Two women seeking equality in a state where some couples are more equal than others.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Big Happenings in the Busk-Sutton Household

I've been quiet lately. There are still a few posts on the backburner. BUT I do have some big news to share:

Rebecca will be done with her family medicine residency on October 1. (For those less familiar with how medical education works, this means that she will have been a DO for more than three years, has passed her Step 3 boards, completed an accredited residency, and will be working on a full license instead of a limited one. Many people refer to this as being a "real" doctor, as it's when salaries for MDs and DOs usually reach the level people expect to see physicians making.) This isn't really the big news, although of course we're incredibly excited to say good-bye to 80 hour work weeks; schedules that change every day, week, and month, with no advance warning; and double-booked appointment slots.

She's been job hunting for months now to find a federally qualified health center that met the terms of her loan repayment program and will allow her to use evidence-based, compassionate care for her patients. After a job fair, dozens of resumes sent out, multiple interviews, and a few offers, she has officially signed a contract, and it's not where we expected:

Rebecca will be working at the Family Health Center in (drumroll please . . . ) Kalamazoo, MI.

The Family Health Center is  two hours and five minutes by car from #fixerupperdetroit, but only about 25 minutes from Rebecca's parents. Because she wanted to work evenings and is willing to work longer days so that her patients can avoid taking time off work to see her, her contract grants her three twelve-hour days in a row (it looks like Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 8 am to 8 pm) which means that she will spend two or three nights a week in west Michigan and four days a week in Detroit working on the house and hanging out with yours truly.

We haven't worked out all of the exact details, but here are the more frequent questions we've heard:

1. Why Kalamazoo?

The Family Health Center is strongly committed to reducing gaps in care and health disparities using innovation in scheduling, locations, treatment protocols, sliding scale payment, and integrated care. Rather than expecting patients to navigate the healthcare system alone or shop around for care, the FHC sees itself as responsible to provide as many services as possible for the underserved patients in their county. They are actively, sustainably expanding to meet those goals.

The leadership has been responsive to Rebecca's priorities for her patients and even to my concerns about her working conditions, something we can't say about the other clinics that have made offers. The FHC also has a strong affiliation with Western Michigan's medical school and Rebecca will be considered community faculty, so she can continue doing the teaching she loves.

As a mid-sized city, Kalamazoo itself is also implementing great programs (the Kalamazoo Promise is probably the highest profile, but there are many others) that could possibly be scaled up to larger cities like Detroit eventually.

And for those who have heard that west Michigan is less gay-friendly: sort of true, but not in K-zoo. Between the two universities and strong philanthropic base, Kalamazoo is fairly progressive, and we don't anticipate any more issues as a same-sex couple there than we experience in metro Detroit.

2. Will you be selling #fixerupperdetroit?*

Not any time soon. While many of the renovations are done, there are additional tasks we'd like to complete before we sell, and now that Rebecca will be working much less, we will finally have time to do them. There's a small possibility that we could rent #fixerupperdetroit out for a while once the key renovations are complete.

*Edit since I've had some questions on this: when I say not any time soon, I mean that we're likely at least a year, and probably much more, out from completing the projects we'd like to get done to make #fixerupperdetroit the best it can be!

3. Will you be moving permanently to Kalamazoo?

Remains to be seen. Possibly in the very distant future if things go well, but for now, we're looking forward to four day weekends in the D!

4. Where will Rebecca stay in west Michigan?

At first, with her parents, until we find something close to the clinic's Paterson location (hopefully in advance of winter driving conditions). We'd like to find a small apartment or maybe down the line a house or condo. Let me know if you have any leads.

5. What are you doing to celebrate?

There have already been cupcakes from Love & Buttercream. We're also planning some traveling in between the end of Rebecca's residency and the start of her new contract.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville: Are Tiki Torches Free Speech?

Let's talk about the difference between free speech and assembly and what happened in Charlottesville.

The Bill of Rights recognizes the right to free speech, which means that the government cannot arrest or detain someone simply because of something they said.

Freedom of assembly means that people with a mutual interest can gather without fear of legal action taken by the government.

Now let's talk about Charlottesville. Full disclaimer: I wasn't there. Most of the people commenting weren't.


Based on eyewitness testimony and the photographs that have become available, there were a LOT of TIKI torches. The manufacturer has already released a statement that they don't support the use of their product to foment racism.

Even more than that, I looked at the Product Safe Use guidelines published on the TIKI website because maybe I'm just paranoid, but it really didn't seem safe to me to be using TIKI torches this way. Turns out that I'm not paranoid.

For the bamboo torch, which appears to dominate the picture, here are some relevant instructions:

Use only in well-ventilated area. 

Do not use in windy conditions. 

Do not tip torch as fuel can spill and cause serious injury. 

Insert torch pole into ground minimum of 6” until secured. 

Do not place torch under covered shelter or umbrellas, near pedestrian traffic or combustibles such as wood structures, fuel, clothing or dry vegetation. 

