Friday, May 25, 2012

Discriminating against gay people is NOT okay

It boggles my mind that in 2012 we STILL have to say this. In a country founded on religious tolerance - where we've faced discrimination against Native Americans, Japanese, black people, and Jews, just to name a few - it defies all logic that we should still think that discriminating against LGBT people is acceptable. It is not. End of story. 

Equal protection under the law is just that. There is no damned asterisk to the Constitution that says "unless you're gay/black/poor/Jewish/female, etc." I refuse to sit quietly while people continue to cloak their ignorance and hatred in misguided notions of religion. You are free to believe whatever you want, but so is everyone else. Get. Over. It. 

Some ignorant asshat delegate in Virginia (who is now running for Senate on his success in prohibiting a gay man from obtaining a judgeship) announced at a Virginia Tea Party rally that "sodomy is not a civil right" and that being gay will shorten your lifespan by 20 years. 

This kind of virulent bigotry and hate-mongering cannot continue to go unanswered. 

So I wrote him a letter. 
Dear Delegate Marshall, 
Politicians like you are the reason I have elected to buy a house in Maryland, not Virginia. It sickens me to the core that in this day and age, people like you still think it is okay to promote bigotry, hatred and intolerance. 
Regardless of your personal beliefs on the topic, no person deserves to be relegated to second class citizenship because of their sexual orientation. Oddly enough, this country was founded on a principle of religious tolerance and religious freedom – nowhere does that specify that it’s only tolerance and freedom for privileged white Christian males. 
There’s this interesting passage in the Constitution – I like to refer to it as the First Amendment – that states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” That means you don’t get to legislate your religious beliefs onto the population. Hatred and ignorance cloaked in religion are still hatred and ignorance. 
The Fourteenth Amendment also states “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” I challenge you to point out for me the asterisk that adds “unless you think gay people are icky.” Maybe “sodomy” isn’t specifically enumerated in those “privileges or immunities” but neither is being an ignorant bully, and you seem to be taking full advantage of that. 
Also, spreading lies to substantiate your own ignorance is dangerous and deceitful. You recently stated that homosexual sex “…cuts your life by about 20 years. It causes increased health problems. It doesn't serve the common good to promote this.” You know what actually causes health problems? Facing prejudice and discrimination. The American Psychological Association states that “the prejudice and discrimination that people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual regularly experience have been shown to have negative psychological effects.”
The APA also states that “social science has shown that the concerns often raised about children of lesbian and gay parents' are generally grounded in prejudice, and stereotypes about gay people are unfounded. Overall, the research indicates that the children of lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from the children of heterosexual parents in their development, adjustment, or overall well-being.” Real science and actual facts show that the only thing truly and uniquely harmful about a homosexual lifestyle is the prejudice faced on a daily basis. From people like you. 
I encourage you to consider the prejudicial and discriminatory nature of your beliefs and actions, and to endeavor to remember that religious freedom and equal protection under the law apply to everyone, without exception, lest you end up - as so many will - on the wrong side of history.
Sincerely, Heather

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Bachelorette Party

One of my friends from high school (we’ll call her C) is getting married this coming weekend, so Saturday was her bachelorette party.

I’ve never been to a bachelorette party before, but I was determined to do it right. (Hold your laughter.)

I put on my sexiest dress (it’s just shy of knee length, but my boobs kind of hang out, so that counts, right?), my comfy heels (they didn’t match the dress, but bonus points for heels, yes?) and set out on the hour drive to Baltimore because I didn’t bother to make any other arrangements that would allow me to actually drink.

I got to the restaurant/bar where we were having dinner and cocktails, and asked the hostess for the bachelorette party. The hostess wasn’t sure, but she *thought* everyone was around back, so I spent nearly 15 minutes wandering alone through the virtually-empty back room of the bar and whipping out my cell phone anytime someone walking past sent me a pitying look.

I eventually found them (at the front of the bar, almost directly behind where the hostess was standing) and settled in for dinner.

I casually asked the girl across from me (a friend of C’s whom I had met/hung out with a couple times before) if she had changed her hair, because it looked lighter. Turns out she dyed it because she needed a change after her fiancĂ© called off their engagement. “Foot in mouth” quickly became the underlying theme of the night for me.

From dinner, we moved across the street to Mad River, where I had possibly the tastiest shot I’ve ever done in my life. This had to be my last drink of the night (I nursed a margarita through dinner) because I’m a lightweight and knew I had to drive in about 3 hours, but I could have done 10 of them. It smelled like chocolate and the sugar-coated lemon finisher made it take like delicious, alcohol-infused cake.

After fielding numerous high-fives and lots of awkward questions (Yes, she’s getting married. The wedding is next weekend. No, she’s not scared. No, you don’t need to know where the wedding is taking place. Buy the girl a drink already or go away.) we settled into a booth to play Dirty Minds.

Dirty Minds is a card game that uses the most ridiculously-obvious sexual innuendos as clues for not-dirty answers. Things like “When you squeeze me, white gooey stuff comes out of my tip” (glue) and “When you twist my nut, I shoot all over the place” (fire hydrant). We all have the mentality of hyper-sexualized 14 year olds, so that entertained us for about half an hour.

