Creative Commons License

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Image from funny2014

We all make New Year's resolutions. Lose weight, work less, work more, get in shape or back in shape, spend more time with family, end a toxic relationship, eat better. And as that fateful date approaches, many of us are thinking about what we can do differently in 2014.

Voting is a good resolution. In 2010, a lot of people stayed home and we ended up with the least productive congress in American history. Men and women obsessed with a birth certificate and marriage equality and women's rights but not so much with bettering our country. Representatives who sold their constituents a bill of goods that hurt rather than helped, and convinced those same people that voting against their own best interests would somehow work out in the end.

There are grassroots organizations trying to create positive change in America, groups like Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America. Founded by Shannon Marmion Watts in the days following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Moms Demand Action has helped bring the conversation about gun violence to Main Street, USA, often incurring the wrath of some very angry and violent people. Shannon and other leaders of Moms Demand Action receive death threats against both themselves and their families, rape threats and just the other night, a disturbed man from Idaho called Shannon at least thirteen times, leaving voice mails, including one that mentioned he "made love" to his firearms. He finally stopped when Shannon's sister-in-law answered the phone and yelled "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" 2014 promises to be a busy year for Moms Demand Action, and perhaps one of our resolutions could be to step up and support them in any way we can.

A Facebook page started by Michael Knote made national news this past week when none other than George Takei took Facebook to task on their behalf. Have A Gay Day posted an innocuous photo of two men kissing and that photo was targeted by right wing trolls. So many trolls reported it to Facebook that an automatic system kicked in and every administrator for the page was banned for at least 24 hours. A fan of the page shared that with George Takei and his staff contacted Facebook. Facebook not only apologized, but put Have A Gay Day on a list of "protected pages" so trolls will no longer be able to attack them. What a great way to close out 2013 for Have A Gay Day. I hope many people will consider helping this page as part of their list for 2014. Perhaps someday, everyone can be protected from hate. Which brings me to one of my own New Year's resolutions.

My first resolution is to be brave. Oh, I write brave, but I hide who I am and what I do from people in my town. At first I told myself it was to protect my son from backlash at school, then to protect my husband at work. What I finally realized is I'm hiding to protect myself. No more of that. If people ask me what I do, I will tell them I am a liberal blogger for Quiet Mike and Forward Progressives and right here at Poking at Snakes. That I'm proud to be a liberal because we fight for the little guy, we care about everyone and we understand who the true job creators are. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to have conversations with people and change their minds.
The second resolution is a task of epic proportions, and one I am not even sure I can perform. For over five years, I have wondered why bullycide-the act of bullying someone to the point where they take their own life-is not a crime, why it is not covered by federal hate crime legislation. Think about bullying. Bullies target people based on skin color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and/or handicaps. If a person beats up a person because of those criteria, it's a hate crime, but if someone just uses words and hate speech to drive another human being to suicide, it's not.

Bullycide is an incredibly complex issue, because most of us realize bullies learn their craft at home. They either are bullied themselves or they hear parents, siblings or other relatives bully someone else. But again, with other crimes, while past experiences are often taken into consideration, very rarely is a perpetrator given a complete pass based on their life at home.

I've given myself two weeks to put together a mission statement, come up with a name for my project and find people to help. Luckily, I have some extraordinary journalists to whom I am connected via social media, and it is my sincere hope that as the details become more clear, they will join this cause. 2014 will also be the year I finally interview Jerry Trimble, a world-renowned martial arts expert and stunt coordinator who works with bullied kids all over the country. Maybe I can get him on board as well. The BULLY Project has already offered their support and assistance, which is incredible. My next goal is to get Senator Al Franken to take my phone call. Sen. Franken is an advocate against bullying and he would be a powerful voice for this endeavor.

2014 will be a big year for so many reasons. We have the chance to undo the damage of 2010, we have the opportunity to bring representatives to congress who will work for the country not the corporations. We can support groups like Moms Demand Action and Have A Gay Day. And perhaps, there will be a "we" involved with my project as well.

Happy New Year from Poking at Snakes. Let's change some things, shall we?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Lesson in Love

Falling in love is terrifying, especially if you've tried it before and failed. Even more so if you've thought you were in love only to have the person to whom you have given your everything turns out to be sort of a monster. Or cheats on you. Abandons you. Hurts you so deeply, you think you will never recover. They don't call it falling for nothing.

Some trip merrily into love, some stagger, some tiptoe. I jumped, every single time thinking "Yep, this is the one." Except the one wasn't the one. Until an elevator door opened fourteen years ago and I saw him. Tall, devastatingly handsome, a hesitant smile, a deep voice and he even smelled good.

Today, that devastatingly handsome, brilliant man and I have been married for seven years. Our road wasn't easy at all; it was filled with glass shards and barbed wire fencing and boulders and land mines. We parted ways physically but never emotionally, we fought like rabid hyenas, barking insults and screaming in the night and through all of it, we kept loving each other.

There is something magical about being married to your best friend. We finish each other's sentences, we forgive each other's missteps and misstatements, we learn every day how to be better partners. He is a magnificent stepfather to my son, the only steady male role model in his life for almost ten years. This is a man who cried at my mother's funeral not because she was gone, but because he finally understood what she survived.

So, what lesson did I learn from falling in love for the real first time, and the last time? I learned that you can't be looking for love. Love finds you at the most inconvenient moments and it takes you completely by surprise. I learned love is not all the things Hallmark says it is; love is messy and filled with obstacles because the point of love is to deal with the messes and the obstacles together. If you're in love with someone who won't stand next to you when the shit hits the fan, that's not really love.

Stop looking for love. If it's right, love will probably find you when your life is the most messy, your heart is the most frigid and your energy is focused on five hundred other things. Like the day after you talk to a lawyer about divorcing the father of your child and just want to get the laundry done. Maybe you'll be standing in the hallway of an apartment complex, waiting for the elevator and when the doors open, you'll look up and realize that all the frogs you've kissed have led to this moment.

I kissed a lot of frogs. Then I found my prince. He didn't save me; he stood by me while I saved myself. He loves me when my hair looks weird, if I have a zit, he doesn't care that I'm getting older or that I am always going to be more emotional than average. And I don't care that he has a few more wrinkles than he used to or that his hair is grey or that he loves watching stuff on You Tube about aliens. Someone told me that we have the kind of marriage other people crave. Maybe we do, I don't know. What I do know is this: getting here, to the point where we are completely happy and in sync wasn't easy. But it was worth it.

