D.C. Pride

22 06 2017

Back in November, my wife and I were shocked by the results of the U.S. election. We felt numbed and despaired over what would happen in this alternate reality that we must now call our future. When the plans for the Womens March on Washington emerged, we had a brief discussion and decided that, one way or another, we had to be there. ww3

 

Flash forward to January. Shortly after our new POTUS was officially sworn in, there were 7 busloads of invigorated women (and a handful of wonderfully feminist men) departing from a parking lot in Indianapolis Friday evening, . We road through the night, marched with a million other women, then got back on those buses Saturday night to ride home, too energized to sleep. 16143153_10212060536858928_8363833951619441822_n

 

The ensuing response from the 45th administration was comical. Clearly, we had made an impression. Our numbers, as well as our voices, were heard around the world. It felt empowering, in a time of great despair, to know that I WAS THERE. I felt like I was part of history, and no matter how much hot air he blew trying to claim we weren’t, the new president clearly saw us as a powerful force.

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Upon our return to home, I worked hard to maintain a balance of vigilant activism, and healing self-care. It wasn’t easy. This president proceeded to launch a relentless twitterstorm of daily lies, distractions, smoke and mirrors to overwhelm and obfuscate the barrage of controversial bills he pursued. It quickly became clear to me, that we needed to do more to make our voices heard.

 

In this new era of so-called ‘fake news,’ ‘alternate facts’, and a shocking roll back of transparency in our federal administration, we are scared about what secret dealings may be underway. If #45 is good at anything, it’s being secretive, lacking loyalty, and flip-flopping to appease whomever he wants something from. So, despite some supporters’ claims that he was ‘pro-LGBT,’ our community is appalled by the horribly anti-LGBT people he has put into powerful positions.

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Our very own governor of Indiana (aka VP Pence), made headlines in 2015 with his rushed decision to try to institutionalize a religious freedom to discriminate (RFRA), before the business communities outcry forced him to repeal the anti-LGBT law. Our state lost over $60Million in business due to Pence’s irresponsible insistence on pushing his own personal anti-LGBT religious agenda onto our state. No matter what this POTUS thinks personally, he is clearly willing to throw us under the bus if it helps him get something else that he wants. He has no moral scruples.

 

So, I checked my balance of airline miles, and booked us a flight back to D.C., to march with our LGBTA brothers and sisters.

If ever there was a year to celebrate LGBT Pride in our nation’s capitol, this is it.

While Indianapolis has a (surprisingly) amazing pride celebration every year, I expected D.C. Pride would be bigger, especially this year. Not surprisingly, everywhere we went, we met other people who had the same idea we did. Seattle, Mexico City, Detroit, Toronto- we flew in from everywhere to show our strength!! We all showed up in force, flooding and overwhelming the city over several days of festivities, so that #45 could not deny our numbers. Everywhere you walk in D.C., rainbow flags outnumber even American flags, as an otherwise very proud community made itself even more visible. Allies, like our friends who put us up in their guest room for free, also proudly displayed their freshly purchased rainbow gear.

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Thank you.

Thank you to all our allies, who proudly celebrate with us every Pride, every day, every year; who shed tears and shared hugs when our community suffered the most deadly mass shooting in history; who walk us home when we don’t feel safe; who refuse to ignore overheard homophobic comments; and who stand up to strangers to tell them that it’s not okay to use ‘gay’ as a derogatory adverb.

Thank you to Washington D.C. Your community warms my heart. It makes me feel good knowing that #45 is literally surrounded by LGBT pride, and that our former homophobic governor has to dodge rainbows on every street corner!

Thank you to my LGBTQA brothers and sisters, who were brave enough to out yourselves, to normalize our existence by simply being unapologetically you, to defy the estimations of how many of us there truly are, and who, above all else, demonstrate on a daily basis that we are simply human, just like anyone else. We are still a minority facing intensive legal and personal discrimination, though it’s getting easier, especially in large cities like Indianapolis or Washington D.C. Our visibility is key to our acceptance.

Especially, a huge thank you to my beloved trans folks, for whom the fight is ten times harder; who need our support more than anyone; who teach me constantly how I can improve, to be more aware, to be more considerate, to keep adjusting my language, to be a better ally, and a better human.

Thank you to the rest of you, especially in smaller towns and communities, who don’t personally know any LGBTQA people (that you are aware of), who might be uncomfortable and have questions, but who are willing to learn how to be, what to say (or not), and how to embrace & support people who are different than you in some ways, but just like you in even more ways.

 

Together, we are winning.

If you build LGBT inclusion, we will come out.

 

 

 

 

 





The Gender Wage Gap Myth

22 04 2017

Twice in the past week I found myself engaged in an ad nauseum facebook debate with different people about the gender wage gap. Specifically, people (all white cis hetero males) who believe that there is no wage gap between men and women, or that it is at least greatly exaggerated in the news. As an intellectual, I immediately was surprised by their position, and thought to myself, “Is he right?” And if so, where is the discrepancy in our positions?

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One anti-gapper claims that women actually make MORE than men in major metropolitan areas… (… if they are young… and single… and childless. And who knows what other factors.) And he was seriously using this to declare that the wage gap doesn’t exist. Which made me think, where the heck are these guys getting this information?? They aren’t making this stuff up. They really, truly have been convinced by someone, somewhere, that the gender wage gap is some sort of giant hoax perpetrated against men by (presumably) a very well-organized group of people with nothing better to do than spend their lives fighting a made-up inequality. When I read the drivel that this one person shared as their “proof,” I was appalled. I’d encourage you NOT to waste your energy reading this clickbait written by Ben Shapiro, but, as a critical thinker, I do like to cite my sources and let people read the original content… unlike this dude, who quotes some statistics with no way to actually fact check him, and relies heavily on an article from the Washington Examiner for most of his other support. (If you do choose to read this- brace yourself for contradictions within the article.)

