…Perhaps we were only mildly entertained. Regardless, please enjoy! If you are looking for Kaylia's official Website please visit KayliaMetcalfeWriter

Skepticism and the LGBT Community

It is important to remember to be skeptical.

Skeptical of petition pushers who sound like they really are making the world safer.
Skeptical of ballot referendums that sound like they are being fair.
Skeptical of “natural transitioning” methods that sound easier and cheaper than Testosterone injections.

Critical thinking skills are more than just that section that you coasted through on the SATs. They are the little voices in your head that make you stop and ponder what you just heard, that make you fact check the Presidential Debates, that make you click on the Sources link in the news article you just pulled up off of Yahoo.

 At least they should

Let’s take a look at a few things that warrant a double take.

A few months back I was at the Fresno Community College Pride Festival. At the entrance to the quad where a dozen or so booths were set up celebrating diversity, a small table with petitions caught my attention. The two men working the table were gathering signatures for what they said was a proposed bill to make voting more fair in California.

Now, a non skeptical person might have assumed that a) they were part of the celebration and b) that what they said was legit. I am no such person.

It turns out that what they were gathering signatures for was for the formation of a political group backed by corporations, a political group that has a bit of a torrid past. The petitions clearly said “American Elect petition to participate in the primary election” but the men behind the table were spinning a different story… and preying on the happy touchy feely feelings of many of the FCC Pride Festival participants.

I was reminded of this recently as two other signature gathering storms arrived in my email box. The first was a no brainer. “Stop SB48!” the email cried! “It costs too much! It goes too far! Children as young as five will be taught not only to accept but also to endorse transgenderism, bisexuality, and homosexuality!” 

Otherwise known at the FAIR Education Act, the bill actually says that schools are no longer allowed to discriminate against homosexuals, Pacific Islanders, or people with disabilities in terms of historical impact and contribution. But why tell the truth when the spin is so much more dramatic?

The CRI, Capital Resource Institute, and its collations of pro-family (but only certain types of family) groups need 750,000 signatures by September 30th (according to their website) in order to put this referendum on the June 2012 primary ballot. Unsubstantiated sources tell me that they will most likely fall short of this goal due to the grass roots aspect of signature gathering. However, should the referendum be allowed to be placed on the ballot, there will a bitter smear campaign that goes along with it.

Either way, I trust that one wouldn’t have to stretch their critical thinking muscles too far in order to vote fairly on this one.

 But the second signature gathering campaign might not be as clear cut. The Love Honor Cherish grassroots organization is currently gathering signatures to get same sex marriage back on the California ballot, during the November national election.

Despite the fact that many many LGBT community leaders, and as of now EQCA as well, do not support going back to the ballot and asking for equal rights, the LHC people are out there working to do just that. 

And it sounds good, right? On the surface, going back to the ballot four years later when the population seems more in line with the idea, when professional sports teams have joined the “It gets better” campaign, when Jane Lynch hosted the Emmy’s, when Glee broke ground, when the President himself isn’t enforcing DOMA, when DADT has ended…. But still, no.

It isn’t a good idea to put the fate of the rights of the minority into the hands of the majority. Equality has yet to be truly provided by popular vote. It has always, in this country at least, been up to the courts to mandate equality and then enforce it. Now, maybe the general population has grown and changed in the last four years. But maybe not.

In fact, the statistics are still murky and just because someone says they are pro-LGBT rights does not mean they will vote that way. Considering who is likely to be running for President in 2012, and thus who is going to be turning out to vote, do we really want to muddy the waters with this issue? If the court system fails us, and as of right now we have no reason to believe it will, we can always try again down the road. But a defeat again at the ballot box would be more than heartbreaking, it could potentially set the cause back another decade.

So, if you get asked to sign the Love Honor Cherish petition… please think first. Think hard, and consider this. ( From the article I wrote back in June after the EQCA Town Hall Meeting: ) “{H}ere are a few statistics worth noting: In 2009: 47% approval for same sex marriage, 48 % opposed, 5% unsure. In 2011 the numbers had moved to read 45% in favor, 45% opposed and 10% unsure. Now, many people will applaud the increase of the “unsure/undecided” portion, but since that is more wild card than anything and it is usually better to count that as votes for your opposition and hopefully be pleasantly surprised, I’m not sure that these particular polling stats give us much to be happy about. The rest of the polling data that EQCA shared with us last night went pretty much the same way. There were areas were the support gained a few points, many cases where it simply hovered still, and a whole lot of increase in the “unsure/undecided” part. Yes, it is nice to see the opposition moving into the “unsure” category… but there seems to be plenty of supporters moving that way as well. Democrats that were polled, for example, moved from 65% approval with 4% unsure in 2009 to 59% approval and 9% unsure in 2011. You read that right.” 

