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 Judge Killian is, at the very least, a second-generation Connecticut lawyer and jurist; I just pray that his father's outdated legal opinions on homosexuality don't carry any weight in his legal practices.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!