here is what I found out.

         You are a man of many skills: carpentry, film and legislation among them. You are devoted to your family, and all that you see morally astute. But do you know what I did not see, or at least, not on your website? I did not see a medical degree. And so it troubles me deeply that you went out of your way to say the following at the debate in Flint, Michigan:

“We are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to address the mental health.”

         You see, the media may have found that sound bite worthy of a chuckle, Secretary Clinton did as well, but for someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst peoples, you have let down a very large, very important community. You may have made an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider that the members of the mentally ill community may not have appreciated you including the Republican candidates into that group simply because some of the outrageous things which have come out of their mouths.

         I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But more than that, I am a member of that community that you so brazenly mocked. Some of the phrases you used last night were “lunatic”, “crazy person” and of course, the quote which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions such as those of Mr. Trump mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect. 

         So here I am, Senator Sanders, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education. Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny-it’s just plain rude.

         Thank you for your time.

Best,

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell

A Concerned Citizen