Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Letter to those I’ve Lost

Dear [Insert Name Here],
Something died on November 8, 2016, and I do not think I’ll ever be able to get it back. I sat there, walking back to my house, in disbelief and utter shock and scared for the next 4-years of my life.
For weeks leading up to the election, I had found myself praying in the copy room at my work almost daily. I would sit there, silent and alone, having just read some misleading article or alt-right post from a family member that called Hillary Clinton the devil, and wonder: when did everything go so off the rails?
Although we’ll spend years trying to figure the answer to my above question out, for me, it is a question I have been asking myself ever since election night and specifically knowing how certain members of my family would, and ultimately did, vote.  
I’ve always known that I had Republican family members (don’t we all?). However, what made this so troubling is that the election of Donald Trump was not just a normal Republican that they were voting for. This was the election of a man who would not only go after my rights as a citizen but also the rights of my female family members, friends, and a large-majority of people in my life that have always and were certain to become the main targets for further bigotry, hatred, and violence. I thought, at least for a second, that when they entered the voting booth, this would be in the back of their mind. They’d sit there, before selecting their nominee, and think about how Donald Trump would ultimately hurt a member of their family, directly and indirectly; boy, was I wrong.
I expressed my concern to my sisters; having told them I was deeply troubled by certain members of my family having voted for Donald Trump having known and supported me as an openly gay man my whole life. How could someone that proclaims to love me, vote for a Presidential ticket where the Vice-President had advocated for electrocution of LGBT people to “correct” them and cure their homosexuality?
From that simple conversation, life in my family only got more complicated and much more contentious. If you know me, I’m not one to not directly engage with those that disagree with me. However, in this case, I never directly engaged any of my Republican family members out of the respect and sheer ability to see what would (and did) happen if I did. The situation only seemed to get worse. I shared an op-ed that I did not write stating that it “pretty much summed up how I felt about family and friends that voted for Trump.” The article stated that although I respect your choice to vote for whoever you wish, if you think for a second that I’ll forget that you voted for a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic demagogue hell-bent on destroying the very fabric of America, then you have another thing coming. Upon sharing this article, my Republican family members confirmed that “we will not be coming together ever again” while members of their extended family proceeded to also viciously attack me.
In the sense of full disclosure, I did fight back and engage with these family and extended family members in a not so cordial way after their bombardment of attacks made it almost impossible for me not to while also casting doubt if I could ever look them in the eyes, let alone ever speak/see them, again. Having fully known what was occurring, I demand and still to this day await an apology for my family members attacking me without provocation. I refuse to speak or see them ever again until they own up to attacking me for my political beliefs, something that I never did to them.
The worst part of this election is that it has completely destroyed my wiliness to further engage with “those people.” I no longer care to make it a top priority of mine to reach out beyond the proverbial political aisle to hear about what they have to say; especially after they shared fake news articles about Hillary Clinton running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a pizza place or the countless other horribly vicious things they said.  
Maybe, our country is doomed after all. Maybe, our country deserves a ruthless dictator who will lie, cheat, and steal his way into the White House and destroy the very lives of those people that ended up putting him there in the process. Maybe, this is the type of President my Republican family members, who all benefit from the Social Security and Medicare programs likely to be on the chopping block in the next 4-years, deserve.
Out of all of these things, the one thing that has kept coming to my mind is G-d. What is he (or she) thinking? I feel like I’m back in one of my Old Testament classes discussing the harsh and cruel G-d that thrust so many horrible things onto their believers. Maybe, the worst part about the election isn’t Donald Trump, but it is the realization that G-d may be dead after all.
Whatever happens, the only thing that I know for sure is that I will never stop fighting. I will never stop fighting the bigotry, the hatred, and lies, the slander, and most importantly the fear that is going to be washing over the communities I care most about throughout these next four (and G-d forbid) or eight years of a Trump Presidency. I will never forget the lies and attacks thrust upon me by family members that I once took pleasure seeing and interacting with. I will never forget the hatred you endorsed with your vote and I will make sure that countless others like myself hold their family members that voted in similar fashions accountable as well.
I vow to never stop fighting and believing that we are stronger together both now and more so in the future. I vow to do all the good I can, for all the people I can, in all the ways I can, as long as I can.
John Erickson
John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University and holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies.  His areas of focus are women's, gender, and sexuality studies, LGBT history, American religious history, and 20th and 19th-century American women's history.  John is currently the Community Events Technician for the City of West Hollywood where he works on community events related to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues.   He is, and will not be over, the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election for a very long time.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The End is Nigh

