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Everybody Has a Pulse

Last year, I chose to return to undergrad for the upteenth time in order to pursue my Bachelors of Arts degree in Communication. I can now say with excitement that I am just four courses away from graduation. Last week, I turned in my final project for my Media Writing class. The project was a “feature story” that would be published in a magazine. I chose to write about the Pulse Nightclub and coming out. To memorialize the lives that were lost and directly impacted one month ago today, I have chosen to post my final project at the approximate time it all began with little editing (that’s why my citations are in APA style).

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On June 12, 2016, hundreds of people filled the Pulse Nightclub, a bar that catered to the LGBTQ community. The patrons checked their worries and stressors at the door. They were there to let loose, to be among friends, and to dance the night away. Most importantly, they were there to live. Pulse wasn’t any ordinary nightclub. It was a place of empowerment, solidarity, and it was a refuge for so many people that felt the world didn’t understand them. In the early hours of that Sunday, a gunman entered Pulse armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and opened fire inside. Pulse Nightclub was the latest location of the mass shooting epidemic that has plagued the United States for the last couple of decades. 49 people would ultimately perish, with 53 more injured, becoming the deadliest shooting in American history, and the worst attack against the LGBTQ community in the United States. As the names, ages, pictures and stories of the victims began to be released, many people were drawn to the heartbreaking story of Juan Guerrero and his partner Christopher Leinonen. They were planning their dream wedding together. Ultimately, their lives were cut short, but their families knew the undying love they had for one another. Instead of the dream wedding, their families were planning a joint funeral (Merchant, Johnson & Webber, 2016). As everyone was reeling in the pain and sadness of the massacre at Pulse Nightclub, those within the LGBTQ community were having a harder time coping with the tragedy. Juan’s story resonated with so many that identify as LGBTQ. He came out of the closet to his family in recent years. He feared they wouldn’t accept him; a fear many LGBTQ individuals face everyday.

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At 22 years old, Juan Guerrero had been with his partner, Christopher Leinonen, 32, for three years. Guerrero worked as a telemarketer, but had recently started taking college courses at Central Florida University. He had only recently come out to his family, fearing he wouldn’t be accepted. Not only did Juan’s family accept him, but they also revered Christopher Leinonen as a family member (Merchant, Johnson & Webber, 2016).

The fears of coming out that Juan Guerrero had were common. Sexual orientation encompasses a person’s sense of identity, which is referred to as being how an individual feels, what they call themselves, and whom they want to share their life with and have an intimate relationship (Perrin-Wallqvist & Lindblom, 2015, p 467-468). The Human Rights Campaign notes that 26 percent of LGBT youth state their biggest problems include the feeling of not being accepted by their families, trouble at school and bullying, and a fear to be out and open (HRC, 2016). Heatherington and Lavner (2008) state that when a gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual person chooses to come out to family members, it is an important psychological decision and is a major obstacle in the mind of people that identify as LGBTQ. They often fear the negative consequences that can come from coming out to family, including being kicked out, or losing financial or emotional support from their families, and take those issues into consideration prior to and during the coming out process (as cited in Perrin-Wallqvist & Lindblom, 2015, p 468). Many of the victims at Pulse on June 12 lived with those fears.

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There was a report about one victim that had not been claimed by his family. A father was so ashamed of his son’s homosexuality that he refused to claim his body. He lost his life in an unfathomable way, but his father was still too ashamed to say “He is mine,” (Keneally & Lantz, 2016). Another story that gripped national headlines was about Brenda McCool, a mother of 11 that loved to dance, especially with her gay son that she was so proud of. In an effort to save her son’s life, she shielded him from the gunfire. Brenda was a hero, and stood up to the gunmen to symbolically proclaim that “He is mine” (Summers, 2016, para 20).