Again, it isn’t anyone’s job to tell you to sign or not sign… to vote or not vote or which way to vote. The point here is that you must be fully aware. You need to ask the questions. You need to delve into the facts and figures and find the truth.

Last example: A recent post over at the Skepchick blog centered around a trans reader questioning the legitimacy of the process described in this book:. Natural Transitioning, an FTM alternative 

Debbie, a Skepchick with close ties to the trans world takes a very skeptical look at the book and the process and finds that it is not nearly as comprehensive, useful, or natural as it pretends to be. I won’t repeat her analysis here, but I do encourage you to read her post. 

Basically, she breaks down all the claims, does some research, and is able to draw conclusions based in facts: an excellent use of critical thinking skills and healthy skepticism.

 To sum up, because I’m pretty sure a few of you have zoned out by now, I want to encourage you to be skeptical, to be critical of “sure things” and internet stories, to take the extra four minutes to check the sources of the article that screams that soda will kill you or that Facebook is going to start charging you…. Be mindful of hyperbole and sensationalism. Be aware and be unafraid to ask ask ask and continue asking until you are satisfied.

Honing your skeptical skills takes practice, but it is well worth it.

New Job: Week One!

First Week

After a week of work at the new job, I can safely say that the novelty of waking up at 7 instead of 8 has worn off. However, I really like my job and the people I am working with.

A few highlights.
The broccoli in my desk: It is made of foam and squishy. But still.

(Also found in my desk…. 


a mini dental kit…

and way in the back of a drawer, two broken staplers.)

Also, there was the accidental phone call to the Sex Line…. From my office phone. I meant to call my Temp agency. Instead of dialing 1-888- XXXX…. I dialed 1-866-XXXX and got  a sultry woman’s voice calling me ‘sexy” and telling me how glad she was that I had called. She was quick to move on to the necessary credit card info that would be needed and I was quick to hang up.

Otherwise, the week has been relatively uneventful.

A slightly funny thing… Every Tuesday Kaiser employees are encouraged to wear turquoise as a symbol of workplace safety. Yeah, it makes little sense to me as well. Here is the blurb:

By wearing turquoise, employees and physicians can make a public statement that they are committed to ensuring their own safety and the safety of others.  Turquoise Tuesdays is one component of a safety awareness campaign developed by the Just One Day committee.  It is the committee's goal to encourage employees and physicians to make that daily commitment to safety at work and at home.

The Just One Day Committee, by the way, feels we should wear turquoise every Tuesday... which means more than one day, but I guess it is just one day a week....

I don’t have very much turquoise in my wardrobe, and the whole thing seems a lot like that “Change your FB avatar to a cartoon character to promote the idea that child abuse is wrong!” thing, which also made little sense.

But because I am new, a team player, and look good in certain shades of blue… I did indeed wear a turquoise-like color today.

Not the best phot, but the right color... right...?

LEt's see... I finally got my badge. It took two trips to the security office (not on my campus, which means a drive after work) and many phone calls. But I have it!

It opens all the doors in my building except the doors to the HR Department.

Did I mention that my job is in the HR Department?

Well, I'm sure it will get fixed soon.

Again, liking the job; I hope it will get extended.

And that about sums up my work recap!

The Red Tent

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Not since The Mists of Avalon has a book taken the history of men and transformed the story into a beautiful history of women, woven like a fine tapestry with threads of loyalty, intrigue, ritual, and a mother’s love.

Many of us know the story from the Bible of Jacob and his sons. How Jacob married both Leah and the beautiful Rachel… how his son Joseph, who wore a coat of many colors, was sold into slavery by his brothers but rose from prison and ended up ruling at the right hand of the Pharaoh. Fewer might remember the story of Joseph’s sister Dinah whose honor was defiled leading her brothers to exact bloody revenge.

It is Dinah’s story, in her own words, that the Red Tent tells. Though the details of the lives of the larger than life characters are strongly fictionalized, the historical details of life in Biblical times are told with authority and accuracy, most notably the aspects of “women’s culture,” The Red Tent (the seclusion area that where women rested once a month) plays a large role in the tale as it is the place where the women come together to tell stories, share loads, and remember their own secret rituals.

Here are the often overlooked voices of the women, the bread makers and child bearers, the ones who divine dreams, stand on the bricks, and weave the cloth.