It really was.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays from Poking at Snakes!

First, I want to wish everyone who celebrates a very Merry Christmas. Secondly, to folks who celebrate something other than Christmas, Happy Holidays. Third, for those who don't celebrate anything, love and peace and joy know what? This is freaking stupid. So here:

To all my readers, my followers, my friends and even the people who hate me, have a wonderful, joyous, loving and fabulous season filled with laughter and good cheer. Bring your pets indoors. Bake cookies and give them to a local nursing home or the ER staff at the hospital. Sing, dance, giggle. Play a board game from your childhood (we're playing Clue tonight). Go for a walk and hold hands with someone you love. 

Oh. I almost forgot. Merry Christmas you heathens from The Bachmann Diaries

Monday, December 9, 2013

Newt Gingrich's racist chickens have come home to roost

Image from The Atlantic

After the passing of Nelson Mandela, Newt Gingrich posted a statement to his Facebook page, expressing his condolences. Gingrich called Mr. Mandela "one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime." And like other right wing politicians who posted similar sentiments, Gingrich watched his base go nuts. Here is a sampling of the comments Newt Gingrich's "fans" wrote underneath his post.

From Mario, we have "Newt, I was for you to win the primaries and become the next president; please tell me your joking!! Mandela was a commie murderer!!" Mario's comment has garnered 43 likes. Chad chimes in with "You, along with all the Democrats and Republicans what's wrong with America's political system, Newt. THIS GUY WAS A COMMUNIST. You're all so desperate for votes that you'd suck off Satan and say you're a Christian. All the while believing yourself." 40 likes for Chad. Finally, let me present Eric who writes "He was a communist and a murder similar to our currant president. Are you too being baffled by the mainstream media." [sic] Eric has received only 15 likes for his erudite view.

Mr. Gingrich appeared on CNN, and expressed "surprise" at the litany of negative comments that greeted his heartfelt post on the death of Nelson Mandela. He even wrote a response, and The Atlantic correctly points out that Gingrich was one of a "cadre of conservatives" who opposed their own party's views on Apartheid and helped override Reagan's veto. That, of course, was the old Newt Gingrich.

In October of this year, Mr. Gingrich said during an interview with The 700 Club, that President Obama "refuses to behave like an American president." Gee, I wonder which part of his base that comment was meant to enrage. Racists, birthers, people who falsely believe the president is a Marxist, socialist, communist, Muslim Nazi? Nah.

Newt Gingrich also called President Obama's comments about the murder of Trayvon Martin "disgraceful." While appearing on Red Meat Tosser Sean Hannity's radio program, Gingrich came out swinging when he asked "Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be okay because it didn't look like him?" Yet now, Mr. Gingrich is "surprised" by his base's reaction to a statement of condolence regarding the death of Nelson Mandela.

Lest we forget, John McCain had to address the Muslim issue during his presidential campaign thanks in no small part to his running mate, Half Governor Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin tosses that red meat to the base as well as anyone, and people like Newt Gingrich have no idea what to do. On the one hand, Gingrich needs those racist birthers if he plans to run for president again in 2016. On the other hand, somewhere, deep down, I think Newt Gingrich wishes he'd never aligned himself with a party that chums for white nationalists at CPAC. 

Newt, you built this. This hate, these comments, are the result of almost a decade of praising Ronald Reagan as some sort of saint while using thinly-veiled code to demean and attack President Obama. Kudos to you for being part of the group that stood up to Reagan during Apartheid. Once upon a time, you had courage. You seemed to find a bit of that in the days since the death of Nelson Mandela, and it is my sincere hope you hang on to it. It would be nice to see someone as famous as you come out and tell the truth.

I won't hold my breath.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Paul Walker's death matters

Photo of Paul Walker as Skip in the movie "Pleasantville."

On Saturday, actor Paul Walker was killed in car accident. He was the passenger in a car that crashed into a tree. Both he and the driver are dead. Both leave behind family, friends and both are being mourned. Paul Walker was forty years old.

At first, his death was questioned as a hoax. There are many sites online publishing fake celebrity deaths every day, and unfortunately this often leads to disbelief when anyone famous dies. Unfortunately, the news was real. And as the information spread, so did the hate.

Yes, hate. Liberals, people I know, were posting the most horrific jokes about the death of Paul Walker. Walker starred in the "Fast and the Furious" franchise, and almost immediately, comparisons were being made between those movies and the car accident that took two lives. From what I read, it seemed to be a bunch of "humorists" who attacked anyone disagreeing with them by using shame. For example, how can you care about one famous person dying when you don't care about kids dying in Africa, he was a C-list celebrity so who cares, I hate it when people get all worked up about some movie star dying but don't care about their next door neighbor.

You know who those liberals sounded like? Conservatives. Remember when Whitney Houston died? Conservatives wrote and said the most awful things about her drug habit, her daughter, her music, her life. They screamed when Chris Christie lowered the flags in New Jersey to half staff. They called her a crack whore, stated the world was better off without her, called her ghetto, you name it. They made fun of her death, ignoring the people she left behind who were devastated and grieving. Truly nasty comments were everywhere, and when someone dared to question the lack of empathy behind all the hate, we were told many of the same things liberals are saying in response to being questioned about their response to the death of Paul Walker.

It is possible to say "Man, this is awful, he was so young" while at the same time, giving money to Heifer International or Doctors Without Borders. I don't know anyone who only cares when a celebrity dies. In fact, most of the people in my life care whenever anyone dies too young. When Andrew Breitbart died, I took a lot of heat because I felt badly for his family. I was supposed to (I was told in many different ways) hate him, rejoice in his death and have no feelings of sorrow for anyone related to him. You know, like conservatives did when Ted Kennedy died.

Paul Walker was part of the cast of "Pleasantville," a pretty good movie about what happens when you let light and color into a black and white world. We live in a black and white world, and when one of us strays from the monochromatic script written by mysterious people on their high horses, we get in trouble. I refuse to live in that world. Paul Walker was a good actor, and a young man who was taken in a very tragic way too soon. The driver of the car is being mourned today as well, even though we don't know his or her name. Funerals are being planned, family members are walking around in shock, as family members always do when a loved one dies suddenly. And yet, we have people in our social media circles who think this is funny, and chastise anyone who dares to take a moment and say "This is really a shame."