 

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Whether you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, have a family member, or a friend that identifies as such, know that there is nothing wrong with being gay, nor does anything change. The lives that were lost that night are no less a person’s child than before they were brutally murdered. The coming out process isn’t a cookie cutter. While the process isn’t unique, each situation and story is unique. Coming out experiences can fall into several different categories from planned discussions to spontaneity. Coming out stories aren’t limited to the list provided here, but in part, Manning (2015) classifies coming out as “the pre-planned conversations,” “emergent conversations,” and “confrontational conversations,” (p 127 & 131). The pre-planned conversation, which is likely the most common way of coming out of the closet for an LGBTQ individual, is the conversation in which the person has made a previous conscious decision to reveal their sexual orientation. Juan Guerrero likely used this method to come out to his family. Emergent conversations occur when the topic of homosexuality come up during the natural flow of conversation, and the closeted LGBTQ individual reveals their sexuality during the evolution of this discussion. It’s common for parents to sift through their child’s belongings. Parents may feel it’s necessary to do this in order to ensure their children are not endangering themselves through the people they hang around with, that they are involved in drugs, or engaging in other illegal activity. During this process, parents may discover their children may be gay. The parents discover this through reading notes and letters, or overhearing phone conversations. In these situations, parents describe themselves as being angry, while their children feel betrayed, scared and confused (Manning, 2015, p 127 & 131). Since there are a multitude of scenarios, LGBTQ people, their friends and family experience and deal with the process in many different ways. When dealing with the realities of being LGBTQ, or having someone in your life that is, love the person, embrace them, and dance the night away with them, just as Juan and Christopher did, and just like Brenda McCool did. It’s important that their deaths are not in vain, but instead are springboards to create dialogue, and better assessments of what love, commitment and compassion truly mean.

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In the end, people in the LGBTQ community only want to be accepted for who they are. Only then can lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and those they deeply love begin to cope with the realities that nothing is different. In fact, the lives of Juan Guerrero, Christopher Leinonen, Brenda McCool and the countless lives that were directly impacted by this mass shooting encapsulate that notion. The sonnet that was passionately and eloquently drafted, and spoken by Lin-Manuel Miranda during the 2016 Tony Awards reminds people that “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside,” (Miranda, 2016). Love conquers hate, and no matter how hard people try, that is a constant that will never change. Love one another, embrace each other, and accept each other, because when the dust settles, that’s one of the only things that everyone truly wants.

HRC (2016). “Growing up LGBT in America,” Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved from:

http://www.hrc.org/youth-report/view-and-share-statistics#.V31BmZMrLeQ

 

Keneally, M. & Lantz, D. (2016, June 13). “Mother of Orlando Shooting Victim Makes

Emotional Plea,” ABC News Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com/US/mother-man-missing-orlando-club-shooting-breaks-awaits/story?id=39794076

 

Manning, J. (2015). “Communicating sexual identities: a typology of coming out,” Sexuality and

Culture 19(1). Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=8b5e899c-a41e-4ee9-aeac-c5f0b5660941%40sessionmgr107&vid=4&hid=104

 

Merchant, N., Johnson, C.K., & Webber, T. (2016, June 15). “Victim Vignettes: All remembered

for joy, love they brought,” AP The Big Story. Retrieved from: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/5fb45f7bd2564c769ff6f3692c305c44/victim-vignettes-all-described-kind-loving-full-joy

 

Miranda, L. M.[Entertainment Tonight] (2016, June 12) “Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Emotional

Tonys Acceptance Speech: ‘Love is Love’.” [Video File] Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUffUHGqYco.

 

Perrin-Wallqvist, R. & Lindblom, J. (2015). “Coming out as gay: a phenomenological study

about adolescents disclosing their homosexuality to their parents,” Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal 43(3). Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=ea33bbe5-b183-436c-a921-9107fa13a5c2%40sessionmgr102&vid=3&hid=104

 

Reynolds, D. (2016). “A Father Refused to Claim Body of Pulse Victim,” The Advocate.