Dinah’s story, and the stories of her mothers and brothers, is haunting. It will make you think, make you ponder the rituals of the past, make you long for your own mother’s lap. Starting with the story of Jacob’s arrival and ending only after all the other players have left the stage; the book retells an old familiar tale with enough new twists to keep the reader avidly turning the pages. 

A masterpiece of historical fiction and retelling, this book shines with the echoes of the past, sparkles with passion, and dazzles with a story that is still new and exciting.

I strongly recommend this book!

Local Celebration for the end of DADT.

It was Tuesday night and a small but mighty (and loud) group of us had gathered to celebrate the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell at the corner of Shaw and Blackstone,

In a white pick-up truck a man tried to ignore us, but the woman in the passenger seat insisted on honking in solidarity.

In another truck, a group of migrant workers broke out into cheers and waved wildly as they drove past.

A man in a red car stared with contempt, unable to look away he watched

Unlike rallies which aim to motivate, unlike protests that aim to instigate, unlike speeches that aim to educate… this was a celebration pure and simple.

We laughed, we shared stories, we cheered.

It was hot, but it was worth it.

I talked briefly with Jose, one of the victims of DADT. Not only was he demoted, but his eventual discharge made him feel unwanted and very frustrated.

He was only too happy to see the end of DADT and told me that he had been at the recruiting office that very morning to try to sign back up.

Over eighteen years, over $2 million spent in discharges, over 13,000 discharges… And now it is over.

Time to celebrate indeed.

New Job!

I had my first day at a new job today. It is a contract position with the option of extension and based on today, I would love to be extended.

The Good:
The commute: 20 min walk! Seriously!
The pay: I could pay off my debt and actually afford decent insurance.
 The people: Met some really great people today, they were professional and welcoming. In fact, you know how you never really know someone until you have seen them stressed? Well, I got to see my new boss stressed about a lost document… and I must say she stays sane, stays good natured, and the document was found with a bit of help.
The dress code: Business casual! YAY!!!

The Bad:
I don’t want to get too comfy in case this job doesn’t last.
The vending machines were broken. Much sadness.
The delay in getting me all set up is annoying… but understandable.

The Ugly:
Along with another Admin I managed to dump a thing of toner on the floor. (It was almost empty, but still….) My hands were so gross and I was mortified! Thankfully, my boss took it in stride and nothing was stained. Yep, I still have Mad Skills! 

All in all, an auspicious beginning!


Dear Baby,

I haven't written to you in a while because... well, because I am afraid.
I'm afraid I want you too much and that you won't ever be here.

Finances are bad baby. We do all right for two, but for three....? I'm just not sure how we would make it work.

I don't want to abandon this dream.


I'm afraid I might have to.

The Playboy Club

And now for another edition of “play by play review (opening scene). I’m your hostess, Kaylia, and the show tonight is The Playboy Club, a 60s era drama that is hoping to be the network answer to Mad Men. 

We open to an upward look at the Chicago skyline at night. We know it is Chicago because eh sultry woman’s voice is singing “Chicago, Chicago…” before we pan down to a moderately busy street and a middle aged voice over tells us that though Chicago was full of corruption and wind, (seriously), he was still able to create a place of perfection. Quick flashes of drums, champagne, full glasses and someone getting out of a cab…

The voice continues telling us about how fantasy could become reality while we get shots of 60 era pin up posters and the music ratchets up a notch. The guy from the cab turns his playboy bunny key over to a playboy bunny who greets him as Mr. Dalton and we see the Play Boy Club sign. Mr Dalton checks his coat and is informed that Carol Lynne is on stage… perfect time for the voice over to tell us it wasn’t the fifties anymore and then there is Carol Lynne singing into a mic and a spotlight, her black bunny costume tight in all the right places, her lipstick dark enough to almost be trashy.

She sings and the voice over tells us that this is a place where “… anything could happen to anybody.. or any bunny.” as we watch a blond bunny in teal watch Carol Lynne sing and sashay herself around the stage.

Blond bunny is Maureen, we discover as red haired bunny, Alice, approaches and warns against her about just standing around. Maureen is quick to blame pretty Carol Lynne for being so distracting and then wonders why she alone gets to perform. Alice tells her that Carol Lynne was the first bunny and thus gets to do whatever she wants. An African American bunny in gold (Same actress as the Playboy Bunny from Mad Men!) approaches and riffs that Carol Lynne wouldn’t want to share the stage with Maureen seeing how Maureen has great legs and has already sold half her tray and it is only ten o’clock.