When I was a little boy I was terrified that I would live to experience the end of the world.  Whether it was by an asteroid, Y2K, or a zombie plague, I would make myself sick by picturing these horrible things that could befall me and my family.  Although I was a precocious child, the crippling fear that would lurch its way up my stomach and into my head would sometimes make it impossible to sleep at night.  While I like to think I grew out of that phase, I now sit here feeling that way again.  I’m crippled with fear that the end of the world is at hand and there may be nothing we can do to stop it.   How will the world end? No, it isn’t Lucifer himself coming from hell to bring in the end times, it is someone far worse, and his name is Donald Trump.
By the time you’re reading this post, the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will have occurred and, no matter where you look, the aftermath will haunt us for weeks to come.  We will either be sitting here, coaxing in the sunlight that Clinton has, in proper fashion, just goaded Trump into revealing to the 100 or so million viewers that will have chimed in to viewing how completely dangerous he truly is, or will we be scurrying to uncover decade old bunkers that were used during the 1950s and the Cold War to take shelter from the fallout to come should, Donald Trump become the next President of the United States.
Clinton, Trump pick up big wins
However, as I sit here and write this, I wonder what levels of prognosticating can I accurately do?  I predict Trump will make sexist remarks, act totally unhinged when fact-checked by either Clinton or the (Republican) moderator Lester Holt and, most likely, use the phrase “believe me” more than a Second Great Awakening circuit preacher.  Or, will he be muzzled, refrained, and attempt to, in his own particular fashion, act Presidential.  To be honest, I do not know which version of Trump scares me more; the unhinged or the hinged Trump.
I’ve written about Clinton on this blog before, during her primary battle with Senator Bernie Sanders.  I have never seen so many comments, masked with faint hints at sexism, coming from people that I not only respect but also thought would see the ultimate test that she (or Bernie) would have to face: Donald Trump.  Comment after comment called into question many of her policies that, should she had been born a man, would have made her qualified, tough or a skilled General not afraid to make the difficult decisions. 
Having read her book, Hard Choices, I can honestly say that I do not think I have ever studied or investigated a candidate that was more qualified to serve as President; and when the current President backs that up, you have to begin to question what your real motives are for not voting for Clinton, and potentially giving your vote (which equates an endorsement) to a third party candidate or worse, simply not voting at all.   Countless times I have had to discuss that this election, although it really comes down to good versus evil, is the most important election that you or myself will vote in (yes, I know, some of you reading this see no difference between Trump and Clinton) for the next twenty or so years.  Ask yourself: do you really know what you’ll be losing if Trump is elected? 
For me, this all boils down to one thing: my nieces and nephews.  I worry about them constantly.  I worry about what they watch on TV, what they’ll read for the next 8 years, or whom they will look up to or what horrible things bullies may one day say to them.  While I was home in Wisconsin this past weekend, I sat down to have a quick bite to eat at one of my favorite establishments.  I opened my book and began reading to only overhear a man and a woman talking about Clinton and Trump and how they were completely torn.  I turned around, apologized for intruding into their conversation and began to speak to them about why they felt they couldn’t vote for Clinton and what it was about Trump that put them on the edge as well.  Their answers were about character and what they really wanted their grandchildren to go up experiencing.  I quickly went over the list of the things Trump had said not only about women but also about people with disabilities and, people in general and asked: Is that the person you want your grandchildren growing up and seeing as the President?  A man that calls women bimbos, mocks a person with a disability in front of thousands of people, and frequently calls for violence against non-white individuals?  I shared with them that, for me, it was about my two nieces (and my two nephews) but more so my nieces, growing up during their formative years and seeing a woman holding the highest office in the land.  Yes, she isn’t just any woman but, a woman in my opinion who is more qualified that anyone ever to hold the office of the Presidency.  This race is about the future that they grow up in and one where I hope people will begin to more readily recognize the inherent sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. rather than encourage it from the oval office.  
Before you cast your vote, please make sure you think about the future; please make sure you think about the boys and girls that will grow up in a world with President Trump versus President Clinton.  Think about that little boy, petrified, standing here now as a grown man worried about the end of the world not because his candidate could lose, but because the person that could win, has a very good chance and ushering in the end times as we know it and ending any type of progress that has occurred in the past 8-years.  
Whatever you do, make sure you vote.  Make sure you sit there and think not only about yourself but also the U.S. Supreme Court, women’s rights, LGBT rights, communities of color, education, or the countless other topics that will be greatly impacted by the outcome of the November 8th election.  If you do anything, think about the world we have now and the world you want to be in 4 to 8 years from now and ask yourself: is a protest or no vote really worth the bleak world we may get as a result of it?
If you’re on the fence, please reach out to me; let me know what your issues are and we can speak about it in the hopes of coming to an understanding of what the future could hold for all of us.  I can be reached via email at - ericksonjohn1985@gmail.com or on Twitter @JErickson85.
No matter what you do, make sure you vote on November 8.  It will be the most important thing you do not only on that day but also for years to come. 
John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. He is a Permanent Contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Non-Fiction Reviewer for Lambda Literary, the leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news since 1989 and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion's Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation. He is currently the President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh's LGBTQA+ Alumni Association, the Vice- Chair of Public Relation and Social Media for the Stonewall Democratic Club, and the Non-Profit and Governmental Liaison for the Hollywood Chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women). When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he is the Community Events Technician and works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter@JErickson85

