Sunday, June 26, 2011

Two Special Voices in New York

On June 24th, New York became the 6th state to pass marriage equality. I'm not going to "report" on the details. If you like you can just Google and read about that. What I do want to bring attention too is one state Senator in particular that voted in favor of marriage equality, Senator Mark Grisanti. 

He was sworn in back in January of this year. It didn't take long for the pressure to ramp up on marriage equality. Here is a brief time line leading up to Friday's vote.
  • After Lady Gaga asked concert goers to reach out to Grisanti and ask him to vote yes he responded in a radio interview on March 8, 2011, saying: "Civil unions and all the proponents that go along with that, I have no problem with. I have a problem with the term marriage itself. To me, marriage is between a man and a woman. It's been a term, a term of ours for years that has been around for thousands of years. It's like calling a cat, a dog. I don't think that that needs to be changed."
  • On May 17, 2011, it was reported that Grisanti had publicly stated that he would vote "no" on same-sex marriage.
  • On June 17, 2011, it was reported that he had changed his position on same-sex marriage to "undecided".
What I appreciated most was was his speech on the Senate floor on how he came to this decision. Please take some time and watch his speech below.

The second person I would like to discuss is my Aunt, who is 70+ years old. She has lived in upstate New York on a farm or in a small town her whole life. She always keeps up on state politics and other current events. She had sent me a quick note when the State Assembly passed the marriage equality bill through and that she was sure the Senate would do the same. I was glad at least she was confident. I knew we still had a fight on our hands at the time.

Apparently my Aunt knew what she was talking about because eight days later she was emailing me again. This time it was almost 11pm NY time and marriage equality had just passed the Senate. The subject: We made it in NYS. We'll come back to that.

 Here is the rest of the email
Hi ladies  - as you may have already heard  -   NYS is passing the "equality in marriage'  act this evening  -  job well done!
   Just wish the news folks would refrain from the term "same sex marriage act" -   that doesn't cover nearly any of the principles of this bill and really gives it a negative connotation rather than educating the public on the real need and assets of the bill.
                                                                                    Love A.
Simple right. But let's remember this is from a small town 70+ year old woman...not exactly the best demographic on this issue. What struck me first was that she just gets it. The end. The fact that she really gets it prompted me to post it on my Facebook and Tweet about it. If this 75 year old woman can get it then I know we can make this happen. If we come out, live open, educate people on how this discrimination effects us, we can change hearts and minds. We can do this.

While I got responses I had expected, a bunch of likes, a few re-tweets, etc - I also got a response I didn't expect. It was actually the first response from twitter. Here is the conversation

Let's just say that this conversation made me write a much stronger reply to my Aunt. Something that was probably going to be WOO HOO! turned into this


Thank you so much for your note. I hope you don't mind but I put it on Facebook. The understanding that you have and the support that you give is something many others in the gay community miss because their family has disowned them. I do not take it for granted and it has meant so much to me as has the support of my parents and many others in the family. The fact that this family never wavered in its support is a true statement to what family means and I believe a true statement about how you all were raised by Gram and always be there for each other.

So again thanks.
So, for me, there were two heroes on that night. One, a Senator that showed true courage by realizing that he might not know everything and seeking to understand all aspects of the issue. The other, a woman who reminded me day to day conversations matter and that I am so lucky to have a family that goes beyond the concept of just being related to each other. I am part of a family that you can count on to be there for you and give you support when needed.

By the way A., I owe you a hug.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Death of Paula Brooks and the Apology from Bill Graber

Previously I had written that I was hoping to speak with Bill Graber and get an explanation and an apology regarding the deception that had happened by him pretending to be lesbian blogger - 'Paula Brooks', founder of the blog Lez Get Real. I am happy to say this conversation has happened. While I had planned on it being a private conversation that I would just acknowledge happened so readers would know, Bill gave me permission to do a post on it.

Bill and I spoke for about a half hour. The first thing out of his mouth was, “I’m sorry I was such an ass.” There were no excuses, in fact it was backed up with a few more statements of I’m sorry for various things. While I accepted the apology I also needed to get some things off of my chest. It was important to me that Bill understood that my issue was the lying that happened on a personal level (see the Google chat example in my previous post).

Me: Why tell me these stories about Deb, the kids, etc?

Bill: It was part of the character.

Me: I understand, but that wasn't what was important about the character for me…you had me at politics. I am a politics junkie and I respected Paula’s mind on the issues. We could discuss and debate many political topics. That’s what I enjoyed. You and I didn’t flirt and we didn’t discuss personal things all the time. So the need to go there with me I just don’t understand.

