Stick To Your Principles (And Never Apologize)


I have declined from writing posts about this presidential election. My main reason is that I live in an area full of residents who practically worship our newly elected president. It has been almost five years since I came out as a gay man. After that, I never wanted to imagine that an elected official would try to overturn the successful efforts to say that the government cannot restrict me from my ultimate desire to marry someone who I love.

The United States of America has elected a man who has promised that he will overturn the landmark decision which ruled the Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional and pass a “religious freedom protection” act. I am in no mood to read article after article confirming those are indeed his intentions. Numerous social media posts have attempted to dismiss that our newly elected commander in chief could successfully roll back LGBT protections nationwide. Some of which have the audacity to scoff at my LGBT friends and think that we are “worrying too much.”

(Maybe you won’t “scoff” at me. But, probably have the temptation to dismiss the real fears of LGBT Americans as a result of Tuesday’s election.)

I would hate to jump to conclusions about anyone. But, the above comments are bound to come from people who claim to say they are “supportive” of me genuinely. To reiterate from my older posts, they know that I do not desire to marry a woman in some big church wedding. They are in complete denial of the fact that our newly elected commander in chief has promised to appoint Republican supreme court justices who will assist him in his efforts. These justices believe my lack of desire for a woman and a big church wedding automatically make me spawn of the devil. They say that such a truth does not make me any less of a human being who deserves love and respect. 

I am now laughably brought back to my memories of George Bush’s 2004 reelection. I was in sixth grade. We had a mock election. You can guess who the winner was. My classmates cheered when our principal made the announcement. Their expressions of joy, parroted from their parents, continued the bus ride home. My classmates stomped their feet and clapped their hands to the beat of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” They kept singing “Kerry will be defeated.” I certainly take this election much more seriously than I did back in 2004. It may be true that nothing has happened yet. But, there is no saying that it won’t now that we have a man in power who strives to overturn the progress we have already made. 

Donald Trump and Mike Pence have both promised to stick to the above principles. I, however, am sticking to mine. My LGBT friends should strive to do the same. Do not apologize for it. I do not deny that it can be hard to separate oneself from people whom I have known for my entire life. My sexuality may not define everything about me. But, I now know they are not worth my time if they refuse to change their mind about this essential aspect of who I am as a person. 

Most importantly, be careful who you decide to invite into your life. It doesn’t matter if you are casually cruising on Grindr. It does not matter if you are searching for that beautiful woman or tall, handsome man to call sweetheart. I am not trying to say that you should be afraid of meeting new people. But, know that people can disguise themselves as LGBT friendly. They hide behind that title before turning around and causing real harm to some of our most vulnerable citizens. It is now critical to be aware of your surroundings and protect yourself if anyone tries to hurt you. 

The events of this week are not going to stop me from sticking to my principles of not allowing people to hinder my right to be who I am. That does not go without saying that our nation has increased the potential for some very dark times. The only thing we can do about that is to keep fighting. 

It Was The Worst Day of My Life (Recognizing Emotions and Overcoming Them)


I have written about depression and mental illnesses several times. I wrote about the tragic death of Robin Williams. I expressed great disappointment in Fox News analyst Shepard Smith and his claim that Williams was a “coward” for taking his own life. I am someone who firmly believes that a mental illness should never define everything about who we are. However, the human mind can be a very fragile thing. It can often cause us to do things we never knew we were capable of doing. These things can certainly be wonderful, but they can also be devastating and tragic.

I recently read a story about Virginia Gentiles, a mother from Pasadena, California. She is suing a local Target store for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and wrongful death.

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Target-Faces-Lawsuit-Over-Employees-Suicide-289662711.html

Her son, Graham Gentles, committed suicide on July 18, 2014. Three days earlier, store security and local police met him at the front of the store as he arrived early. They grabbed him, emptied his pockets and hat, then paraded him around the store to an office. This practice is commonly called “the walk of shame.” 

