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

Error: The American Psychological Association Declassifies Pedophilia as Mental Disorder

apa

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 .

dsmv

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 current events, gay, lesbian, lgbt, news, religion, Uncategorized, violence

Changing the Message: How Anti-LGBTQ Zealots Mask Hatred in Religious Convictions

Described as one of the worst hate crimes to be committed against an LGBTQ person in America since Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder in 1998, the slaying of 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King by a fellow classmate in February of 2008 has been depicted in the new HBO documentary, Valentine Road. The film weaves through the events that led up to Larry’s murder, the aftermath and the trial of his 14-year-old killer, Brandon.

Larry King
Larry King

Larry was anything but an ordinary teenager. He identified as bisexual, was effeminate and enjoyed wearing women’s clothing and makeup. He was the victim of relentless bullying by his classmates. Just like any other teenager, Larry had a crush on one of his peers, Brandon. Leading up to Larry’s death, Larry harassed Brandon. He called him his love and spread rumors that they were in a relationship together. A few days before Valentine’s Day, Larry went up to Brandon while he was playing basketball with his friends and asked Brandon if he would be his valentine. In the days leading up to Larry’s death, Brandon became increasingly agitated towards Larry. On February 12, 2008, as Larry sat in his English class, he was shot at point-blank range twice in the back of his head by his crush. He succumbed to his injuries a day later.

Shockingly, several individuals interviewed in Valentine Road were unsympathetic towards Larry while they sympathized with Brandon. Two teachers said Larry wouldn’t have cross-dressed and worn makeup if he was in their classes. One teacher said she would have spanked the transgenderism right out of him, while she condoned Brandon’s interest in white supremacy. Another teacher said Larry would still be alive if she was his teacher. She would have made him check his cross-dressing at the classroom door.

Three jurors that served on Brandon’s 2011 mistrial were shown sitting around a kitchen table portraying Larry as Brandon’s aggressor, not Brandon’s victim. One of them said that Brandon was, “Just solving a problem,” in justifying Larry’s murder. After Brandon accepted a plea deal that put him in prison for 21 years, the women talked with cameras outside the courthouse saying his sentence was too long because he was just a kid, had no prior criminal history and “It wasn’t like he kidnapped anyone.” Brandon may not have kidnapped Larry, but he did rob Larry of his right to life.

Matthew Shepard
Matthew Shepard

When we hear about murders like Larry King’s and Matthew Shepard’s, suicides that result from anti-gay torment, and people being bullied for being LGBTQ, we often find ourselves seeking answers as to why these things are happening. The answer is quite simple; it’s the message that gay people are morally and spiritually repugnant. In the wake of Larry’s murder, Ellen Degeneres made an emotional plea to her audience. Ellen said, “Somewhere along the line, Brandon learned that it was so threatening, so awful and so horrific that Larry wanted to be his valentine that killing him seemed like the right thing to do and when the message out there is so horrible that being gay can get you killed, we need to change the message.”

With politicians, religious leaders and pundits raising the Bible to divine status, the environment they have created has resulted in society believing they are the moral authority over the world – as though they speak for God. This has seemingly resulted in the Bible being used as a weapon of power to oppress others. The Church’s oppression has not been limited to the secular world, but has even been used as a weapon to oppress its own faithful. Not only have these people used the Bible to oppress, they have used it to justify discrimination against the LGBTQ community under civil law.

Many lawmakers and religious leaders encourage the families of LGBTQ people to exercise “tough love” with a “healthy detachment.” In the documentary, For the Bible Tells Me So, Mary Lou Wallner tells the story about how her daughter, Anna committed suicide after Mary Lou exercised a tough love mentality. A few months before her death, Anna told Mary Lou that she had, “Done colossal damage to her soul with her shaming words.” The shaming words Anna spoke of were the words Mary Lou’s church had taught her.

Mary Lou Wallner’s story in For the Bible Tells Me So:

Not unlike Mary Lou Wallner’s story, the relationship between Mary Griffith and her son, Bobby is depicted in the true story, Prayers for BobbyMary told Bobby that she wouldn’t have a gay son and if he prayed and dedicated his life to the Bible that God would deliver Bobby from his abomination. Bobby couldn’t deal with his mother’s ignorance. He jumped off a bridge, killing himself instantly.

