Breaking Down Legalizing Discrimination in SB 145 and HB 24

Now that the Alabama bill to allow for religious-based agencies to deny LGBTQ parents (SB 145 and HB 24) is getting more traction, I want to try to step back a little and walk through it to explain where those of us against it are coming from. Now – if you believe LGBTQ people should not be parents? Then move along. We are too far apart on this debate to even remotely approach each other.

But – if you’re undecided on this legislation for legal or moral reasons, let’s continue.

Protected Classes And Why They Exist

Let’s start first with the Civil Rights act of 1964. That’s basically where we defined “protected classes” of people who can not be discriminated against for that trait and that trait only: Race, Color, National origin, Age, Sex etc. There are other groups like people with disabilities who became a protected class with other legislation like the Americans with Disabilities act. These laws are how – at a federal level – our country takes control of BIG items to protect BIG groups of people. For example, because of the Civil Rights Act, states can’t decide to discriminate against race with things like Jim Crow laws.

Basically, our federal government acknowledged that some people’s unalienable rights were being denied for things they could not control. (Although religion is a protected class too and that’s a little tricky, but everything else is of the “can’t control” variety.) And the Federal government protects the constitution so they needed to step in. This way, instead of fighting this with tons of small state laws across the country in the judiciary, they made a larger federal ruling.

Now…let’s take those protected classes and introduce one of them to a similar situation. Let’s say a religion said that African Americans were unclean and unfit to parent white children. (Civil Rights Act was only passed in 1964, this is not that archaic of an idea to fathom.) So, obviously this religion could not send white children to those terrible black people. The government would step in and say, “No. Race is a protected class, you can’t discriminate on that basis alone.” Of course, now the agency could just say, “His home is not safe because the windows are painted shut,” instead. And essentially hide their discrimination. But at least the law would keep them from outright denying someone because of their disability.

And honestly? This happens all the time. People in marginalized communities often know there are deeper reasons when they’ve been denied something that relate more to race or sex or disability than anything else. But unless they can prove it, they have no case.

Fast Forward to the election of 2016 when LGBTQ groups were gearing up to win the white house and finally draft legislation protecting LGBTQ people in a protected class instead of constantly fighting legislation in every state trying to legalize discrimination.

And we lost.

So we’re back on the defensive again.

The one debate I would never enter, is if a person didn’t believe sexuality or gender identity should define a protected class. That’s usually where I start these discussions now that I’ve broken this law down a little. And the few times I’ve discussed this with people, if that’s where they stand, then we’re coming from two different places and while I acknowledge their stance, I could never understand it. And hopefully they can say, “Oh – we disagree on this law because we don’t even agree on who should be a protected class.” And then we walk away and can still be friends 🙂 BUT, since I believe they should be protected, then – just like how freedom of religion DOES NOT ALLOW people to discriminate against race – I don’t believe a religious freedom should allow people to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Legal v/s Moral & Ethical

BUT – maybe you would support it! Maybe you hope some day gender identity and sexuality can be protected classes. But you believe that since they are not protected now, then these laws should pass because religious freedom trumps discrimination for non-protected classes. Then we can move forward with our discussion.

Let’s step back one more step further. The Civil Rights Act was needed because there were attempts to legalize discrimination, especially in the Jim Crow South. Now, because the CRA was not in place, none of those segregation laws were illegal, but that doesn’t mean they were right. That’s why people fought to draft the Civil Rights Act…so they could attack discrimination with a giant blanket draped across the nation.

So, the next thing would be to say, “But just because you might be able to prove the discrimination is LEGAL because of freedom of religion, is it RIGHT?” Jim Crow laws were legal but were they ethical? Or moral? Because what this law would be doing is legalizing discrimination. Right now? Faith-based adoption and foster agencies can deny applications for a million other reasons if they want to be secretive about why they’re discriminating, and they DO. But once it becomes legal, they can be BOLD and UP FRONT about the WHY of the declining of applications. They have emboldened those views and every kid in that agency knows: LGBTQ are not fit to adopt or parent us. AND GOD FORBID any of those kids grow up questioning their sexuality or gender because they have been told at a young age that LGBTQ people are less than.

