Hate Crimes, North Carolina, and Restroom Confusion: A Response

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It was late the other night when my phone went off.  I was playing a game on my XBox, so I didn’t really pay it much attention.  My professors had been putting grades in all day, so my phone was going off with e-mail vibrations on the table.  A text vibration doesn’t sound so different.

When I finally realized just how late it was, I shut everything down and grabbed my phone.

A text message from a friend saying, “Noble strikes again.”

I wrote back, “What happened this time?”

There was a near immediate response with a link to the news article that linked back to this blog praising North Carolina and every other “bathroom bill” as being right.  I, of course, read the blog in its entirety before going back and looking at the comments on both the news article and his public Facebook page that posted the article.

I got basically what I was expecting to see: a fairly even mix of “Perry Noble is right because he can basically do no wrong and everything about him smells like roses” and “Perry Noble is a cult leader, and all of his followers are sheep.”

If there were actual posts about why they thought Perry Noble was right or wrong, they were buried under the algorithms because people kept liking all the smear campaigns.

The conversations had degraded so much by the time I got to the feed that my friend texted me back a few minutes later saying, “I just got called a loser on the NewSpring thread in response to my comment.”

For the record, her comment said, “I really wish Perry Noble would educate himself on topics before he made a statement.”

The comment said, “You’re a loser.”

So here we go again:

Several weeks ago I saw an article online that talked about how the mayor of San Francisco was banning travel by city employees to the state of North Carolina because of a “hate crime” law that had been passed.

Later on in the week I began to see musicians cancel concert appearances, a film maker say he would not make any movies in North Carolina…and recently the NBA tell North Carolina that they would not have the all star game there next year unless something was done to repeal the hate crime law.

What is this “hate crime?”

The first thing I would like to point out is the difference between a Hate Crime and a Hate Law/Legislation/Bill.  A “hate crime” is a criminal act motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice that generally involves some sort of violence.  A “hate law/legislation/bill” is any form of law or legislation that creates prejudice and allows it to become the legal norm.

A “hate crime law” is generally any legislation that defines a hate crime and then penalizes it; however, in this case the “hate crime” law that Perry Noble is talking about is really a Hate Bill called HB2 that North Carolina passed not too terribly long ago.

It’s not that the bill itself is a hate crime so much so that it will allow hate to become law.

The south isn’t know for being welcoming.

It’s known for shooting first and asking questions later.  It’s knows for its King of the Castle Laws and Castle Doctrine, where it’s okay to shoot someone coming onto your property if you think you’re in trouble.  It’s known for being the single most Christian area in the country, where people “Vote Bible” and select whoever yells and scream about God the loudest, but then stand by and let children starve or go homeless… or prevent healthcare for the poor… I could go on.

The point is: the south isn’t known for being a welcoming and inclusive place.  It’s known for its hate.

So no, HB2 isn’t necessarily a “hate crime,” but it will lead to hate crimes.  It will lead to men and women being assaulted in bathrooms, or outside the bathrooms.  And we’ll see an example of this in Perry Noble’s blog in a little bit.

Apparently it’s a law that has been passed in North Carolina that says if you have a penis then you are required to use the men’s restroom, and if you have a vagina you are required to use the women’s restroom.

To the best of my knowledge (which I often admit I do not possess a lot of)—that’s it.  And now because of this law, men who “feel like women” and women who “feel like men” claim they are facing discrimination because they’re being told how they feel is not a justifiable reason for switching restrooms.

I just want to requote this one line before I go on:

“To be bet of my knowledge (which I often admit I do not possess a lot of)”

Perry Noble, do yourself and all of your followers a favor: please do more research before you blindly go out and give an opinion that affect THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE in the state of South Carolina.  You have the single biggest church in South Carolina, and that is a lot of responsibility to be giving out opinions before you fully feel comfortable about the information you are talking about.

If you have to say that you do not possess a lot of knowledge on a topic, then you should probably stop what you are doing until you do.

Moving on.

Okay, so who, exactly, is going to check to see if “these people” have a penis or a vagina?

And that is not even what the law actually says.  In fact, if you’d like to read the actual bill, you can read it here.

The bill defines biological sex as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

This first line presents a problem for a number of reasons, but before I get into that, I want to point out one other thing:

One would have to commit intellectual dishonesty to claim that there is not a glaring scientific difference between a male and a female, the female having two X chromosomes while the male has an X & Y.  DNA screams there are differences that I am afraid feelings cannot do away with.

Perry Noble, you don’t know science.  I’m not trying to be rude, but coming from someone who is a science teacher, who has a degree in science and is currently working on a Master of Science degree, you do not know science.

If you knew science then you would know the following information:

  1. Not everyone is born with with an XX and an XY.  Some people are born XO, meaning they don’t have a second X chromosome.  These individuals have what is called Turner’s syndrome.  Some individuals are born with XXY, Klinefelter’s Syndrome.  Or XYY, Jacob’s Syndrome.  Or XXYY.
  2. There are even males with Androgen Insensitive Syndrome.  These individuals who are born XY, but because their body’s do not respond to testosterone, they develop as female.
  3. While some of these individuals may present as one sex or the other, they don’t always.  At birth, they are assigned a “gender” or a “sex” for their birth certificate.  There are times when these people age and begin to feel like the opposite of what they were assigned at birth.

Besides the DNA evidence that XX and XY do not necessarily make a person a female or a male, there’s the stipulation put on by the bill: that biological sex is defined as a person marker on their birth certificate.

When a person goes through transition, they begin, usually, by undergoing hormone treatments that put them through a second puberty.  Following that, there’s usually “sex reassignment” surgeries that take place.

The state requires varying degrees of transition before allowing for the marking to be changed.  Some trans individuals can’t go through those surgeries for whatever reason.  Maybe it is cost because insurance doesn’t cover these surgeries.  Some may just not want the surgeries at all.

But no matter how much these individuals look like one gender or the other, they will, because of HB2, be required to use the bathroom according to their birth certificate or their ID.

I challenge you to put yourself in their shoes for an time: how would you feel if you, as you are currently, were forced to use the women’s bathroom.  You would probably feel uncomfortable, and your feelings would be completely valid.

