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Finding My Words

The first thing my therapist said to me after I expressed how upset I was, was that I was clearly upset about something more than the election. She was right. Without realizing it, I had been going around with the belief that people are generally good, that we have evolved to a point that as a whole, as a majority we reject hatred and ostracism. I realize now, how horribly naive was. The election of Donald Trump brought all of those beliefs crashing down and brought back every memory of being bullied from my past. It brought back every memory of my loved ones standing by and watching, or worse yet joining in on the bullying. It has made for super pleasant dreams.

I do not believe that the 62 million plus people who voted for Trump are all misogynistic-racist-xenophobes. I believe that some of them are, probably a higher number than I want to think about, but not all of them. However, I now believe that there are 62 million people in the US who are either okay with those behaviors, and/or willing to join in if someone else starts. There are over 62 million people in this country who put down their vote for all time, to elect a bully to the highest office in this land.

That was enough to break me. I had no words. I did not want to live in that world. I don’t want to live in a world where bullies feel that their behavior is not only acceptable but sanctioned. A world where someone felt that it was perfectly acceptable to spit in my friend’s face and tell her to enjoy her free trip back to Mexico. A world where someone felt that it was perfectly acceptable to call another friend of mine a ch*nk and tell him that he wasn’t welcome here anymore. These are not anecdotes off the internet, these are things that happened to people that I know and hold dear. I repeat, I don’t want to live in that world.*

But I’m also starting to see something that is renewing some of my faith. People aren’t putting up with it.

I am a member of two different groups on Facebook. At first, these groups were all about action. Numbers to call, petitions to sign, rallies to attend. That still exists, but something more has developed. They have both become a safe place where people can come and express their fears, their humiliations, and their tears from hateful experiences. The love and support that they get in return are a balm for anyone hurting. Better yet, it has become a place to share victories. Stories of people standing up to bullies, some with broken voices and shaking hands, but standing up anyway. People refusing to listen to hate without saying something in return. Stories of people straight up asking the strangers around them for support in confronting this hate, and getting the support. Stories of solidarity that declare in no uncertain terms that xenophobia/racism/hate are not currencies that are accepted here.

And nowhere in any of these stories is there name-calling or yelling at the bully. (I’m sure confrontations like that exist, they just aren’t being shared.) Instead these stories are of people asking for tolerance to be shown to those who are different. They are stories of strangers banding together to cover up racist and anti-Semitic graffiti so no one else has to see it. They are stories of kindness being used to smother hurt. They are stories of people no longer willing to look the other way. Maybe that is our victory. We aren’t seeing anything in this country that didn’t already exist, and quite frankly minorities have been trying to tell the white population about it for years. Maybe our victory is the clarity and unity to stand up against those who derive their power from putting other people down. That gives me hope.

I also applied to volunteer for the ACLU, because you can’t sustain hope without action.



*Not in a “suicide-put-me-in-a-48-hour-watch” sort of way, but in a “denial-fingers-in-your-ears-say-it-ain’t-so” sort of way.

A Bias Against Black Men

The first conversation I ever had with a black person, was at my college orientation. I was 18. Black people didn’t live where I lived, they weren’t in the books that I read or the shows that I watched unless they were the thugs getting arrested. With the exception of slaves, Harriet Tubman and MLK Jr, they weren’t part of my education.  For the first 18 years of my life, black people, (specifically men) were like the mountain lions in the forest around me. I’d never met one, but I knew they were there, and they scared me.

Here’s the thing, I don’t remember ever encountering or spending time with an overtly racist person. I can’t recall ever being told by a teacher or parent or friend that black men were dangerous. I didn’t personally know anybody who had been victimized by a black man. So why was I afraid? Where did I learn to fear black men?

I hate to name something as banal as ‘society,’ but what else is there? I learned that fear from watching the nightly news with my parents. I learned that fear listening to talk radio hosts pontificating on the evils of gangs and the black men in them who killed each other and anybody else who happened to get in the way. Now I’m not saying that I am pro-gang and think that gang members and their violence should be talked about in loving terms. Far from it. The thing is, I never heard anybody talk about the black community positively. I learned fear because the black narrative was predominantly, at times exclusively, negative, and I had nothing in my real life to refute it. I had been conditioned to fear black men and think poorly of black people in general. I have no idea about anybody else from that little community, but that was the state in which I left.