Case in point, a bald man approaches and asks Maureen to dance. He gets a little handsy (hands on her ass) on the dance floor and she spins away and dances with another guy. Carol Lynne watches from the stage with a look of slight displeasure as the spotlight follows Maureen around the dance floor. Mr. Dalton has also noticed her and he asks the short man next to him if she is new. The short man is apparently Billy and the manager because he swoops in on Maureen and, calling her “Miss”, tells her to get back to work. She corrects him on her name and then rushes off to pick up her tray.

Nick Dalton takes this opportunity to introduce himself to her and buy some of her cigarettes. She is out of his brand and asks him to wait while she runs to the back. He says he doesn’t mind and looks like he is rather enjoying watching her walk away. Carol Lynne finishes her song and the crowd claps. Nick meets her as she comes off the stage. She asks him if he won the case and he assures her that the victims will each get $50,000. She is happy to hear it and wonders how she too can be a victim. He tells he she couldn’t be a victim if she tried (gag) and she tells him she could be just about anything if the price was right. She is needed back on the stage and she points him to table three but he is waiting for cigarettes.

Speaking of cigarettes, Maureen is in the storeroom and as she turns around from the cigarette cupboard she comes face to face with leering bald handsy man. Back on stage, Carol Lynne is on to a new number and Nick is watching from the bar where the bartender, Max, knows his complicated drink order by heart.

 In the storeroom, bald handsy man is telling Maureen she shouldn’t have pushed him away. She tries to leave and he stops her by pushing her up against the cupboard…. … Carol Lynne is still singing and her spotlight is red. I take a moment to guess at whether this is intentional symbolism or just a way to show that it was s different take. Nick is getting antsy waiting for his cigarettes and checks his watch.

Up against the cupboard, Maureen is getting felt up and creeped out by bald handsy man. He goes in for the kiss and she fights back ending up on the floor next to an overturned, something. Seeing the opportunity, he is quick to get on top of her and wedge himself between her legs as she struggles.

 Nick, having decided that five minutes is too long to wait for nicotine, lets himself into the Employees Only section and comes to her rescue. Or.. he tries.

Bald handsy man knocks Nick down and then comes back for Maureen grabbing at her feet. I am unsure if he plans on raping her next to Nick (who wasn’t hit all that hard) or if he is going to try to kidnap her, but Nick recovers and attacks again. In the struggle Maureen and her (magically still on) high heels strikes out and bald handsy man gets a stiletto to the neck. Then, the blood, the wet raspy sounds, and the almost instant and not that messy death.

Maureen recovers quickly and offers to go call the police but Nick stops her, “Do you have any idea who you just killed?” Instead of a bitter or sarcastic “My would-be rapist?” Maureen looks worried… and Title Card!

 Turns out the guy Maureen killed was a mob boss. Nick takes his money, she takes his Playboy key and together they dump the body in the river. As the show continues, Carol Lynne is too old to be a bunny and she goes above the head of Billy, the manager, to Hef who gives her a new job of Bunny Den Mother. (She is no Joan Halloway, but she is dynamic on the screen.)

The episode, in true pilot style, does a fair bit of exposition and character introduction while setting up at least three story arcs. Here are some good and some bad points from the pilot.

Bunny suits need a partner to unzip
Bunny territories shouldn’t be crossed! Rawr!
Secret bunny lesbian who is there for the money.
Nick Dalton does a decent Don Drapper impersonation… seriously there are a few times when he has the voice down pat!
Brenda (the Africal America, or Chocolate Bunny) is awesome. “Is it true what they say.. that he has a really big….. ? Oh honey, you got a dirty mind, I was going to say penis.”
The term “Chasing Bunny tail… hee!”
The Tina Turner and Ike stand ins are a lot of fun to watch.
Not just lesbians, but hot hunky gay men too!

 And the Bad: 
 Rampant sexism… it can’t be authentic period piece unless they play up that angle, right?
The whole “We have to pretend to lust each other… let’s kiss.. for, umm, the sake of others.. yeah, for their sake we better make out.”
The voice over of Hugh. Who is he talking to? Why? We are a relatively adult and well read audience, we don’t need things spoon fed to us.
Almost too many stories and side stories. I worry that the show won’t be able to do them all justice while still keeping us entertained.
 The whole tag line (from the voice over Hef) that in the Playboy Club you can “be whoever you want to be” rings decidedly false since the bunnies can’t be anything really other than waitresses and the men can’t really be their lovers.