Bill: I was manipulative. I was trying to get to people’s emotions because sometimes I needed them to do and write something emotional. It was wrong…but many times it was effective. People wanted to talk to the surfer mom. They told her things they wouldn’t tell anyone else. We had the best information of any of the blogs. That was because of the surfer mom. In fact, what I find is people are mad because I killed 'Paula.' They are mad because their friend is gone.
Me: I just don't understand the need for all the lying and manipulating of us on a personal level. For me it was not needed. I wanted to write. You didn't need to manipulate me to do so. I logged, in wrote my stuff, and logged off.
Bill: When the next time I pretend to be a lesbian surfer mom I'll be sure to ask you on how to handle it.
Me: It's really not even funny to joke about doing it again. 

I was also curious about the other cast of characters. Let’s face it…this felt like the end of some move that I just didn’t see the ending coming. I’m one of those people that like to see the credits and know who played their roles. This was no different.

Me: Who are the kids…are they real?

Bill: They are my Grand kids. I’m sure you noticed the progress of time throughout the pictures. Had to be someone I knew.

Me: I put one of the pictures you sent me of them in a post. I will remove it. It's not my intention to do them any harm with all of this. My anger is not at them.

Bill: Thanks, I’m sure my daughter would appreciate it. She is just as mad as my wife.

Me: I can only imagine. You seem to have a shit load of woman pissed at you. Who is the woman in the pictures we see as ‘Paula’ on all the social media?

Bill: My sister when she was 20…keep it all in the family.

Me: What about Deb?

Bill: That is from my friends…what happened to them.

Me: But no one died I thought?

Bill: That’s true. I dramatized it. I wanted to get the story on the survivor blogs to draw readers to Lez Get Real.
Me: But people donated money. That was a horrible deception. What happened to that money? 
Bill: It all went to charity. I made sure nothing came to me. That was hard. Every time there was a hit on the story on a survivor blog I felt bad because I knew it had happened to them for real and they were looking to real support and the story they were reading was a fake. 

This was a pretty low point. To use this death to essentially gain more readers for the blog. It was all about the blog. It seemed that anyone could be sacrificed or hurt to move the blog forward. I was a fairly new writer for the blog when this happened so I wasn't as emotionally wrapped up in it as the others. But to hear him talk about using it simply to promote on the survivor blogs really showed me a new reality. There were no boundaries to who could be hurt. Then we discussed the blog and why this had all happened.

Bill: All I wanted to do was help the LGBT community. I served 25 years in the Air Force. I served to fight for the little people. However, I didn’t even realize the gay community was the little people. I didn’t know anything about it. Then I met a great lesbian couple. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to fight for them because I didn’t feel like I had when I was in the service.

Me: It’s funny. The character of ‘Paula’s Dad’ that I would talk to on the phone is the closest to you. His character was retired military and it took him a long time to come around on LGBT issues but he did so because he learned about it from someone he knew – his daughter. That is to me the closest thing to reality in all of this.

Bill: Yes but the ‘Paula’ character is me too. That was my desire to want to fight for equality. Problem was I didn’t know anything about the gay community. Honestly, I thought all gay men did was go to the park to have sex. I have learned that is not the case. I may have infiltrated a community but the reality is the community educated me. I learned about the strength of the community. I really believe it is the women in the LGBT community that will win this battle. You have the kids, families…your voices are just so powerful. I know there were times writers were mad at me because I would say I was too busy and ask them to write a story. It was because I really did want the blog to be from a lesbian’s point of view…and I am not one. I wanted your (lesbians) voices on the blog. I kept trying to get out but things just kept happening and I was just never able to walk away.

Me: I know you kept saying you were trying to leave.

Bill: I was. You were a problem.

Me: I was?

Bill: Yes you were someone that would come to D.C. and want to meet her. I never thought that would happen. I didn’t know what to do.

Me: Yeah that pissed me off too. I didn’t need my time and that of my friends wasted like that. I wasn't in D.C. to see 'Paula' I had other stuff I was doing. Instead of just saying you couldn't meet you had me waiting for you on two different occasions. I was pissed then and now to learn that it wasn't even real?! That is the shit that drives me nuts. It's the pure manipulation. It leaves us feeling violated.

Bill: I was in panic mode I didn’t know what to do and I am sorry.

Me: So after all this time with these characters and running the blog is it hard to give up?