That is the every day life and experience of trans people in the state of North Carolina now.

But I understand you have problems (five to be exact), so I’d like to address them now.

#1 – To call this a hate crime is an insult to actual victims of hate crimes in the past.  People who were murdered because of their race or sexual orientation has always turned the stomach of the majority of people in America – however, being told to go to the restroom that matches your biological gender is far from what people experienced in the Civil Rights movement, or even the Holocaust.

Firstly, no one is calling this bill a hate crime.  A Hate Crime is what is going to happen as a result of this law. When trans people who do not identify as their “biological gender” are forced to use the restroom, they are going to be attacked.  And that will be the hate crime.

Except that this law prevents that from happening and gender identity isn’t federally protected against hate crimes.

Even you, Perry Noble, talk about committing a hate crime against the transgender community.

I can honestly say that if I am standing outside a restroom and my wife and little girl are inside and a man approaches the door and attempts to go in – let’s just say it ain’t happening.

Why?  Because I hate a certain group of people?  No way!

Because I want people to feel discriminated against and shamed?  Nope!

It simply comes down to the safety of my wife and daughter.

Okay, so here’s the deal.  This law now says that individuals who look like men… on any kind of degree or level… must use the women’s restroom because their ID and birth certificate say they are female.

But here’s the real problem: there are going to be individuals who look like women… on any kind of degree or level… who must now use the men’s restroom because their ID and birth certificate says they must.

And that is going to put them at risk of being assaulted.

Imagine your wife and daughter being forced to use a public men’s restroom.  There’s really not much difference.

#2 – Labeling this as a hate crime because someone is being told the way they feel is inaccurate does not carry out logically.

No one is calling transphobia and cisism a hate crime.  They are, however, calling it intolerance.  It’s not a hate crime to tell someone their feelings aren’t real or inaccurate, but it is a little insensitive.

Transgender feelings aren’t “inaccurate.”  They are real feelings that shouldn’t be ignored, and when people in a position of power, such as yourself, come out against these people, it creates depression.  It creates situations where these transgender individuals feel helpless and hopeless.

Did you know that the attempted suicide rate among the trans population in the U.S. is 41%?  That’s nearly HALF of all people identifying as transgender attempting suicide at some point in their life.  That’s an absolutely horrible number.

But you know what lowers that rate by 57%?  Affirmation.  Being in an affirming environment reduces that 41% to 23%, which is still way higher than the national average of 4.6%, but it’s a whole heck of a lot better than 41%.

For example, let’s say I wake up tomorrow and I feel like Taylor Swift.  I can play guitar, sing her songs and mimic her movements.  And let’s say I go to her next concert, show up early and tell them they need to allow me to perform because I feel like I am Taylor Swift.

No one is going to stand with me and say because I feel like Taylor that I am Taylor.

No one is going to label the people who stop me at the gate as “haters and intolerant.”

No one is going to label me as a victim of a hate crime, but merely someone who was offended because someone had the courage to tell me the truth.

Unfortunately, Perry, your example doesn’t hold up.

First of all, if you woke up in the morning, and you felt like Taylor Swift, then who are we to tell you that you don’t feel like Taylor Swift?  Your feelings would be your own, and we can’t tell you what your feelings are because we aren’t you.

But here’s the reality: You aren’t Taylor Swift.  No one can be Taylor Swift but Taylor Swift.

When you go to her concert and tell everyone you are her, when you aren’t, is a lot different than when a trans person stands up and says they are who they are.

Trans people aren’t trying to be someone else (like Taylor Swift).  They are trying to be themselves.  They are trying to live their life authentically as the person they are, and that person happens to not be whatever is written on their ID.

And no one would label you as a victim of hate crime because “someone had the courage to tell me the truth.”

They’re going to label the other person as insensitive and misguided.

Lambda Legal keeps a list of organizations that support the rights and feelings and affirmation of trans people.

Are you going to argue with the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and others?

Please, show me your medical degree that tells me you know more about transgender rights and health and whether or not being trans is “real” than all these different organizations.

#3 – Allowing people to choose which restroom they want to use puts the safety of women and children at risk.

And this is where I start getting frustrated because you aren’t protecting women and children from men who would like to use the women’s restroom.

You are

  • Preventing law abiding trans people from using a bathroom where they are going to feel more comfortable.
  • Opening the doors for non-law abiding perverts, both male and female, to walk into the opposite restroom, claim they are transgender, and then do whatever perverted thing they were going to do.
  • Avoiding the “real problem:”  If we are so worried about our women and children who are trying to use the restroom, then we should be making laws that prevent sex offenders from using public restrooms.

At this point, I do not care about popular opinion

That is abundantly clear at this point, sir.  But the popular opinion is something you don’t need to worry about because, unfortunately, the majority of people in the South believe and feel like you do.

What I wish you would do is sit down with trans people and talk to them, like you say you did with gay people because I feel like if you did, you might have more sympathy for them in the end.

I am in complete favor of separate restrooms, individual places where guy or girl can go in alone and do their business.  However, I must take a strong stand here and say there is absolutely no reason for a man to go into a woman’s bathroom.

And I really do believe that restrooms are the first step, next it will be middle school and high school locker rooms!

Perry Noble, I understand where you are coming from when you say this.  I understand the need to categorize everything into neat little boxes, but when it comes to humanity, that’s basically impossible to do.

When has men assaulting women in bathrooms ever been a real actual problem to the point where we’ve needed a law to make sure they stop?

And you are absolutely right: there is no reason for a man to go into a woman’s bathroom…

  • Unless that man is a child going to the women’s restroom with his mother.
  • Unless that man is disable and has to be accompanied by whoever female caregiver he has.
  • Unless that man is a trans man who is now being forced into the women’s restroom because, for whatever reason, he can’t get his ID or birth certificate changed.

#4 – If you do not disagree with the NC law…then you are automatically labeled a “hater.”  Anyone who has had the courage to speak out in favor of this law has been attacked, marginalized and experienced overwhelming public shame.  Because of this I believe many people who should be contributing to the conversation have decided to stay hidden in the shadows rather than expose themselves to the slander of those who are against the law.