It is a shame, in more ways than one. It's a shame that Paul Walker and the driver of that car are dead. It's a shame that speed may have played a part in the accident, meaning that it might have been avoided. It's a shame that a few liberals (and perhaps conservatives; I haven't checked their side of social media recently) feel it's perfectly okay to minimize and make fun of the death of another human being simply because he was famous.

It is my sincere hope that the families of those two people never have to see the things being posted about that accident. Paul Walker's daughter does not need to view a bunch of self-important narcissists making fun of the death of her father. No one does.

Update: Mother Jones has a fantastic piece on Paul Walker's charity work.

Update #2: When I wrote this, the driver of the car had not been identified. Since publishing, his name has been released. He was Roger Rodas. Click this link to find out more about him, including his charity work and work in Central America with green energy.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ode to my Corpulent Cat

Each morning as I slumber
A cat begins her day
Stretching, scratching, starving beast
Wanders to where I lay
Her howls could wake the dead
Her stomach must be fed
Blindly staggering down the hall
Reaching for the bag
I can almost hear her little voice
"Feed me now you hag!"
As she approaches the waterhole
A lioness on the prowl
I notice that in her hunger
She's eaten a kitchen towel

Many have gazed upon her form
Struggling to be kind
The expression on their face is fun
Especially when they see her from behind
My cat is fat
She's huge, she's massive, she's large
At this time next year
She should be the size of a barge
No matter what we try
Her weight will not reduce
We thought about a diet
Consisting of meaty juice
She eats the rugs, the towels, the chairs
Shit off the floor and her own hair

But I love her because she loves me
She chirps and purrs consistently
We rescued her from the pound, you see
So, yes, I say she's very fluff-y
Spoiled rotten to the core
Another cat I will not adore
Until she's on the Rainbow Bridge
And even then
Only a smidge
Yes, she could be thinner
I could limit her breakfast, lunch and dinner
But if I do that, the price to pay
Will be losing a piece of furniture every day

My cat is fat, I understand
Her MO is food on demand
She's sleeping now, on my mom's silk chair
Well, on a sheet because of the hair
I accept the shedding, the howling, the fur
Because I couldn't live without her
She fills my days with joy and purring
And vomit, headaches, a lot of furring
She tolerates the teenage hugs
Every once in awhile she eats a bug
Then pukes it up in a mysterious place
Like my shoe, under the bed, some hidden space

My cat is fat 
She's also warm and loving, kind and funny
Her personality is downright sunny
I love her dearly, with all my heart
It would be nice if my day could start
A wee bit later, say not when it's dark
But I accept the begging for food
Because there's nothing like a mighty purr to lighten your mood
This is an ode to my corpulent cat
It's finished now
And she's still fat

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Foreword by George Takei!

Image from the Snyder-Hill family

"Guess who's writing the foreword for Steve's book?" This was the question posed to me last Thursday evening by Joshua Snyder-Hill, Major Steve Snyder-Hill's husband. The first name that popped into my head was Leon Panetta, but I shoved that out of the way. Who could it be, I wondered. And since I didn't have a clue, I chose the one name, the one person I truly believed was completely out of reach.

"George Takei."

Absolute silence. 

"Yeah, George Takei."

George Takei is writing the foreword to Soldier of Change, Steve's book being released next spring. On Tuesday evening, Steve and Josh were gracious enough to chat with me by phone about this amazing development and the path they have taken to get to this point.

On September 22nd, 2011, Republican presidential candidates stood on a stage in Florida and answered questions submitted via You Tube. One of those questions was asked by Steve Snyder-Hill, serving in Iraq. Steve wanted to know the candidates' positions on the recent repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and if they would allow the repeal to stand. A few members of the audience booed at the end of the video and Rick Santorum answered with his usual bigotry while every single candidate stood in silence. Not one of them thanked Steve for his service, not one of them chastised the people who dared boo an Army officer in Iraq.

Steve had recently come out as a gay man to the Army and to their credit, his superiors supported his decision to submit the question about DADT. But he was still afraid of what could happen to his Army career when he shared his true self with the world. Much like George Takei was afraid of what coming out would do to his acting career. 

George Takei is one of the most powerful forces in social media. He has over 5 million fans on Facebook, his "Just Say Takei!" campaign against Stacey Campfield's "Don't Say Gay" bill garnered attention from all over the world and his activism is legendary. If George Takei endorses a product, a film, a book or a petition, odds are, it's deserving of his praise.

But how did this happen? How did Steve and Josh convince George Takei to write the foreword for Soldier of Change? It turns out that wasn't nearly as difficult as you might think. 

Josh was in California, attending a Learning 2013 conference. George and his husband Brad were there for a book signing of Oh Myyy! (There Goes The Internet), accompanied by Jay Kou. Jay is the composer, lyricist and playwright of "Allegiance-A New American Musical." Jay and Josh met thanks to Josh forgetting his conference pass and having to eat dinner at the hotel bar.

Steve and Josh had contacted George Takei some time ago, asking if he would write the foreword to Soldier of Change. When Josh mentioned this to Jay, Jay asked if they had found anyone yet or if the offer was still open. George and Brad knew Steve and Josh's story, and George sent Josh the following message on Facebook:

"It is a great honor to be connected with this heroic American and an extraordinary privilege to able to write a foreword to his book. I remember the incident during the presidential campaign."

Soldier of Change is a remarkable story of a man who just wanted to live life as himself. It is a love story, a story of extraordinary strength and resilience. It is the story of two men who chose to take the boos of a few and the ignorance of many and affect change the likes of which we haven't seen for decades. DOMA overturned. State after state voting to legalize marriage equality. The C-Bus of Love. President Obama taking the political risk of coming out in favor of gay marriage.

Both Steve and Josh compared their life to the Frank Capra film, "It's A Wonderful Life." What if Steve had never submitted that question? What if none of this ever happened? Would a sitting U.S. president have publicly stated his support of marriage equality? Would DOMA have been overturned? Would the majority of Americans have joined President Obama in supporting the right for two adults who love each to get married?

And what if George Takei had never come out? What if in 2005, instead of finding the incredible courage to say "I'm a gay man," George had chosen to stay silent? Would we see DOMA in shambles, would Hawaii have just voted for marriage equality, would a new generation of LGBT teens and young adults have found their own strength?

This is the perfect partnership: Three heroes who between them have changed the way millions of people view the LGBT community. Three heroes who have stood up to bullies and bigots. It is with great pride and love that I thank Steve and Josh for sharing their amazing news with me, and with great respect that I thank George Takei and Jay Kou for what I am certain will be a wonderful foreword to an equally wonderful book.