Trailer of Prayers for Bobby:

In both Mary Lou and Mary’s situations, they both began seeing the Bible in a different and more loving light after their tragedies. Unfortunately for them, their change of hearts were too late for Bobby and Anna. Instead of living a life of regret, Mary and Mary Lou wouldn’t let their children’s suicides be in vain. They both became pioneers in changing attitudes about the relationship between sexuality and Christianity. On her non-profit organization’s web site, Mary Lou Wallner quotes a Bible verse we all should live by:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV).

While Mary Lou Wallner and Mary Griffith discovered the errors of their ways after it was too late, politicians and religious leaders continue to lead families down the road Mary Lou and Mary once found themselves down. As long as these politicians and religious leaders continue to dupe society into oppressing their children, their colleagues and their peers while making society believe the gay community is destroying America and asking for the wrath of a vengeful God, then the message we send Matthew’s murderers, Larry’s killer and all the bullies out there is that what they’re doing is justified.  In reality, it’s the anti-gay crowd that is destroying this country, ripping families apart and leading the charge for bullying, violence and self-injury.

During the height of the news media covering teenage suicides resulting from incessant demeaning bullying in 2010, the It Gets Better Project was launched. Kathy Griffin participated in the video campaign by providing her own video. In part, Griffin said, “The politicians, so-called religious leaders and pundits who have made careers out of saying being gay is wrong, or immoral, or that gays are somehow less than, all have blood on their hands.”

Kathy Griffin’s full It Gets Better video:

I’m uncertain as to whether neoconservative radio talk show host and FOX News contributor, Sandy Rios saw Kathy Griffin’s video, but she was recently caught trying to wash the blood off the hands of political pundits and religious leaders that have profited from destroying families. On the eve of the 15-year commemoration of Matthew Shepard’s death, Rios took the stage at the Family Research Council’s annual “Values Voter Summit,” last weekend to introduce a new theory into Matthew Shepard’s murder. According to her, the gay community and liberals conspired to savagely murder Matthew. The LGBTQ community and liberals needed a martyr to gain sympathy from society. By framing two anti-gay killers, the conspirators succeeded in faking-out Americans, thus garnering unabashed support from society, which led to the advances in equality we have seen over the years. As we all know, Matthew Shepard didn’t die as a result of some grand conspiracy. He was tortured and murdered because at some point, Matthew’s perpetrators learned that he was a threat. Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard once said, “When you call someone a ‘fag,’ it identifies them with a group, a group that in today’s climate is open to harassment. So by calling someone a ‘fag,’ you are giving yourself and the people around you the license to either damage this individual verbally or physically.”

In one of the most poignant moments in Prayers for Bobby, Mary Griffith’s former pastor spoke during a city council meeting about how the LGBTQ community is spitting in the face of decency and morality. Afterwards, Mary took the podium. She talked candidly about how she believed that homosexuality was a sin and that homosexuals deserved to live an eternity in Hell. Her opening remarks were met with great enthusiasm and praise. As Mary continued speaking, she admitted that she did everything in her power to help cure Bobby of his sickness only to learn that everything she was taught was bigotry and dehumanizing slander. Fighting back her tears, Mary said that Bobby’s suicide was a direct result of his parents’ ignorance and fear. Her church had taught her to act as she did when Bobby was alive. She encouraged church members and leaders to reconsider how they broached the topic of homosexuality, reminding them that children were listening. Mary was met with a roaring standing ovation after her remarks.

Mary Griffith’s speech at the city council meeting in Prayers for Bobby:

Families, bullies, Matthew’s murdereres, the teachers in Larry’s school, Brandon and his jurors weren’t born with the ignorance and hatred they espoused. They were taught their beliefs from powerful forces that represent us in government and preach from a pulpit each week claiming to speak for God. I may not be religious, but my knowledge of the Bible is far greater than the average joe’s understanding of it. I must say, I remember a very different God from the God described by those that use religion as a means to promote their own agendas for personal gain while claiming to be God’s speakers.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, he had a dream that one day people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, I yearn for the day when individuals aren’t judged based upon who they love, but by who they are as a person.  We are all different in many different ways, but one commonality we share with each other is that we’re all human. Each of us deserve dignity and respect. It’s time for people to stop using a weapon of oppression to rationalize discrimination and bigotry and use the Bible as a tool to embrace diversity, love, acceptance and compassion for one another, just as the book they hide behind commands us to do.