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I generally do not engage with people who refuse to read data that contradicts their personal opinion, so after one or two exchanges, I will simply ignore them and move on to something more productive. Thankfully, I have some amazing male friends who stepped in to counter the arguments by the instigators of the “wage gap myth” argument. One even paused to apologize to me if he was mansplaining, and I thanked him for his endurance at arguing on the behalf of myself and all feminists. (See the end of the article for the entire Facebook discussion)

 

One privileged male, who is quite intelligent (we’re also related, so… ya know…), simply asked me, “Don’t you think that if companies could hire women for 20% less, they would, and men wouldn’t get the jobs?” That’s a great point, I thought to myself, since I had stopped responding to him on Facebook already. I wanted to get the answer. After all, maybe my data IS outdated. I assume the wage gap is shrinking, after all the hard work decades of women (and men) have put into understanding the reasons for the wage gap and trying to actively counter those.

 

So, I spent some time searching for current data to see if we have truly managed to eliminate the age gap. Is our struggle for equality finally over?!?

 

The answer is simply- NO. But, there was such a great depth of information, sliced and diced so many ways, that I thought it might be helpful to use this fact-based data to counter the points of those who simply choose to believe that there is no gender wage gap. My sources? The U.S. Senate’s Joint Economic Committee issued an update on this very topic, a detailed report titled, “Gender Pay Inequality,” published in April 2016. For those of you who don’t have the time to critically read all 58 pages of this report, perhaps the TOC will give you insight into the depth of research conducted to support each and every one of my following points.

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Myth #1: Men don’t make more than women… or if they do, it’s only 3-5% more.

First, even if it’s only 3-5% more- now, you may need to double check my math on this, I am a grrrl, after all, but- 3-5% more is still… MORE. Secondly, let’s look at the data. Typically we’ve been hearing the recited information that women make (pick your favorite number) 75 cents on the male dollar. Or 85% of what male equals get paid. Or somewhere in there, right? The fact is, there IS a lot of variation. It depends on things like race, age, parental status, location, etc.

gender wage gap by race

Myth #2: Today, female graduates make just as much as male graduates coming out of college.

It is absolutely true that the gender wage gap varies with age, so the gap IS much smaller at the start of your career. But, while there ARE cases where women graduates are earning equal pay to their male peers, it is not an absolute truth, and ignores the ramifications of even a slight inequality down the road.

gender wage gap age

So, let’s go back to that math thingy. It’s okay, I’ll walk you through it. Einstein once said, when asked how it felt to be the man whose inventions changed the world as we know it, responded, “I didn’t invent compounding interest.” So let’s say my recent college grad, Jill, is making just 1% less than her male counterpart, Jack. It’s just 1%, right? Don’t get your boxers in a bunch? They are smart kids, and make bank with their engineering degrees, and she’s still making $99,000 a year. So, when it comes time for a raise (assuming they both get that opportunity in the same amount of time), that first 10% raise translates into a BIGGER INCREASE in salary for Jack than Jill. So Jack now makes 110,000, but Jill only makes $108,900. The gap between them increased in just the 1st year of their careers. That means that, over the entire course of their careers, not only did Jill start out making slightly less, but every single raise she gets- even if identical in percentage, equates to less and less money than her male equal. Then consider the facts that she’s less likely to negotiate her raise, less likely to be given a raise as frequently as Jack, and her raise is likely going to be a smaller percentage (more on this later). Suddenly, at the end of her career, she’s retiring with significantly less earned income, less savings, and has less to retire on. In 2014, the median annual income of women ages 65 and older was $17,400, only 56 percent of men’s the same age.

Jill is 1.6 times as likely as Jack to live in poverty once they reach age 65, and nearly twice as likely to live in poverty once they reach age 75.

gender wage gap retirement

Myth #3: Women make choices that lead to them making less money

 

Holy smokes, this one is pervasive! Where to begin?? Phew! Okay, first, let’s break this down.

  1. Women choose to start families.

So…. You do know where babies come from, right? It generally involves a penis. Or at least semen. Do you know where semen comes from? Yes, good job! It comes from men. Historically, the burden of childbearing and childrearing were viewed as intertwined, and therefore it was “the woman’s job” to stay at home and raise the kids. In post-WWII decades, as women grew in the workforce and households became dependent on two incomes, somehow this concept persisted. Only in recent generations have we seen a normalization of men choosing to stay at home to raise the kids. And they still get made fun of for it by their peers. This is key.

gender wage gap mommy penalty

As long as we accept the norm that women should be the ones to sacrifice their careers and stay at home- even if only for one year- we are continuing to hold women back. “But some women want to stay at home!” you may hear. Well, duh, of course some of us are the gushingly parental types who couldn’t wait to make babies and stay home to rear them- which is WONDERFUL! But for the rest of the population, we are stuck with a reality that punishes men for staying home (ahem… paid MA-ternity leave), and encourages women to leave the workforce (“your job won’t be waiting for you”). In fact, not only do women get financially punished for having kids, but men actually make MORE once they start a family. Why?? Because regardless of having both  parents working full-time, it is perceived that women will be the ones who will take on more responsibility, and more time off, to haul kids to doctor’s appointments and soccer games, whereas men “have a family to provide for,” and therefore need more money. These subtle gender role norms lead to frequent subconscious discrimination when it comes to hiring, raises, and promotions.