To find out more about Soldier of Change and Major Steve Snyder-Hill, please visit his public Facebook page.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Five years ago this week

Mom and me

Five years ago this week, I flew out to Virginia to take care of my mother. She was recovering from surgery and my dad needed me to help around the condo. My tasks included emptying a drain attached to my mom's stomach and helping her record the fluid on a notepad, finding a home health care worker to take my place when I went home and getting Mom to eat. 

My dad picked me up at Dulles. He didn't really tell me anything new, just that Mom was tired and not eating. I had no idea what I would see when we walked through the front door. She was sitting in the kitchen in her wheelchair, no makeup, hair not done. Her face had a yellow cast to it, like a jaundiced infant. She was so thin. The word that entered my mind was gaunt, she was gaunt. Her normally bright blue eyes were dull and almost lifeless. 

No one prepared me for this. My father didn't warn me, my mother didn't warn me, no one told me she was dying. No one told me it was time, that she was so tired, that trying to make her eat would be more difficult than nailing Jello to a tree. So I tried. A dietitian came for a visit bringing protein shakes in chocolate and vanilla. My mom drank one and a half that day, but never again. We gave her Ensure, which she wouldn't drink. Scrambled eggs went into the trash. 

And every morning, my father went to work, leaving me there with Mom. I don't blame him; I think he was in denial as much as I was. She had a lift chair in the bedroom-she couldn't sleep in their bed anymore-and when she would take one of her many naps, I would tiptoe into the room to make sure she was still breathing. When I saw her chest move up and down, I would tiptoe back out into the kitchen to cry.

One evening, my dad and I went to Whole Foods. We probably spent more time out than we should have, just walking around chatting and looking at people who were still vibrant and filled with life. When we got home, my mom was in her bathroom. She'd had an accident on her way to the toilet. My dad took his overcoat off and we cleaned her up. While we were wiping and drying, my mother said something like "This is how you know people love you." My heart broke into pieces because she really believed that-the only way she knew we loved her is we were cleaning shit off her body. All the other times, she wasn't so sure.

I left a day early. Not out of grief or exhaustion, although I was tired down to my molecules. I left because on my next to last night, my father was wheeling Mom into the bedroom and she told him to hurry-she was going to throw up. She hadn't had anything to eat in two days, and I immediately ran to the phone and called her doctor. She had nothing in her system except pain medication and a little milk, she felt like vomiting and frankly, I thought a doctor should know what the hell was going on. That was the wrong thing to do, evidenced by the reaction of both my parents. 

The last time I saw my mother, I lied to her. She wanted to know why I was going home early, and I told her I'd found the home health care worker, so it was time for me to leave. She didn't believe me, but the one thing my mother and I always had between us was the ability to ignore when the other was not telling the truth. Her eyes were sad but she smiled at me, that skeletal face still tinged with yellow.

I never spoke to her again. Two weeks later, it was over. On November 14th, she left her pain and sorrow and anguish behind. Mine was just beginning.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Love and Hate

Fifteen years ago today, October 12th, a family had to watch their son die. Matthew Shepard slipped away surrounded by people who loved him, cherished him and would miss him forever. And since that day, Matthew's parents have shared the love they had, and still have for their son, with the world.

There is a fine line between love and hate, according to an old adage. In the case of Matthew Shepard, that line is less of a line and more of a chasm. His murder changed the way many view hate crimes, even inspiring the Matthew Shepard Act, a bill signed into law by President Obama. Dennis and Judy Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation and shared the story of their son's life and death with millions. Judy Shepard longs for the day when we don't have a separate LGBT community; when we are simply all part of one loving, equal community.

That's the love. The love of a mother and father who still struggle with the loss of their son. The love they receive every day, but especially this day, from allies and advocates and just regular folks all over the world. Candles are lit, prayers are sent upwards, eyes are closed in reverence of the memory of Matthew Shepard.

On the other side of the chasm is the hate. It's palatable, tangible, dark and odious. There's the book, written by a "journalist" with a history of poor reporting now being used by the far right as "proof" that hate crimes against LGBT aren't really hate crimes. We have Rep. Virginia Foxx who, in front of Judy Shepard, called Matthew's death a "hoax." And most recently, we have Sandy Rios.

Ms. Rios, speaking at the Values Voter Summit Friday, called the characterization of Matthew Shepard's murder as a hate crime "a total fraud." She went on to say Matthew was being using for "propaganda" by the LGBT community and their allies. Rios also promoted the "ex-gay movement," claiming September was "ex-gay  month," and that ex-gays are "everywhere." There were none in the audience, apparently, nor did anyone raise their hand when Rios asked if anyone knew an ex-gay. But they're everywhere.

What's actually everywhere are people who are going to boycott the United States Post Office because in 2014, they are introducing a Harvey Milk stamp. What's really all over the country are people who in their hearts agree with Westboro Baptist Church. But combating them are people like Dennis and Judy Shepard, Steve and Josh Snyder-Hill, Colby Melvin and his fiance, Brandon Brown, Kathy Griffin, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi, George Takei and even not-so-famous bloggers like me.

We fight because we're sick and tired of the lies and the hate and the violence. Homosexuality is not a sin any more than cutting your hair or wearing polyester or planting corn next to barley is a sin. It is not a sin for two adults who love each other to to do that. I've often said, if you don't like gay marriage, then don't get gay married. And stop attacking in any and every single way the LGBT community. Matthew Shepard's death was a hate crime, and all the blustering and lying on the right can't change that.

Put yourself in Dennis and Judy Shepard's shoes. Fifteen years ago, your son faded from your life because of hate and violence. In those fifteen years, you have seen amazing and wonderful movement forward for the LGBT community and you have seen the worst kind of derision from those who thrive on ignorance. People like Sandy Rios who use the murder of Matthew Shepard to attack the very community who mourns him. People like former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who compared gay sex to bestiality. People like Bryan Fischer who tells his listeners all the Nazi storm troopers were gay men, because gay men are so "vicious."

What's vicious are the lies and the violence and the hate leveled at men, women and teenagers who just want to live in a world where it's okay to be themselves. The LGBT community are not the monsters. To see the monsters, people like Sandy Rios only have to look in the mirror.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Bachmann Diaries: What the heck is Twerking?

Image from Google

Dear Diary,

I don't ever watch Saturday Night Live because it's on too late and Marcus told me it's demonic. From what I understand, it's a comedy show with music and skits that used to be funny. But last week, they decided to attack the brave, truthful and Christian members of the Republican Congress for Obummer's shutdown.

