[Care Warning: This article discusses the topics of suicide and suicidal ideation]
WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — June 8, 2022 — As a Queer Rights Activist, I am very transparent and direct in calling out injustice; with my activism and holding people accountable. It’s a must. This communication can be a verbal “slap in the face” at times. I say exactly what I mean. However, my calling out of individuals is not of fury towards who they are personally, but their behavior. Queer rage is power. That’s a phrase used since the early days of the modern Queer Liberation Movement. But the meaning behind it is not one of the violence that continues to oppress queer people. It’s the taking of these horrible feelings that arise from injustice, honoring those feelings, and using them to create a world that is truly loving and equitable.
Many people know I have been holding the actions, or inactions, I should say, of NYS Senator Shelley Mayer to the fire. Yes, you Shelley. I know you are aware, but I’ll explain that in a bit. I’m holding this behavior to the fire not to burn, but to shed a light on true injustice in the form of intentional neglect. Intentional inaction. Senator Mayer is the Chair of the State Senate Education Committee. It is the sole power of the Committee Chair to bring bills that go through so for a vote to then move on to both chambers of the legislature, to then head to the Governor’s desk for signature. Four very timely and important bills were stalled in the Education Committee this session that many NYS LGBTQ+ advocacy groups rallied in support of, even holding press conferences at the Capitol Building with electeds who are also supporting the measures. The “LGBTQI-Inclusive Curriculum Bill”, the “TGNCNB Anti-Discrimination Requirements In Schools Bill”, the “Student Suicide Prevention Act” (with edits being demanded that address the policing of mental health crises in schools), and the “Comprehensive Sexuality Education In Schools Bill”.
As I stated, these bills were not brought for a vote. I hate to say it Shelley, but facts matter. This is all on you. Even if you thought they wouldn’t have passed the Committee this session, an ally to the LGBTQ+ community would have brought it to the table so we could have those votes on record. Even if for your own sake, so the accountability wouldn’t all land on you. When I expressed my concerns to the Ranking Member of the Education Committee in specific reference to the youth suicide prevention bill, he said in confirmation “I will certainly review the legislation and keep your thoughts in mind… however, only the Chair can bring it forward for a vote and move it out of Committee.”
Anthony Nicodemo, we were recently speaking at an event and you were saying how close friends you are with Shelley. There is a witness to this conversation. When I told you that the suicide prevention bill is stuck in Committee, you were shocked and said you would bring it up with Shelley. What happened with that? What was the result? Michael Sabatino, I was directly told by a known Westchester County LGBTQ+ ally that you and Anthony had personally called them upset about my recent criticism of Shelley as though they needed to “do something about it.” You have also contacted other organizations I advocate with as well. If this is true, why didn’t you come to me directly? We have each other’s emails from group email threads of our intersecting advocacy. That includes you, Anthony. Shelley, I have reached out to you and gave you my contact multiple times. Why are Anthony and Michael trying to take action in the dark to allegedly try and hurt me? Why haven’t you come to me yourself to express your perspective on the matter?
As to tying this all to the systemic roots of the matter:
Why are we repeating, again and again, the dirty politics, fear-mongering, and the attempts, emphasis on attempts, to destabilize people’s personal lives? Why have we reduced ourselves to this type of behavior? Why are we continuing politics and governmental operations that have left people disenfranchised for so long? I’m not a religious person, but I am a spiritual one. Actually, I believe we are all one. I also believe we have two answers in life and are the only two answers that guide every action and decision we make; love or fear. When we choose self-interest to advance our own political careers, we are choosing fear. We are closing our hearts believing we are preserving ourselves to avoid harm and fictional “lack”. When we choose to exploit our own marginalized communities against the actual statistically proven needs of the communities we belong to, for our own self-interest, we are choosing fear for the same exact reason. Our egos kick in. We cave to insecurity and actually do more harm than good to ourselves and others. As much as it provides a false blanket of comfort, we are not power and profit.