gender wage gap family sacrifices

  2. If women want to make more, they should ask for more money.

Peer pressure, or societal norms, are a HUGE part of the wage gap problem, because they cause expectations and stress on women who choose to deviate from the norm. A lot of people don’t take the time to listen and learn about the differences in gender norms, but we all recognize them inherently. If a little boy gets in a scuffle in the playground, he might get reprimanded, but he’s just as likely to be taught how to punch back. Little boys are taught to “Speak Up!” and to “Be Assertive!” while little girls are taught “If you don’t have anything NICE to say, don’t say anything at all” and not to be “too pushy.” It’s hard to become the boss without being a little bit “bossy,” yet this word is used as a pejorative when applied to women and girls. Women are also taught to be appreciative and pleasant and “smile”…  not to be confident or demanding.

So what is the result? Only 15% of women feel that they are effective at negotiating,and as a result, just 16-30% of women actually negotiate their salary, according to Salary.com and Monster.com. Whereas men are taught to believe they are worthy of more, and to be aggressive, women aren’t getting that same foundation of confidence and self-worth. However, despite the outdated idea that women are less likely to ask for a raise, recent studies are proving otherwise. In fact, a 2016 study, revealed that women were 25% less likely than men to get a hike in pay when they asked for it. 

 

Myth #4: Women make less because they choose low-paying careers

Do you remember what I said about social norms and peer pressure? My mother was told she could either be a teacher, or a nurse. She’s very smart and wanted to be an engineer, but she ended up becoming a teacher instead. That was it. Nurse or teacher. Because those were careers deemed suitable for women. While we’ve made great strides in combating this reality, girls are still less likely to think they are good at math and science, and the STEM fields suffer from a lack of female workers.

 

It’s true that most careers that are primarily employing women make significantly lower salaries than male-dominated fields. but even in if we focus just on those jobs, there’s still inequality. Even within those female-dominated career paths, men still make more.

gender wage gap low paying jobs

Myth #5: Men actually make LESS than women in big cities

This one really piqued my curiosity. Location DOES matter. The fact is that women DO make more, percentage wise, in some big cities. HOORAY!! Instances of gender equality are wonderful and should be studied to expand to the larger platform!

There are a number of potential factors that lead to a smaller wage gap in big cities. Like…

  • Big cities are home to larger corporations, and international pressures focus more on gender equality than we do in the U.S.
  • There is more competition, and more risk of employees leaving to work for a competitor in a big city, so pay tends to be better for both men and women
  • Denizens of big cities tend to be more exposed to diversity, have different values, and are less prone to the ‘Good Ole Boy’ culture that still remains in many small towns
  • But, on average, men STILL make more than women, even in big cities

 

When you look at the wage gap broken down by congressional districts, you can also see a stark difference that correlates with the number of major cities in each district. But the areas with larger wage gap are not necessarily only rural. Just compare Austin, TX with Salt Lake City, UT, and you can see that being in a large city is not enough in itself to expect to earn closer to male counterparts. So, clearly, if I as a woman am willing to make a major move, I know which parts of the U.S. to avoid.

gender wage gap

Honestly, if I’m able to be mobile, I’m going to cast my net a little wider. There are plenty of other countries that are actively working to install policies to close the wage gap, that include things like new laws on transparency, paternity leave, and other methods to create a culture that values women equally.

gender wage gap world

 

Now, I’m not saying we should throw in the towel on gender wage equality here in the U.S. Our mothers and sisters before us have worked tirelessly to get us to where we are today, and I am incredibly grateful for their hard work! Now we also have phenomenal allies in our male feminists, who love and appreciate the women in their lives, and are equally passionate about breaking down the misogynistic history to help us get closer to true gender equality. We are making incredible progress, and the more we talk about this, the more we can consciously focus our efforts to eliminate the subconscious acts of discrimination. This can be as simple as paying attention to your choice of adjectives when  describing a boy and a girl doing the same activity or achievement. Is he bossy while she is confident? Is she nagging while he is persistent?

gender wage gap over time

Also, to go along with all the data, there are COUNTLESS stories that women are happy to share with you if you bothered to ask us what life is actually  like for us. I have a great example of wage gap reality in my personal life. After our company closed its doors in 2010, I found myself applying for the same job as my male colleague. Identical degrees. Similar work experience (mine was actually greater). Similar age. When my colleague decided to turn down the job offer for a better one, I asked him what they offered him. They offered me $5k less per year. That’s real wage gap. I happen to be educated on things like this, so I am an unusually tough negotiator compared to my female peers, but the best I could get was a pay equal to his original offer. So- YES- the wage gap is real, and I have personally been impacted by it.

 

And here’s that referenced Facebook debate where my friend Eric earns a GOLD STAR for being a fabulous male feminist!

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The Year of the Woman-2017

8 03 2017

17191117_1512593198823299_2500333079812462773_nToday is International Women’s Day, and I am wearing my red in solidarity, to raise awareness for all the fights that we are continually fighting. Last year, I remember reading about the massive walk-outs in other countries, how services were disrupted and some places had to shut down because the women of that country refused to be silent, and were determined to demonstrate the importance and power of women in our global economy. I, however, did nothing. 

 

This year, I am doing something about it. And there is one person to thank…

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Our battle has only just begun, but the backlash against our new President (aka #45) is already yielding incredible growth in anti-apathy activism. The momentum of the Women’s March on Washington started with a roar, and is still growing.

