03 September 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

There's a story that's been going around lately, and it's pretty true, that a bunch of Muslim women were recently arrested at the Playland Amusement Park in Rye, New York (which is owned by the Westchester County Government--the only amusement park in the nation so owned by a governmental entity), for causing a disturbance and protesting the park's refusal to allow them entrance on the park's many rides while wearing their headgear.

Being a life-long resident of Westchester County and friends with folks who've worked at Playland over the years, I have an issue with this entire story. It's being made out that the Muslim women were singled out, and that's just not the case.

Here's the fact of the matter:

Anyone wearing any sort of headgear, including scarves, is not permitted on any ride at Playland, for safety reasons: If the women were allowed onto the rides and one of them were choked to death because their scarf (their headgear) loosened or got caught on the equipment during a ride, then they would be clamoring to sue. This is the reason that headgear of any sort is not allowed on rides; it can come loose and cause injury.

[EDIT]Apparently, as some of my friends in the social sphere have pointed out, these women have never heard of Isadora Duncan.[/EDIT]

The women could just as easily have left their headgear with the attendants of the ride for retrieval for when they were finished with the ride, much as has been done with assistive devices (such as canes/walkers) that some patrons require to aid their walking.

If these women simply had removed their head gear for the ride, they would have been let on. The women were issued refunds for their tickets but, basically, decided to make much ado about nothing, IMHO.

26 August 2011

The Most Incredible Journey

Last week, I took a trip down to Memphis, Tennessee, right in the heart of what we northerners might call the "Bible Belt."

Why would I, an out gay man, take such a trip? Well, for starters, I wasn't alone. Over 90 individuals representing 26 different states in the USA, as well as the District of Columbia, ventured to Memphis for a life-changing journey in order to undergo training in nonviolent civil disobedience so that would would be enabled and empowered to take direct action and raise both the stakes and the spectrum of the fight for equality for all but especially of us LGBTQ folk. The trip and training were sponsored by GetEQUAL, a queer-rights activist group.

To be completely honest, I went on the trip for some pretty selfish reasons: I wanted to get away for a few days; I hadn't gone on any sort of trip other than for family matters in nearly a decade; I wanted to see the National Civil Rights Museum and determine how much import they'd given to Bayard Rustin, who has mostly been ignored by the Black civil rights movement because he was gay; and last but not least, I did think I could learn a few things and catch a glimpse of some eye candy.

I also had some pretty certain expectations as to what would happen while I was down there: I would be quite a bit bored; I wouldn't be able to wake up in time to attend all the workshops; I would be chastised and castigated for being a Republican in a mostly Democrat-leaning LGBTQ population; I would make a couple of new contacts; and perhaps I would make a new friend or two.

Looking back on what took place last week and finally being able to process a large amount of the past week, as well as having some conversations online with some of the folks I'd met down in Memphis, I'm left both ashamed and blown away by what took place.

With each new step I’ve been taking over the past few years, I’ve managed to meet and become engaged with some truly wonderful, loving, caring, and astounding individuals. This past week was no exception; in fact, if anything, I’ve connected with more such individuals than I ever had done before.

Perhaps I’m just getting older, perhaps my medications are working better, or perhaps I was just excited and knew that everyone attending this insanely information-packed training was there for one purpose: coming together to fight for equality but I found it much easier to speak with individuals in-person at this event that ever before in my life. Ideas were flowing, synergies were colliding, and information was spouting across every sphere of influence.

Yes, there was some eye candy there. But my interest in forming relationships with most of the individuals with whom I met in Memphis go far beyond having someone nice to look at and speak with. There were deep, deep bonds that were made, sometimes across chasms of pain, and it wasn't with just a few individuals. Rather, an amazing, astounding, and perhaps overwhelming number of friendships were forged out of this coalescence, which was the brainchild of a very remarkable woman and her team of cohorts.

Perhaps it was because I saw this as a business trip of sorts that I experienced such little social anxiety in such a large group but I was able to get to know and form a deep friendship with maybe half of the queer-rights activists attending the training. Of that half, there are a few men I'd like to get to know better and explore, over a very long period of time of course, whether or not there's any potential to be more than great friends. But that's secondary to what really happened down there.

The trip to Memphis exceeded my expectations at every level. I was not castigated and shunned for being a Republican; in fact, I was almost embraced. Instead of not being able to wake up in time for the workshops, I actually had difficulty going to sleep. I would estimate I managed to get in a total of 7.5 hours of sleep over the course of five days, and I believe that it was due to the tremendous amount of positive energy that everyone brought to the training. The divisiveness that usually is present when large groups of LGBTQ folk get together wasn't there; we were a coalition united around a certain truth: Equality For All is a fundamental right whose time is long overdue and we demand its immediate implementation.

I didn't make just a few connections and one or two new friendships. I connected with almost every single one of the other individuals present at the training, and formed deep bonds of friendship (or the beginnings thereof) with nearly half of them.

I was already familiar with a good deal of the information presented in many of the workshops held over the course of the 4-day training session; however, I did learn and much of the information that was presented, while I might have known it, had sunken to the deep recesses of my memory, so it was good that they were brought to the fore of my mind. It truly was a staggering amount of information that was presented; think of it as an intensive course -- you know, the type you take in college where you sit for a class six Saturdays out in a row and get a full semester's worth of classes in such a short time-span. So I wasn't bored out of my mind, either.

I am still in awe of what took place last week, and owe a great deal of debt and gratitude to Robin McGeHee, GetEQUAL's director, and her cohorts Heather Cronk (GetEQUAL's Managing Director), Dan Fotou, Jase Watson, and countless others whose dedication and hard work helped make the training the raving success it turned out to be.

I didn’t realize the true intent of Robin’s organizational symphony until very late Friday night (around 11pm). Earlier in the evening, Robin spoke about how she wasn’t bringing us all together to form a new organization. She said some other things, and all of a sudden, New York’s recent triomphe of marriage equality popped into my head. I couldn’t get it out of my head so I started playing with it a bit, poking and prodding here and there. I soon discovered some similarities between how marriage equality was actualized in New York and what Robin was doing, and it came down to one sentiment: coalition-building.

Instead of telling folks that she was attempting or wanted to build a coalition, she built it. Instead of asking folks to come together to fight for a common cause, she brought them together. Instead of worrying about “process” and “procedure,” she worried about “content” and “logistics.”

