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Ruth’s Soapbox

More Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

One of the best ways a company can respond to HB2, North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law that requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds to sex indicated on their certificates, is to make all their bathrooms gender-neutral.

Gender Neutral Restroom UC Irvine 49490 by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Gender Neutral Restroom UC Irvine 49490 by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Yes, just like in Ally McBeal.

For reasons of decency, no one should be permitted use a urinal in a gender neutral restroom that isn’t in a separate lockable stall. For people who are too uncomfortable to use gender neutral bathrooms that have multiple stalls, a company could put in some single-user restrooms, like some places have a “family restroom,” probably meant for a parent with a small child.

There are lots of reasons to have gender neutral bathrooms besides the obvious ones of preventing transphobia and acknowledging that gender is a spectrum, not a binary identity. Some people need help in the bathroom – like small children and the elderly. Or if you have an injury or a complicated outfit, you may need help getting to or using the bathroom. If you and your companion are of different genders, that could be awkward without a gender-neutral bathroom.

Gender-neutral bathroom sign by Bryan Alexander from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Gender-neutral bathroom sign by Bryan Alexander from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Gender-neutral bathrooms could help companies eliminate problems that accompany single-gender bathrooms. When I was in college, I was an RA in the dorms. Our dorms were coed by wing or coed by neighbor. There were a lot fewer issues on floors that were coed by neighbor because the women didn’t want to look foolish in front of the men and vice versa. The same would likely be true in a gender neutral bathroom – less vandalism and fewer annoying behaviors.

Conversely, until the law in North Carolina changes, if I had reason to be in that State, I would be tempted to walk into a government building wearing a dress and heels and walk into the men’s bathroom. If stopped, I’d say my birth certificate says I was born a boy and then offer to use the women’s bathroom if that would make the person feel more comfortable. (I’m not transgender; it would just be to make a point. I mean to offense to anyone who identifies as trans or cis. I’d want to have a male buddy with me for this stunt for safety reasons.)

Stand Against North Carolina

-> North Carolina -> by Justin Warner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

-> North Carolina -> by Justin Warner from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The State of North Carolina can go fornicate with itself. I can’t believe the bigots in power over there not only passed HB2, but their governor signed it! (At least when the bigots in office in Arizona voted in favor of SB 1062, our moron governor was smart enough not to sign it.)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, this new law prevents municipalities from passing LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and it requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex indicated on their birth certificate.

This law makes me so angry. It’s hard to believe people still have these backwards beliefs. I don’t know what y’all in North Carolina do in bathrooms, but I use them to use the toilet, wash my hands, and check my hair. In the 36 years I’ve been using public bathrooms, I’ve never had an issue with another user.

Being that I’m across the country, I felt somewhat powerless – but then I thought about what little things I could do:

I can choose not to attend events in North Carolina until this law is repealed. If there’s an event I feel compelled to attend, I can require a North-Carolina-Bigot fee in addition to my usual speaking fee.

I’m not licensed to practice law in North Carolina, but I can do federal work from anywhere. I can choose not to accept clients from North Carolina, or limit my engagement to clients who have anti-discrimination policies and practices that include gender identity and sexual orientation.

I can have similar rules for products from North Carolina. (Don’t think I’m joking about this. I boycotted all the sponsors of the Sochi Olympic Games who didn’t openly oppose Russia’s anti-LGBT laws for the duration of the games.)

As a lawyer, I started thinking about contracts. I would support clients adding a provision to their contracts that requires clients to have anti-discrimination policies that include gender identity and sexual orientation and that the company must publicly oppose all applicable state and federal laws that would permit such discrimination. (Now my head is spinning with other ideas – like equal pay for men and women within the company.)

Until this law is repealed, I hope someone makes a video similar to this, asking people if they brought their birth certificate to government buildings to verify that they’re using the appropriate bathroom – much like this guy asked white people if they were immigrants in the SB 1070 days in Arizona.

My hat goes off to the many companies that have already spoken out against this new law including Marriott, Apple, Google, PayPal, and the National Basketball Association. I hope more people and companies will do what they can to influence this situation. Every little bit helps.