 

Lots of people were confused about the goals of the Women’s March on Washington. I know that when you gather 3 million people together, each individual goal will vary. Let’s clarify, at least one perspective.

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I traveled 12 hours on an overnight bus to Washington D.C., not because I wanted to have a rough night of sleep and protest the next president. I came to D.C. to make it clear to the new administration that women are NOT going to sit back and let them ignore us. The president can NOT call us ‘nasty’ or ‘pussy’ or ‘bitch.’ There is no undo button. There is no ‘Back.’

 

I march because I am not willing to let our children live in a society where women are STILL less than. I don’t have kids. But I live in a village, so I (kind of) have dozens of kids. The march in DC only affirmed my faith in humanity. When I boarded the bus (1 of 6) from Indy, I was surprised to see several men. After just a few minutes of conversation, I could see that these people were allies, and self-proclaimed feminists.

 

At 4am, our bus stopped at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, and we filed off of the bus, bleary-eyed and sore. I stood in line waiting for the women’s room for 15 minutes, then realized there was no line for the men’s. Along with a half dozen other ladies, and a couple of men, we relieved ourselves and discussed how silly it is that people worry about who’s in which bathroom. I just had to pee. And no one was arrested.

 

My wife disappeared, and came back telling me about how she randomly ran into 4 women we know who were traveling from northern Indiana, and just happened to be stopping at the same rest stop, for the same 20 minutes in the middle of the night. What a coincidence! On my way back to the bus, I ended up somehow leading an impromptu yoga session for strangers waiting in the queue. They were stretching, and I stopped- as a joke- to share an exaggerated stretch with them… and then a group of 6 of us moved through my regular yoga poses together, before I left to get back on my own bus. It was an unexpectedly beautiful experience!

 

16143153_10212060536858928_8363833951619441822_nWhen we arrived in DC, we were sorely missing our Metro cards, which we ordered weeks in advance, but never received in time. We got to RFK stadium at 7am, but our group decided to enjoy the unseasonably warm (thank you climate change) walk to the national mall. We were lucky for warm, dry weather, and we were grateful. At the mall, things got crazy real fast. I’m not a fan of crowds, but was prepared for the worst. We ended up with a group of 13, all linking hands to try to not be separated. It took at least 30 minutes of pushing through a crushing crowd of hundreds of thousands, but we did end up getting separated.

Once we got into the thick of things, there was really no turning back. We could not move. We could barely turn around. We could not hear or see the presenters. After not too long, the three of us who remained together had to escape to the fringes of the national mall to get a breather, and find some nourishment.

 

The day was intense, amazing, AWESOME! I was inspired by all the people I met along the way. The 80 year old woman who showed up with her 3 adult sons willing to march for women’s rights! The young, early 20s women who marched for their future. I’m proud for this diversity! There were over a million marchers. And no one was arrested.

 

16194931_1438807779535175_1141294287900534876_nFunny coincidences? There were several. The night before the march, our friend, Christine, told us that she decided last minute to also go to DC, from Michigan. She wanted to make plans to meet up, which we weren’t sure about, logistically. We made semi-vague plans for a time but no place, knowing that cell service in the massive crowds would be challenging. As we were marching down Independence, listening to women’s voices chanting, distant drums booming, I heard a squealing sound rapidly growing in intensity. All of the sudden, I saw my friend’s face come crashing into me! Literally- she smashed her forehead into mine as she tripped to hug me, and we almost fell over together, perched on the curb. She had recognized my sign from an earlier Facebook post, and didn’t want to lose sight of us, so she launched into action. I could not believe that she found us. It was LITERALLY a 1 in a million chance. 

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My heart lacks for nothing. In one tiny weekend, I was filled with so many rich experiences. A woman searching for direction? Done. A woman wanting to document our pride flags? Done. A woman who lacked anything to carry, liked my planet poster, and wanted to carry it? Done. Lifelong memories of being a part of something far bigger than myself? You betcha. The fire has been stoked, and I am raring to go! Each and every person I encountered at that march has reaffirmed my passion and commitment.

I hereby declare 2017 the Year of the Woman!

 





Why I March

20 01 2017

dcrainAs I type this, many are weeping at the end of an era. Many others are cheering at a new chapter in American history. The clouds are crying into dark & heavy atmosphere, which feels fitting.

 

But, I’m done crying. I’m done being shocked. I’m done being distracted by another stupid tweet or another mindless meme. I’m done sitting on the sidelines. I’m ready to fight.

 

582b7d491800002c0030e402Let me be clear- I hate politics. I hate filling space in my brain with lists of people I’ve never met and the reasons why I should or should not like them. I hate wondering what a company’s values are every time I lay my plastic card down at the cash register. I’ve never marched in a protest. I’ve never spent hours making poignant and powerful signs. I hate everything to do with politics.

 

This is how I know that we are entering an era that is unprecedented.  People who never before felt compelled to get involved, suddenly feel like they have no choice. And I am one of them. 

 

10436160_891482897601002_2027435962132802493_nTo clarify, I have taken some actions before. I’ve signed countless online petitions to protect rights for my fellow citizens. I’ve worked to educate others on issues of the environment. And I did attend a few rallies to fight for marriage equality, just as we reached the crescendo, from 2013-2015. But I don’t like crowds. I don’t like to be noticed. I don’t like to be the center of attention. So I mostly just looked on quietly, while I proudly watched other people be my voice, carry that sign, shout our chants.

