Monday, October 09, 2017

Vanishing Rights

So yesterday, I got into an argument with someone about what is happening with rights here in America. Gay rights, women’s rights, etc., and I was basically shut down and told that this is America and rights don’t just get taken away. I was told this isn’t a Muslim country and it couldn’t and wouldn’t happen here. But here’s the thing… It is. Happening. Here.

On Friday, October 6, Health and Human Services (HHS) made it way easier for employers to opt out of covering contraception on religious or moral grounds. That means, employers have been given a pass to discriminate against women.  And the White House will back them up. In March, Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order which was primarily meant to help working class women from workplace abuse. Now, women are more vulnerable to sexual harassment. Now we can all grab women by the pussy at work whenever the whim hits.

They have also cracked down on abortion, which means that while a baker can refuse to deliver a cake to a same-sex wedding, a woman should not be allowed to terminate her rape or molestation related pregnancy. Mike Pence wanted to change the definition of rape to include only “forcible rape.” Isn’t that term a bit redundant? He also believes that “the hard truth of our experiment with gender integration [in the military] is that it has been an almost complete disaster for the military and for many of the individual women involved.” Perhaps if the Department of Defense did not make it a point to cover up sexual harassment and assault, and if they not provide $41.6 million (according to the Defense Health Agency) worth of Viagra to the troops, perhaps the gender integration experience might have gone just a bit better. At least for the women involved.  

Moving onto gay issues and the military ban on transgender Americans. This does not affect me directly, but discrimination of any type should not be tolerated. By anyone. I don’t know what it is like to be transgender and I personally don’t understand it, any more than I understand what it is like to be a woman or a person of color, but that is irrelevant. Transgender people are just that, people. We are talking about banning people from serving their country because they were born a certain way? Let’s ban rapists. Let’s ban spouse abusers, child abusers, molesters, white supremacists and people who spread hate and intolerance. I have never understood that way of thinking. When my mom found out I was gay, she said that if I were a murderer, rapist or child molester that I would at least be “normal.” It seems Trump’s administration feels the same way.

This became more obvious when the administration argued in federal court that a 1964 civil rights law does not protect gays, lesbians or transgender people in the workplace. The law, Title VII, outlaws discriminating against workers “because of sex.” It now seems ok for me to be treated as less than a second-class citizen just because of who I have sex with. In the privacy of my own home. With the curtains drawn. And the door locked. Of course, this can’t happen here, in America, but I think someone forgot to tell that New York Skydiving company who fired an employee for being gay.

Last month, the Department of Justice backed the rights of a baker to not make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage between two men. The baker didn’t want to do it because it went against his religious or moral beliefs, yet I am going to assume the man has provided services to adulterers, liars, thieves, worshippers of false gods, people who take the Lord’s name in vain, people who have coveted their neighbors wife and those guilty of any number of transgressions that the baker should probably smite instead of offering them baked goods. I’m fine if someone wants to make decisions based on their religious or moral beliefs, and if they don’t want to make a cake for my wedding, I’m cool with that. I am happy not to fork over my money, but they do not get to pick and choose which moral and religious beliefs they will stick to while ignoring others because they are not convenient to that person’s lifestyle. My step dad was one of those people. Go to church, pray, smile, gossip about what people are wearing and then go home and beat the children.

Pence and Trump also threw their support behind Roy Moore, a Republican candidate from Alabama who has said “homosexual conduct should be illegal” and who Trump describes as “a really great guy.” Again no surprise as the Vice President has long been open about his views on gays. He has stated that being gay was a choice – for the record, being gay is not a choice, but being narrow-minded and spreading a hate filled agenda is – and he stated “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.” So my relationship is bringing this country down. But then, Pence also believes that “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” This is a man that wants to defund HIV and AIDS programs to “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Let’s remember, the deviant sexual behavior he believes needs to be changed is same-sex sex. Not molestation sex. Not rape sex. Not abuse of power sex. But same-sex sex.

On September 1st, Trump nominated James Bridenstine to be the next Administrator of NASA. Bridenstine has stated “many studies have shown that both a mother and father are essential for raising successful and healthy children.” Not only does he attack same-sex parent families, he goes after single parents, grandparents raining their grandchildren and any other family that does not fit into his outdated picture of what that should look like. There is no typical family anymore. And the fact that someone believes my son is better off in the foster system or in an abusive mom/dad family than with us is beyond repulsive. But the good news is that none of that happens here in America. He also lacks any formal qualification in science or engineering. And he rejects the scientific community when it comes to climate change, but that is a whole other topic.