 In short, there is potential. I plan on watching a few more episodes to see where it is going… and will try to leave all Mad Men comparisons behind me while I do it. And… here is a trailer that pretty much shows you the entire first episode….


Up All Night and The New Girl

Fall is officially here… at least according to the TV Guide, and with it, some new TV shows. Let’s take a look at two sitcoms, Up All Night and The New Girl.

 First, The New Girl, a sitcom about finding love and family in the place you might east expect to find it. The premise, a quirky girl (Zoey Deschenal from 500 days of Summer) who moves in with three guys she found on craig’s list. Predictable crazy hyjinks ensue. The show is a decently written sitcom and if you are a fan of that genre or a fan of sexy girls playing dorky girls, this show might tickle your funny bone. Though predictable as taxes and breaking no new ground, the show is harmless and offers a few laughs. One hopes that the shtick of the pretty girl who is too dorky for her own social good will be retired a bit and make way for more interpersonal funny situations and some slight character development.

My take: worth watching to see if they can get over the pilot hump and make a potentially very funny sitcom.


 Up All night, on the other hand, is tired before it begins and a waste of talent. The premise is two thirtysomethings who are surprised at the workload of raising a baby and… well.. that’s about it. Though it strives to tackle issues of balancing work and home life, the characters are horribly one dimensional and the “funny” moments are overdone and have been done, and done and done, before. Also, we skip the whole brand new infant phase and the baby is a few months old and yet the change of a diaper seems an insurmountable challenge. One hopes that given a few more episodes and some sort of character arc, the star power of Will Arnett and Christina Applegate won’t be a footnote in the cancelation notice. There is potential but without some drastic changes, this show will stay in the heap of “can totally skip” TV shows this fall.

My take: could be worth watching, but would take some serious changes and twists to hold anyone’s interest for long.


End of DADT!

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ends today!

 As of today, the Pentagon will now allow openly gay and lesbian servicemen dn women to serve in th US military. The doors are open for those who were discharged to join bak up, and the military is taking a hard stand against LGB harassment.
 For the past 18 years DADT has kept thousands of qualified military volunteers from its ranks. The discharge of hundreds of soldiers and the fear of discharge has weighed heavily on the military as recruiting numbers are holding steady after a large boom in 2001 and 2002 and a major drop off in 2004-2006.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director and army veteran Aubrey Sarvis: “Today marks the official end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and is an historic milestone along the journey to achieving LGBT equality in America’s military. Thanks to veterans, active duty, leaders, allies and supporters everywhere, this is a monumental day for our service members and our nation. Indeed, we have taken a tremendous leap forward for LGBT equality in the military.”


 A few more notes:
-- The lifting of the 18-year-old ban also brings a halt to all pending investigations, discharges and other administrative proceedings that were begun under the law passed during Clinton's administration.
-- Existing standards of personal conduct, such as those pertaining to public displays of affection, will continue regardless of sexual orientation.
 -- There also will be no immediate changes to eligibility standards for military benefits. All service members already are entitled to certain benefits and entitlements, such as designating a partner as one's life insurance beneficiary or as designated caregiver in the Wounded Warrior program.
-- Gay marriage is one of the thornier issues. An initial move by the Navy earlier this year to train chaplains about same-sex civil unions in states where they are legal was halted after more than five dozen lawmakers objected. The Pentagon is reviewing the issue.

 If you would like to be part of the celebration, Gay Central Valley is hosting a rally this evening in Fresno. Event Page found here From 5:30 to 7:00 at the corner of Blackstone and Shaw, come join us as we celebrate and draw together.

Fall 2011: What’s Gay on TV?

 Labor Day has come and gone… making it officially fall to many people. With fall comes cooler weather (right???), football games, the turning of the leaves… and TV shows! Whether back from summer hiatus or brand new, let’s take a look at a few of the shows in this fall’s Fall Line Up… through the lens of how LGBT friendly they might be.

 First up, Dancing With The Stars comes back with a bang and makes history with the inclusion of Chaz Bono . I doubt he needs an introduction on this site, but here goes: Chaz, formerly Chastity Bono, is the sole child of Sonny and Cher. His female to male transition has been public for the past three years and has been supremely instrumental in bringing the idea of transition into the day to day lives of a lot of Americans who had never heard the term before. He is, I think, one of the most famous transgendered men in pop culture and is an activist and a lecturer. Transgendered groups, as well as Cher herself, are loudly supportive of this casting choice, and while there has been a flurry of “The sky is falling” rhetoric from the Christian right, one can only hope that the more often the general public is reminded that trans people are not just present in our society but also dramatically active and useful members to boot, the better. DWTS premiers on September 18th.