 I am unfamiliar with Virginia fire code, so I can't say if the use of this many TIKI torches in this manner was illegal, although it seems like a possibility.

Some eyewitness accounts do state that it was difficult to breathe because of all of the smoke, which makes sense, since on another set of instructions, it recommends placing torches 6 to 8 feet apart, parameters which clearly weren't met during the march.

Let's stop pretending this was just a hypothetical idea or just free speech or just the right to assembly. This rally included a real threat to public safety, at a minimum in the form of a fire hazard.  

Many people in attendance also had pepper spray, which in some cases is subject to governmental regulation, and firearms, which are subject to governmental oversight as well (the second amendment is a separate issue that I've addressed elsewhere on this blog).

Free speech and freedom of assembly don't cancel out fire code, public safety, or laws regarding fire code. 

And more to the point, if the ideas are purely hypothetical, if it's just a belief system and a rally to honor history, why were torches necessary? Why bring firearms? Why carry pepper spray?

I cannot pretend this is normal.

I cannot say that I defend the rights of fellow US residents to behave in such a way.

I condemn White supremacy and the attempts of this group of White people to intimidate and threaten People of Color and those from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds. 

This is a call to my White readers to join me in exercising our own free speech and denouncing the beliefs and actions of White supremacists.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence Day in Trump's US: And Frederick Douglass is "Getting Recognized More and More"

It's a strange year to be celebrating US independence or reflecting on US history.

This is a year when the Bill of Rights is threatened by an administration that seems to lack a basic understanding of civics.

It's a year that we fear that a portion of our representatives will return from the July recess and vote on a bill that will remove access to healthcare from millions of people in the US, a decision guaranteed to cause unnecessary suffering and death.

 It's a year when the president said, during the first day of Black History Month:

"I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things, Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact."

Image result for creative commons frederick douglass
Frederick Douglass. Creative Commons.

Many people wrote excellent responses to the president's remark, so I won't endeavor to treat it in its entirety.

But on the Fourth of July, I want to share excerpts from the words of Frederick Douglass, as they are the only form of patriotism and history I can fully embrace this year (read "The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro" in its entirety by clicking this link):

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.... 

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?. . . .

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, "It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed." But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. . . .

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding.-There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed. . . .

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.  

....Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference.  (bolded emphasis added)

I offer this with no further commentary, other than to ask that today you reflect upon it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Confessions: A Lesbian's Open Letter to the Men I Dated

For readers who don't know me personally: I dated exclusively men before Rebecca and I became a couple. It never occurred to me to do otherwise.

This is an open letter to the men who dated me, for time ranging from a few weeks to several months.

Dear Ex-Boyfriends,

I'm sorry that I didn't love you better. I wish I had.

But I didn't know how to. You see, I didn't know who I was, and I definitely didn't love who I was, and that meant that I didn't have enough to offer you. 

I shouldn't have been dating at all. I should have held myself to a standard of defining what I needed before pulling you into the hot mess that was me before I was out. Before I knew. Before I saw the pattern I had of falling madly, unsustainably for men I couldn't make happy because I was unhappy. I thought you would make me happy, but that's not how love works.

I was socialized to believe that gay people were broken. I didn't think I was broken, so I assumed that I was straight. 

I was socialized to believe that women are called to marriage and childbearing as their highest form of service.

I was socialized to believe that I was unattractive and hard to love, too smart, too religious, too flat, too loud to be loved.

And then you found me lovely, for a time at least. You made me feel, for a time at least, that it was possible for someone to love me. You told me that women in many shapes and sizes are beautiful. You talked to me late into the night and found my interdisciplinarity engaging.

That was important. What you did and said mattered. What you didn't say mattered.

What I didn't say mattered too.

It didn't work. We didn't last. Things ended amicably for the most part. 

I can't pretend to know how you felt when I came out. You might have been surprised, or maybe you felt that things made more sense. 

Know that I never meant to hurt you, if it hurt. Know that I will raise my sons and daughters, Lord willing, to believe differently.

I hope you are happy. I hope you have found your helpmate as I found mine. I hope that you learned something useful from the time we spent together, as I learned from you.

The most fervent love I can give,


Monday, May 1, 2017

One Year of #OwnerOccupieDetroit: Anniversary in the D

I know it's been a while since I posted - things got away from me.

The good news is that #fixerupperdetroit has come a long way from where we were at a year ago yesterday, when we officially moved in to a construction site with no kitchen and a life of plaster dust.

Being a Detroit resident is a dream come true. I see the Spirit of Detroit on my utility bills, my neighbors are amazing, and our house is set up to hold a couple dozen people for a birthday party.

Better yet, our house is sending the vibe we want it to. People go through our cupboards and fridge to find things they need. They let themselves in our front door. Yesterday, when we had a gargantuan group of people over for Rebecca's birthday, I heard that people were washing dirty dishes themselves because we ran out of dishes (I'm pretty sure we started with a dozen clean bowls and more than a dozen dinner plates) and they didn't want to bother me while I was hostessing. We finished an entire slow cooker full of Thai vegetable soup. A giant tray of crab rangoons. 20+ fresh rolls. We had to open up an extra table just for desserts people brought. Two people ended up chilling in my upstairs office to chat someplace quieter. People hung out with new friends. Basically, they treated my home like their home. Like they're family. Which they are.