Bill: Yes…I loved my blog. I worked hard on it to make it something that made an impact. Since the whole thing blew up I have done some interviews and the first thing they ask me is to give them my contacts. Pretty funny, huh? They think I am a fraud yet they want my contacts! What does that say about our blog? They know we were about four days ahead on every story. People wanted to give the surfer mom info. Boy did we get great tips. They were dead on.

Me: Did you give them the contacts?

Bill: Hell no! I gave the blog to Bridget and I’m not going to give someone else the keys to destroy Lez Get Real. I know I hurt her the worst. I am doing everything I can to help set it right for her.

Me: Do you still have access to the blog?

Bill: No I am locked out. It’s all hers now.

Me: Sounds like that is for the best.

It was a good conversation because I am a person that likes closure. So to be able to confront Bill with my anger and ask him the questions I needed to have answered feels good. I am not one to dwell on anger. I find it takes way to much energy. So I am moving on.

There were things in the talk that stood out to me. His use of the words manipulation and infiltration in particular. It seemed like he was a soldier on a mission. While I understood that he was apologizing, I also felt like he was debriefing. Not a lot of emotion. Sincerity, I think, but not emotion.

I imagine this will not be my last contact with Bill. There maybe other questions I have that I would like answered. I wouldn't be surprised if we chatted on and off. I won't be able to ever trust him. The violation was just too much to go back. In fact, the only thing I fully believe is that he loved his blog. I know that because he would lie to anyone to protect it. But frankly, it's hard for me to resist talking with him. After all, once you finish the movie, wouldn't you love to sit down with the writer and see how they pulled off an ending that no one saw coming?

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Letter from Senator McCain

I love politics. I enjoy contacting my elected officials by email, phone, letters, etc. I want to participate in the governing process. I believe it is one of our most import responsibilities as citizens to do. We must do more than just vote. We must make sure that our elected officials know how we, as their constituents feel on the issues that matter most to us.

The tough part is I live in Arizona. I am happy to say that I live in a district where I actually feel the representation I have in the State Legislature is good. I am also very pleased with my Congressman, Ed Pastor.

Then you come to Senator Jon Kyl and Senator John McCain. I would say their representation lately couldn't be farther from my views. Although I know when I call their offices or write to them it is a long shot that they will be on my side, I do it anyway. You see, for me, these are the people it is most important I reach out to. I must continue to let them know I am here and they represent me.

I recently emailed Sen. McCain and asked him to support the Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I know of two other constituents that support this - Cindy McCain and Meghan McCain. Since these two constituents are family and can't seem to sway him on this I know it's a long shot. Plus this is not the first time I have engaged the Senator on this issue. I have met with his D.C. staff in the past to discuss this issue on several occasions. I have also called his office and sent other emails on numerous occasions over the years.

Today I got a response from Sen. McCain.

Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 1:07 PM
To: Kathy Young
Subject: Correspondence from Senator McCain

June 15, 2011

        Dear Ms. Young:

        Thank you for contacting me to express your views on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I appreciate hearing from you.

        Recently, I was saddened to learn that the Obama administration instructed the Department of Justice not to defend any legal challenges to DOMA. I believe, like most Americans, that the institution of marriage should be protected and defined as a union between a man and a woman. It is this definition and only this definition that acknowledges and supports the vital and unique roles played by mothers and fathers in the important job of raising children.

        For this reason, I do not support the dismantling of an institution that is the very foundation of our society, and replacing it with newer and more flexible understandings that are of questionable public value. I will continue to promote unions that have traditionally provided the basis for stable families and committed relationships.

        Again, thank you sharing your thoughts on this issue. You can be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind should any legislation pertaining to DOMA be considered by the full Senate. Please feel free to contact me in the future regarding this or any other issue of concern.


                                          John McCain
                                          United States Senator

There was no surprises in this response. Still hard to read. Still hurtful. In no way surprising.
In the future Senator McCain will get another email from me asking him to support the repeal of DOMA. It won't surprise him. It may annoy him that I didn't seem to hear his answer. 
Because the thing is it's his job to listen to me. It's my job to keep speaking to him. I will use different words and I will try different stories to convince him that recognizing my relationship has great public value instead of  something that to him is "of questionable public value." The point is, when my kids are old enough to understand the fight for equality and they ask me what I did to help protect my family, giving up will not be part of the story.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Waiting for an Apology from Bill Graber aka Paula Brooks

I am in shock.

I began contributing to the blog Lez Get Real in October of 2008. The site was run by two people Julie Phineas and Paula Brooks. According to the site I contributed 128 posts. The last time I chatted with Paula was in January. During this entire time I had no idea she was not who she said she was.

