Moving from Othering to Mothering: A Social Work Student’s Call for Feminine Leadership

otheringI am currently in a graduate program, studying the Social Work profession… I aim to focus these studies on Social Change. I have been involved with social change for years, but doing so without a complete academic foundation upon which I can build hopes for a better tomorrow, a safer community, and a more inclusive world.

Some people have asked me what the the Masters of Social Work program is like… and I say I am not sure, because for whatever reason, what I bring to each class is a somewhat spastic, fast-talking, external-processing, creative drive to understand every topic we discuss.

Some of my classmates share that passion as we are all trudging through endless articles and books, processing the vast research on disparities, inequities, social change, client casework, and yes… how to format papers into the proper formatting…

But what happens in class?

I rant.

A lot.

But today, in response to one of my professors questions about how we can improve on the social problem at hand, I blurted out, “Maybe it’s time we move from othering to mothering.”

I had never heard it before – just sort of said it.

We have studied “othering,” and something just broke open…

The other.

The one not like us.

The undeserving.

The lesser.

In this recent campaign in the United States, the “other” is the woman, the Muslim, the Gay, the Jew, the Illegal, the Refugee.

feminine_energy_quote-428299It’s time for a change.

If this election has shown us anything, it is the need for the global MOTHER.

It is time for the wisdom that my elders have taught me to respect and the wisdom my own mother has represented in my life.

Mothering.

Draw a line.

Nurture harmony.

Snap the fingers.

Glance with convincing eyes.

Scold with nothing more than a breath…

And lead by the feminine energy that this country – my country – has been lacking since its inception.

We did not elect a woman as Commander-in-Chief.

We must accept that instead…

We will become the mothers.

A new movement – of founding mothers.

It is time.

sleeping_womenSleeping women… and the feminine energy that exists in all of us…

The soul of the nation is waiting.

Rise.

Roar.

Let the othering end with us, and let the mothering begin…

The time is now.

Rise.

Roar.

#EndOtheringBeginMothering

~~

Author_Bio_2016_1Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people.

For more about Gail’s current work, check out #RecoveryInReal Time.

As an indie author, I understand firsthand how writers with a cause get lost in the publishing experience – our words, our passions, our process and ultimately, even our rights as artists get minimized by the publishing industry. Publishing for a Change, LLC will provide indie authors with a collaboration support system for breaking into the publishing industry with content that is designed for social change. Beginning in 2018, we will welcome manuscripts from previously unpublished authors and support their efforts to bring about social change through their writing. During submission periods, authors will be given the opportunity to partner with professionals in design, editing, marketing and branding. Publishing for a Change will serve as both coach and counsel through the tedious but rewarding experience of sharing your vision for change with the world. Stay tuned for various projects designed to publish for a change, beginning with #RECOVERY IN REAL TIME: A Trauma Survivor’s Anti-Workbook.

Being LGBTQ in America 1990-Present: Did It “Get Better” or Did It Get Complicated?

complicated_sbtrktHere are some things that some people might not know about growing up gay in the 90’s in small town U.S.A.

– Conversion therapy is only the official technique that needs to be banned… the unofficial technique is the shaming and terrorizing done at the local level by pastors and preachers every single Sunday morning from the pulpit. It was the people my mom trusted (youth ministers and preachers), who taught me to hate myself.

– “Queer” is actually a word that sounds like “fag” to some of us. Urban and younger generations are trying to “reclaim it,” but for some of us, it just doesn’t sound affirming. I hear it and I cringe for every time it was used by a bully. I may never adjust to that word. (“Smear the queer” was a game bullies played where I grew up).

– I was actually told in junior high to “go back to Africa with the N——s” by a small-town 14 year old white boy. I don’t know what the hell he thought he meant, but I always remember that about him… and barely anything else. I don’t even remember that boy’s name.

– I remember when Ellen DeGeneres came out and was then fired by ABC because of it. I remember wanting to tell a few close friends that I was scared… but I wasn’t out of the closet… and if a funny woman on TV could lose her job over it, who was I to risk being myself?

– I remember when my first girlfriend and I went to the emergency room and I was told I wasn’t “family” and I had to wait until the doctors and staff decided that I could be with her.

