Get it! You Deserve It!

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Today, if you are reading this, there is a good chance that you woke up this morning in your own home, drank at least 2 cups of coffee that you made with delicious and clean water, you then ate something sustainable for your morning before heading off to work, school, errands, etc.

( I am assuming most of you drink coffee before eating….just a guess)

Hopefully this morning, you didn’t get yelled at by a complete stranger or be discriminated against for the color of your skin or your sexual orientation. (however, if you are reading this and that did happen to you today, I am sorry. It should not have happened.)

I think most of us would agree that we deserve to have a home, food, and water. But why? Do we deserve those things because we worked hard for them? Well, I guess that means you didn’t deserve it when you were 6. Definitely weren’t working then. Okay, do you deserve it for doing the right thing and being a moral person? I mean even prisoners get those basic things. Maybe you deserve it because you’re an American and we are the best (cough cough sarcasm cough cough). Well there are many countries who are doing much better than us in terms of housing, food, and having clean water for their whole population, so I don’t think being an American really does it.

So, questions of the day:

  1. Why do we deserve the basics of life?
  2. What are the basics of life?

To answer question one, we deserve the basics because we are human beings. It really is that simple. All human beings have the right and deserve the same basics of life regardless of country, age, gender(s), race(s), beliefs, morals, etc. There is nothing I can do in this world that would make me deserve less than my neighbor. Nothing at all.

I can hear some of you going…what, you think a sexual offender deserves the same things as your kind, elderly neighbor? Yes. Bluntly, yes. As long as we are human beings, yes. There are certain intrinsic rights all humans have and they shouldn’t lose those rights based on someone else’s moral, political, whatever agenda.

 

So what basic rights or basic necessities do all human beings deserve?

  1. The right to dignity and respect. This means the right to live in a world without discrimination, sexual harassment, racism, abuse, exploitation, etc
  2. Clean water– to drink with, bathe with, and to cook with.
  3. Shelter. Housing that a person can rest in safely.
  4. Food that meets nutritional needs.
  5. Access to affordable healthcare that matches the level of care needed. Health care that doesn’t discriminate against the sick, elderly, women, etc A person shouldn’t have to fear getting sick, not getting meds, getting pregnant, long-term debt, or dying simply because they can’t afford GOOD healthcare.
  6. Freedom of Choice. I think a lot of people would disagree with me on this one. I often hear from people that if a person in poverty is on Medicaid or Food Stamps, they should have less options available to them. (they don’t say it that way, but that’s what they really mean) I’ve heard people say welfare recipients shouldn’t be able to buy junk food or pop. Because they need help financially, they should have to take classes on how to eat healthy and on how to properly use the healthcare system. My issue here is it seems being poor gives others a right to take away their choices. If one is successful and wealthy, its okay to eat shitty food leading to a heart attack since tax dollars aren’t paying for it. Instead they get insane tax write-offs for going on a charity booze cruise and getting totally smashed. We live in a world where many of us think that because we give something to someone for free, we then have the right to dictate what they do with it. Which, what does that say about us and what we think people deserve? Freedom of Choice is a basic right. I don’t think systemic poverty changes that. 
  7. Love and Safety. This is harder to gauge, because how do you measure love? But, I believe every child deserves and has the right to be kept safe, be nurtured, and to know they are loved. We know developmentally this is what kiddos needs. That doesn’t change as an adult, it just looks differently. I believe no child should have to wonder their worth or value, because I believe no human should have to. Humans deserve to be looked in the eye and actually seen.

I hope you read this list and thought “I have all of those!” That is awesome. You deserve it! Maybe you read this and could check off some boxes, but not all. I hope you fight for the pieces you are missing, you deserve it! You might have checked all the boxes but know others can’t: advocate! They deserve it. And maybe you read this and disagree, I hope you share your thoughts. I am one voice of many and would love to hear what you have to say.

 

 

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What you don’t know about me.

