Here is another multi-part post. Some of you who have known me for a bit may know about my personal Thanksgiving. If you were around at the time of the accident, or rather a year after it, you might remember me mentioning it. Well, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! The first entry is an en edited down version of my Original Post (for the sake of brevity I just removed the list of specific things for which I was thankful in the previous year). The second post was made at the beginning of this year.
Original Post Date: November 13, 2012
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I know today isn’t the national holiday that everyone celebrates, but today is my thanksgiving – my new thanksgiving. One year ago today, at about this time, I had a seizure while driving and thankfully I drove my car into a pole and not into any people. Thankfully there were strangers there who helped pull me out of the car. Thankfully my partner was following in the car behind me, and helped me. Thankfully my family and friends came to the hospital and advocated for me and Linda, and we got to be together… eventually.
I’m thankful for so many things — both related to this and not related to this, but most of all, I am just glad that I’ve got good people in my life who fill my life with love. At the end of the day, that is what all of this is about: love, compassion, and community.
Original Post Date: January 28, 2017
It has been truly interesting to log into Facebook recently. In my newsfeed I see story upon story of how executive orders are being signed or directives are being given to effectively shut things down: deny entry for refugees, remove access to governmental information, remove Spanish from governmental web pages, erase the mention of any civil rights and LGBTQ people, rights, or history from governmental websites.
In my Facebook Memories I have been receiving reminders of what was going on 5 years ago. 5 years ago the news broke about the complaint we filed with Health & Human Services (HHS). I was in a car accident, having had a seizure while driving, and Linda was denied access to me in the hospital. We were married – recognized at the state level (for some but not others) but not federally. President Obama had issued an Executive Order stating that any hospital that received federal funds had to comply with non-discrimination practices, including respecting same sex marriages that existed. They knew – they violated it. We fought back with the help of Heather Mizeur, Human Rights Campaign, and Lambda Legal. We won. We didn’t go to court or get a settlement or anything like that, we got something far far better – we got change in our community – the hospital changed their orientation and training, not just for that hospital but for another, larger hospital in their network (with whom I later found out there was thought of a possible merger – the merger didn’t happen).
The following year the hospital that gave us so much trouble was recognized by HRC as a leader in the Healthcare Equality Index. Sometimes you just need to wade into the water and have the uncomfortable conversations. The thing that stinks is that the “you” that makes the first move in that conversation is usually the person that is hurting, because you are the person who is aware of the issue. The other person might not even be aware. Or they might. Sometimes they are, and that is… challenging.
So here is the task my friends: Be brave.
If you have been hurt, voice your hurt. Stand up for yourself. But leave open the possibility that the other person is a good person who genuinely doesn’t understand your perspective yet. Also leave open the possibility that there is something valuable in their perspective, even if the hurt is so strong and the wrong is so egregious that it seems inconceivable… there is something. For me, this woman who denied us access to each other immediately opened the door once she saw blood family and friends arrive. She was open to providing me with support, she just struggled with the concept of two women being married. Perhaps this is a value she was taught and she was sticking by her value. It wasn’t her place to make that decision (to say that Linda wasn’t my family), but she didn’t let that stop her from letting my blood family in later on, and for that I thank her. Somewhere in her she still saw me as worthy of love and support – that connection persisted – and I appreciate that. I also thank her for providing the opportunity that day for my family, particularly my mom and my sister (Kristin) to demonstrate to Linda how much they care about her. People can say they are family and they accept you as one of their own and then they can show you. At the hospital that day Kristin and Mom showed Linda through their joined outrage, their mutual support, and extension of their privilege. Kristin took Linda by the hand and walked – no, marched – her backed to me… while proclaiming the outrageousness of the situation. When my mom arrived she got in a few choice words herself. That’s love right there my friends. That’s family.
If you are the person that has hurt someone – wittingly or unwittingly – be brave when someone talks with you about it. Boldly go into those emotional waters. It may feel uncomfortable – you may not understand – you may feel defensive. Just pause, listen… really listen, and try to imagine what it must feel like to be that other person. You don’t have to defend yourself in that moment, you’ll have your chance to share your perspective. This is the other person’s response to your first “share” (the initial experience). Let them share their viewpoint, then absorb it. Think about it, consider it, THEN respond. It may take a while, but it will be worth it.
There is a lot of escalation going on right now – I’m seeing lots of anger and not enough understanding. Let’s try to elevate our game. We can do this, but it won’t just happen – it will take a conscious effort on our part. It is part standing up and part sitting down. It is a balancing act, and it is hard sometimes. But it is a worthy task and we are a worthy people.