What do creepy old men and the NYPD have in common?

Cn: street harassment, creepy behavior, pedophilia

They’re both useless, unnecessary, and just the worst.

So the playgrounds in NYC are finally reopened. And since I had my nieces and nephews (henceforth referred to as niephlings) for the weekend, I decided to take them and my daughter to the playground.

Now this playground is also a park but the areas are clearly defined. There is a policy in place that adults are not allowed in the playground without children.

My niephlings range from ages 7-3. My daughter is 10. So mami joined us to help out. It was a warm day and the playground was not crowded so it was perfect to keep social distancing protocols. While the smaller children played on the baby slide the two oldest (my daughter TJ and niece V) ran around the playground. I noticed a man who seemed to be by himself staring at the kids, particularly the girls, and smiling. I kept my eye on him.

Eventually TJ and V went to the swings. And the man moved to the seats in front of the swings. After a little while TJ tells mami that they feel uncomfortable because the man kept staring at them and their cousin. I asked V and she also said she felt uneasy. While keeping an eye on the other kids (they were close by to be safe) I went and stood by my girls. Mami stood next to the man.

We both watched him. He kept smiling. If you’re a woman or non-man, you can trust your gut about this sort of thing. It wasn’t just a kindly old man smile. It was creepy.

Finally mami asks him what he was staring at. He says he could stare at whoever he wanted. So mami starts to tear into him. I come along and he asks me, “right? I can stare and smile all I want?”. No, I replied. Especially not at little girls. I was getting shaky and told him I would rearrange his face if he kept it up. He told me to bring it on! The audacity? It only gets worse.

So we’re yelling at each other. He keeps insisting he can stare at whoever he wants. He actually mansplained sight to us! He says the cops would prove him right. Now I’m not a fan of cops, much less the NYPD and this encounter didn’t help. The man calls 911 and the cops eventually show up.

Mami and I explained to them what happened. They went and talked to him. They were with him for about 10 minutes. They come back and say he wasn’t breaking any laws. That since the playground is also a park, they cannot move him. I mean, it’s really convenient, you know? The police sure do know when to use force and when to not. But whatever. This post isn’t about police brutality. Although we DID talk about how useless the police were to us and about the whole organization at large.

They asked him to move and he refused. He said he had a long walk so he was tired and he wasn’t going to move.

So, he has a long walk and rather than sit in the benches at the entrance he walks his ass all the way into the playground. Make it make sense. And to refuse to move when he’s been told he made people, especially children, uncomfortable is just even more audacious.

The cops told us we could stay in the park but not speak to the man or we could move to another area. So this man’s pants feels are more important than my children’s right to safety. One cop told us not to let this man ruin our fun.

We went home. Once home I called the parks department and filed a report. I explained and they told me that the man was NOT supposed to be in playground area, regardless of it also being a park. So, the cops just didn’t want to do their job? I’m shocked. /sarcasm

This is not the first time my daughter has been creeped on and I know it won’t be the last. Creepy, predatory behavior is something my daughter and my nieces will have to endure. What did this teach my nephews? That they, as men, can do and say and sit and stare and make people uncomfortable at the least, but it’s ok? My daughter and nieces are just supposed to deal with it?

This is rape culture. It’s a culture that tells women and non men we just have to take creepy behavior. It’s a culture that doesn’t respect children. It’s a culture that tells you to trust your instincts but then chastises for doing just that.

I spoke to my niephlings, especially V and my daughter and we discussed what happened and how they felt. I told them they did the right thing by saying something.

Oh and by the way, since I was so shaky, the man had the nerve to laugh and tell me not to be nervous. The audacity of this jackass, not to mention the entitlement.

I hope he has a heart attack. We have a term in Puerto Rico for creepy old men, viejo verde. And he’s definitely green as hell.

Creepy old man

What do creepy old men and the NYPD have in common?
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Ni Bueno, Ni Malo

In the past two years I’ve fallen in love with my hair. I’ll post pictures and videos of my bouncing curls. I’ll apologize to my friends for maybe appearing shallow but to please indulge me. But it hasn’t always been this way. In the past I regarded my hair as a nuisance. Something that needed taming; kept small.

Continue reading “Ni Bueno, Ni Malo”

Ni Bueno, Ni Malo

It’s not about the A

One of the many jobs I’ve had is that of tutor. I’ve helped teach a variety of subjects including math, various sciences, and English. Additionally, I have designed and taught smaller classes, and have also helped siblings and friends study and understand the class material. I spent a lot of time thinking about teaching and about what and how we learn.