There are some really scared and angry people out there right now, Perry.  There are a lot of people out there who are terrified that they are not going to be harassed by others or hurt by others or arrested because of the bathroom that the law now tells them they have to use.

And scared people lash out.  Angry people lash out.

Personally, I don’t think that “hater” is a proper term for anyone who does not disagree with the NC law.  I’m sure there are some out there that know full and well that this law targets and marginalizes a minority group, and those people are “haters,” but for the vast majority of the population, I think “misguided” or “misinformed” are better terms to use.

“Slander” is also a strong word to use here, as it implies that the bashing that’s going out in the community is affecting the reputation of the victim in a negative way, which calling someone a hater, while hurting another’s feeling, is certainly not hurting their reputation, is it?

I agree that the conversations that need to happen aren’t happening as much as they need to be, but they are happening.  And while there are a lot of people out there who are “bashing” others, on both sides of the conversation, there are a lot of people out there doing good work.  I really encourage you to go out and look into that conversation more.

My question is this – I do not hate anyone, but I agree with the premise of the law – so, what is the position I am allowed to have?  Can I not disagree without being a “hater” – or could it be that those in opposition to the law are using the “hater” tag to scare people into silence?

I don’t think that you are a hater, Perry Noble, but I wonder about your level of understanding that you previously stated wasn’t that great.  (By the way, HB2 not only regulates bathrooms, but also prevents cities and counties from expanding their hate crime laws to protect trans individuals)  This law is so, so, so much more than “keeping the perverts out so we can protect our women and children.”

#5 – I am a Christian who believes God’s Word, and Scripture says in Genesis 1:27,

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

The Bible is clear that God made man and God made woman.  Even the way He created them was different.

I’m not going to argue the Bible here.

But we clearly see, in nature, that male and female isn’t always the case.  There are, as I said earlier, intersex individuals.  Are they a mistake of God, by your standards then?  Does God make mistakes then?

No.  No, God doesn’t make mistakes.  So then how do we explain these individuals that don’t fit into the one or other?  How do we then deny them access to bathrooms because we think they should fit into a nice box when they don’t?

You finish up your blog with the following call to act for Christians:

#3 – Understand that no matter how out of control things seem to be—God is still in control and really will, according to Ecclesiastes 3:11, make everything beautiful in His time.

This world is already beautiful, and if Jesus accepted all people, then who are we to not accept anyone?

I don’t agree with people who murder, but that doesn’t mean I feel that they should be denied basic rights to things like a safe space to pee.  They are, in fact, still human.  And yes, I agree that that example is a little extreme (but maybe not as much as your Taylor Swift analogy?)

Finally, I want to leave you with this thought:

If we don’t expect criminals to follow gun laws, then why do we expect them to follow bathroom bills?

Because this bathroom bill isn’t about the criminals and perverts: it’s about keeping trans people out of the bathrooms where they feel more comfortable.

We’ve spent decades keeping people out of the bathroom because we don’t like them.  We use to scream from the roof tops that black people needed their own bathroom because they were diseased.

Now, it’s trans people who are supposedly “perverts,” which, again, simply isn’t the case.

To Be Silent? No, to be LOUD.

This blog is part of The Pagan Experience.  If you would like more information or are interested in reading other blogs following this path, please follow through on the link.

This is actually my first blog for the Pagan Experience this year.  I can’t garauntee I’ll do another one after this, but I’ve been seeing this topic float around for the month of April.  I debated on whether or not I wanted to speak on this idea of silence or if I should, ironically, remain silent.

But then some things happened today, and I cannot keep my mouth shut on this topic anymore.

I cannot remain silent.

priv·i·lege
ˈpriv(ə)lij/
noun
  1. a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

There are a lot of people out there in this world who will deny the idea of privilege.  They will deny, deny, deny white privilege because they grew up poor and struggled like the media portrays the black man, not realizing that class privilege is actually a thing as well.

If you are a upper-middle class, white, cis, heterosexual, able-bodied, English speaking, Christian male, you live in a world of privilege.

If you have one or more of the above descriptors, you live in a world of privilege.

I live in a world of privilege.  I also live on the other side of privilege.  I am white.  I come from an upper-middle class family.  I am, for the most part, able-bodied, and I speak English as my primary language.

I am not cis, but many people see my expression as cis, so I hide under that security blanket.  But I am typically-female bodied.  I am not a Christian.  And I am homosexual.

I understand discrimination well here in the United States of America.

And I cannot and will not be silent.

I work with children who are just beginning to stand out on their own.  They are teens on the edge of adulthood, who are learning to think and process for themselves.  They are learning how to form their own opinions and understand things about themselves that maybe they didn’t realize before.

And silence will kill them.

Something happened today, where someone close to my wife and I expressed her disgust at a recent episode of Once Upon a Time.  In this episode, a minor character falls under a sleeping curse.  The sleeping curse can only be cured by true love’s kiss, and the bad guys are all rejoicing because this character?  Well, she has no true love… She has no family… She has no one, and she will be under this curse for the rest of her days.

But she does get true love’s kiss, and that kiss comes from an unlikely source: another woman.

That’s right: there was a true love’s kiss between two women on a fairy tale shoe that jacks up so many fairy tales to begin with… but this… this is what upset said person in our lives: she had to watch a TLK between two women on national television.

She was SO UPSET that she said she was never going to watch the show EVER AGAIN and she was going to give us all of her DVDs of the show (which we gave to her as holiday gifts).  The ultimate regifting.

Yet, she loves us.  She thinks we’re special.  She supports us.

She’s okay with “our gay,” but no one else.  Not on television… Not in front of all those children!  THINK OF THE CHILDREN, DAMN IT!

Erin wrote about the experience on Facebook.  She was hurt.

And there was one response, from a straight woman, that said that she was “obviously trying” to be okay, but that “this was how she was raised” and that it must be hard for her to change her black and white beliefs into ones where “this wasn’t immoral.”

The good old argument: You, the one who is hurt by others’ words, need to be okay with the hate/injustice/ignorance/etc that you are getting because said person is really trying but these things take time.  It’s how they were raised and that takes time to move past that.

Excuse me?

Why should I be okay with someone’s ignorance?  Why should it NOT make me angry or feel hurt?

