Marriage Equality in Indiana

Love is all we need

Marriage is not about religion…Atheists marry.

Marriage is not about procreation…the infertile marry.

Marriage is not about finance…it can weave poverty.

Marriage IS about LOVE.

 

June 25, 2014:

“U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled that the state’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause because it treats couples differently based on their sexual orientation.

Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”

It’s been over 12 hours since I heard the news of this. It still has not completely sunk in yet. Could it really be possible that I live in a state where I could legally marry another woman? WHOA!!

When I first came out just over 17 years ago, I didn’t even think about the possibility of marrying another woman one day. I honestly did not think it would happen in my lifetime. After all, why would we fight for something like that when we were still (and are still) trying just to be considered normal by the majority of others? Having legal same-sex marriage was ‘pie in the sky’ thinking back then.

Now it is here, even if it might be temporarily put on hold, in a state where I reside?! Unbelievable!!

As a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was being considered by the state legislature earlier this year in Indiana, it felt very personal and was now very close to home. I’m not in a relationship and have not been for a few years now, but I still found myself feeling obligated to try to educate those around me. It might not have had a physical impact on my life right at this moment, but it definitely had an emotional impact.

I had some great conversations with friends. Often I would hear that they are okay with something ‘like’ marriage but want it called something else such as a civil union. Those ideas immediately make me think of the concept of “separate but equal.” We all know that that has not worked in public education in regards to segregation, integration and even Title IX. Why do we think it would work with marriage? Also, what is the point of calling it something else? Giving it a different name would simply imply that it was different and therefore not equal. If it is meant to grant all of the same rights, just call it by the same name.

So, what rights would we get by having same-sex marriage legal?

“The General Accounting Office in 1997 released a list of 1,049 benefits and protections available to heterosexual married couples. These benefits range from federal benefits, such as survivor benefits through Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks. They also include things like family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. Civil Unions protect some of these rights, but not all of them.” http://lesbianlife.about.com/cs/wedding/a/unionvmarriage.htm

Some might say that same-sex couples can have an attorney complete wills and powers of attorney for the couple. Yes, this is true…but not guaranteed to be followed. Wills can and often are challenged by family members who disapprove of the relationship. Not to mention the cost to do this. Why should same-sex couples have to pay considerably more for fewer rights that might not be guaranteed?

Having same-sex marriage legal could have had a HUGE impact on my life back in 1999. I will share more at a later date, but when my first partner died suddenly, I was left out of all of the planning of her services despite the fact that we had been together for two years. Yes, we had separated a couple of months before her death, but we still saw each other every day and were still very much in love. Had we been married, our divorce would not have been finalized and I would have been the legal next of kin.

Legal same-sex marriage is about more than just having the same legal rights of other married couples. There are other, more emotional, benefits as well. A legal marriage has the possibility to also bring about more acceptance and respect for those in same-sex relationships. We would be able to hold our heads higher and over time lower our guard a bit more. With time, we won’t be considered “less than” to the degree that we are now.

Remember, my friends, it is all about L.O.V.E.

Gay marriage will be universally accepted in time. But if I may be so bold as to say to gays and lesbians, don’t wait for that time to arrive. Just as my father and his generation did not ‘wait’ for their civil rights, nor should you. The toothpaste ain’t going back in the tube. The tide has turned.

John Ridley

(John Ridley won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for 12 Years a Slave, making him the second African-American to win the award.)

 

 

Do You Know Your Purpose?

mission

We all have those moments when we wonder just what our purpose is here on earth. As someone with depression and suicidal thoughts from time to time, the question sometimes gets modified. We begin to wonder if we have outlived our purpose. Is it possible to have outlived your purpose?

In mid-April 2010, I was really pondering this. I had just completed my fourth hospitalization in a psychiatric unit. I was homeless and I just didn’t know what was next in my life. I began to wonder if I had already fulfilled my purpose. After all, I had been an academic advisor for nearly 10 years and touched many, many lives already. Maybe my time was up.

The day after this was really weighing on my mind, I got on my computer and saw a quote on one of my regular websites:

Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.

~Richard Bach

I’m sure this was all part of what would lead to giving up the option of suicide. While it felt like that decision was made in an instant, it is clear that there were other things happening and people entering my life that would lead up to that decision. (Read more about that here.)

A couple of weeks ago, June 13, 2014, I received a potentially life changing phone call that was another confirmation that perhaps I had not outlived my purpose on earth.

Because I did not recognize the number, I did not answer the call but immediately checked the voice mail:

“Criselda Marquez, this is Lisa with the National Marrow Registry. You signed up with us at Odessa College back in 1999 and you have come up as a possible match for a patient. We are doing some testing on the blood we have frozen but I want to ask you some health questions to see if you want to continue.”

