You know the story already. Trump’s formation of the new Heath and Human Resources arm called the New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division is designed to protect business owners and medical caregivers, including first responders, who refuse to serve LGBTQ+ Americans, by claiming religious or moral objection. The founding of this division shields these professionals in the public service sector from any accountability or legal action should they turn someone away that they have a hate motivated bias against.
What they didn’t expect is how the interpretation would be received by the public. While we understand fully what Religious objection means- anyone can discriminate as long as they use religion as a safety net to buffer legal retaliation, how, exactly, is moral objection defined?
Sarah Sanders found out. She found herself removed from a privately owned eatery this week by the owner of the Red Hen, in Lexington Virginia, citing a moral objection to her hateful propaganda on behalf of Donald Trump, defense of inhumane atrocities and barrage of lies told daily to the press while at the same time attempting to discredit their reporting. Her affiliation with one of the most dangerous Presidents in American History that has rolled back protections against young Trans student, funneled money away from black communities to white, private institutions, and held immigrants separated from children- a policy she voraciously defended- in concentration camps. Sanders, who is the face of the White House, is responsible for the messages delivered to the public. Like Melania, she just doesn’t care.
I am not surprised that some good citizens, business owners, have asked her to leave their establishments, refusing to serve someone whose participation in deceiving the nation has been relentless.
The Division of New Conscience and Religious Freedom saw the Supreme Court rule in favor of a bigoted bakery who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple- seemingly sanctioning acts of discrimination against a minority based on an exercise of religious freedom. An unwitting consequence of that courts decision and the policies instated by by the new Health and Human Resources directly reference “Conscience” and “Moral objection” also which, thanks to legalese, doesn’t exclusively protect the religious zealots who it is intended to shield from any recourse.
It also protects the owner of the place that chucked Sarah Sanders out onto the street due to the owners Moral or “Conscience” objections to the grotesque, divisive and damaging policies she has peddled for Trump who pushes her to a podium each day to deflect, lie or outright refuse to answer any questions from the press. Her affiliation with the State of Hate- The New America- does indeed make her subject to social accountability in the public sector- and like the Bakery, protects the Red Hen for refusing service to a member of a regime that has hurt and disenfranchised so many vulnerable minorities via it’s divisive, hateful rhetoric and executive order. She is, like the bakery, entitled to morally object, just as the baker was told by the Supreme Court, he could do so religiously.
Morality- or “Conscience” isn’t exclusive to religion. More often than not, we just don’t need a book to navigate between right and wrong, or appreciate what harms or helps our fellow Americans or people seeking such status. Faith doesn’t exist anymore as Organized Religion, now heavily politicized, has occupied its place in America. Scripture like “Love thy neighbor,” Or “Do Unto Others As you would have them do Unto you,” have been tossed in the garbage or labeled liberal tears. Scriptures for snowflakes. They don’t lend themselves to the radicalist agendas of the hate-mongers and self appointed moral superiors who who want a white, wealthy, male, christian, heterosexual, cisgender only America. They keep creating laws and policies to protect themselves, to glorify themselves, and if you fall outside those goal posts, to strip you of your basic human rights and relegate you to second class citizen.
I am grateful to people like the owner of the Red Hen who, despite being in a minority of those who will place themselves in a position to be attacked due to their form of protest, did it anyway.
Every member of the Trump administration, from Jeff Sessions who enacted the Zero Tolerance policy that saw immigrant families separated, and his effort to exclude Transgender Americans from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to Stephen Miller who drafted it to start with, along with all those Republican members of congress who have already built an impenetrable wall around their divine leader as he disrupts the quality of life for millions of others who were struggling anyway- they should all be rejected by those with a moral conscience- wherever they go.
So should his thralls of alt-right supporters and state sanctioned propaganda media like Fox News who recently saw a boycott by their own media creators for their inability to be unbiased or deliver the actual news instead of misinformation with the intention of idolating a modern day dictator. Fox News is the only real Fake News on television. They will not criticize this administration or admonish the cruel, unjust orders it enforces that damage millions. Servants to the state, that is Fox News, no different than the curated new of North Korea sanctioned by Kim Jong Un who controls the narrative delivered to audiences as inarguable. No. It’s indefensible.
This controversy is following suit with the botched immigration policy. Trump and his flagellants are blaming everyone else, accepting no responsibility, and are downright outraged that their own New Conscience and Religious Freedom policies can be used, not just to protect them, but to protect us in the civilian sector from being obligated to compromise our own morality and serve them while they systematically undermine all that once made America great.
The USA Withdrew From The United Nations Human Rights Council: Here’s What That Means For LGBT and Americans Of Color
The United Nations Human Rights Council is a committee of 47 seats occupied by diverse, signatory nations of the United Nations General Assembly. This panel was established in 2006 in response to the inhumane treatment of minorities- specifically people targeted by their own governments based on their race, religion, gender or LGBT identities. The council, which rotates countries who occupy the seats every 3 years, with each having a maximum term of six years, is designed to assess threats to vulnerable citizens whose human rights come under threat and intervene on behalf of the United Nations. Countries that have committed heinous acts of abuse and violated the rights of it’s citizens are not permitted to participate in the council which is hosted in neutral territory, Geneva, Switzerland.