Why should I just let them get off the hook for it?  Why should their boundaries not be pushed or their feelings not be hurt?  Why do they get to live in blissful and willful ignorance?

They don’t.

And that is why I cannot be silent.

My faith calls me to action.  My faith sees the divine in all creatures, and it cannot be silent when aspects of the divine are being hurt by other’s human immaturity.

Love is love.

And love cannot be silent.

I live my faith.  I live my sexuality.  I live my life.

I live it because there are kids in my classrooms that found peace and love and acceptance because I keep wedding pictures on my desk.  I am open about my pagan faith, but live a life as judgment free as I can.

So no… I cannot be silent…

Not when my wife is hurting.  Not when my family is being attacked.

Not when there are kids on the edge of a cliff ready to jump.

Not ever.

The Warmth of Reconnection

I think I may be fully done with two of my three graduate classes.  I submitted my final today, after taking the last quiz two weeks ahead of schedule.  I think all I have left is my Evolution class, and that one won’t be ready until this weekend anyway.

The amount of relief that  feel with this is great.  So much stress is now lifting off my shoulders.  Yes, there’s still a lot going on with the fostering and adoptions process (but that is for a different blog), but I can handle that and and my job with little problem.

Graduate school is no joke.

And as stressful and crazy as this schedule has been, I am so very, very happy that I decided to start when I did rather than wait until Erin graduated.  There is no way I could have done what I did this past school year if I had kids.  There is absolutely no way to balance two jobs, student organizations, church responsibilities, kids, AND graduate school.

Because our schedules have been so crazy, I was feeling a little disconnected from my wife.  She had a lot going on, and I had a lot going on, and we just fell into routines.  It happens to all couples at some point.  I firmly believe that anyone who says otherwise either hasn’t been together long enough for it to happen or they’re lying.

Erin’s birth day and our one year wedding anniversary is in June.  She’ll be thirty.  Last year, I turned her birthday into a week of huge surprises.  She got a new bike, a computer, surprise visits from friends from out of state, and a party with church friends.  And she was only 29 then.

This year, I wanted to do something different, but I didn’t know what to do… Until I got this insane idea that I texted to her before I had the chance to change my mind.

“I think you should take a week off in June.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.  We’ll go somewhere.”

She took nearly an entire week off because she’ll be in classes and can’t miss a Tuesday and a Wednesday in the same week, and the Tuesday class is more important, from what I have noticed this past semester.

I looked at flights to Cancun or Puerto Rico, but holy shit… that was expensive.  I looked at camp sites around Niagara Falls (no luck).  I looked at Myrtle Beach and Charleston (both of those are starting to borderline on overdone for us).  I looked at the Keys in Florida, stopping for the day in Orlando.  There was too much.

Finally, I said, “We need to pick a place… we can go to a touristy place like Myrtle Beach.  We can go to a relaxing place, like Edisto…. or we can go somewhere complete different, like D.C.”

She said, “Well, if you could drop everything right now and go… where would you go?”

“D.C.”

“Then let’s go to D.C.”

So we’re going to D.C.!  We looked at suites with kitchens and VRBO, but everything was massively expensive.  Finally, we found an amazing place through AirBnB with a kitchen (cooking is a must for us on any vacation over 3 days) that is outside the city, but close to a metro station.  They confirmed our reservation less than an hour ago.

We’re going to D.C.!  I love D.C. and am super excited to go back.  It’s been about five years.  We’ll hopefully see some family while we’re there as well.

We also reserved a campsite for three nights in May.  We are going to hopefully rent kayaks for that trip too.  And we bought tickets to the baseball game next Friday.

I made a point in my last post that I needed to focus more on my family and my marriage.  I definitely feel this is a step in that right direction.

I love the warmer months.  I often hear that fall and winter are times to reconnect with those we love because the cold drives us together for warmth, but I feel like the spring and summer is where that happens for Erin and I.  I imagine it is because we have more time in the summer than we do any other time of the year.

Whatever the reason is, I’m grateful for these opportunities to travel and get out of the routine.

I’m highly tempted, once I graduate, to do a ten-day meditation retreat.  There’s one a couple hours from here.  From everything I’ve read, it looks fairly intensive, but I want to go.  I’ve haven’t talked to Erin about it yet.  She’ll probably tell me that I’m crazy when she reads this (Hey babe!).  Who knows, maybe she’ll want to go with me…  We’d have to get someone to watch the kids for ten days while we went, but I’m sure that can be arranged.  Grandparents, anyone?

Reconnection.  I need and crave reconnection in all areas of my life right now.  Hopefully getting out of the routine will help me feel that in the coming months.  If anyone has any at-home suggestions for reconnecting with yourself, those around you, and the universe, I’m open to those as well.

Musings On A Warm April Day

Things are finally winding down here. 

I’m in finals in my graduate program. This means I have a paper to write and an exam to study for. I’ve been in survival mode for a few weeks now, and it’s starting to show. If it’s not about foster and adoptions, graduate school, or work, it has been at the bottom of my list.

  Right now, I’m sitting at the school taking  ticket money and studying for my final in my evolution class. It’s the first nice day I’ve enjoyed outside in a long time. There’s a breeze. And the game is 8th and 9th grade, so attendance is low. 

It’s giving me some time to breath and just think and relax.

I need to take better care of myself. I need to start listening to my body more. 

I need more hours in my days. 

It’s difficult for me to take care of myself when there is so much going on. It’s hard to remember to breath and relax and pray, but I need to do more of those things. Erin and I have been so blessed on so many levels, and I don’t think I’ve been grateful enough for those blessings. 

I’ve disappointed myself. 

I struggle a lot with feeling like I’m enough. Am I doing enough? Am I caring enough? Am I helping enough? Teaching enough? Am I enough?

It’s rooted in bad self esteem. It’s rooted in years and years of people telling me that I was a bad person and that everything was my fault, always. It’s rooted in the desire to compensate for those feelings of inadequacy, and never feeling like I make it. 

My biggest personality flaw is the desire to make everyone happy and please everyone. It’s the need to NOT burn bridges if I can. It’s the need to build better bridges over widening gaps of communication and misunderstandings between myself and whoever else. 