I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means. What I’m saying is that each of us is already enough as we are. What drives me as a Queer Rights Activist is connecting to the roots of our movement. Early Queer Liberation leaders like Marsha P. Johnson, a Black transwoman, and Sylvia Rivera, and trans-Latina, led our intersectional community in the fight against socioeconomic discrimination, housing justice, comprehensive healthcare (especially mental healthcare), racial justice, breaking down the prison industrial complex, and dismantling the police state and the brutality it continues to produce.
When I boldly and unreservedly ask you Shelley to move the “Student Suicide Prevention Act” forward, I’m demanding this of you as a survivor of a suicide attempt in high school, as someone who continues to struggle with clinical depression and anxiety who does not want to continue to see the pain, suffering, and preventable deaths of our children and young adults. When I demand of you Shelley to move the “TGNCNB Anti-Discrimination Requirements In Schools Bill” forward, I’m asking you as someone who knows that 36% of trans and nonbinary youth recently reported being sexually assaulted when forced to use bathrooms and locker rooms that didn’t correlate with their expressed gender identity.₁ When I demand of you Shelley to look beyond yourself and move the “LGBTQI-Inclusive Curriculum Bill” forward, I’m asking you as someone who is seeing “Don’t Say Gay” bills like the one in Florida turn into law across the country that attempt, emphasis on attempt, to erase queer history.
Anthony and Michael, who hurt you? Who hurt you to allegedly want to engage in cowardly behavior? To victimize someone the way someone victimized you, and continue this cycle of abuse? Why are we uplifting the unfortunate politics that Yonkers and NYS as a whole are known for? Why are we using the struggle and joy of our own queer community to support those we believe will uplift our self-interests so they can scatter a few crumbs for you? Why is the adherence to seeking cult-like admiration so important? Can’t you see that I’m fighting for human rights that no political party can gatekeep?
To Shelley, Anthony, and Michael: You must not fear me. Unfortunately, I know there are ultimately failed attempts that will continue to be conducted as a backlash in the shadows, to attempt, emphasis on attempt, to silence me. This is nothing new and is a landscape NYS is all too familiar with. This is the fear I speak of. You have nothing to defend. You are okay. Some people may find the following to be awkward, uncomfortable, or something even to laugh at, and that’s okay. That’s a whole other topic. But I love you. I love you as equal human beings, especially during Pride Month. I feel the pain that has motivated you, and I’m so sorry you have experienced it for far too long. Humanity is truly unbearable, but we are greater than this world, and we are here to make the quality of life better for all. This is one lesson I have taken in deeply and continue to work on as an imperfect, but enough human being. As someone who held so much pain that I almost ended my time here on Earth far too early.
I ask of you Shelley, Anthony, Michael, and all those complicit: Do you have the courage to see what you are doing? Do you have the courage to say that you are not your behavior, and you can change how you engage with the world? Do you have the courage to say enough is enough, because you, as individual people, are already good enough as you are? Another NYS Legislative Session is done, but it is not the last. While we wait for the next, approximately 130 people a day in the U.S. will end their own lives without the second chance I received.₂ While we wait for the next session, we sit with the reality that anti-gay hate crimes in our country increased by 51.3% from 2020 to 2021.₃
You must know that nothing you do out of fear will hurt me. When you hold such immense suffering that gives you the ability to sit and wait in the fumes until your last breath is taken, you come to realize that nothing really matters. Nothing matters in a good way. We are specks of existence on a tiny rock that may as well be a pebble hurtling through space. Nothing you do out of fear will stop me. If I was hypothetically stripped of my clothes and thrown in the woods, I would not be defeated; I would feel bad for you that you feel you have to reduce yourself to such a low.
Choose love because that is what each of us is. Put your defenses down. It’s never too late to surrender to yourself and heal.
₁“Transgender Teens with Restricted Bathroom Access at Higher Risk of Sexual Assault.” Harvard T.H. Chan – School of Public Health, 7 May 2019, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/transgender-teens-restricted-bathroom-access-sexual-assault/.
₂“Suicide Statistics.” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, AFSP, 28 Feb. 2022, https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/.
₃Farivar, Masood. “US Big City Hate Crimes Spiked by 39% in 2021, Report Finds.” VOA News, 14 May 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/us-big-city-hate-crimes-spiked-by-39-in-2021-report-finds-/6571116.html.