– I was closeted all throughout my college years because I would have been kicked out of my school if I stopped conversion therapy or stopped being an “ex-gay.”

– After coming out, I lost my job, my friends, my community, and moved to a more progressive part of Ohio to find safety in a more inclusive city.

– My first fiance and I were harassed on the street by strangers for being a lesbian couple, even in a progressive city.

– My first partner and I attended an Easter Service once where Rosie O’Donnell and her partner were shown next to a photo of the KKK, claiming they were both equally destroying America.

– When my friend was bashed in early 2000’s, I stopped believing that marriage equality even mattered in the end – I wanted safety.

… I could go on… about the “victories” since 2006 or…

We can read the list above and realize that no matter how far we think we’ve come, those examples are what could be current for so many people in this country.

THIS COULD BE THEIR POST in 2016.

Some LGBTQ people took progress for granted, but SOME… still haven’t ever caught even a glimpse of the hope we have seen.

Who did it get better for? Let’s be honest… it got better for the gay and privileged – I’m one of them. It got better for me because I could move away, be in a city, obtain a good job, etc.

But my journey, despite oppression past and present, is nothing compared to those who have never even had a glimpse of the freedoms I’m so scared we might lose after the 2016 election!

So when we fight for equality this time, maybe we need to fight for them, not ourselves… 

We told them “It Gets Better,” and I think we lied.

It didn’t get better… we just got older and busier and distracted.

It got complicated.

“Better” is still a long way off for a lot of LGBTQ youth and young adults.

Let’s not pretend that the laws alone determine how people are treated…

People love.

People hate.

People open up.

People close down.

People give up…

And it’s for them, that we must learn to unite.

Let’s un-complicate the path to equality… and instead of gravitating to ourselves, gravitate towards the youth for whom it never got better anyway.

Namaste, yo.

~~

Author_Bio_2016_1

Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people.

For more about Gail’s current work, check out #RecoveryInReal Time.

As an indie author, I understand firsthand how writers with a cause get lost in the publishing experience – our words, our passions, our process and ultimately, even our rights as artists get minimized by the publishing industry. Publishing for a Change, LLC will provide indie authors with a collaboration support system for breaking into the publishing industry with content that is designed for social change. Beginning in 2018, we will welcome manuscripts from previously unpublished authors and support their efforts to bring about social change through their writing. During submission periods, authors will be given the opportunity to partner with professionals in design, editing, marketing and branding. Publishing for a Change will serve as both coach and counsel through the tedious but rewarding experience of sharing your vision for change with the world. Stay tuned for various projects designed to publish for a change, beginning with #RECOVERY IN REAL TIME: A Trauma Survivor’s Anti-Workbook.

For Immediate Release – #Recovery In Real Time: A Trauma Survivor’s Anti-Workbook Coming Summer 2016

 

~ FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 31, 2016 ~ Cover_#RealTime

Survivors of trauma are gaining increasing coverage in the media. Because of pop culture cautionary tales like the Duggar Family, coupled with a call to action from celebrity icons like Lady Gaga, many are moving away from the standardized textbooks for trauma recovery. Survivors crave social media support and are inspired by self-help-driven tweets. #RECOVERY IN REAL TIME: A TRAUMA SURVIVOR’S ANTI-WORKBOOK by Gail Dickert, provides a modernized guidebook for trauma survivors and their loved ones in 125 hashtags.

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME is a concise and user-guided walk through a trauma survivor’s on-going recovery experience. With survivor-focused hashtags like #DenialIsContagious, #ReasonCanFail, #LyingIsSurvival, #TherapyIsTerrifying, #WeAreNotNormal, and #MediaDistortsTrauma Dickert’s Anti-Workbook provides survivors and their loved ones with relevant and poignant highlights of the cycle of recovery which includes major stages such as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME is a non-fiction self-help book with an anti-workbook length and approach that appeals directly to people who desperately need a real time version of Ellen Bass’/Laura Davis’ THE COURAGE TO HEAL. Due to the nature of Dickert’s diverse experience with trauma, #RECOVERY IN REAL TIME offers relevant recovery concepts for survivors of combat, physical abuse, or any situation that was traumatic. This condensed guide meets survivors’ need for digestible yet realistic snapshots of the life-long recovery process.