In 2017, Karen Handel was elected to the US Congress and when asked about same-sex couples adopting, stated “I have to honest – my faith calls me to a different place on the issue.” So in other words, she is openly against same-sex couples adopting and with all the rest, against my family.
While I know this is America and there is no way my rights can be repealed, lessened, taken away or eroded in any way, these things are cause for concern. And for anyone who thinks these things don’t apply to them because they are outside a certain demographic or group, think again. It won’t stop there. Today, gay people are the easy target. We are visible and for some reason, we scare some people. I don’t know why.

The thing that scares me is that it never stops “there,” wherever “there” is. And the target shifts as time moves on. Black people. Women. Native Americans. Mexicans. Chinese. Jews. Muslims. Wait and do nothing long enough, and eventually you will become a target as well. And you too can know the joys of having your rights whittled away while those around you tell you that you are being silly and overreacting. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Long Goodbye

My friends, family and anyone who reads this blog knows I have a challenging relationship with my mom. My mom is a person who, for whatever reason, has chosen to fill her life with anger and resentment. For the past thirty years, I have tried reasoning, arguing, pushing, distancing and incorporating every communication model and method I could get my hands on. Nothing changed except my levels of hope and frustration. I always held hope that one day, somehow, something would happen and my mom would see all the opportunities for joy she has in her life. I held hope for her to be the mom I always wanted and needed her to be. I wished for her to embrace my nephews and also my son. She has repeatedly chosen not to. I have watched her push away friends and other family. I have been witness to her unleashing the most hateful and hurtful words on people I love. She has directed those hateful words to me as well. When my mom found out I was gay, she told me that I would ‘get AIDS and die and go to hell because that is what I deserved.” That is one of the milder statements to come from my mom.

And still, I held hope. People told me to give up and I didn’t listen. I would call or visit her for an hour and then need days to detox from the experience. For over two decades, I have been struggling with what to do. I turned it all inward, examining what I could do or say differently. I have come to realize what others in my life have known for some time. There is nothing I can do differently. My mom is making her choices.

Three days before this past Christmas, I stopped by her house for a visit. As always, I hoped Christmas would soften her just a little and as always, I ended up being surprised when it was the same experience that keeps repeating itself. I chose to stay quiet while my mom delivered her well rehearsed monologue for over an hour, berating me for being a bad person, a selfish and self-centered son who treats her as though she were garbage. I left that day and again, it was almost a week before I felt like me again. My entire life, I have watched her drive people away. Her best friend, her daughter, my niece and anyone else who comes into her life.

Just over a week ago, I received an email from her. The first line apologized for the last visit. I felt my hope rise as it always has. The rest of the email was full of the resentment, anger and hate that has come to define my mom. In the email she states that I have the characteristics and traits she hates in people. In that instance, I made a very difficult decision I had been battling for over two decades. Thursday evening I took a deep breath, exhaled and severed my relationship with her.

I feel both sad and relieved. I still hold hope that one day she will have that epiphany and chose for happiness, joy and family and at the same time, I also know that I can’t have her in my life in any capacity at this time.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saying Yes... Again...

March 7, 2009. I wrote and published a blog post titled Just Say Yes.You can read the post for yourself if you like, but basically it was about the decision to say yes to possibilities. At some point, I moved away from saying yes and moved toward maybe or perhaps later. From there it was only a matter of time until I heard myself saying no and then later, I can’t. I have said I can’t so many times. Too many times. I have said it aloud. I have said it to myself. I have put it on a loop and let it become my mantra. I can’t became a blanket. It felt safe. Safe is good. I’ve had a stroke. That is when I can’t started. I can’t walk. I can’t type. I can’t stand on one foot. I can’t run. I can’t (insert something here. I probably said that too!)

I can’t didn’t stop there. It started oozing into other areas of my life. I can’t be fit. I can’t be happy. I can’t be a good dad. I can’t be me. Me? In many ways, I have forgotten who I am. I shelved myself.

I became the partner.
I can’t be me. 
I became the business trainer and counselor.
I can’t be me. 
I became the dad.
I can’t be me. 

In between being a partner, dad and my job, I had absolutely no time to be me. I also didn’t even realize I had completely packed away who I was to be what was needed. I needed to be a good partner. I still do and I think I am. I also need to be a good dad. I think I do an OK job there. I enjoy my job. I’m very good at it. I have a great reputation. Robb knows. Robb can do it. Robb is the guy. I love the compliments. I love the trust people have in me. And at the same time, they have trust in a version of me. Me, and yet not me.