Retrieved from: http://www.advocate.com/families/2016/6/24/father-refused-claim-body-pulse-victim

 

Summers, C. (2016, June 21). “’She was the mom everybody wanted’: Orlando massacre survivor

breaks down in tears at funeral for his hero mother who shielded him with her body and saved his life,” Daily Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3652052/Orlando-massacre-survivor-breaks-tears-funeral-hero-mother-shielded-body-saved-life.html

Posted in crime, crime and punishment, current events, death, discrimination, EQUALITY, FAITH, gay, gun control, gun violence, hatred, homophobia, homosexual, homosexuality, lesbian, lgbt, LGBT RIGHTS, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA, love, marriage equality, mass shootings, media, murder, national rifle association, news, news and current events, nra, politics, pride, queer, religion, remembrance, Sexuality, transgender, Uncategorized

A Place of Solidarity, Empowerment and a Place to Live

In times of hardships, tragedies and even triumphs, I find myself picking up a notepad, a drafting pencil or a paint brush to allow my creativity to flow. It’s in these moments when I find my motivation, peace and serenity. Often times, I don’t have a difficult time finding the words to say. After many tragedies, I had no shortage of words to write, but in the face of yet another national tragedy, I’ve found myself at a loss for words.

It’s been four weeks, and it is still incomprehensible to think about what happened at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The worst mass shooting in American history where 49 people died, and 53 others were injured. The spot was chosen because of its popularity, and its LGBTQ clientele.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends—our fellow Americans—who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub—it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.President Barack Obama (June 12, 2016).

I’ve been working on what to write in the wake of the massacre, but at times I’ve been overcome with grief, sadness, and unable to conceptualize my feelings into words. I’ve wanted to write something that expresses my own feelings, advocates for awareness, and most importantly honors the victims. 

Eight years ago, my friend invited me to her 21st birthday celebration at Martha’s Vineyard, a gay bar in Springfield, Missouri. I had never been to the bar, but I had always been interested in going… as a “straight” guy, of course. While I was eager to go to Martha’s, by the time I got in there, I felt awkward, uncomfortable and out of place. Deep down inside myself, I knew the truth; I was gay, but I wasn’t ready to accept it. As the night progressed, I loosened up, and began enjoying myself. When we were getting ready to leave, my friend’s friend, who is an openly gay man, came up to me. He put his sweaty arms on my shoulders and said “I know you’re straight, but I just want you to know that you’re adorable.” I don’t know what it was in that moment; maybe he whispered a subliminal message to me – it’s OK to be yourself. I found myself at a crossroad in my life. I could wallow in my self-pity and continue lying to myself, but I didn’t want to live a lie anymore. I was sick of the battle, and I wanted to be true to myself, and the world.

Over time, going to Martha’s became somewhat of a weekly ritual for my friends and me. We went to watch drag shows, we went to drink, to dance, to have a good time, and most importantly to be with friends. One of my greatest memories at Martha’s Vineyard was New Years Eve, 2008. The year was being capped off surrounded by friends that just a year ago, I didn’t know. As the clock struck midnight, drag kings and queens got on stage as we all sang “Seasons of Love,” from Rent. In that moment, I was excited for the path my life was headed on. Everything felt right. As I look back upon my experiences at Martha’s Vineyard, I remember how comfortable I felt there. I could be myself without fear of being harassed; I met like minded people and developed a supportive network of friends.

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“Seasons of Love” at Martha’s Vineyard – New Years Eve, 2008

My personal experiences and feelings aren’t unique.  In fact, they are on par with the norm. As I asked my own friends about their experiences at gay bars their descriptions were strikingly similar to my own. They expressed that they felt at “home” and like they were among “family.” Gay bars, diners, resorts, and other establishments that cater to the LGBTQ community are seen as safe havens. We don’t have to fear the harassment, discrimination, bigotry or hatred that people in the LGBTQ community are all too often faced with. Martha’s Vineyard was my respite from a world, and more importantly, a town that didn’t understand. British comedian, David Morgan said:

People have been asking why the media and our politicians keep referring to Pulse Nightclub as a gay establishment, rather than just calling it a nightclub. Pulse is not just a nightclub, and to refer to it as such would be both disingenuous and misleading. The nightclub was not targeted simply because it was a popular bar, but because it was a popular gay bar. Whether the gunman targeted that specific location because of his religious ideologies, or his hatred for the LGBTQ community, the location was chosen because the patrons were gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and straight allies.

The sobering facts that LGBTQ youth represent approximately seven percent of the youth population, but account for 40 percent of homelessness among all teenagers, and LGBT teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide, while questioning youth are three times more likely when compared to their straight counterparts are troubling, but the troubling facts do not end there. In circumstances in which LGBTQ youth are physically or verbally harassed or abused, it is reported that they are two and a half times more likely to engage in self-harming behaviors. Additionally, youth that come from unsupportive families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide when compared to LGBTQ youth that report little to no family rejection.