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I'm Failing

“How is your dissertation going?”

Never before has a simple question packed such a punch. Five little words strike fear into my heart as I remember I have a countless number of things to do before I get that title after my name: Ph.D.

There are so many reasons as to why I feel like I’m failing at my dissertation and school, something I used to love. The first reason is I never have any time to write. Yes, I find time to write on sites such as Feminism and Religion and others when I should be writing my dissertation but they each serve a different purpose; mainly, this site acts as salvation to my long wrought out mingling with my source materials to where my dissertation acts as a catalyst for the growing number of gray hairs I seem to have.

Two, although I can picture the text in my head and see where I need to go in the sequence of my yet-to-be-written prose, the daunting and oftentimes perilous act of sitting down and writing has been keeping me from putting figurative pen to actual paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Three, I’m way too involved. I’ve always prided myself with being able to “do it all,” but maybe the thing I’ve needed to realize these last few months is that one person cannot do it all. Being imperfect is a strength I’ve yet to fully embrace because as a gay person growing up in a small town, I taught myself that I needed to be perfect after everything so I could deflect any type of bigotry or hatred that would come my way and this is a crutch I still carry with me as I no longer run, but limp, towards the ultimate finish line.
Four, what’s the point? With the dwindling job market and tightening of the university purse strings, why I am running towards graduation if there is nothing to graduate into? Do I really want to leave my current job, where I get to do so much, for the current state of the university system? Sure, it’s great to finish but if there is nothing there at the finish line, why am I figuratively running so hard to get there?

Five, I’m being stupid. Sure, I know I could just sit down and write my dissertation. I could scratch the surface of my topic without fully investing any more than “what is needed” but that is not how I operate and even though I’ve known many people who have done such things (can you blame them? I mean, the system beats you down), I care about my topic and more importantly, the people that shared things with me they’ve never told anyone.
So, here I sit, writing this post and yet reliving all of these failing over again. I need to make a change and I need to stop focusing on failing and start focusing on (Trump trigger warning) winning again. I need to rediscover my passion for my research, sit down and outline where I need to go and finally start writing knowing that I will get there. Yes, it may have taken me 6-months extra but in the end, all that matters is that I did get there, and I got there on my own terms.