Our Sunday night Table for 12+ potluck has been a wonderful experience. I joke that it incentivizes me to clean my house, but I find myself looking forward to hosting such a casual event and bringing people from many walks of life together. I hope other people will consider joining me in hosting an event like this regularly - it doesn't have to be every week. Once a month would also work.

Yes, there will be potluck on Sunday, May 7th from 6 pm to 9 pm (ish). And you're invited. The Palmer Park Art Fair is this weekend and just a short drive or bike ride away, so I encourage you to visit it and support local artists before you come to #fixerupperdetroit for dinner.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Confessions: #straightpersonclosetchallenge

Hey readers,

I know a lot of you are straight. That's a numbers game. There are just more of you out there. I'm grateful you read. I'm even more grateful for those of you who act as allies - who vote, speak, listen, and advocate on behalf of families like mine, on behalf of children who identify as LGBT+, on behalf of those who don't fit traditional conceptions of gender.

Here's my confession: given the current political climate, a small part of me (very small, but not nonexistent) is a little regretful that I've registered my same-sex marriage with the US government. There's a pubic record available to prove that I'm gay. There's also, of course, this blog.

I wasn't always so forthcoming. I was in the closet for a long time. It was easier when I wasn't seeing anyone. It was hard when I was in love.

Even now, I don't come out at all of the work locations I go to. I've learned to avoid discussions about my marital status, not use singular or gendered pronouns about my spouse, try not to discuss if I live alone or who I've dated or what I find attractive. As a lipstick lesbian, it's pretty easy to avoid arousing suspicion, at least at first.

Every once in a while, someone tells me that it shouldn't matter if I'm gay, and that I should just keep it to myself. And I think how hard it is to keep an entire sexual orientation a secret. No, seriously. It's tricky.

So straight readers, straight allies, who read this, I'm challenging you: for a week, try to avoid mentioning anything that would give away your sexual orientation to any new people you meet.

Don't talk about dates you've been on, what characteristics you find sexy, your spouse or significant other, your wedding, your anniversary, your children (if it would give away something about your spouse), why you relocated/took a certain job (if it pertains to a significant other), or where you went on vacation (if you went with a significant other). Fill out any forms that ask about your marital status correctly, of course, but make a mental note of the number of times you do so that it would be more complicated for same-sex couples. Don't like or share any articles or pictures on social media that could give away your sexual orientation.

Take notes as you do it on what is easy, what is hard, what is surprising. And then at the end, share your thoughts on social media and tag them with #straightpersonclosetchallenge (if any of my Trans friends have a version that could be the #cispersonclosetchallenge let me know).

My hope is that the anxiety that members of the LGBT+ community experience on a regular basis becomes more palpable and understandable, that you become more invested in supporting local housing and employment legal protections for the LGBT+ community, and that you also reflect on which questions you ask yourself at the outset of a relationship that might inadvertently be "outing" people.

The good news for you is that because of straight privilege, if you fail at this challenge, you most likely won't be fired or asked to leave your place of worship or evicted or physically threatened or blacklisted because of your sexual orientation.

Nobody should be.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A List of People More Qualified to Be Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos has never attended nor worked in a public school (for K-12 or college). She didn't send her children to one. She has no teaching certificate or degree related to education or policy. And yet Donald Trump has nominated her for Secretary of Education.

Therefore, I'm making a list of people I know that would be more qualified to be Secretary of Education:

1. My mother-in-law, a retired public school librarian
2. My father-in-law, a certified special education teacher (although he no longer works as an educator)
3. My aunt, a certified preschool teacher (although she no longer works as an educator)
4. A different aunt, a certified teacher who worked as a substitute teacher (although she no longer works as an educator)
5. My sister-in-law, a certified secondary social studies teacher who worked as a substitute teacher (although she no longer works as an educator)
6. My best friend, a certified English teacher at a public alternative school
7. All of the educators I've partnered with while providing ACT and SAT prep
8. Everyone who graduated from MSU's elementary education bachelor's program with me
9. Several friends and former students who entered public education through alternative certification programs like Teach for America
10. The parents I know who have done an excellent job homeschooling their children via participation in homeschooling networks
11. A former student who served on a public school board while he was still in high school
12. Every person in the MSU Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education Ph.D. cohort that I was blessed to be part of for a year
13 (Baker's dozen). My sister, a certified Spanish, math, and ESL teacher who has never taught full-time in a public school but has subbed in many and attended public school for K-12 and her bachelor's

 Of course, there are also lots of people with Ph.D.s, political experience, and policy training who would be even more qualified than the people on this list.

We can do so much better.

If you agree, here's a list of phone numbers for the senators on the committee that must examine Betsy Devos' appointment before confirming it. Let's get the phones ringing off the hook.