Getting to Fuck It

Sometimes the best thing I can do is say, “Fuck it.”

Phil - Monument Valley by Jared Eberhardt from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Phil – Monument Valley by Jared Eberhardt from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

“Fuck it” may be the ultimate statement of commitment, saying “I’m in” or “I’m out” while blocking all other thoughts. It is a statement of acceptance – wholeheartedly embracing a course of action and its consequences.

“Fuck it” is best used in situations where there’s no going back. As a person who struggles with indecisiveness, getting to “fuck it” is an effective goal for me. Honoring this makes it easier to block the mental and actual chatter around me and within my head. I used “fuck it” when I went skydiving, when I made the decision to go to law school, and when I went to my first flash mob when all my friends bailed on me. (“Fuck it” can also be used to make really bad decisions like getting wasted and putting my fingers down my throat to make myself throw up.)

When I was a first-year law student, I wrote Seven Layers of Academic Hell. The seventh layer is “Fuck it.” Here, “fuck it” doesn’t mean I didn’t care about doing well in school. It meant I didn’t care about law school stress and other distractions. My mind got very quiet and I could focus on learning what I had to in order to properly articulate my understanding of the course material for the final exam. “Fuck it” can be a Zen-like state.

“Fuck it” makes life more simple. As an aspiring minimalist, I embrace “fuck it.” To me, saying “fuck it” means releasing the superfluous mental garbage, mentally locking in to the one thing that needs to be done, and following it through.

Getting to “fuck it” is simple, and not always easy. It often takes courage and the willingness to be uncomfortable in the process. But when I’m in a situation that requires me to say “fuck it,” making the commitment is less painful than mulling over the pros and cons. “Fuck it” takes me out of agonizing contemplation and into action.

Once I get to “fuck it,” there’s only one direction to go – forward.

I Want to Outsource my Life

I want to outsource my life. Last year, my life was crazy busy because I was dealing with heart issues and traveling so much. This year, I’m crazy busy with client work, being an adjunct professor for ASU Law, and a few other projects. I have had to cut way back on my commitments – I just don’t have the bandwidth to take on anything else. Even on the weekend, I don’t have much down time. I spend my “days off” running errands, writing blog posts, working out, volunteering with Ignite Phoenix, and making a little time to see friends.

I love everything that I get to work on, but I have no time or energy to spare.

This is How I Feel Most Days -- Too Much To Do - Photo by Ben Ammon

This is How I Feel Most Days — Too Much To Do – Photo by Ben Ammon

If I could outsource sleeping, I would.
If there was a way to go 24-48 hours without sleeping and still being able to function, I would, but I can’t.

Since I can’t outsource sleeping, I want to be more efficient about how I use my waking hours. And I think that means I need to take some tasks off my plate, because when I have too much to do, I get flustered and distracted easily.

I started to think about what I can outsource in my life. One of my friends buys a lot of everyday items on Amazon.  At first, I laughed at him, now I am starting to understand where he was coming from. The fewer stores I have to go to, and the fewer mundane errands that I have to run, the better. I went on to Amazon tonight and I started doing searches for products that I would be interested in having delivered to my doorstep – like dog food and moisturizer. The prices appear to be comparable or cheaper than local stores.

I also went to the REI website and bought my next pair of insoles for my running shoes. It’s only a 20-minute trip to get them at the local store, but that’s at least 20 minutes I just got back into my life. And with free delivery, I’ve spent the same amount.

It feels little weird to think that my shampoo and Rosie’s dog treats are going to come in the mail, but if doing this means I get to feel more calm, rested, and focused, I’m in.

(Footnote: Shopping locally is important to me, and I do the majority of my shopping at my locally owned grocery store. Most of the things I’m considering buying online are things I’d get from big box stores.)

Arizona Independents: Declare a Party for the Presidential Primary

I am a registered Independent – but not for long.

Registered Independents are the largest group of registered voters in Arizona – 35% of eligible votes the last time I checked. By our sheer numbers, we have a lot of influence – but we can’t exert that influence in the Presidential Primary unless we register as a member of a political party.

Image by DonkeyHotey from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Image by DonkeyHotey from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

That’s the rule. I didn’t make it.