#RECOVERY IN REAL TIME will be available exclusively through Publishing For a Change, LLC Summer 2016!

Author_Bio_2016_1Gail Dickert is an indie author, blogger, and children/youth advocate who has published two previous auto-biographical works related to grief, personal growth, spirituality, and self-acceptance. Enlightened-ish and Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams currently remain available at www.amazon.com. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for conversion therapy survivors and young people. Dickert currently volunteers with the RAINN Speaker’s Bureau and co-facilitator at Beyond Ex Gay. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Currently, Dickert resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center. #Recovery In Real Time: A Trauma Survivor’s Anti-Workbook is the first project under Publishing for a Change, LLC, of which she serves as Founder and President. Follow her work at www.homospirituailty.com and beginning Summer 2016, at www.publishingforachange.com.

A Gentle Reminder: Trauma and Depression

FINE_DepressionIn my survivor project that I recently finished preparing for publication, I look deeply at each of the various stages of grief… I’ve lived a survivor’s life for over two decades now, and relived it with each trauma that I’ve encountered along the way since the initial trauma.

And here’s what I know about the Depression stage –

There’s a depth, dance, and almost artistic wit that goes into the self-hating dialogue weDepression_Reality endure from our own minds. Many of us have experienced this in cycles and the colder air and change of seasons can often be the external trigger to what is happening within…

For the last 4 years, I have gone through several cycles without any significant symptoms of mental illness, aside from PTSD-related hours/days.

But I will never forget… and I will never believe it is impossible for me to be “there” again.

I know better.

Trauma is complicated and depression is not just a “bad mood.”

As the seasons change, remember to tread lightly with your loved ones when they say they “can’t” do it anymore… remind them that they have value and they are loved, whether or not they shine brightly or if they hibernate emotionally.

Show up for them with baskets of praise and love – proving to them that their value is not at all tied to how they feel, how productive they are, or what they can do for others.

Namaste, yo.

‪#‎SurvivorStories‬ ‪#‎DepressionKills‬

~~

DSC_0354Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

Volcanic Triggers: The 3 Realities of Trauma


Volcano_1There are moments in a survivor’s life that come in as if they are part of a volcanic eruption – but it’s a complicated and inward experience – an emotional implosion of hot lava and broken rock, filling our insides with ash and dense, unbreathable air.

All that can be done, in those moments is for someone to come alongside and see that a past life or an archived moment has suddenly and most likely without welcome, become all that the survivor can feel.

When you are witnessing this (and it helps if the survivor can throw out a flag that says, “I am triggered right now”), you have only a few options and mental dispositions that will be useful to you and the survivor at that time. Do you touch them? Do you give them space? Do you offer to listen? Do you ask them if they want to call a different person? None of this matters until you resolve your own angst over the following 3 realities:

volcano_2Reality 1: There isn’t anything you can say – the trauma happened.

You can try to remind us that we are better off now, or grass is greener in real time, but that is like offering a distraction, not a solution. The intensity of a trigger REQUIRES no distractions. It has come up because the survivor is ready. If you aren’t, that’s on you – so get ready. Release the expectation that you are going to heal this, stop this, or have magic words. You don’t. This is a moment for a genuine, “Shit, this is ugly. This happened and I’m here with you right now in it.” Those are the closest you will get to magic words, if you feel like you must speak.
 
Reality 2: There isn’t anything you can do – the past cannot be erased.
 
It’s awkward. Your loved one is transported to another place, another life, another hour of suffering that is unrecognizable to you. But you cannot undo this – you truly weren’t able to save them then and you won’t be able to save them now. You can’t minimize it by reminding them how long ago it was – yes it is past. But this is a trigger and trauma, for all of its complications, is incredibly astute at avoiding all sense of time. In that volcanic hour, the trauma could have happened an hour ago. Remember, that feeling is not insanity – that’s just trauma.
 
Reality 3: There isn’t anything that feels right – the wrong committed is unforgettable.
 

