Wednesday, August 06, 2014

My Little Worker Bee

Tonight, my kiddo had an interview for a bar-tending position at a Japanese tavern in the historic Vieux Carré (French Quarter) in New Orleans. Hir aunt sings and plays the piano there every week and she put in a bon mot with the owner. My child just called and told me that ze begins training on Tuesday. I'm so proud of this kid.

Being a college student living in a world famous city might result in a young person partying way too much and getting distracted with all kinds of questionable activities. This is especially true for a young person with ADHD. But my darling chose to stay busy by getting a job. Now ze has TWO jobs. That plus going to school full-time might be too much for some, but a kid like mine has to stay really busy in order to keep out of trouble.

I won't pretend as if ze never makes poor decisions, because I dislike when people get on social media and make it sound like their kids are perfect. My child still has a lot to learn and a long way to go before ze's ready to be completely independent. However, I'm really grateful for the way that ze has dealt with the challenges placed before us in the past couple of years.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Cost of Daring to Exist as a Queer Person of Color With Disabilities

How College Wrestling Star "Tiger Mandingo" Became An HIV Scapegoat

This is really a(nother) case of a LGBQ person of color with disabilities being criminalized for daring to try to be a part of the non-disabled world. This man was used and exploited and now that they've gotten all that they can out of him, they're sending him to prison and trying to forget that he was ever there. Where are the LGBTQIA organizations now? Why are they always nowhere to be found when the LGBQTIA is Black?

A few days ago, a friend brought up the problem of white older queers who exploit young queer people of color to indulge their racial fetishes. I think the same power imbalance exists with Johnson and the white men who chose to have sex with him. In the article, one of the men makes this quite clear when he talks about how Johnson was "only [his] third black guy" and that he wanted to have unprotected sex because Johnson was "huge".

There's no mention of how Johnson had severe learning disabilities and could barely read or write. How is it not predatory for these non-disabled white men to use him as some sort of stud even though Johnson is disabled? Why is no one asking how Johnson was infected in the first place? Who infected HIM and why aren't they being investigated? Well, we know the answer to that. It's because it doesn't matter to the world how Johnson is taken advantage of. Never mind the fact that every single person who slept with him was more than willing to expose him to whatever STDs they might have. It only matters that white non-disabled men might have to suffer consequences for exploiting him.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

How The Healthcare Mandate Saved My Nephew's Life

For those fighting the good fight, here's a real world example of why the healthcare mandate is a good thing:

Do y'all remember when I posted the gofundme link for my nephew who was diagnosed with leukemia? Thankfully, the donations that people sent made it possible for him to have his mother there with him while he went through treatment. If you haven't been through cancer, I hope you at least have the sense of compassion and empathy necessary to understand why a child would want their parent around while strange people poke and prod and inject potentially lethal chemicals into their body. The only thing worse than being a child with cancer and not having anyone there to help you through it is being a child with cancer and not being able to receive care at all. That's what I really want to talk about.

My sister works full-time. She PAYS for insurance through her job's group plan, so skip the drama about people wanting something for nothing, s'il vous plait. Her 2 kids were both created with her husband, so skip the drama about people being irresponsible with their sexuality. Despite the fact that she is a good and loving Christian woman, that marriage didn't last. That shouldn't be a surprise. Christians actually divorce more than non-Christians in the USA. Still, one would think that the father could help her through this ordeal with their son, right?

Well, that wasn't possible. You see, he has lung cancer. Like me and like their son, he was raised in a little part of the country called Allée du Cancer (Cancer Alley). Look it up, if you want to understand why I'm always talking about some new person in my life who has been diagnosed with cancer. Why, you'd almost think that the government should do something to stop companies from poisoning us! But I guess folks who are for "less government" wouldn't approve of that sort of interference with the "freedom" of companies that are allowed to operate here. My sister actually moved across the country and got another job to provide a better life for her kids, but it wasn't soon enough for her son to avoid becoming a part of the cancer statistics here.