 Next up we have The Playboy Club which many are calling NBC’s answer to AMC’s Mad Men. Also set in 1961 (but in Chicago) this period piece will showcase the changing American world through the lens of, you guessed it, a Playboy Club. The tag line for the show is “Where the men hold the keys but the women hold the power” and for us skeptical women out there, the show promises to dwell on the positive aspects of being a bunny. Like the money. And to bring it back to our LGBT theme, there is a lesbian bunny. Alice a closeted lesbian bunny who is married to a gay man. Together, they pool money for theMattachine Society Chicago chapter, which was a huge LGBT rights group in the 1960s. Although this storyline was only a small part of the pilot, the producers say it will definitely be a big part of the show.

Glee returns on Tuesday the 20th . With new cast members and the eventual story arcs involving the winners of the Glee Project ( including Alex who performed in drag a good part of the time) we have high hopes for the third season of this very LGBT friendly show.

 Attempting to market to those a bit too old for Glee but who still love musical theater, NBC offers Smash which promises to deal with LGBT related themes as well as appeal to a broad LGBT audience. Only time will tell if they can hit the high notes on this. (Smash is a midseason show and won’t premier until 2012.)

 On The Good Wife, Owen will finally get a long term love interest moving this gay side character into the gay limelight. Producers want to be realistic… gay brothers aren’t always single, apparently. Also a reoccurring guest spot will go to out actor Harvey Fierstein The Good Wife already gets a nod of appreciation for a series regular bisexual character, Kalinda. (Archie Panjabi won an Emmy for her portrayal.) The next season begins on September 25th.

 On FX, Archer, home to two regular gay and bisexual characters, will premier its 3rd season In late September but keep the rest of the season for 2012. If you need to catch up on this animated twisted espionage show that is really like no other, the episodes are available on 

Gossip Girl returns on the CW on September 26th. This fan favorite broke ground with its gay character and GLADD has repeatedly showered praise on the CW for its portrayal of its queer characters.

 And lastly a random tid bit of information from GLADD and The Advocate : ABC Family: The only cable network to receive an "excellent" rating [from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's annual report on the media's portrayal of LGBT people]. ABC Family was initially founded in 1977 as an extension of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcast Network. Nowadays the channel is nothing like Robertson's network, with a history of gay-inclusive shows like Kyle XY and Greek, which have attracted a young, loyal viewership. Fifty-five percent of the network's prime-time programming was LGBT-inclusive, thanks to shows like The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Huge, and Make It or Break It

 ABC Fall Preview:

 CW Fall Preview:

 NBC Fall Preview:

 FOX Fall Preview

 I know this list isn’t complete, but I hope it helps you figure out what to watch while procrastinating whether it be your homework or your laundry. Happy viewing!

Tour De Centers

4 Gay Central Valley Board Members
 15 hours
 520 miles
Uncounted sodas and coffees and slices of pizza
 Dozens of pages of notes
 4 Community Centers in 4 –somewhat- distant cities (Modesto, Sacramento, Concord, San Jose)
 1 epic battle with seagulls

Yesterday morning before the sun was fully up, Chris, Jason, Jaymi, and I set off for a Tour De Centers Road Trip.

Sticking to a schedule that allowed for very little deviation and facing a rental car check in that added a layer of stress that couldn’t be ignored, we drove the highways of California (mostly staying on track) in order to visit other LGBT Community Centers.

 We visited the Stanislaus Pride Center in their new offices in Modesto. Over scones and coffee we talked to Manual and half a dozen volunteers about their drop in hours, their library, and their very exciting fundraisers. We commiserated about some of the struggles that face a new Community Center; flack from both the LGBT community as well as the general populace as well as funding, space limitations, and making sure they are meeting the needs. There was even talk of coauthoring future grants for the region in order to provide better funding for specific programs.

We visited the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center which holds residence in an adorable ( and very spacious historic house) where we talked with Luis about AIDS foundation grants, utilizing the location of the center to interact with the general public, having a variety of programs (including legal advice and professional counselors), and some fascinating ways to organize and engage our local volunteers. We talked about the need for strong leadership and the goals of specifically designed fund raising opportunities.

In Concord (east bay) we visited Rainbow Community Center and met with Kas and Ben-David where we heard about food pantry programs, corporate matching programs, day of service programs, and got tips on how to get some very cool, and free, decorations. We talked in length about the involvement of the seniors in the community, about utilizing interns, and how to encourage our members to share their knowledge and become more engaged with one another. We talked about endowments and youth programs. We talked about a Center specific website and utilizing social media.