In short, Robin got an idea in her head and set out to effectuate its realization. And in doing so, she gathered together a truly wondrous group of 90 or so individuals into a coalescence of ideas, information, thoughts, energies, synergies, and actions. I would feel the love, the togetherness, and the oneness in the room as we progressed throughout each day, each presentation, and each training exercise and it renewed me. It energized me, and it filled me with impetus to take action.

So much so was the strength of this impetus to take action that I began planning a direction action event--a flashmob--to occur in the midst of our training: GetEQUAL activists planned to protest Urban Outfitter’s discriminatory and unequal treatment of its LGBTQ employees, such as not giving or even offering health benefits to LGBTQ employees’ partners or spouses. And that’s something that was not included on the agenda; it’s something that was organized and put into effect in less than 24 hours. It’s something that spoke directly to the training we were receiving this weekend. In essence, it was our “final exam” for the class. (The protest didn't take place due to logistical difficulties; many of the participants had to leave early to return to their homes and thus we were left with an insufficient number of participants to make the prosecution of the planned flash mob worth it.)

My life will forever be changed as a result of attending this training. And, I have a better idea of why I was made to go through all that I have endured in life, especially during the past ten years or so. For that, I owe Robin a universe of gratitude, admiration, and love.

To give you an idea as to the caliber of individual I've bonded with, in response to some of the blog posts that many of you have read right here, chronicling the my life over the past decade, as well as my own story as to why It Gets Better, I received this comment:

What impresses me so much about what you have shared is that through all the ugliness you are so sweet and giving of yourself. You have a basic kindness about you that I find so beautiful. 
A lot of people in your circumstance could be bitter or paralyzed with devastation. But instead, every interaction I have had with you has been with a brilliant, kind, caring person. 
And that is pretty effing remarkable.

That an individual could not only recognize this about me in the short period of time we've known each other but feel a need to vocalize their feelings about it to me, well, it leaves me speechless, humbled, and with a renewed determination and passion to fight on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves, so that we may some day look back on this and scratch our heads and wonder just what the heck all the fuss was about.

And so it is with profound and great love, gratitude, and the deepest respect for my new friends that I write and dedicate this post to them, the Memphis 90+, for I believe we will be seeing great things coming from this historic gathering of individuals who created, and will continue to make, history.

12 August 2011

Journeying Into Old Age

Yesterday, I had my first real experience on the journey into old age, and it wasn't fun.

I've not been feeling well for a while now; at the beginning of the month I was having "stomach issues" and I've just generally been feeling pretty run down.

Around 7pm yesterday evening, I began experiencing a great amount of pain in my chest, which made it difficult for me to breathe. I wasn't doing anything physical, and hadn't done anything physical in a while. In fact, I was sitting on my bed, as usual, on my laptop computer.

I called a few friends to see if I they had any idea of what might be happening, and was able only to get hold of one. She suggested that I go to the emergency room ("ER") right away, as chest pains might be related to the heart.

At first, I postponed such action as it didn't feel like my heart, per se. But as the minutes ticked by, the pain became worse, and it became increasingly difficult to breathe. The pain spread to my shoulder, back, neck, and head. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like someone was standing in the middle of my chest, on the inside. There was pressure but the pain mostly originated from within my body.

It wasn't the sort of tightness I normally would have associated with an asthma attack. I'd never before experienced anything like it. The pain increased exponentially as I inhaled, and it got to the point where I could only take very, very short, shallow breaths.

Twenty minutes after the pains began, I called 911, and reported that I was having chest pains and difficulty breathing. I have VOIP service from my cable company, and they advertise providing E-911 services with their VOIP service.

The 911 operator asked me where I lived, and I had to give him my address. It was quite difficult to talk, mostly due to the fact that I could only take very short, shallow breaths. He then told me to hold on and wound up transferring me to an EMS operator, where I had to repeat myself, including giving them my address.

I have verified with the cable company that the E-911 service that comes with my VOIP phone service through the cable company automatically transmits my address to the 911 call center. They are, however, running diagnostics to ensure that it was transmitted correctly yesterday.

There's no reason I should have had to spend just over two minutes on the phone with 911 to get an ambulance to show up. In my opinion, what should have happened was that as soon as I said I was having difficulty breathing, they should have asked if I wanted an ambulance sent to me and if I responded in the affirmative, should have read my address to me and asked if that's where I wished the ambulance to be sent.

I went outside of my apartment building to wait for the ambulance, which arrived pretty quickly. Once they got me inside of the ambulance, on the stretcher, they prepared to head to hospital, and the ambulance broke down. They had to radio for another ambulance to arrive, which took less than five minutes.

The EMS response was very good, in my opinion, and they treated me well. They allowed me to write down answers to questions (such as contact info, insurance info, medications taken, allergies, etc.) so I wouldn't have to talk, as they saw I was having difficulty with that. They took my pulse, blood pressure, and performed a few EKG, as well as measured my oxygen levels.

So once in the second ambulance, we took off for hospital. They asked which hospital I wanted to go to -- there are two of them in Yonkers. The one I'd gone to in the past (for less serious health matters) was supposed to be the worst of the two, so I opted to go for the one that's supposed to be better.

I was taken (on the stretcher) from the ambulance into the ER and placed into a room. I would say that approximately one-third of the rooms in the ER were occupied when I arrived. The first person I saw who came to the room I was in was the registration clerk. He took my insurance information, and was kind enough to take other information he need from my phone.

After about 20 or so minutes of being in the room, the triage nurse came in to see me. She hooked me up to the blood pressure and oxygen monitors, and took my temperature. As she was doing this, she began asking me some basic questions, such as what medications I was taking and if I had any allergies. Since I had already given this information to the EMS technicians, I was somewhat peeved that I had to repeat myself, as EMS techs usually transfer that info to the ER the few times I'd been taken to the ER by ambulance in the past.

She finally got around to asking me what was wrong, and I began telling her. As I was describing the symptoms I was having to her (which was difficult as I the pain was getting worse and it was extremely difficult for me to breathe, due to the pain), she left the room. I mean, she actually walked out on me while I was talking to her, without saying a word. No "I'll be right back" or anything.

Even more time passed, and another technician came in, who performed an EKG on me.

Approximately two hours after I entered the ER, the doctor on call finally came in to see me. She was very nice, and listened to all of my concerns. She examined me, and ordered medications as well as a number of tests, including a slew of blood tests. She advised me that she didn't think I was having a problem with my heart, and I agreed with her as it didn't feel like that. The doctor told me that the muscles in my right shoulder/neck were having severe spasms, and were impacting on the nerves, thus causing all of the pain and discomfort I was experience, which in turn was making it difficult for me to breathe.