Subconsciously, I was aware of the conditioning and never fully bought into in. I’d love to give myself credit and say that I was a socially enlightened being from the get-go and this was a conscious choice, but that would be a bald-faced lie. It’s only in retrospect that I can look back and see that I fought against this conditioning. I had no idea what I was fighting, but I knew that I didn’t want to believe that an entire race of people could be bad or lazy or dangerous or any of the other descriptors used. I was well aware that not all white people were good. Some were great, some were crappy and some fell in between. The same had to exist in the black community. So when I met and talked with my first black person in college, I latched on to her and she became my first college friend. I LOVED that she dispelled ever stereotype that had been planted in my brain as fact. We talked about honor classes and stressed out over grades. When she talked about her dad, I heard, for probably the first time, about a successful and thriving black man.

That summer I worked for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival where I met and worked closely with a black actor. He was incredibly talented, kind, funny, generous with his time, and when the shit hit the fan toward the end of the summer, he had my back. To this day, I have nothing but respect for him and his work and I would work with him again in a heartbeat. I also met a woman who would later become one of the hardest and most demanding professors that I ever had. Yet despite this, she was able to instill a life-long love of Shakespeare in me and I eventually overcame my awe of her enough to become friends. Once more, nothing I was encountering in real life matched the narrative that I had been fed growing up.

Yet when I looked around, the same narrative continued. Only this time, I had something to refute it. Something to hold onto in order to fight the conditioning and keep it from settling back in. Eventually I stopped watching the news, and talk radio was definitely out. I didn’t want to live in that world anymore. So I didn’t, and I naively thought that I had outgrown . . . outwitted . . . out maneuvered . . . I don’t know exactly what to call it, but I felt as though I had moved beyond my biased conditioning. Ta-da! Pat myself on the back.


Jump forward to me living Los Angeles, and it became abundantly clear that I hadn’t. No ta-da, no pat on the back. While Denver certainly had much more diversity than the tiny mountain town where I grew up, it is lily-white in comparison to Los Angeles. I have never seen so many cultures in one place in my entire life. For the record, I love it! I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

However, in this culture shock, albeit a good culture shock, my conditioning resurfaced. If I was out walking my dogs and saw a black man, I would get nervous. It could be the middle of the damn day and the appearance of a black man that I didn’t know would make me nervous. I didn’t even realize it at first. It was so rooted in my subconscious that a black men equaled danger, I didn’t even think about it, I just felt it down to my bones.

It finally hit me that this was occurring, when one of these so-called dangerous black men turned out to be a coworker. I hadn’t recognized him at first. I had prepped my purse in order to fend off his attack, and this made me feel so guilty, I almost apologized to him. I almost apologized for lumping him into the ‘dangerous’ black man category, instead of the ‘friend-of-mine-and-therefore-friendly’ black man category. That was my light bulb moment. My conditioning was still firmly in place. I had merely made exceptions to the rule to accommodate my friends and coworkers. Take away that exception and all that remained was fear.


I don’t like to admit this, in fact this is the first time that I ever have, because it makes me feel like I am a racist. It makes me feel like I’m a huge racist, and I don’t like that feeling. In all honesty, I would get angry that I felt like a racist. Angry at who, I have no idea. I would hazard to guess, that I am not the only one who has gone through these emotions. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is where that whole white-guilt thing comes from. The guilt comes up, we bury down the feelings that caused it, ignore them and reassure ourselves that we are good people. For the next couple of days, we might even go out of our way to be nice to every black person we see, just to reassure ourselves that we aren’t racist. I know I’ve done this. I’ve stayed longer to hold a door open, or let someone cut in line at the grocery store specifically to reassure myself that I was not a racist. But here’s the thing, all of that is pointless because it doesn’t accomplish or change anything. The underlying thought-process that caused the first behavior is still there. And here’s the kicker, I’m not a racist, so why was I spending so much time concerning myself about it? Because I was confusing being a racist, with having a bias. There’s a difference, and yes it can be a fine line, but there is a difference. Since I’m a massive word-nerd, I looked up the definitions from Merriam Webster.


I don’t believe that race has anything to do with human traits and capabilities, or that one race is superior over another. I never have and never will. That is the entire definition! If I disagree with the entire definition, then it is clearly not describing me. However, the third definition of the word bias is another story. ‘Inclination of temperament or outlook’ and ‘unreasoned judgement’ sound pretty spot on. I have no logical reason to judge black men poorly, other than what was fed to me through society. I think we as a people, need to step back and really examine our biases. Are all people on welfare lazy drug-addicts, or is that merely what we’ve been led to believe by people who oppose the program? I can tell you that when I was on welfare, I was neither lazy, nor on drugs. Yet that was a bias that definitely took up space in my head until I stepped into that world myself.