And yes – LGBTQ people can go somewhere else – but do you know how long it takes to work through the application processes? And what if they are trying for a specific child who would be a good match. Maybe even trying to legally adopt a relative that is in the foster care system, or a friend of the family. What if the specific child they want is being cared for by an organization who is legally allowed to turn them down? And why should they have to go somewhere else? Should the black family go somewhere else to avoid the racist agency?

So I would allow you to maybe argue the legalities of it since LGBTQ people are not protected yet on a federal level, but I would not understand why you could support it on a moral level. I’ve allowed you to say, “But it’s legal!” And acknowledged that you are right, in a way. I still don’t think it’s moral or ethical and since people fight against laws on the ground of morality and ethics all the time, we can agree that stance is nothing new. Look at all of the Pro-Lifers, they argue against the legality of abortion all the time on moral and ethical grounds, there’s plenty of precedence.

The Necessity Of Laws

Then I also ask: But is it necessary?

Show me some statistics where faith-based agencies denying LGBTQ families has helped the children? A lot of times legislation is drafted JUST to please constituents, NOT because it’s necessary. This is one of those things: These representatives can come out on the side of Religious Freedom which is the big rallying cry – even from the President right now. If your state went D.T. this election, then “religious freedom” legislation is totally going to win you favor with all of those voters. I live in one of those states where if someone can run and say, “I passed SB 145 or HB 24 which was a religious freedom law!” then they win tons of bonus points.

But is it necessary? I mean – with and without this legislation – which hurts the children more? If we leave things as is and faith-based agencies have to hide why they’re denying LGBTQ couples? Or if we make it LEGAL for them to point-blank deny based on sexual identity or gender? In which situation do kids get harmed the MOST?

Obviously the answer is that if you legalize denial for gender identity and sexuality, then the children lose most of all. Either because they’re denied a possible opportunity at a safe and loving home, or because they grow up believing LGBTQ people are somehow less than. So even if you can argue the legalities of the law – stop and ask yourself, “Who is it hurting and who is it helping?” No children are harmed when a faith-based organization can’t discriminate against LGBTQ people, so we are passing a law that is not necessary to protect children, and can actually end up hurting them by removing loving families as options in their adoptions or foster homes.

My family

I don’t know my kid’s plans in life. I know he wants to get the hell out of Alabama when he graduates in May. So this probably won’t affect him. But damn, he’d be a great Dad, and the bottom line of all of this is that I find it terribly unjust that someone could deny him and someone he loved the right to foster or adopt simply because they were in a homosexual relationship. I can talk a powerful legal/moral/ethics game and can argue protected classes versus religions freedom until I’m blue in the the face. But in the end? I’m just sad that someone wants to make it a legally protected action to tell my kid – the kid who practically helped raised his siblings – “Nope. You can’t adopt or foster this child because you’re gay.”

The Art Of Clothing

I’ve been thinking a lot about clothing and style lately. Your clothes are the way you deliver a message to the world around you. “This is who I am.” So many times I see clothes on women I love and think: YES. THAT OUTFIT IS EXACTLY HER. I could shop for these women. I see stuff out and about and think: Colleen would rock that dress. Or Chelsea would LURVE those earrings Or Lisa would totally buy that top! Clothing is like your moment to quickly introduce yourself to the world and I just find it SO FASCINATING when it’s done well, when a person’s clothing really reflects themselves. It’s an amazing thing and I love that so many of the women in my life have such unique styles that are beautiful and personal to them.

I only think I’m successful in dressing myself in that way once in a blue moon.

I spent 12 years going to a school that had a uniform. During that time I was also raised by a man who had

A) No interest in clothing or style beyond function AND
B) No understanding of why other people would care about such things.

This meant that a few times a year we hit up this weird Goody’s Warehouse store (Goody’s originated in Knoxville where I grew up, I don’t think those stores were anywhere else) for outfits for specific purposes and events. We always needed a few church outfits because we went to church and because on the rare days we were allowed out of uniform at school, it had to be church clothes. I had a crapton of hand-me-downs but they rarely fit right because I was short and my friends and family were all tall. And I think we hit up Kmart for the summer clothes that we needed every year since our summer day care did not have a uniform.