HOLY COW!

I couldn’t return the call fast enough! Hell, yes, I want to continue!! My initial thought was that I could not pass up the opportunity to help someone have a better life.

After a little phone tag, I spoke directly with Lisa in Texas. She works for the National Marrow Donor Program, Be The Match. She was calling to inform me that I had been identified as a potential bone marrow match for a 25 year old young lady with leukemia. We spoke for a few minutes as she gave me a little more information, confirmed my contact information and we hung up.

All of the sudden it hit me…

If I had killed myself four years ago, as I so desperately wanted to do, I wouldn’t be around so that this young lady could possibly benefit from my life. This is HUGE! One friend couldn’t have said it better: To be able to do that for someone – one of life’s biggest joys. Kuddos my friend. You are here for a reason. God is not finished with you yet.

I passed the health questionnaire stage. After providing consent for further testing, we sit and wait. It could take 2-6 weeks for the next stage of testing to be completed. This will let us know if I am a true match for “Texas,” as I’ve named her. Even if I am not a match for “Texas,” because they have done the extra testing, I could be called again for someone else.

In reviewing their website, it appears that the age of the donor is pretty important in long term survival of the recipient. “Doctors request donors in the 18-44 age group over 90% of the time.” Guess how old I am…43. {shivers}

If it turns out I am a match, my donation will likely take place here in Indiana…unless I happen to be in Texas at the time. Depending on the donor center, I may be able to have anonymous communication with “Texas” for the first year after the donation. After that time, we would be allowed to reveal ourselves to each other. I truly hope this will be the case if I am a match. While not being able to get updates or have communication would not stop me from donating, I think I would feel like I was left ‘hanging’ by not knowing the outcome.

I will definitely keep you updated with any news.

I encourage you to consider supporting the cause in some fashion. Visit Be the Match’s website (http://bethematch.org/Support-the-Cause/) and learn about joining the registry, donating financially or donating cord blood of your soon-to-be-born baby.

 

Match Badge

It Took Over 26 Years…Part 2

My earliest memory…something I remember without reading from a journal…of being attracted to another woman was in 1996 or early 1997. This was just months before I would finally let myself believe that I was gay. I was at Barnes& Noble browsing the books and this person came up and asked if I was finding everything okay. Without looking up right away I answered that I was. By the time I finished answering I looked up and saw who was speaking to me. To just say that I got butterflies in my stomach would be an understatement. I had a whole, freaking migration of monarch butterflies in there! Then I realized it was a woman speaking to me!

WHOA! Wait just a minute, here! What the…was going on here?!

Up to that point, I had never had such a strong physical reaction to seeing another woman. (As it turned out, she was a golfing buddy to my first partner.)

As I mentioned previously, this was not the first time I had reason to question my sexual orientation. It goes back to at least high school days. Apparently my best friend and I would have words about the fact that I was attracted to other girls. I have no idea what I would say, but she did tell me later that this happened on more than one occasion. This is one of the instances of ‘filing’ away that information for another day. I suppose since my comments did not meet approval, I figured I shouldn’t share them again.

I never really dated boys in high school. I did have a crush on a couple of them but the most that happened was one buying me a mum for homecoming and me getting him a garter. (This is a Texas tradition that you can read more about here and see pictures here.) We didn’t even go to the homecoming dance.

In my senior year, I did have a “relationship” with John. I put that into quotation marks because I’m not sure exactly what to call it. We were best friends and we did kiss and make out; but we never went on a traditional date. I would go to his apartment…yes, he was nine years older (oops)… or we would go for a drive. We would talk on the phone for hours. Besides kissing and making out from time to time, that was the extent of anything sexual between us. We never declared ourselves to be boyfriend/girlfriend. When I left for college, it became very ‘on again, off again.’ We just couldn’t let go of each other completely. I still believe to this day that if we had gotten married, we would have stayed married until the end because we got along so well. Other than those two, there were no other boyfriends. (A note about John.  He died in January of 1997. I truly believe it was his death that finally freed me to finally accept that I was attracted to women.)

It wasn’t until about my junior or senior year of college that anything more happened with men. I still did not have a boyfriend, or date guys; but I did have experiences with guys…multiple guys. I ‘messed around’ a lot with mostly married men. I did everything but have intercourse with these men in one-night stands. After all, I was a good Catholic girl…I couldn’t have intercourse, that would be a sin! For the record, I do recognize that being with married men is also a sin, but in my mind at the time it was less of a sin. Doesn’t make sense to me either!