The raw emotions those of us in the LGBTQ community are feeling understand the struggles the people at Pulse went through in everyday life. We faced the discrimination, the bigotry and the intolerance first hand, just as they did. We know the stories of the “medical experiments,” torture and death those suspected of being gay were subjected to in the concentration camps during the Holocaust that history books tend to forget. We understand the first pride march was a riot – the Stonewall Riots in 1969. We understand the arson of the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans that killed 32 in 1973, and was the largest mass killing of LGBTQ individuals in the US prior to Pulse, was motivated by hatred. We understand that Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence, beaten and left to die, because he was gay. We understand that Lawrence King was murdered because he professed his love to a male classmate, and his educators ignored the warning signs and pointed blame at Lawrence, rather than his perpetrator. We understand that our transgender brothers and sisters are being discriminated against, abused and killed at even greater alarming rates than lesbians, gays and bisexuals, and our politicians seem preoccupied with legislating what restrooms people should use, rather than creating meaningful legislation. We understand that we couldn’t openly serve in the military until 2011, June 30, 2016 if you’re trans, or get married in all 50 states until last year and we understand the “religious freedom” laws for what they truly are. We also hear loud and clear some of the rhetoric being preached in the wake of the Orlando tragedy in the name of “God.”

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While this attack has affected anyone that values freedom and human life, regardless of their sexual orientation, it’s important to realize this tragedy impacts all of us in different ways, and we mourn in different ways. We respond differently, and even have different connections to the victims and location of the attack. You might be mourning the loss of innocent lives, broken dreams, and families and friends that have to deal with the emptiness their lives now have. You may be heartbroken over the carnage that was spilled on June 12 because of hatred, intolerance and bigotry. You have every right to feel the way you do, because the people that died and the people that are dealing with the injuries and scars are ultimately a part of all of us.

As I wrote this, I felt it was important to capture voices from the LGBTQ community and beyond. I asked a couple of my straight friends for their thoughts on the attack, and this is what they had to say:

“It bothers me that a heavily armed man went into a nightclub and shot a lot of people. Those people were someone’s son or daughter. An act of hate took them away from their families. As a straight mother, I keep thinking that there are parents mourning the loss of their sons or daughters, brothers and sisters. I have a five-year-old daughter, and it scares me that she could be in the wrong place at the wrong time someday because of a hateful person with a weapon.” – Jodi

 

“It’s hard to really put into words what I’m feeling. No one deserves what happened in Orlando.I would be considered by many to be very conservative… Perhaps even a “right wing-nut” to some, but that doesn’t mean I lack compassion. I have been praying for the families of the victims, just as I do for any national tragedy. We can all unite and agree that what happened was absolutely terrible. It especially hit me when I heard he had scouted out Disney World. If he had chosen that as his target, it likely would have been the week I was there for my first Disney trip, as I was there during the Disney “Gay Days.” To think I could have been that close to a national tragedy is hard to fathom, and makes things hit a little closer to home. I have friends in the LGBT community, and to think that they could be targeted for their sexual orientation is just as tragic as Christian persecution in the Middle East*.” – Allison

While we understand and still endure the discrimination, hatred, bigotry and tragedies we have faced over the decades in the LGBTQ community, there’s still reasons to be optimistic. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done for equality, especially for our transgender brother and sisters. We’re still going to face the bigotry and hatred that has plagued us, but we’re in a far better place today than we were even just 10 years ago. The Stonewall Inn was just designated a national historic site by President Obama and just last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the transgender ban in the military. We may still be reeling in the pain of Orlando, and that will take time to heal, but I have hope for a better tomorrow.

“The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. […] And you, and you, and you, you have to give people hope.” – Harvey Milk (1978).