It has now come out in the Washington Post that 'Paula Brooks' is actually Bill Graber, a 58 year old straight man.

What the hell is going on.

Funny thing is I started to see people questioning is Paula was real after another lesbian blogger was found to be a fraud. I tried to pull 'Paula' up on chat last night but by the time I got a response I had gone to bed. This morning I just closed the window and headed off to work without a second thought. If only I had stayed up late last night I maybe would have been told the truth from Bill himself.

It's not like I hadn't talked to the actual Bill before. I just didn't know it. Since 'Paula' was a deaf woman if the situation called for a phone call it had to go through her Dad, Bill Brooks.  I have spoken to "Mr. Brooks" 4 or 5 times in the last couple of years. I have his phone number. I called it today and got the voice mailbox for a Bill Brooks...a man that doesn't exist. This is how far this whole thing goes.

But it gets better.

When Lez Get Real started 'Paula' had a partner, Deb. Shortly after I joined the blog, Deb passed away from breast cancer. This story line was played out on the blog by 'Paula'. Of course we can't forget how horrible this all was for their toddler twins. So now we have widowed deaf lesbian taking care of twins all by herself with the help of a loving father. I must say, it is an amazing character. I certainly fell for it. Here is an example of one of the pictures I was sent of the kids.

Updated 6/17/2011
I have deleted the picture that was here.

This picture was sent by 'Paula' asking what I thought of their new haircuts. Just a personal conversation with no solicitation from me. Now I just wonder, who the hell are these kids?

'Paula' and I developed an online friendship. It was easy, we were both passionate about LGBT rights, had kids, many things in common. We would chat often online about politics but also about our personal life. About a year after the fictional wife Deb died I got a chat from 'Paula' asking if I could help watch the site over the weekend because she and the family we going to spread Deb's ashes in the outer banks where they had lived.

The following is a record of a google chat between 'Paula' and I the next day
9:32 AM Paula: Debbie is gone
9:33 AM me: Wow
Paula: Out in the Ocean now
me: Not really sure what to say
Paula: nothing to say
9:34 AM me: I hope you can all find some peace today
Must be rough
Paula: tough day... yes
9:35 AM I do know this is all real now
9:36 AM and I don't know if I will ever have someone like her again
me: Well no one will take her place
9:37 AM But that doesn't mean someone won't be able to make you as happy
Paula: I hope so Kathy
9:38 AM but i feel so alone today
me: I am sorry
Paula: I sit here in this house
our house
9:39 AM and I think she will walk through the door any monute
9:40 AM me: Can't even imagine
9:41 AM Paula: nor can I
9:57 AM Paula: This morning I asked Debs to put in the fi for us Tues
9:58 AM me: In the what?
Paula: Prop *8
9:59 AM me: Oh
Paula: if I know Debs she is the boss angel by now she was a pilot already had her wing
me: Lol I like that
Paula: so did not have to go through training
10:00 AM me: Boss angel
Paula: if nothing else I am sure she is St Micheals number 2
she was a fighter
10:01 AM me: Lol
Paula: he would like that
if she can manage it she will help Tuesday
trust that
10:07 AM me: We need it
10:08 AM Paula: hey if you can sometime today light a candle ok?
10:09 AM me: Ok we will

This was two days before the decision to uphold Prop 8.

This is my problem. Why have this conversation? If you are just doing this to blog as an activist to help the LGBT community then why create personal relationships like this. I did not start this conversation. I didn't ask if 'Deb's' ashes had ever been spread somewhere. Why not just keep it business - "Hey Kath, I am taking the weekend off so can you watch the site?" I don't need some big fabricated lie to help out. I was already helping so how hard was it to ask.

There are many more conversations of this sort that google saved for me. What a joy to look back and see all the lying.

I think this guy liked being 'Paula.' He liked creating this world and living in it. Maybe it was better than his reality. I don't know. But I do know this. He owes me an apology. I know this because the only word that I can come up with to describe how I feel is violated. I don't care what his original intentions were in starting this masquerade as a lesbian blogger the bottom line is he took this way beyond being a blogger. He took this into relationships. He violated many people's trust by doing this and he needs to face the music.

He has my phone number and my email. I'm good with either one. I'm just waiting to see if he is man enough to call. Funny thing is, Paula would of had the balls to do it.

I just know that since I was there to help with the grieving of the dead wife I think it's the least he can do.

**** Updated 6/17/2011 - I did get an apology from Bill. Read about it here.

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