Thursday, November 30, 2017

Happy Anniversary

It has been quite the year.  From the Women’s March in January, the Resist March in June, to the #MeToo Survivors’ March in November, we continue to drive the conversation of the “resistance” forward and shed light on important issues and movements that have taken over the American zeitgeist since the early stages of 2016 Presidential election until now.  While many of the actions to come out of the Trump administration have forced both myself and many others, to grow as both people and activists, there is still one thing that I cannot get over: my non-existent relationship with my Aunt and Uncle (who are also my godparents).

Much like I promised on that fateful day where we finally had it out, I swore I would never speak to them again until I received an apology.  Now, while you may be assuming that the apology I want is a result of their voting for then-candidate Trump, I must say nothing could be further from the truth.  Although I do understand that people have lost and ended numerous relationships with family members, friends, partners, or lovers as a result of a person’s private voting booth decision, I am not in that camp. 

Yes, I’m sure I have retweeted or posted stuff that said: “defriend me if you actually voted for this man,” or something of that nature, I can assure you that the feud I am having with my Aunt and my Uncle is not a result of their decision to vote for President Trump (no matter how much it bothers me).  The real reason for our fight stems back to an article I shared on Facebook from the South Florida newspaper the Sun Sentinel titled: “Voter anger over Trump’s election goes deeper than Clinton’s loss.”  The only addition to the long quote that I pulled from the article was: “This pretty much sums up ALL of my feelings regarding friends/family that voter for Trump.”  While the fight would soon consume our family, the facts, much like with the 2016 Election, quickly got away from everyone and were itself a parody that even I couldn’t have made up. 

I was walking back into work at my old job at West Hollywood City Hall when I noticed that my Aunt Mary Lou, who, I had spent most of my time with growing up as most of my mother’s other family lived in Florida, commented on the aid Facebook post.  Her comment was as follows:


I want to mention that I had not spoken to or talked with my Aunt and Uncle (whom I know we're always going to vote for Trump) about the election.  I knew we did not see eye-to-eye on it and it would only cause discord.  For those of you that know you, know that this almost seems like an anomaly.  I am not one to hold back and I have no problem telling people how I feel.  However, when it came to my Aunt and Uncle, it wasn’t worth the strife that would come up as a result of me commenting on her posts on her Facebook page (most of which were made up of fake news stories that Russians used to target vulnerable people in swing states like Wisconsin but I digress).  I even would tell my sisters, who are much better people than I could ever hope to be, that she has a right to say whatever she wants on her own personal Facebook page and not to worry as I was almost positive, much like everyone else, that Hillary Clinton would win. 

While I do not intend to rehash the devastation the 2016 election had and continues to have over myself (you can more about that here), all I will say is that I continued to not engage with her or her posts because I was hurting.  However, it was in that moment when I got the notification that she had commented on the article I shared that all bets were off.

What followed was a long, drawn-out, nasty fight online (where most fights seem to occur these days).  I will be the first to say that I too am guilty of saying mean things; however, they were a direct result of a comment made by my Aunt’s sister Nancy that I said such things:

What really made me mad wasn’t that they were attacking me online after I had never said a thing to them (don’t get me wrong, this hurt) but the sheer fact that they were equating my sharing the article as me critiquing them on who they voted for. 

I want to be really clear: I never told them who to vote for because I never spoke to them until after the election.  I agree with Nancy that as an American citizen she has the freedom to vote for whomever she wants.  To make matters worse, my Aunt, and subsequently her sister, much like the fake news that is now part of our daily vernacular, thought that the article that I shared was actually written by me.  They were too busy to actually read the article and see that, although I wish I had written it, was a letter to the editor of the Sun Sentinel. 

Now, do not get me wrong, I clapped back to Nancy’s comment.  It has since been edited as a result of constant pleas from family members to not make private family business public but I refuse to take down the post or the subsequent comments down.  While I thought the post was old news after a few days of no activity, it wasn’t until I was walking around Disneyland, you know, the “happiest place on the planet,” and felt my phone buzzing.  Aunt Mary Lou had commented:


Although I won’t go further into the details of the back-and-forth, all of this sums down to the fact that I no longer speak to my Aunt (and subsequently my Uncle) because I was attacked, online by both her and her sister.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not happy they voted for Trump.  However, what makes them different from my other family members that also voted for Trump is, they did not attack me on my personal Facebook page. 

I’m mad.  I’m upset.  I’m still very hurt.  I’m not happy that two people that watched me grow up, supported me, and loved me choose to go this route.  However, I am, if anything, a man of my word.  When I said, that I would never, ever, speak to them again until I got an apology, I meant it; and I’m still waiting. 

I was recently asked: why don’t you just give up?  My answer: because I still believe in them.  I still know, that although they voted for the vilest human being, I still love them and hope that one day they will see the light.  This past election has destroyed so much, but I refuse to let it destroy the one thing about me that I believe in the most: love.  I will continue to “do all the good I can, for all the people I can, in all the ways I can, as long as ever I can” no matter what.

