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.