A few minutes after the doctor left me, "my" nurse came into the room, along with a phlebotomist. The nurse administered one of the medications, and they both began poking me to draw blood and hook up an IV to administer some other medication (it took a few tries to fill the eight or so vials needed for all the tests the doctor ordered on my blood work, and I thus was left with a few bandages in different places on my arms and hands--ever since my automobile accident in 2002 where I spent nearly an entire year in hospital, it's been very difficult for phlebotomists and the like to find my veins as most of them had collapsed during that hospitalization).

The oral medication (a muscle relaxant) began to kick in, and as it did so, my pain and discomfort began to decrease.

I was then moved to a different area of the ER, a holding area, and was told that I was being moved there as they were finished treating me. I was finally able to take a normal breath, but breathing deeply was definitely out of the question. If I tried to do so, pain would immediately kick in and shoot from the bottom of my rib cage straight through to the top of my head.

About an hour after she first came to see me, the doctor returned to speak with me. She asked how I was feeling, and said that she could tell, visually, that it looked like I wasn't in anywhere near the pain and discomfort I was when she first saw me. She advised me that my blood work came back fine, except for an elevated white blood cell (WBC) count. However, since I didn't have a fever, she didn't think I was fighting an infection but advised I follow up with my regular doctor.

She then told me that I would be discharged, as it seemed her diagnosis and treatment were working. A bit after 11pm, the triage nurse came in to see me, had me sign the discharge papers and gave me some additional paperwork, as well as a few prescriptions. I was then free to go.

In Westchester County, in which Yonkers (where I live) is situated, most buses stop running some time between 9pm and 11pm. I advised the triage nurse that I came by ambulance and no way of getting home, as I didn't have money for a taxi. She told me that she didn't think the hospital could do anything, but I could ask at the registration desk, which she brought me to as I had to fill out some additional paperwork or answer questions (I can't really remember). The clerk at that desk told me that there wasn't really anything they could do for me. I was left on my own.

Mind you, after I had been moved to the holding area (where they moved me after treating me), I began contacting a number of people I knew in the area who might be able to help me out by picking me up to take me home, or something along those lines. However, since it was fairly late in the evening (although early for me, as I'm a night owl), most didn't answer me and I assumed they had gone to bed, which assumption was confirmed in the morning when they began responding to me but, by that time, I myself had gone to bed).

Long story short, as this story is long enough as it is, I sat in the waiting area for about three hours. Seeing that I was there for quite some time, the security guard approached me and asked if I was OK; I told her that I came to the ER by ambulance and had no way of getting home as I had no money for a taxi, and the buses had stopped running by the time I was discharged (I do have a bus card with money on it, and I did have that with me, useless that it was).

The security guard took it upon herself to make some phone calls, and finally was able to secure transportation for me to get home. I got home around 4am, nearly 4.5 hours after I was discharged from hospital.

I'm still feeling a bit icky, and definitely under the weather. I slept for nearly fifteen hours, when I finally did get home and was able to fall asleep.

As I write this, I can breathe normally and even take a modestly deep breath. At certain points during this ordeal yesterday, I know that my anxiety was kicking in and making things worse, especially during the time I was lying in the ER bed waiting to be seen by someone and having such difficulties and in extreme pain.

It should not, in my opinion, have taken a doctor almost two hours to see me after being admitted to the ER, especially as I was brought in by an ambulance (non-ambulatory, or patients brought in by ambulance, are usually given priority in the ER). The ER was neither particular busy nor occupied, from what I could see.

The triage nurse should not have walked out on me while I was answering her questions, especially without saying anything to me.

The ambulance that first arrived should not have broken down, causing me to be transferred to the second ambulance, increasing the amount of time it took to get me to the ER.

I should not have had to give my address to 911 operators, especially as I was having difficulty breathing, and especially as I had to give it to them twice.

I should not have waited the twenty or so minutes I did before calling 911, after the symptoms first appeared.

If I were younger, I would not be nearly as grouchy and not be complaining so much about this experience.

I guess this was my official "welcome to the You're Getting Old club initiation." It was not pleasant. :-p

I have, however, walked away from this journey with some souvenirs:
Souvenirs from my journey into old age.
I'm glad it wasn't a heart attack -- it could very well have been. The technical diagnosis on my discharge papers is "non-cardiac musculoskeletal" something or other (the ink got a bit smudged--event, perhaps?). Whatever it was, it was quite frightening. It's not often I'd call 911 to be taken to the ER, and it's not something I hope to have to do anywhere in the near future, either.

17 June 2011

Let Us Never Forget: Irena Sendler

I received this in an e-mail, and have verified the information contained herein via Snopes.com.

Look at this lady - Let us never forget!

The world hasn't just become wicked...it' s always been wicked. The prize doesn't always go to the most deserving.

Irena Sendler

There recently was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena. During WWII, Irena obtained permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. However, she had an 'ulterior motive'.

She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews (being German).

Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried, and she carried a burlap sack (for larger kids) in the back of her truck.

She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids'/infants' noises.

Irena managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants in the time that she performed such work.

Unfortunately, Irena was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs and her arms, and they beat her severely.

Irena had kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out of Warsaw in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.  After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and reunited the families, although most had been gassed. The rest of the children she helped were placed into foster family homes or adopted.

A few years ago, it was rumored that Irena was a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected.

President Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a community organizer for ACORN, and Al Gore also won for creating a slide show on Global Warming.


Please read the little cartoon carefully; it's powerful.

Then read the comments at the end.

I'm doing my small part by sharing this message.

I hope you'll consider doing the same..

It is now more than 65 years after the Second World War ended in Europe.

This notice is part of a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians (Including 12,000 Jehovah's Witnesses), tens of thousands of LGBT folk, and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated!

Now, more than ever, with Iraq, Iran, and others claiming the HOLOCAUST to be 'a myth', it's imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again.

28 May 2011

Problems with the neighbors


[EDIT 4 June 2011: Please ignore the first line of this post; I'm having to do some technical stuff with which you need not be concerned...]

I just faxed the following letter to the management company of the apartment building I've been living in for almost six months now:

I write to advise you of an incident that just occurred at my apartment door.

Approximately 15 minutes ago at around 2:45 a.m., a woman began banging on my door almost to the point of knocking it down. She complained that I was making too much noise.

For the first time since I moved into my apartment XX at XXX, a friend came over to help me unpack. As you are aware, I previously have been unable to unpack because the movers stacked everything from my previous apartment to the point where I was physically unable to move anything, due to my physical handicaps.