Here’s the thing, having biases doesn’t make us bad people. It’s human nature, everyone has biases that play into everyday of their lives. There’s a reason that I bought a Chevy instead of a Ford – I have a distinct bias against Fords. My grandfather worked for Chevy, and so did my aunt. Therefore they MUST be better cars. Does that make any sense? No. Yet I drove a Chevy into work this morning. In the grand scheme of things, this bias is inconsequential. So I’m going to ignore it and probably go on avoiding Fords for the rest of my life and nobody will care one way or the other.


However, the bias against the black community, and black men specifically, is a problem and has been around since the founding of this country. In the grand scheme of things, this is a huge problem and it effects thousands of people all over the US who are spending their lives in jail and getting killed. I’m not saying that there aren’t black men that deserve to be in jail, I’m sure there are. What I’m saying, is that when you look for trouble and the majority of the attention is focused on one group of people, you’re going to find trouble. Not because it only exists there, but because that’s where you are looking. And if you don’t see any, yet keep looking, seemingly innocuous behavior will begin to look suspect. I’ve heard my parent friends talk about sneaking up on their kids to catch them in one act of wrong-doing or another, only to be surprised that what seemed nefarious was actually innocent. If you expect trouble, you will eventually get trouble whether it’s real or manufactured.

A recent study done by Yale showed that the bias against black males starts as early as kindergarten. They had teachers watch a video to look for signs of challenging behavior among four children – one black girl, one black boy, one white girl, and one white boy. Despite the fact that none of the children were exhibiting challenging behavior, the teachers reported that the black boy needed the more attention then anybody else. After reading that, it makes a little more sense why for many young black men, school is a direct pipeline to jail. Maybe it’s just me, but if I get wrongly accused of misbehaving enough, I start misbehaving. If I’m going to be accused of it anyway, I might as well get the pleasure from doing the misdeed.

I’m sure there are people who don’t have this bias, and I applaud them. But with the history of this country, and if we’re all being completely honest with ourselves, I would guess that number is low. The good news, is that if we can acknowledge that this bias exists, if we can swallow our frickin’ pride and admit that we do this, we can reverse it. I really hope the teachers that participated in that study are now looking at their classrooms with a different perspective. It won’t happen overnight, but we can retrain our brains to come up with new conclusions, and expect different outcomes.

It took me about four years. Now, when I’m out walking my dogs and I see a black man, my conditioning goes to ‘dude-I-don’t-know’ instead of ‘dangerous-black-man.’ If it’s night, that conditioning goes to ‘potential rapist,’ but to be fair that’s my conditioned reaction for any man I see at night regardless of race. When outside by myself at night, all men make me equally nervous. Which is an issue all by itself but as long as the rape culture persists it’s warranted. Don’t get me wrong, I have every faith that my dogs would defend me if I was attacked, however, they are puggles, not German Shepherds. I’m fairly certain that the worst they could do is give someone a permanent limp. So I keep my eyes open. However, for the first time in my life, my heart doesn’t speed up more at the sight of a black man then it does at the sight of a white man. And I consider that progress.



My Book is Unintentionally Racist

My book is unintentionally racist. No, not my novel. That one takes place during the Civil War and is intentionally racist. It has to be to claim any sort of historical accuracy. I am talking about my children’s book, 10 Cheeky Monkeys. It’s a counting book that also teaches vocabulary words, and by happenstance because of current events portrays racism. At first I was content to sweep in under the rug and explain it away by evoking my white privilege of “You’re reading too much into it.” But quite frankly, I can’t do that anymore. I am revoking my white privilege and talking about the fact that it’s there. It isn’t something that I can do anything about at this point, I don’t have the money that it would cost to change it, but I can acknowledge that it is there instead of ignoring it.

You see, I’ve come to believe that one of the biggest problems facing us today in regards to race is everyday good people ignoring or not acknowledging racism when they see it. Or not even realizing that it is there, while meanwhile it is a constant thorn in the sides of people of color. Before the Civil War abolitionists had something to fight for: the abolishment of slavery. It was a tangible, worthy goal with easily recorded wins. Lincoln introduced the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War secured the last nail in the coffin lid of slavery. However, something that ingrained isn’t given up that easily. The slave codes were reworded and reworked and largely became the Jim Crow laws. I realize that this is an over simplification and what follows is also a simplification, but I don’t want to bore you with too much of a history lesson, so I beg you to stick with me.