In November, I will cap off an epic expedition to Berlin, Barcelona, the Canary Islands, and Puerto Rico in Orlando. I planned to go to Pulse Nightclub prior to June 12, and that plan has not changed. Barbara Poma initially opened Pulse to keep her gay brother, John Poma’s heartbeat alive after he died. She and co-owner Ron Legler vow to reopen Pulse with a stronger heartbeat than ever before; a pulse strong enough to memorialize 50 lives (49 victims that died, and her brother). A good friend of mine that I met through LGBTQ advocacy often calls us a family of choice. While talking about the reopening of Pulse, Poma reiterated that when she said:

“We just welcome those families into our families. and we just have to move forward and find a way to keep our hearts beating and keep our spirit alive; and we’re not going to let somebody take this away from us.” – TODAY Interview (6/14/16)

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If Pulse is reopened by November, I will go there and dance the night away. Otherwise, I will pay my respects in another way. As Barbara Poma said:

“It’s important to never let hate win.”Today Interview (6/14/16)

Love conquers hate, because:

“We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers 
remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love 
is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside”Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony Awards (6/12/16)

 

*- I don’t want to take away from the sentiments of this comment, because it’s important, however I feel it is also important to point out that many groups of people from many different cultural groups are persecuted in unfathomable ways in parts of the Middle East.

Posted in crime and punishment, current events, gay, lgbt, news, Psychology, Sexuality, Uncategorized

Error: The American Psychological Association Declassifies Pedophilia as Mental Disorder

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In 1973, the American Psychological Association (APA) caved under mounting pressure from the far left and homosexuals to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, or at least that’s what the anti-gay political pundits and religious leaders would like us to think. All too often, we see those on the far-right say that homosexuality is still a disorder, despite mounds of evidence that prove the contrary. They say the APA removed homosexuality as a mental disorder as a political ploy to legitimize a deviant lifestyle choice that can be cured with a prescription of treatment and the healing powers of their religion. Since 1973, the United States and other parts of the world have made significant strides in ensuring every LGBTQ individual is provided equality and equal protection under the law. In the heat of the marriage equality debates, we’ve heard the slippery slope fallacy that if homosexuals are given rights, then the only logical next step is legalizing pedophilia, bestiality and incest.

But is there a possibility that maybe these anti-gay neoconservatives were right? Could legalized pedophilia be just around the corner? Some on the far-right would like us to think so. A few days ago, the American Psychological Association committed an egregious error when they were discussing changes to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). “Cultural expert” Sandy Rios ran with the error and created a controversy that pedophilia was being declassified in the latest edition of the DSM-V. She argued that just as the homosexuals had pressured the APA in the 1970s, NAMBLA and their supporters had successfully done the same. A prominent “Christian news” organization picked up this story, and it quickly went viral online, which in turn created hysteria .

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Failing to act as any reputable journalist would, the “news” site, Sandy Rios and her posse failed to conduct a simple two-second fact-check that would have eased anyone’s fears that what they were reporting on was a false reality. Instead, the far-right, anti-gay blogosphere ran amok, fear-mongered and manipulated those that hang on every one of their ill-gotten words in the hopes that they’d eat it right up! It seems as though many others failed to conduct independent studies to determine the validity of these claims and instead ran to the neoconservative sites clamoring to Antoine Dodson’s famous words, “hide yo kids, cuz they comin’ for you.” “How can we protect our children now,” one concerned parent said, “What has happened to this country,” another cried with dozens of question marks to reiterate the urgency of their question.

When the APA made a statement explaining their error, the Christian site, Sandy Rios and the neoconservative blogosphere didn’t redact their statements that had been creating hysteria in some circles as any credible news agency or person would do. Instead, they wrote a little disclaimer announcing the claims that pedophilia was now a sexual orientation similar to heterosexuality and homosexuality was “in dispute by some.” Others waited until a more intelligent individual came along and pointed out the error in their comments section.

This unfortunate event occurred after the APA was attempting to explain that pedophilia is no longer the term used to describe a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. They have changed pedophilia to “Paraphilic Disorder,” in an effort to create more uniformity in the way the disorders were named in the DSM-V chapter about pedophilia. If you’re curious to know what the criteria for the newly-worded disorder is, you can read this PDF file that explains what Paraphilic Disorder is and the criteria required for a diagnosis. The bulk of the importance for this disorder says (Emphasis is mine):

Most people with atypical sexual interests do not have a mental disorder. To be diagnosed with a paraphilic disorder, DSM-5 requires that people with these interests:

feel personal distress about their interest, not merely distress resulting from society’s disapproval;

or 

have a sexual desire or behavior that involves another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death, or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent.

