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Heart with Orlando


You know I really don’t have important or profound things to say… Just a heavy heart and my reflections. 

There is so much wrong with the shootings. The targeting of the LGBTQ community… The fact that gun violence has become so commonplace in our society… The conversation on guns and violence in the US… The problem with religious rhetoric that spews hate… The intersections of racism, homophobia and islamaphobia… 

I think of the victims in the club and what they may have been feeling and experiencing… Terror, fear, isolation and now in the aftermath the loss of a safe space. Safe space in the LGBTQIA community is something that is built and established because society isn’t safe, church isn’t always safe and family can be dangerous.  As some others have said these safe spaces are sacred places because they give the LGBTQ community a place of belonging, acceptance and family. 

The shooting victims are the primary focus of compassion and love AND for those of us in the queer community we feel this hits close to home even if we were not at the club in Orlando, because it is a message of hate that targets our rights to exist, live and love. 

I came out later in life. I think in many ways I pass for straight because I’m queer bisexual and I am older. I don’t go out at night. My last relationship was with a woman and I’ve since dated men and women. I understand that I have some privilege with the level of passing I’m afforded. But I decided not to pass today because I do stand in solidarity with those in Orlando, as a member of this community. Although I haven’t been targeted with extreme acts of violence due to passing I have experienced hate and fear for what I represent and who I am. 

I’ve had religion used as a tool to shame and guilt and remind me I’m unacceptable. I’ve had some family outright say hurtful and rejecting things. I’ve lost a lot of friend and family relationships. But I feel so fortunate because I had a safe space of women who understood, accepted and loved me in some very dark times. We created a haven of safety for queer women.  

Orlando is a reminder that the world holds so much hate and fear simply because of who we are. 

Orlando is also a reminder that the queer community is one huge family that stands alongside each other and will not be held down by hate because we are marked by love.

Last night, vigils were held all over the U.S. to stand with our family in Orlando. I wasn’t able to go, because like I said I’m old and have kids at home, but my spirit was with them, my heart was with all of them here in Seattle and in Orlando. 

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When all the signs are there… (reflections on Domestic Violence)

Domestic Violence

It was almost exactly a month to our wedding day when my then fiancé was arrested for domestic violence.

During the same time, I was being trained to be an advocate at a local program called Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.  This was the same program I was referred to (as a client) after this incident.

The initial feelings were shame, panic and fear.

How could this happen to me?

How could I keep others from ever finding out about this?

What do we do now?  We couldn’t possibly cancel a wedding– what would people think?

And so just as planned we married each other and the problems in our relationship persisted and escalated over the years.

The second wave of feelings were ones of resolve.

I convinced myself that because I knew about the cycle of escalation and violence then I could change the dynamics in the relationship.  

I also compared myself to other women’s situation and felt that my situation wasn’t that bad.  

The cycle in this relationship was normative for me.

I grew up in a home that was regularly violent– cups flying, parents cursing, slapping, punching, pushing, yelling…  This was normal.  Although, I didn’t want to replicate this example of relationship I believed I (on my own) could change it.

Yet, the cycle persisted complicated with mental illness…  Fast forward many more years and the shame was compounded…

Who would believe me now?

Yes, all the signs were there.  On top of it, I knew all the signs from an advocate’s perspective and I knew what one was ‘supposed’ to do– How could I be so stupid– so naive?

The stay-leave decisions for women in domestic violent relationships is incredibly complex.  There are no two stories exactly the same.  The process of making the decision to leave is mired with shame and fear.

The process is isolating and confusing.  Sometimes there are people out there to help– to offer compassion and understanding.  Most times, there is not.

Domestic violence takes on many forms and configurations– physical aggression, sexual assault, economic deprivation, verbal and psychological abuse.  The underlying characteristics in DV relationships are constant fear, terror and isolation.

There is not one typology of domestic violence.  There are many diverse stories of trauma and no one person or institution can tell anyone what constitutes abuse.

Because I couldn’t place my story nicely and neatly in the cycle of domestic violence wheel then I convinced myself that my fears, my isolation, my terror wasn’t real– just figments of my imagination– over exaggerations– dramatic at best.

My decision more complicated with feelings of love and children.

In the end, I decided that I would choose to break the familial cycle of violence by leaving and modeling for my daughters that violence in an intimate relationship is not normal– it is not okay.  I decided to own my shame… the consequences of staying and the consequences of leaving and model for my daughters what it looks like to be authentic, messy and real.  Shame had messed up our family for a really long time– I wasn’t going to give it or anyone/thing else the power.

Friends,

1) Domestic violence is real.  The impacts on the individual and family is complex.  Don’t try to put people’s situation in a box.  Believe.  Listen.  Educate yourself.

2) Stay-Leave decisions are hard and complicated and isolating.  Let’s not heap on more burden and complication by judging women for their process and choice.

We need more compassion (try to empathically understand someone from their vantage point).

We need to be truth tellers.  We need places where we can tell our stories free of judgement or oversimplified responses like, “why did you stay” or “why did you leave”?

We need community who will stand with courage (have some conviction, stand up for what is right and stop blaming the victim).