(Sidenote: We did have field trip t-shirts we had to wear. One year they had big neon green frogs on them that said “Jesus Makes Me Hoppy”. I was 12 and plenty old enough to understand that hitting up the water park in that thing was not going to win me any cool points.)

My point? From birth to age 15 or 16 I had no concept of shopping or clothing or personal style. By the time I was 15 or 16 I would at least start asking for specific articles of clothing for birthdays and Christmas. I got a “LIMITED” sweatshirt one year. And a “rugby” shirt one year. I also begged…BEGGED…for this ruffle white shirt (ruffles on sleeves and color) for a dance. I basically saw things my friends wore to school, asked them where they got them, and gave my Dad specific instructions in how to buy that thing for me for a birthday or Christmas.

It was never EXACTLY right. The rugby shirt was not a “Coca-Cola” one like I wanted. The Vuarnet t-shirt was from the girls section so it wasn’t the cool one like all the other kids had. I didn’t know the difference enough to have been specific to tell Dad “boys section” when I told him what store to go to. But he tried.

My senior year I started making my own money working at a catering company and started buying my own clothes. But I still didn’t really know HOW to shop or find clothes I liked. I never quit hit the mark, usually just floundered around “grunge” or “goth” but still always looked a little bit awkward in all of it. I would see this cool girl at school wearing combat boots so I shopped around at the mall until I thought I found them but they were not quite right because I didn’t know the brand “Doc Martens” yet. I didn’t understand brands at all probably until my 20s.

I tell you all of this because, if you grew up with parents who took you shopping periodically, like at the change of seasons or something – you don’t realize how much that gave you in terms of understanding clothing and fashion and style. Nikki and Wes both have their own sense of style. We give them $100 at the change of season for clothes (Nikki is going to need an increase as she’s moving to the “Juniors” section now) and they go to Target or Old Navy and pick out what they want. They walk around, try stuff on etc. There’s something about that process that helps you understand fit and style that I didn’t develop probably until my 30s.

When I was in college I spent too much time making note of what people wore. I had this distinct feeling that everyone had a “style” and that they never strayed from that. I didn’t have such a thing and felt like my wardrobe was a hodgepodge of weird phases from the last few years. I had polyester dresses from the “Thrift Store” phase which I would wear with fishenets and Doc Martens. I had long flowing skirts from the Hippie phase which I would wear with my Birkenstocks. I wore baggy jeans with my Addidas skater shoes. I wore concert t-shirts. I had North Face hiking pants from my Camping/Hiking phase – which was probably a constant thread through all of my life. I just never felt like I had a specific style which meant I always felt like I was walking around in someone else’s clothing and that every day I looked like a completely different person.

I remember REALLY struggling after college putting together outfits for work. I hit up the Goody’s in Huntsville (Old habits die hard) and tried my best to find work clothes that matched my personality, but I still was so freakin’ clueless about how to shop and piece together outfits and…well…it was a challenge.

Hell – even now I struggle. I needed an outfit recently because I don’t fit into a lot of my old stuff. So, I pieced together something at Target that was a little more “trendy” than I usually go. I usually buy pieces that I can still wear in a few years. I adored the outfit and Nikki FREAKED OUT about it. She loved it! And I felt good in it. And I thought, Oh yeah. You can buy clothes that are interesting and stylish too sometimes. I get so worried about longevity in clothing I forget that sometimes the trendier items can be fun and more personal and therefore make you feel better about yourself.

I think clothing is amazing. No matter what your body type, there’s an outfit out there that will make you feel FLAWLESS. And I find that walking out the door feeling like you look AMAZING can do wonders to your attitude and mood throughout the day. I’m just still not good at figuring out how to find that clothing when I want to buy it. I basically buy 85% of my stuff at Target.

So, if you periodically give your kids a budget to let them shop for their own clothes…know that you’re teaching them valuable life lessons that this 41-year old women still has yet to learn. I still feel awkward in my own clothes some days. And still don’t really understand how fashion works.

