Religious Tolerance

You sneeze: what do people say to you?

It’s the holiday season: what do people say to you?

It’s your birthday: what do people say to you?

Something terrible has happened to you: what do people say to you?

A loved one has passed on: what do people say to you?

Something great might happen: what do people say to you?

All of these have one really strikingly gorgeous thing in common: well-wishing. Now, the specifics may not be the same, but the idea behind it very much is. And yet, we have some issues accepting it, don’t we?


If someone came up to you and blessed you because you sneezed (and no, it doesn’t matter if it’s in German), you’d say thank you. It wouldn’t matter if you believed that God was going to bless you, or if you were atheist-you’d just say thank you. Or at least you should, becuase that’s just good manners.

If you were going into the hospital, you’d want to come out of it again, right? And you’d want comfort if a loved one or friend died, right?

You’d want to celebrate when good things happen, take solace in community when bad things occur. That’s just human nature-right?

My point here is that if I were Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Atheist or Pagan or Buddhist or what-have-you, the concept of well-wishing is universal. I did a post during Ramadan (last year?!) about how much I learned about the graciousness of the Muslim Americans that I met. I have a Jewish friend who is the happiest, most accepting person I may ever know. I have a Catholic friend with a heart of gold, who accepts me for my differences and loves me just the same. I have very Christian friends who are a delight to be around-and allow me to explore who I am while they do the same, and even some who give me their time and share their food with me (I’m always down with food and coffee dates-you know, when my schedule permits).  I have atheist and agnostic friends who respect my choice to believe in something bigger than myself. I have pagan friends who delight in my successes, lift me up in my sorrows and support me throughout. And I know that’s just my story. I get that.

But the larger picture is what I’m getting at. 

Tolerance is something that doesn’t seem to be big around my country these days. I see a collective out and about, trying to make sure everyone knows they are valid and matter and valued-and I love that. I try to do so as well, because that’s what we all need. In the end, it doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t matter, if someone is wishing you well-becuase it means they care enough to say something nice to you.

Look, I don’t expect everyone to know that next week is Ostara, the celebration of the Spring Equinox, a time of great fertility and happiness. Saint Patrick’s Day is a religious day, but is celebrated by more people than just the ones who honor him as a saint. Lent is happening right now, in preparation for Easter. Purim and Holi are coming up soon as well. Ramadan starts in a couple months. And you thought December was the only packed holiday month!

My point is simple, really, and I feel like it’s almost absurd to have to say it. When someone tells you:

Happy Easter, Happy Ostara, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Happy Friday, Blessed Purim, Blessed Lent, Blessed Holi, and more, they are not saying “you have to subscribe to my religion”. They are wishing you well. 

And in this day and age, isn’t that something we all need?

A Book Suggestion

I wanted to do something a little different, a little the same. First though, I am beyond honored to say I’ve crossed the 150 mark for followers and I am so very humbled by you all. Thank you for hearing what I have to say and being around to have some excellent conversations!

Alright. I’m all for reading-especially for being informed, but also just for the sake of reading. And I have a book suggestion that is both an excellent piece of work, but also incredibly well-written and vital to this day and age. I’m pasting my GoodReads review, because I think I said it best there, and you’ll get the gist. The book I’m recommending is Being Emily by Rachel Gold.

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Here’s my GR review:

**Slight spoiler alert** Having known a few people who made this transition story personal for my own read, I can honestly say I am completely impressed.
First, let me just say that although this book is rather short, it is packed to the brim with information-some of which you won’t process until after you’ve slept on it! There are no facts or figures in this book, but your brain will process the new characters in such a way that you’re going to make some sums. With that being said, there are some things I want to review as a bystander to this situation.
The chapters with Claire are my favorite. Claire asks the questions that a bystander is curious about but doesn’t want to seem rude over. And she slips up with her gender pronouns-just like most of us do. It’s a process and Claire is the closest thing to an ally that I could relate to. Natalie is seen as the pinnacle of success, as is Elizabeth-for having been able to completely “integrate”, but I would personally have like to have seen them more developed as characters. Maybe this could be done in a spin off or something-because an older “T-girl”, who say, started her transition in the 80s or 90s would also be a great read-especially from RG.
As you follow Emily, you really start to ask yourself questions about where you stand, who you are and the books requires you to see things from a perspective that may not be your own. And that’s the best part. Because at the end of the day, there needs to be a main character that people of any form of minorities relate to be it a gender minority, a sexuality one or an ethnic one.
I think the reason I found so much truth in this book is that I, like so many others, have grown up in a very conservative Christian area, where the questions raised are incredibly similar to the ones I’ve heard about Other gender and sexuality issues. The arguments are similar, the frustrations an punishments are similar and I think that that’s what draws people in-especially young people. But to have the one family member who backs her first be her own brother, is very telling. Children do not come born with hate and fear of differences, they are taught these prejudices. And then to have her father bring about the ultimatum about HRT was just great. I think a lot of people expect mothers to love their kids more unconditionally and to have that story line altered was superb.
I gave this book five stars because although as I said it is a quick read, I finished it in about 3 hours total, there is so much information to be gleaned from it that it carries the emotional baggage of a novel twice the length. You come away from it every bit as aware of your surroundings and biases as though you were actually a side character, stumbling through the fog yourself.
I’ve already begun recommending this book to others, for the pure and simple fact that although it may not be your preferred genre, it is a story that needs told and RG was the one to do it with love and grace. More people need to understand the pain and hardships of other individuals and open their minds to the possibility that there may be a different view point than the one they’ve been indoctrinated into.
This book was recommended to me by the alpha reader for RG. I will be heavily recommending this book as a read for several psych courses, as well as some human growth and development ones. (Obviously, I will be recommending this to other readers as well.)

 

Seriously. This book is an excellent place to start for people who are just getting introduced to the topic of transgender, as well as for parents who have questions (especially in a religious capacity). Anyway, I definitely recommend this book, it’s fantastic.

And a quick PSA: If you do read, leave her a review-that’ll help her get recognized, and allow for more books about these issues!

Time and Change

I needed a place to put my thoughts and could think of no better place than a blog-where I do just exactly that. What I have to say today is more on the border of “things which concern me as an almost-careered woman” but could just as easily fall under the category of “I hope I’m just worrying for nothing”.

Woman. Critical thinker. Thinks-for-myself. Pre-lawyer. Advocate for women. Advocate for mental health. Pro-choose your own life path. Makes decisions based on what is best for my family. Pagan. College educated. Pro-diversity. Pro-free speech.

I feel like everything I just listed is coming under attack this election cycle. And it will be under even more scrutiny depending on how this election goes. I’m not going to make this overly political, but this is after all, my blog, and I don’t have to apologize for my own thoughts.

Depending on November, I could face a variety of problems simply for being myself. And that scares me. I was not alive during the internment camps or the racial segregation period. I wasn’t alive during the Holocaust, where Jews, Gypsies, Handicapped individuals and more were taken, tortured and killed for being themselves. But I read about them.

I remember I had a teacher who threatened to send an entire class to detention because none of us knew what a swastika was. I was in 6th grade. You can bet that we had a lesson on it very soon thereafter. And in 7th grade, we had an entire section of our year devoted to WWII and the Holocaust-even built a memorial as a class. And I had a teacher in high school who drilled those events into our heads. And I remember immediately understanding why it was that we needed to know. So we wouldn’t repeat those mistakes and atrocities in our own time.

You cannot single out a group as the source of all your problems and then force them to carry the sentence you have passed on them as an act of retribution. Do you know why? Because you will have to keep singling out groups until everyone is to blame.

There is a presidential candidate right now who has singled out groups. And I am not (yet) in the direct line of fire. I’m still in the indirect (because I am a woman). But how soon will they come knocking at my door because I am poor? Because I am pagan? Because I am opinionated? Because I am any one of the things that I am?