For many years after coming out, I joked that I was simply “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I viewed these men as being safe because there could be no long-term commitment.  Now, after spending hours reading old journals and processing it all, I realize that it was an attempt to be more like my college roommates…who were all attracted to men. I didn’t know it, but I think I was trying to make myself ‘straight.’ I was doing my own version of reparative therapy.

One affair lasted several months and went on during the first year of my graduate studies. At some point after this ended, I must have been questioning myself again as I tried to talk to one of my undergraduate professors about being gay. She did not take too kindly to my assumption that she was gay and would not have any kind of conversation with me related to homosexuality. While this bothered me, I just mentally shrugged it off and once again ‘filed’ away the idea that I might be gay.

Near the end of my graduate school career, I had to write what was called an ‘Annotated Autobiography.’ At the end of the writing, I addressed sexual orientation in the family. I commented that both my sister and I had questioned our orientation ‘but I had not to the extent that my sister had.’ Again, I had ‘filed’ this away and dismissed any notion that I might be gay.

What amazes me about all the times I would ‘file’ away any thought of being gay is how I didn’t seem bothered by my questioning. I know it is easy to repress memories as part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but I guess I feel I should have been more bothered by not being able to get answers to my questions. I suppose it was just my mind protecting me until I was truly ready for the answer.

Throughout all of this, I was still very active in the church. I attended on a regular basis and was somewhat involved at the Catholic Newman Center on campus. As I finished graduate school, I became involved in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and was a sponsor for a friend of mine to complete the sacraments to become a full Catholic. Even after I moved 1.5 hours away, I continued to drive to San Angelo every other week to be with her during the meetings. In the fall of 1996, I got involved in a local RCIA in hopes of continuing to help those that wanted to become Catholic. Shortly after signing up, I found it difficult to get myself to church on Sundays. Nothing had happened at church…no upsetting homilies, no run-ins with staff…nothing. I just could not get myself to attend. Soon, I was no longer involved. I couldn’t understand what was happening.

Within a year, I would come to understand what was going on inside of me.

questioning

2008: California, Here I Come…But, Just for Six Months

plan vs reality

Between the fall of 2005 and 2007, I had slow but steady improvement in my depression and work performance. When our director, Alan, was suddenly terminated, that progress stopped. I knew that if they would go to the lengths to terminate someone who had worked for the department for 20 years, then they could certainly fire me.

Going on my experience under the previous directors’ leadership…or lack of…I KNEW I had to begin a job search in earnest so I purchased my first laptop that I could use during my lunch break when I stayed in the office.

Having the laptop at home was both a positive and a negative. On the positive side, it was easier to access because I could have it downstairs with me. On the negative side, it was easier to access. I spent more time on the computer when I was not at work.

In January of 2008, I started chatting with Donna through a website, SparkPeople. (This is not a dating site; rather it is a site where you can track your exercise, food intake and weight loss as well as participate in different message boards.) It was an instant connection and very soon the “love” word began appearing in our regular conversations. Everything was wonderful between us except for one problem…Donna lived in California and I lived in Indiana. We used this to our advantage to REALLY get to know each other before making any commitments.

The new relationship ‘high’ that gets you through the day when you’ve stayed up way too late talking on the phone made it easy to dismiss the signs of depression. My focus was on Donna and not the depression symptoms. I believed I had that part of my life under control.

That was far from what was actually happening. Despite being happy and ‘in love,’ work was slowly getting more and more stressful. I did the best I could to keep up, but my absences began adding up. And, it was becoming clear that I was next on their ‘list.’

At one point, I was instructed that when I missed work, that it was my responsibility to reschedule my students that had to cancel their appointments. This was another attempt to create a policy just for me. This was NOT the policy in the office. The front desk had always done this AND nobody else was being asked to do this. After some back and forth with Human Resources, the original method was left in place.

With summer approaching, Donna and I began talking about me moving to California; but it would be no earlier than Fall 2009. This would allow me to chair the regional conference of the National Academic Advising Association in May and then move. At least that was our plan.

In August 2008, the stress of work was really taking its toll on me and my attendance REALLY suffered. It was getting to the point that I was calling in more than I was going in. Then one day in early September, I was told that I would have to give a presentation about various majors in the College of Science. At this point, I was not working with Science majors. Instead, I was working with students who wanted to major OUTSIDE of Science. At first, I was not bothered by having to do this; but that evening, I realized it was actually a ‘test’ and something they were probably using to gather ‘evidence’ to terminate me.

