Politics

Yes, I Belong in the Rainbow

Yep…I’m coming out, folks. At 41 years old. I am a bisexual woman, and I’m married to a cishet man, who has always known my identity.

For years I have kept my sexuality under wraps. From my mother, regardless that she was my best friend, from my father, from pretty much everyone except those closest to me. I mean, when I came out of the broom closet to my mother and told her I’m pagan, her response was pretty much that the only thing that would stop me from going to Hell is having a good heart. Imagine what she’d have said if I told her I am bisexual!

When Prop 8 was going through the voting process in California, my mother was one of those who was misinformed about what was happening in schools in the state. She was under the false impression that schools were forcing children to learn about homosexuality, etc. And I heard her say some very hurtful things, not knowing her daughter has always been bisexual.

Other family members know some other people in my family who are transgender, gay, etc., and STILL say absolutely appalling things demanding they should not have the same rights as straight white people. Again, I chose to remain silent. And it made no sense for me to do so, because I couldn’t even get those family members to accept me as I am without revealing my secret. What a joke.

And then I hear some within the LGBTQIA+ community telling other bisexual men and women that we’re not part of the community. We’re outliers. And they’re wrong. Bisexual women and men are part of this community the same as gay, transgender, queer, and asexual people are. We do belong in the rainbow with you.

I remember during the 2016 election that people I know were speaking hatefully of the LGBTQIA+ community. My community. My aunt’s community. My friends’ community. My lovers’ community. Them not knowing of my sexuality didn’t help because I heard their honesty in what they thought about people like me. “Bisexuals aren’t gay. They can’t decide what they are…” etc., etc. Well, I can assure you, I am equally attracted to women as I am to men. I have no preference to either. I have dated and loved women as I have men. I married my husband because I love him, he knows who I am, and he understands me in a way most don’t. But I am still bisexual. I am still attracted to women. And I always will be. It’s who I am.

So, for people who are on my feed, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, what have you…every time you speak ill of the LGBTQIA+ community, not only do you speak ill of my friends and my family, you are speaking ill of me. And if you think I don’t or shouldn’t have the same rights as you or you think of me as less human as you, then I honestly don’t know how we can remain friends. And at this point, after what I have seen and heard from some of you, it’s probably better that way.

I am proud of who I am. My only regret was not coming out sooner. That while I was voicing my support of those in the community, I didn’t come out myself. It’s my own bit of hypocrisy, and today I am fixing that.

I’m out. I’m bisexual. And I’m a mother. And if/when my daughter comes out, I will stand behind her and support her 100%. Because love is love, and when she is older, I hope she is able to find the love of someone regardless of their gender or sexuality.

Happy Pride Month to my Rainbow Family. I love you all.

-xoxo

No, the Trump Effect is Not Abstract. It is Directly Affecting My Family.

I promised I’d write a blog about this issue. I was also personally encouraged by my Congressman, Paul Tonko, yesterday morning to publicly speak to this issue.

I am the wife of an Air Force veteran. He is an Iraq War veteran. I am also a former federal employee of the Air Force. Clearly, we both love the Air Force and our military as a whole. We understand the sacrifices our military members (and, yes, their spouses) make in serving our country.

Because of the sacrifices they make, and the fact they volunteer to fight, kill, and die on behalf of us, the entire U.S., and our allies, our veterans receive compensation in many forms. Basic Housing Allowance (BHA), allowances to help pay for utilities, etc.

One of the biggest forms of compensation our veterans receive is the GI Bill—whether Montgomery or Post-9/11. These bills pay for the education of our service members so they can rank up in the military and become leaders, or so they can transition into the civilian sector when they separate or retire.  It’s an incredibly useful and worthwhile incentive.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill also allows a housing stipend for its users. My husband is one of many veterans who benefits from this stipend. He is attending university with a major in Political Science. He works for the State of New York in state politics. This degree will help him progress in his civilian career. And he earned it.

When I was a stay-at-home-mom (I rejoined the workforce this year), the housing stipend was the majority of our monthly rent. It helped us survive. Even after I started working again this year, it paid the majority of our rent. It was a huge help especially after me not working for so long so I could stay with our daughter through her formative years. But staying home did set us back a bit. We would have drowned without his GI Bill.

We ARE drowning without his GI Bill.

We haven’t received his housing stipend in four months now. And he is still actively in school. Not only that, they have now stopped sending his monthly disability payment. Because of some debt they’re unable to verify he has.

They stopped his monthly payments because of a debt they can’t find or justify.

Why?

We were informed today by the Congressional aid helping us with this issue that she FINALLY got a hold of someone directly at the VA, but they still couldn’t answer the question.

They are STILL assigning case workers from MARCH of this year. MARCH!

So, in addition to yanking his monthly stipend and disability for a debt they don’t know about (we were told at one point it was because his school didn’t file the paperwork the VA needed. The school had no idea what they were talking about and have been sending his info as required each semester. Now the VA says they don’t know what the debt is), they don’t even have a case worker assigned to it FOUR MONTHS LATER to get it sorted out.