Posted in current events, government shutdown, news, news and current events, politics, Uncategorized

Washington Plays Chicken with American Lives

shutdown

For the first time in 17 years, the United States government is shut down. In the 11th hour, the United States Congress were unable to meet a resolution to fund the government and now we are faced with the reality that our politicians have failed us. It’s hard for me to not point blame for this absolute failure by our elected leaders, but in the end, both major political parties are to blame. Just as in tort law, which takes into account the negligence of the plaintiff and the defendant and chooses a judgment based upon a percentage of blame, I blame Republicans for the bulk of the situation we are in, but we can’t lay all of the blame on them. Democrats and the President are also guilty.

President Barack Obama (D)
President Barack Obama (D)

While I wholeheartedly believe in a clean bill to fund our government, sometimes we have to swallow our pride and negotiate. I don’t fault Republicans for trying to negotiate, but I do fault them for attempting to pass intangible demands. The U.S. House, which is controlled by the Republicans, and Speaker John Boehner made demands they knew would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate. Even if by some miraculous divine intervention these bills would have passed the House and Senate, President Obama would likely have veto such a bill before either House had dried the ink. An infamous way of figuring out whether you’re insane or not is when you try the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. You would think that after the U.S. House passed a resolution to defund the Affordable Care Act 42 times that they would get the picture that the result was going to be the same. Apparently not. Not only has the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to defund the ACA 42 times, but they have attempted to attach that vote to the funding of the government to avert a shutdown, attempted to delay the implementation of Obamacare by a year and attempted to limit the availability of contraception for women.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

Now, the right-wingers are likely saying, “Woah, woah, woah! The President and the Senate said they’re unwilling to negotiate!” This is true, and where the Democrats fall short of being able to point full blame for this government shutdown on the Republicans in the House. As I said before, I believe in a clean bill that would fund the government without any additional amendments to it, but when Republicans stood strong on their convictions of adding amendments to a spending bill, the Senate and President should have been more open to negotiating. I understand they didn’t want to come to the table with Republicans because of their attempts at defunding the Affordable Care Act or delaying the ACA, but at some point you must put your pride aside and realize your stubbornness isn’t going to avert the government shutting down.

The moment Congress came back from summer recess both sides of the aisle should have created a committee that would negotiate a compromise on funding the government. In the Senate’s defense, the House refused to create such a committee until they were backed into a corner with the deadline looming and the GOP seeing plummeting approval ratings for Congress with polls showing they would get the brunt of the blame for this now in-effect government shutdown. With 15 minutes to spare, Senator Harry Reid announced there would be no compromises and no committees after Speaker Boehner announced they were willing to assemble a committee to negotiate a fair resolution to the crisis plaguing over 1,000,000 people right now.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

Our elected officials are given the privilege of serving their constituents under the agreement that they will do something. The 113th Congress is on track to be the least productive legislative session in modern history. Washington has become so polarizing and so power-hungry that they’re unwilling to work together. I’ve said in some of my previous posts that ‘bipartisan’ is becoming a dirty word on the Hill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

As hundreds of thousands of federal employees woke up today, they were faced with the grim reality that they’re either furloughed without pay, or required to come to work unsure of when they might see their next paycheck for the foreseeable future. They struggle to know how they’ll make ends meet and put food on their families’ tables as Congress plays a childish game of chicken. If you’re worried about our Congresspeople getting their paychecks over the course of this shutdown, do not fret; they will be paid on time. Federal prison guards and some of our military personnel will continue to perform their job descriptions likely living paycheck to paycheck, while our representatives and senators continue to receive their $174,000 yearly salary and Obama gets a slice of his $400,000 a year salary.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

This is the first government shutdown to happen since the last democrat was in office, working with Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Republican-controlled House. You should expect to start hearing the soundbites that democratic presidents are inept at averting a shutdown, while democrats point out that the Republicans are unable to control Washington without a shutdown over the course of the next three years. I don’t think this is a Republican problem or a Democrat problem, but it is a Republican and Democrat problem.