Finally, you aren’t going to be able to “make this feeling go away.” Nothing feels good… the survivor may actually only have words like, “I don’t feel good.” Literally, as a statement of value, he or she probably feels un-good. You can’t argue with this feeling and you can’t bring a pro’s and con’s lists to the table and expect to make a difference. The survivor is reprocessing their memories of trauma in real time – you are witnessing a sacred and brave act of self-care and genuine badassery. Time to stand in awe as we reconcile that what was past is unforgettable not because we aren’t forgiving or moving on, but because again… that’s just trauma. Trauma doesn’t “Live and let live.” Trauma… lets you learn not to die as you try to live sometimes!

So in those moments – it may feel like an awkward scene at a grave site or worse, a scene from a genocide or battle ground… But that is all it is – it is a scene.

If you are ever there for that implosion within, I ask you with all my heart, as a survivor and survivor advocate… Just show up for reality. 

Expect nothing but for the scene to change when the flow has slowed… the air has cleared… and coolness of your presence empowers us to move through the past and return to our current time and place.

Speaking for survivors, as messy as this experience is, we do come through most of our triggers with more wisdom and more acceptance – we come through better prepared for the life we are choosing because of the patience we have learned to have with reminders of the trauma we did not choose.

I share this post as a woman who is a two-time survivor of sexual assault and a survivor of a over a decade of conversion therapy… and as a woman who  advocates for other survivors as a volunteer for organizations like Beyond Ex Gay and RAINN. Some of us find the words for our experiences and some of us do not – but most of all, ALL of us define for ourselves the paths we must take to endure the intrusive guilt, shame, and fear that can erupt within our memories without warning. If you choose to love us, you choose a reality that is not always pleasant, but is always honest…

And as a survivor now  25 years removed from the first trauma, I simply know no other way to say it – surviving trauma is not something I wish on anyone, but I do not wish it away from me because I am a softer, gentler and more open-hearted person to all I meet because I have seen a darkness in the human condition that most are spared. It makes me stronger… even when there are volcanic moments when I remember, it did almost kill me.

Namaste, survivors… and namaste to our loved ones who are learning of our brave and tenacious paths to wholeness.

And oddly enough – namaste, to the Criminal Minds writing team who wrote an episode on the topic of a survivor of conversion therapy. It sparked a complete meltdown in me when I watched it… but it brought me to write this post…
~~
RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

5 Confessions about Break-ups that Few Can Admit

Break-Up_1From a place of being happily married, I can finally look back on the years of “bad relationships” and come forward with some confessions that I know only a few of us are able to admit. It’s so much easier to blame, belittle and sometimes bitch about our break-ups, isn’t it? The “beloved” ex has a way of infiltrating our view of love and relationships and that doesn’t end until we finally find the one who doesn’t spark all that drama in our lives.

Do you know that’s it’s possible to be in a relationship with someone without having too much emotional drama?

Can you still believe in the concept of “love at first sight” and then actually work to nurture that beautiful and simple awakening?

Is it possible that love and life can overlap in a way that benefits both people, in a happy and long-term commitment to one another and shared goals?

Years ago, I could not answer these questions without referencing the times I “ran too fast or gave up too slow” in other relationships. In each of those situations, I was eventually tripping over my bad decisions and neglected gut-feelings, which resulted in falling headfirst into those muddy “break-up” puddles.

But the truth is that I consider those “lost years” as a fortunate experiment in learning how to admit to myself the following 5 confessions that are rare, but necessary. In fact, it is my hope that not only do my exes read this, but this post catches fire and begins to awaken all of us to the larger question of our roles in any conflict:

Confession 1: I was always looking for greener grass. Relationships_Break-up

I could never admit it at the time, but in every relationship, no matter the length, I wasn’t completely satisfied. I saw other women (and even men, because I was so unsatisfied) and wondered if there was someone better, someone who could understand me more clearly. Anytime I had this passing thought, I chalked it up to temptation and disavowed it. But it was a gut-feeling that I was not with the one who would make all the others fade to black… But I never said that. I waited until they left me… each time… I waited until they had enough of our mismatch – even though I have distinct memories of the years and months prior when I had that same aching pit in my stomach.