Then came the Civil Rights Movement. Again, there was something tangible to fight against, something to direct the attack. Desegregate, overturn the Jim Crow laws, and end the violence and abject fear that was running rampant in the South. These goals were easily articulated and the wins were easily recorded. However, again, something that ingrained does not go away easily. And I don’t want to harp solely on the South here. There were race riots in New York during the Civil War. In fact, before the war broke out, one of the top proposals of the anti-slavery movement was to stick all of the freed blacks on a boat and send them back to Africa. They weren’t looking for equality, they just didn’t want slavery anymore. Same for the Civil Rights movement. There were plenty of people who were all for blacks having “equal rights,” as long as they didn’t move up north into their neighborhoods. Our country is entrenched in a history of racism, and while the Jim Crow laws were overturned, the sentiments remained.

Our problem today, is that with the advent of cell phone videos and live streaming it is much easier to broadcast the stories of a select group out to a wide audience. And to quote Fannie Lou Hamer, a large majority of the black population is “Sick and tired or being sick and tired.” They are sick of the constant, insidious racism that they encounter every day and tired of it being brushed aside like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal, and unlike the activists of the past, the activists of today don’t have anything they can point to, anything that they can definitively fight against.

Sadly, for some that focus has fallen on the police as it is their onerous job to mete out a lot of this injustice. There are cities in this country that make hundreds of thousands of dollars off their poorest communities from fines and tickets. Guess who has to dole those out? The cops. If they don’t, they lose their jobs. If they do they become the enemy of the very people they have sworn to protect. EVERY ONE is set up for failure in this system. Yes, there are a select few in blue who use their power and position to unduly harass and prosecute the black communities that they are supposed to serve. They are a problem and they need to go. Racism and bigotry have no business in uniform. But even with all of them gone, it is the system as a whole that needs an overhaul.

Even if a fairy godmother could come down and snap her fingers to fix the entire system overnight, we would still have a race problem in this country and the activists of today would still be lacking a handhold for their fight. It is the hearts and minds of the general populace that need to change. But it is a general awareness that is lacking amongst a large portion of the white population that a problem even exists. That is itself one of the biggest problems, and it is perpetuated every time we see or do something racist and let it slide, because, “What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that this country abolished slavery 151 years ago, yet has still failed to systematically treat and address the black population as equal. Don’t believe me, go to Google and type in “Obama monkey.” That is the respect shown to our commander-in-chief. Yes, all presidents get made fun of, but that is not all-in-fun ribbing. Those images are racist. If you’re still skeptical that a problem exists, type in “Leslie Jones Twitter.” That’s just the blatant racism hurled at black people, the subtle, latent racism often sneaks by under the radar of whites. It makes me shudder that we have progressed so little.

So with that said, I am calling myself out. There is a portion of my book 10 Cheeky Monkeys that can be interpreted as racist. Here are the pages next to their inspiration.


I specifically asked my illustrator to add in the police car as a throwback to a piece I did in my portfolio when I graduated from college. I of course can’t find that to add a picture, but it would be of a white guy eating his pizza as fast as he can before the police can come and arrest him. Now here are the pages next to images that are more likely to come to mind with our recent news cycles.

News Cycle

Is it intentional? No.  Does it eerily mirror events that are popping up in the news far too frequently? Yes. Do I personally feel that it perpetuates racist stereotypes? Yes. Do I accept that as the publisher of this book and the one who requested the illustration change, that this is my doing? Yes. Does that make me a racist? No. Does that make my illustrator a racist? Absolutely not. Good, well-intentioned people do racist things every day without realizing that they are doing so. That doesn’t make them racists. However, it is time we started noticing how our words and decisions impact those of color. It is time we unlearn our years of privilege and learn to do better. Myself included.