Just over a week ago, I hit a wall. I felt confined and suffocated. It wasn’t really triggered by anything and yet it was everything. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I started to feel scary things. Thing that were tinted with, I hesitate to even type it out now…

I love my family. I take great pride in my family. My family means the world to me. Ryder is the greatest love of my life. Ever. And yet, there it was. It wasn’t even really there. It was more like when you have a dream and you know someone is there even though you never actually see them. You just feel their presence. Yes, there it was, lingering just outside the edge of the picture. Resentment. When that word popped up in my head, it was shocking. It was scary. It was shaming.

How could I have that feeling when I am so in love with my family? My husband?  My son? My awesome-sometimes-frustrating-always-fantastically-perfect-just-as-he-is-son? It was a horrifying revelation. And since I have a very vivid and active imagination, I immediately projected decades into the future and saw how my whole family had fallen apart and John hated me, Ryder was in jail and I was miserable and alone and it all started at that moment. The moment I let my family down. The moment that slight tinge of resentment came into my life. Our lives.

Years ago, I was doing business with a company in Seattle. It was on a training visit that I got meet Deli and Halley. I had spoken to Deli many times on the phone and every word she said would sing through the phone with such authenticity, passion and so full of, well, Deli. Before meeting her, she became one of my favorite people. I loved her calls. She had me at hello, putting my spirits in a good place. I met her wife, Halley on that visit in Seattle. We spent a brief amount of time together and since then, we have always stayed in touch in that Facebook sort of way, liking updates, commenting here and there and then having the occasional conversation in Messenger. One thing I have come to LOVE about the universe or life or whatever name you want to give it, is when I can look back at seemingly insignificant moments and see those moments as the first steps toward something yet to be.

Halley and Deli have both been AMAZING sounding boards and my go-to people when parenthood rears it's overwhelming head. I knew Halley had been working on a book. Life, Incorporated: A Practical Guide to Wholehearted Living. I actually pre-ordered it months ago and it landed in my hands the morning following my resentment meltdown/revelation. I was still reeling from the shame and shock of it all when I opened to read the first few pages during a break at work. I was stunned. It was like Halley had channeled me. One of the first things she talks about, is the bullshit term of work-life balance. How we have so many places where we spend our energy. So many buckets to fill. Work. Marriage. Family. Me-Time. You get the point. Halley goes on to talk about how we attend to each one on an as-needed basis often times never getting to the Me-Time bucket. That was me. Ryder needs me more than anyone. And I gladly and freely give him my time. Time with him is my favorite time in the world. Even when I am at the end of my frustration rope, he is still my favorite person. His nose makes me smile. It would make you smile too. It’s so small and covered in freckles. He hates the freckles. I think they are spectacular! Anyway, Halley then goes on to talk about how, when she and Deli had their son, how she threw everything into being a mom and provider. And nothing into just being Halley.

I looked around for the cameras. Had she been watching me? Watching my life? I was only a few pages in and already I knew the reason for my meltdown. I had no Me-Time. ME-time. Not getting Ryder to bed so I could be alone for two minutes before dozing off to sleep time. I mean the Me-Time that charged my batteries. Fed my spirit and gave me joy. The Me-Time that let me be Robb. Just Robb. Not Robb the dad – although that is my favorite label! Not Robb the husband. Just Robb. I realized I had not only been neglecting the Me-Time bucket, I had put myself in a box and sealed it with duct tape. Not cool duct tape. Plain, boring, gray duct tape. I neglected and ignored myself. It was making me cranky. It was making me less patient. It was making me wade into the swamp of resentment and that was one place I definitely did not and do not want to be.

As much as I was loving Halley’s book, something was wrong. Something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I set the book down for a few days to let things simmer and to see what would emerge. Enter Cindy. Cindy is one of the people I have been so blessed to know these past two years. I don’t get to see her as often as I would like. She lives about a two-hour drive away in St. George, Utah. But, she was in Vegas this weekend and we had lunch yesterday. As always, the conversation was wonderful and her energy infectious. I told her about Life, Incorporated and the epiphanies I had already in the first few pages of the book. Conversation drifted and "Year of Yes", by Shonda Rimes came up. I had seen it. I never read it. Cindy has. We talked about Christina Yang. Christina was my favorite character on Grey’s Anatomy. When Christina left the show, so did I. Inwardly, I am a lot like Christina Yang. I related to her more than anyone on the show. Something in me decides I need to read that book. Now. Before I read anything else. Before I finish Life, Incorporated.

I bought the e-book and the audio book just before leaving work and started it up as soon as I got in my car. Within a couple of hours, between the audio and e-book, I was over half way through the book. I realized what was missing when reading Life, Incorporated. I was reading saying maybe, possibly, and a few other things. But I wasn’t saying yes. I realized I could read that book all I wanted to, but like anything, if I didn’t say yes, it wasn’t going to do anything.