And Now On To The Important Issues…

I took the rescinding of Obama’s Rule on Transgender Students bathroom use VERY HARD last night. Maybe you live in a state that is trying to issue legislation that protects Trans kids – BUT I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT. Luckily, my state is terrible at writing anti-Trans legislation and the one we’re fighting now (AL SB1) pisses off business owners too so I think we’ll be okay. BUT DUDE. OBVIOUSLY THEY’RE NOT TRYING TO PROTECT THE TRANS KIDS. So leaving this as a “state issue” is disconcerting at best for me.

BUT!

I don’t want to talk about that. Instead I’m going to dedicate this post to some random fluffy things that have been on my mind.

What’s Up With The Fancy Pens?

Y’all know I take pens seriously, but I don’t understand the next level of pen – the one you buy refills for. Are those pens as good as my uni-balls? Or my Signo 307s? They’re super expensive and many carry a lot of street cred (YES. THERE IS PEN STREET CRED. STEP OFF.) but I’ve never used one. In my head everyone seems to rave about the CASING and not the INK part, so is that why people buy them? Just for the fancy casing? Or are there good internal pieces too? Is this a world I need to explore? I can show you the world…shining shimmering splendid…

I can’t watch This Is Us

I tried, y’all. I started it and fell in love with it with the rest of the world. But it makes me cry EVERY DAMN EPISODE and I feel like I’m being manipulated. I quit watching Parenthood for the same reason. And I’ve quit watching other shows when I feel like they’re holding a desired character hook up in front of the audience like a carrot and keep letting us get close, and then moving it further. I HATE BEING MANIPULATED BY TV. I know that’s how they make money but for some reason I just can’t. So I quit watching it.

Really it’s because I cry enough without a heart-destroying TV show to trigger me.

I need a new job to pay for my hair stuff.

I’ve never been someone who pays money for hair or cosmetics. I used to dye my hair but I did it myself. I get my hair trimmed at the place next to Target twice a year. I don’t wear makeup but mascara once in awhile. ETC. But I’ve been trying new hair stuff now that we’re trying to go cruelty free and my favorite conditioner is $12 a bottle and my fave styling/curl cream is $16 dollars a tube! (I buy one at Whole Foods and the other at Target.) And if I showered and fixed my hair-from-wet every day I’d use those both up in about 5-7 days. That is $120 a month on hair stuff??!!!??! Instead I go several days without getting my hair wet so I make it last and sometimes I just throw a braid in to avoid the styling cream BUT STILL. SO MUCH MONEY. But I love my curls so much now. I’ve liked them before but now I LURVE them.

As an alternative today I just coated the crap out of my hair with straight-up coconut oil. That stuff is expensive too, but a good alternative that can look like a food product so I can pretend it’s groceries. 😉

I really like apartment living

I mean, I hate walking the dog but there’s a dog park so it’s kinda easier. Overall I have such minimal anxiety about my living situation when don’t have to flip out every time the toilet wobbles or maybe doesn’t flush great. NOT MY PROBLEM. Our house still hasn’t sold (Tentative closing: March 3rd. Maybe one week later. Seller waiting on paperwork that takes 2-3 weeks from yesterday.) so it’s hard to REALLY relax, but it’s so nice not having to worry about ANYTHING related to my living quarters. ANYTHING. LOVE IT.

I’m so behind on doctor’s visits

Y’all know I’m not a fan of doctors. I avoid them when at all possible. I loved my OB/GYN but I think that’s because if I wanted to have kids I needed to love him because I SAW HIM OH SO OFTEN. And he was very good at the “there’s no heartbeat” message when I had miscarriages. I didn’t need it, I knew how to interpret my own ultrasounds, but still…it was nice.

ANYWAY. I need to make SEVERAL. And it’s overwhelming. I feel like I can just make ONE appointment, now when I’ve not seen a real doctor in forever. And what about the hours I miss at work? That’s the sucky thing about being an hourly employee…every doctor’s appointment means a decreased paycheck. I mean, we’re not leaving paycheck-to-paycheck so it’s not a HUGE deal but it’s still a deterrent. BUT I NEED TO DO IT. Am I the only grown-up scared of doctors? Please tell me I’m not. I know my left-hand turn anxiety is weird, but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in the doctor anxiety.

Civics at 41.