Growing up was interesting. My parents were relatively new immigrants to Canada, and it was their first experience with the Canadian school system. Much of their approach to education came from the European systems they were raised in. While grades mattered to them, education was about something more than regurgitating back information and facts.  I never realized how lucky I was in some ways for that, until I started hearing students repeating the same idea over and over again: it doesn’t matter what the right answer is, it matters what the teacher thinks it is. The only thing that matters is the grade they get.

Continue reading “It’s not about the A”

It’s not about the A

The Unfunny Incompetence of Social Services in New York

TW: Domestic Violence, Systemic Violence, Bigotry

As some of you may remember, I talked about the possibility of going to New York, to help a single mom friend who had hurt herself. I was doing a fundraiser to be able to afford to go (I could still use some donations to help recover from the financial strain. And also to cover unexpected expenses).

Well, earlier in July, I finally went. Many of you may be wondering why it was so urgent. While it is true that an injured ankle makes things hard to deal with, especially for a single mom with an active kid, but it doesn’t seem like the type of thing to really justify spending so much money to go help out. Heck, taking a cab around would be cheaper.

The truth is that out of concern for privacy and at the request of my friend, I left out a lot of details. While it is true that she did injure herself, and that a portion of my help was to make things easier on her for a few days, the truth of the matter is that I was going there to stand witness and see what I could do to help her with a much more complicated issue.After my visit, my friend gave me permission to release some of the information on my blog.

You see, my friend was a victim of domestic abuse. Severe domestic abuse. Her partner hit her, sexually assaulted her, the details of which are so unbelievably horrible, that the court had a hard time accepting the truth of it. That was six years ago, and this man will likely never see the inside of a cell for what he did. My friend however, has had her life, and that of her child, completely hijacked.

Continue reading “The Unfunny Incompetence of Social Services in New York”

The Unfunny Incompetence of Social Services in New York

Dear Nintendo: Let My Son Play Pokemon (Guest Post)

The following is a guest post request from a mother who wants to play Pokemon Go with her child, but can’t because of some of the many ways it is inaccessible to people with disabilities. Her identity will be kept anonymous for reasons of safety and consideration. The following is an open letter to Nintendo. 

Hey Nintendo, some people have disabled children who would like to play Pokemon Go.

Even though the premise of your game is awesome, it could be improved upon with more accessibility.

As the parent of an autistic child (who is intentionally keeping things vague for the sake of this post because I’d rather my son disclose information about himself publicly whenever he personally feels it is appropriate to do so and can consent to it) who enjoys playing Pokemon with his mother, and as a mother who grew up playing Pokemon games of her own, the Pokemon franchise has always been one that has allowed us to bond and spend quality time together. I man the controls, and when my son indicates a preference in one or more Pokemon, I try to incorporate those into our team. (Once we attempted to bring the three legendary birds to the Elite Four in LeafGreen because he liked them a lot. That might have been when type disadvantage was best illustrated, bringing three Flying when the first Trainer specializes in Ice. Moving along…) Based on what I’d read about Go, I thought it would be one of the most awesome games ever to play with him when it came out.

And then it came out.

Continue reading “Dear Nintendo: Let My Son Play Pokemon (Guest Post)”

Dear Nintendo: Let My Son Play Pokemon (Guest Post)

Children and Disability

Ever since I turned 27, the thought of children has been on my mind. At 28, I am now a year older than my mother was when she had me. I always thought that my life would go a certain way. I would get my degree, get married, start a career, and have a baby. All of this was supposed to happen before I was 30.

Then I got sick, and one by one those dreams went up in flame.

I couldn’t go to medical school. Not only that, but I might even be able to manage a regular job let alone a career.

I got a degree, but unlike I expected my whole life, I am graduating with a bachelor with no idea of when or if I will ever be able to get more.

Some things changed, but not for the worse, just became different. Instead of a husband, I have a wife. The important part of that: the love, the support, the companionship remains the same. We live in Canada for now, which mean marriage for us is possible.

And then there are children. Continue reading “Children and Disability”

Children and Disability

Dermals are Only Skin Deep

For the past few months Alyssa has been talking about getting a belly button ring. The piercing was my birthday gift to her, but we still had to find a place to do it. By coincidence on one of our outings with Alyssa’s brother and sister, we passed by her sister’s piercer. We had a recommendation! Later that week I called to find out if it would be possible to get an appointment and to get a price estimate.