C and I were still sitting at the table when some guy came over to ask for the umpteenth time why C was wearing a tiara with a veil. We were collectively pretty sick of the question already, so the conversation went something like this:

Dude: Hey, why’s your friend wearing that stuff?
Me: We’re celebrating because her cat died.
Dude: Wait, really?
Me: [deadpan] Yeah.
Dude: I just, I thought that like…
Me: [realizes that taunting dude is like booing the kid in the wheelchair] She’s getting married, this is a bachelorette party. That’s why the giant pink sash says “Bride” on it.
Dude: Well, she coulda been Miss Maryland or something!

From there, we made a quick pass through another bar (where some very nice, but very short guy pulled the toilet paper off my shoe – I didn’t even go to the bathroom!) before making our way to the upstairs room at some dog-themed bar. On the way up, some half-conscious dude in a t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off tried to give me a high five. I put my hands behind my back and slid past him sideways. I don’t know where that thing has been.

Once upstairs, on the landing with the world’s shortest shuffleboard table, the conversation naturally turned to vaginas. Then, during a discussion of our sex lives, completely-sober me (sure, why not… it’s not like I’ll ever see these girls again… except… for next weekend…crap) blurts out “well, I didn’t even kiss a guy until I was 17!” To the girl who just finished explaining how she didn’t date until about age 25 because of insecurities, and the Catholic girl. Ah yes, the long-forgotten taste of foot.

Fuck it, obviously the Jewish girl is the heathen-ish slut. Proving once again that I don’t need copious amounts of alcohol to make me say stupid shit. Ah well, at least it was fun! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blogging for mental health

Today is APA’s annual Mental Health Blog Party, as part of May being Mental Health Awareness month. I’ve talked a little bit about my panic attacks in the past, but I want to go into a little bit more detail, in case learning from and understanding my struggles can somehow help someone else out.

Charming and I moved in together for the first time in late 2008 when he decided to go to grad school at the University of Texas. I was living in Nashville at the time, and he was living in Miami, and I knew if we didn’t take some step to further our relationship, it was in all likelihood going to end if we had to be separated for 2 more years. Not to mention the fact that his grad program was like 60-70% female.

So in true Heather fashion, I started piling stress after stress on top of myself. I decided to quit my first decent job that didn’t involve sales or commissions to move to Austin with him, and to ship my old and at-the-time ill horse down with me. I had one interview lined up when I got to Austin, but that didn’t pan out and I only had about $2000 in savings to cover my half of the rent, food, expenses, and board for my horse until I got a job. Meaning I had less than 2 months to figure shit out. Which didn’t happen.

My furniture was over 2 weeks late arriving, thanks to the cheap-ass moving company I hired, and my horse was a week late because the shippers originally forgot about him. When he finally arrived, he had scars on his legs from being hobbled, and had contracted ring worm. On top of all that, Charming’s parents weren’t thrilled with the prospect of us moving in together, so I dealt with their stress and displeasure as well.

Needless to say, our life together got off to a pretty rocky start.

When I still couldn’t find a job a couple months later, I started walking a neighbor’s dog and dog sitting for him to make a little extra cash, which of course gave the owner permission to harass me and solicit me for prostitution.

When I did finally find a real job, it was a great job, but the pay wasn’t great. I was still struggling to feel like I was pulling my own weight. The stress was eating away at me, and making me eat my way through anything and everything I could find. I gained over 20 pounds and had trouble sleeping.

And I took a lot of my stress out on Charming.

I’m a very independent, type A personality by nature, and not having control over my finances, my future, or even my weight drove me into a vicious cycle of self-loathing and depression. I was living in a precarious state where absolutely anything could push me over the edge.

I was a time bomb threatening to destroy our relationship and my life.

My computer wasn’t working correctly? I burned dinner? Charming wanted to watch TV rather than talk to me? Every fear, every anxiety, every ounce of self-doubt and recriminations would come crashing to the surface and I would yell, scream, cry, hyperventilate until I couldn’t breathe and all I could do was hang over the toilet and let the dry heaves wrack my body.  

I finally sought help in February 2009. I made the mistake of going to a psychiatrist instead of a psychologist, which meant I was given 15 minutes to explain the past 6 mind-numbing months of my life and then handed a diagnosis (Panic Disorder) and a prescription. The prescription did help, but I realized I wanted to be able to handle things on my own; my inner control freak wasn’t happy handing over the reins to a happy pill.

Fortunately, information is power. Now that I knew what was “wrong” with me (in the sense that I was under too much stress and I wasn’t coping adequately – not that I was as truly screwed up as I’d started to believe) I could start to deal.

It’s an uphill battle, and I still have moments when the stress starts burning holes in my chest and my ribcage aches from the pressure of holding back the anxiety and fear and anger and frustration, but for some reason, Charming has stuck with me through all of it, and I’m doing the best I can, a little bit at a time.