I’ve always felt a little late to the “politics and civics” game as I didn’t really take away much usable knowledge from my elementary school career and I got pregnant right out of high school. Fun Fact: It’s hard to pay attention to the world around you when you’re trying to raise a tiny human, get a college degree, and pay the bills. The Clinton/Lewinski scandal and fallout is just a blip in the background of my memory of a very challenging chunk of time in my life.

They first election I guess I voted in was Gore/Bush and I was unhappy my guy lost, but I didn’t really keep up with much else. 9/11 occurred just a few months after I graduated college and got a “real” job – giving me much more practical peace of mind allowing me to explore current events and politics a little more. I guess that’s where my “learning” started. I was more involved in the Kerry/Bush election but I’m not entirely sure I really started to understand our Executive and Legislative branches until the 2008 election.

Let me break it down for you: I think maybe that was the first year I really understood the whole Senators/Congressmen thing. Like who represented me and the power they had at the Federal level.

IN 2008.

(This level of honesty is difficult because y’all – THAT IS SO SAD.)

Since 2008 I’ve definitely been learning a lot about what’s going on at the federal level. I keep up with legislation and learned how much a bill can change as it works it’s way through committees and negotiations. I find that the most depressing part of all of this. It’s hard to 100% support something no matter WHO you are because if it actually passes (meaning it had to have at least a tiny bit of support from the opposition) then it has amendments tacked on to it that go against the wishes of the party pushing the legislation. So, depending on what side you’re on, you either find a bill you supported become tainted, or you suddenly find yourself wanting to support a bill you hate. It’s never as easy as, “Senator X voted against Veteran’s Assistance!” because there might have been a tax added to that bill that would have angered his constituents or there might have been an amendment that took away freedoms he vowed to protect or SOMETHING. I became very jaded the more and more I learned about how legislation actually got passed.

2017 – however – is the year I learn about state/local politics. Did you know we have state-level senators and representatives too? I DID NOT! I AM DUMB! Well, now I do. I’ve actually spent time digging into maps to find the ones that represent me only to find out the MAPS LIED and I was wrong. I finally got my new voter ID card and now I officially know my districts so I can find my state senator/representative. I went to a delegate forum the other night and met many of them from this area. I took Nikki too, in hopes that maybe she’ll learn to understand this at a younger age than I did.

I have registered at this site to monitor legislation in my state. I have built email lists of committee members. I following lobbying groups who are taking citizens to events at the capital. At age 41 I finally have an understanding of how legislation works in my state and THAT IS SUPER SAD.

I’m just letting you know that it’s never too late to learn. It’s never too late to get involved. It’s never too late to start attending legislative forums and lobbying Town Halls. Don’t be scared! Find issues that matter and find the big lobbying groups for those issues and get on their email lists and follow their Facebook pages. Human Rights Campaign has an Alabama office that is currently fighting against legislation allowing for discrimination of LGBTQ parents for foster/adoption and I post actions regularly on my Facebook page. I think our outrage helped stall the House version of the bill, but the Senate one is still on the move and we’re hoping today’s calls/emails will stall that one.

At 41 I’m finally getting involved at every level that I can. It’s never too late.

It’s Okay To Be Not Okay.

I don’t feel like I’ve done a good job lately of building a 3-dimensional/authentic view of myself here on this blog. I tend to get several “don’t be so hard on yourself” or “you’re too stressed” or “stop doing so much” responses and I never really know how to respond to them because all I feel is, “I think I’ve done a poor job presenting myself if these are the responses.”

And it’s tricky. I write here in the mornings and I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I toss and turn a lot, I cough a lot, my back hurts, and I’m just anxious. So when I get up for the day I don’t always feel great and I often have stress dreams so when I noticed the trend I thought, Zoot, maybe you’re just writing about the WORST moment of your day and so now you’re giving off this view of a sad, anxious person who is too hard on herself?

So I thought about that for awhile. But even that didn’t seem right. If it had I would have responded to comments and emails, “Oh – I’m fine! I just start the day kinda gray!” And that didn’t feel truthful either.

An then I ran with a much wiser friend on Saturday and she talked about how she’s just accepted that sometimes it’s okay to be sad. And maybe “unhappy” or “sad” is a more accurate depiction of her general state of mind. And we talked about that awhile and I really found myself thinking about that idea. And then I thought about how one friend in particular told me once that maybe I should consider the fact that I found comfort in my anxiety.