The woman complained that she’s sick and tired of me sliding things around back and forth and moving things around every morning, and that some people have to work. She stated that this has been going on every single day for months; when I attempted to advise her that this could not be possible as I haven’t even been staying in the apartment for that long, she told me I was “full of shit.”

I can honestly say that I do not know what she is talking about. The people above me and next to me move around at all hours of the day and night. Music will blare at all hours of the day well into the early morning. I do not complain, nor do I have a problem with this.

This is a three-day holiday weekend. As stated, this is the first time I have done any unpacking of boxes or moving of anything around. I don’t have anything to slide around or make any noise. I am not a heavy walker, although I do limp around in my apartment. I try to make as little as possible when moving around in my apartment.

As you are also aware, I tend to be nocturnal. The woman complained that every morning she is awakened by noises of things sliding around and banging going on allegedly emanating from my apartment. For hours she implied this to occur, I am usually asleep.

Additionally, I haven’t even been in my apartment that much, with the exception of the past month or so. Prior to that, family obligations kept me away from my apartment and I usually was staying either at my sister’s in Rye Brook or my mother’s in Hartford.

As my resources are limited, I have to take help when and where I can get it.

I was unable to get to the door to answer it as my friend had temporarily moved some items into the hallway, blocking entrance to the door, so we would work on getting my bedroom in order (I had access to the window with the fire escape in the event an evacuation needed to take place). The woman threatened to call the police if I didn’t stop being so disrespectful to her. I advised her that she should by all means do so if she thought I was that much of a problem, and I could explain my situation to the officers who might arrive at the scene to investigate and they could see for themselves the state of my apartment, what I was doing, and the injuries I sustained in my automobile accident in 2002 that have left me physically disabled.

I do not play music loudly, blast my television, or stomp around my apartment. I cannot help that the floors may creak when I walk on them; such is the nature of a hardwood floor. I usually don’t wear outside footware inside my home, so I’m not clonking around and making a lot of noise on the floors.

I do not know who the woman is. She refused to identify herself.

Should you have any questions, you may reach me at [redacted] or via e-mail at pcfrank73 at gmail.

Thank you for your time and courteous consideration.


Peter C. Frank

cc: ...

23 May 2011

Petition to have hate-filled legislation revoked in NYS & restore dignity to NYS Senators' offices

I just created a petition at Change.org to have NYS Senate Bill No. S5416 removed for consideration. Here's the text of the petition.

New York State Senators Golden and Libous vulgarized the dignity of their offices by introducing hate-based legislation filled with lies and defended their actions to the press by insisting their constituents "don't really give a rat's ass" about social issues. By signing this petition, you will tell Senators Golden and Libous that you firmly insist on their respecting the dignity and purport of their offices, and insist they respect all New Yorkers and treat them with dignity. 
New York State Senators Martin Golden and Tom Libous introduced a "Defense of Marriage" bill in the NYS Senate that would prohibit New York State from recognizing same-sex marriages performed out of state. Currently, pursuant to an Executive Order issued by then-governor Patterson, New York State recognizes all legally performed same-sex marriages. 
New York State confers over 1,300 rights and responsibilities to married couples. There are tens of thousands of gay and lesbian couples who have married out of state (or in such nations as Canada, where same-sex marriage is fully recognized) whose marriages are currently recognized by New York State pursuant to an executive order issued by then-Governor David Patterson. These couples would have their marriages stripped away by this hateful legislation. 
Additionally, the proposed legislation contains a number of factual innacuracies (to put it nicely). Here is the full text of the bill, which can be found at http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S5416-2011 
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the domestic relations law, in relation to rendering the status of same sex marriage entered into outside of New York void under New York law 
PURPOSE: To affirm that the status of same sex man1age that is recognized, solem- nized or legal in another jurisdiction is considered void in New York. 
EFFECTIVE DATE: Immediately. 
S T A T E    O F    N E W   Y O R K 
5416 2011-2012 Regular Sessions I N SENATE May 19, 2011  
Introduced by Sens. GOLDEN, LIBOUS -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Judiciary  
AN ACT to amend the domestic relations law, in relation to rendering the status of same sex marriage entered into outside of New York void under New York law  
Section 1. 
Section 6 of the domestic relations law is amended by adding a new subdivision 4 to read as follows: 
S 2. This act shall take effect immediately. 
EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD11581-01-1 
As can be seen from the text above, they list "fiscal implications" as "none." In addition to voiding all currently-recognized same-sex marriages in New York State, the bill would prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages "in another jurisdiction," violating the Equal Protection and Full Faith and Credit Clauses of the United States Constitution.
Senator Golden quietly announced this piece of legislation but when queried about it by the press, he responded that his constituents in the 22nd Senatorial District "don't give a rat's ass" about such social issues. Senator Libous has remained silent on why he has originated this piece of legislation. 
Let your voice be heard; tell Senators Golden and Libous that you DO give a damn and do not want to see this hate-filled piece of legislation enacted into law, and demand that he withdraw the legislation immediately. 
Demand that the New York State Senate revoke this repulsive piece of hate-inspired legislation based on lies and omissions, and immediately expunge it from its records.

21 May 2011

Special Treatment for Gays by Business

The New York Times published an article yesterday (20 May 2011) entitled For Gay Employees, an Equalizer.

The article reports on the recent trend by a growing number of businesses across all sectors of "grossing up." Essentially, these businesses are reimbursing gay & lesbian employees for the extra tax they must if they add their partner (or their domestic partner's child(ren)) to their health insurance plan.

So, why are some employers creating this special privilege for their gay & lesbian employees--a right their straight employees aren't entitled to? Quite simply, it's because their straight employees aren't penalized with this extra tax burden when they add their spouse to their health insurance coverage. Federal law doesn't deem such health care benefits imputed income and, therefore, does not tax it.

There are a few things to consider:

First, not every employer offers health benefits to the partners of their gay & lesbian employees; in fact, only about 58% of Fortune 500 and a mere 40% of the Fortune 1000 do so (source: Human Rights Campaign).

Of those employers who do offer such health care benefits to the partners of their gay & lesbian employees, only 60 employers "gross up." (source: Human Rights Campaign).

What's more amazing is that these employers are doing this of their own free will and volition, especially since they, themselves, have to pay more in payroll taxes for employees who take advantage of these health care benefits. The federal government considers the healthcare benefits provided to a gay or lesbian employee's partner as income, thereby raising the amount of income deemed to have been paid out to such employee, thereby requiring the collection of increased payroll taxes (FICA, etc.)--again, something to which straight couples are not subjected.