Depending on the election, I may not be able to get a job. No one will take me seriously because I am a woman fighting for the rights of other women-of whom society has deemed not valid because they must be, in some way, guilty as well. My purpose in life will become a joke like that. Not because it will be funny, but because of who I am and who my clients are. And should I get past that initial problem, if I choose to have children, we face a host of problems directly related to my childbearing capabilities, along the lines of maternity leave rights.

Depending on the election, I might not be safe in my own home, and by extension my husband, and any kids we might have. Because we do not go to church, we do not hang crosses at our doorsteps and around our necks. We do not pray in the name of the same faith.

Depending on the election, I might not be safe. I spend a lot of my time now talking about individual liberties and personal decisions as rights of the individual. How long will it be before someone starts coming after not only the businesses and administrators of birth control or abortions, but the people who support them as well? Or the people who have friends who aren’t “white enough”? Or the people who do not fall prey to the garbage they hear on the TVs?

I can’t say that I know where the future is headed. I’m not pompous enough to assume anything. But these thoughts weigh on my mind, keep me up at night (along with just the usual stress about getting into law school in the first place). I’m concerned. And I’m brushing up on my government, that’s for sure. Because I need to know what my rights are and what can be done to keep myself safe if the time comes. It’s a scary place out there, and I hope it doesn’t get scarier.

Heavy Hearts

To say that the recent events have no affect on my life would be a lie. Although they are not as personal for me as Pulse, I am a human being and as such, I find the amount of violence and death to be devastating. And let me say, I am sorry for the loss of life for all people-both in the recent attacks in the Middle East and the shootings in the States. Violence is never the answer.

I wrote the response to Mr. Sterling a couple days ago, and I know that it was just words. Words are how I grieve the failings of humanity. As a writer and as a student, we are taught to focus our thoughts into sentences and papers, as a way to combat ignorance. For now, that is all I can do: combat ignorance.

You see, it isn’t a simple answer and solution situation. Generalizations are one of the most dangerous tools humans possess. Not all feminists hate men. Not all men are rapists. Not all cops are evil. Not all people of dark melanin are bad people. I can think of two historical periods in which generalizations caused devastation on a massive scale. The first, as I’m sure most are familiar with is the Holocaust. Jewish people, Gypsy people, Gay people, people with impairments and others were taken away and massacred for being different. And it happened here in America too. It wasn’t Jewish people, people of Asian ethnicity or the slave trade I am referring to, although there were troublesome times there as well. It is the Indigenous population I am referring to. The systematic slaughter of people who were different.

I am just one person. And so are you. It is not wrong to want justice for crimes committed. It is not wrong to  hold police officers in high regards while also holding them to high standards. It is not wrong to ask for the law to pass just judgments.

The easiest way to make the changes we want to see in the world is to vote. I mean it. We vote on the people who are meant to lead us, to protect us. It takes not long at all (I was able to cast my ballot in the primaries in less than 10 minutes.) and it will affect you for ages to come. So with all of this in mind, I am going to implore the readers of my blog to use their better judgment.

I’m not telling you who to vote for. That isn’t why I’m writing. And that most definitely isn’t what I am saying. What I AM saying is that these incidents of violence and hatred and death will not cease if the person we elect as president is a hate-spewing, violence endorsing, racist, sexist, philandering, desperate monster. It will, should a person like that become president, become worse. And what happens when it is your children? Your parents or spouse or siblings? Will a presidential vote bring lives lost back? No. Will a vote stop all of the problems? No. But if you do nothing else, please, please make sure that the racism and hatred stops before it makes it to the White House.

I know a lot of response videos have been made for rallies, but this is one of the ones I have watched several times over. I hadn’t meant for this post to become political, but I guess it has.

Misha Goes to a Trump Rally

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.

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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.

Women’s Rights

I’ve been using my time during Spring Break to work on a scholarship opportunity. I was allowed a short video to talk about the power of women. And I wanted to share it all with you. It’s my take on slam poetry and it’s my first video ever, so I’m actually pretty proud!