You might be asking yourself why would Sandy Rios and her cronies intentionally mislead the public into ignorantly thinking pedophilia is now a sexual orientation, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. It’s quite simple, really. The LGBTQ community has made great strides in losing the second-class citizen status that we’ve been labeled with for generations. Approval of marriage equality is at all-time highs, Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell kicked the bucket years ago (and the world didn’t end!), 14 states, Washington, D.C., and a handful of counties in New Mexico now have marriage equality, with Oregon recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of state and Hawaii possibly being on the cusp of extending marriage equality to their citizens. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been garnering headlines lately, and all the challenges to bans on same-sex marriage have been clogging the state and federal judiciaries. What better way to buck this trend than to make concerned parents think their children are in danger of falling victim to sexual predators if support for equality continues. Sandy Rios and the gang don’t care if what they say isn’t true, the truth doesn’t fit into their losing agenda to codify discrimination into this country. They hope to sway people away from supporting LGBTQ rights by passing on ignorance to those that cling to their every word. These people are salivating at the mouth. They can finally say, “I told you so,” even if there’s not an ounce of truth to what they told us.

Radio talk show host, Fox News Contributor and apparent "Cultural Expert" Sandy Rios
Radio talk show host, Fox News Contributor and apparent “Cultural Expert” Sandy Rios

In the coming weeks, months and years, I suspect we’ll be hearing more about this error by the American Psychological Association. The anti-gay neoconservatives will jump on the bandwagon conceding that the APA made an error, while pointing at the mistake as evidence that people are softening their views on pedophilia. Those on the losing side of history will cry that it’s only a matter of time before our children will become sexual prey and the we’ll have to sit idly by as pedophiles exercise their “equal rights.” They’ll say the pedophilia mishap was just revealed a few years sooner than they had planned.

Posted in christianity, crime and punishment, exorcism, gay, lgbt, news, sex offender, suicide, Uncategorized, victim

Sex Offenders Walk While Victims Sentenced

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Earlier this week the news broke about an Iowan youth minister conducting a unique exorcism of sorts on teenage boys that were having homosexual “tendencies.” According to his victims, Brent Girouex would trick these boys into having sex with him to make them sexually pure. While he was allegedly raping these boys, he would pray over them and their ejaculation would be releasing their bodies of the homosexual “demons.” He was charged with 60 counts of child exploitation by a counselor or therapist for raping four boys with one as young as 14. At least eight more victims have since stepped forward. Girouex was recently sentenced to 17 years in prison, however the sentence was suspended. A suspended sentence means that prison sentence looms over your head for a certain amount of time, in this case five years, and if the individual doesn’t get in trouble again or violate the rules of their conditional release, the prison sentence will be wiped out. Girouex has been sentenced to five years of probation and he is required to attend sexual offender treatment with the suspended 17 year sentence over his head. Now, you might be asking why this individual is not behind bars. According to the judge, it’s because Girouex’s victims continued to seek him out after their first encounter. Well, of course they’re going to want more! If he’s telling some confused teenagers that they’ll be “cured” of being gay by having sex with him, of course they’re going to seek more “treatment” from him. If I believed this man in my teens when I was as religious as I was, and fearful my family would disown me, you’d better believe I’d be doing anything to get rid of those “demons” in my body. A gay teenager is vulnerable, and in a time when they needed someone to trust and confide in, this man victimized them. Now their perpetrator is going to walk free and probably offend more innocent victims.

Brent Girouex
Brent Girouex

Another story recently broke involving a Montana teacher that raped a 14-year-old girl. Stacey Dean Rambold had three encounters with the minor before being charged for the crimes. The minor was so tormented by this teacher’s actions that she committed suicide before the case went to trial. Rambold was ordered to attend sex offender therapy, but was eventually kicked out of the program. He was recently sentenced and given 15 years in prison, but the Judge G. Todd Baugh only ordered him to serve 31 days with a one day credit. Therefore, he was sentenced to just a month in jail for raping and tormenting a girl that led to her death. The judge made this ruling because he said the girl had just as much control over the situation as the teacher did and that she was older than her chronological age. The judge is going to likely change the sentence as the public outcry has been large and state law may require that Rambold serve at least two years in prison. The “Honorable” Baugh is up for reelection soon.