In the meantime, we have fallen back again because 100% of our rent is now coming out of our own pockets. This is normally fine because that’s what you do in the civilian world. But it’s NOT fine because the VA is failing to provide the benefits our service members were promised.

And we are not the only family with a veteran who is experiencing this problem in our Congressman’s district. So, we are certainly not the only family in New York State. Nor are we the only family in the United States. There are other families going through this. Having their financial situations uprooted, and possibly even obliterated, because the VA is failing to provide the guaranteed funding to their education and housing stipends that were part of their contract in signing on the dotted line.

My theory?

This is a direct result of the Trump administration and its inability to do pretty much anything in government.

Folks, this is what happens when you elect a (failed) businessman and not someone with government, political, or military background. You get someone wholly unqualified.

Trump’s nominee, and now Secretary of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Dr. David Shulkin, was an undersecretary in the VA, so does have some knowledge of how the VA works and what is required of them. So, what is happening in the VA that is financially crippling some of our vets?

Is it because Dr. Shulkin doesn’t have as much grasp on the job as one would hope of an undersecretary?

Or is it because he is heading a federal agency and reports directly to a president who has repeatedly denigrated our veterans, ignored our active duty members, and is a political neophyte?

Is Shulkin aware this is happening? Is he doing anything about it?

Or…is this happening because of the instability in Washington as a result of an administration led by a man-toddler who throws tantrums and threatens nuclear war on Twitter on the regular? Because the country is “led” by someone whose only consistency is in how often he changes his mind and how often he blows his top.

Don’t you think that may affect the morale of our federal appointees? Which may affect the morale (and job performance) of the people who work in any given agency?

The effects of this administration are not some abstract concept we read about in newspapers. The effects of this administration are REAL. In so many ways. The inability of the current occupant of the White House to actually govern and organize is literally creeping into the homes of Americans at every level.

My family is just one example. There are many more.

So, what are we supposed to do? There’s no solution in sight for this issue. It’s no longer an income we can count on. And it has really hurt us. We have bills to pay. We have one car and it needs repairs. We can’t do that now. Because the money that would have allowed us to do that is now going to rent because the VA isn’t sending his stipend anymore. And we’re still not sure on the reason why. And they won’t give us an answer. Nor will they give our Congressman a direct answer.

So, Trump…what are you going to do to help my family?

My bet is he’ll do what he was going to do from the beginning: nothing.

I just wish other people weren’t blind to what his goals were and still are.

We are all suffering for it now. And it is why I take votes for Trump from people I know so personally.  Because their votes affected my family’s life, and not for the better.

-NY Political Mom

Finding My Hope in Chaos

I’ve been engaged in discussions with a couple of people today. I also have to thank Pastor John Paplovitz for his post from April 24th that I read today.  My discussions and Mr. Paplovitz’s post inspired me to lay out some of what I’ve been feeling and thinking recently.  And for the last 7 months.

I, like millions of others, have been reeling from November 8th’s election results.  I haven’t written anything regarding the election or the state of affairs in Washington D.C.  I suppose I have just been so overwhelmed by everything that has been happening since then and especially after Inauguration Day.

From the “Muslim Ban,” to the repeal of the ACA, to our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, to the rollback of Civil Rights in our Justice Department, to daily updates of Russia’s interference in our election and the current administration’s likely participation in it, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the turn our country has taken.

We currently have a national Republican Party who is happy to sit idly by while the occupant of the Oval Office works hard to dismantle the very foundations upon which our country was built.  They still attempt to blame Hillary Clinton’s e-mail “scandal” for what a Republican administration is doing in obstructing justice and attempting to subvert our constitution.

So, it’s easy to feel exhausted.  To feel depressed. To feel hopeless.  Except…

I work for a state legislator.  I read and listen to various communications every day from constituents.  Conservative and Liberal alike.  Among Conservative constituents, there is a lot of communication regarding refugees and our status as a sanctuary state (“We don’t want refugees.  They’re a waste of money. Why should my tax dollars go to someone who is a coward for fleeing their own country.” Seriously…).  Similarly, there is a lot of communication from Liberals on the same topic (“Please add MORE money to the budget for refugees. We’re not doing enough. They’re new here and scared and don’t know what will happen.  We have to help them.”)

The differences between the communications of each are very clear.

Reading and listening to such communications can be exhausting.  It’s easy to become jaded and cynical after reading so much hateful rhetoric every day.

Other times, it can be incredibly heartbreaking.  I recently read a letter from a family member of a child who was murdered.  I also read letters from numerous victims of childhood sexual assault. I would be lying if I told you I have never sat at my desk and cried at some of these communications.

So, today was a day I began to feel overwhelmed again.  And sad. And helpless. And then…

And then.

I remembered where I work.  The other things I see on a daily basis.

I see all of these communications from constituents turned into action.  I see literally THOUSANDS of emails on single pieces of legislation. Legislation that didn’t exist at the beginning of the legislative session this year.  Legislation that was introduced a mere 3 weeks ago. I saw those voices literally move brand new legislation through our system in a matter of weeks, to pass both houses of our Legislature and end up on our Governor’s desk to be chaptered.