For many gay & lesbian couples, however, what's more important to them than the reimbursement of this added expense for creating and maintaining their families is that their employers view them as with value, and equal to their straight employees in every aspect--even when having to level the playing field means having to pay a little bit more out of pocket.

This is just another area where marriage INequality is costing both employees and their employees needless extra expense because this legalized discrimination is allowed to continue. By allowing same-sex marriages and promoting marriage equality, the federal government would unilaterally eliminate this, and thousands of other inequities promulgated under the law by such marriage inequality.

Special rights aren't right; however, until the federal government can level the playing field, they are a necessary evil required to level the playing field in maintaining equal treatment under the law of all citizens of this great nation.

The New York Times is maintaining a list of employers who offer "grossing up" benefits, broken down by industry.

29 April 2011

A Nine Billion Dollar Argument for Marriage Equality

For the past month, I have been performing various functions as a consultant for Marriage Equality New York (MENY) with respect to their 13th Annual Gala. It feels good to be doing activist and advocacy work again, and also to be working on a project.

What I didn't expect to find was an amazing individual, whom MENY will be honoring at its signature event of the year: Edith "Edie" Windsor.

What does this have to do with the fiscal argument for marriage equality, you might be asking yourself? Quite a bit, actually.

Part of what I'm doing for MENY and its gala is something I do best: information gathering. In seeking out information about one of its honorees at the event (Edie), I came across the complaint she filed in federal court (Southern District of New York), challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

You see, Edie has had to pay over $360,000 in estate taxes to continue living in the very same home that she and her late wife and partner of 44 years have maintained throughout their relationship.

In reading Edie's complaint, I noticed a fleeting reference (in paragraph 69) to a report by the United States Congressional Budget Office, dated 21 June 2004. Most marriage equality advocates are familiar with the 23 January 2004 report issue by the United States Government Accountability Office, in which they found a total of 1,138 federal laws where marital status is a factor for benefits and responsibilities of married couples. The report is a revision of the GAO's 1997 report, which found 1,049 such federal laws.

Paragraph 69 of Ms. Windsor's complaint against the United States government is a refutation of the fourth reason the US government used in enacting DOMA:
69. The federal government's final rationale for enacting DOMA is that the law advances the government's interest in preserving scarce government resources. Id. at 18. However, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples will increase annual net federal revenue rather than deplete "scarce government resources." [citation omitted, emphasis supplied]
The citation was to a PDF document located online. At first, I thought the reference was to the 2004 GAO report. Luckily, I took another look at the URL and noticed it was different, so I copied & pasted and went to the report.

The report verifies the assertion in the complaint. The report was written shortly after Massachusetts became the first state in the country to specifically legalize same-sex marriages.
Recognizing same-sex marriages would affect federal revenues through both the individual income tax and the estate tax.
* * *
Revenues would be slightly higher: by less than $400 million a year from 2005 through 2010 and by $500 million to $700 million annually from 2011 through 2014. (page 2) [emphasis supplied]
What does this mean? Let's do the math, shall we:

If the United States government recognized same-sex marriages, it would have received 2.9 billion dollars in tax revenues from 2005 through 2010. If you count the next four years (through 2014), that comes to nearly six billion dollars, using the 2004 estimates.

And that was with just one state (Massachusetts) providing for marriage equality. Imagine what those numbers would be now, with the addition of four more states and the District of Columbia (and hopefully soon, the sixth State of New York).

Further, there is this little admission by the United States government buried within the report:
...allowing same-sex marriages could result in behavioral changes that would alter the number of gay and lesbian people in partnered relationships. (page 3) [emphasis supplied]
Presumably, the report is hinting at what we all know: allowing gays and lesbians to marry would strip the religious-right-wingnuts of their argument that homosexuals are a promiscuous lot undeserving of equal protections and treatment under the law.

Further gems in the report include
Currently, about one in three lesbian couples and one in five gay couples live in a household with their own children.5 Those proportions might rise if same-sex marriages were legalized. (page 4)
* * *
Recognizing same-sex marriages would increase outlays for Social Security and for the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program, CBO estimates, but would reduce spending for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and Medicare. Effects on other programs would be negligible. Altogether, CBO concludes, recognizing same-sex marriages would affect outlays by less than $50 million a year in either direction through 2009 and reduce them by about $100 million to $200 million annually from 2010 through 2014. (page 5) [emphasis supplied]
In the best-case scenario, the total savings by the US government for expenditures if same-sex marriage were to be recognized is another billion dollars, over a ten-year period.

As a result, legalization of same-sex marriages would save the SSI program about $100 million a year by 2014, CBO estimates. (page 8)

That's another billion dollars over a ten-year period.

In all, CBO expects, federal spending for Medicaid would decline by about $400 million (or about 0.1 percent) in 2014 because of same-sex marriages and by smaller amounts in earlier years. Because states pay about 43 percent of the program’s total costs, they would realize savings of about $300 million in 2014. (page 9) [emphasis supplied]
This amounts to savings of nearly 3.3 billion dollars over a decade. Additionally, the report indicates a savings of nearly one billion, combined, between savings in Medicare and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

And yet, despite the government's fiscal woes, House Speaker Boehner insists on spending $500,000 to defend upholding these, in the words of the ACLU & NYCLUnine billion dollars to the nation's coffers between savings and income generation.

In my opinion, apart from Speaker Boehner seriously needing to get a clue, I think the $500,000 he has authorized in spending to defend DOMA would be put to much better use by refunding Edie the money she should never have had to pay in the first place, due to blatantly unconstitutional prejudiced discriminatory law.

Nine BILLION Dollars—what possible justification is there for not acting on a simple measure that would promote more stable relationships and infuse the government with much-needed cash?

In response to The Washington Post

I posted the following as a comment to Ms. Marcus's editorial that appeared in yesterday's Washington Post:

Ms. Marcus,

I feel your editorial to be misrepresentative of the facts at hand. There are two major issues the LGBT community had with King & Spalding's retention by House Speaker Boehner to defend DOMA:

First, King & Spalding has, traditionally, been an ally of the LGBT community, and touted its diversity rating and support of LGBT-issues to prospective clients and law students seeking to work for the firm. Defending a law that denies LGBT people access to over 1,138 federal rights and benefits was an enormous slap in the face to the community and in direct contravention with King & Spalding's long-standing support of the community.