Stacey Dean Rambold
Stacey Dean Rambold

I read and hear about these stories and I can’t help but to think what the hell is wrong with our justice system? When did these judges go back to the “victim deserved it” mentality? A woman is wearing a revealing shirt, so it’s her fault that she got raped. No, it’s not the victims fault.

"Honorable" G. Todd Baugh
“Honorable” G. Todd Baugh

These cases made me think of the Kaitlyn Hunt case in Florida. Yes, I believe she’s a perpetrator and should be held accountable for her actions. I wonder how can a man that held power over these four boys and fed them absolutely ludicrous claims just to molest and rape them walk free or give a man that also had control over a female student 30 days in jail while Kaitlyn Hunt could be facing 15 years in prison? I know she was offered a plea deal that she should have taken, and there’s still a chance she could walk without much of a punishment, but there are extenuating circumstances that can excuse any lenient sentence she is given. I don’t see any obvious extenuating circumstances in the cases against Brent Girouex and Stacey Dean Rambold.

Cherice Moralez
Cherice Moralez

I don’t support minimum sentences for crimes, but I do support a recommended minimum sentence that allows a judge or jury to a set a sentence on a case-by-case basis while considering the recommended minimum sentence. A key component to sentences is to deter the perpetrator as well as the public on committing future crimes. If we’re not punishing sexual predators for raping our children, then we’re setting a precedence that encourages them to continue their predatory practices. Sex offenders, especially repeat offenders would marvel at the idea of being able to commit heinous crimes against the vulnerable and being given no jail time to a very minimal amount. We must call upon our politicians to hold judges that have blatant disregard for humanity accountable for their rulings. If judges are elected to their position in your state, I encourage you to look into some of their rulings to see if they deserve the bench they serve. They are here to keep the people safe and protected, not to protect criminals.

Posted in crime and punishment, current events, gay, homosexuality, kaitlyn hunt, lgbt, news, sexting, Uncategorized

Kaitlyn Hunt is Back in the Spotlight After Rearrest

hunt

The now 19-year-old high school senior that had the gay community rallying around her after she was arrested for allegedly having sex with an underage female is back in the headlines today. Kaitlyn Hunt was released on bond a few months ago when her case hit the national stage and there was a major outcry about some perceived injustice her case presented. When Hunt was released from police custody, she was given certain restrictions that are typical of a defendant being prosecuted for a crime against another individual. Don’t contact the victim.

It seems as though Ms. Hunt and her mother could not abide by these guidelines and Kaitlyn now stands accused of not only contacting her underage victim, but she sent sexually explicit photos of herself to the young female. She will remain in jail until she will be sent before a judge, where the judge will determine whether she deserves to be freed again.

It seems the media isn’t being as biased towards her this time around and they just presented the facts of her rearrest instead of crying for yet another injustice against a gay person.

Will Kaitlyn Hunt yet again attempt to use the ignorance card and say she didn’t know its illegal to send sexually explicit photos to a minor? Will she say she had no idea she wasn’t allowed to meet with her victim? Will the gay community discontinue their support for this woman? Support she never should have been given in the first place, might I add.

Kaitlyn-Hunt-who-faces-felony-sexual-assault-charges-for-a-homosexual-relationship-Facebook

It’s clear Kaitlyn Hunt has not learned her lesson from being arrested the first time. She continues to contact the minor and has now allegedly sent sexually explicit photos to someone that is under 18. The judge on Friday needs to do one of two things – 1. Revoke her bond or 2. Raise the bond. If there is evidence to support Hunt sent inappropriate photos to a minor, she ought to be charged with that crime as well.

I just hope the gay community distances themselves from Kaitlyn Hunt as they should have done in the first place.

For my original post about Kaitlyn Hunt, you can click here. 

