Tag Archives: legal

GCLS Finalist! #She Persisted!

Beyond the Silence: A Woman’s Journey to Freedom, has been chosen as a finalist in the Golden Crown Literary Society Awards contest. The #GCLS’ mission is to educate, and to recognize and promote #lesbian literature. They receive thousands of entries to their awards contest every year. I am honored to have become a finalist in the dramatic fiction category. https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Silence-Aya-Walksfar-ebook/dp/B01ADRQ0K8

Though I set this novel in the Deep South in 1988, it is timely when we view our current political climate. Many states have passed so-called “religious liberty” laws that discriminate against #LGBTQ people and other states prepare to pass such laws. Beyond the Silence was based on research that exposed the harsh reality of how such discrimination played out in real women’s and real children’s lives. The legalities that allowed the discrimination that ripped apart Barb Hensen’s life were real. Lesbian women could have their children removed from their custody on the claim that their “lifestyle” endangered the child.

In the years since 1988, many strides have been made to protect lesbians and other LGBTQ people from harmful, and often devastating, discrimination. Unfortunately, there is a very real danger that the progress we have made could be rolled back. We could once again face powerful forces that want to tear apart our families.

However, Beyond the Silence is a story of triumph; the triumph of a woman who loses everything, yet finally finds herself. A woman who persisted; who refused to quit when many times she would have welcomed death. A woman who built a life in spite of all the obstacles that stood in her path.

I wrote this book as a tribute to such women, whether they are lesbian or straight; bisexual or transgender. This book is not about a single life, no matter how heroic such a life might be. It is the story of every woman who has ever struggle and nearly given up, yet dragged herself to her feet to fight on.

I salute you.

believe

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IT’S ABOUT TIME!

In 1988, I came out of the Closet. Not only did I come out, I blew the damn thing up!

The year started quietly enough–I had a nice home, decent furniture with a few antique pieces I’d refinished, rode horses with my friend of four years, and attended college to become a veterinarian. As the year progressed, that seeming normalcy shattered. My friend and I became an intimate couple–in the Deep South, in 1988.

Now, I’d always enjoyed my friend’s family as I didn’t have one of my own–big Sunday gatherings and lots of visiting back and forth–right up until I learned about the herd of pink elephants stampeding through her life. Suffice it to say that her family did not take her sexual orientation well. Her mother, a fundamentalist Christian, was certain that her daughter would go to Hell–and that was only because my friend had decided to divorce her abusive husband. With that reaction in mind, we didn’t apprise her of the change in sexual orientation. If it had only been her mother, we might have stayed and tried to work it through, but other family members felt that the use of violence would realign her orientation and wipe away her desire for a divorce.

Faced with a choice of using violence to counter extreme violence, in a state where a man could with impunity beat his wife but heaven help the woman who fought back–prison, psych wards and increased violence against such a woman–we decided to leave the state.

light in darkness

She left everything she had worked over eleven years to help accumulate including her beloved horses; walked away from a Bachelor’s of Science degree that lacked one quarter to complete, and packed what she could in an old cedar chest and a used van. I, too, walked away from home, material possessions that couldn’t fit in a couple of cardboard cartons and the van, my horses (we arranged with a supportive friend to come and get all of the horses and rehome them), and my dream of becoming a veterinarian.

We crossed the country with her old German Shepherd dog and my Pit Bull, driving for hours to exit the state and begin to feel a little bit safe. California was filled with crowds and congested cities, so we continued traveling, stopping here and there to find work, always labor and always paid in cash. We parked in rest areas and slept in the van; sometimes, awakened by the pounding of a night stick on the metal side and the order to move on. We bathed in sinks in the rest area bathrooms, in a bucket inside the van, and every once in a while, at a mission. The women there, waiting in line for their turn at the showers, frequently let us go ahead of them so we could get back on the road.

Oregon felt decidedly unsafe. A few weeks before a young gay man had been severely beaten on an Oregon college campus. Work on a couple of horse farms and a sheep farm and eventually a donut shop got us enough money to head for the state of Washington.