Confession 2: I didn’t really trust them.

It isn’t until you truly find yourself saying things you’ve never said that you realize there was always a block on that honesty. I remember one ex telling me I reminded her of her abusive mother and another comparing me to a reckless teenager… these were moments when I KNEW that these relationships were not healthy for me because these were not people who were seeing me for me. But is the reason they could not see me simply because of their goggles and perspectives? Or was it also because I wasn’t showing them my authentic self? I say that it takes two on this and I know that as a fact, because I’m finally in a partnership where I am my authentic self (and so is she) and the difference is striking. I have never fully trusted until now.

Confession 3: I preferred my stability to theirs.

We have a very arrogant side to ourselves when we are in an unhealthy relationship, but we can’t see it – especially if we are emotionally-driven or empathic to a fault. We “appear” to be putting the other person first and thus, stay even if it’s borderline abusive for both involved… but the truth is that we are not ready to give up, swallow our pride, and unravel yet another “bad relationship.” At times in both of my 4-year relationships, I knew I wasn’t truly present and I wanted out – but I was not ready to go through the separation it would take both financially and emotionally. It was more important for me to stay even for my psychological well-being at the time… which indicates that honestly, I was pulling them down as much as I used to believe they were holding me back.

Disappointment_Break-UpConfession 4: I was afraid of what people would think.

I have long sought out the approval of others. I’m not immune to that and in fact, because of my trauma background, I have sought it in ways I didn’t even realize. One of those approval-seeking behaviors was to have the relationship stamina that others could admire. I could go on for hours about what sparked that inner wound, but the bottom line is that after year 3, I felt like I was “supposed” to stay, no matter what. I wanted others to see me as strong, resilient, and committed. I didn’t want to be “that couple” that broke up (again). Truthfully, I was so broken that I would rather have been the woman who was left (again) than the woman who walked away from something that wasn’t perfect for her.

Confession 5: I still love each of them, but it’s not what you think…

When I look at my young adult years, I am so fond of the experiences that I had – coming out, learning how to communicate, finding ways to embrace change, walking through tough experiences, facing challenges, laughing at the little things… this was my first relationship. My second relationship is full of memories of trying too hard to please, forgetting my dreams, and wondering what the other person was feeling, but it’s also full of adventures, giggles that cannot be duplicated, and generous moments of compassion. Even rebound relationships have their insights… there was love there, even in those relationships with the opposite sex, when I was pretending to be straight! There was LOVE. But love for another person and love as a foundation for all experience are two different things. I still love each of them because of what the situations represent… but if I confess anything, I never really loved them well. Each of them could be loved better by someone else… because I didn’t even know the first thing about self-love.

Not only am I better off without them… they are better off without me.

And that, my friends, is the most powerful confession of all!

To all the folks I’ve “loved” before and to all we demonize because of the shadows we evoked in one another, I say – go to confession.

It’s the purest form of healing – to look in the eyes of the mirror and say, “You did this to yourself too.” It doesn’t let them off the hook for their part in the unhealthy relationship, but it lets you off the hook!

It wasn’t until I did all of the work represented in this post that I was free to enjoy the unifying and vibrant force that comes with meeting “the one.” Yani is certainly that woman and while it took me longer than I thought it would to find her, some of us do need a little more time to believe that our happiness matters 😉

As always, tread lightly on the ground of your own awakening… Show yourself some grace.

Namaste, yo.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

“Fat” Isn’t Evil: A Lesson from Pain

Body_BeautyAbout a year ago I was just finishing my treatment with a long-range plan for a non-invasive spine rehabilitation program with the direct support of a back expert/chiropractic doctor. The injury that nearly landed me in at least one back surgery occurred on May 4, 2013, just a week before my mother’s open heart surgery, two months after the death of my 14 year old dog and a month after the taping for my segment in Our America.

The terrifying influx of pain in my body, which was excruciating, feels like a mirror of what was happening in my heart and soul in 2012-2013. (Just before meeting my now wife!) Looking back now, it feels like those locked-up, rigid, fearful, achy, stabbing, sharp, and restless memories of pain were a lifetime ago…

For over two years, I have walked with my body, at some points, barely walking literally. I knew that the lack of movement in my life would lead to weight gain eventually and when it did, almost no one noticed at first. The first 15 pounds were hardly noticeable, until as I gained 30 lbs total, many had a quiet look or swift opinion.