So, there it stands. My ex-brother-in-law can't work, because he's dying, so he can't get insurance through any job. That means he can't cover his kids on any plan and my nephew must rely on his mother's insurance. Now, let me explain how this dealing with cancer and insurance companies has worked in the USA. Insurance companies were able to deny care to people, PEOPLE WHO WERE PAYING FOR IT, using multiple tactics. by claiming that a condition existed before the purchase of the policy. They were also able to deny care to people by putting a cap on the amount of money they'd spend on the care of any person on the policy.

If science education was what it should be, people would know that we all have "cancerous" cells in our body. However, it's only when those cells reach a certain mass that doctors make a diagnosis of cancer. Since doctors can only detect cancer once a mass of these cells reaches a certain size, it is never possible for a doctor to prove exactly when it first developed in a person's body. Because of that, unless you were on the insurance plan from birth, the company could always claim that you got cancer before you purchased the policy. This is the "pre-existing conditions clause". The healthcare mandate makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny care to people paying for it simply because the person may not be able to prove when they developed a condition. Without this mandate, people who were deemed to have pre-existing conditions could pay for their policies faithfully and on time and still be denied care.

There are some folks who weren't affected by the pre-existing clauses, because they were lucky enough to be on the same policy since birth or because their doctors were able to prove when their condition started. They were still screwed, though. Insurance companies were allowed to place a limit on how much money they would spend on a person, even if the person did meet the qualifications for coverage under the plan they were paying for. This is the "cap" that you may have heard of. Now, if the worst thing you've ever had is the flu or a broken limb, you probably won't reach that cap. However, if you have a condition like incurable cancer or renal failure or you're in need of an organ transplant, you could reach that cap in just a few years or even a few months. After that, all of the insurance that you paid for, faithfully and on time, didn't matter. You'd have to find some other way to pay for your care. If you couldn't do that, you died. It's really that simple.

Oftentimes, people who reached the cap on their insurance plan were forced to stop working at a time when they need money the most. It may be hard for some folks to believe but, sometimes, it's hard work to continue showing up for work when you need a new lung or you have a tumor restricting the blood flow to your heart and you're not able to afford the necessary treatment for it. I actually worked throughout the chemo treatments for my lupus, but the radiation for my cancer is what made my work and school life come to a halt. I guess some folks would just call that lazy and irresponsible though. However, being a pharmacy technician means working with people who are sick and having a fifteen inch open wound stretching across my back and an immune system compromised by both lupus and cancer makes for a legitimate claim that one can no longer do their job. You're free to decide otherwise, of course. Anyway, when you stop working, any insurance policy through your job is cancelled. That means the job of paying for your care has solved itself, as far as the insurance companies were concerned.

So what happened to those people? Well, if they could prove that they were completely disabled, then they MIGHT qualify for healthcare through the Social Security Disability program. Lord knows these jerks who whine about the existence of government run healthcare weren't stepping in to keep these disabled people alive. Of course, S.S. turns down most disabled people who apply for care. It decided that though I had an incurable cancer and systemic lupus, I didn't meet their standard of what it meant to be truly disabled. It took them over a year to let me know that, though.

Meanwhile, my doctor was forced to risk his job in order to treat me. He was the only orthopedic oncologist in my state and all of those bordering it. If he didn't treat me, then I'd simply die of my cancer. The hospital he worked at wouldn't allow him to treat me for free, so he had to sneak and do it. Because he determined that my cancer was actually terminal, I was able to appeal the initial S.S. opinion and have that appeal expedited. Because of this, it only took me TWO YEARS to get healthcare coverage through S.S. If that doctor hadn't treated me while I went through the process, I'd have died before even having a chance to appeal. In fact, that is what happens to many people. Even though they'd qualify, the process has been made so difficult, that they still die for lack of care. I was lucky/blessed/fortunate--call it what you will--because, by risking his career, the oncologist was able to change my cancer from terminal to simply incurable. When the alternative is death and you know that most people in your situation do die, having an incurable cancer doesn't sound half bad. However, is it really right to force a doctor to risk his entire career just to keep a patient alive? What about those who don't have doctors who could take that risk? Should they just die? I'd love to hear those who are trying to make this mandate a matter of religious belief explain to me why Jesus would rather people die than have the ability to get treatment.