Second, the contract into which Mr. Clement entered King & Spalding with the House of Representatives placed illegal (in at least two states) and unenforceable conditions on the workers of a firm the size King & Spalding. To wit, ALL King & Spalding employees, including the gay partners of King & Spalding who had been with the firm for many years longer than Mr. Clement, were prohibiting, via Mr. Clement's representation of the House in defending DOMA, from advocating or lobbying against DOMA.

The partners, associates, and non-lawyer staff at King & Spalding who oppose DOMA and are supportive of LGBT equality, such as the lawyers from King & Spalding's Atlanta offices who serve on the Board of Directors of the Stonewall Bar Association, including its president, would, essentially, have had to resign their positions either from the firm itself or from their positions they have long held in the LGBT community.

I would also imagine that King & Spalding, given its long-standing support and partnership with LGBT organizations, is actively involved in matters and/or has clients whose representation would violate paragraphs 4(f) and 4(g) of the Contract governing King & Spalding's representation of the House in defending DOMA.

To me, this second reason is most compelling, and in my opinion is most likely the cause for King & Spalding's withdrawal as counsel.

Mr. Clement has not been bullied into withdrawing from representing his client. King & Spalding. He has signed on with a boutique law firm, where his presence makes him the seventh lawyer in the firm. His representation will continue, in a firm that is not encumbered by LGBT-supportive partners and their clients who long pre-date his joining the firm.

Upon re-examination of the impact of being retained to defend DOMA and the conditions placed upon it and its employees by the House of Representatives, King & Spalding made the decision it should have made in the first place.

[Note: The last two paragraphs have been edited and thus appear differently than the comment I originally left in response to Ms. Marcus's editorial; no other changes have been made save the last two paragraphs, which appeared as a single paragraph in my original comment.]

20 April 2011

Open Letter to Kelly James, Ph.D.

So the gay community is up in arms over a soundbite provided by Kelly James, Ph.D., who is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Winthrop University and who serves as faculty advisor for GLoBAL, Winthrop University's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Ally League. Apparently, so much so that she's receiving hate mail. It's more unfortunate that people are riled to such levels as they are unable to conduct a civil discourse.

If one takes the time to read articles instead of just headlines, one would find out that Professor James is the bloody faculty advisor for the gay group on campus. So, while her concerns are real and her heart is in the right place, unfortunately, her mind hasn't followed suit. Quoth she, in whole,

But, my first thought was that, "I've got to let my students know" so that when they are out and about in Rock hill that they, you know, act straight, And that’s a sad lesson in 2011 to be teaching young people. I mean, it’s been off the books as a mental illness since 1973.

I'm sorry, Professor James, but you couldn't be more wrong.

Your first thought should not have been advising your students to have to "act straight," even if meant to be sarcastic. (On an entirely different matter, there is the whole debate over just what "'acting straight" entails but I am loathe to examine such things at this time.) Such a suggestion, even if made sarcastically, is not the answer and inappropriate.

While I am thankful of your support and know your heart is in the right place, backing up your statement by stating that you were misquoted or that your remarks were taken out of context, and that you were being blatantly obviously sarcastic, is still an inappropriate response to such situations of violence.

Yes, you should be concerned for your students' safety and yes, absolutely you should let your students know about the attack so they can be vigilant.

But hiding who truly are and repressing how they act is not the answer to the problem that exists, which only has been highlighted by this most unfortunate incident.

I am an atheist. But when I see someone celebrating their faith in their home or at their church or even on the street, I scream out at them, "Go on!" because they are being who they are and are free to express themselves as they are. They are not having to repress something, which can lead to grave psychological trauma.

I have personal experience with such grave psychological trauma. I repressed who I was and nearly didn't survive as a result. It was only when I started expressing myself and not hiding behind the "normalcy" of what society expected of me that I was able to flourish. You can read about it in my blog post, It Gets Better.

And no, I'm not advocating that people run out naked in the streets. But there should be a degree of freedom to act, behave, and express one's self in an appropriate manner without having to fear for their safety.

To this end, instead of advising your students to "act straight" in Rock Hill, if I were you, my first thought would be to let my students know of this travesty and devise an appropriate plan to respond, as loudly and vocally as permitted by law, to such an incident. To stand up and say, "We're not going to take this from anyone." To instil courage and confidence in my students, and say "When would you like me to be marching the streets of Rock Hill in support of your right to be who you are?"

That, Professor James, should have been the response from you.

I hope that my response to your involvement in this incident is more reasoned and resonates better with you than the emotional outcries of some of my brothers and sisters.

We are all human beings and creatures of the universe and as such we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. That you have not been treated as such is most unfortunate and a travesty that serves only to worsen this situation.

It is my hope that what I have written here will heal some of the wounds that have stung you in recent days.

24 March 2011

Ignorance, Prejudice, and Libellous Accusations: Why I live an open life

When I first started coming out, I learned the value of why one should lead an open life. While I value, and respect, privacy, I've found that leading one's life out in the open has numerous benefits over keeping one's life out of public purview, benefits that are immeasurable.

For this reason, I've lived my life openly, often putting things into the public eye that most others would shy away from doing. I've discussed my mental illness openly and, in doing so, have reaped the rewards of helping others deal with their struggles. I've discussed so many aspects about my personal life, receiving accolades and support all along the way. I've befriended countless individuals and had such positive forces and energy come into my life as a result of living a life where I hide very little, if anything.

It doesn't come as a surprise to me that individuals would try to use my openness against me; what does surprise me is that a judge fell for such obviously twisted ploys, although I don't fault the judge for this, per se.

Yesterday, I attended a hearing in front of The Honorable Robert K. Killian, who presides over The Court of Probate for the City of Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Judge Killian is, at the very least, a second-generation Connecticut lawyer and jurist; I just pray that his father's outdated legal opinions on homosexuality don't carry any weight in his legal practices. The matter before him was a review of guardianship and other issues concerning my younger brother's 3.5-year old daughter. My younger brother (John) brought this action in response to having his guardianship rights over his daughter, Cherokee, terminated by the Court, on application of Cherokee's mother, Yashira Marrero, who gave up her parental and guardianship rights approximately 18 months prior thereto (by her own application), in order to attend school in Virginia. The mother transferred her rights to her own mother, the child's maternal grandmother, Maria Colón.