Have you ever seen Undercover Boss on CBS? It’s the show where wealthy executives shadow average employees within their companies. The premise is to see how their policies affect the average individual, but by the end of the show, the executive realizes how difficult their minions’ jobs are and how many of their employees have a difficult time making ends meet. Congress is complacent. While they’re busy bickering about ideologies and pointing the blame at one another, they forget how the “little” man lives. I envision Congress as a horse wearing blinders. They can see each other, but they can’t see the wider picture of how their decisions, or in this case indecisions affect their constituents.

We put our Congresspeople in Washington to fight for us. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, they have fought for their own agendas at the cost of taxpayers. If I worked for an advertising firm and had to pitch a presentation to a group of my clients, but missed my deadline, I likely would be packing my desk and be unemployed. Most politicians know they can get away with such blatant disregard for what is good for this country because come election time, we’re unlikely to vote them out. It’s time we hold our politicians accountable. If they can’t get the job done, we can replace them with people who will, while at the same time reminding them they work for us, not their political party. Save your polarizing banter for a rainy day. Both parties are only alienating themselves from each other and halting the government to a standstill. If Republicans want to defund Obamacare, let there be a referendum on November 4, 2014 and November 8, 2016. Don’t hold everyone else hostage and refuse to compromise on a resolution that could free the hostages. It’s time for D.C. to stand up and do something, instead of having yelling matches and pointing fingers between the two chambers. If I was able to make a rule for Capitol Hill to follow, it would be: you can’t leave until the job you were elected to do and granted to you by the Constitution is done.

I will leave you with this quote that has been circulating around the Twitosphere by our second president of the United States, and one of our founding fathers:

“In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, 2 is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.” – John Adams

Posted in crime, current events, gun control, mass shootings, navy yard, news, politics, Uncategorized, violence

When Will the Next Massacre Happen?

President Obama speaks at Navy Yard Memorial
President Obama speaks at Navy Yard Memorial

President Obama was faced with delivering yet another heartbreaking speech at a memorial remembering victims of yet another shooting rampage in the United States last week. During his remarks about the Navy Yard massacre in Washington, D.C., President Obama was quoted as saying, “Sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal. We cannot accept this.” Dr. Janis Orlowski likely gave the most impassioned speeches after the injured and dead began flowing into her hospital. She said, “There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate.” She continued on by saying, “I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots and not to be an expert on this.”

The innocent lives that were lost at Sandy Hook
The innocent lives that were lost at Sandy Hook

I thought that after 20 innocent children were brutally murdered and six individuals that gave their lives to protect these children were killed that we would begin getting serious about real ways to eradicate the evil that is emanating in our society. It’s no secret that our political climate is severely broken. While those on the far right want us to have access to weapons with little to no restrictions and those on the far left would rather see us ban guns in our society, the polarizing partisanship in our politics stalls any chance of productive discussion about reducing massacres. We live in a time when ‘bipartisan’ is becoming a bad word. Both sides of the aisle are positioning themselves to one up the other. Instead of sitting down and working on real resolutions to the gun violence that is plaguing America, nothing is being done at the high cost of innocent lives. I fear this political attitude is making us complacent and numb when it comes to mass shootings. Instead of finding resolutions, we wonder when and where the next shooting rampage is going to happen.

Navy Yard Shooting, Washington, D.C.
Navy Yard Shooting, Washington, D.C.

The tragedy at the Navy Yard came on the eve of the release of the latest version of Grand Theft Auto. Before the blood on the floor dried, political pundits were pointing the blame of a violent American society on violent video games.  A violent video game is not going to cause an individual to suddenly get “motivated” to go on a shooting rampage any more than a sexual assault is going to turn someone gay. The perpetrators of the Navy Yard and Sandy Hook could have had stockpiles of violent video games, but those games did not create the monsters in them. Someone that is predisposed to violence is likely to get involved in shoot’em up video games. If we think violent video games kill people, we’re only distracting ourselves from what really matters.

