I’m 32 and also living paycheque to paycheque

I read an article today on #HuffingtonPost titled I’m 37 and living paycheck to paycheck. As I read, I realized how familiar the author’s story was. You see the pressure to go to events to support friends and loved ones is real—even more so during the holiday season. Many of us are just one or two unexpected expenses away from not making it.

This year we had to replace a furnace to the tune of 6000.00. (We DID get a rebate and it decreases our heating costs…but that’s a huge chunk of money that was supposed to be spent over time on other house related things.) Then, we chose to keep the cat that came with our house. This meant that he needed to see a vet pronto and get all his shots, that was 300 bucks…shortly after that appointment he required an emergency visit for dental issues and some other stuff. We decided to try and save him (to the tune of 1200.00). This all happened during a period of time where Olivia was indefinitely laid off from her long-term job and I went back to school for my final year. Our budget was tight! Then, Olivia found some work, but now it’s winter and she’s facing another potential lay off.

Due to the lay off over the summer, my minimum wage job just covered expenses and we were not able to save anything. This is the reality for most folks. What’s more is most folks don’t have the ability to put unexpected expenses on credit. We thankfully did, but now we have balances to pay each month on our already taxed budget.

Please know I’m not sharing this to whine, but for the folks who find themselves in a similar situation. We see you. You are not alone. If all you can do this Christmas season is to tell people how much you love them, please don’t feel guilty. AND if you’re hard up for food, reach out—there are plenty of resources available in Nanaimo where we live (and other communities if you’re not from here), and you can always come to our house for a modest dinner if you live close by. The challenge is to escape the shame of poverty. If so many of us are (or have been) in a similar situation, why are we reluctant to be honest and to access resources available to us?

This year when people ask what we want for Christmas we have two answers. First, we cheekily reply home depot or PetSmart gift cards (because the cat and the house are eating all our money). Second, for those who are closest to us, the reality is we need time with the people we love that has no financial cost…this can even include gas costs. We’d love to come to see you, but we can’t afford the gas bill—we need it to get to work.

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What Makes Me Dangerous

The response to an in-class prompt about people who are endangering the American Dream in the wake of #makeamericagreatagain . Thank you Sonnet L’Abbe for an amazing semester of poetry. Note: my mother is not a hoe–society gave her that label as a single mother, not me.

I’m so dangerous

You don’t even know

I’m in the fast lane

I’m a gay daughter of a liberated hoe

Thinking for myself

Raging against the machine

I’m a beggar of pardons

Where fuck the man is the Queen

 

 

Critical thinking has changed in my lifetime

To thinking critically

Social media feeds angry trolls

With little regard to the damage of words

Yet it is I who is dangerous

With my promotion of equality,

freedom and social justice

I’m dangerous with my dissenting voice

 

Calling bigotry and racism for what it is

Fear mongering and a refusal to accept the truth

We are one humanity but

don’t tell the right winged

Right winged. What a paradox.

Wrong winged is a more accurate term

Ideals that clip society’s wings

Making it unable to soar

Forcing antiprogress that leaves us grounded

In the very nests of hate our predecessors

Fought and died to free us from

How this generation can simultaneously revere

Someone like Lincoln or Nelson Mandela

And loathe everything they stand for

 

It’s the addiction to buzzwords and trending topics

Here I stand dangerously on the edge of unpopularity

Refusing to bend to the overwhelming hate

Throw it all on me and I’ll exchange it for truth

We are one humanity, one Earth, one universe

 

I’m dangerous because I think; thinking leads to change

Change scares people, figuratively and literally

In an age of digital currency

Money still talks, the wealthy still mock the poor

I’m dangerous, leave your tip at the door.

 

THE NIGHT WE PAINTED THE LAND RED


Benjamin Granger. An American.

I sat and stared at the television screen. I was sitting there, on the old familiar couch in my living room, but my mind was somewhere else. All I felt was a strange, disillusionment… and all I saw was red…

Red was the color that ushered in the much-to-soon inevitable end to my freedom. Red was the color that came to tell me I could no longer safely publically be me. Red was the color that told me I could no longer post anything on my Facebook about my sexuality, or anything remotely indicative of my being gay or supporting my own rights without being documented. Red was the color that stole the joy from my heart and replaced it with… I don’t know what. It’s a strange feeling to go from feeling privileged and progressive in one moment, to a slave, a second class citizen, a target of hate, and completely unwanted by a nation, all in one hour.