 

tsunami-2I feel like I am a relaxed tourist, sitting on a beach, ignoring reality, and enjoying the sunshine, when all of the sudden I look up to see an enormous tsunami of change preparing to crash down upon me. I can either give up, sit in my chair, and dig my feet into the sand fruitlessly. Or, I can fight. I can stand up, grab that inflatable tube, put my swim goggles on, and take a deep breath in. I’m not going down without a fight. I refuse to drown, no matter how massive the wave may be before me. I’m choosing to go in, and it’s gonna be a wild ride.

 

Tonight, I am getting on that bus. I’m heading to Washington D.C., to our nation’s capitol, and I am going to carry that sign, I’m gonna march in that march, I’m gonna sing every song I know the words to, and I am going to make my voice heard.

 


We ARE what makes this nation great.
And we want to make the next administration damn sure, that we are watching, we are listening, and we are keeping track. We will NOT let this nation get sunk beneath the tsunami. We will fight to survive! No matter how many waves crash down upon us, we will not drown! Instead, we will find more ways to float, we will bring our sisters and brothers up onto our rafts, and we will keep going!

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Parapet PhotographyThis morning, I went to Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee, to see some of my favorite people before we go to D.C. They gave me hugs, and love, and support, and gratitude. As I was sitting there, a man sitting alone at a nearby table was listening to our conversation, and said to me, “Hey, I’d like to show you something,” motioning to his laptop. I walked over and looked over his shoulder as he said, “THIS is why I march,” with tears in his eyes. On the screen was a picture of a 4 year old girl in a Rosie the Riveter shirt.


I am marching because
I cannot let one president set us back 40 years. I march because, although I have no children of my own, I worry for the future of my village’s children. I march for Dean’s daughter. I march because I believe in community, and love, and acceptance. I believe that we ALL must be invested in our shared future, which means caring about not only your neighbors, but those around you that you do not know, may not understand, may not recognize, or may not even like. No matter what, a rising tide raises ALL ships, and I refuse to sit by and watch someone else drown.

 

I am marching because:

Climate change IS REAL.

Love is LOVE.

Women’s rights ARE HUMAN rights.

Black Lives MATTER. 

No lives are ILLEGAL.

And Kindness is FREE. 

 

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Who Wants to Die While Flying?

7 11 2016

I consider myself an optimist. This is pretty important when you understand the vast array of incredible risks that we all take every single day. I could step in front of a bus. I could get t-boned by a distracted driver. I could be side swiped by a car turning across the bike lane. Or I could be one of those rare cases where there is an aviation catastrophe.

 

travel destinationsI believe in managing this risk by calculating (sometimes emotionally) the cost-to-benefit ratio. How much positive gain will I get from engaging in this risky behavior? When it comes to driving to work everyday, the benefit is pretty great- or else I’d be unemployed and homeless. When it comes to bungee jumping, the 30 second thrill is not worth the risk of death, at least for myself. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m eighty. Flying, however, is the best way to get to some of the innumerable treasures that our world has to offer, and as a cultural-minded travel fiend, the reward is far greater than the risk. I think…

 

iataIATA (International Air Transport Association) represents approximately 260 airlines globally, comprising 83% of global air traffic. According to the IATA, “The 2015 global jet accident rate… was the equivalent of one major accident for every 3.1 million flights. This was… a 30% improvement compared to the previous five-year rate (2010-2014) of 0.46 hull loss accidents per million jet flights.” They also inform us that there were 136 fatalities last year, resulting from four turboprop accidents.

We worry about the risk of flying, even though 865 times more people die in automotive vehicle crashes. 

travel-safetyc0d9ce5ac576df97483b6a43b350f5feIn contrast with the 136 fatalities from plane crashes, “38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads, and 4.4 million were seriously injured[i], meaning 2015 likely was the deadliest driving year since 2008,” according to the National Safety Council. (On a separate note, I bet their logo is being revamped, at least in Colorado, after slews of stoners came knocking on NSC’s door looking for herbal relief). These increasing numbers make sense, as the economy has recovered, and more people are working, along with decreasing gas prices allowing more leisure driving, our risks naturally go up with more cars on the road.

 

At first blush, I read the IATA stats and thought to myself, “Oh, I actually expected that number to be higher than that.” Until I read on… IATA continues, “The loss of Germanwings 9525 (pilot suicide) and Metrojet 9268 (suspected terrorism) that resulted in the deaths of 374 passengers and crew are tragedies that occurred in 2015. They are not, however, included in the accident statistics as they are classified as deliberate acts of unlawful interference.”

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Now, I don’t know about you, but in a global economy where more and more acts of terrorism are making the news, this certainly gut-checks as a very real and serious risk that should be included in my risk assessment every time I get on a plane. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that anyone who ‘looks like a terrorist’ in my security line is deserving of interrogation, and indeed we need to do more work to end racial profiling. Rather than focusing on who may be increasing my risk, for the sake of this article, I prefer to focus on the numbers. That flight statistic above jumps to 510 deaths if you include those two horrible tragedies, which, although devastating for those who suffered, is still dramatically lower than vehicular deaths.

 

So, flying is still relatively safe. But how can I make it even safer?

 

Not all airlines are created equal. The risks inherent with flying may dramatically go up depending on who you choose to fly with. Since we know that the risk of actually dying is relatively low, we can broaden out focus to the other implications- injuries, delays, and slight inconveniences due to mechanical failures either on the ground or in flight.

 

One airline is 4x more likely to have a major breakdown during your flight. Do you know which one it is?