Diary, the American people understand what we're doing. We sort of understand what we're doing, but this is really all about respect. That colored Barack Obama has no respect for the Tea Party, this country or white people. He is a race baiter and a gangsta thug. And he's turning America into France.

This "skit" was horrible. I watched it on the You Tube. Some girl named Marley dressed like a WHORE pretended to be me while writhing around in what looked like a Chanel blazer. Obviously, not me because I would never wear that dark a color-it would clash with my beautiful eyes. WE didn't shut down the government and I really wish people would stop blaming us for this. All we want is for Americans to have to pay out the nose for health insurance so we can keep getting those donations. What is so bad about paying $1,000 a month for health insurance? Everyone can afford that.

Did you know that poor people here in America are scamming the system? When we see pictures of poor people in other countries, they're living in tents or cardboard boxes, eating out of dumpsters. Here? Here they live in apartments and have air conditioners and heat and no one has to eat out of a dumpster. This is how I know those people aren't really poor.

Oh we hear of families living in their car or something, but I don't believe that. My dear friend, John Stossel interviewed "poor" people who were waiting in line for their welfare or free food or their Obamaphone and they all had televisions and cars and video game systems and internet. How is that poor? My mother was poor. Taking gold fillings out of corpses in the cemetery down the road from our house so I could buy shoes. And we have never taken a dime of money we didn't deserve from the government.

Marcus was shocked by that Marley person. He did laugh when the ugly little man pretending to be John Boehner kissed a man's chest (EW), only because Speaker Boehner is so masculine he would never do that. He and Marcus have so much in common-they are both really manly and they both like scotch. Although between you and me, Diary, Speaker Boehner likes scotch  A LOT more than Marcus does. And vodka. Gin. He rinses his mouth with peppermint schnapps in the morning. I asked him about that, and he told me schnapps actually has less alcohol in it than Scope. Who knew?

I still need to find out what "Twerking" is. I hope it's an exercise program, and since the congressional gym is still open, maybe I can start "Twerking" out! Oh that was funny! Well, I have to get to a super secret meeting at the Capitol. I wish I could tell you what it's about, but you know how hush hush we high-ranking Intelligence people have to be!

Love-Queen Michele, Ruler of Godlandia xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

(Thank you, Jennifer Rao for the inspiration)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

No death benefits for military families thanks to the GOP shutdown

Image from Huffington Post

NBC News posted an article Tuesday morning about five service members killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. The story was featured on the Today show, but the point was not the five young, dead Americans, as tragic as that is. No, what this piece highlighted was how the families of those five dead Americans would not be receiving death benefits.

Thirty six hours after the death of a service member, funds are transferred to the family in order to help pay for funeral costs and cover immediate living expenses until survivor benefits kick in. And thanks to the Tea Party wing of the Republican party, five families who are living a nightmare will not get that help.

Over the past few weeks we have seen Republican politicians "break down barricades" for WWII veterans, American flags shoved into their lapel pockets. We have heard a Republican congressman attack a park ranger for doing her job, only to flee when confronted by an American citizen. We have heard the Tea Party's mouthpiece-Fox "News"-call the closing of the government everything from a "slimdown" to the "Obama Shutdown."

Keep in mind, these are the same people who festoon themselves with our flag in the form of shirts, hats, pants, jackets, ties and belts. They have "Support the Troops!" yellow ribbons on their cars. Even as they refuse to reopen the government, they use our service members and veterans as props to promote their false patriotism.

These are the same people who voted against The Zadroga Act. Paul Ryan voted against it twice, yet every September 11th, he makes certain he's on camera, proving to the Tea Party how much he "loves" America. And the Tea Party believes him. They believe every single Tea Party Republican who sings the National Anthem at the top of their lungs, all the while denying our service members job assistance, health care and most recently, food stamps.

The Tea Party does not love America. They do not support our troops. If Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan and John Boehner and Mike Lee and Louie Gohmert really want to prove how much they love our service members, they'll dip into their investment funds, withdraw $100,000 and send it to each of those five families. Putting their money where their flags are, so to speak.

George McGovern said "I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in." Let's update that for the Tea Party. We're fed up to the ears with false patriots dreaming up ways to harm our service members while pretending to honor them.

RIP Lance Corporal Jeremiah Collins, 19, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1st Lt. Jennifer Moreno, 25, of San Diego; Sgt. Patrick Hawkins, 25, of Carlisle, Pa.; Sgt. Joseph Peters, 24, of Springfield, Mo.; and Pfc. Cody Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore. who died on October 6th. I'm sorry your deaths mean so little to so many. They mean a great deal to me.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Justin Bieber and the Turkey and Stuffing-scented candle

Image from Huffington Post

Wednesday morning, a headline at caught my eye. Given the fact that a group of terrorists are holding our country hostage because Americans shouldn't have better access to health insurance, one would think that every single news story here would be well, that. But the gosh darn "liberal media" struck again.

It seems that Justin Bieber went to the Great Wall of China. He didn't piss on it or spit off it (as far as anyone knows), he was carried up it by his bodyguards. As of 11:00 AM, this is also a headline at CBS, Huffington Post, the LA Times and USA Today. A Fox affiliate included the word "minions" just for good measure.

I also discovered today that Yankee Candle has rolled out their holiday scents, including a Turkey and Stuffing candle for those of us who want a house that smells like sage and burning poultry. Truthfully, I have no idea how it smells-their website does not come with a Scratch-and-Sniff option, so perhaps I'm being unfair. They could have come up with a better name, though. 

In America, our attention span is about the same as that of a goldfish. We like shiny things, we enjoy being distracted, we aren't too keen on bad, icky things. And ooh boy, this government shutdown is a very bad and icky thing. But if you're not directly affected by it, well, what's the big deal, let's sniff weird candles and marvel at grown men whose job it is to carry a pop star to the top of the Great Wall of China.

The NIH announced the shutdown may affect cancer treatment for children, FDA food inspections are suspended, most of the EPA's 17,000 employees have been or will be sent home, TANF payments could be affected, Head Start programs are closed and no new funds will be available for WIC programs until the government reopens.

But according to Bill Kristol, churches can step in and take care of all the people who have no food. Hopefully those churches also have formula and a really big place for all the kids who've been tossed out of Head Start to hang out for the next few days/weeks. 

It's not just about people who can't visit the Statue of Liberty. It's not just about closed national parks. It's about the most vulnerable people in America being forced into an even more frightening situation by this shutdown. 