And there are times when that just isn’t possible. And when those times happen, I will beat myself up for days, weeks, and sometimes years. 

I don’t like bad blood.

And I have a hard time figuring out when it is time to just give up. 

These are things I need to work on. These are things I need to do to take better care of myself. 

I will put up with a lot of abuse to try to make things right. I will tolerate liars, manipulative people, and getting taken advantage of just so that I can bridge that gap.

I can’t do that anymore.

I’m not sure when the realization hit me that I needed to stop taking all the negativity and allowing it to manifest in my life. I think it may have been at church. 

I believe in a single higher power that manifests itself through all of life. I believe it has many names, depending on its face.  That higher power is manifested in me, and in everyone else. 

And it is all good. It is all loving. It is everything. 

And all of that is in me. I am a good person. I have all the love I need. I am a manifestation of the divine in physical form. 

And while I am human and make mistakes, the divine in me is all forgiving and that’s what I really need right now: forgiveness. 

Forgiveness for feeling like I wasn’t enough, when all this time, I was enough. I am enough. 

I am better than the negativity I put up with. And I don’t have to let it get to many anymore. I am a divine being, and I am free. 

The Bathroom Crisis

This blog post is written from a gender fluid individual, assigned female at birth.  This means that I don’t actively identify as… well… anything, and I have no interest in any form of transition.  I dress on the more feminine end of the spectrum… mainly because of my job and the fact that I don’t have the money to have two different wardrobes.

It also means that I’m not a cisgender individual discussing a transgender issue, and I’m not a person who is or will transition commenting on an issue that affects those trans folk who have/will transition, either socially or medically. Which means that my voice and opinion, while valid, is not the be-all-end all of opinions or voices AND I do not pretend to speak for a community that I do not personally feel a part of. This opinion is mine.

Oh, North Carolina, our northern neighbor.  Usually, “the North” is linked with liberal ideology, but you… the only thing “North” about you is your name.

I’m sure everyone is well aware at this point that the wonderful state of North Carolina passed a bill called HB2 (formally known as House Bill 2, commonly known as Hate Bill 2).  Since then, there’s been country-wide backlash towards North Carolina, where companies are threatening to pull jobs, events, and money out of North Carolina because of their “backward views.”

The transgender community is not unfamiliar with hate and violence.  Hate and violence toward them started the Stonewall riots.  Hate and violence is why there were more transgender deaths in 2015 than there were in any previous year.

Hate is why we have all these so-called bathroom bills cropping up all over the United States, and violence will be the result.

trans-restroom

I’m sure we’ve all seen these pictures like the one to the right.  It’s a well meaning meme with a transgender individual in a bathroom with people of the opposite gender.  They’re posted by well-meaning individuals, but they are still equating being transgender with being a predator.

“Hey, look at me: I’m a very masculine individual hanging out in the women’s bathroom.  Doesn’t that make you uncomfortable?  Doesn’t that make me look like I’m a bad person?”

And on this one specifically, the trans woman’s expression in the men’s restroom is… less than helpful.  The big “fear” behind bathroom bills is that men will enter the women’s restroom and assault or attack women who are trying to pee.  The idea behind the bathroom bills is that men are predators when they enter into the women’s restroom.

The images of trans men in the women’s bathroom are perpetuating that belief, and while they are well meaning, they aren’t helping the overall cause.

“Do you want me in the bathroom?  Do I look like I belong here?  Don’t I look like the predator you so fear?”

Trans men who are forced to use the women’s restroom are at a risk of violence.  Hell, they’re at a risk of violence no matter which restroom they use, but to place them in the women’s restroom where they will most definitely “stick out” more is just asking for trouble, and trans women who enter into the men’s room?

I don’t even want to think about it.  They’re going to be beaten.  They’re going to be murdered.  And it’s going to be this law’s fault.

And let’s be real clear about this for a second: the reason the bill even came into existence is because of a fear that men will dress up as women and prey on women in the bathrooms.  But there’s never, not once, been a case where a man dressed up like a woman with the purpose of gaining access to the women’s restroom for whatever illegal or bad reason.

Trans women are targeted by this bill because of ignorance in the belief that they are men because that’s what society says they were born as, when in actuality, this isn’t the case.

These laws will also not stop any person from entering a bathroom for the purpose of molestation if that is what they are planning on doing.  Criminals will be criminals regardless of laws, which is usually why they’re called criminals: because they’re breaking the law.

No criminal is going to see these bathroom bills and be like, “Oh, well… guess I can’t molest a child or a woman anymore: it’s illegal for me to enter into the bathroom!”

In fact, I argue that it will actually make it easier for a criminal to enter into a bathroom by claiming to be transgender when they aren’t.  Look at those pictures again.

The only reason we know they are transgender is because they told us they were.  What will stop a cis guy (or cis gal) from entering into the opposite gender bathroom, claim to be transgender and that the law requires them to be there, and then doing whatever criminal activity they were planning on doing in the first place?

Regardless of what lawmakers want you to believe, these laws are primarily aimed at the transgender population for the purpose of discrimination.  But these laws don’t stop at just affecting the transgender populations: they affect a mother or father’s ability to take their child into a restroom to help them use the bathroom.

In North Carolina’s law, there is a provision for children up to the age of 7, as if 7 is the magical age of being able to use the bathroom independently.  There’s also a provision for disability.

But that’s not all: HB2 also means that cities and counties can’t set a minimum wage higher than the state or federal minimum wage.  It means that the GLBT can be fired from their job because of their orientation or gender identity.  I means that students are at a higher risk of bullying because they aren’t able to go through gender reassignment surgery and have their birth certificates altered, which is what is required.

Sex reassignment surgery is not cheap.  It’s not readily available, and if a doctor isn’t properly trained or experienced, it can have disastrous effects.  Many trans guys go to other states for their surgeries or treatments because there aren’t any qualified doctors.  The added costs of the trips themselves makes it extremely difficult for people to get these surgeries and treatments, and insurances rarely, if ever, helps.

This isn’t the first time we’ve all heard about bathroom discrimination.  People of color were assigned to their own bathrooms because they carried “diseases” and it wasn’t okay for them to use the same bathroom as non-white people.  There were propaganda films about the homosexual molester who hid out in public restrooms waiting to POUNCE on our young and impressionable boys.