All signatories mutually agree to enforce the protection of human rights, both in their own nation, and stand against countries that enact policies or laws that, with bias, promote or provoke hostility toward specific communities of people.
That said, the UNHRC has come under fire in the past for allowing countries to occupy seats that have violated the rights of it’s own citizens. For example, Russia, whose Chechnya state we’ve recently seen conduct an anti-gay purge- was a member of the council as well as China and Saudi Arabia, all who have had concerning issues regarding Human Rights violations. It was because of the inclusion of countries who actions are counter-intuitive to the council’s founding purpose that George W. Bush and his administration boycotted the Human Rights Council, justifiably so. Many speculated that the councils actual purpose wasn’t to protect the citizens of sitting countries, but instead, protect their own governments from criticism for violating them, especially Russia, China and Cuba.
In 2009, President Barack Obama reversed the boycott and submitted his appeal for the United States to rejoin the Human Rights Council, assuming a leadership role which led other nations to believe the influence of the council was becoming much more substantial and its marred reputation somewhat restored.
Yet, while the council claims its purpose is to promote and protect the highest standards of human rights practices, it’s unclear exactly what power they wield. Seat members convene three times a year, in March, June and September to discuss the state of human rights violations, registering complaints from both organizations representing disenfranchised people and individuals, but one is hard pressed to find evidence of actual intervention or change of practice as a result of council discussions and debates. While they do issue statements condemning countries that exercise religious or politically motivated damage to their citizens, it seems that they are less capable to serve as a resource of rescue for those threatened and more like a group of international commentators with no real power to influence change. They can’t issue sanctions, execute collective military action or even subpoena a figurehead and charge them with a crime because they’re not a court. Are they simply representatives sitting around a table talking about what a shame it is that gay men and women are being wrangled like cattle and murdered in Chechnya without any justice? Do they look at the photos we’ve all seen of children running and screaming through the streets of Syria after having had their school bombed by Russia and simply send thoughts and prayers?
There are atrocities happening more frequently and visibly than ever before regarding the violation of human rights- even in America. So, what does it mean if we don’t have a seat at that table anymore?
It means absolutely nothing. It’s merely a panel discussion. We aren’t more vulnerable than we were before because of our withdraw- the fact is, we’re just as vulnerable whether we, as a nation, participate or not. If minorities in the United States continue to see a decline in quality of life and ability to thrive due to the oppressive stance this administration has taken against LGBT and people of color, this committee wouldn’t likely do anything but discuss it during their Swiss holiday. They might issue a statement condemning Trump and his policies, but it appears to be the equivalent of you, or me, standing outside the White House carrying a protest placard that reads “What you’re doing is bad.”
The UNHRC seems to be wholly symbolic and little else more. At least, historically that is what has been demonstrated on the world stage. They exist in the context of theory, but not in practice, and that is a tragedy for every vulnerable civilian of every nation whose government has placed a target upon. That should be the most disturbing revelation to manifest from our departure from the Human Rights Council- It never mattered at all. They didn’t prevent the devastation of government sanctioned cruelty anywhere else in the world, what makes Americans think that pattern would shift just because it’s us at risk?
The concept is more terrifying when you realize there is no one- no organization, no committee, no representatives entrusted with the preservation of human rights in the face of oppressive regimes that can actually change anything. Dictators either simply scoff, recognizing this council has no jurisdiction in their territories, or they sign themselves up for the sake of appearances while violating the very rights they claim to protect.
Americans have, for the first time, found themselves under the hand of an administration spiraling out of control. It’s something we didn’t believe we could happen. Not here. The crimes against humanity are terrors we read about in other parts of the world most of us have never seen. We have gotten comfortably detached from the idea that we could one day find ourselves having our basic human rights contested. Our government and it’s heinous activity sparks outrage as far as a facebook status can reach, then we turn on Netflix to escape our own Upside Down. We minimize our distorted reality by turning it into a perpetual meme or cartoon satire to reject the reality- instead we turn it into reality television where we aren’t really effected.
Our withdrawal from the UNHRC spotlights the crippling truth that citizens of other nations have had to reconcile- our governments have no one to answer to. Participation in these ornamental peace summits are voluntary, not obligatory, nor requiring any provisional behavior. It looks good on paper, but the significance of involvement carries no weight for victims whose governments lock them away in filthy prison camps or enables the violent rape and torture of women, the murder of LGBT people and those subscribing to specific systems of religion not in alignment with leadership agendas. Remember; Notorious Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi, had his regime awarded the position of chairperson of the Human Rights Council in 2003 despite his acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity.
Many believe that the United Nations serves as a great protector. “The UN would never let that happen,” people think when it comes to their suffering. But they have, and they will. The political infrastructure and measures of self-interested diplomacy usurp justice for the people of the world.
I reacted with sheer horror upon discovering our departure from the Human Rights Council. I was shaken even further when I realized that they very existence of such a council was irrelevant and its purpose, hollow. Like so many criminal dictators, should Donald Trump gain that stronghold, he too will scoff at their finger wagging. They haven’t stopped anyone else, they certainly wouldn’t have any impact on Trump, his radical followers, or those who endure the damage as a result of his foul leadership.