F*ck the Hashtags, Give Me Action

I feel sick. In my gut, in my heart and in my soul. I have spent considerable amounts of time studying the backward thinking that caused the Civil War. The oppression that the suffragists fought against, and the stark cruelty and abject depravity of the Civil Rights movement. I wish I could stand back and look at our country today and marvel at how far we have come. But I can’t, because we haven’t gone anywhere. The racism is still there, the intolerance and oppression are still there, and it has got to stop. The indomitable Maya Angelou once said:


America, specifically white America, you know better, so start doing better. Black men are not inherently dangerous, or the boogey man lurking in the shadows that our ancestors would have us believe. Homosexuals are not backwards or trying to denigrate and ruin your so called family values. Immigrants are not destroying our nation by bringing in their foreign tongues and diverse cultures. So get over yourselves. White is not right, or better. English is not our official national language and Christianity is not our official national religion – because we don’t have either a national language or religion. Why? This map explains the language matter better than I can, and as for religion, the first amendment of our Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Our founding fathers did the best they knew how to create a canvas of tolerance. Sadly we have failed the test of tolerance from day one and we continue to do so today. This country has the potential of being a great melting pot of people and culture and religion, but we will never achieve that if we continue to allow those in power – ie white Christian men – to skim anything different than themselves out of the pot. We will never achieve that if we continue to allow the thinking to pervade that anything different than white and Christian is bad.


I have great respect for our brothers and sisters in blue who do a largely thankless and hard job. I believe that there are many who do outstanding jobs. However, with that respect comes a higher level of accountability, and it is time to lay that accountability on the table. Blatant racism and prejudice should have no home in a blue uniform and it is time to clean house. It is time that we as a people demand to know what the accountability process is for our local law enforcement. It is time that we investigate what kind of oversight is in place. Is it union-based or strictly in-house? If so, then it is time that we demand there be civilian oversight as well. Police are going to stand up and protect their own, as they should for the most part, but an outside check is severely lacking to provide the needed balance.


Write to your mayor, your governor, your city-councils and let them know that we the people, who elected them, want transparency in our police forces. Write to your representatives and tell them the same. Follow-up. If you sent an email, send a physical letter. If you’ve done both and nothing has happened, make a phone call. If you’ve done all three and nothing has happened, then vote them out in November. There are more than 400 congressional seats up for re-election and innumerable local government seats. Let it be known that this will be a topic not just for discussion, but for action and only those willing to act will get the votes. The time for hashtags is over. Now is the time for action.

Elie quote

*For additional reading, I highly recommend the following articles: What You Can Do About Police Brutality, Concrete Ways to Be an Ally to Black PeopleWhite Silence, The Next Time Someone Says All Lives Matter, What White Folks and Non-Black POC Need to Understand About Systematic Racism, and I Recorded the Racist Things People Did to Me.

I Lied, I Do Care

I have been doing a lot of research lately on a truly remarkable woman, who is known for a simple thing. Like every mother out there, she loved her son. What makes her remarkable is that she publicly stated – in a letter to the editor of the New York Post – that she loved her homosexual son. It was 1972, and this was a first. I don’t want to go into detail because she is the subject of my next Heroine of History, but this research has been weighing on me. As much as I am inspired by her actions, I am upset that they were necessary in the first place. I am more upset, that they are still necessary.

For years I used to proclaim that I didn’t care if a person was black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, bi, trans, etc. I cared if they were kind, if they were trustworthy, if their presence in my life made my life better. Labels were just labels, and I paid them no heed. While I still very much believe in the latter, I have come to discover that I was wrong about the former. I lied, I do care. I care very much for my friends of color and my LGBTQ friends. At times I find that I care more for them, because it makes me sick to see the things that are said and the things that are done to people because they look or love differently.

It broke my heart when a black friend made a request that should he ever be killed by police and painted in the media as just another thug, that we, his friends, stand up for him and try to set the record straight. To make sure that somebody was talking about the kind, generous, intelligent and incredibly talented artist. That somebody was talking about how much this well-rounded member of our community would be missed. That somebody was talking about more than the color of his skin and how he must have deserved what he got. This request shook me to the core. It made me realize that I do care that he is black, because I care very deeply that he ever had to have that thought. That he ever had to dwell on that thought for so long that it became a need to express his feelings. No one should ever have to feel so devalued as a race, or as a person that they have to ask for advocacy. Because of that, I care.

Because of the fact that this country is in a state-by-state battle to legitimize same-sex marriage, I care. Just the thought of that pisses me off. The fact that there are people out there who seriously believe that there is anything wrong or illegitimate about one person loving another makes me see red. The fact that my friends, and their community, are exposed on a daily basis to descriptors like – wrong, unnatural, gross, immoral, etc – makes me want to punch people in the face. Do you want to know what’s unnatural? Judging and condemning people that you’ve never met. I honestly can’t think of anything more unnatural than that, and yet people do it all the time. Because of that, I care.