Our Presidential Primary is on March 22nd, so that means we have until February 22nd to register with the party whose primary we want to vote in. It’s easy to change your party affiliation on the Service Arizona website.

I’m pretty sure I know which party I’m going to declare for the primary election. It’s too bad that only 4 states will have had primary elections prior to the Arizona registration deadline. For this election, I’ve been mulling over whether it would be better to vote for a candidate I want or against a candidate I don’t want. (I still wish Jon Stewart was running for President. Perhaps he’ll launch a campaign as a write-in candidate late in the game.)

There has yet to be a political party that doesn’t done something that is a major turn-off for me. When pollsters call and ask which party I’m for affiliated with, I usually say, “None of them. They all suck.” If they follow up with a question about whether I’m more conservative or liberal, I like to respond with, “I’m sane.”

Despite my distaste with members of every political party, I’m a big believer and advocate of the idea that you have to vote to maintain your bitching rights. If you want to bitch about the candidates for President, you have to vote in the primary. If you don’t vote, shut up.

I will declare a party for the Presidential Primary in Arizona and then change back to being an Independent once the primary election is over. I don’t have to be affiliated with a party for any other votes in Arizona.

Fixing the Jury Duty System

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure/obligation of serving jury duty at the Phoenix Municipal Court. In general, I’m in favor of the jury duty system. Having a case decided by a jury of your peers with a judge in place to ensure that the case is conducted properly is formula for fair results. My friend and colleague who is a judge told me that most of the time in his opinion and experience, juries make the right decision.

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 9am

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 9am

Even though I was unhappy about having to give up a day of work to be there, I understand why jury service is important. I appreciated that the prospective jurors were given free parking and access to a free coffee and cocoa machine in the jury waiting room. They even tried to make it entertaining by playing movies and having handouts of word searches and Sudoku games available.

The problem with jury duty is related to the fact that many cases don’t settle until the last minute. The court doesn’t know how many cases will actually need a jury. They only know how many cases might need a jury. There was a screen in the jury waiting room that kept us abreast of how many cases were left to start or settle that day.

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 2pm

Screen in the Jury Duty Room at 2pm

One of the most frustrating aspects of the day was knowing that I couldn’t serve more than one day. I work in an eat-what-you-kill environment so if I don’t work, I don’t make any money. I cleared my calendar for one day of jury duty but the next was as full as ever with client work and meetings. If I wasn’t selected for a jury by lunch, the chances of a case selecting a jury, presenting all the evidence, and the jury deliberating and reaching a verdict before 5pm was low. I felt like my afternoon was a waste because I knew I couldn’t serve on a duty for a 2-day trial and the environment wasn’t conducive to getting any real work done.

If I could tweak the jury duty system, these are some of the changes I would implement:

Secondary Screening of Potential Jurors. Upon arrival, jurors should be given the chance to complete a form explaining why they couldn’t serve on a multi-day trial if requested. Those forms would be reviewed by an appropriate person at the court who would determine who has a valid reason. If those people aren’t selected before the lunch break, they will be released. Knowing that certain jurors will be released if not selected in the morning might motivate lawyers and defendants to start their case in the morning.

Decide on Trial the Day Before. The parties have until the last minute to decide if they will take a plea and whether a jury will be necessary. If the parties are forced to decide the day before, the court will have a better idea of how many potential jurors are needed for the next day. On my day of jury service, there were seven cases that might need a jury, but only one panel was called.

Courthouse Co-working Space. With movies playing in the main jury waiting room, it was too loud for productive work. There was a “quiet room” but it was too small and much of it was like a medical waiting area rather than a practical work space. The quiet room at jury duty should be more like Co+Hoots with copious table space and outlets and soundproof walls so outside noises won’t cause disruptions.

I never made it out of the jury waiting room during my day of service. I impatiently watched the screen showing how many cases were left to begin that day, especially in the afternoon, since I knew I wouldn’t be selected for jury service. As soon as the person in charge of the jury waiting room announced at 3:30 that we were being released, I was out the door in a flash.

National Coming Out Day Still Matters

Happy National Coming Out Day! For those of you who are reading my blog for the first time or up and living under a rock, I am bisexual. If you have a problem with that, well then, that’s your problem.