Because the healthcare mandate stopped insurance companies from placing caps on care for people who were paying for comprehensive coverage and stopped them from refusing to provide care via the pre-existing conditions clauses, my nephew was able to get his treatments when he needed them. Childhood leukemia is very survivable nowadays. However, that doesn't matter if the children with the leukemia aren't able to receive these treatments because of how extremely expensive they are. My nephew was able to get care when his cancer was still curable. I wish that had been the case when I was in that position, but I'm glad that he'll now be able to live without this sword of Damocles that I'll have for the rest of my life.

Even with the mandate in place, it was a struggle for my nephew and my sister. After using all of her vacation time, she had to drive hours every day back and forth from the hospital to her job and back again. She had to have a family friend move in and care for her daughter during the process. She had to come out of pocket for all of that. The donations people gave helped so much and I appreciate it. I should add that of all of my friends who did contribute, not even one of them were folks who identify as Christians. But then, if I'd considered the Good Samaritan parable I'd have expected nothing different. I'm so grateful to all of those who choose to help others instead of sitting around being self-righteous and self-absorbed.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sudden Death

Life can be so full of sorrow. I finally met a person of color in this area. We're both personal care attendants and met at a function for our clients. I was extremely excited, because this was the first person of color I'd met and had a conversation with since I moved out here in October. Then I found out he was also a person with disabilities, which made meeting him even more awesome.

We hung out a few times and it was nice to finally be around folks who I could relate to. He was originally from New Orleans and we had lots of laughs about things we remember about the city. He was raised a Roman Catholic and was looking for spiritual truths among the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. It was nice to be able to talk with him about the role of people of color within the Orthodox Church. I'd shown him my icons and talked to him about the important saints from Africa and he even posted them on his facebook page to show others.

Just an hour ago, I found out that he died on Tuesday night. I'm in shock. He was just 35 years old and he'd been doing so well on dialysis for two years and his doctors were talking about cutting it back to once a week because of how well he was doing. Then, on Tuesday he died of heart failure in his sleep. He worked 2 jobs and was the primary caretaker for his grandmother. His son is only 10 yrs. old. This is such a shock. I was JUST hanging out with him and laughing and talking and now he's dead.

Memory Eternal.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Skepchick, Your Ableism Disgusts Me

I'm really, really furious about this Skepchick debacle. See, this kind of b.s. is exactly why I made a decision to stop showing support for white women. I raised as much of a ruckus as I could muster when the Rebecca Watson elevator issue started. I did what I could to talk about why it wasn't just someone overreacting to treatment that should have been viewed as flattering. I used my voice as best as I could to state how no one is entitled to make opportunistic advances on women nor are they entitled to tell us how we should feel about the treatment we receive.

However, what does Watson do now that OTHER marginalized people are talking about the highly problematic behavior on her site? Absolutely nothing. No, that's not quite right. It's actually worse than nothing, because they added more of the same ableism that was a problem in the first place. These white non-disabled women ditch the one person who could have helped them fixed the problem and then went out and found a wack ass assimilationist token PWD who is willing to lick their boots because they're being thrown a few scraps.

It ain't no accident that the folks doing this are white women. It ain't no accident that there are no angry PWD contributors allowed. It's like the token white woman on the MRA blogs who is only allowed to post because she can act as a foil when they are called woman-haters. It doesn't fool the majority of women just like Skepchick's blatant tokenism doesn't fool the majority of PWD. Skepchick is no different from the MRAs and religious zealots who double down when people rationally point out how they are engaging in oppressive and marginalizing behavior.