I have seen legislation that had some support, but gained STRONG support after thousands of constituents wrote in about it.  Hundreds of phone calls as well.

This.  This is what gives me hope.

For everything happening in our country right now with lies, hateful rhetoric, and what I equate to attempted murder with the attempted repeal of the ACA, there IS good.  At the national and at state levels.

Sure, the day after the inauguration, we saw millions of women and allies show up around the world to protest a Commander in Chief who has no qualms with sexual assault.

We recently had the March for Science and March for Truth.

And these marches are necessary.

But what REALLY gives me hope is the action I see every day at the state level.  I see every day hundreds and thousands of people banding together for common causes.  They make a difference.

So. Do. You.

We all do.

Our voices matter.

So, while we simultaneously despair and work our tails off to make a difference nationally, we must do the same for our states. Whichever state that may be. That is where we can make huge strides in changing laws and outcomes. This is where we can start making changes more immediately.

In a nation where our immediate and distant future is unknown and on such brinkmanship, we cannot forget to pay attention to what is happening in our state.  And that is where our battle should begin.

Why I Changed from #BernieorBust to #GirlIGuessImWithHer

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For the past year, I have been actively and vocally supporting the Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, and his presidential campaign.

I have given money, campaigned for him, and become involved in local politics as well as various Bernie Sanders support groups. I helped organize a March for Bernie in Albany on the day of the National March 4 Bernie. Three media outlets from Albany showed up for us. And I spoke so very passionately for him and against Hillary Clinton.

I have been an active and vocal critic and dissident of Hillary Clinton. I do not like most of her politics, and I do not completely trust her.

I was part of the #BernieorBust movement. And I was so very set in my decision. And now I’ve made my final decision of this election cycle.

Now that my anger from the primary results and the DNC’s now widely-known but always suspected suppression of Sanders’ campaign has subsided and I’ve licked my wounds and grieved.

I am begrudgingly voting for Hillary.

First, let me preface this by saying you don’t have to agree, and I will not argue. Belittling, berating, and bullying will not change my mind. That said, I will do the same for you if you vote for Jill Stein, etc. I support your right to choose your vote according to your conscience. And I agree with much of why you are all choosing to support Stein. I get it, I do.

Hear me out.

Why did I change from #BernieorBust to #GirlIGuessImWithHer? Simply put: because of Jane Sanders.

Yes, I said Jane Sanders.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Titled Jane Sanders: Why Bernie Sanders Supporters Shouldn’t Get Over It, Jane said:

“He’s not going to win the presidency, we’ve known that since June 7th [the day of the last big primaries, in California and New Jersey], but we had to do as much as we possibly could on the issues to honor all of the work that so many people have done, and that we did. So that’s why I say it’s a bit of a relief now — now we can move to the next chapter.

How granular did those discussions with the Clinton campaign get?

Very, very, very. This is not conceptual at all. It’s policy. Where is the money coming from? How are we going to do it? All of it is in stone. It’s good.

We understand that we earned their support and their trust. Now Hillary Clinton has to earn their support and their trust. And we will hold [the Clinton campaign] accountable because we are endorsing her. We are that much more committed to making sure [she follows through on her promises], instead of saying, Oh, it’s politics as usual, people change. We’re not going to let that happen. Not without a big fight, if anything. If the Democratic Party starts backing away from the platform, ever, we will fight like crazy to support the work that all of these millions of people did.”

As a hard-core believer in Bernie’s platform, it’s important to at the very least have a Democrat in the White House. Otherwise, his platform within the DNC’s current platform (which is 80% of Bernie’s platform, BTW) is null. With Trump in office, that platform is obsolete. With Hillary in office, Bernie and WE can keep the pressure on her to abide by that platform.

Bernie stayed in the race for leverage for the DNC to adopt his platform.   He risked his political career for us. For his platform. I owe him the dignity of keeping his platform on the table. And I owe down-ticket candidates the same. I will fight for those candidates and Bernie’s platform in every way I can. By voting down-ticket candidates into office, they and I can hold Hillary accountable to Bernie’s platform. If Trump is in office, there is simply no hope of that happening. And this is why we ALL need to be sure to support our local Berniecrats.

And if Bernie and Jane fight when/if the platform is challenged the way they fought for all of us this election cycle, I am confident the platform will stay in place. And as I did from the first day Bernie announced his campaign and candidacy, I have faith in him.

All that said: I will be working between elections on helping build up third party options.  I still firmly believe that the two-party option in American politics is dangerous and antiquated.  I encourage you to help in strengthening third party options in this country.  To help dismantle the two-party system that has so thoroughly corrupted our nation’s politics.

I also encourage you to help with Bernie’s continuing movement at Our Revolution, which will help recruit, train, and fund candidates running on Bernie’s platform.  Also look into The Sanders Institute, which will also help the movement stay in motion.

It is important that we continue to work to change our political landscape.  Until then, we have to work with the system we have while we work to create the system we deserve.