This could have pushed me to prove them wrong; but it did the opposite. The negative thoughts took over and on the day I was to give the presentation, I called in to work. It turned out I would not return to work again. A few days later, I had a meeting with a representative from HR and my current director. I entered the meeting with three letters of resignation in hand: one for the end of the week, the end of the day, and immediately. Given the conversation of the meeting, I chose to resign immediately.  I had tried to hold on to be terminated so I could collect two weeks of severance pay, but the stress was overwhelming by this point.

With work no longer a reason to stay in Indiana, Donna and I decided I would move to California as soon as I could have shoulder surgery and make arrangements to move my belongings. I arrived in Oakland, CA on November 22, 2008.

Throughout the year, I had dismissed the depression because the ‘high’ that love brings concealed the depth of it. Once I arrived in California, this became very evident to me. I had already decided to take the month of December to adjust to the drastic change in environments.; but as January approached, I could feel the anxiety growing. The thought of job searching was beginning to worry me.

I felt so isolated in California. I LOVED being with Donna, but I left everything that was familiar to me. The only constant I still had was my 10 year old Chihuahua, Comet. She brought much comfort during the day while Donna was at work.

In late January 2009, Comet suddenly became very ill. After a trip to the vet, I learned she had developed a blood disease that could be treated if she tolerated the medication. She did not. A few short days later, I had to put Comet down. She had been my life and the reason I had not attempted suicide to that point. This was completely devastating and sent me on a very fast downward spiral.

Before I had moved, I had promised Donna she would not have to take care of me and my depression the same way she had a previous partner. Because of this, I felt I couldn’t share just how deep my depression was at the time. I would stay in bed and only got up and dressed when I thought she might be on her way home. We had to make a ‘chore chart’ to try to get me to clean around the house…key word being ‘try.’

After a few arguments, I finally got so desperate and told her I needed her help. I was so depressed I couldn’t even focus enough to figure out where to look for help in this new town. I had not been to a therapist or psychiatrist since I left Indiana in November. I no longer had insurance and was also out of medication. Thus began my use of community health centers.

I found Sausal Creek Outpatient Stabilization Clinic on 26th Avenue in Oakland on April 22. It wasn’t in the best neighborhood; and you had to ring the bell to be let in because they kept the doors locked. Once you entered you were required to stay inside until you saw the doctor. I could tell by listening to the others waiting that some were homeless and mainly looking for their next ‘fix’ of whichever medication they were abusing. My demeanor was so depressed while others were nearing a psychotic episode. I felt so out of place but also exactly where I was supposed to be.

I also began seeing a therapist at the Women’s Therapy Center in El Cerrito. I finally had someone I could share all the thoughts I had been keeping from Donna. Even though I paid a minimal fee, I had to limit my visits due to lack of income. I was going through my retirement funds faster than I had planned. A significant part of it went to try to save Comet. Now, not only was I stressed about being so depressed and not wanting Donna to have to take care of me, but I was beginning to get behind on my remaining bills.

In early May I met with a psychiatrist at North County Crisis Response Program. This was in a much more typical setting and I felt like I could really work with her. Again, I would be paying based on income and medications would be covered by the program. As someone with a Masters degree, I was very uncomfortable receiving this kind of public assistance but I knew I had no other choice. I could not mentally afford to NOT receive services I so desperately needed.

After a quick visit to Indiana to participate in the Indianapolis 500 Half Marathon (she ran, I walked), I decided maybe I would move back to Indiana in hopes of finding a job…ANY job. This was the year the recession hit.  It had hit fast and hard in California and the colleges were not hiring. Even though I had not applied to any non-academic jobs in California, I thought I might in Indiana where I would be back in familiar surroundings.

This idea started out in my mind as a temporary move. I had every intention that I would move back to California within a few months. Donna had different thoughts. As we discussed this back in California, she informed me that we were pretty much done…at least for the time being. This meant I needed to pack all of my belongings…again…and we would make arrangements to move them from her place in a couple of months.

So, exactly six months from the day I arrived, I left California to move back to Indiana.

Courage

 

This Is Our Church

So many of us that have come out have also had to struggle with the teachings of our churches. I was no different.

Susan Cottrell & FreedHearts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“The singing was the most beautiful sound in the world! More than once, I had to stop singing and just listen. I couldn’t get some of the words out through the tears. Some would say that in those moments, our sexual orientation didn’t matter. For me, though, it did.”

Yesterday, I shared the first part of Criselda’s moving story. Today, I am honored to continue to share that with you, in her words, from her heart…

I was raised Catholic, with strict Catholic rules. One that stuck with me for many years is: “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” So, when I realized I was gay, my struggle with the church really began.

I attended mass with my partner but did not receive communion, because I knew I was not living according to the church’s teaching. Finally, I quit attending. As much as I longed to be in church, I…

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