The perpetrators that carried out the Columbine High School rampage, Aurora movie theater shooting, the massacre at a Safeway in Tuscan, Arizona and last week’s Navy Yard shooting had significant mental illnesses. They had a mixture of antisocial personality disorders, depression, manic depression and possibly schizophrenia. The shooter at Tuscan was taken to a federal medical prison in Springfield, Missouri until he was deemed competent enough to stand trial. The murderer at the Aurora Century 16 movie theater has plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Despite the scientific proof that mental illness is a significant factor in mass shootings, funding for the research and treatment of mental illnesses has been drastically cut at the tune of more than $4.35 billion over the years. While the issue of mental illness has been getting louder over the years, it’s still just a faint whisper. The whispering dialogue about mental health needs to become a loud roar that can be heard from coast-to-coast.

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords
U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

In light of the unconscionable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, CNN’s Piers Morgan offered one of the most asinine ideas for reducing gun violence. He said:

On the other side of the spectrum, Republicans relish in the ignorant belief that President Obama is going to create some sort of militia that is going to break down our doors and take our guns from us. They ignore that Obama has repealed more gun control laws in his first year in office than President Bush did in his two terms. He has also been given an F by the Brady Campaign on gun control. In spite of this, just the mere notion by Democrats and Obama that they want to discuss more reasonable gun control laws being enacted sends gun advocates and the National Rifle Association into a frenzy.

Aurora Movie Theater Shooting
Aurora Movie Theater Shooting

Louisiana residents were so fearful about Obama’s imaginary militia that they overwhelmingly passed a state Constitutional amendment defining gun ownership as a ‘fundamental right’ in 2012. Because of their irrational fears, the people of the state failed to realize the ramifications such sweeping legislation could do to the state. Just a few months ago, a convicted felon challenged the state’s ban on felons owning firearms. A judge ruled he had a fundamental right to a gun under the Louisiana Constitution.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

In 1999, two high school seniors opened fire on their unsuspecting students and faculty at Columbine High School. There were warning signs that these individuals were plotting a devious plan that so many people simply ignored. Do you think that if Rachel Scott, Richard Castaldo, Daniel Rohrbough, Sean Graves, Lance Kirklin, Michael Johnson, Mark Taylor, Anne-Marie Hochhalter, Brian Anderson, Patti Nielson, Stephanie Munson and William David Sanders would still be alive if individuals didn’t ignore the warning signs? It is our responsibility to be diligent when individuals begin showing signs that they could be in trouble. If the police had taken a couple of concerned parents more seriously. One of the prepetrators had a violent online manifesto that police were aware of, but ignored. The boys had bomb-making materials and blueprints of the school in their rooms, but their parents didn’t suspect anything.

Memorial for the victims of the Columbine High School Shooting
Memorial for the victims of the Columbine High School Shooting

A week after the massacre at the Navy Yard, the mainstream has already moved on. We’ve changed our focus to the Nairobi terrorist attack, the government shutdown and whether or not Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton will  run for president in 2016. While the first two are news stories that should be capturing headlines, we’ve already lost focus on the gun control/mental illness debate. I wonder if the shooter at the Navy Yard had been a Muslim if we’d still be talking about the incident. We are becoming complacent again, and it seems as though it took far less time to become that this time around. The media didn’t even pick up on a mass shooting that happened in Chicago three days after the Navy Yard shooting. Was it not discussed and analyzed because there was no loss of life? Was it deemed ‘not important?’

Gun violence has gotten so engrained into American society that mass shootings are expected. It’s time to divorce the intertwined relationship between shooting rampages and our unintended fascination with the evil acts. It’s time we in society and our politicians put their partisanships aside, sit down and have meaningful discussions on how to prevent future massacres. It’s only a matter of time before the next sociopath goes on another shooting rampage, unless we get real and realize that human life takes precedence over guns, power, politics and money. If we sit back and do nothing, then we have blood on our hands.