Still Fighting by  aprilzosia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Still Fighting by aprilzosia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

A few days ago I wondered if this holiday is still necessary. Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states and it seems like every year, I hear about a high school selecting a gay teen homecoming queen or an LGBT duo as the cutest couple. It’s clear as a country we are making progress.

I kicked this question out to my friends on Facebook, and the overwhelming response was, “Yes, National Coming Out Day is still necessary.” Even though same-sex marriage is legal (and really we should just start calling it “marriage”) discrimination is still a big problem facing the LGBT community. Even in Arizona you can be fired because of your sexual orientation – so your employer’s wedding gift to you could be a pink slip.

It seems that more families are accepting when a loved one comes out as LGBT, but there are still a lot of people who face abuse, abandonment, and violence as a result. People who are LGBT make up at most 10% of the population, yet up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

It is my responsibility to determine what is right for my life; and as long as what you’re doing is not illegal or harming anyone, I’m not going to tell you what you should do in yours. I won’t tell you what religion to follow, whether you should have a child, or what you find attractive, but unfortunately, there are still closed-minded people who think that everyone should live as they do and that the government should enforce it. These tend to be the people who support the First Amendment except when it conflicts with their agenda.

As I thought about this post, I was reminded how lucky I am. I have an education and I work in an industry where my sexual orientation has never been an issue. (If anything, it’s been an asset.) I am part of an amazing community that loves and supports me. But there are lots of people who are not so lucky, who are dependent on their family financially because they are under age and those who will be ostracized from a community that claims to love them if they ever disclose that they are LGBT.

I’m glad to say on this National Coming Out Day that the U.S. is making progress towards equality in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity, but we are not there yet. (As a planet, there is still much work to be done as homosexuality is still a crime that is punishable by death in several countries.)

My Family Hugs my Rapist

I woke up at 3am the other night (yay for insomnia), and as usual, I grabbed my phone off the nightstand to check my messages. When I checked Facebook, I saw that my cousin had posted the photos from this year’s family reunion. I have not attended an all-family event since 2011. That was the year I gave myself permission to stop subjecting myself to the anxiety that comes with being around my rapist-brother if I’m not comfortable being around him. Since then, I have not attended a family reunion, been home for Christmas, and I un-RSVPed for my other cousin’s wedding earlier this year.

Greeting by  Rose Valdivia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Greeting by Rose Valdivia from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

My entire family (and the internet-accessible world) is on notice that my brother molested and raped me for years, and yet they still invite him to all the family events. And judging by the pictures, they are happy to see him. The idea of being in the same room with him makes me nervous, but they happily hug him. They even let him hold hands with my 3 year-old little cousin. That churned my stomach. I wouldn’t let him be within 10 feet of my dog.

My family baffles me. I am sure they have no idea how painful and frustrating it is for me to see them hugging him and knowing that he’s a welcome presence in their lives. What the fuck is wrong with them? How can they stand to be around him? It makes me wonder if they don’t believe me. I suspect some of them think, “We don’t know what really happened (we weren’t there), but we love and accept you both.” They don’t understand that by accepting him, they don’t accept to me.

You can’t you say you believe that he raped me and then gleefully invite him to a family celebration. The two don’t comport; and actions speak louder than words.

A friend asked me how common is it for families with sibling sexual abuse to side with the abuser. A quick internet search didn’t yield any statistics on this question. One study indicated that sexual abuse between siblings is 5 times more prevalent than parent-child sexual abuse so I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation. This doesn’t make me feel better, but it’s validating to know I’m not alone.

I wonder if my family actually cares about me or if pretending that everything is ok is enough for them. Based on their actions to date, I suspect it’s the latter.

Worth reading: Responding to Sibling Sexual Abuse: What to do and Why by Boz Tchividjian (written in response to questions he received after the disclosure that Josh Duggar molested his sisters)

Self-Preservation for September

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams, used with permission

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams, used with permission

I was laying on my therapist’s couch the other day (yes, I see a therapist and yes, I lay on his couch), when I looked up at him and asked, “What the fuck is wrong with me?”