It was around this time, that I also let myself make a decision I’ve been wanting for a while. For some time, I have been envious of all the amazing tattoos and piercings that I saw around me. I always admired the style, but always stopped myself out of a need to conform. To conform to the expectations of my family, of Alyssa’s family, of what is considered “proper”. For all that I am an outspoken activist, I still feel the need to conform to social expectations.

I decided to give myself permission to be as punk as I want to be. To get the piercings that I admired and give myself permission to make it about my enjoyment of my appearance. I decided to get dermals in my cheeks.

Before our appointment, we had dinner with some friends. Excited, we shared our plans with our friends. They joined us in our excitement, showing their support by agreeing to go with us, however, they also expressed some concern. What about Alyssa’s parents? What would they say?

This visit home had been one of the best either of us had ever experienced. Difficult subjects that came up did not end in hurt feelings on both sides, nor with anger, but rather with understanding. We were heard and accepted, and in return we felt comfortable enough to hear them out as well. This was a big step for both of us, especially when considering that we needed to build good favour for future discussions.

Suddenly my decision provoked anxiety. Alyssa’s piercing could be easily hidden, but what about mine? Dermals on my face would be pretty obvious. That they came only days after our conversation about “living in the real world” and overhearing their disapproval of their daughter’s less usual ear piercing, would seem like deliberate antagonism. Although my decision had nothing to do with them, it had suddenly become political.

What followed was almost a parody of what people who are in the closet play out their lives. I got the piercings, but I wasn’t willing to create a scene or risk their opinion of me by letting them find out. And so we played the game of hide the piercings.

As we waited to be picked up from the restaurant, we thought about how to explain the Band-Aids on my face. Then it came to me! I had scratched off some pimples/mosquito bites. We hoped that with it being late, the parents wouldn’t notice until either later at the house or the next morning. They noticed immediately.

We used the excuse we had come up with and hoped that no one commented on how symmetrically I managed to do so. For the next few days it was a delicate balance. I had to wash the piercings twice a day which meant changing Band-Aids, which also meant explaining why I still needed them: I washed off the scabs, they were itchy and I wanted to keep myself from scratching. I had to stall for four days, but without making it seem bad enough that someone would want to “take a look at it.”

In the meantime, every time we went out, I pulled them off my face to let the piercings breathe, and to show them off to the world. I reveled in the freedom of being able to be who I was.

Ania's new dermal piercings
Aren’t they cute!?

Whenever someone new, a grandparents, a family friend, saw the bandages on my face I had to explain them again. Mima was the only one to comment about the even spacing, but I laughed it off as a funny coincidence. A part of me suspects that the parents weren’t really fooled, but they didn’t mention anything and so everyone pretended to go along with the charade.

Because it was something of relatively little personal importance, the situation managed to be funny. I remember exasperating more than once that “I am 27 years old!” The idea that at my age I still had to hide something like piercings from my and someone else’s parents seemed silly.

But in a scary sense the relatively insignificant piercing closet was a parable for more significant and significantly more important closets: gender orientation, sexual orientation, religious belief or non-belief, the people we love, are all just some of the many examples. Ultimately what closets are are tiny prisons that remind us that the people who should love us unconditionally may not accept who we are. What makes it scarier that sometimes we wear there prisons as armour to protect us from those who we shouldn’t need to be protected from.

The world saw the results of those kinds of prison with the story of Leelah Alcorn. She is not the only one by far.  Social Media, the internet, have made it possible for these victims to burst out of their closets for glorious instances of freedom, but sometimes that is not enough. In that time, the internet becomes the place where their real eulogies can be seen rather than the dishonest tripe of those who forced closed the prison doors when they should have been the ones helping them to open.

I have heard it said that “we all come out of the closet twice…at least twice” is a running joke among trans women. I imagine it is one said with strength but also a fair amount of sadness.

People ask what the harm of jokes that make fun of people of a certain group, of using pejoratives and slurs, of having “personal” opinions that dehumanize people, and the truth is that each of these things along with a lack of representation in media, biased presentations, mocking presentations, each of these and more make up the bricks in the walls of these closets, our prisons. To make the world that Leelah dreamed of, to make a world that is safe for many of us who have to hide who we are, to do this we have to give up the idea that intentions are enough. We have to speak out. We have to DO BETTER.

No you are no longer entitled to your own opinion, because your opinion harms, and your discomfort is not worth the lives of our siblings, of our children, of our lovers, of our friends.

Dermals are only skin deep, but identities are who we are.

Dermals are Only Skin Deep