** I intentionally left out the names of the perpetrators involved in the shootings I mentioned. They don’t deserve the dignity of the carnage they have created while most of us can’t name one person that was a victim of a mass shooting. **

Posted in current events, EMPLOYMENT, ENDA, gay, lgbt, LGBTQ, news, POLITIC, politics, Uncategorized

Grassroots Campaigns Launch to Support Employment Non-Discrimination Act

enda

I went to college and had my first “professional” job while living in the Ozarks. I lived in southwest Missouri, which is in the heart of the Bible Belt, and one of the most conservative parts of the country. I remember going on a date with a guy that was a performer in Branson, Missouri. Branson is one of the biggest tourist traps in Missouri, and provides “wholesome” fun and entertainment for families. He worked for the a theater that told Biblical stories through theater. He told me the gut-wrenching story about how he had been called into his boss’s office. They confronted the guy asking him if he was gay. He refused to tell them, and attempted to deflect the question. They didn’t fire him at that point, but he knew it was likely only a matter of time. He was a great actor, he could sing and he was a dedicated employee. His perceived orientation didn’t fit with the company’s public image. He quickly found another job acting at a theater in Branson that was more accepting of diversity.

States with protections against LGBT discrimination
States with protections against LGBT discrimination

I don’t go around announcing that I am gay to everyone I see, but I do tell those that I feel need to know. At my job in Springfield, Missouri, there were a few of us that were gay and weren’t open about it to our supervisors. We feared going to work and being found out only to be fired. I had a coworker challenge me on my Biblical beliefs about homosexuality while at work once. I ran out of the room nearly in tears, but I didn’t feel like I had recourse, because I didn’t want to be seen as the aggressor and possibly lose my job.

When I moved to Pennsylvania, I wasn’t going to let my bosses know I was gay. When I was working on a unit with some teenage girls, the girls asked me if I had a girlfriend. I refused to answer the question, and they assumed I was gay. It began spreading around work that I was gay, even though I never said the words, “I’m gay.” I often worried that I would be fired.

Postcards you may see a lot of over the next few weeks that will be sent to U.S. senators
Postcards you may see a lot of over the next few weeks that will be sent to U.S. senators

The sad truth is that this is a fear a lot of us live with on a daily basis. No one should ever have to fear for their job because of their sexuality. When I was beginning to accept my sexual orientation, I fell in love with the TV show, Queer as Folk. One of the characters, Brian Kinney was asked by a homophobic candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh that he was helping to elect if he was gay. Brian said it best when he basically said that he was, but it didn’t really matter if he was or not because his sexuality didn’t define his work ethic. Unfortunately – in the real world – for residents of 29 states, they can be fired because of their sexual orientation, including Pennsylvania (there are some restrictions on the state and municipal levels) and Missouri.

In just a few weeks, the United States Senate will begin debating and voting on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Senate Bill 815. ENDA would ban discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity in employment across the United States. This bill would be no different than the protections given to race, sex, religion, disability and nationality.

Earlier this week, I attended a kick-off event that is being pioneered by the Americans for Workplace Opportunity in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Pennsylvania, the ACLU and several other non-profit organizations to help persuade Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey (R) to vote ‘yes’ on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it comes up for a vote.

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)

The campaign to persuade legislators into voting ‘yes’ on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is not limited to Pennsylvania. There are campaigns being launched in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia, focusing on 13 senators. If you live in any of these states, including Pennsylvania, I urge you to find out how to get involved in these campaigns to ensure ENDA passes in a few weeks.

Despite the fact that 80% of Americans, including 70% of Republicans support the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, many may be reluctant to support ENDA because they believe religious institutions should have the right to choose whether they want to hire gay people or not. ENDA does not strip away this choice for churches, synagogues, or any other faith that are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law also does not cover small businesses with 15 or less employees or create an affirmative action for LGBTQ individuals. So, there is no logical reason why ENDA cannot pass the U.S. Senate. Now is the time for us to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

There are a lot of ways that you can get involved. Contact your U.S. Senator and let them know that you support ENDA and want them to do the same. You can look up your senators here. Call them, email them, write them letters, write letters to the editor of your newspaper, and most importantly, pass the word to your family, friends and colleagues to contact their senators as well. I also highly encourage you to find a local campaign in your area if you want a more active role in ensuring the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. If you cannot find out how to get involved, feel free to contact me and I will be sure to do my best in order to find out the required information for your state.

If you are a Pennsylvania resident, you can email Senator Toomey by filling out this form. You can also call his constituency offices by finding out your local number here. His Washington, D.C. office is: (202) 224-4254. Senator Bob Casey is already a co-sponsor for the bill. If you want more information on how to get involved with the campaign in PA, feel free to contact me through the many different avenues I have available. I will be sure to provide the information to you.