One of the things I love about my therapist is he will lovingly but bluntly let me have it when such a response is warranted. This was one of those times. He basically said that I am a perfectionistic, anxiety-filled, traumatized, recovering addict who refuses to put self-care above escapism and achievement. And if I keep pushing myself so hard, one of three things is going to happen:

  • I will have a heart attack,
  • He will be forced to hospitalize me,
  • I will learn to cut myself some slack.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept that I am human with limits, and even harder to accept that I am a human with multiple potentially terminal conditions. I have “muscled” through many of the challenges in my life to date, and unfortunately that is at best a temporary solution – survive for now and worry about the consequences and long-term effects later.

Well, now it’s later.

I’m at the point in my life and my recovery that not taking care of myself is probably not an option. I wouldn’t be surprised if I am one of those people who should be on a massage table or an acupuncture table once a month, not as an indulgence, but as a necessity. And it’s not that I don’t know about self-care; I just suck at consistently applying these principles to myself.

Did I mentioned that, because of our conflicting travel schedules, I don’t get to see my therapist again for nearly a month? It’s not that I can’t go that long without seeing him, I just don’t like to. Looking at it from an optimistic perspective, this is giving me the opportunity to take on more responsibility for taking care of myself and to rely more on my support system (because I also suck at asking for help too). I think this will also be a month of more – more music, more sleep, more gardening, more exercise, and more hugs – less mindlessness, more mindfulness.

A friend suggested that my default answer for the next month should be “No.” I appreciate her advice, but I know that can’t be a hard and fast rule. There are too many awesome opportunities, things that I really want to do. My challenge will be being thoughtful about the opportunities that I accept.

Josh Duggar Facing Lawsuit for Molestation – My Thoughts

I saw the news story that one of Josh Duggar’s five molestation victims (the non-family member) is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against him. The first thought that crossed my mind when I read this was: “Good!”

On one hand, I’m annoyed that the statute of limitations has run out on the criminal case in this situation; however, the silver lining of that is that no one can invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked questions about what happened. I am curious to see who all will be named in the lawsuit, if it will be just Josh, or if claims will be brought against his parents, church leaders, and the police as well.

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

One of the things that is annoying about being a sexual assault survivor and an advocate for victim’s rights, is the fact that there are statutes of limitations in many states that forbid victims from filing criminal charges or civil lawsuits against their perpetrators if they wait too long. In my situation, my statute of limitations to bring criminal charges ran out the day I turned 26. My abuser will never face criminal charges for what he did to me. There is a good chance that my statute of limitations has also run for civil charges, depending on how you look at the situation.

Even when the criminal statute of limitations has run out (in states that impose such limits – though I disagree with this too), perpetrators should still be held responsible for the physical and emotional damage they cause. If I ever become a political activist, I would want to dedicate my energy to changing the law so that sexual abuse and assault victims can always file civil suits against their perpetrators. If the victim can prove to a court of law that the perpetrator is responsible for harming the victim, then that person should be responsible for paying the victim financial damages that will offset the cost of their medical bills, therapy, medication, and pain they may endure for the rest of their lives.

The applicable Arkansas law gives victims a three-year window in which to file a civil lawsuit for childhood sexual abuse. This may mean that only one of Josh’s victims will ever have the chance to pursue damages for the harm he caused. If his other victims (his sisters) decide they want to file a lawsuit later, they may not be able to, and that is a tragedy.

Statute of limitations have their place – we don’t want someone waiting ten years after a fender bender to request money for their physical injuries because by then it could be too hard to determine what caused the victim’s injuries. However, that is not necessarily the case in sexual assault cases. Yes, the person bringing the case will still have the burden of proving that the perpetrator is responsible for causing their injuries, which may be more difficult to do the longer the person waits to file a lawsuit; however, the passage of time shouldn’t be a knocks to bar that attempt to get justice.

I hope Josh Duggar’s victim files a civil lawsuit against him and everyone else who contributed to her injuries. I’m curious to hear what will come out in public testimony if this case goes to court.

If you have been the victim of sexual abuse or assault, please know that you are not alone. If you need help, there are amazing organizations out there like RAINN and 1in6.