And on the front lines will be people of color and transgender Americans on one side. The other will be composed of Donald Trump’s most ardent loyalists. The New Yorker was the first to suggest that the United States, in the wake of President Trump’s unusual victory and subsequent reign of terror over minorities would effectively split the nation in two. Thus far, every one of the predictions made has come to fruition with frightening accuracy. The Trump administration has set out to achieve one thing above all else; Split the country in two halves. Dividing cultures and communities prevents them from organizing against him while his fan base stays in tact, propelling him.
Since taking office, the President has waged an internal war on transgender people, threatening our safety and security in our very own homeland. He’s banned the very word “Transgender” and rolled back legislative protections made during Barack Obama’s tenure as Commander in Chief. He’s attempted to ban trans identifying men and women from serving in any official capacity in the military and has openly attended rallies promoting anti-LGBT propaganda.
He has shown just as much ire toward the black and latinx communities, having shown passive solidarity with White Nationalists and calling Alt-Right radicals who have become comfortable enough to display their racism “Good people.” In America, two national tragedies have gone virtually ignored during Trump’s presidency- Flint, Michigan, a predominantly black city situated between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, has suffered a crippling water crisis that has seen virtually no attention from Trump since his visit there during his campaign. His appearance in flint was intended to address the devastating effect of long term lead poisoning that is responsible for both sickness and premature death of hundreds, especially children and the elderly. Trump, however, had other intentions when visiting Flint, and that wasn’t to address the escalating crisis- it was to verbally attack his opposing candidate for the presidential seat. So caustic were his comments, not to mention irrelevant to the suffering citizens of Flint, that it resulted in the now famous interruption of his speech by the local Pastor whose church he was speaking in. He would later insult her. Since taking charge, the Trump administration has done nothing to help Flint, but will spend millions of dollars on a Military Parade in his honor while making drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. Take note: Since he was elected, Trump has revisited the state of Michigan, just not Flint… and while there, he never one mentioned the ongoing crisis.
So, it should not be surprising that when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, leveling most of it, Trump only made an appearance for a brief photo op- handing out paper towels to residents whose entire lives had been upended and livelihoods had been lost. Instead of making a commitment to the citizens of Puerto Rico to help them rebuild, Trump attacked the Mayor who criticized his lack of response to tragedy- which has killed an estimated 4,000 people, and even today, thousands remain homeless, most without electricity. He used his typical “Us against them” rhetoric when attempting to defend his inaction, blaming Democrats. In a tweet, he said:
The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.
Of course, Puerto Rico is predominantly non-white, thus very low on his priority list. He’s far to busy wrangling undocumented immigrants, separating children from families and placing them in filthy, abusive detention centers, all while pardoning Arizona Ex- Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a man who was convicted for notoriously profiling and wrongfully incarcerating people with brown skin, placing them in inhuman “Tent camps” in what a judge deemed a violation of their constitutional and human rights. He was also accused of failing to investigate over 400 sexual abuse and rape claims made by women to his office while serving in his capacity. Arpaio is a Trump loyalist- and now he’s running for a Senate seat in the same state he once terrorized.
And, I’d be remiss not to mention his infamous promise to build a wall on the Mexico border, which he has stated is intended to keep out Mexicans he once labeled as “Murders, rapists and drug dealers.”
If any human being can be judged based on their actions alone, it goes without saying that Donald Trump is a racist of a magnitude we have not seen since half a century ago. The power he wields lays in the stronghold of hate-mongers whose bigotry he has pandered to with alarming diligence. They are not your typical devotees, instead seeing him as a sort of symbol of their revolution of rage. This is their revenge for having seen in their lifetime a black president serve just before him- and they have observed their leader unceremoniously undo every one of his predecessors orders.
There is no question that Trump’s base, lacking reason or rationale, hang off his every venomous word as he liberates their prejudices and unleashes what had once been considered a shameful, divisive world view consisting of only white, only straight, only cisgender, only christian America. They have emerged from the shadows and dark crevices of society to march in the streets of middle America just as they did once before, instituting social segregation and displaying a horrific pride in their distorted vision of the future. These are not a people who we will see slip away quietly into the night, should Trump ever be impeached… or even lose the 2020 presidential election. Trump has kept his flagellants angry at the world, yet blindingly subservient to him. They create the wall around him that has rendered him untouchable.
It is by his acts of discrediting the press, the FBI, the department of Justice, and lampooning any one of his critics that Trump will see himself emerge as the catalyst of a second civil war in America. Should he lose or be impeached, he will convince his followers that he is a victim- as he has already done by declaring any investigation into his corruption a “Witch Hunt.” He will say that voting was rigged in favor of his opponent, or that internal bias led to his impeachment. He has postured himself as a modern day Jesus Christ, being crucified by naysayers and purveyors of fake news as he tries to lead his people to the promise land- where only wealthy, white, straight people thrive. Those who oppose him are all evildoers. They will defend him at any cost, even their own sacrifice of conscience. This cult-like mentality serves only to swell their outrage at the rest of us, who he has told to blame for their suffering while he keeps his foot planted firmly on the backs of our necks for their viewing pleasure. Some of these “good folks” are ripping off the burka’s of Muslim women or screaming at Spanish speaking citizens in public spaces to “Get out of our country.” Often, they’re calling the police on black people- a community already experiencing disproportionate abuse by authorities- for doing simple things like having a family barbecue.