Here is my promise not only to myself but also to all of you: I will finish my Ph.D., and finish it soon. I’m going to start prioritizing my schoolwork and start making more tangible steps towards the finish line so I no longer feel like I’m failing but instead, accomplishing my dream of achieving my Ph.D. in American Religious History. It was fun being ABD and making excuses as to why I wasn’t writing that much and working on my dissertation every day but no more.

For once, I’m starting to feel like me again, and it feels great!
This blog is dedicated to all that have participated in this struggle, both in the past, present, and future!

Monday, June 13, 2016


I want to tell you a short story about the small town of Ripon, WI. On May 19, the local newspaper, The Ripon Commonwealth, which has served as the town’s paper since 1864, published a story regarding the political right’s uproar of President Barack Obama’s executive order that all public schools must allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom which matches that of their gender identity. Angry and upset, the paper’s education reporter wrote an article expressing his clear disdain for not only the President but also a clear lack of empathy, understanding and sheer bigotry towards the transgender community.

Growing up in Ripon, I always read the paper when it came out on Wednesday evenings. Those of you, who grew up in a small town, can attest to the luxury of seeing friends, family members, and even the smallest ongoings in one’s town in print for the entire town to see and talk about. However, one thing I never saw in the paper was the clear hate I read upon finishing Mr. Becker’s (the author of said piece) article. Enraged, I immediately asked myself: what can I do? Having connections back in Wisconsin, I immediately turned to friends who owned businesses, a friend who is the Director of a vocal and important group in the town, and community organizations and friends to begin to write letters.

After the threat of a boycott of the paper by local businesses, both LGBT and not, which could become very real and financially damaging for a local paper which relies heavily on ad revenue, the publisher of the paper, whom I’ve always respected, met with a local business owner and friend of mine. During this meeting, they had an educational and empowering conversation regarding the multitude of issues and life threatening challenges that transgender individuals face (as well as gay, bisexual, lesbian, and queer people) and the publisher of the paper agreed that the article was wrong and that there would be an in-person interview with my friend about the importance of education regarding transgender issues. The follow-up article was published a few weeks later in the paper. Needless to say, it was wonderful to see not only the submissions from local townspeople to the “Letters to the Editor” section calling the original article what it was - bigotry - but more importantly, the empowering responses from the local community that proved Ripon would not let this type of hatred and intolerance go unanswered.

We had won! It was a small victory, but the ability to have a full spread article talking about the importance of not only transgender but also LGBQIA rights was a significant step for those who still are in the proverbial closet and for those that are out and proud.

However, then Orlando happened…

I’ve been thinking about the story regarding the anti-transgender piece in my local newspaper a lot since Saturday when at least 50 people were killed and another 53 individuals were critically injured after a gunmen opened fire at Pulse, a local gay club in Orlando, FL. I’ve tried to cry, I’ve tried to get mad, I’ve tried to pray, I’ve tried to mourn the fact that we lost so many people on Saturday because of one individual’s hatred both of himself and those that he never could bring himself to understand or accept.

While out walking, I asked myself: I wonder what how this level of hate was created in him that made him believe that he was right to hate the people who were dancing in Pulse on Saturday night? Was it a religious text? Was it something online? Or, was it an article in a paper that made him feel correct and righteous in his discontent for the LGBT community that he felt justified taking an AR-15 into a club and leaving a wake of destruction in his path? That’s how hate begins: with people seeing hate in the world and thinking it’s ok to hate people that are not like them, or, having one’s hate validated by the pundits, letters to the editor, political and religious demagogues, and other figures that symbolize it’s ok to hate.

If you do anything in the wake of Orlando, make sure that every time you smile, every time you laugh, and every time you cry, you remember the names of those that we lost. Remember their ages, their stories, and their smiles. Remember the loss, because we’re going to need it for the tomorrows to come and for those that need our protection the most: the next generation.

Remember, we are Orlando; now, tomorrow, and always.