What was I supposed to do with my body, when it was unable to move freely and burn off calories like it used to? In the midst of all that pain, should I have adjusted my entire diet and then been miserable with some radical dietary restrictions on top of intrusive pain and discomfort? How could I avoid the “evil” of the “fat” that could gather around me if I didn’t change my entire dietary structure?

Maybe some would argue that hyper-vigilant nutrition would have supported my healing process and avoided weight gain, but I wasn’t someone who was eating nachos and donuts daily. I’m a vegetarian… I was eating like I had eaten for years, since losing weight in 2010, just from healthy eating and exercise.

Exercise is what was missing…
 
And instead of looking for my whole body to be transformed, I listened to my spine…
It said… we need to slow down.
It said… we need to stretch gently.
It said… we have a very long walk to get through together, so don’t do anything drastic.
Over the last 6 months, I have started to exercise again and I am pain free. I am cautiously, but eagerly returning to some of my favorite ways to move in the world (bike riding), but also bringing “spine wisdom” into every move I make. I lift less, sit less, and stretch more…
But most of all – I love my body.
 
I love that I gained weight because it reminds me of the surgery I didn’t have and the sacrifices I wouldn’t make just to be “normal” in the face of so much pain. 
Some pain requires us to slow down…
 
Surgeons tried to promise me that I would be “right back on the bike” in weeks. They promised my life wouldn’t be compromised by the pain if I just let them do their magic… They wanted to inject me with drugs and the doctors all had pills that would “relieve me” of my pain… 
But at some point, though I sought respite, I didn’t want relief… I wanted…
 
Renewal.
And because I slowed down, a renewed relationship with my body and all its glory is what I earned…
So sure, I gained a little weight, but I gained it naturally, over time and I will, with movement again, lose it naturally… over time.
That is the gift we can all offer our bodies – time.
 
And if you’re feeling like you really want to be the healer of your own body, I recommend another medicine: Grace.
 
I will never forget the season when I learned that my body is not beautiful because of how much it weighs, how much muscle it has or what it can do for me… my body is beautiful because it houses my passions, resilience, and hope.
 
Everyone has their choices when it comes to how they handle pain and someday in the future, I hope to spend more than just a blog post on this topic…
Because the body, regardless of size or pain… is not an enemy.
Namaste, yo.
~~
RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

The Media’s Abusive Relationship with Survivors: Part 2

children_two_rulesI didn’t expect that the “Breaking the Silence” documentary on TLC would evoke the need for a second piece on the topic of the media’s abusive relationship with survivors, but I think that the longer I sit with the reality of what I watched, the harsher the truth becomes.

As an author and advocate for over a decade, on this and other issues related to trauma/recovery, I know exactly what happens when cameras are rolling, disclosure/release contracts are being signed, and the phone is ringing off the hook for “one more interview.”

Judgment is clouded.

That is exactly what I perceive happened to those involved in the documentary that aired on TLC, following the Duggar scandal and tragedy.

I don’t know any of the survivors involved personally and as an advocate for the two organizations featured (Darkness to Light and RAINN), it is hard to sit here and digest the following…

  • An 11-year-old female survivor was turned into a propaganda piece.
  • The Duggar Girls have a superfluous cameo that couldn’t have been more out of place.
  • Key steps in preventing childhood sexual abuse were covered.
  • Adult advocates shared important, brave stories about finding identity beyond their trauma
  • Education on the signs/symptoms and steps to take to get help was outlined…

But right… In a documentary designed to be a CALL TO ACTION to ALL ADULTS on how to PROTECT CHILDREN… An 11-year-old female survivor was turned into a prop.

I have been working with children and youth since shortly out of college, but also even as a young person, I was a camp counselor and actively involved with being a safe place for children/youth – The one thing I have always believed and practiced diligently is that children deserve a space for their childhood experience. Part of my survivor journey makes me what I call a “Mamma Bear” on this topic. Mainly, I seek to ensure that children get what I didn’t have…

Adults who understand and are committed to the healthy boundaries that children need during crucial formative years!