“The walk of shame is a Target policy to purposely cause shame, embarrassment and emotional distress to any Target employee who is suspected of stealing from Target. The policy consists of employees being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and customers.”

Long story short, the alleged harassment was not because he stole from the store. Graham’s mother stated that the supposed theft was all fabrication by the multiple media outlets that have reported on this story. It was due to a previous altercation that occurred between him and an employee, which also happened months beforehand. After being taken paraded around the store, police drove him to the local station for questioning and released without any charges filed. To add more devastation, he was wrongfully fired from his job. When he spoke to his mother about the ordeal, he said it was the worst day of his life. Unfortunately, this day was so terrible, he decided to take his own life because he could not bear the pain and humiliation anymore.  

Reactions from the public have ranged from very supportive and sympathetic to downright hateful and disrespectful. I cannot say that this surprises me, mainly because mental illness is such an under recognized issue in our world today. Normally, I would agree that the loss of a job alone is not a reason to commit suicide. However, this is the dark side of living with a neurological disorder like Asperger’s Syndrome. The emotional pain we experience in life can overpower our ability to think things through and find ways to cope. 

If there is anything this story has taught me, it is the sheer importance of finding positive ways to cope with negative emotions. It doesn’t matter what I am feeling or going through. Sometimes, I have no choice but to think it through and try to understand why I am feeling this way. This is when I like to take time to myself. I use what I do best. My gift in writing. “My Letter to Steve Grand” is one of those examples. I don’t normally share these writings with people. However, I decided to make a rare exception this time. 

Please understand that crushes, love and romance are very new feelings for me. Life with Asperger’s Syndrome has always made me a loner. The high school social scene considered me the loner who was a “loser.” I was an awkward, uncoördinated kid with zero confidence who walked around with a scowl on his face. My “phases” changed throughout that time. I refrained from talking to anyone for most of those 4 years, and then I became this kid who could not control himself and acted out just for the sake of acting out. I desperately needed a way to handle my pain and that was the only release I could find.

When I was a small child, my issue with emotions was not recognizing them. I’ve always known what I am feeling. However, there were times when I knew my emotions way too much. The thing is, it is still one of my demons today. My mammaw and papaw (southern talk for grandma and grandpa) used to tell me this story from when they came to visit us in Pennsylvania. It goes back to when I was somewhere between three and four years old.

We were celebrating my sisters 6th birthday. The local bowling alley was our chosen venue. The familiar sounds of bowling balls hitting the pins, people chatting and music playing filled the bustling local hangout. My attention was not focused on any of that. It was focused on the family to the right of us. They also happened to be celebrating a birthday and rented a helium tank and were using it to blow up balloons. I immediately covered my ears. I was terrified of the possibility that they were going to pop. My attention became hyper focused on those balloons and the possibility that they were going to burst and make a loud sound. 

Crying was the only way I knew how to handle it. My mammaw tried to give me a set of ear plugs, but that didn’t help. My papaw sensed that I needed to get out of the noisy room for a few minutes. I needed to tell him what was wrong and I needed to be reassured. While he did not say it in these exact words, this was the gist of the message he gave to me. 

“The world is full of things that are much scarier than balloons popping.” 

That is the one thing that we all need to be reminded. The world is full of things that cause a lot more pain. Sometimes, those experiences are directly caused by our tendency to negatively dwell upon those little things. I failed to realize that when I was a young child. I failed to realize it when I was in high school and feared that people were not going to like me. I fail to realize it today when I discover that things just don’t work out the way I anticipated them to. The big question is, how do we stop it from dictating our lives?