Like I did all those years ago, I decided I am going to say yes. Not just to possibilities, but to things that scare me - thanks Shonda – To things that will fill me with joy – Thanks Halley – To things that will make me a better dad and a better husband. I am going to say yes to Me-Time. I will say yes to playing more games. Playing more in general. Yes to being silly. Yes to being a badass. Yes to being me. And yes to saying no to I can’t.

Now I am off to restart Life, Incorporated. Because… Yes!



Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Unwanted Reality

The shock of the election results is slowly fading away and I find myself moving from a place of disbelief and disappointment to outright anger. I am not angry that Hillary lost, I am angry that Trump won. There are other republicans I wouldn’t have minded so much. I have watched this election bring out the worst in so many people. So many people I love and call family. I have tried to stay out of the negative rhetoric, respecting everyone’s right to a different opinion. The election is over, but the negativity has not stopped. It has increased. Hate crimes have gone up. Trump winning the election means that sexual aggression toward women is OK. Being a racist and/or making racist slurs is OK. Bullying is OK. Hate is OK. Marginalizing entire groups of people is OK. All of that behavior was validated with votes.

I am angry that since the election, I have been living in ever-increasing fear of what this all might mean. What it might mean for me and my family. I’m angry that my family and I face an uncertain future. A future where we don’t even know what rights we will have. If we will even be able to be or stay married. Or keep our jobs. Or enjoy the basic liberties and freedoms that other people in this country do. I’m angry that John and I are on edge. I’m angry that Ryder knows something is in the air and it makes him scared and nervous. I’m angry that John and I have had to talk about what we will do if or when things escalate. Will we need to leave the country to protect our family? Will we need to basically become refugees from a country that was founded by people fleeing religious persecution? I’m angry that all the people who voted for Trump believe that my family, my rights, my life, is less than theirs. I know they are happy and think I should suck it up and get over it. I have seen the posts on Facebook telling me to do just that. But their rights and their families are not on the line.

In less than 72 hours after getting elected, Trump has pulled people into his inner circle that have definite anti-gay motives. And anyone who says they didn’t see that coming needed to look no further than his running mate, Mike Pence. During an October interview with James Dobson, host of the wildly homophobic Focus on the Family, which you can listen to here, Mike Pence assured his interviewer and his supporters that any progress made toward protecting LGBTQ rights under President Obama will be swiftly undone under President Trump. Issue by issue, he asserted over and over again a plan to marginalize and invalidate an entire group of citizens, including me and my family, whom he is about to lead as vice-president. 

Trump has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), if passed by congress. If he does, it will legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination across the board, including among employers, businesses, landlords and healthcare providers, as long as they claim to be motivated by firmly held religious beliefs. In March of 2015, Pence signed the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act into law while he was governor of Indiana.  

Trump’s domestic policy advisor, Ken Blackwell, spoke to the Columbus Dispatch when he was a candidate for the Ohio governorship, and stated that being gay is a sin, a lifestyle that can be changed and something that can be cured. On his 2000 campaign website, Mike Pence wrote “Congress should support the reauthorisation of the [HIV funding] Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.”

Other members of the Trump transition team cited as red flags by the Human Rights Campaign are former Attorney General Ed Meese, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who has said same-sex marriage “shows how the culture has deteriorated over two centuries,” and former U.S. Office of Personnel Management chief Kay Cole James, who in her book “Transforming America from the Inside Out,” compared gay people to drug addicts, alcoholics, adulterers, or “anything else sinful.”

On their blog, the National Organization for Marriage commits to working with Trump’s administration to:
  • Nominate conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and inevitably reverse the ruling of the Supreme Court imposing same-sex ‘marriage’ on the nation. The quotes around marriage are theirs, not mine.
  • Rescind over-reaching executive orders and directives, including the dangerous “gender identity” directives.
  • Pass the First Amendment Defense Act. As I mentioned previously, Trump has already pledged to sign
Anyone who thinks my rights or the rights of my husband, child and family are not going to come under scrutiny and quite possibly get reversed has their head in the sand. His choices are clearly showing that is one of his administration’s big priorities.

I know I have friends and family that are happy for a Trump victory, and that is something I am having a very hard time dealing with and accepting. I am not less of a citizen. I am not less of a human. My family is not less than anyone else’s. My son is not less deserving of a safe and secure family than his friends. My relationship is not less than yours. My life is not less than Trump, the people in his administration and the people that voted for him believe.

People have the right to vote for whoever they chose. It is one of the things that make our country great. But one person’s vote should not cost the rights of another.

This is going to take some time.

This is going to take a very long time.