What does an 11-year-old girl know about the effects of disclosing in a media forum?

What does an 11-year-old girl know about how it feels to disclose to potentially millions before she’s barely approaching puberty?

Most importantly, how is her development shaped by having been given a LEADERSHIP role in advocating for her PEERS (other children) before she has even reached the stage of sexuality awareness on her own time frame?

Does she have an identity outside of her sense of being a survivor?

Putting her on screen, disclosing her name, her face, and her story before she is at the PROPER age of development and thus CONSENT, is exploitation.

And yet… RAINN, Darkness to Light, TLC, and the author of some books and a law, all stood behind this dizzying scenario?

The person behind Erin’s Law admitted that she herself, according to the documentary, came into the advocacy scene hard and fast, then stepped back and had to clear up her experience and her story – this is something I can relate to in part because when I first became an advocate in 2004, I realized I wasn’t ready…

But then I stepped back!

I grew up.

I got help.

I lived my life and formed my identity… 

And I didn’t come back into the scene until I was actually ready.

This is the sad reality of what was missing from the documentary – an awareness of long-term effects of exposing CHILDREN to the dizzying experience of a media-related role in advocacy.

I have always believed that children are resilient but even today, when I visited with some of my pre-schoolers, I thought about the 11-year-old who was featured in this documentary last night. As a 3-year-old clung to me during a transition, because she found me to be a comforting and “safe place” for her big feelings, I thought…

All children deserve to have a childhood.

And who more, than an 11-year old survivor who had a PART of hers stolen?

Time will only tell how decisions like this will reflect on child abuse victims, survivors, networks, and lawmakers… some will call the child brave, but let’s be honest here…

When she is ten years removed from this, will she know that she has privacy about her experience, or will she be GROOMED at a young age, to stand with ADULTS in arenas that are NOT DEVELOPMENTALLY appropriate?

Has her path of abuse only continued, now in the hands of advocates of prevention?

I won’t name her here… she will remain in my memory as an 11-year-old girl whose story was misused as a pawn of the media and those involved with this piece. (She deserves anonymity from at least one adult who is thinking of her long-term well-being.)

Now the larger question becomes: Does this lack of judgment on the parts of those involved with the documentary cast a long, dark shadow on the value that the piece offered, when it comes to prevention?

Yes.

Because if we can’t produce a piece about preventing childhood sexual abuse without exploiting a child in the process, we don’t deserve to be speaking about such prevention.

To the brave 11-year-old girl, I am sorry that no one protected her from the FUTURE privacy she deserves on this matter. I wish her many, many years away from the camera and away from books that adults need right now in order to get the messages out…

children_natureI wish her mud puddles, hugs from loving caregivers, friends who know her for her interests, stickers, dolls, cars, coloring books, puzzles, trees to climb, and gardens to grow…

And to the adults…

Slow down and grow-up before you turn on the cameras again. Passing a law, airing a documentary, or writing a book cannot replace our general sense of what is truly right for every child… including those brave enough to trust us to go on camera when we should know better!

Tread lightly out there, survivors. I hope we find the bigger picture and embrace a more careful and mindful approach to our advocacy. We cannot create pawns, martyrs, and heroines and expect a collective shift toward a greater awakening.

To those tempted to boycott RAINN and Darkness to Light, entirely, I urge you to remember that most of their work is done well off camera for all the right reasons. Call them to accountability, but don’t forget that their educational and on-call resources are much needed.

Namaste.

~~

RAY_7318Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area with her wife, where she serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

The Media’s Abusive Relationship with Survivors

Status

Courage_LiveThe following commentary represents my personal opinion, not the opinions of the organizations named in this piece. (Part two of commentary after watching available here.)

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have to come to my blog with the topic of the TLC “Breaking the Silence” piece which will air tonight. I have to write because I not only am a two-time survivor of crimes against my body and soul during formative years, but because I am an active advocate both for sexual abuse prevention and sex positive education.

I have to say something because I am not deaf to what survivors are saying and I’m not blind to what we are seeing.