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Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression


Doctors and Psychiatrists have discovered that there is a high risk of depression and anxiety in kids with Aspergers Syndrome, especially in their teenage and young adult years. Teenagers with the disorder usually deal with the stress of not fitting in with the crowd. Individuals with the disorder have the difficulty dealing with change, as I have mentioned before. The change from living in the house to moving to college on their own can cause some depression and anxiety as well. Because of their odd, and limited interests, they don’t understand how to appropriately interact with other people, especially peers. Because of the fact that they don’t know how to interact with other people and stand up for themselves, they can be susceptible to verbal, physical and cyber bullying. Dealing with situations like this are the most common causes of depression and anxiety in people with Aspergers Syndrome. Because many teens and young adults with this disorder don’t know how to handle these situations appropriately, they could get into behaviors such as drugs or alcohol. This can most likely worsen their depression and anxiety and cause them to even resort to more extreme behaviors, even suicide. Depression in individuals with Aspergers Syndrome is very common, suicide however is not, but it still could happen if nothing is done about the symptoms. I never have and never will think about doing something as extreme as that, but if I didn’t get the help I needed for my symptoms, I most likely could have. I am going to talk about some of the experiences that caused my depression, a few of them I have mentioned before.

In my very first blog, I mentioned how high school was an even worse experience than junior high was. The Freeport Senior High school is larger than the junior high is, but not by much. The first reason the transition from middle school to high school was miserable for me was because it had more people than the junior high did. Yes, I realize that its not as big as places like Butler or Fox Chapel, but it was pretty crowded. Another thing that really caused me to be depressed was that I we were the youngest grade in the school, and I was picked on more than most of the people than my grade because I was shy. As I have mentioned many times before, people would often take advantage of me and try to convince me that they were trying to be my friend, when they really were not. They seemed to realize that I had a difficulty understanding when people were trying to be friendly to me versus trying to make fun of me. Because of this, I did not “fit in” with the people at my school. I didn’t really have anyone to sit with at lunch or hang out with after school or on weekends. People tended to avoid letting me sit with them, and they would often make excuses like “More people are going to sit there, you are going to have to move”. They were your typical snobby, stuck up high school student. That was one of the things that really contributed to my loneliness, depression and anxiety. This, however could have been prevented if I put myself out there more, letting all of the arrogant jerks get to me really contributed to why I was so depressed and lonely when I attended Freeport. With the exception of a few individuals, students at Lenape Tech have enough sense to realize that teasing someone is uncalled for, because they are going into technical fields that involve working with people.

Aside from depression, I also had problems with anxiety in school, and I still do now. Anytime I would get put into social situations, I would always tense up and fear that they would try to do something mean to me. I would prevent that from happening by  simply ignoring the person when they would speak to me. This was because of all the teasing and bullying I got in past years, and I still tense up when I am around new people. When you are teased and picked on by people, it’s real hard for a person to come out of their shell and open up to somebody. I opened up to my friend Aaron B at Computing Workshop real easy because it is a safe environment for me, this program is supposed to help students on the spectrum with their academic and social goals. I know that if they do try to harass me or any of the students in the program in any way, they are automatically removed. That is not true in most public high schools, they usually get that same old “don’t do that again” lecture, which usually doesn’t do anything. As I have mentioned before, many schools tend to blame the victim instead of the bully. Because I would tense up and ignore people when they would see me in the hallway, they tended to judge and label me. I got labeled loner and reject by most people.

The main reason for why I got labeled by people was because they didn’t understand me. Who were they to judge someone without understanding why? I have learned that most people my age have similar feelings of not belonging. Even the popular kids feel insecure about some things, and making fun of somebody makes them feel less insecure about themselves. I feel that having only one or two close friends is enough for me, I don’t want to be “normal” or “popular”. Even though Aaron doesn’t have the time to spend with me, I am still very glad to have him as a friend. One or two friends is really all I need. Popularity doesn’t really matter after high school is over with, so why should I get all depressed about it? I’ve learned that people who think something is wrong with me, means that something is wrong with them. I hope that you all found this informative and inspiring, and I will be back to write again soon!

My blog about my high school experiences:

https://dwarren57.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/problems-i-faced-in-public-high-school/