Archive for February, 2012

Dear Republicans—I am the Other

I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for too long.

It’s made me jaded.

I’ve been trying to figure out why the Republican candidates make me so angry. Why I feel like they are so small minded. Why I think they are bigoted.

Then I realized I’ve lived in the Bay Area for almost a decade. Well, it would have been a decade if I hadn’t taken that two-year sabbatical back to Connecticut. I thought I could move back to New England after two years in Cali, but I was wrong. I can never go home.

I loved Connecticut when I was there. And upstate NY, and the suburbs of Boston, and the eighteen years I grew up in Maine. But the places I lived all suffered the same problem. Homogeneity.

No, not Homosexuality. Homogeneity. They were all white Christians of European descent. The only diversity that existed was imported. And now being a female in a male dominated field, I’m beginning to understand that as much as the minorities tried to fit in, they always felt different. Alone.

But here in the Bay Area, I live in the land of diversity. Just tonight, I was hanging out with friends who are white, black, Asian, and Indian; Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, and atheist; straight, gay, and bi; carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. I work with Christians, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, and even a Christian Scientist. My friends are from far away lands all over the world. They have stories that differ in how they arrived in the United States. Some came as students, others as workers, and some came as refugees when they fled their country by boat in the dark of night. But they are all here for the same reason: to make a better life for themselves and their families. Just like my forefathers.

Religious freedom is the principle on which our country was founded. The right for anyone to practice any religion of their choosing. But I watch the Republican debates and it is all about Christianity. And forcing their religious morals and values on others. Government sanctioned homogeneity.

So I wondered what percentage of the country is actually Christian. It must be a large part, since that is where the Republican party is focusing. As a guess, within my group of friends in the Bay Area, I would estimate that five percent of them are practicing Christian. A majority were raised Christian but are no longer practicing, and the rest were raised in another religion. I was curious, so I researched some statistics.

The country statistics all came from the government census data. The California statistics are from Wikipedia. In the country, approximately 76% consider themselves Christian, whether or not they practice, versus 69% in California. In the country, almost 19% are another religion or don’t practice any religion, where in California, that number is almost 30%.

This made me wonder what the overall trend has been throughout the last few decades. I used the census data to compare the country’s statistics. From 1990 to 2008, Christianity has dropped over 10% points, while all other religions/non-religions have gained over 10% points.

The curve isn’t drastic. Not as much as I’d expected. Not as steep as I feel it is among my group of peers. Just to see more stats, I also broke up Other and None into two separate categories.

The Republican party will probably look at this chart as the demise of American morals. I look at it as a beautiful mixture of cultures, religions, races, and sexualities. I see colors of all shades. I see conversations of many viewpoints; no one trying to convince anyone that they are right—like when my priest made us repeat how Catholicism is the “One, right, true religion”—but rather people learning about their differences and embracing them. I see love in many forms. I see diversity.

And then I remember that the rest of the country is homogenous. I’ve found that in other cities and small towns, even when there is a mix of people, they seem to segregate themselves. It is more comfortable to live near others who share your beliefs. It isn’t like here where everyone lives together. Below me is a guy of Asian decent. Beside me an Indian couple. Below them is a Hispanic guy and next to them are another Indian couple and an elderly Eastern European couple. On the end of the building is one white guy who looks like he was in the military and another who looks like he sells drugs. Diversity is all around me every day.

I look at the Republican candidates and am puzzled why all they talk about are Christian values and Christian morals. Why are they ignoring the other twenty percent of us who don’t really want our president to be our spiritual leaders, but instead want the president and the government to provide services, security, and economic stability.

I want a leader who understands global economies, respects other’s religions, and embraces the differences of other cultures—not someone who wants us all to be like him.

I want a leader who encourages us all to lead, not one who wants us all to follow.


Why religion should stay out of my contraception

Recently, the Obama administration has been getting heat for part of the health bill that requires employers to provide contraception at no cost. Religious groups have been fighting back saying that they shouldn’t have to do this because it is against their beliefs. The bill states that they must if they serve women of any faith. I fully support the Obama administration in their efforts to improve womens’ health.

I have been on the pill for eighteen years. But it isn’t why you think.

Yes, originally it was to prevent pregnancy. Yes, I had sex outside of marriage. It happened. I’m not ashamed. But it isn’t the reason I’ve been using the pill this whole time.

One warm, summer morning in Connecticut, I was feeling perfectly fine, except for the dread that I was going to be in a lot of pain in a few hours after surgery. Twelve years later, I still have a five-inch scar, and a lot of money spent on birth control to remind me.

Since age seventeen, every other month for a day, I’d be in excruciating pain. The first time it happened was my chemistry midterm. I wrote my name on my paper, I tried to read the question through the searing sensation in my abdomen, but I couldn’t. I was a shy, quiet kid, not one who would ever disrupt a classroom. That day I stood up without saying a word and walked out the door, letting it slam as I hobbled to the bathroom.

A while later, I managed to get to the nurse’s office. I’m forever grateful for my mother picking me up. She stopped by the chemistry class and picked up my calculator and books. And she took me home to comfort me, while I felt shame for having disrupted the test, and embarrassment that I’d have to retake it at another time. But teenage girls and their cramps will happen. At least that is what I thought it was.

For the next eight years, every other month, I would writhe in pain for a day. My cats would stare at me, wondering who would feed them when I was dead. And I would curl up in a ball hoping to pass out and praying that the cats wouldn’t start feeding on me while I slept.

Two months is a long time. By the time it happened again, I’d forgotten about the last time. It went undiagnosed by my college OBGYN who gave me an exam and filled my first prescription for the pill.

Five years later, I had an exam. The doctor asked if I was pregnant. I told her I was certain that I was not. Then she said, “You did say that you have male partners, right?”

My doctor just questioned if I am a lesbian. Could this get any worse?

Yes it can. She made me take a test I hadn’t studied for. It was negative for pregnancy. So I had an ultrasound a couple days later. The results came in. I had a ten-centimeter cyst encasing an ovary.

The morning of surgery, I signed papers that I was an organ donor and asked that they not take anything I needed or was still using. They made me sign papers that said if they found the cyst to be cancerous, they could take out whatever they wanted. It was a lot to ask of a twenty-five year old.

The doctor removed the cyst and an ovary. There was no cancer. I was thankful for that. And I was grateful that my mother quit her temp job to care for me the first week. Meine Schwester moved in the next. I couldn’t have done it without them.

So what does this have to do with the pill and Obamacare? Well, it turns out that one of the best treatments for preventing ovarian cysts is the pill. So regardless of my need to use the pill for contraception, the real reason I use it, even when I don’t seemingly need it, is because it keeps me from doubling over in pain for a day every other month. Or possibly dying.

I’ve had to pay hundreds of dollars a year for a drug to prevent ovarian cysts that the Catholic Church and other religious organizations don’t want to provide to anyone.

I’m grateful that I’ve had doctors and hospitals willing to prescribe it to me. I know I am in the minority of women using the pill, but I’m grateful to the Obama administration that other women will be able to access the drugs they need and that it won’t cost them what it has cost me.