The media has an abusive relationship with survivors…

How do I know? Because I am a survivor.

What is depicted by the media is the ignorance of bystanders, such as when reporters genuinely ask questions like, “Why didn’t you tell someone,” or “Why did you wait so long to disclose?” Furthermore, often survivors are recounting the traumatic details in such a voyeuristic manner that I can’t tell if I’m watching an interrogation or an episode of Law and Order SVU.

I’m not saying that the details of our stories don’t matter – they do! In fact, I arranged a training for my pre-school teachers this week, which was one of the modules designed by Darkness to Light, who is partnering with TLC and RAINN in this documentary this evening. The “Stewards of Children” is a well-designed training module where survivor stories are told in detail, along with an important list of steps that educators/families can take in order to prevent this crime against our children and their innocence.

RAINN also, has been advocating for victims of sexual assault since 1994. Many survivors associate their name with a safe place.

But the recent affiliation with TLC has caused many survivors to use words like “boycott” and “disappointment” when it comes to this documentary.

Such anger and readiness to walk away entirely from reputable organizations is a reflection on our fear (reasonably) that what will come out of cable news will just exploit survivors.

I saw it firsthand when I was a part of a cable special on OWN, which highlighted the survivors of conversion therapy and our interaction with one of the most outspoken hypocrites of the movement, Alan Chambers. (My piece with Sky News also exploited my experience.)

Lights, camera, action – our infatuation with these things has created an unsafe environment for survivors who off-camera, are still just trying to figure out how to do the following:

* Disclose to our loved ones.

* Live transparently among our families or coworkers without losing our boundaries.

* Believe in humanity.

* Trust that what happened wasn’t our fault.

* Separate from the negative beliefs about sex, religion, or community, which likely resulted from the abuse.

* Get online and not go numb when yet another article indicates that all anyone really understands is how to re-traumatize us…

So, if the “media” cannot be trusted with our stories, we have two options…

1. We can continue to boycott everything that screws up the WHOLE picture of our recovery and resilience (Not a bad option).

2. AND/OR we can find a way to bring our stories forward and connect with those who are LIVING out their recovery AWAY from cameras, lights, etc in order to fill in the gaps of what is presented in the media.

Look, I’m not sure what to expect of tonight’s “performance.” Surely I will hear things that will remind me of my own experiences. No doubt, I will see brave faces and hear things that embody the truth of my experience.

There will be gaps. It’s only a documentary. It will not be thorough and it will not be perfect. It’s also possible that when the mic is handed to someone whose belief in God surpasses the healing journey and reasonable psychological needs, I will cringe and maybe even feel sick to the stomach.

If someone blames the victim (or themselves) or even, in a sense, blames god, I may not be able to eat until sometime tomorrow…

But I’m making the choice to watch because I feel like RAINN and Darkness to Light wouldn’t produce something that puts their entire reputation at risk…

Am I wrong? Well, we can all turn to the comment section here and find out 😉 I will be live-blogging through the comments and on my Facebook Page throughout the airing.

Spring nature background with grass and blue sky in the back

Spring nature background with grass and blue sky in the back

In the end, what I can celebrate is that we are aware enough to challenge the media and call them to be accountable when it comes to representing our stories.

I support those who boycott, because I understand.

I support those who watch, because I understand that too.

The truth is that our journey of recovery with ourselves, our families and our communities will not be summarized by a show, a law, or any single movement.

We are brave because of what we do every day, off screen.

Remember that today, tonight, tomorrow – your courage matters.

I applaud the courage of survivors who challenge the “media” and ask questions of leaders who form potentially shady alliances. I also applaud the courage of survivors who take the risk of appearing in the media. Having been there, I can tell you that those who let themselves be filmed and recorded carry scars from those experiences that are almost never discussed on camera or off camera. If you boycott, keep the survivors who were involved in your thoughts…

Let’s hope education shines over exploitation. That is a hope worth having, my friends.

Namaste, yo.

~~

RAY_7279Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose new book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News,SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area with her wife, where she serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.

The Kind of Life I Choose

Sometimes you just gotta spell it out for yourself and make sure it’s concise…

magical_LifeNamaste, yo

~~