Gingerly Approaching Androgyny

I just posted a picture with a message that really resonated with me. I didn't want to take away from what it was about by turning it into something all about me, so I decided to write this separately.

My body is so different from what Western society says a woman is "supposed" to look like. It always has been. The oncology surgeries only intensified this. If I am only a woman because of my parts, what does it mean when those parts are removed or made completely unrecognizable from their original form?

I feel like I'm finally at a point in my life where I might be able to start safely exploring what it means to be a woman with an androgynous body. I don't know where this is going, but hopefully it will result with me being more comfortable with the form I have and able to see it as just as beautiful as those who look more like what many people in this society expect from a woman.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

How Can We Attract People of Color to Orthodox Christianity

Today, someone suggested to me that the way to remove the eurocentrism of Orthodoxy in America is to convert more people of color and then the focus would change. I disagree. Removing the eurocentrism first would make it easier to interest more people of color to Orthodoxy. Right now, it is very unfriendly to many of us because of the eurocentrism that is present in so many Orthodox circles, groups, congregations. For instance, my child moved to a nearby city to go to college. It's our old hometown, but we hadn't lived there since before we joined the Orthodox Church. Fortunately, I knew where the nearest church was and it's a big congregation, so I was excited that my child might be able to go from being one of two young adults in our old congregation to a place where there were probably lots of others in that age range.

I contacted the church three times. I spoke to the secretary twice. I gave them my child's phone number and mine. I gave them our priest's name and told them which congregation we were from. I was told they'd call us both back and help find someone who might be willing to carpool to services with my child. They never called back even once. It was baffling to me.

I finally spoke to my priest about it, to see if he knew someone over there who could help my child get to meet some other Orthodox young people in the congregation. He had to tell me that we should probably contact the church that's farther out. Unfortunately, it's in the metropolitan area outside of the range of the public transportation. He said that the congregation we'd been trying to contact--It's a Greek Orthodox church--is notoriously insular and with a name like my child's, it was probably pretty unlikely that they'd call us back. My child's first name is Arabic with an Italian last name, so it's obvious that we're not Greek. My priest let me know that almost all of the non-Greek Orthodox in the city actually go to the Antiochian church, which is really mixed and friendly to converts of all races and backgrounds.

I can't even begin to explain just how mixed my emotions were about this. My child is an artist and the Greek church has a beautiful building of historic record in America. Our old church is a storefront in a strip mall and even on the "big holidays" we never have more than 150 people. We were really excited about the idea of worship for the first time in a church that looks like the beautiful ones we've longed to see all around the world. I remember that this same congregation had a yearly festival they put on and I went to it a few times when I was a young adult. It wasn't very friendly and I got very odd looks every time. However, when my  child moved, I'd gotten it into my head that those incidents had only happened because we weren't Orthodox and were obviously outsiders when we visited. I'd allowed myself to believe that now that we are Orthodox, of course they'd be welcoming and it would be wonderful and spiritually nourishing and just perfect, because my child could catch the bus there on the nice days and maybe find someone to ride with on the days when the weather was inclement. Well, I was wrong. Apparently, they're just not very welcoming people, regardless of whether they are (in theory) our sisters and brothers in the faith.

At the same time, I'm grateful that there is the Antiochian church in the city just beyond the one where my child's living. Before I even knew what Orthodoxy was, I'd visited there. My mentor in college who encouraged me to learn Arabic had suggested that I stop by the church to see if they might be able to help me get my hands on a copy of the Bible in Arabic. I was surprised that this church even existed in our area. I did try to drop by once or twice, but no one was there. It's nice to know that my child may be able to brush up on the language skills acquired from years of hearing me speak Arabic. And it's good to know that another option, besides the Greek church, exists. However, it's going to be impossible for my child to get there unless someone is willing to provide a ride back and forth and that may make it improbable to be as active as we were in our old congregation.