I care because I was asked today if I thought my open support of equality would negatively impact the sales of my new children’s book. To that question I have only one response – I am proud to be an ally, and you can expect to see my Heroines of History article championing gay rights later this month. Perhaps I’ll be able to find a black lesbian to feature next. Challenge accepted.


My Favorite Word

My sister once said to me, “For someone who has the biggest vocabulary I know, you sure say the word ‘Fuck’ a lot.” I took this as a complement. She had not meant it as a complement. Truth be told, she swears very little. I can’t even remember the last time that I heard her swear. I, on the other hand, tend to swear like a very well-educated pirate. What my sister doesn’t comprehend is that I don’t swear for the shock value, or because I can’t think of anything else to say. Trust me when I say, that I can think of a plethora of other expletives to fit any number of situations. But using a swear word, one of those “taboo”, “inappropriate” words has a power behind it that still exists even if you are all alone.


That power is given to those words from the moment that we start to learn language. Kids get in trouble for swearing. They are told that those are naughty words or only for adults. Which of course means that by the time you hit fifth grade you’re uttering every swear word you can think of with your friends and then giggling incessantly if a teacher or parent should walk by and almost hear you. At least this is what is was like with my friends. But then of course, I grew up in a very small mountain town where there wasn’t much to do. So maybe giggling at swear words was our version of hanging out at the mall. Who knows. At any rate, swear words take on this aura of rebelliousness. For most kids.

I was not one of those kids, because I didn’t get in trouble for swearing. When I was about nine, my mother scolded me for saying the word ‘shit.’ I pointed out to her that she said it all the time. Sometimes in different languages. I also told her that I didn’t buy the whole argument about adult words vs kid words especially since adults used those words around kids. So she made me a deal. She said that she wouldn’t swear for the entire week, and if she slipped up then I would be allowed to say that word with impunity. By the end of the week I could say them all. Needless to say, dad, who worked in the school district I attended, was not overly thrilled with this deal. Especially since I’m sure he imagined getting reports about me swearing in class. So dad added an addendum to the agreement: I could say any word that I wanted to, but if I got in trouble for my particular word choices, I was on my own. It was up to me to take responsibility for what I said.


Herein lay my first lesson in the power of words. I was nine years old and allowed to say anything I wanted free of reprisals from my parents. But I had to learn not where certain words were appropriate, but how they were received and whether or not I liked that reception. For example, swearing at school out a recess with my friends was fun and daring. Swearing during class in front of the teacher got me trouble. Obviously I liked the first, but not the second, so I kept swearing in the first instance and never swore in the second. It was in this way that I developed the ability to switch my vulgarity on and off. Around older adults (who appear to be the type that would not appreciate it), or children, I don’t swear. I turn the pirate off. Around my friends, and heck even sometimes in my writing, the pirate gets turned back on.

Quite frankly, I prefer it and I’m more relaxed when the pirate gets to come out. I swear, because I choose to swear. It provides a lovely release of frustration, or surprise, or anger, or whatever emotion tends to be surging. And I’ve even seen studies that show that people who swear regularly are healthier and in general more honest. Don’t know if I believe that, but there you go. So for those of you who were offended, or “put-off,” by the f-bombs that were dropped in my last post, I apologize. However, I’m not going to start mincing my words. I do have an extensive lexicon, but as my sister so adroitly noticed, ‘Fuck’ happens to be my favorite word.


I have always considered myself a strong woman both mentally and physically. I keep my cool in emergencies and I am usually one of the first people to act. I’m 5’9”, I have a broad frame and I pack on muscle just by looking at a set of weights. I am larger and stronger than the average woman and because of years of stage combat and self-defense training I would fare much better than the average woman in a fight. Yet the UCSB attack and the emergence of the #YesAllWomen campaign has really made me think. I am very fortunate in the fact that I have never been in a verbally or physically abusive relationship with a man. I am also very fortunate that I have never been sexually abused or assaulted. Sadly, this puts me in a minority group. I have lost track of how many of my friends have been raped. When I really stop and think about it, the number is mind boggling. It breaks my heart that I have friends that have to differentiate between when they forcibly lost their virginity and when they chose to lose their virginity. I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors that exist in their past.