We had grown comfortable with the self-created lore that racism and bigotry existed mostly in backward villages, from people isolated from the world, sat on their rickety porches with shotguns in their hands. Trump has lifted the veil on that fallacy and lured it into the open. We see now that it comes from every direction, from high power New York City attorneys on 5th Avenue to mid-western shop owners who, as I write this, are putting up “No Gays Allowed” signs in their store windows after the supreme court ruled in favor of a bakery’s refusal to bake a cake for a gay couple citing Religious Freedom.
Ah, religion. That which Trump had appealed to the most, despite being his mockery of women and the disabled, or his penchant for “pussy grabbing” and paying off porn stars in exchange for silence after extramarital affairs; It is the religious majority that view him as their anointed one and he knows it. Claiming to make their one, very specific religion- Christianity- his priority, he opened up an office in The Department of Health and Human Services called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which will not only allow, but also protect from consequence those who discriminate against transgender or gay Americans. This includes medical caregivers who can deny treatment to a ailing patient if they cite moral or religious objection. States like Oklahoma and Kansas have now passed laws that allow religious adoption agencies the right to refuse to place homeless children into gay families. Trump and his new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, have funneled money away from those most in need, public schools, to primarily white, private, religious schools. Some church leaders are even preaching that Trump himself is leading them to the second coming of Christ and the Rapture by fulfilling biblical prophecy. Of course, Trump immediately redacted the Johnson Amendment which had limited political donations to politicians from churches and religious organizations ensuring separation of Church and State. This is him, paving his path to re-election. His believers will not accept a loss, a change of leadership or a shift in the tide. The monster of unbridled social terrorism has been unleashed, thus restoring civility and progress to the Nation will be like putting toothpaste back in the tube. These proud “deplorables” who wear the word like a badge of honor have let the world know who they are and they will never go back into the shadows from which they came.
No matter how he leaves office, Trump has undeniably created a chasm so cataclysmic to society that it will take decades to repair. Trumpsters will not let that happen without a fight. The unfettered hostility that he has provoked toward minorities both socially and politically will effect generations to come. And we’re only in the second year of his first term.
It wouldn’t be unlikely for an all out battle to erupt in the streets should Trump be impeached or lose the next election. The stability of our social infrastructure is already vastly fragile and such a blow to the egos of the men and women who have unapologetically put their intolerances on parade will induce a complete meltdown. These individuals will not allow their leader be taken away from them, or have his power to provide their prejudices immense visibility be replaced by someone with a moral compass… or an interest in serving all the American people equally. They cannot lose their privilege or superiority over the rest of us for fear they will suddenly find, having outed themselves as modern day Nazis, they will be treated with the same aggressive rejection they’ve subjected the rest of us to. Without their divine leader to validate their hate, they will shift into fight mode. There will be riots in the streets; Law and justice will be abandoned- some of Trumps most staunch supporters are police officers and judges. His base will retaliate with violent fury. They don’t view Trump as just an elected official- He is their great White Hope who emboldens their bigotry. He has absolved them of their fear of recompense and shame. They won’t just put their hoods back on and go home. They can’t. We’ve seen their faces. We know them now.
The country will split in two. One half loyalists to the Trump Legacy, the other committed to fairness and equality who reject his division and dictatorship tendencies. Some will be fight for Trump Nation, other against it. It’s not a battle that will be fought at the polls, but in an unfurling societal crisis.
The lack of civil protections in other nations has, on occasion, seen Transgender individuals crossing the boarder asking for asylum from persecution, violence and administrative policies that leave them vulnerable to social alienation, targets of abuse and stripped of human rights. While it is not something we see every day, it does happen, and in a joint partnership with the United Nations, we have an obligation to protect citizens whose own countries have put them in grave danger, effectively preventing them from enjoying the same quality of life as their cisgender counterparts.
Currently, a Transgender woman, know only by the name Alejandra, is being unjustly detained in Cibola County Correctional Center, a prison facility in Mexico, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) awaiting a hearing to determine her eligibility for asylum status in the United States. She has been incarcerated since last year. Amnesty International, the agency campaigning for her release said that Alejandra’s case is “especially urgent in light of the recent death of another transgender woman in ICE custody who was briefly held in the same unit.”
Alejandra, a resident of El Salvador, had been an outspoken trans activist, educator and national speaker who found herself the subject of intense sexual harassment by military agencies, brutally attacked by gang members, and offered no assistance from local authorities. Had she not fled her home country, she would most certainly be murdered for promoting transgender visibility and advocating for equality.
Shockingly, since Alejandra was detained last year, she has been denied access to basic medical treatments, including disruption of her transitional medications which has sent her plummeting into a deep depression. She has not received therapy to deal with the emotional aftermath of her sexual abuse and the traumatic experiences imposed on her by the military- who sought her out for deliberate retaliation due to her transgender status and high profile.
As this story was just coming to national attention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a terrifying shift in the United States asylum policy regarding victims of hate-based gang violence and domestic abuse. Sessions wrote in 31-page decision. “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”
This means that LGBT individuals who are targeted simply for their gender or sexuality will no longer qualify for asylum in the United States. In countries like El Salvador, where gang activity is often the right hand of high ranking officials in the military, LGBT people will be left at their mercy. We have seen the devastating consequences of this unfold in Chechnya, where their own government advocated their imprisonment in concentration camps and even campaigned for families of gay men to kill them without consequence in what is known formally as a “Anti-Gay Purge.”