Discrimination: same story with different names.

These laws aren’t going to prevent criminals from using public restrooms for criminal reasons…

But it will prevent law abiding transgender people who couldn’t get their birth marker changed for whatever reason from using a bathroom where they feel more comfortable and more safe.  It will prevent mothers and fathers from accompanying their young children over the age of seven into the bathroom.  It will prevent cities and counties from providing a living wage to hard working individuals.  It will prevent people from legal recourse when discriminated against for their sexual orientation and gender identity, including losing a job in the “right to work” state of North Carolina.

HB2 and the rest of the bills like it do one thing, and one thing only: they perpetuate fear, hate, and violence under the guise of protecting citizens from criminals.

As my friend Crystals says, why do people believe that gun control laws won’t stop criminals from using guns… but bathroom bills will stop criminals from using the bathroom?

Reconciling My Faith

Adoption of older children, and fostering of these children as well, while being of a minority religion (really, we’re the only Kemetics in the area that I know of) has presented us with a rather interesting situation.

First, we don’t know anything about the boy or his foster family.  We know where they are, as in what city, but past that: nothing.  I know about his background before he went into foster care, but nothing else.

The girl, on the other hand, we know a little bit more about because she goes to the same place of worship that we do.  Her foster mother has been teaching her Christian stories and she comes from a “Christian” household, even though she wasn’t taught much when she was with her birth mother.

Since Erin and I aren’t Christian, we don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter in our home.  We do, however, celebrate The Days Upon the Year and Wep Ronpet, The Ascension of the Celestial Cow (aka, Moomas), and the Solstices and Equinoxes, which aren’t of importance in Orthodox Kemetic Practice, but we’re reformed, so there.

We celebrate Christmas and Easter with our families because our families are Christian, and we celebrate the holidays as our place of worship celebrates them (which, at least for the youth, is up to me since I’m the DYRE (Director of Youth Religious Education)).

We’re going to be moving into a very religiously blended family, since we’re going to have two distinct religious groups in our home.  We will not not share our religion and faith with our children, and I hope that they’ll want to share in our traditions, but we can’t force them.

I stressed in an earlier post the importance of Pagan children to the pagan community, but this is a little different because they aren’t being raised since infancy with us.  We absolutely will not force our beliefs on them, but they will be exposed to them regularly.  We plan to share the myths and the celebrations and the history, but we can’t force them to participate because that’s not their faith and that’s not their way.

If this had been me three years ago, I would have had a very, very big problem with this situation because I didn’t not, on any level, like or agree with Christian principles, ideals, and beliefs.  I was actively opposed to Christianity, a religion I saw as hateful and mean and oppressive.

I spoke out against it actively and adamantly and wanted nothing to do with it at all.  I actively avoided going to churches or groups that were Christian in nature, in any way.

But that changed after going to a church that Erin wanted to go to.  She swore they were “open” to other faiths, but I was still really skeptical.  Even after the first time we went, they were so Christian-y, that I was unsure of going back.  They read from the Bible.  Their message was Bible-centered.  And all of it rubbed me the wrong way.

When Erin asked me what I thought, I shrugged and told her I would try it again because I never judge a place after my first experience.  I always try something twice, in case the first time was just a bad experience.

And the second time was the time that changed everything for me because the minister justified other religions as being good and okay through a story about Joshua and a story about Jesus, and it completely opened my eyes that maybe the Bible and Christianity wasn’t this demonic religion of hate and oppression like I thought…That maybe I could be okay with Christianity and still maintain my current faith.

I did a lot of research, listened to a lot of lectures/sermons/messages by people I trusted and people I didn’t, and the more and more I listened and learned, the more and more I was able to reconcile my current faith with my past faith as a Christian and come to peace with the stuff that had happened to me when I was a Christian.

Now, even though our future daughter and son will not be Kemetic when the come to us and may never be Kemetic in their life, I feel secure enough in my own faith and in my understanding of Christianity to the point where I can effectively guide them on their own spiritual and faith journeys, and I think that’s the most important thing.

Anxiety

Today has ended up in a very different place that I originally thought that it would.  Being married to a full time graduate school student while being a full time graduate school student and both of you working full time is not easy.  There are very few days where we get to bed before midnight, including tonight it seems.

For us, however, life doesn’t end at just school and work.  Erin’s doing some research work for her graduate program and this requires analysis and planning.  She’s responsible for a lot at her job, so there are many nights when she comes home with work as well.  I have grading, and I am in charge of the Youth Education department at our church, which means I am responsible for the lesson planning and classroom set up and tear down.

Our middle school kids have finally grown too large to stay in the high school room, so I work with them now during one of the two services.

And we are in the end stages of adding two new faces to our family through foster care and adoptions.

You know that sticky note feature on computers?  I have 8 on my computer.  Three for generic graduate school assignments: lectures, readings for class 1, readings for class 2; one for hard due dates for graduate school, one for my second job’s hours, one for account information for something I can’t remember at this point, one for lesson plan ideas, and one for important dates: doc appointments, foster care training, etc.

This isn’t news.  In the fall, this will have been my normal for 365 days.  In the fall, my new normal will include two kids with a lessened graduate school load.  I don’t know a single person as busy as I am.  It’s exhausting.

And while I keep it together most days, this weekend has been exceptionally hard for some reason.  Maybe it’s the stack of grading that is staring me down…or the fact we only have five weeks until exams…or that my class finals are at the end of this month… or that Erin can’t get her physical before the end of May, making her the limiting factor, and our licensing finalized towards the end of June.

I’m not going to complain.  Do I wish I had my future son and daughter home with us? Yes… but there’s a reason for this, and I’m not going to complain.  We’ve done literally everything we can to get it moved, and if it can’t be moved, then oh well.

But somewhere from the time I got home from my last class in one of my three graduate classes (got a 100 for the final grade, btw) and when we went to a cookout for our friends’ daughter, I had a complete and total 100% break down.

The single most  beneficial thing I ever did was to give up exaggerating (unless I’m being silly/funny or telling a very dramatic story).  When it comes to reality, I tell it like it is.

 

And I am not ashamed to say that today was a bad day for me.