So while a turkey-scented candle is pretty bizarre and Justin Bieber being carried up the Great Wall of China is a sure sign that he's a giant douche, we have kids with cancer who might not receive necessary medication and/or treatment, we have families who may not get enough food and we have a faction of the GOP hellbent on our destruction. 

Maybe it's just me, but I think that's pretty important.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Bachmann Diaries: Wolf Blitzer is a BULLY

Dear Diary,

Against my better judgment, I appeared on CNN with that horrible mean man Wolf Blitzer. He looks so nice-sort of like Grizzly Adams-but underneath the white beard and hair lies a heart of darkness. From now on, I'm just going on Fox. They're my friends, they let me lie talk and they always tell me how pretty I am.

I went on to talk about Obamacare and how it will kill hundreds of millions of Americans by forcing them to buy health insurance. Obummer had made fun of ME in a speech when I told the American people that this Nazi, socialist, communist Satanic bill would literally kill women, children and old people. Oh ha ha. Asshole liberal fascist. It WILL! You know what it is, really? Eugenics.

Think about it, Diary. Old women who need new hips won't be able to get that surgery and will die alone in their tiny studio apartments, surrounded by cats and dead African violet plants. Is your kid retarded? Oh well, Nazi Obama will kill him. KILL HIM. With a gun he's confiscated from a real American. Remember that vaccine against sherpas? The one that turned that poor woman's daughter into a vegetable? MANDATORY. Abortion? MANDATORY Covered under Nazicare.

And I had all this ready to go, but Bully Blitzer kept asking me these stupid questions like isn't it a good thing that kids can stay on their parents' insurance plans until they're 26? NO. It's a horrible idea. Young people today are being taught to mooch off their folks, their government, heck everyone. They all want scholarships and lower tuition for college and good-paying jobs. You know what the youth of America need? Not free school and free health care. They need mandatory military service. Like the Jews they do in Israel. That'll whip these whiners into shape.

Don't get me started on the poor. Poor my Aunt Fanny. They have their free Obamaphones and cars and microwaves and refrigerators and shoes. I WAS POOR. I couldn't even afford highlights until I was almost 20. I've never taken one dime from the government that I didn't deserve. Yes, my family received farm subsidies, but we were FARMERS. That's different than getting free crap just because you're lazy. And we totally deserved the money for our 641 809 31 foster girls because they were all bulimic and the dry-cleaning bills were astronomical.

I don't have free health care, and I'm a white, conservative Christian! My health care is paid for by well I don't really know, but something comes out of my paycheck every month. Do I even get a paycheck? Money just appears in our high interest checking account, I've never really understood where it comes from. Anywho, you know who Nazicare really helps? Illegal Mexicans. Have you been laid off? I'll betcha that if you go back to your former employer, your job is now being done by someone named Jose or Esperanza.

OH AND Nazicare is going to destroy unions. Although I'm not sure why that's a bad thing except unions make cars and we want a new Cadillac. Marcus loves unions. Every year he buys the firemen's calendar and the policemen's calendar. One year he even bought one of lifeguards. He's so giving!

Obviously I can never go back on CNN again. They refuse to see the truth. Thank God above that David Koch sent me those meditation tapes or I wouldn't understand the true destruction of Nazicare either. Davey told me to sit in a dark room with my eyes closed and listen to his special tapes through headphones. I usually don't remember anything when the tape ends, but I always feel smarter.

If people can't afford health insurance, that's only because they're too lazy to go out and get a job. Granted, most of the jobs are being stolen by illegal Mexicans, but I know for a FACT that McDonald's is hiring. I also agree with Newt Gingrich's idea-stolen from me-that children need to work for a living. Then they can afford their own health insurance, stop mooching off their parents and learn the value of a dollar. All our foster children worked. When they weren't throwing up or crying.

Diary, I wonder what would happen if I ran for Queen of Godlandia again. I really think real Americans (white, conservative, Christian) are tired of this Kenyan Marxist in the WHITE House. I think I'd have a shot, I really do. Then the country could get back to the way it's supposed to be: armed snipers at the border, no abortion, no birth control, God in schools and no more liberal colleges. The poor would have 30 days to find a job or be relocated to China and all the HOMOS would be cured. Marcus could expand his clinics. He'd be a chain!

Time for a vitamin drink and another meditation tape. Never again, Wolf Blitzer, you big bully. Never again.

Love-The Future Queen of Godlandia xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Friday, September 27, 2013

Words hurt, Mr. Barilla.

Image from Google

Dear Guido Barilla,

I wish Samantha Johnson could address you today. Or Jamey Rodemeyer. Or Justin Aaberg. They can't Mr. Barilla, because they were bullied to death. 

To many, your comments aren't that big a deal. Oh, he doesn't like gays, so what, just eat a different pasta. Some are calling for a boycott of your product and company while still others are sharing petitions to grocery store chains, asking for Barilla pastas and sauces to be removed from their shelves. Me? I want to point out why your comments matter, and why they are dangerous.

Mr. Barilla, here in America we have many politicians and pundits in our conservative party who feel the same way about LGBTs as you do. They think they're unnatural, shouldn't be able to adopt and don't want to give them the same rights heterosexual married couples enjoy. Some take their hate and bigotry a step or two further. Perhaps you've heard of Michele Bachmann. She has called homosexuality a lifestyle of "bondage," and equates it with Satan. Her husband runs a "reparative clinic" in Minnesota, where he "counsels" gay men and women on how to become straight. Bryan Fischer, a popular right wing Christian radio host frequently tells his audience that all the Nazi storm troopers were homosexual because they were and are so vicious. 

Did you go that far? No. However, Mr. Barilla, your language struck a sour note with many in the LGBT community. You see sir, we lose children too often to suicide because of words thrown at them as surely as if people were throwing stones. Sharp, hateful, frightening words, meant to demean them, demonize them and destroy them. And much too often those words kill.

Here is a partial list of children about the same age as my son who will never graduate from high school, never attend college, never grow up because someone who thinks a lot like you decided to use words to cut and slice and harm until there was nothing left. Some of these young people were gay, some were perceived to be gay and some were just "different." 