If the predominantly white Orthodox churches in West are this problematic, even toward people of color who ARE already converted, then it's going to remain highly unlikely to attract people of color who already have to deal with a boatload of poisonous eurocentrism in their everyday lives. The church is supposed to be where we want to run to when we're faced with the troubles of the world. It certainly shouldn't be a place that replicates those same troubles.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Some Folks Just Don't Know How to Stop Themselves

So, a couple of days ago, I wrote about this Brooke Eikmeier person who was peddling a new television series that recycled the old "Not Without My Daughter" stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs. Today, I found out that she's decided to double down on her claims even though numerous people have pointed out the problematic elements in her story. The TMI Hijabi wrote this:
Remember when Brooke Eikmeier wanted to give Muslims and Arabs a “positive presence” on TV?
Remember how most Muslims and people even remotely familiar with Arabic were all, “uhhh, Radha isn’t even a Muslim name?”
Well, Eikmeier clarified with a new cover photo on her Facebook page, explaining that Radha is indeed an Arabic name and it is spelled غادة in Arabic.
I wish I were kidding.
Buzzfeed’s analysis of the copy of the script for Alice in Arabia (where they state the script itself refers to the aunt as Radha).
Brooke Eikmeier’s Facebook post with her “proof” that Radha is how you spell غادة in Arabic, and it is indeed a Muslim name (according to her vast expertise on Muslims and Arabs, well, everywhere). [Unknown how long this link will last.]
Okay, I've had several years of Arabic language training. I can read it with ease and I can even understand a lot of dialects of it. However, I would NEVER take it upon myself to tell ACTUAL Arabs that I know more about their culture than they do. It truly takes a white woman to feel like that's something a-okay to do. And seriously? "Ghrein"? Uh, no, boo. I've read through more than my share of both crappy and helpful Arabic language learning texts and every level between the two. Not even ONCE did I ever see "ghrein". The letter is "ghein". Not even close. Look, you don't even have to speak Arabic to verify this. Just google it and see what you get:



Also, please notice how Eikmeier is trying to subtly change the subject. "Radha" is the name of the Muslim Saudi character she created. As the internetz tried to explain to her, "Radha" isn't a Muslim name. There's a very simple reason for this. Do you think Pat Robertson would name his child "Krishna"? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that people generally don't give their kids the name of gods/goddesses from religions they explicitly reject.
"Radha" is a goddess in several branches of Hinduism. Do you think I'm making this up? Again, it's not difficult to find this stuff out, people. Just google it.

Now, Eikmeier's characters are supposedly these devout Muslim Saudi folks. They're such strict Muslims that they supposedly force all of the women to walk around completely covered up in a burqa. Never mind the fact that the burqa is from an entirely different part of the world and makes about as much sense as a Chinese person going about their day wearing a Navajo headdress. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, women generally walk around outside in an abaya. But to get back to the point, Eikmeier's characters are supposedly religious fanatics (compared to us 'Merikans, of course), but she'd have us believe that one of the was named after a Hindu goddess.
Even if we ignored all of the dangerous racist, colonialist, Islamophobic American propaganda in her story, Eikmeier is still a hack. She isn't even able to pull together a story that would be believable to anyone but the most ignorant, gun-toting, flag-waving American who has never bothered to question anything they heard on Fox News. But maybe that's the audience she was going for. There's certainly a lot of money to be made in providing white people with the lies they need to justify killing thousands upon thousands of Muslims around the world.

Well, sadly, her little story has been cancelled. ABC decided that this series was more trouble than it was worth and wouldn't be the money-generator they were looking for. So, Eikmeier is going to have to find another way to profit off of the killing of brown people. It's no surprise that she's unhappy and indignant about this. After all, she was allowed to do it as a hack of a linguist for the US military. Maybe she shouldn't have quit her day job doing that, because her 15 minutes of fame have come to a close.