Thoughts starting racing. My career was over. Why finish school. How could I have a job anymore? Who would hire me? An openly gay male? I’d already come out on Facebook. It was surely already no secret to the government what my sexual predispositions were. In one evening, my plans at being a psychologist, a counselor, and a therapist vanished. My years of study in college were meaningless. My degree was meaningless. In one swift heart-wrenching moment, my thoughts for my future went from writing, research, producing literature, and continuing pursuing my passion and dream of musical compositions, art, and teaching, to one sickening thought; “I have to survive, and I have to escape.”

So this is what it’s like to be a refugee. This is what it feels like to live in hiding. This is what it feels like to be a minority. A true minority. Without recognition. Without privilege. Without rights. Without honor. Without dignity. Without worth to my name. Walking outside to smoke a cigarette was different that day. That man in the truck driving by looking at me… did he know? Was that hatred in his eyes? Was that fear in mine? Was that a gun in his front seat? How could I live like this? In … AMERICA…

America… the land nothing bad ever happens. No one ever gets hurt. No violence. Only freedom. Only liberties. Only privilege. Only wealth and opportunity, education and progressivism. I ceased to exist. Worse, in that stunning moment when the red tide overcame the blue like an unrelenting insatiable sea of anger, I ceased to matter. Never mind that I had a degree. Never mind that I was a musician that could command tears to dance on your face from your eyelids. Never mind that I was a healthy, strong, handsome young man in his prime, able to work and worth his wages in labor. Never mind my potential, my progress, my pedigree, my knowledge, my intelligence, my productivity, my anything. I might as well have had any of it. Never had done any of it. Never been any of it. Never had been anything.

The poorest straight white man with no education, no passion or pursuits, no talents or drive to do anything was worth more than me in this new land that I called, ‘home’, even with all that I am and can be. Because I’m gay. And trump hates gays. My shock turned to anger as my family cheered him on. As people said hurtful things on the internet, and told me I was overreacting and to get over it and stop seeking attention. ‘That’s why people don’t like us to begin with’ they said. ‘Overdramatic attention-seeking homos’. My church spurred it on. Praising Jesus in my midst for the man who told me I was worth nothing. That my marriage was worth nothing. Let my kids figure out where to go when their daddy dies, because dad doesn’t have their same last name. So many things in my head.

“The elections over, just get over it and move on!” “Why do you have to beat a dead horse? Let it be and stop criminalizing and attacking us” they said. I was supposed to just roll over and let them take what was sacred to me, that they took for granted, and then “get over it”… and this is what America thought of me. Where was I going to live? Where was I going to hide until then? What if no country will let me in? What if I’m stuck here… What if…

Are they really going to put us into concentration camps? Surely not! That would never happen in America! Donald trump would never win the election! Donald trump could never get that many votes! Donald trump wasn’t really running for presidential candidate… I’m starting to wonder if my worst fears are yet to be realized. Should I prepare? Or hope?
Shared by permission in the hopes to reach as many as possible–that we might understand, support and rally together. 


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My First Queer Church

Do you know what it’s like to be in a church where there’s only one heterosexual couple? If you’re like most of us, you don’t.

What you probably can relate to is being excluded by the church. Like me, you’ve been refused communion, been refused the opportunity to use your gifts, and just generally not invited to church functions that are not outreach oriented.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend The Lighthouse of Hope Christian Fellowship. I was insecure, skeptical as to what everyone being welcome meant, and was so hurt and broken by the Body of Christ that it seemed easier to avoid new things than take a chance. My friend Tori, a trans woman not that it matters….but let’s face it, it does, invited me for the weekend.img_1434

I was housed by her friend Jack, a trans man who has hand written scripture verses as artwork hanging all over the house. I was able to decompress from the past decade of suppressing my sexuality, be validated and be cared for.

On Sunday, we went for brunch like a bunch of cliche LGBTQ friends….but no, I did not have mimosas.  Then we went to help set up for church. Church happens in an old banquet hall at 4pm every Sunday. It’s a place where the motto is “Everyone is Welcome, and we mean it!”. This phrase is displayed on the overhead projector for all to see, and they really do mean it! There’s people from all walks of life, pets and an online church following. No one singles you out but everyone makes you feel welcome. There’s hugging, worship, prayer and communion.img_1439

Two things from my time at this church brought me to tears and healed my wounded heart for the first time in a very long time.