With America determined to turn its backs on it’s own transgender citizens by rolling back protections and banning the word “Transgender” or “Vulnerable” from any missives between the CDC and the White House as well as American President, Donald Trump, determined to eradicate Transgender military service men and women, America may not be the safe house it once was. This leaves other countries such as Canada, United Kingdom, France, Italy and other more progressive countries as their only hope for safety.
There were times I felt like I needed to hit the “Reset” button.
You know, just like in that game you’re playing on XBOX or Nintendo. There’s that level you can’t get past- that part where things went terribly wrong and it seems impossible to go forward. You need a do-over, another chance, a fresh start.
The thoughts would come on impulse. Sometimes, driving over a tall bridge. It would be so easy, in this moment, right now. I can see it happening in my head, a morbid speculation of deliberately flying off that edge into a black abyss, into oncoming traffic with just a jerk of one arm or aiming at that massive tree. This is where I check out. It’s that easy. This is my exit.
I never did it, obviously. Whether it was a fleeting madness or simple cowardice, I didn’t do it. Do you know what people would think of me if they ever knew that these were, sometimes, the secret thoughts I kept under the facade of a smile? I tell myself “Somehow, keep sparkling in this darkness like there’s light anyway.”
The temptation that presents itself so readily in any number of scenarios isn’t foreign to me. It doesn’t happen every day or even every month, but the fact that I’ve had them at all left me feeling like a fraud. People, even strangers I barely knew believed I had it together. I was smart, motivated, I had measurable success, I knew how to navigate the rough terrain of social situations without anyone realizing I was screaming on the inside. If anyone ever knew my shame, I would never again be entitled to my own pride. I also knew there would be those who would revel in my perceived failure.
In my town, there were adults in my own community who had a seat in the rafters during the show that was my peripheral life. They didn’t know me, but they told people they did. I was arrogant, pompous, strutted around like someone who expected others to lay wreaths at my feet. My emotional distance may have lent itself to that narrative. I have, since my teenage years, kept my walls high and my circle small. Many knew of me. Few- very few, knew me. There was Phaylen the character who presented herself with the confidence I only wish I really had… then there was the reality I lived with behind closed doors.
And then there was the girl who missed out on so much. The girl abandoned by her family due to a mental illness. A girl who lived in a retirement village with 80 year old friends until she was 30. A girl who lost her childhood and adolescence due to agoraphobia. She lived in very controlled environments, situations, and didn’t quite know how to function in the greater world beyond the fragile, iridescent bubble that protected her. She was afraid of all that lay beyond that place where certainly, people like her- like me- didn’t have a place. So many years were gone. So much potential was lost. So many windows of opportunity had closed. I envied people in my teens and twenties as they floated through life, getting married, having families, holiday dinners with loved ones, selfies with friends at fancy restaurants. Then, there was me. I’d inadvertently taken a wrong turn. I was inexplicably different from “Normal.” I didn’t love myself, and was unloved by others. I remember thinking “I can’t wait to start again.” I would do better. I would be better. I’d break down those walls, the prison of my own mind and reclaim my control. My life would possess some value, some purpose in moving forward. I knew what to do now.
Reset because it hurts. Mistakes I made that gnawed at me like an angry beast from the inside. Regret… My first love, a girl named Amy, I bet she’s happy now. I wonder if I look happy enough to convince her I am too if she ever cared enough to be curious and look me up.
Sometimes trying isn’t enough. I resented people who made it look effortless. I wasn’t equipped with those facilities to walk through life without resistance. I was transgender before I knew the word; All I knew was that it rendered me lesser… and for anyone to like me, I had to try twice as hard to keep it that way because I felt I didn’t deserve that. Anyone kind to me was doing me a favor because, after all, I was the social reject that most would easily dispose of. It manifested in many ways, a repeated pattern of individuals who would walk into my life, take what I had, exploit my eagerness to please and when I had no more to give… disappear.
There was that bottle of pills. They calmed me down. They quieted the world around me, and one time I searched how quickly I would die if I just took them all. Would there be pain? I was scared of pain. I didn’t want to suffer. Just slip away, quietly…
…Like I was never here. No one would miss me. Shit, no one would find me until the smell of my corpse began to infuriate my neighbors.
I thought I could do better next time. Like a bad hand in poker, I wanted to fold and hope the next deal would be better. You tell people that, though, they call you selfish. They scoff at you. They tell you how great you have it. You could be some starving child in a third world country, or a homeless elderly veteran sleeping under a bridge at night. There were people who have it worse than I do. I’m not entitled to feel like this. And then I hate myself.
So, you stay quiet. You fight those demons under the cloak of darkness where no one else can see. You cancel projects, you cancel plans, you withdraw and have a million excuses and you simply say “I’m sorry for myself. For who I am.”
You get tired of being strong. You start growing numb. The world can make you mean. It’s moving at the speed of light and you’re trying to keep up. But, someone jumps in your lane to break your heart; A friend, one of the few you confided your weakness in, tells you “Everything everyone said about you is true.” And, although, you know no one ever knew you well enough to assess any truths about you because they aren’t there when the lights go down, the silence sets in. When regrets, insecurities, fears and anxiety grabs hold you find it aches all over. You wish there was some medicine to hold it all at bay; You’re always alone, anyway. So much easier when you don’t have to explain.