EMAIL: zenzeis@outlook.com

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

Sex Offenders Walk While Victims Sentenced

possession

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 9/11/01, al qaeda, lgbt, remembrance, september 11, terrorism, Uncategorized, world trade center

Remembrance

New York City on March 11, 2002
New York City on March 11, 2002

September 11 impacted all of us in a very raw and emotional way. To be quite honest, we as Americans thought we were untouchable. We didn’t feel like an event such as 9/11 could ever occur on American soil. When the events of September 11 occurred, and we saw the magnitude of the terrorist attacks, it hit us harder than if we were used to such attacks happening on American soil. I can still remember the details of that day – where I was, what I was doing and how the rest of that day paned out. It was a dark day in history and really sparked my personal mantra of  ’om mani padme hum,’ in English terms that simply means compassion. Spreading love is the only way we’ll ever stomp out hate. I was a senior in high school when Al Qaeda attacked the United States of America. I was glued to the coverage on TV, I read every newspaper and magazine I could and I typically commemorate 9/11 in some way every year. I had wanted to visit Ground Zero since it was opened to the public, several years ago. My goal of visiting Ground Zero became a reality earlier this year when I made a trip to New York City during a trip that encompassed visiting six different countries and territories. My visit came exactly 11 1/2 years after that fateful day on September 11, 2001.

Footprint of the South Tower
Footprint of the South Tower

Before this moment, everything I had seen of the 9/11 tragedy was footage on the TV, photographs and Hollywood movies. Being at the site of such a horrific event in American history made it all become real. Real people lost their lives. Real people were injured. Real buildings collapsed. Everything was real. I wasn’t filled with anger or vengeance. I strangely felt a sense of calm and peace. The atmosphere was solemn, but anger had no place at this memorial. The World Trade Center memorial wasn’t about the hijackers and the terrorists. It was about the victims, remembrance and resilience. Ground Zero is still a construction site as we build bigger and stronger buildings near the original World Trade Center buildings, so the entire picture of what the new World Trade Center is going to be isn’t completely there yet. I think the designers of the memorial hit the nail on the head. They captured the remembrance of ALL the victims from September 11 and the February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The designers didn’t just memorialize the victims of the bombing, the North Tower, the South Tower, Flight 11 and Flight 175, but they also etched into the memorial the victims of the Pentagon, Flight 77 and Flight 93.

Footprint of the North Tower
Footprint of the North Tower

I rubbed my hand over the names as I passed them and often paused to reflect about so many lives that were taken all too soon. Some lives didn’t even get to experience a moment of life outside their mother’s wombs. The memorial brings life into perspective and while I still struggle with this, it reminds us to not take life for granted.

The Survivor Tree

The Survivor Tree was at the site of the original World Trade Center. It was found in October of 2001 still alive. It was nursed back to health and still survives today. While it’s inanimate, the strength of this tree is an inspiration to us all. Through the worst of tragedies, we can still overcome and survive anything.

I wanted to post the video of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s opening of Saturday Night Live after the 9/11 attacks, but couldn’t find it. As a St. Louisan and a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, I have chosen to post the video of legendary Cardinal’s announcer, Jack Buck and the poem he read at Busch Stadium to commemorate the events of September 11, 2001 days later when baseball resumed.

Since this nation was founded under God,
more than 200 years ago,
We have been the bastion of freedom,
the light that keeps the free world aglow.

We do not covet the possessions of others;
We are blessed with the bounty we share.
We have rushed to help other nations;
anything…anytime…anywhere.

War is just not our nature,
We won’t start but we will end the fight.
If we are involved,
We shall be resolved,
To protect what we know is right.

We have been challenged by a cowardly foe,
Who strikes and then hides from our view.
With one voice we say,
“We have no choice today,
There is only one thing to do.”

Everyone is saying the same thing and praying,
That we end these senseless moments we are living.
As our fathers did before,
We shall win this unwanted war,

And our children will enjoy the future we’ll be giving.

*Excerpts courtesy of my travel blog. More information on my trip to Ground Zero can be found here.