 

According to a recent Tampa Bay Times article, Allegiant airline, while quite affordable, is one to avoid. “In 2015, Allegiant jets were forced to make unexpected landings at least 77 times for serious mechanical failures.” Thankfully, none of these resulted in fatalities, but the sensation of thinking you’re about to die, would surely start your vacation off on the wrong foot.

 

The Times continues, “Forty-two of Allegiant’s 86 planes broke down in mid-flight at least once in 2015. Among them were 15 forced to land by failing engines, nine by overheating tail compartments and six by smoke or the smell of something burning.”

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While this is enough to make me decide to pay the extra $32.58 for a slightly more reliable carrier, how can you know which choice is a better one? Especially when making connections internationally on airlines you’re not familiar with, what can you do to minimize your risk of delays, cancellations, and emotional trauma of living through a mechanical failure in mid-flight?

 

Safety by region

The good news is, overall, the risks are improving. Per IATA again, almost all regions exhibited improved safety performance in 2015 compared to the respective five-year rate 2010-2014, (North America being the exception) :

Jet hull loss rates by region of operator

  1. Africa (3.49 compared to a five-year rate of 3.69)
  2. Asia-Pacific (0.21 compared to 0.56)
  3. CIS (1.88 compared to 3.14)
  4. Europe (0.15 compared to 0.18)
  5. Latin America and the Caribbean (0.39 compared to 0.92)
  6. Middle East-North Africa (0.00 compared to 1.00)
  7. North America (0.32 compared to 0.13)
  8. North Asia (0.00 compared to a 0.06).

Looking at these regional comparisons, I’d suggest dong a bit more research before booking a flight in Africa. The above numbers are for jet planes, and as we learned earlier, turboprop planes are far riskier. So what about those numbers globally?

  1. Africa (4.53 compared to a five-year rate of 18.20);
  2. Asia-Pacific (2.07 compared to 2.36);
  3. CIS (0.00 compared to 17.83),
  4. Europe (0.00 compared to 1.63);
  5. Latin America and the Caribbean (0.00 compared to 5.38),
  6. Middle East-North Africa (0.00 compared to 13.88);
  7. North America 0.51 compared to 1.38).

Again, Africa is statistically a far riskier place to fly, if wanting to avoid plane failures. However, the IATA provides additional insight, breaking down one region into far more interesting data, stating that, “North Asia had the worst performance (25.19 compared to 5.90), reflecting two regional hull losses, one of which was fatal,”  which also reflects far fewer total prop plane flights in that area.

 

What about XYZ Airline?

 

I recently booked a flight to Sri Lanka, where I am presenting at the International Conference on Sustainable Built Environment. In order to get there, I had several options for how to fly and where to layover. For weeks I did new flight searches on Mondays and Tuesdays (when most flights are slightly cheaper), and the layovers and prices kept changing. One week the best option was Istanbul (which I vetoed based on the terrorist attack there), one was Abu Dhabi, one was Qatar- all were regions I’m vastly unfamiliar with, and would need to research to be safe being:

  1. an American
  2. a woman
  3. a gay person

2016-11-07_8-48-56I almost pulled the trigger on Abu Dhabi, until I researched the airline, only to read horrible reviews about constant delays, cancellations, and lack of communication with stranded passengers. I learned this through AirlineQuality.com, a website for frequent travelers to rate airlines subjectively based on their experiences.

 

Ultimately, as the dates grew closer and prices started to rise, I made a split second decision to buy a flight that saved me $500 below any other option. I checked out the airline review, which was far more positive than the other options. I clicked the submit button, and it was done. In December, we will be flying Turkish Airline, with a 9 hour layover in Istanbul. 

 

We had talked about this option weeks earlier, and opted to not take it because of the risks. Just earlier this year, 43 people died in a tragic attack at the airport. This is not the first airport bomb, of course. And after each incident, the wounded entity rallies support to beef up security, ensuring that this target will be far less likely to be targeted again. Instead, the insidious terrorist groups will likely move to an easier target… at least, that is part of my personal risk assessment. With this in mind, and after reading such terrible reviews of the other affordable options, I got swept up in the rush of finding a cheap flight, and just went for it… perhaps without fully thinking it through.

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So… my flight should be relatively smooth, but what about the layover? Will we dare to travel outside the airport, into the heart of Istanbul? Will we be at higher risk of being targeted? Is it worth it to see the awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia?? We will likely never have the chance to do so again…

Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya), The Church of Holy Wisdom,

I’ll report back in January to let you know what it’s like to be an American woman traveling around Istanbul for a day with you wife.

 

I





The Gay Way to Shave (My Lesbian Car Lesson)

9 06 2016

I was 15 when I bought my first car. I still have him, 20 years and 11 months later- his name is Sam, and he’s a 1969 Volkswagen Bus. If you’ve not had the pleasure of riding in a VW bus, you should know that it is pure joy to drive, though not without its nuances. Yes, a fender bender may render you crippled, as there is less than an inch of metal between your legs and the car ahead of you. It’s also loud, and the exact opposite of aerodynamic- like driving a brick wall. When I was 16, my bus, Sam, was my daily driver, and he strolled me through many a Michigan winter with ease, even on the sketchy, ice-covered dirt roads I resided on.

 

11329844_873397612742864_7132719970890849809_nVolkswagen buses are known for one more thing. Heat… or lack thereof. When your engine is at the back of your bus, you are lucky to keep your toes thawed enough to shift gears in February. Thus, at age 16, I decided that it was prudent to stop shaving my leg hair, to trap any excess heat I could muster to survive the season. Believe it or not, I truly felt a difference! Years later, in architecture school, I understood the basic principles behind this thermal phenomenon, and felt affirmed in my nascent intuition. Thus began my exploration into defying American gender norms.