I was 11 when I tried to hang myself from the folding closet door of my bedroom. I was the victim of bullying. Not the kind you read about today where everybody insulted bellows about being bullied. I was beaten. I was sexually attacked. Called names I didn’t understand. “Faggot,” “Homo,” “Pervert” asked if I was wearing girls underwear. Other parents wouldn’t let their children play with me because I was a “Freak.” My crime? I was a boy who looked inexplicably like a girl. I acted like a girl. From my lisp, to my limp wristed gestures, to my soft, meek demeanor. I wasn’t what a boy should be. I was broken. I was an embarrassment to my Mother. Every single day, I endured violence at my inner city school, for years… until my middle school principal called my mother into the office after I’d been sprayed with mace and told “We can no longer guarantee his safety.”
From then on, I was home schooled, and my isolation became my best friend. I closed off the world. I didn’t leave my house for 5 years. Everything I learned, I taught myself, as my mother was sick and bedridden most of the time… but I’d seen her cry because of me. “Why can’t you just be normal?” She once pleaded. I saw the tears welling in her eyes. “I love you, but the world is going to destroy you. I want to love you so much, but you make it so hard.”
I remember that day like it was yesterday, as I sat perched at the side of her bed. Her eyes were bloodshot. She had a crossword puzzle book sitting in her lap half finished. She took my hand, her voice cracked; “I’m so scared for you.”
“This isn’t who I want to be.” I thought, over and over, again and again. “This isn’t what I’m supposed to be.”
“I don’t belong here.”
And that thread carried on for decades.
The truth is, I didn’t want to die. But, what if this game called life didn’t just start over? What if, on the instance of my last breath, I didn’t come screaming back into the world with a clean slate and a new hope. I didn’t want for anything more than to be okay.
Suicide convinces you that it’s the best alternative to fighting through another day; Taking another pill; Drinking another drink. Just admit defeat and hope… hope that it’s not an end, but a reset.
Today, I’m still not where I imagined I would be, or where I expected I should be… but I’m here. And while I’m not by some magical means cured of slipping back into that dark place with my menagerie of pains, empathy, my dread and hopelessness in humanity, the world and its barrage of tragedy that sinks into my soul like venom… I’m still here for the experience. Truth be told, I’m grateful that the sheets I hung from that closet door when I was 11 years old broke and sent me careening to the ground. The universe said “No.”
This is not your exit.
And so, in spite of it all. In spite of people, in spite of circumstances, two decades later, that’s what I do.
I keep going.
We don’t talk about suicide. We don’t want others to know that we’re breakable, that we’re human. Mental illness is a wrapped with stigma that no one ever addresses. It’s too uncomfortable, perhaps, to let the lights come up and to face the monster revealed to so many of us, but therein also we are shown this reality: We are not alone.
The stigma around mental illness is so thick and the scrutiny- even ridicule- so ruthless that no one will be likely step forward and say “I wish to kill myself today. Maybe it won’t be today. Maybe next week. Take everything from me and lock me up.”
Mental illness sufferers have been taught we are a burden already, that our contribution to the world is irrelevant, that we have no purpose, that our own tomorrow has nothing waiting. That is the lie that mental illness would have us believe. As people, we’re not going to accept being further shamed in front of nurses and doctors or people in group therapy. We’re not particularly eager to invite hospitalization and medications most of us cannot afford. We understand that should we be exposed we would be here unto forever known as the person people/potential friends are warned away from for being a drama queen, an attention seeker. A bad person looking to blame all their misgivings or shortcomings on being sick.
I know sufferers who The stigma around mental illness is so thick and the scrutiny- even ridicule- so ruthless that no one will be like “Why yes, Diane. I wish to kill myself, take everything from me and lock me up.”
Mental illness sufferers believe they are a burden already, that their contribution to the world is irrelevant, that they have no purpose, that their own tomorrow has nothing waiting. It is the lie that mental illness convinces them. They’re not going to accept being further shamed in front of doctors or people in group therapy or invite hospitalization and medications they cannot afford or be here unto forever known as the person people/potential friends are warned away from for being a drama queen, an attention seeker. A bad person looking to blame all their misgivings or shortcomings on being sick.
And I know personally those that have mentioned it to others, reaching out for for a thread of hope, were met with this: “If you were suicidal you would have done it by now.” or “Real suicidal people don’t ask for help or tell anyone.”
If we want to genuinely help stop suicide, we must stop contributing to that stigma and creating a further divide between access to help and the victim requiring it.
I saw an article that said we’re in a suicide crisis. I tilted my head cock-eyed and winced. Where have they been? As a trans survivor who broke free of the chains the world shackled me in as they taught me to hate myself, I see others who didn’t get this lucky every day. Children killing themselves due to merciless bullying, young transgender men and women walking in front of buses, jumping off buildings… people so broken there was no other option than to hit reset, because only in controlling the circumstances of their own death could they find peace at the end of life.