Samantha Johnson, age 13. The Anoka, MN middle school student shot herself in the head in 2009.
Justin Aaberg, age 15. After finishing his freshman year at Anoka High School, he hung himself in July of 2010.
Lance Lundsten, age 18. Overdosed, and later died in the hospital in March of 2011.
T.J. Hayes, age 16. The Blaine, MN high school student took his own life in 2009
Jordan Yenor, age 14. The Northdale Middle School student took his own life in 2011.
Asher Brown, age 14. The teen from Houston, Texas shot himself in the head in 2010.
Damilola Taylor, age 10. Stabbed to death with broken bottle pieces in Nigeria, killers each received 8 years, both were 12 years old. Murder was recorded by surveillance camera.
Myles Neuts, age 10. In 1998, two bullies hung Myles from a coat hanger and watched him until another student finally reported them. Myles died six days later. The murder occurred in Canada, the two people responsible for Myles’s death have never been charged.
Brandon Swartwood, age 18. Brandon developed PTSD due to the bullying and harassment he suffered, and in December, 2000, he shot himself in the head.
Jared High, age 12. After months of systematic bullying, physical assaults and harassment, Jared took his own life in September of 1998.
Jamey Rodemeyer, age 14. After making a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign, Jamey took his own life in September of 2011.
Jamie Hubley, age 15. Bullied and harassed for being gay, Jamie took his own life in 2011.
Jadin Bell, age 15. Jadin hung himself at a local elementary school playground earlier this year. He survived on life support until February 3rd.
There are more, Mr. Barilla, many more teenagers and young adults who hear that they are "less than" every single day of their lives. These are dead children. Tombstones instead of report cards, flowers on a grave instead of corsages for prom. Empty chairs at the kitchen table instead of laughter and joy. Parents who will never fully recover. 
Words hurt, Mr. Barilla. More than you will ever know.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Mitt and Ann welcome 22nd grandchild but no one Googled his name

Image from Google

Mitt Romney shared a photo via Twitter Friday of his brand new grandson. And is he a cutie! He's already smiling, his cheeks are chubby and you just want to smooch his little face. While rescuing him from the Romney family. Although, perhaps somewhere in his baby brain, this kid is thinking "I'm in like Flint. Great clothes, prep school, the best colleges, a car elevator, dancing horse, more than one house, HELLO!" 

The newest Romney is also adopted. This is made glaringly obvious in the photo above. What I find most amazing is that no one bothered to use The Google to discover the meaning of the name Kieran. If a staff member was assigned this task, they failed miserably and should be forced to ride in a kennel strapped to the top of a Bentley for 12 hours. 

Let me Google that for the Romney family. Kieran is a name of Celtic origin, lyrical and poetic. It is not a very popular name in America, which is where the problem may have arisen. My guess is a Romney saw the name somewhere, thought it would work well in prep school and wham, bam, thank you ma'am, the family whose reunion photos look like a 1950's ad for Colgate toothpaste gave their brand new African American baby a name that means black.

No, I'm not kidding. says this about the name Kieran:

Kieran as a boy's name is pronounced KEER-en. It is of Irish and Gaelic origin, and the meaning of Kieran is "black."

Then there's with their own take:

The meaning of the name Kieran is Dark

Finally, BabynamesofIreland (they'd know, because they're IRISH) says:

MEANINGciar ”"dark”" and the diminutive -in it means “”little dark one.”"

So in the entire Romney family, not one single person used The Google to check on this little-used boy's name and seeing that it meant "black," "dark," and "little dark one," frantically called Grandpa Mittens, screaming "OH MY GOD WE CANNOT NAME THE BABY THAT!"

The whitest family in America adopted an African American baby, and out of billions of names, they haphazardly picked one that means "little dark one." Alrighty then. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

When tragedy hits close to home

On September 25th, 1978, a Cessna collided in midair with a Boeing 727 over San Diego, California. I was sitting in class at St. Patrick's elementary school when we heard a huge explosion. Out of the window to the left we could see a plume of smoke billowing into the air and our principal came over the loudspeaker to tell us what had happened. We were in shock, then we realized that the planes had crashed right over most of our houses. 

Many of our moms tried to get to St. Pat's, but the police had shut down North Park. When we all finally made it back home, the local news outlets were showing the passenger manifest of the 727 in the hopes that someone would recognize a name and contact the authorities. No one on the jet survived and the two people on the Cessna also perished along with seven people on the ground, including two children. None of us to my knowledge ever found out who those two kids were.

The high school next to our house, St. Augustine's, was used as a temporary morgue, and as I sat on the front porch I watched ambulances and what I later learned were cars from the coroner's office go in and out of the parking lot. We were experiencing a Santa Ana, so the memory of that horrible evening is accompanied by remembrances of intense heat and wind. As I grew up, I often compared that night to being in Hell.

Today a man opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard, killing at least thirteen people. My husband visited that Navy yard when he worked for a defense contractor, and my father had an office a few blocks away. My dad knows people who work there and spoke to them earlier today. They're fine-no injuries-but extremely shaken up and confused. 

My father also used to consult with the Pentagon. When the plane hit on 9/11, my first thought was please don't let my dad be there. Other people's dads were there, including two students at Town and Country School of Vienna where I worked and my son attended preschool. But my dad wasn't there that awful day. And Colonel Grant was fine; he walked into the outer office the afternoon of September 11th and I will never forget the joy and relief on his children's faces. Nor my own when I discovered my father was not at the Pentagon.

We are all connected in one way or another. Someone you know may have lost a loved one today, or perhaps even have been at the Navy yard. People we all know lost someone on September 11th, and in San Diego, two kids one of my friends may have known died on September 25th, 1978. Every single one of us died a little when twenty little children were slaughtered a few weeks before Christmas last year.

So today, before we try to ask the inevitable questions, let's just stop for a moment. Let's send healing thoughts or pray or do whatever we feel comfortable doing to try and help the people hurt or killed or affected in any way by today's tragedy. Because we're all connected, we're all human and we all hurt when our fellow humans are injured or killed or harmed. 

Let the experts do their jobs, let the authorities and the forensic teams and the psychologists sort through the evidence and come to conclusions. Tonight, we can light a candle or hug a loved one or donate blood or reach out to someone we know who was affected by what happened today. 

Tonight, we can connect.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Andrew Pyper: Writer of things that go bump in your brain

Image of Andrew Pyper from Google

Andrew Pyper's books are not just read, they are devoured. You cannot read anything he has written and simply walk away when the last page is turned. Andrew Pyper creates stories and characters that stay with you long after the tale ends. He truly writes things that go bump in your brain, and it is my honor to present my interview with one of my favorite authors, Andrew Pyper.