Years earlier, I had lived in Washington before I moved to the South. The memories of Western Washington held the promise of diversity and, perhaps, even acceptance and safety. Funny how having been heterosexual during my earlier sojourn in the state had drastically impacted my life; things had changed and not just my sexual orientation. Washington was, indeed, more tolerant than the Deep South–usually–if you were careful where you went–if you stayed aware of potential attackers around you–if you could find a landlord/landlady willing to rent to a couple of lesbos–if you could find a job where your sexual orientation didn’t matter if you could do the work—if, if, if……

Even on Capitol Hill in Seattle, LGBTQ Land, lesbians were waylaid, stalked, beaten, raped for being lesbian, and sometimes for just being female. It became difficult to tell which was the greater crime. We turned our anger to action and joined with other lesbians in an effort to change the world, or at least our little corner of it.

Over time, we found a wonderful landlady and worked temp labor at Labor Ready where they didn’t care if you were an omni-sexual purple alien; we reconnected with some friends of mine and made new friends, and we enrolled in college again, though not on our original track of studies. Slowly, we rebuilt our shattered lives.

My wife and I have been life partners for over twenty-six years, now. In spite of the sorrow and pain we endured, we grew closer to each other, strengthened each other, and have never rebuilt our Closets. It is heartening to finally have the vindication of the Supreme Court decision. Our marriage is, at last, legal in all fifty states.

No matter how dark

Will the Supreme Court decision make it easier to come out? For some, yes, but those are the fortunate ones. Those types of families and friends; co-workers and professors, are becoming more and more common. Yet still for some lesbians the day they step from the Closet, they will face violence, and ostracism from those closest to them.

There is still a lot of work to do.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/27/us/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage.html?_r=0

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COPS STEALING FROM MOTORISTS!

Gangs and criminals are no longer the biggest worry for innocent travelers. It’s the #cops.

During research for Backlash, Book 4, Special Crimes Team series I needed to find out under what conditions police could confiscate money from people. I discovered a series of investigative articles published September 2014 by The #WashingtonPost. Scary stuff!

In an effort to kept the integrity of the articles I will only quote small sections from them and provide links to the full articles.

(Washington Post Article) “Written by Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow Jr., Steven Rich

Published on September 6, 2014

After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government called on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on America’s highways.

Local officers, county deputies and state troopers were encouraged to act more aggressively in searching for suspicious people, drugs and other contraband. The departments of Homeland Security and Justice spent millions on police training.

The effort succeeded, but it had an impact that has been largely hidden from public view: the spread of an aggressive brand of policing that has spurred the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others not charged with crimes, a Washington Post investigation found. Thousands of people have been forced to fight legal battles that can last more than a year to get their money back.

Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of “highway interdiction” to departments across the country.”

(Aya) According to the investigation by the Washington Post, a private firm is currently running an intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking and Notification System. They are gathering data on Americans even though state and federal authorities have warned them that their actions could constitute violation of privacy and constitutional protections.

Stealing from motorists is such a good gig that some police are using it to raise funds. There  are also chat rooms where police compare how much money they have stolen from motorists.

Two unfortunate motorists are Mandrel Stuart, a restaurant owner, who had $17,550 confiscated without ever being charged with a crime; and, Matt Lee, a 31-year-old college graduate in Michigan who had $2400 his father gave him to help him travel to California for a job interview confiscated by police.

You can read Mandrel Stuart’s and Matt Lee’s stories printed by The Washington Post on September 8, 2014 and written by Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Michael Sallah at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/08/they-fought-the-law-who-won/ 

You can read how this literal highway robbery got started in an article written by Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow Sr. and Steven Rich on September 6, 2014 and printed in The Washington Post at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/06/stop-and-seize/

This is an overview of the subjects of this series of articles published by The Washington Post:

Stop and Seize: In recent years, thousands of people have had cash confiscated by police without being charged with crimes. The Post looks at the police culture behind the seizures and the people who were forced to fight the government to get their money back.
Part 1: After Sept. 11, 2001, a cottage industry of private police trainers emerged to teach aggressive techniques of highway interdiction to thousands of local and state police.
Part 2: One training firm started a private intelligence-sharing network and helped shape law enforcement nationwide.
Part 4: Police agencies nationwide routinely buy vehicles and weapons with money and property seized under federal civil forfeiture law from people who were not charged with a crime.
Part 5: Highway seizure in Iowa fuels debate about asset-forfeiture laws.
Part 6: D.C. police plan for future seizure proceeds years in advance in city budget documents.
Chat transcript​: The reporters behind “Stop and Seize” answered readers’ questions about the investigative series.

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Backlash, Book 4, Special Crimes Team is due out Spring, 2015!

 

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