I felt hopeless.  I felt lost.  I felt overwhelmed.  I felt like I was drowning.  I felt like there was a vice around my heart, and I felt like someone was sitting on my chest.  I felt separated, like this wasn’t really reality.  I felt like there was no way out of my current situation.  I wanted to throw up.

I had an anxiety attack.

This isn’t the first one I’ve ever had.  It definitely wasn’t the worst one I’d ever had either.

My personality type, according to Myers-Briggs, is ENTJ.  It is the single rarest type in women.  We tend to have control problems, and from what I have been learning, a lot of ENTJ’s suffer from anxiety because they can’t fully control their environment.

This is very true for me.

I’m learning to cultivate the “let it go” mentality, but it’s not exactly easy.  I’m better than I was, but no where near where I should be.

Luckily for me, I married someone who has a nearly perfect compatibility to me.  She is an extremely rare gem in the Myers-Briggs world, and she’s very good at comforting me and giving me what I need when I can’t take care of my anxiety by myself.

Sometimes, I don’t show that she’s helping, but it’s because I have a slow reboot after an anxiety attack.  My body likes to try and stay in that place, so it can take me awhile to drag myself out once I’ve fallen in, but she always manages to bring me back out.

This morning seems like it was so long ago, and seeing as how it is nearly two in the morning, it really was a long time ago, but in that time, I’ve managed to have my anxiety attack, get back on track, and get two more things completed for my graduate school work.

I realize that this post was fairly complaint driven, but sometimes, that’s all I have: a recapturing of my day like it was… and today wasn’t very pretty, but I made it through and even got some stuff done.

So go me!

 

April is for Autism

My wife works with children who have autism.  She’s worked in this field for a number of years now and loves it.  She started out at a summer camp and then moved into what is called Applied Behavior Analysis and therapy.  She started out at a line therapist, working directly with the kids for multiple hours a week.

Now, she’s moved into a supervision position where she works with the therapists who work with the kids.  She helps keep their programs up-to-date and makes sure that the kids are benefiting from these therapy sessions.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the leading form of therapy for individuals with autism.  This form of therapy can help people communicate their needs and wants when they were previously non-verbal.  It helps people learn to read, write, dress themselves, use the bathroom on their own, etc.  It’s life-changing.

It’s also not covered by every insurance company in every state and can be very expensive if people can’t afford it.  The non-profit Erin works for currently does fundraising every year to provide these services to families who can’t afford them so that they can reach and help as many kids as possible.

When it comes to autism, I usually look to her for the community’s feelings on particular subjects, and she does not like Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks is another non-profit that funnels a lot of money into looking for a cure for autism.  They are the group behind the “Light it Up Blue” day.  They picked blue because autism is diagnosed more often in males than it is in females, so the blue represents boys.

And while that is a peeve of Erin’s, the worst part is that she absolutely hates the fact that they are researching a cure for autism and never listen to the actual autism community and people with autism when they say that working towards a cure is NOT the answer.

People with autism aren’t broken.  They aren’t sick. They don’t need to be fixed or cured.

They need love and acceptance.  They need help communicating their needs, but that doesn’t mean their inherently wrong.

One of the things that I learned in my education career is that language matters.  How you say things has an effect on those around you.

When I was first starting out as a teacher, and we would talk about genetic traits, illnesses, or disorders, I would say things like, “You either have sickle cell anemia, or you are normal.”

I would say things like, “A person can have this gene and have albinism, or they can have a different gene and be normal.”

And I learned very quickly that the word “normal” is extremely offensive and inappropriate in any community that is different.

My brother has learning disabilities.  He has moya moya, slurred speech, and other things that impact his daily life.

I would not refer to him as anything but normal.  His normal is his every day life.  Yes, he has some cognitive problems, but he’s had them since birth and it’s his normal.  I have students who have autism, and that is their normal.

Normal implies that there is something that is not normal and therefore bad.

Instead of saying normal, we need to start saying things like, “neurotypical,” “typical,” or “healthy.”

Typical implies common.  The opposite of typical is atypical, which implies uncommon.  There are typical symptoms of autism, and there are atypical symptoms of autism.  It’s not as harsh a term as “normal.”

Sometimes, I slip up, and I will say normal where I meant to say healthy or typical, and it’s generally only a problem when you are talking in the context of a person with X,Y,or Z versus someone without X,Y,or Z.

Generally, as a person with generalized anxiety, a brother who has learning disabilities, a wife who works with children who have autism, and two adopted kids on the way (one of which has experienced some pretty horrible trauma), I avoid the use of the word normal all together.

No one is normal, remember?  We’re all unique.  We’re all capable humans with a capacity for love.  We all feel pain when someone says we aren’t normal or implies that we aren’t normal.

April is for Autism Awareness, but I’m ready to move past just basic awareness and move into a place of acceptance and understanding.  Are you?

Why I Have Faith

I am the Youth Education Coordinator at the church that Erin and I attend every Sunday.  They are a New Thought Christian church; however, they aren’t your typical Christians.  In fact, the minister said in service today that God could have whatever name you wanted to call it because it’s all the same power.

He talked about how religions all pretty much have the same outcome.

Erin and I are both Pagan, so I am the Pagan Youth Education Coordinator at our New Thought Christian Church.  Our minister is seriously thrilled and is so happy that I am doing what I am doing.  We are growing the program, and it’s attracting and keeping more families and families with children in the church.

People are leaving the UU church down the street and coming to us, which I think is fantastic because that’s basically what Erin and I did.  We didn’t find a connection at the UU like we do at Unity because we actually wanted a worship experience, and we didn’t feel like we were getting that there.

Anyway.

Being the Youth Education Coordinator at the church isn’t the easiest job in the world.  My duties include creating lesson plans and scripting them, setting up the rooms, cleaning up the rooms afterwards if they need some extra TLC, coordinating the Youth Leaders, and making sure all the other program coordinators’ needs are met.

The chain of command for the youth goes like this: The minister > Me> The teen and nursery coordinators > the youth leaders > the youth.