 

I knew that European women scoffed at this weird American standard requiring women to strip their legs bare of the hair that their parents gave them. It’s a vestigial element from our cavewoman days, no? Either way, the fiery internal feminist in me didn’t care about what was “normal,” and neither did my high school boyfriend, thank goodness. He love me regardless. And I never asked him to shave his back either, so we were pretty even, it seemed.

 

Flash forward to Indiana. I moved from Michigan to a state barely touching the vast bodies of water that we call the Great Lakes, and naively assumed that the treacherous Michigan humidity would be left behind as well. WRONG. It is humid as… um… frack… here. And as I struggle to maintain my sanity in the celebratory month of my birth, which also coincides with PRIDE, I am at a loss of how to balance my feminist ideals with my tendency to overheat.

 

IMG_4111Several years ago, after I came out, I discovered a certain freedom that allowed me to embrace my feminine side more so than I ever felt comfortable as a hetero-normative female. (See January’s post for more insight). One of those discoveries was this- when it’s really friggin hot, the inverse of my teenage years is also true- shaving my legs (at least up to my knees) can truly help to keep me to stay cooler in the summer time… and that is OKAY. It makes me no less of a feminist, no less of a butch lesbian, to choose to do whatever the hell I want with my body for the sake ofFullSizeRender_1 personal comfort. In fact, despite everything I felt forced upon me as a young person, when I CHOOSE to alter my body for myself- not for the perception of others- it is truly empowering. Yes, most of the time my legs are au naturel, and beautiful, and sexy, and just as they were born to be. But sometimes, when the forecast calls for 97 degrees and I will be baking in the heat all weekend, every little bit helps, and I will gladly shave off that excess, heat-trapping hair because it will make me cooler and happier. For the same reason some people choose to shave their heads in the summertime, I will lower my cooling load (yes this is ‘Archispeak’) via my shins and calves. I think that just makes me smart and practical, but you can apply whatever labels you like.
13244708_1142559419160014_5404030174740506919_nSo, this Saturday, I will be strutting my naked legs at Indy Pride, not embarrassed or proud- just comfortable and cool. And you should also listen to your body, and do what makes you comfortable and happy. Life is too short to be shoehorned into someone else’s idea of conformity. 





It’s not a ‘Femme’ Thing – The Power of Clothing & Identity

1 04 2016

The Tomboy & the Awkward Teens

Growing up, I was a pretty awesome tomboy. I ran to keep up with my two older brothers, scraping knees and dirtying dresses to try to climb into the forbidden tree house in the woods. I caught frogs and bathed turtles in the dog’s water bowl. As a preteen, I went back and forth between wearing baggy clothes to hide my shape, and conceding to my best friend’s fashion advice about short shorts and makeup. Like many girls that age, I struggled to be comfortable in my own skin as I tried to define who I was. However, I was the girl who always picked up other people for photos, in order to prove my strength. I also taught myself how to sew my own clothing around age 14 in order to create a unique style that fit my body the way I wanted it to.

 

 

I learned the incredible power that clothing can have over perception. Dressing like a girl also meant being ogled as a girl. Sexism was alive and rampant, and men from 16 to 60 regularly honked or made comments as I walked down our small town streets. My best friend thought it was cool to get hit on by older men, and she loved the attention. I, on the other hand, hated it. I didn’t want boys to see me that way, and I developed a fear of being stared at or hit on by the opposite sex. If I’m invisible, I’m safe from that objectification.

By the time I started college, I had overcome much of my body image issues, thanks in large part to the unconditional love of my high school sweetheart, who is by and far the most respectful man I have ever met. With his gentle love and support, I started to feel confident in myself, and in control of my life. I dressed how I felt best, and didn’t concern myself with what other people thought. I started to shed myself  of the most eclectic attire that I hid behind in my youth, and started to search out a style that could be both uniquely my own, but also professional. As I started my career as a young Architect, I liked looking put together, because it made me feel like an adult who deserves to be heard. I dressed for respect.

 

Dressing for ‘Real Life’

I donned appropriately fitted suits at work, trying to balance comfort and professionalism with pieces of feminine flair. As a young woman in a male-dominated field, I had to balance many aspects of my appearance, to look serious, yet distinctive. I had no desire to repeat the offenses of the 1980s, with ridiculously bulky shoulder pads to compete with male body types. I had to look like a peer, but not a dude. In lieu of the fashion-forward blouses that the secretaries and interior designers wore, I learned to wear conservative collared shirts in collars beyons the blue or white of my male counterparts. If I was feeling a blue pin stripe sort of mood, I might add -(gasp!)- dangling, sparkly earrings! I wore my long hair mostly up in a bun or a low ponytail, but would let it down when I felt the need to look more feminine. Outside of work, I was still an active athlete, and often wore comfortable shorts with ample pockets, and practical sports bras beneath tank tops or t-shirts. You never know when you might run into someone with a frisbee and have an impromptu game of ultimate, after all! I owned one pair of strappy black dress shoes with a chunky heel that I could walk in, for that rare occasion that required me to wear a dress. For the most part, I dressed only feminine enough to be clearly identified as a woman, but never accused of being ‘girly.’