1) A reviewer of your first book Lost Girls said it was as if Alice Munro and Stephen King had a secret love child. What inspired you to write such a memorable tale?

I had just graduated from law school, an experience that left me a bit depressed and wondering what I was going to do next with my life (I was damn sure I wasn't going to be a lawyer).  So I moved to a small town where the rent was cheap and started to write a story about a cokehead lawyer taking on the first murder trial of his career.  The set-up was fairly conventional: a murder mystery/legal drama.  But as I went along, the more ghostly and monstrous elements introduced themselves.  The presumed victims started to haunt the lawyer.  A local myth of a Lady in the Lake who pulls swimmers down enlarged to become pivotal to the story.  The supernatural creeped into the conventional realism all on its own.  When I was finished, I didn't know what I'd made.  A legal procedural/ghost story/psychological thriller hybrid?  It was kind of a monster in itself.  But obviously it was where my own interests and inclinations wanted to take me - the netherworld between genres.  In varied ways, I've been there ever since. 

2) Your most recent novel, The Demonologist was just named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Did you know how well-received The Demonologist would be?

It's been gratifying (and rather surprising) to see how the novel has been received.  But the thing is, you never know.  I certainly don't, anyway.  There's a little game I play before a book is published where I wonder what the one thing about the story will bug (some) readers most?  Because there's always one.  My guesses have never been right.

3) You seamlessly combine horror, humor and redemption in many of your novels. Do you draw off experiences in your own life for inspiration, and if so, can you tell us about one or two of those experiences?

A couple people close to me have said that the protagonists of my novels are the versions of myself I would have become had I taken a different course in my life.  This is the sort of insight I would never have come up with on my own, but it seems right to me.  Each novel is an exploration of an alternative reality that is, emotionally if not factually, very close to my current life, its dominant concerns and anxieties.  I think I need to draw on that dynamic of "near-miss," of fear, a kind of There But For the Grace of God Go I consideration of how lives - the lives of others as well as the other lives we ourselves might have lived - are separated by an extremely thin membrane.  In that sense, all experiences - even the most horrific, the most seemingly "unimaginable" - are always closer than you think.

4) Are you at all concerned about the adaption of The Demonologist into a feature film, or do you have faith that the screenwriters will stay true to the haunting qualities of the story?

Naturally, if they make the movie, I'd like it to be good.  But what is "good"?  Me being satisfied?  Huge box office?  Critical praise?  It's like trying to hold an oyster.  I'm quite happy standing apart from the process, letting the moviemakers make a movie, with me cheering them on from the sidelines.  It's because, invariably, films are different from books.  They are their own organism, with their own rituals and culture and expectations.  It actually relieves a lot - if not all - of my worries on the matter when I remember this.  

5) Classical literature plays a part in many of your novels, most notably Milton's Paradise Lost in The Demonologist. Who are some modern (or not so modern authors) you read and like?

My reading is all over the place, so my answer here may not have any apparent through-line to someone else, but there is one to me.  In different ways, I love - and love to draw on - Henry James, Stephen King, Alice Munro, Conrad, Ovid, Martin Amis.  That's this week, anyway. 

6) Simon and Schuster will be publishing your next two novels, the first of which is Ash. Can you tell us a bit about your latest work?

I don't want to get in trouble here by saying too much!  Ash is about fraternal twins and near death experience.  What would happen if you died and returned to life, only you brought something else back with you.  Someone.

7) Finally, you have a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor about your own notoriety. Is it difficult to remain humble when people compare your work to Ira Levin's and Willam Peter Blatty's?

I have two young kids who, when I come downstairs after a writing day, will stick their tongues out and cross their eyes and mimic a monkey punching a keyboard and say, "Oh, look!  Guess who was working!"  Around here, humble is the only option.  

Visit Andrew Pyper's website and Facebook page for more information on all his books and upcoming events. 

Please note: Andrew Pyper very kind to agree to this interview. Having this published here on Poking at Snakes in no way means he agrees or disagrees with any of the political pieces here. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chelsea Manning

Image from

In a statement released by his attorney, PFC Bradley Manning announced that he will begin transitioning from a man to a woman, asking people to now refer to him as Chelsea Manning. Out of respect for that request, I will be using the name Chelsea Manning in this piece.

Whether or not you agree with what Chelsea Manning did as Bradley Manning, whether or not you agree with the sentencing that was handed down Wednesday, one thing is clear: we must respect this decision. Transgender people are maligned, abused, attacked and murdered all over the world simply for trying to be the person they feel they were meant to be. Imagine waking up every single day, knowing the skin you're in feels wrong. You are unable to fulfill your true potential, because you are never comfortable with yourself. And then imagine that the only way to solve this, the only way to finally be happy, will open you up to hate and violence and cruelty.

Chelsea's announcement is naturally the subject of many articles online, and with anything written online, there are comments. People who would probably never in their lives support violence or rape are suddenly posting some of the most vile things I've ever read. A self-professed liberal Facebook page shared a status that accused Chelsea Manning of some sort of "publicity stunt," and "doing" this to get out of going to prison. The gist of the comments I've read is: if "He" wants to "feel like a woman," "he" can get "raped in prison."

Who thinks like that? Again, whether or not you agree with what Chelsea Manning did as Bradley, whether you support the sentencing or not, it is never okay to wish harm on another human being, especially someone who is making this kind of decision. Do these people think it's easy to transition from one sex to another? Do they think this is a decision made lightly? That you get a few shots, take a few pills, have a little surgery and voila-you're done?

Gender reassignment surgery is one of the most heavily regulated procedures in America. No, not by the government; by medical facilities, psychologists and physicians. There are a battery of psychological and physical tests one must go through just to be considered for the surgery. The hormones are incredibly expensive. A person has to learn to live as the opposite sex, and understand that there will always be an irrational fear of anyone with the courage to transition.

Yes, courage. To purposely put yourself through this takes courage. To have the self-awareness you need to pass those psychological tests takes courage. You can't "fake" them, you just can't. The people giving those tests and analyzing your readiness are professionals, trained to know if you're fully prepared for this journey. I've never felt that I am in the wrong body, so I can only imagine how terrifying that would be. I can also only imagine how frightening and liberating it would be to finally have the chance to live in a skin that did not feel awkward or suffocating or just wrong.

Chelsea Manning is most likely one of many people who will transition from male to female this year, and from female to male. It is my sincere hope that all those brave individuals will, at the end of their journey, be able to look at themselves, both inside and out, and smile. If only the rest of the world could do the same.