If this is you now, don’t look for the reset button anymore. Pass every exit that looks more inviting than the road unfurling before you. You don’t have to stop living to start over. This moment, living, breathing, can be the first again. No one can rob you of that power- they can only convince you that you don’t have it to begin with. But you do, and it starts, not with a reset, but a first step forward.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1–800–273–8255.
First we have Roseanne Barr, an iconic comedian turned television personality from the late 80’s to the late 90’s. She was heralded by critics as a representative of the everyday working class American. After her show ended, she became a different beast altogether, transforming herself from a public figure the masses could identify with into a hate spewing, alt-right politician- she ran for president in 2012 staging a national campaign- criticizing then-President Barack Obama, jumping on the birther bandwagon, standing outside the White House with a megaphone spouting conspiracy theories that would make Alex Jones look like a level headed philosopher.
Although she barely made a dent in the competitive political field, she wasn’t about to let her world views go unheard. In the following years on twitter, she routinely made casual, disgraceful- even false remarks attacking everyone from Hillary Clinton to Transgender Americans, Muslims and Jewish folks. She would go on racist tangents, appealing to the same base that eventually elected Trump.
Nevermind she dressed up as Hitler, complete with a mustache and Swastika armband while pretending to bake, what she called, “Jew cookies” in a gas over. This is what Roseanne had become. This was the real Roseanne.
It was a little shocking when Sara Gilbert, who had played Roseanne’s daughter, Darlene, in the original series and was now co-host of The Talk, decided it was time for a revival. I guess it seemed the thing to do. Full House did it. Gilmore Girls did it. Why not the beloved hit sitcom “Roseanne,” too. Except this wasn’t the same Roseanne. This was a right wing Trump supporter with terrifying- and aggressive- world views.
Sara Gilbert, an out lesbian married to 4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry, might have just demonstrated poor judgement. Maybe she really needed another job. Maybe she thought Barr could separate herself from her hate parade long enough to return to the glory days of her titular show that defended the underdog, stood up for the underprivileged and held up a mirror in which most struggling Americans saw their own reflection.
She was too far gone. Although the Roseanne revival premiered to record ratings for ABC in a triumphant return, leveraging a token gender fluid child and an interracial marriage to feign a progressive direction. Donald Trump himself called Barr to congratulate her on her high ratings. Yet, it wasn’t even a month before Barr took to her twitter once again, this time to compare former Clinton Aide, Valerie Jarrett, a respected black woman, to an ape.
Internet justice was swift as outrage permeated the conscience of the greater collective, and ABC, whose president is a black woman herself, unceremoniously canceled her show, despite renewing Roseanne for a second season after the debut of just the first episode.
It was the right thing to do. Especially in this era where racism is so unapologetically expressed, much in part thanks to the perceived approval of Donald Trump. Bigots have climbed out of their crevices, suddenly emboldened to brandish torches, display symbols of White Power and parade down main streets of middle America in White Pride marches feeling untouchable.
Barr demonstrated a mere symptom of a disease that is plaguing America. Where once we thought racism had ebbed into the shadows of an archaic minded minority, it has returned with a vengeance- and those who had previously kept their hatred discreet had come out screaming. There is no question it was in retaliation for the nation having just celebrated its first black President… of course, the goal since Trump took office was to immediately erase his legacy as though it were a blemish on white history.
Enter, now, comedian Samantha Bee. We have a lot of Samantha Bee’s if I’m to be honest. There is John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Johnathan Pie, all who offer scathing commentary on the chaos and division that is, unquestionably, the state of American Politics.
However, Samantha Bee, in response to Trump’s extremely controversial anti-immigration policies that have seen children separated from their families, locked up in concentration camp-like shelters and routinely abused by Border Agents, took Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, to task… on the same week that the tone deaf Ivanka shared an instagram photo with her own child, demonstrating the privilege she has, that those suffering immigrants who have lost their children do not. Bee said;
“Ivanka Trump chose to post the second-most oblivious tweet we’ve seen this week. You know, Ivanka, that’s a beautiful photo of you and your child but let me just say, one mother to another: Do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you feckless c*nt! He listens to you!” — Samantha Bee
Suddenly, conservatives were up in arms, demanding Bee experience the same fate as Roseanne and be fired from her network. Except there is one glaring difference in the remarks made by these two comedians.
Roseanne has attacked people based on their gender, sexuality and race.
Bee has never insulted anyone based on any of these factors, and instead was chiding Ivanka for her inaction- albeit rather tactlessly. It wasn’t, however, a hate fueled missile fired at an entire segment of society… and Bee isn’t the only party involved in this story to use that specific word to verbally assault another woman:
That’s the difference. A false equivalency. But Republicans aren’t concerned much with facts, as usual, and instead of considering the context, simply want an eye for an eye. That’s right, they’re more invested in retaliation; In keeping score- even if it means supporting bigotry, rather than losing one of their own.
Why aren’t they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low ratings show? A total double standard but that’s O.K., we are Winning, and will be doing so for a long time to come!
This isn’t altogether unlike the plight of Kathy Griffin, the comedian who took a photograph holding a mock severed head of Donald Trump. Despite her apology, she endured Donald Trump’s form of justice. A three month FBI Investigation, placed on Interpol list, all of her tours canceled by promoters as the entire Trump family leveraged their fan base to attacked her- even sending her gruesome death threats.