In San Jose, at the Billy DeFrank Center we talked to Fred and heard about the struggles of overcoming PR nightmares, of the benefits and drawbacks to operating in a city owned historic building, and having to start from scratch after over twenty years of success. We talked about counseling services, renting space, letting go of past programs to make way for new ones, and saw an exciting library system that provides ease of use and high organization. We talked about hosting large events like dances, smaller events like support groups, and non-LGBT specific events like Bingo and yoga. We talked about count supported programs that happen at the center, about bulk mailing, and about employee giving incentives that helped the center stay afloat after near financial ruin.

Through it all we took notes, asked questions, discussed the pros and cons and the practicality of everything ad nauseum while driving to our next location. Our goal was to learn what they are doing right, learn from what they did wrong, and try to get a better sense of the direction we want our Community Center to go. Of course there was laughter, bonding through stories of past debauchery and adventures. Like any good road trip there was music, both good and bad. But more importantly, there was learning, planning, the discussion of new ideas, new programs, new ways to fundraise, and new / better ways to connect to and with our community.

Over the next few months we will begin to implement some of those changes. While we know that not everything we try will work, and some things might take some time to get off the ground, we are optimistic that together we can help make our Community Center something truly special. Here are a few of the ideas:

We realized, through talking to other Community Center leaders, that our current programs leave out a whole section of our community: our elders. Seniors, (or Vintage members as they are called in Concord) are a vital part of many other communities and there is no reason to think our older folk would be any different. We are excited to be able to correct the misstep of not having programs geared toward the slightly older members of our community. Lunches, Bingo, Social Groups, Outings, Ride Shares,… we have a lot of ideas.

We also picked up tips on some really exciting fundraising and fund developing techniques. You will, there is no doubt, be hearing about those later. Our current grant writing board member has needed to step down from that particular task, and as a new board member, I am honored to step into those now vacant shoes.

We hope that within the next year or so we will be able to attain the necessary funding to continue operating out of our new larger location as well as implement several new programs. Speaking of new (or revitalized) programs. We were exposed to several very cool ideas yesterday. From Women’s Social Groups to potentially offering our space to LGBT friendly AA groups, from community outreach via feeding Fresno’s hungry to hands on volunteer projects (necessary busywork) available on a drop in basis, from potentially having more specific events at the center to opening our doors even wider and inviting already established groups to use our space… we have a plethora of possibilities that we are going to be exploring.

 As always we welcome any insights, suggestions, or ideas. Our goal as a Community Center is to provide a safe place and a place of active community building. We want, and need, community involvement.

 After San Jose we drove to Santa Cruz (45 minutes of twisty forest lined roads) and ate a hurried meal at the Capitola beach. While fending off seagulls, most of us anyway -- one of our board members was much more interested in baiting them, we had one of those moments of amazing connection. Gay, Straight, Bi… we were a tiny community of four. It was us against the birds that hovered menacingly, who squawked, who looked ready to peck us to death without hesitation…

Here in Fresno it is sometimes easy to dwell on the number of people that outnumber us, the percentage by which Prop 8 passed, the sheer volume of bigotry and hate.

But I challenge you to think instead about the people who stand with you, the leaders of nonprofits and the allies that donate, volunteer, and help keep us motivated. We might be small, but we are mighty and we can change Fresno for the better.

A dentist to avoid.

Dr. Stuart Smith DDS 4836 N 1st St Suite 105 Fresno

Avoid Avoid Avoid!

On my first visit, I ended up waiting, in an empty waiting room, almost two hours before I was moved to an examine room. Then, I had my X-Rays taken and was treated to a long meandering conversation with Dr. Smith in which he told me horror stories about his problem patients and talked about his desire to write a book before finally telling me that I had cavities and would need to make a series of appointments for fillings. I asked about a cleaning, being under the impression that I was going to be getting one that day, and was told that my appointment had gone on too long and the cleaning would have to take place at the same appointment as the first of the fillings.
The whole appointment took over three hours.