Last fall, Yashira, a self-proclaimed "christian," (like the rest of her family) petitioned the Court to have her parental rights restored and have John's rights stripped. Due to a scheduling conflict (John is serving a 2.5-year sentence in prison), John was unable to appear at the hearing and the court granted Yashira's application by default action. After learning of the Court's decision, John asked me to help him rectify the situation (I have Power of Attorney over John while he's locked up), and I set about doing so. That is, after all, what family is for. When one member of a family falls down and there are others who depend on them, other members of the family step up to the plate and fill in, until that fallen member is able to rise once again. N'est-ce pas?

Now, why do I put the fact that Yashira is a self-proclaimed "christian" in quotes? Quite simply, I believe that it's because it's a farce that her entire family uses to disguise ignorance, fear, hatred, and prejudice. Let me give you an example: when my sister and I were first introduced to Yashira, the first few words out of her mouth were, "Well I would never have a child out of wedlock; I'm a Christian." Was she married (either to my brother or anyone else, for that matter) when she gave birth to her daughter? Nope, not even close--not even engaged!

People like this use religion (or other group characteristics) to mask who and what they really are. They're the sort of person who appear nice, normal, and average (if you're into the mundane) on the outside but strip away a few layers and you can get into some really icky stuff. I don't know what lies beneath the surface of Maria & Yashira but I have some inklings, and those inklings send chills racing up and down my spine.

The sort of religious fanaticism practised by Yashira and Maria reminds me of the very same religious fanaticism that often can be found in psychotic schizophrenics. Obviously, I'm not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or one who is classically trained  to make such determinations. However, having spent a great deal of time around these individuals, especially in my many psychiatric hospitalizations last decade (where I saw the need to put myself in hospital in order to keep myself safe due to suicidal thoughts I was having at the time, as opposed to having been placed there against my will), the resemblance between Maria and Yashira to the individuals whom I met who did have such diagnoses is uncanny. We are talking, after all, about individuals who proclaim to have held conversations with the Devil himself.

Long story short, after a whole lot of rigmarole, a hearing was finally scheduled (yesterday) to review the Court's fall decision. In short, John thought it wasn't fair that total guardianship and control of his daughter vest entirely on the mother's side of the family, especially given that the father's side of the family has a continued interest in being part of the child's life. There have been a number of concerns our family has had over Cherokee's health and well-being and how she is being raised, and how the mother's side of the family attempts to manipulate my mother into doing things for them by threatening my mother with revocation of her visitation with her granddaughter, which visitation has been rescinded in the past when my mother protested.

About a moth or so ago, Maria started telling my mother some pretty tall tales about stories she's heard about me doing drugs. I'm guessing that it was about a month or so ago that a court-appointed social worker visited Maria, who tried to lay into how I'm such a bad person because I'm gay. (Yashira truly believes that, since I'm gay, and a man, I naturally would want to molest girls and therefore has (in her mind) convicted me of child molestation—me, who's advocated for the castration of individuals who have repeatedly been convicted of child molestation!) In any event, Yashira has told both John and my sister, and even mentioned in court and tried to convince the judge that my mother shouldn't be trusted because my mother might allow me to bathe Cherokee, and of course me being a gay man, I shouldn't be allowed to bathe Cherokee because I would molest her in doing so.

Now, all this fear that Yashira has of her child being molested has made me wonder: where is the root of this fear, what is its basis? Was Yashira molested by a member of her family? Did Maria allow this molestation to occur in her household? It really raises some serious questions, especially given the level of irrational fear Yashira has that a male, family member would have any interest in molesting her daughter. Something tells me it's more than just the "you're gay so obviously you molest children" line of thought going on here....

Oh, so getting back to the social worker visit; I posit that at this time, when Maria was told that my being gay would not be an impediment to me visiting with Cherokee and could not be used as a reason to prevent me from seeing her, they began to concoct this whole drug thing, and they're (mis)using some of the information that I disclose about myself. Yes, I have a conviction for drug possession but as I clearly explain on my blog posts about it, I have never tested positive for illegal substance usage, have never had a substance abuse problem, and despite the criminal court's attempts to place me into substance abuse programs (to which I did not object, mind you--look, this is what the court wants me to do, I'll do it to the best of my ability), I was unable to be placed  into such programs as each and every single last such program in the County of Westchester, State of New York, USA determined that I did not have such a problem and therefore was unsuitable or unqualified for placement in their program.

So long story short, I firmly believe that Maria and Yashira have conspired to fabricate lies about me regarding my alleged abuse of drugs, especially in front of children (can you imagine such a thing--I mean seriously folks, look around the web for comments I made when that video about someone teaching a kid how to do drugs went viral, seriously!), because they finally came to the realization that they couldn't prevent me from seeing or spending time with or being a part of Cherokee's life solely on the basis that I'm gay--that shit just doesn't cut it anymore in the courts (thankfully!). Because, quite frankly, if I had been doing this for such a long time, why did they not mention this prior to now? The answer, quite simply in my opinion, is obvious: it's a fabrication designed to keep me away from Cherokee because they don't like the fact that I'm gay.

The Hearing

So yesterday, during the hearing, I was on the defensive, and I wasn't given the opportunity to defend myself, either. The lies spewing from Maria's and Yashira's mouths, as they were the sole guardians of Cherokee, were held at face value, and I was ordered to undergo evaluation and assessment by the State of Connecticut -- something I don't have a problem doing because, as I've said before, I'm open about who and what I am.

Some of the lies Maria told the Court:

  • I was thrown out of my home by my grandfather for doing drugs (I've previously posted on my blog that my father's brother evicted me from my home so that he could move in and live rent-free, and that he, a psychiatric nurse, did this while I was in a very fragile state in one of my hospitalisations, feeding lies to my feeble-minded and feeble-bodied grandfather, who was confused and unable to resist my father's brother's gross manipulations.) Point in fact: my grandfather never threw me out of his home (although he did allow his other son to do so but it had nothing to do with any sort of drugs or drug usage or allegations thereof; one of the arguments my father's brother used in my grandfather's mind was: who is going to be able to take better care of your, Peter, who's been crippled by the car accident and is having all of these mental health issues and might take his life, or me...do you really want to be here one day and find that he's killed himself, blah blah blah).
  • Drugs (allegedly belonging to me) were found in my grandfather's house (I love how she keeps saying it was my grandfather's house, as if my grandmother didn't exist, or that it wasn't my home). Point in fact: I was told that drugs were found in my grandfather's home, a good two months after I had been evicted therefrom by my father's brother and other people had been living / staying in my room for more than two months!
  • I did drugs in front of children, especially my sister's children. Point in fact: never happened (do I really need to say this?). I mean, hello, like my sister would ever permit something like that to happen, seriously?
  • I offered her money in an attempt to get her tax information. Point in fact: I had asked Maria if she was claiming Cherokee on her 2009 income taxes for the Earned Income Credit (EIC); under my Power of Attorney for John, I was preparing his 2009 income tax returns and needed to know this information. This was the only thing I asked for from Maria. I never offered her money; in fact, what I did say to her was that if she didn't provide me with this information and I had John claim Cherokee for the EIC and she also had made that claim, that it was possible for her to lose money if the IRS granted the EIC credit to John. And on this point, Judge Killian is dead wrong: I did have a right to ask for this very, very limited information and it would have been helpful of her to provide it. The very fact that she didn't just shows the level of contempt she has for me. I never asked Maria for any of her personal financial information, such as her wages, or anything like that. It was only whether or not she had claimed Cherokee for the EIC. The IRS advises parents/guardians of minor children to make every effort to work together to resolve these issues so that the IRS does not have to get involved. Maria refused to provide me with the answer to this question after I had asked her this one time and explained the IRS "feelings" on the subject. I dropped it and never raised the issue again; however, Maria harps on the fact and overplays it, stating that I repeatedly demanded this information from her and harassed her about it. Please, like I have all the time in the world to harass anyone about anything.