Roseanne, however, has been given Trump’s stamp of approval. That’s right. While he has vigorously condemned Bee for insulting his daughter, he has continued to champion Roseanne Barr.
This blatant hypocrisy is something that we’re seeing more frequently than ever before as Republicans selectively choose to publicly castrate their critics and destroy their careers, all while advocating the rampant racism and bigotry from those in their camp who plant their targets firmly- and consistently- on the back of minorities.
The hour long series was the perfect combination of intelligent comedy, poignant drama and charming romance. It was also a directorial masterpiece, with each sweeping scene a moving tableau of visual poetry.
The story itself was, what some might call more of the fantastical fare. A simple, if not altogether awkward Pie Maker discovers he has the ability to bring back the deceased with a simple touch- and if he doesn’t touch them again, sending them back through the pearly gates within 60 seconds, a random someone within close proximity will keel over in exchange. He uses his unique ability in an unusual partnership with a rather enterprising private investigator who leverages the Pie Maker’s abilities to resurrect recently murdered victims so they can discover the identity of their killers, thus, the enterprising duo of investigator and pie maker can collect a handsome reward. It proves a lucrative business, until the lonely Pie Maker discovers the latest murder is that of his childhood sweetheart, Chuck. Once he brings her back, he cannot bring himself to let her go again. The caveat? He can never touch her again. Not a brush of the hand or a kiss on the cheek, but the chemistry between the two is palpable, and you find yourself longing for a happy ending.
Alas, we never got our happy ending. The season finale of the second series left us on a surprising climax that was never resolved as ABC decided to cancel the quirky series, allowing none of the characters- or the audience- any closure.
The show boasted a stellar cast. Lee Pace as the simple Pie Man, Ned, was the man every mother wanted her daughter to marry. Anna Friel was the delightful Chuck, his impossibly sweet and recently resurrected love interest. The legendary Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene portrayed Chuck’s outrageously eccentric, agoraphobic Aunts. The incomparable Kristin Chenowith was Olive Snook, the bubbly, heartsick waitress whose affections for the Pie Maker were unrequited and the incredible Chi McBride was the brilliant and utterly hilarious mastermind who turned what might have been a curse into a profitable business. However unexpected it may have been, onscreen, Pushing Daisies came as close to perfectly manicured, wildly imaginative storytelling as we’ve ever come.
Not a thread of talent was wasted on Pushing Daisies, which even incorporated musical numbers so well placed that it would have made Walt Disney proud. From Ellen Greene singing a rendition of the iconic Cat Stevens song Morning Has Broken as she stands, arms wide open, in a warm summer rainfall to Chenowith’s Olive Snook mopping the floor of the pie shop as she laments with heartbreaking authenticity the Olivia Newton John classic Hoplessly Devoted To You, it seemed certain that Pushing Daisies would go down in the annals of television history as a future classic.
And, for many, it has.
So, why was it unceremoniously cancelled by ABC at the conclusion of the second season? According to executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld (Who, as a sidenote, also brought us such fun outings as The Addams Family Films, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and the Men In Black franchise) he explained the untimely cancellation to the Huffington Post in 2017 like this:
“We were delayed almost a year, so we were never on long enough and consistently enough to build a word-of-mouth. And then the second issue is, I blame our scripts, in that I think they were slightly too cute. I wish they’d had a little bit more plot.” — Barry Sonnenfeld
Pushing Daisies was a show ahead of it’s time. Long before the musical phenom that became Glee or the whimsical, dark Netflix comedy hit Santa Clarita Diet or the flurry of comic book movie adaptations, Pushing Daisies was the pioneer.
The show itself suffered lackluster marketing. While it generated a further embedded fanbase over time, most discovered the series long after it ended leaving more and more viewers wondering just what happened after the season two climax. The executives at ABC didn’t really give it a fair shot. Ratings slumped during the second season after viewers had waited almost an entire year only to pick up where the first had left off. There were no reruns, no opportunities to go back and binge watch the first season for a quick refresher, so the continuation of the story arc felt segmented- practically forgotten.
Over the years, the cast and show creator- the genius that is Bryan Fuller who had previously brought us another death-is-hilarious comedy, Dead like Me and the suburban comedy Wonder Falls– have all expressed their desire to one day see Pushing Daisies revisited. And there is no better time than now.
The terrain of television has changed dramatically in the decade since we prematurely bid adieu to the denizens of the fictional, idyllic town of Coeur d’Coeurs. Streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon and Netflix have dominated traditional television, usurping the tedium of weekly episodes in lieu of offering up entire seasons at once, that you can watch on demand (As I do frequently with Pushing Daises on my old DVD’s.) The increasingly demanding schedule of television- now more encumbered with reality shows than scripted series- makes it difficult to pencil in an hour to lounge in front of your screen to catch the action as it happens. Perhaps this is why showrunners like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy have abandoned weekly episodic entries, the latter in favor of a 300 million dollar Netflix development deal. The industry cannot deny that streaming services have aggregated a much bigger audience than traditional television. Stranger Things, for example, among countless others, only benefited.
We need Pushing Daisies now more than ever. In a heavily politicized climate and the onslaught of daily conflict, the uprising of hate, the emotionally taxing news that inundates us with devastating, depressing news, Pushing Daisies is the blue pill of escapism that we’re begging for.