On my next visit, I waited for over half an hour, again alone, before  anything happened. I was then offered a pill before the procedure started. I asked what the pill was, but was never given an answer.  I became increasingly nervous and Dr. Smith’s retelling of past problem patients and a story about a dental assistant who freaked out in the middle of a procedure and ran screaming from the room did little to waylay my fears. I started to cry. Not loud sobs, but a steady trickle of tears. I told the staff that I was nervous and was told that it wouldn’t hurt. (Do I even need to point out the fallacy in that statement?)
In the chair I was asked to watch a video that would answer any questions. Because of my limited vision (almost legally blind) I had trouble viewing the monitor but was told that I could just listen. When the video was over I remarked that it seemed they had skipped the whole drilling part of the procedure, Dr. Smith agreed that that had been left out, but didn’t seem too concerned about it.
Let me pause here and say something about my jaw. My jaw hurts. It hurts while being open all the way, it hurts while being closed all the way. It hurts to yarn. It hurts to bite into anything hard like an apple. It hurts to chew chewy food. I grind my teeth at night, and it hurts. Dr. Smith was aware of this as we had discussed it during my initial consultation. He had even explained, in part, why it hurt.
As the filling procedure started I was told by Dr. Smith that if I was in too much pain or needed a break, I could raise my left hand and they would honor that.
The procedure was a nightmare. Apparently I have quite a gag reflex and had trouble not gagging and coughing on the water. Also, after only a few moments my jaw began to ache. I needed a break, a chance to pop it a bit and ease the building tension. Repeatedly I raised my left hand and it was pushed back down. My fear and my pain made the trickle of tears continue. Again, not outright sobbing or big gulps of air, but a steady stream of tears and, I must bashfully admit, several whimpers.
Dr. Smith became annoyed with me. At one point he told me to “Stop acting like a child” and to get my emotions under control. Mortified, and still getting no relief despite my repeated attempts to signal with my left hand, I was at a loss and couldn’t stop crying. The doctor’s movements became hurried and his tone ever increasingly frazzled and brisk.
When it was over, I wasn’t given a chance to collect myself or wash up. Instead, my head at an odd angle, as I was still in the partly reclined chair, I was treated to a long diatribe on the part of the doctor about how I was a problem patient, how I needed to find a way to get over my fear of dentists, and how he wouldn’t work on me unless I was partly sedated. When I tried to ask about why I wasn’t allowed a break even though I had used the signal he had given me, I was told that I had “continually grabbed at” my mouth, events I don’t remember and highly doubt I did. When I apologized and expressed my confusion because I didn’t remember doing any grabbing, I was told it was the effects of the pills.
Chastised, mortified, and really needing to use the restroom, I was instead told I needed to pay right then for the partial sedation process that would happen at my next appointment. I did so and suffered through yet another lecture by Dr. Smith before being allowed to leave. I was given a pill to take the night before and admonished to “take some time” to get over my dental anxieties. I was assured he and I would “check in with each other” prior to the next session.
The whole appointment took two and a half hours.

Two weeks later on the eve of my next appointment, I took the pill.
It did not, as promised, send me off to sleep, make me feel relaxed, or calm. I don’t know if it was the fault of the pill or if the pill just had no effect, but I spent a very restless night trying to psych myself into not being afraid of what the next day would hold.
I arrived at the office intending to talk to Dr. Smith. I wanted to make it clear that I was still highly uncomfortable, that I needed his assurance that there could be breaks, that the hand signal would be honored, that he would be cognoscente of my jaw pain… and that he would know that the pill I had already taken hadn’t had the desired effect.
I arrived just before 9 and was told that the doctor wouldn’t be in until 10. I was instructed to take another pill and begin the partial sedation process. Flabbergasted, I explained that I wasn’t comfortable taking any more pills, especially since the last one hadn’t worked, until I could talk to the doctor. I was then told he might be in as early as 9:30, but might not arrive until 10. I was told to simply take the pill and talk to him then. Feeling more and more frustrated, I again explained that I didn’t want to take something that might sedate me prior to having a chance to talk to the doctor and becoming more confident in the upcoming procedure. I was told there was no other choice. I opted to cancel the appointment until I had a chance to talk to the doctor. Now the dental assistant (who also works at the front desk) was frustrated. She assured me that the doctor would be in eventually and I really should just take the pill. I responded that if I wasn’t going to be listened to or helped, that I might have to find another dentist. She threw her hands up in exasperation and walked away telling me that if my mind was made up, I should just go ahead.
I left.

I know I can’t get a refund for the money I spent on the cavities he filled. I understand that I can’t get a refund for the money spent on a partial sedation that never happened.
But honestly, I don’t think I should have to pay for canceling the appointment less than 24 hours prior.
And, I don’t think I should be fiscally responsible for any costs in sending my X-Rays from Dr. Smith’s office to a new dentist office.
I also think that the public and the insurance companies should know that his office treated me rudely, was not compassionate, wasted my time, and in the end did more harm to any dental anxiety I might have had.

Again, avoid this dentist office!