I work in an interesting field. Not only do I work in social work where I witness all the breakdowns in society, all the policies that will inevitably fail, and how all the cycles of privilege and oppression play out… I also happen to work in the HIV field. (stay with me)

When people find out I work in HIV, they usually say 1 or 2 things…almost always.

  1. Oh my gosh, good for you, that must be so hard to work with those people. OR
  2. I’ve never known anyone who has HIV.

OK, so I could write entire post on #1, but for today, I’m gonna focus on #2 and maybe in doing so, will accidentally address #1. “accidentally”

So here is how I am going to address #2.

Ready for it.

I call Bullshit. That’s right, Bullshit.

We have a saying at work: “That you know of.” We see this all the time, new hires or interns or other clients will say “I don’t know anyone who is HIV+, Transgender, gender questioning, gay, queer, racist, a democrat, a republican, a Christian, a Muslim, etc.”

The list goes on and on.

And what I say to those people is: “that you know of.”

I was thinking about this the other day…if someone looked at me, they would think I am a white, female identified, straight liberal. They would believe I have never questioned any of these items. People use their eyes to determine other people. If someone hasn’t asked me in the last 5-10 years about my orientations, how could they know? What if I wouldn’t say I’m female? Or what if I like both men and women? What if I don’t hold to a political party? And what if I’m on board with the democrat agenda and fully love Jesus. I’m not saying any of these are true. But I am saying that unless you know me well…you can’t actually answer these questions.

You can’t know whether I’m HIV+ or HIV-.

And to take a step further, there are a lot people I would never tell the answer to those questions to. Why, because people often suck. haha

We all do it. We respond with our moral agenda or our right view of the world. We don’t take the time to understand another’s perspective and to hold their story so we can learn. We let their outward face and self-expression determine all we need to know. And from that, we make decisions about them.

The world is changing. Or maybe it’s just being more genuine. For those who disagree morally with things listed above…that won’t change it for the people it is true for. For those judging a book by its cover…you’re missing a whole person and their story. And for those wishing people would be more open about their stories because you want to learn and care…here are some ideas for you:

  1. Reading. Read books or blogs about these topics. Become informed not only on your viewpoint but on theirs.
  2. Begin to recognize and work on your own privilege and oppression. Where do you hold privilege where others don’t? Where have you experienced oppression? How can you use the privilege and what does it mean when interacting with family, friends, coworkers, etc.?
  3.  Start sharing your story and what you do not know with others. Admit that you’re learning and that you may not know correct terminology.
  4. Attend conferences, forums, meetings about issues you want to learn more about. Go to a Black Lives Matters Rally, attend a vigil for the LGBTQ community after the Miami shooting, volunteer at a local non-profit for HIV. (you get the idea)
  5. Lastly, if someone does trust you with their story, and it is different than yours…respond with humility, with curiosity, and with safety. They will continue to share. It’s okay to ask questions and admit what you don’t know. It is okay to be different from them. We don’t have to be the same to share stories. (that’s boring)

Maybe you read this article and think this is total crap. You think, “why bother?” That’s cool, we are all in different places. But, if you read this article, and you felt challenged or felt a desire to do something different, I hope you do. I know I have been challenged. This learning isn’t easy..admitting what I don’t know or that I need to know more. Getting it wrong or the fear of being offensive is very real…and that is my privilege, that I got to grow up in a life and home where how I lived mirrored main stream society. I never had to question how I lived and no one else did either.

But now I see that my experience is not everyone else’s experience. Which means I have some work to do.

 

The silence of pain.

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You ever notice how quiet it is when you are in pain? Maybe there is yelling and crying…and yet there is also that numbing silence that envelops. It’s like hearing through a wind tunnel. It is that bad dream..you know the one where you are screaming but there is no sound.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I imagine I am a walking billboard when I am in pain. Like the whole world can see how depraved and upset I am. That all my crap is sitting on the front lawn with a “free” sign. Ugh and everyone gives you that pity look. Oh, anyone who has been in pain and interacted with another human being has to know that look. Slight pouty lip, the head tilted slightly forward (almost making a double chin) and the slight sigh before the phrase “I’m so sorry.” It’s no one’s fault that this is their default face when witnessing another’s free-sale on the lawn. “It is what it is” as my friend Lindsay would say.