It’s their move, and it begins with I’m and ends with sorry. 

*This post was originally published on the Engaged Gaze

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


If you’re anything like me you not only hate opening up your Twitter feed each morning but also feel compelled to in order to make sure you didn’t miss whatever new atrocity to come out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After the Women’s March, I felt charged. I felt that whatever this administration threw at the proverbial “us,” I knew we could and would overcome it. Although that charge kept me going for a few months, there came a time where I just couldn’t go on anymore and that I was completely drained; then walked in a man named Brian Pendleton.

After the Women’s March on January 21, I didn’t know what to expect. The event was truly so successful that many of the organizers and coordinators were on an activist high as a result of what was a truly magical and divine moment. A few months came and went and the 45th President of the United States continued (much to our surprise) to be as awful as we all knew and expected. However, while I am able to exist in a world, no matter how oppressive, as a cisgendered white male and the full on privilege and power that comes along with that territory, many of the individuals and communities being attacked did not have those same freedoms; and like with the Women’s March and how that all took shape, in walked Brian Pendleton to my life to talk to me about the #ResistMarch.
Cover Photo

Although my involvement during the 120 days or more that led up to the #ResistMarch happened in a flash, one thing is for certain: miracles exist not because of divine intervention but because G-d places people on this Earth to make positive impacts. The beauty of the #ResistMarch was not just the passion of the organizers but the beauty of the rainbow that came out in full force on June 11.

The strength shown by our community was one that, for all intensive purposes, proves that love does conquer all. RuPaul couldn’t have expressed the common and conquering theme better than when he said: “It’s all about love; giving love and being able to receive love. That’s our secret weapon; that’s the one thing they don’t have: our love and our music. That is our activism. That is what we use and what we always use to fight the ugliness.”

That is the one experience that I took most out of the #ResistMarch: the power of love and friendship; the beauty in the unexpected conversation that leads to changing the world, again.  Thank you, Brian. Thank you, for bringing us all together to resist, recharge, and love.


When we come together, we are the Divine.  I didn't think I could experience that twice in one year; clearly, I was wrong.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Welcome to the Resistance

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to make important decisions. What do I believe in? Who do I want to be? What and who will I stand up for? There has been a lot going on in the world lately and a lot of it, sadly, is pretty awful. While people are learning pretty quickly that elections have very real and long-lasting consequences, what is critical to overcome the next 4-years of this fascist regime isn’t just that we are taking to the streets to make our voices heard but we are willing to disrupt society at every turn to make sure that people on the other side of the proverbial political coin know we will not go gently into that good night.
I’ve been questioning G-d a lot lately; wondering what has happened to that shining “City on a hill” that John Winthrop called for in his 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.” The idea that the United States of America is “G-d’s country” due to the American exceptionalism present but not only the rich bounty of land and resources many would soon land upon but also the potentiality that America represented in a world full of monarchs.
Many Presidents have often recited the very same idea to the American populous. From John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, America, although diverse and full of various communities from all walks of life, always presented a rich idea that we would be a beacon for prosperity, freedom, and dreamers. For myself (and many others I’m sure), that idea was called into question on November 8, 2016. We had come so far in the struggle for and the potential achievement of the “American Experiment” to fall before we got to the top and, as we have all felt since then, hit every jagged rock on our journey back down to the bottom. However, what we need to remember is that we’re not anywhere close to the bottom yet; all the symbolic bruises and scars we each have will only continue to grow as we keep tumbling down the rabbit hole.
Although the hits keep coming I refuse to let them get me down. I refuse to sit back and watch the country and communities I love be attacked by a tyrant and his cronies looking to cash in on people’s lives.
On January 21, 2017, I saw the resistance rise. For me, the Women’s March was more than just 750,000 people from all walks of life taking part in a communal action across the world, it was an accumulation of what is not only possible but also the hope and dream of what is still to come.
What a lot of people do not know is that while I too, was a part of the crowd, I was also behind the scenes working on the march here in Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to be 1 of the 13 co-organizers of the march which consisted of a group of women I now call my heroes.  Although I do not think that I’ll ever be able to put into words what the march or being part of its organization means to me, the one thing I do know for sure, now, more than ever, is that we are always stronger together.
At the march, we went from “I” to “We.” We became part of something that we will never be able to understand. If that isn’t G-d, I do not know what else it would be. While November 8 had me questioning my faith, January 21 brought it back full force.
The night before the march, I was with three of my closest friends. We laughed, we cried, we shared in the love that we have for this country and most importantly, the love we have for each other. Falling asleep that night, the following quote kept me awake at night and I didn’t understand why until I got home after the march. The quote is:
The Devil whispered in my ear,
“You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.”
Today I whispered in the Devil’s ear,
“I am the storm.”
While I believe the quote is perfect as it is, the only thing that I’d change is that on January 21, “I” didn’t just whisper in the Devil’s ear, “We” did.
Welcome to the resistance, my friends. The march happened. We all went home changed and more awake than ever before. Now, the only remaining question I have for you is: what’s next?
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.