Then I realize, that to a certain degree I can, because like them, I live every day in fear. I have never had any of these atrocities acted upon my body, yet there is an ever present warning light in the back of my mind reminding me that my turn could be just around the corner. I am not a victim, yet. All of the strength and training that I possess may not be enough to stop the inevitable. That’s right, the inevitable. I think every young woman, if she’s honest with herself, expects to be harmed by a man at some point in her lifetime. And that’s not right. There are a lot of really great men in this world, but they aren’t the ones that we’re taught about. So we’re afraid. I am afraid . . .

Because admitting that I’ve never been raped will eventually be met with the quip, “Challenge accepted!” and no one will be there to shame the man that says it.

Because I was taught to scream ‘fire’ or ‘fight’ instead of ‘rape’ or ‘help’ because the former will draw attention and the latter will not.

Because I was trained to carry my purse so that I can swing it at an attacker in a moment’s notice.

Because I was taught that you never open the door to an unknown man after dark, because obviously he is there to rape and kill you.

Because I’ve said yes to sex, even when I didn’t want to, because I was afraid of what might happen if I said no even though the man had shown no signs of aggression. Better to have the semblance of a choice, then have the choice removed completely.

Because I was given a “rape whistle” at my college orientation, and I knew girls that needed it for that purpose.

Because in college my friends and my reaction to men sticking their hands up our skirts at a dance club was either to avoid clubs completely, or make sure that we always wore pants.

Because I automatically start going over my self-defense training whenever I’m alone at night and see a man.

Because I sleep with a dagger by my bed, and nobody questions why it’s there.

Because I live my life with this insidious fear I have the tiniest glimpse into what life must be like for the women who are less fortunate than me. That makes my heart ache and my very soul cry. We should not have to live like this. #YesAllWomen deserve equality, but more importantly we deserve to be safe.

Finding a Voice


I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but it’s only recently that people have been telling me that they “love my voice.”  I took the compliments and felt honored by them, but didn’t really understand.  What was “my voice” and why was it only now coming through so strongly.  It wasn’t until I started to compare my work now to older work, and where and who I am now compared to times in the past, that I finally saw what people were talking about.  My writing has developed a personality all its own, a voice that yearns to tell the stories it hears kicking around in my head, and tell them in a way that highlights all of the things that I find significant.


Finding my voice as a writer was actually all about accepting who I am, all of who I am – the goofy, inappropriate, awkward, blunt, honest, atypical, exuberant, moody, defiant, stubborn, passionate whole – and giving myself permission to share that with the world.  I use the word permission very specifically because I had been taught from a young age; I think we are all taught, that we need to conform.  Don’t be so loud, don’t draw attention, don’t be weird . . . because heaven forbid someone should know that you’re an individual and have a personality.  Scary!


But this is what I was taught, so that is how I lived.  Being me was “wrong”.  Occasionally I would forget, but there was always someone there to shoosh me back into the box . . . where I was miserable.  I had no voice because I had no access to who I truly was, and with no voice I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t see straight.  I could see my inherent talents, and I could sense my inherent passions, but I was so focused on making sure that what I was doing was “right” that everything I did was wrong.  I knew it every second of every day, and knowing that I was wrong made me hesitant to use what voice I had because I was afraid of being rejected for the person that I didn’t want to be in the first place.


It wasn’t until I realized that I was spending all of my time and energy perfecting a person that I didn’t want to be that I finally started to reevaluate what exactly was so “wrong” with who I was.  I realized that there was nothing wrong with me.  What was wrong was that I had listened for so long to all of the people who insisted on pigeon holing me into what they perceived to be “right”.  It was then that I realized that I had no need for those people in my life.  I had no need for people who made me feel ashamed for living a life of passion and joy and risks.  There are people in this world who love me for living those ideals.  Those are the people that I needed in my life and it was with those people that I tested my real voice.  It was with those people that I learned to scream it to the rafters.  And when I was done, they weren’t cringing, embarrassed by my display.  They were smiling and laughing with me.


The next thing I knew, I was writing.  I was writing more than I ever had in my life, and I loved what I was writing.  I felt strong and courageous as I let my characters sweep me away in their story.  I bared my soul to them and they did the same in return.  They share with me their deepest, darkest desires and secrets and I try to honor them by being brave enough to put them down for all to read.  They live and breathe by my pen, and I live and breathe for them.  In creating them, I have found myself.  I have found my voice.

Beautiful Quote