International Women’s Day

Ah, today. My favorite interest group day during my favorite interest group month, as part of my favorite topic to discuss. I love being able to talk about women and their cultures, ideals and abilities. I’d thought about doing an interest piece about the Jenner/Kardashian news that’s been popping up, but then I thought-isn’t that kind of defeating the purpose of International Women’s Day? And I thought about doing a Hillary Clinton feature, and about women in power, but she’s already “equal” in many ways. So what do I want to talk about today? Mental Health? I could. Unnecessarily gendered goods? Possibly. But I think at the heart of today, there are two concepts which really embody what I want to focus on: respect and equality.

I had to read a book for one my classes (Women and Democracy) called “Companeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories”. A zapatista is a member or supporter of a Mexican revolutionary force working for social and agrarian reforms, which launched a popular uprising in the state of Chiapas in 1994. (Thanks, Google!)

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I know that seems kind of “old” news, but the story is actually really inspiring, and some of the quotes from the book are just phenomenal. The main point, from my understanding, is that the indigenous people of Chiapas wanted control over their own land, their own resources, and wanted the government and military powers to remove themselves. The women, although also heavily involved in this movement, went about things a little differently, collecting themselves for the ideas of equality, freedom and opportunity. Some of the quotes from the book are:

where indigenous communities have taken their destiny into their own hands, where villages find solutions to their economic problems by working collectively, where community members walk proudly…

The dignity with which these women carried themselves, set against a backdrop of centuries of racism and exploitation…

I know they seem a little disjointed, but the quotes themselves are part of the larger ideal of what I was explaining before. The next thing, is the outcome of this movement (specifically on the women’s side. This is the Women’s Revolutionary Law of 1994.

  1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
  2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
  3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
  5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
  6. Women have the right to an education.
  7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
  8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.
  9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
  10. Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.

This next quote comes from a book called “Decolonizing Democracy” and I think it has the best potential to be a slogan which I will print on everything. It talks about when the (Indian) government should be doing for its people. I think it’s applicable to ALL governments.

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and at the same time provide safeguards for the fundamental rights of individuals and groups living in this country and for safeguarding the fundamental rights of minorities

So I was thinking, about all the women who have fought for their rights, their freedoms and their ability to live their lives as they see fit. I thought about all of the stories I had been told about female naval officers, pirates, warriors, samurais, wordsmiths, protesters, politicians, activists and leaders and realized that there is so much that has been done for women, by women.

But the fact remains that 1 in 3 girls (in developing nations) will be married as children.(girlsnotbrides.org)

One woman every hour in India will die a “dowry death” (death caused by a dispute in her dowry) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

The average life expectancy for a woman in Botswana is 33 years (America is 78). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

68% of women in Bangladesh suffer (or have suffered in domestic abuse situations. The U.S. spends over $1 BILLION in domestic abuse related medical costs EACH YEAR. 28 cases are reported in Thailand each DAY. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

2% of women in Sierra Leone die in childbirth. That number is .01% in Canada (That’s 1% of 1% or 200 times less than Sierra Leone). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

40 MILLION girls are missing from the world’s population due to son preference (most of these girls have probably been abandoned for dead or murdered). China makes up 30 million of that total. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

Ohio (where I am from) has the following statistics on sex trafficking:

-More than 1,000 children are trafficked around Ohio each year. This number does not include adults. (ohiobar.org)

-Only 289 cases were reported in 2015, most of whom were US citizens. (traffickingresourcecenter.org)

Up to 700,000 rapes occur in the United States each year. In Japan, only 5 of the 104 gang rapes reported had convictions in 2005. In Burma, marital rape is not a crime unless the victim is under 14. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

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So, although today is a day for celebrating women globally, we also need to be severely reminded that we have to fight harder, fight faster, to protect those very same women. We are half of the sky and we must hold each other higher. The first step, is education. To be aware is the only way to help.