If you’re dealing with something that feels like it’s too much to handle, please consider getting help – it’s just not worth it to feel like shit all the time.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

The joys of house hunting

Charming and I have started the process of looking for a house. It might not happen, because my job situation could continue to cheerfully screw me over, but we figured it was time to start looking just in case. And because one more year submerged beneath endless piles of stuff in a 600 square foot basement apartment might be the end of my tenuous grasp on sanity.

So here is a flow-chart I created for would-be first time home buyers, to help you when you’re ready to start this ridiculous process.

Anything else Charming and I should be looking out for as we continue our house hunt? 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Letter to Trent

I've gotten away from posting my political rantings over here, but I wanted to share this letter I just sent off to Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona. Franks is on the House Judiciary Committee which is set to hear a bill on May 17 that would ban 20 week abortions in DC. Later-term abortions are always a controversial topic, but the more research I do on them, the more convinced I am that we have to fight even harder to protect this right.

If anyone wants to send off a similar letter to Franks, please feel free to borrow any of my text.

Dear Representative Franks,

As a resident of DC, I urge you not to support the ban on 20 week abortions for the District of Columbia.
I have always been pro-choice and pro-women’s-freedom, but I was at one point opposed to late-term abortions. Why? Because I didn’t know the facts. I thought late term abortions occurred because women were too stupid/fickle to make the decision earlier. I bought into the so-called pro-life movement’s claim that there were these awful, barbaric women out there deliberately waiting until they were 6 months along before having a nearly-viable fetus brutally destroyed.

The truth is that only 1.3% (CDC, 2011) of abortions occur after 20 weeks, and these are usually the situations that deserve the most compassion and the most respect for the difficult and painful choices a woman sometimes has to make. Though there are no reliable statistics for why women choose to have late-term abortions, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) cites “illnesses of women and fetal anomalies” as major factors.
On April 2, Georgia passed a bill some have affectionately referred to as the “Women as Livestock” bill. Rep. Terry England stated that if livestock have to "deliver calves, dead or alive," then a woman carrying a dead fetus after 20 weeks, or one not expected to survive, should have to do so as well. Because if money/technology prevent farmers from showing compassion to animals, why should a government full of men have to respect the basic human rights of women?
Another JAMA article states that “other risk factors [for late term abortions] include young age, low educational attainment, having had a sexually transmitted disease, and ambivalence about the decision to abort.” The restrictions and limitations Republicans nationwide have enacted to discourage abortions (abstinence-only education, requirements to visit ‘crisis centers,’ coercion through forced ultrasounds, etc.) actually contribute to later-term abortions.
Abortion opponents target rare cases of late term abortion, describing it in horrific detail, to evoke an emotional response in listeners. Their ultimate goal is to restrict all abortion rights. What these lobbyists strategically fail to mention, however, is that banning late term abortions would force women pregnant with dying fetuses to give birth at great risk to their own health, undermining both the rights of women and the medical authority of doctors.
Late term abortions are more heart-rending, yes, because the fetus is further developed, but the numbers show that women are not selfishly waiting until the last possible minute and then heartlessly deciding to murder an innocent baby. These are medical decisions made by women and their health care providers – legislators have no right to be involved in those decisions. Access to basic health care and human rights is even more important when the woman’s life is actually in danger.
“Fetal pain” is not a scientifically proven or accepted phenomenon, but you know who can feel pain? Women. At all stages of a pregnancy.
On May 17, when the House Judiciary Committee holds the hearing on the 20 week abortion ban, I implore you to think about the living, voting constituents you already have, and to vote against the bill.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Will this tunnel ever end?

I feel like I’ve spent the past 27 ½ years of my life working toward an always-just-out-of-reach goal. I’ve been on the verge of blissfully happy so many times, but there’s always been (at least) One Last Obstacle.

Barring catastrophe, I should finish my master’s degree around August 10 this year.  That’s just over three months, but somehow, it still doesn’t feel like it’ll ever happen.

I think it’s something I do to myself. If I’m not crushing myself under an avalanche of stress and misery, I just don’t know what to do. So I pile on more responsibilities and make sure I’m the one standing there waiting to push me off the cliff into mental-breakdown-land.

I had a bit of a breakdown last night, thanks in part to a darling laptop computer that decided to contract a horrible virus the month after my two-year warranty expired. I even tried moving all my documents to an external drive, losing all my lovely pirated free software and rebooting the whole damned thing. The only thing that changed is my anti-virus software now knows the name of the tracking cookie the virus uses to destroy my life. So that’s just awesome.

I also have 3 chapters of reading, a 2-3 page paper, two 20+ slide presentations, two 12-15 page papers and a final all due in the next week. Procrastinator used to be my middle name, but I’ve been diligently working on all of this crap for two solid weeks now. And you know what? I can’t even see the halfway point yet.

If you add up all the hours I’ve spent working on all this crap so far, and assume that I’m going to need at least twice that many hours to finish everything (since I’m nowhere near done), the chances of me actually completing all this shit are about as good as Newt Gingrich getting himself elected President.

Charming, if you’re reading this, help me out with cleaning the damned apartment, because I really just can’t take any more.