Posted in crime, crime and punishment, current events, news, race, racism, self defense, stand your ground, Uncategorized

We Can’t Keep Sweeping Race Under the Rug

trayvon
Trayvon Martin

In 2005, I was wrapping up my first year at Missouri State University. I chose to take summer courses at the local community college in my hometown. One of the courses I took was an introduction to sociology course. One thing I learned from that course that still resonates with me today was when our professor called a student out on the issue of race. I can’t remember the exact issue the man brought up, but I do remember her response. She said, “I will accept dissenting opinions that are based on fact, but one thing I will not tolerate is sweeping the issue of race under the rug.”

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. The case caused the issue of race in America to resurface. While I without a doubt believe the prosecution did a poor job of proving their case and never wanted to prosecute George Zimmerman in the first place, I believe there are several elements that prove George Zimmerman was negligent in his actions that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin. So many people wrote on Twitter and other social media that the justice system failed us in this trial. The truth of the matter is our justice system didn’t fail us in this trial but the prosecution did.

George Zimmerman
George Zimmerman

I don’t believe race was as big of an issue as the mainstream media portrayed it to be, but it has reignited the debate on race relations in America. Was Trayvon Martin profiled? Without a doubt he was. I just don’t know if he was profiled because of his race, or for the fact that he was a suspicious individual walking down the street in a hoodie. I’m not in any way excusing George Zimmerman’s profiling of Trayvon, but what exactly he profiled about Martin is up for debate.

Don West and Mark O’Mara, the two defense attorneys for George Zimmerman made some startling comments after the not guilty verdict was handed down that makes me worry about the future of America. Don West stated that the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful. Mark O’Mara said that if George Zimmerman had been a black man this case would have never been tried. O’Mara is the same man that days before the verdict was read stated that race wasn’t an issue in the case on ABC News. I responded to Mark O’Mara’s comments fairly strongly on Twitter. I wrote,

“GZ’s attorneys ignore the fact that blacks are disproportionately represented in criminal cases. If GZ was black, he’d face death penalty.”

The fact of the matter is that while African-Americans make up approximately 12% of the American population, they represent over 40% of those incarcerated. Inequalities exist in the American justice system and there is no denying that fact.

For those that have followed the trial of George Zimmerman from the very start, you may remember that the defense originally intended to claim the “Stand Your Ground Law” to defend George Zimmerman. The law ended up getting pushed aside so the defense could focus more on Zimmerman’s right to self-defense.

Marissa Alexander
Marissa Alexander

For those unfamiliar with “Stand Your Ground,” in Florida, it’s the right for individuals to not back down when they feel threatened in a situation. This trial exposed gaping flaws in this law. More damning evidence that this law is flawed and the inequalities of minorities in the criminal justice system comes to light in the 2012 trial of Marissa Alexander of Florida. She shot warning shots into a wall to warn her abusive husband that she was standing her ground. She referenced stand your ground in her defense, but she ended up getting charged with aggravated assault and was offered a plea deal of three years in prison. She rejected the plea deal by the same prosecutor that reluctantly pressed charges against George Zimmerman. She opted to go to trial. Marissa Alexander, a woman that had graduated with her masters degree, had three children and had been hospitalized in the past by her abusive husband was found guilty by a jury of her peers and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Another example of how blacks are treated poorly by the justice system comes in the form of penalties for cocaine. Crack cocaine is more likely to be used by poor black people compared to affluent whites using powder cocaine. Before President Barack Obama signed the ‘Fair Sentencing Act,’ in 2010, people caught with crack cocaine could be charged more harshly compared to individuals possessing powder cocaine. Under federal law there was a five year minimum sentence for the possession of crack. That gaping injustice was patched up by the Fair Sentencing Act being signed into law.

Crack Cocaine
Crack Cocaine

It’s no secret that black people are given a harder time in the criminal justice system across the United States. They are disproportionately represented in prisons, they receive stricter penalties when they commit crimes, and they are more likely to be victims of violent crimes. When we begin advocating for equal justice for all, we can progress as a nation. We can’t continue to ignore the issue of race and crime in America. Trayvon Martin had helped us to remember this problem we have in America still exists today. We must begin a national dialogue for real reform in the American justice system. If there is one thing Trayvon Martin taught me, it’s that we can’t continue sweeping race under the rug any more.