Even in my twenties, being hit on by guys gave me the creeps. I avoided unwanted male attention by dressing in a way that should not say, “Hey look at me!” and I think I escaped the worst of the sleaze. Yet, it still happens, and no matter how polite or nice the guy may be, I never know how to respond, and I hate the attention. Being in a long term relationship gave me a shield to protect myself from such unwanted attention, and I learned to quickly insert “my boyfriend” into all conversations with the opposite sex- just to be clear. I had no interest in any other men, and was grateful to have the safety of my relationship to help fend off occasional suitors.

 

Switching Teams- the Lesbian Uniform

My previous partner of 14 years is a very masculine man, tall, with broad shoulders, strong arms, a square jaw, and a deep voice. Compared to him, even in combat boots, or chuck a boos, I was always the feminine one.

Then, at the age of 29, I met a woman. Not just any woman, but my soulmate. And a lesbian.

Nothing can prepare you for switching from straight culture to gay culture. Everything you think you know about who you are and your place in society is rapidly dispelled. Dating a woman is entirely different than dating a man! There’s no ‘his’ and ‘hers’ expectations, no gender roles to despise, you are suddenly free to follow your heart! The dichotomy of masculine and feminine almost entirely disappears. (Almost). There are no longer any lines in the sand, or an understood balance of yin and yang. Nobody looks at you and asks, “why is SHE going to play with the guys while her boyfriend makes dinner?” In reality, I found this transformation quite liberating, yet I learned just how much I still clung to those stereotypes that I fought so hard to break down.

 

Pin the Tail on the “Femme”

When I started dating Bethany, everything changed. She herself is a dichotomy of masculine and feminine, with her short but funky hairstyle, her feminine curves, and her extensive tattoos. She can rock a dress all night long, only to change into carharts and wrench on her motorcycle the next morning. Being next to her suddenly brought into question some parts of my own identity that I never expected. When people see us together, especially straight people, they immediately want to categorize us, to be able to clearly label us, in order to push their own comfortable, hetero-normative gender roles onto us.

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“Which one of you is the ‘boy’?” the unfamiliar breeders sometimes wonder. As offensive as this question is, in gay culture, the same things still happens, except it’s ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ instead of ‘boy’ and ‘girl.’  So when people see us together, they see Bethany’s tattoos and short hair, and immediately decide that she’s the butch and I must be – by default- the femme. F-E-M-M-E. Me??? Seriously? At first, I was extremely offended. I’m not a girly-girl, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, people want to put a label on me, and my long hair seems to be the only indicator they can see, so… “Femme” it is. All the sudden, now that I’m with a woman, my context has changed how people perceive me.  When she dresses ‘butch,’ I end up feeling more ‘femme,’ by default.

Looks can be deceiving. The reality is, I’m the one who gets called to remove the icky spider from the bathroom. I’m the one who deals with the tiniest occurrence of blood. I’m the patient yet tough negotiator. I’m the one who comes in from the yard with dirt under her fingernails every weekend. I’m the one who hates makeup. And I’m the Femme???

My wife is the one who loves getting dressed up in elaborate costumes with full, dramatic makeup. She’s the one with both a shoe and a wig collection that would make Theater Bizarre folks jealous. She’s the one who is sensitive and passionate, in need of more cajoling and reassurance. She’s the one who is incredibly thoughtful and considerate, and remembers everyone’s birthdays. So does that mean she’s the femme??

 

The truth is, we both are both. We joke that I’m a femmey butch, and she is the butchy femme. Within each of us, we have both feminine and masculine characteristics that play to our strengths.

 

Learning all the nuances of lesbian gender roles and identity is tough when you are new to the gay scene. Nothing translates from my previous life as a straight ciswoman.

 

Learning to Embrace Femininity

As a feminine tomboy, becoming an open lesbian was a real game changer. Suddenly, I had a new title that was way more effective than “taken” to ward off male attention. In the past, some men would literally hit on me and say “I don’t care if you’re married.” GROSS. But now, as a lesbian, I’m completely off the table for straight guys. (Obviously, there can be a sidebar conversation here about monogamy and polyamory, but that is outside the scope of my expertise or interest). Unlike the straight version of myself, being gay suddenly felt liberating. I now finally understand why it bothered me SO much when men hit on me. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t single, or that an individual was unattractive, it was truly that what I did not want sexual attention any men.

 

1898110_761767903905836_219651953483986976_nAs I learned what it meant to be comfortable with the title of lesbian, a shocking realization occurred. I spent decades of my life trying to break the perception of a woman being weak and frilly and liking to cook and clean. I revolted against traditional women’s work, even refusing to learn to cook until my mid twenties, because “that’s what they want women to be good at.”  I had never even made a pot of coffee in my life until I became a lesbian. Take that, male chauvinism! Now that I was no longer bound by the stereotypical gender roles, I learned that I can actually enjoy being feminine.

 

Suddenly, instead of fighting for an expansion of equal gender roles, I could do whatever I wanted. With my beautiful soulmate at my side, I was liberated to be masculine one day or feminine the next, without fear of bringing down the perception of women as a whole. I enjoyed the secret pleasure of knowing that I could do more pushups than most of the people in a room, while wearing elegant attire. Wearing a dress still sometimes feels like I’m in drag, but I love it. It’s fun!

Most of all, my wife makes me feel beautiful and sexy in a whole new way, that makes me want to dress more flirtatious around her. Over the first year or two after coming out as gay, I rediscovered and redefined myself as a woman. I finally felt entitled to claim my femininity, without fear that it would discredit my other strengths. It was a glorious discovery, and a journey that I hope will never end!

 

Sincerely yours,

A happy, femmey butch