Again, if these really were "concerns" of any merit then why did they only surface within the past 1-2 months?

More flat-out lies Maria told the Court:
  • My mother brought Cherokee down to my apartment in Yonkers. Point in fact: Never happened (again, do I need to say this, I'm listing this under "lies Maria told the Court"....)
  • My mother allows strangers or other individuals to supervise Cherokee, or has left Cherokee alone when my mother was granted visitation with Cherokee
  • She's spoken with my sister, who has confirmed some of these things. Point in fact: My sister has never spoken with Maria; in fact, my sister is quite upset about this as she has tried contacting Maria on a number of occasions when she has been in the area, in an attempt to visit with Cherokee; all such attempts at contacting Maria were unsuccessful, and my sister was never allowed to visit with Cherokee on her own. The only time my sister and/or I have ever seen Cherokee was when she was visiting with our mother.
  • My mother has let Cherokee be around naked men, such as her ex-husband

Oh, and as proof positive that I'm teaching Cherokee how to use drugs, she told the Court that after my last visit here, Cherokee began rolling up tissue and putting it in her nose. She first was observed doing this at her school (which, I would presume, is where Cherokee learned how to do this). Now, I'm not entirely certain exactly what this is supposed to signify or represent. John's lawyer privately pointed out to me, and even the Judge said, that Cherokee is 3.5 years old; kids that age put all sorts of things up their nose, in the mouse, and various other places.

What angers me most is that these lies (which I consider to be slanderous) and accusations were taken at face value. I volunteered to the court the information that I publicly have disclosed on my blog: my criminal record (misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance), and my mental health issues. So the Court feels that Maria's and Yashira's concerns are "legitimate"; had the Court (and by the Court, I refer specifically to Judge Killian) had a desire or inclination to do so, it could have questioned me about these matters and I would have been more than happy to disclose all, just as I have done throughout my life. I live my life openly, so people can see who and what I am. I don't hide behind veiled shrouds such as "Christianity" in a failed attempt to prove who & what I am; I lay it all out there for people to judge for themselves.

Instead of making a few inquires to me, the Court (Judge Killian) decided to spend taxpayers' money to launch an investigation into me to determine how appropriate it is for me to continue seeing Cherokee. He then admonished me, stating that he wasn't preventing me from seeing Cherokee; only that it was to be done under supervision, and Cherokee isn't allowed to spend the night with my mother while I am visiting there. So any time that Cherokee spends with me has to be supervised (either by Maria or my mother, meaning my mother can't leave Cherokee with me if she needs to run out on an errand or something--not that that's happened in the past but in the event it should happen in the future, it places limitations on freedoms). And he refused to set a return date upon completion of the investigation, which means I'll have to prompt such action at such time if I wish to have full familial rights restored to me.

Judge Killian also ordered me to "back off," noting that "you're not the mother or the father of the child." Again, I had been acting at the behest of my brother John, who is the child's father. And even if I'm not the father, I am a legal and blood relative, and as a family member, I should be concerned about the well-being of any of my other family members, just as I am.

While I don't have a problem undergoing this examination, I find it a complete and utter waste of time, and it's insulting that I would have to go through these procedures. It's also insulting that the Judge would take the word of these two (in my opinion) psychotic individuals without questioning me directly, and waste both the the time and taxpayers' monies by having the State conduct this investigation instead of doing it right then & there. I would have been happy to have conferenced in my therapist/psychiatrist to confirm anything that needed confirmation. But now, instead, we have to go through tons of paperwork and waste the time of a social worker who, more likely than not, has much better and more important things to do with her time.

That Judge Killian is considered an advocate of those who suffer with mental illness further exacerbates this situation; he, above all, should be better informed as to such matters. I understand that, because of public opinion and previous cases, Judge Killian has to take every precaution necessary when it comes to the safety of children but to reduce my rights to participate in Cherokee's life as her uncle, even when such a reduction is marginal, on such obviously flawed and baseless allegations is, to me, insulting at the least and at most, a gross waste of government resources and taxpayer expense.

[EDIT: Updated 10:31am 24 March 2011]I forgot to mention; about half-way through the proceeding, Yashira, Cherokee's mother, asked if she had to stay on the phone, because she was at work. That just goes to show you just how interested and involved in Cherokee's life her mother is. To remind you, her mother (Yashira) gave up her parental rights in order to "live her life" by going to school out of state. I guess that all the giggling in the background while she was at "work" was much more important to her than having to pay attention to a court proceeding regarding her own freaking daughter.[/END OF EDIT]

In the immortal words of Kathy Griffin, "I might seem like a tool for saying this but seriously, you wanna bring it—with me? Alright bitches, let's roll!"

So with that, I would like to dedicated the following to Maria Colón and Yashira Marrerro, both of whom maintain their residence at 33 Kibbe Street, Hartford, CT (oh and if you think I'm being unfair by publishing their address; remember that as one who leads his life openly, my address is publicly listed under my Google & Facebook profiles):

Here are some photos of Cherokee either by herself or with mom & me:

Cherokee & me at my birthday dinner celebration; she hugs her uncle!

Cherokee & Yi (that's maternal grandmother in Thai)
Cherokee is enthralled by some of the gifts I got for her this past holiday

Cherokee opening some gifts, with Yi in the background
Cherokee & Yi petting Patty Potato
Peter, Cherokee, and Yi - fun family times!