So what to do with the deafening pain?

I recently read an Upworthy article that was shared with me. It said “Some things in life cannot be fixed, they can only be carried.” Read article here Losing someone you love, can’t be changed. Saying goodbye can’t be undone. Feeling echos of the pain you’re experiencing may never stop haunting the soul. And, that’s okay. The deafening pain…it’s also okay. Because, it is okay to not be whole. It is okay to be in pain. We are made of good and bad, broken and whole. We are made up of what should have been and what actually is.

The silence will lessen. The singing will start again. We won’t always feel like free lawn furniture. The scars will be carried. The road may be long. But I bet when we look side to side…there are so many on the road with us. Others just trying to find their way through the pain. Others carrying the marks of life…a life truly lived.

Because really…that’s the part we all have in common. We are experiencing pain because we are alive…because we live. Let’s find others who are equally alive, unfixable, beautifully broken, and willing to walk with us down the hard road of life. At least then it will be bearable.

Selling Sex…

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Little girl don’t cry. The nights you’ve spent, the hours you will never get back, the bruises you have endured. Little girl don’t scream. Those who stole from you, said you aren’t worth it, those who could have saved you. Little girl don’t cry. 

Part of what I do with my deep breaths, with this short life, with my small days, and my limited time…is work to raise awareness about the issue of slavery..particularly sex slavery. Sex. Slavery. Two words that should never be uttered in the same sentence and yet have found their way into our culture. They are pervasive. Wait…sex slavery is pervasive in our culture?

Hold on…again: Sex slavery is PERVASIVE in our culture. 

What is crazy is how disguised it is: prostitution, survivor sex, a choice, pornography, fluffer, sex worker, noble work, empowerment etc. These are the glorified words and phrases used to describe sex slavery. They mask the underlying horrors and depravity of the trade. They make it acceptable…and some would even push to make it legal.

I understand the logic:

“A woman feels empowered if she can provide for herself by herself.” “Sex work isn’t going anywhere, why fight it.” “If we legalize it, well at least women won’t get arrested for soliciting.” “Porn isn’t real, so it’s not actually hurting anyone.”

Facts:

80% of all persons in prostitution/sex work have a pimp. A pimp is someone who uses force, fear, or coercion in order to get people to perform sexual acts in order to make money from them.

80% also report being beaten, raped, or threatened on a regular basis. Even those who are supposedly there by choice.

The average age into prostitution is 12-14. Minors then are being forced to sell themselves..and who are the buyers one might ask??? Adults. Simply put.

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Many girls lured into the pornography business are actually looking for acting careers and are brought in under false pretenses, some under debt bondage, and others because it is their only escape.

Runaways are very likely to result in “survivor sex” or prostitution. They are running from horrors of home and the foster system and find themselves trapped in a life that is engaged out of desperation.

I have spoken with women who reported being so hungry and lost that they have traded sex for a happy meal. A HAPPY MEAL. In a culture where a person is only worth what we can take from them. Their desperation doesn’t lead to choices or options…it leads to despair and ultimately to survival. Survival. Is survival really a choice? Is having NO CHOICE or ONE OPTION really a choice? Is being told that you are only as good as someone will pay for you…really a choice?

And what we don’t get as a culture…is that by allowing people to sell themselves…we accept them for the objects they believe that they are. We confirm their broken identity. We comply with a world that doesn’t value life and the respect each life deserves. Essentially we devalue life to the point that it is only worth a dollar amount.

I remember leading a group once and the overwhelming story I kept hearing was this:

“When someone paid for a service, they didn’t just believe that they paid for that service… no,for that time they believed that they owned me. And if I was uncomfortable with something they wanted, they would take it from me anyway.”

A choice. Doesn’t sound like much of a choice to me. Doesn’t sound like every little girl’s dream. In fact, it sounds like every little girl’s nightmare. It sounds like hell. 

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