Dedicated to: Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old; Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old; Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old; Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old; Kimberly Morris, 37 years old; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old; Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old; Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old; Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old; Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old; Amanda Alvear, 25 years old; Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old; Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old; Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old; Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old; Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old; Cory James Connell, 21 years old; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old; Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old; Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old; Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old; Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old; Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old; Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old; Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old; Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old; Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old; Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old; Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old; Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old; Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old; Frank Hernandez, 27 years old.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I’m going to do something I’d never thought I’d do: fill your newsfeed with yet another article pertaining to the 2016 United States Presidential election and yes, I’m going to talk about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (hint: I’m emphatically supporting her and I’m unapologetic about it.)

Let me start off with my central point: a vote for Hillary is a vote to change history and the world. No, not because she’ll hail in some type of new economic stimulus (although I’m sure she’ll do just fine with our economy #ThanksObama) or because she’ll save us all from the evils of the GOP (looking at you Trump/Cruz/and the “moderate” Kasich) but because she’ll do one thing that’s never been done before: become the first female President of the United States, ever.
Hillary Clinton
While I have tried not to get into “it” (read: online trysts with my friends on social networks who are #FeelingtheBern) the question I beg to ask is: what’s so wrong with wanting the right woman to be the President? This is one, but not my only reason, I will cast my vote for her both in the Democratic Primary in California in June as well as in November (and, if you haven’t guessed, I do not believe or promulgate the reasoning or rhetoric that Bernie Sanders will come from behind and win the Democratic Party’s nomination because I passed 5th grade level Math.)

Although my support for Hillary has never waivered (check my Twitter feed) I do have to say that if my support for her was ever in question, it was solidified last week on what pundits were calling “Super Super Tuesday” not because she won all five primary states in question: Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri but because I was there, with my friend, mentor and academic mother: Marie Cartier and as we watched the results pour in, she began to cry not because she too, like myself, is an ardent Hillary supporter but because of these few words: “Finally, for once, it seems like it’s possible that a woman can be President.”

I’m not a religious man; I’ve often written about my struggle with religion but I’ve never doubted my spirituality and/or faith in signs. To me, that moment was a sign that I was in the right place, at the right time and experiencing something I’ll never forget. G-d may or may not exist (FYI - if G-d does exist, G-d is most certainly female); what does exist is my faith in other people who have lived lives, seen and lived through experiences I haven’t or could never even image, and in those special moments learning from the emotions and passions they’re exhibiting and passing onto me.

As a gay, white, privileged, cisgendered man, being President is always something that I could possibly aspire too. However, being a woman, getting the right to even vote only 96 years ago, as well as having major disparagements and vilifications facing you not because you’re not qualified but solely based on your gender, being President is something that not only could and did seem impossible but also was and still is, even though we live in the “greatest country in the world.”

I agree with Dr. Tiller’s famous statement: “Trust women.” It’s always been my motto and more importantly, I believe and trust in Hillary Clinton not because she’s just a woman but because her qualifications and record will make me proud when my nieces look at their iPhones or televisions or read in history books that we had a female President while they were growing up.

I think the biggest reason I want Hillary for President is because she makes me believe that there are higher purposes, greater hopes, and even a hints of possibilities that this country, while embroiled in rallies, fear-mongering, and hatred on the other side of the political aisle, has the possibility to ride through this storm of insanity and come outside on the other end better, stronger, and changed for the better.

So, when I’m asked why I support Hillary for President, my response isn’t her litany of qualifications or the recounting of her esteemed career, but rather the explanation of that feeling I got while holding my friend Marie’s hand and toasting not to Hillary’s wins but to the possibility that I will be alive when history is written and our country changes for the better; while some may call that feeling, a moment of grace, or being in the right place at the right time, I simply now refer to it as the moment I felt as if I experienced the some aspect of the divine.

So #HillYes? You betcha.
John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. He is a Permanent Contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Non-Fiction Reviewer for Lambda Literary, the leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news since 1989 and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion's Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation. He is currently the President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh's LGBTQA+ Alumni Association, the Vice- Chair of Public Relation and Social Media for the Stonewall Democratic Club, and the Non-Profit and Governmental Liaison for the Hollywood Chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women). When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he is the Community Events Technician and works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter@JErickson85