So I thought about all of these things together during the last mile of my trail run this morning. The sun was shining and I was running on a trail I normally hate but it seemed oddly beautiful today. And I considered how maybe I’m not doing a good job painting the picture of my life. And maybe not with my real world friends or family either. The other day my husband said, “I miss Happy Kim.” and I understood what he meant, but I also wasn’t sure “Happy Kim” was necessarily who I wanted to be right now.

During our run I remembered that The Oatmeal had done a comic about this one time and I thought I’d find time to hunt it down and re-read it. It’s called How To Be Perfectly Unhappy and rereading it with our conversation fresh on my mind really helped me understand my current state of living and my current mindset.

I am not happy. And that feels weird to say because I know that suddenly society says: OH NO! FIX IT! BE HAPPY! I experience joy and bliss and love and laughter and fun…Sometimes for hours at a time. But the underlying feeling is stress and anxiety and sadness. But it’s not at the level where I’m worried about myself, I’ve been in dark times where I can’t get out and it’s not like that. I have great runs, or empowering tattoos, or games with family, or margaritas with friends and I laugh and I smile and I love my friends and my family and my life. But the underlying sense of it all is concern and anxiety and I’m starting to just be okay with that. Like my friend said, “Sometimes we’re not meant to just be happy all the time. It’s okay to just be sad sometimes.”

I know the difference between “a case of the sads” and “can’t escape the darkness” and really, right now? It’s very much the first one. I’m just sad a lot as life is not going how I want it to go right now. We’re stuck in a weird limbo where we’ve moved out of our house but it hasn’t sold yet. Politics are a concern as are relationships I’m worried can’t survive the political climate. I’m concerned about my kids as they’re all facing their own challenges in life and many of which I can’t help. I’ve put on 20lbs that I’m trying to lose as I ramp up to my April stage race. I’m not sleeping well and exhaustion strips me of any normal level of enthusiasm.

But I’m not sure I would change anything.

Theres is stress with concern over my kid’s challenges, but that stress drives me to try new things or to be more mindful in parenting. I’m anxious about the political future of our country but that pushes me to stay active and make phone calls and send emails and write newsletters. I’ve always spoken about how my anxiety has very concrete “positives” that I don’t like to forget and when it’s all manageable, I’m okay with suffering the restlessness in my life as a tradeoff for the feeling of purpose or engagement of fulfillment. My anxieties help me give my life meaning and that…is not “unhappy” really, it’s just not “happy” either.

There are just a lot of things worrying me, but they give my life purpose right now. It’s not irrational worries (like when I have to make a left turn somewhere, that shit is BANANAS) which have plagued me in the past. They’re worries and concerns that keep me busy and give me purpose. I’m hard on myself because I want to be better, but I don’t think I’m irrationally hard on myself. I still watch a shit-ton of television and don’t feel even the slightest bit guilty about it. I spent stupid amounts of money on microbrew beer BECAUSE I HAVE STANDARDS, PEOPLE. I don’t feel guilty that the money is not going to something a little better.

Yes, I’m hard on myself in many ways, but only in ways that I want to drive myself to be better. I’m stressed and probably doing “too much” but it’s because there are a lot of things that are important to me and help me feel like my life has meaning and purpose. I’m anxious about things out of my control (like my children and their development) but it pushes me to think outside the box and try to find things that I can control. But it also forces me to recognize I don’t have control and to try to be mindful.

And right now all of that is overwhelming and making the “general feeling of happiness” something that eludes me. But I’m still enjoying moments of laughter and joy. We started a D&D campaign with the kids this weekend and I had two days of great running. I got a tattoo and put a bigger one on the calendar for May. I bounded joyfully through puddles and closed my eyes in the sunshine while I walked my dog. The joy and beauty and laughter is still abundant in my life and I’m learning to be okay with the anxiety underneath it all. It’s not necessarily something I have to fix, I’m finally learning. I just accept it as an ebb in the river of my life. There can be purpose and fulfillment in sadness and I just want you all to know that I’m okay with that.