First, I was invited to play the piano after soundcheck was completed. See, my friend Tori that I mentioned before knew that I used to be a worship leader. She knew that I had been missing that part of my life within the church, and we got there early specifically so that I’d have that opportunity. At first, I felt awkward, and then something beautiful happened. I let my guard down. I played like I hadn’t had a two year break from the piano. I sang from the depth of my soul–from my pain, from my joy of belonging, from my burden of being one of the marginalized at the edge of the church. In those moments, I felt close to God again, I felt his love, I felt that my calling had not changed, and I felt at home.

Second, after listening to Sarah (a trans woman) bring a glorious truth filled word about God’s generosity and obedience in giving–we had communion. As the helpers passed out the wafer and the juice, I watched in awe as there was zero trace of pretence and awkwardness–as we sometimes notice in Contemporary Church. Each member of the congregation was keenly aware of the preciousness of those around them. I began to tear up. Each one of these folks believes that I am perfect as made and perfect in Christ. At no time were we asked to examine our hearts before taking communion. At no time were pet sins mentioned requiring repentance before God as a preemptive deed leading up to the Eucharist.

We were covered by grace, created in the image of God and therefore invited to remember how that good news happened. It was the first time I was invited to participate in communion since April. I didn’t realize how important those rituals, of remembering Jesus together with other believers, were. I didn’t realize how much I was in survival mode. Mostly, I just didn’t realize.

I’m going to go back.

More importantly, I am going to help the same thing to happen here.img_1430

Sexual Harassment is Not a Compliment

Women, and even some men, you’ve likely heard it before. You share an experience with friends that makes you uncomfortable–someone hollering at you on the street, sending you rude unsolicited messages on social media, or sexualizing you. You pour your heart out expecting support, expecting them to be horrified with you, expecting validation and you get something entirely different. Here’s my top three pet peeve responses. Add yours in the comments.

  1. “You should take it as a compliment.”

Should I take it as a compliment when someone I don’t know shouts at me from a moving vehicle while I am on my way to work? How would you feel if you were out with your spouse or child and someone hollered at them? If the response is different than “take it as a compliment”, we have a problem. Somehow it has become freedom of speech to sexually harass people. Cat-calling is not a compliment. It’s dehumanizing. If you want to get to know me and tell me I am beautiful, do just that. If you like my dress, say you like my dress. If you like my hair, say you like my hair. Don’t drive by me shouting “NICE DRESS” from a car. It compromises my safety as I am walking across a street, and it makes me feel objectified in a way casual conversation does not.

2. “Give them some credit, it’s hard to put yourself out there.”

I know it’s hard to put yourself out there. I think about it everyday when I choose what to wear and whether or not to put on make up. For me, and millions like me, our mere leaving the house is putting ourselves out there. It seems that we walk around with targets on our backs and foreheads asking to be objectified. No, I do not want to give you my number. No, it should not be an insult where by expletives are hurled at me. No, I do not want you to tell me over and over how pretty I am until I cave and give into your request. Not only are you making people uncomfortable, you are reinforcing that they are an object for sex and not a person. We want people to want us, not our bodies only. We want to be understood. I have a brain, and the most attractive thing you can do is engage with it.

3. “What were you wearing?”

This is the absolute worst one. IT DOESN’T MATTER. Seriously! Make-up, no make-up, pants, dress, shaved, not shaved—doesn’t matter. I’ve been told I was “asking for it” because I have pink hair, large bust and was in a dress…was I also asking for it when I was wearing sweat pants, a hoodie and a hat? Or perhaps I was asking for it when I was waiting for a bus at 2pm? Perhaps that guy who told me that I “looked like a Lesbian” thought I was asking for it because my hair is short and I have a vagina…but seriously…no one asks for it. The culture of entitlement needs to be stopped. The culture of rape and hyper sexualization needs to be stopped.

Treat humans like humans. If you see someone being obtrusive, speak out. If you’re too uncomfortable to confront them, pretend you’re best friends with the person that they’re abusing. We need to stick together to end the verbal and physical violence against others. I’m not keeping quiet anymore and neither should you.

 

~Cheryl