If we don’t have a youth leader or someone is out, then it is my job to find a fill in or fill in myself.  The last month or so has been very stressful because some of our youth leaders moved out of state, and we didn’t have anyone to fill in, so it was me.  Ideally, I wouldn’t be teaching at all so that I could make sure that everyone else is taken care of.

We have four levels of instruction: nursery (0-4), Uni-Stars/Littles (5-9/10), Uni-Teens/Middles (10/11-13), and the Youth of Unity/YOU (14-18).  We currently have a healthy group for each level, and the church is practically busting at the seams.

I know, for a fact, that we are growing and doing so well because the volunteers and staff do a lot of hard work and we bring a good message filled with Universal Truths that are true no matter what you believe or don’t believe.  You can come to our church and feel spiritually fed in a community of like minded and accepting people.

We work hard, and we reap the benefits of working hard.

We also recognize that the divine is flowing through us and all others and the whole world and constantly working towards our higher and best selves, and we are eternally thankful for that.

One of the things I try to teach the kids at church is what it means to actually have faith.  I generally define faith has believing something will happen, even if you have no physical proof that it will happen.  I can have faith that the Sun will rise because I’ve seen it done hundreds of times.  I don’t have any proof from my seat on my couch that it will rise tomorrow morning, but I can safely assume that it will.

I don’t have faith that the Gods are out there working for my betterment, but I know from past experiences that they are out there doing just that, so I can safely assume that they will continue to do that.

I think a lot of people out there in the world have a false sense of control over their lives.  We only have control over one thing in the world, and that is ourselves.  We can prepare ourselves for the interview of our dream job and completely nail that interview, but it is out of our control whether or not the person who did the interview will actually hire us still.

We can spend hours and hours on a paper or project for school, but once we turn it in, the rest of the process is out of our control.  I cannot, and no one can, force a teacher to write a 100 on it and move on to the next assignment.

I graduated in the top 20% of my high school class.  I graduated cum laude  from college.  I got a Masters degree.  I got into another school for my second Masters degree.  I own my home.  I have a fantastic career, an amazing and smart wife who works hard toward her ambitions while supporting me in mine.  We have awesome pets.  Our families adore us.  My parents dropped 20K+ on our wedding to make sure our special day was perfect (and it was everything I could have asked for and more).  And we are in the process of adopting two amazing kids into our family.

We have that type of relationship that other people look to as the example.  We’re even inspiring others to get into foster care (which I think is pretty damn awesome).

And we’ve worked hard to get to where we are.  We study hard, we have late nights, we are constantly on e-mail checking up on different processes, but when it comes down to the details, we know we don’t have much control over everything.

We can organize all our stuff and get our papers together, but we don’t have control over when the fire department will call us to do a fire inspection.  We didn’t have control over when DHEC would call us, or when the home study would be.  We could do our best at everything, but still have no control in those areas.

But I know that things will be taken care of.  That is my faith.  I know that this process will move smoothly and quickly because my faith tells me that the Gods are watching out for us.  The Gods are in everything and in everyone, so nothing on this planet happens without their involvement in some way.

Now, human error and immaturity can cause bad things to happen, and going against the Gods’ desires to see things go well and positively, but we have to learn from our mistakes so that they don’t happen again.

I have faith that the Gods are working everything towards my higher good.  I have faith that they are working in all the good things and the bad.  I know my control in my life has limits, and I know where my control ends, Their control begins.  I know They influence others in the world just like They influence me.

I am confident in my abilities to affect change where I have control, but I also have faith that things will work out for my betterment and the betterment of all others in areas where my control is no longer.

I Get It Now…

If you are here and looking for my TTC/Fertility, Foster, and Adoption blog, please e-mail me at Kel.Henry85 @ gmail.com. 

I’m sitting on a couch in the middle of a dark living room in the middle of a place about two hours from my home. My friend is getting married tomorrow, and I am in the wedding. She and her soon-to-be husband are getting married in the Lurheran Church, and I’ve never been to a Lutheran wedding before, so I’m excited to witness such an awesome event. 

I had my physical this morning for the foster program. I have to go back in Monday to have my TB test read and they’ll give me the documentation I need then. After the physical, I drove nearly two hours to a church in the literal middle of nowhere with another friend who is also in the wedding for the rehearsal. 

After we drove to my friend’s house for the night. We talked for a little bit about the Foster and adoption processes. I told her that it has gone so much faster and smoother than even our licensing coordinator thought possible.

My friend said, “Why do you think that is?”

There’s only one explanation though, because when DHEC should take three months to get out to the house and they take three weeks, it must be divine intervention. 

This process is stressful. It’s time consuming. We have to be certified and licensed by the state to be parents. We go through training about childhood trauma and first aid and CPR and CPI. Our house is inspected for child readiness, safety, and fire hazards. 

We are, without a doubt, more ready for children to be in our home than joe shmo couple down the street who has a kid and has no clue where to begin. We got a list. And when this is all done, we’ll have a judge sign off saying we can and will make good parents. 

This process is NOT for the light of heart. It’s not for anyone who thinks they MIGHT be ready for kids but isn’t sure. Erin and I opted to do a special license through a special program that will certify us for all types of kids, including those who are medically intensive or have specia needs. 

Ever since we wanted kids, we knew fostering and adoption would be part of that process. We are both of the belief that if you’re going to have your own kids, you should also do some sort of work in the Foster care system because there are so many kids out there who need a safe and stable place to go, even temporarily. We want to help kids, especially those in the GLBT community, so this has always been a part of our plan. 

We just thought we’d have our own kids first, but the Gods had a different plan. 

I get it now: the inspirational and spiritual quotes that surround the Foster care and adoption systems. My faith has been strengthened ten-fold by this process. With every milestone we pass without hiccup, I know the Gods are behind us on this journey, pushing us forward. 

It has been the single greatest and defining process of our relationship since we got married. We have been stressed with all we have had to do (legit, no one knows anyone busier than us, so says everyone I talk to), but with the process winding down, I find myself living in a zone of gratitude for all we have been through and accomplished. 

I wish I could adequately explain the Gods contributions, but my words won’t do it justice. Their hands have been in all things from day one, and I will be forever thankful and grateful for that knowledge!

Blessed Them who are holy for They taketh care of me and my family. It feels wonderful to be on the right path with the divine source. 

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