The Westchester Tribune edition
Westchester’s LGBTQ+ Youth Deserve Better
NOTE: Pseudonyms for certain organizations and individuals are used in consideration and in the protection of our youth
Our LGBTQ+ youth are under attack nationwide.
WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — June 23, 2022 — Queer history is being erased from our school curriculum where it already lacked in itself. Trans and nonbinary youth are fleeing states like U.S. refugees where laws aim to persecute them and their families. The self-harm and suicide rates of LGBTQ+ youth are only going up and up. Now more than ever, Westchester County needs to ensure that our children and young adults are being advocated for to the fullest extent possible. Along with political “figures” that continue to claim to be genuine activists, I need to make clear that not all organizations in the area that claim to be supporting LGBTQ+ youth are doing that at all.
I recently resigned from a local group that I will refer to as “FLSEN Lower Hudson Counties”. They don’t deserve the attention, only to be warned about. After I recently called out a State Senator’s intentional inaction in moving forward crucial LGBTQ+-supporting pieces of legislation this session, this chapter of “FLSEN” admitted to me that they would rather “keep the peace” with this Senator than express the reality of the matter that the Senator, in her Committee Chair position, chose not to bring these bills to a vote. This started Pride Month on a very disappointing note which only enhanced the hopelessness many of our queer youth continue to feel.
In the final phone call I had with the chapter’s Co-Chair I will refer to as “CJ Farger”, after the public criticism I made towards the Senator’s intentional neglect, she stated that the Board would have to consider if I should even stay with the chapter, and if I do, what “new role” I would take. I told the Co-Chair right then and there that I thought what she and the Board were doing was extremely cowardly, and a massive disservice to our queer youth. I also told her that I’m making the decision for them; I’m resigning. Continuing the cowardice, “CJ” stated, “Just so it’s clear, this isn’t a decision the Board is making.” Further solidifying her cowardly and self-interested behavior, CJ was attempting to clear FLSEN of what she saw as more liability; more, frankly pathetic, “keeping of the peace”. The hypocrisy of it all is that the Board released a statement expressing their “outrage” towards my civic criticism of their “favorite Senator” and that “this person is no longer associated with FLSEN Lower Hudson Counties.” The whole statement made me cringe because of how subservient it was. Maybe CJ should kiss Shelley’s ring while she’s at it. It’s not the only person she serves over the well-being of our youth.
Though they tried to make it seem as if was of their own doing, I left the chapter of my own volition. Though I am proud of the years of hard work I did on behalf of Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam Counties’ students and educators, I could not and cannot associate myself with a group that refuses to stand up for the rights of some of our most vulnerable people in society. I’m glad someone with the chapter made sure they felt empowered and had a seat at the governmental table. No one was going to step up to the plate, so I did. CJ said this herself. However, this may be the end of that empowerment. CJ expressed during our final phone call that she wasn’t even sure if they were going to refill my position if they removed or repositioned me within the chapter as she didn’t want the chapter to be involved in advocacy after the factual criticism I made towards one single elected. CJ also expressed that I always gave “too much detail” in the policy role I held with the chapter in reporting updates to the Board on my work. What CJ revealed in that statement is that she never truly cared about civically advocating for LGBTQ+ youth. Simply put, CJ just wanted the position filled because other chapters held persons of the role. CJ wanted performative activism. A public veil of courage.
I should have taken the signs seriously that I saw early on. When Shelley allegedly released the Chihuahuas, I mean hounds in the form of Michael Sabatino and Anthony Nicodemo to try and silence and place stigma on me, it included the calls made by both men to CJ as though she needed to “do something” for holding accountable their dear ruler, Shelley Mayer. CJ and Michael have been good friends for many years now who wine and dine together. I don’t know why I dismissed this gross relationship. I don’t know why I was surprised for even a millisecond that CJ has never had any genuine interest in being bold when our children are being hurt. Apparently, all she needs to hear is a friend telling her not to do the right thing.
It does not stop there though.
Outside of this, I had told CJ multiple times about an individual who has been involved with the chapter that this person sexually harassed me. This person tried to pressure me into having sex with them when I clearly was not interested. Each time CJ pretended to be disgusted with the experience I endured, but no actual action was taken. No actual action was taken to protect a member of the chapter she is supposed to be guiding and looking out for. This individual is someone who is significantly older than me and who intensely sexually harassed me. This is another sign I should have taken seriously. An incredible moral and ethical failure on CJ’s part that hurt immensely due to the lack of human compassion and empathy I couldn’t comprehend or believe at the time.
I’ve stated this before and I will continue to state it over and over again. We have two choices in life; love or fear. Both love and fear respectively come in many forms. When CJ, a straight, White woman, (cisgender, that is denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex0, as chapter Co-Chair of an LGBTQ+ youth organization, determines out of her own “comfort” and self-interest what is best for our local youth, that is ever so clearly fear. I heard recently at a Pride flag raising that supposedly Anthony Nicodemo was given the “Michael Sabatino Award” for his “advocacy” towards our community. Maybe next year Michael can receive the Anthony Nicodemo “award”, and the year after they can just hand each other awards simultaneously. Maybe CJ can host the event. She would cave immediately with the slightest pressure to do so. In the end, it doesn’t matter to her either way. As long as the “peace is kept.” The prioritization of cult-like admiration, to reward the egos for their exploitation of their own marginalized community is the avoidance of self-accountability. That is fear. The former Governor Cuomo advocated for pieces of legislation that addressed sexual violence in New York State. That does not make him any less guilty of the horrors he committed. Just because an individual is one of many that gets publicity for being part of the good and rightful cause of marriage equality does not mean that person is automatically a genuine public servant. When people refuse to accept this current reality because they rather be a “good-weather ally”, that is fear.
Representation doesn’t matter if the officials of these marginalized communities continue to uphold the harmful status quo. Period. They are a part of the problem and are abominations to the marginalized communities they belong to. These officials or figures are not “least worse” when compared to conservatives who don’t validate the human rights of marginalized people. What an intentional low standard. They are in the same category and allyship as conservatives regardless of party affiliation. They are disgraces of their own doing. However, they are always in control of their own undoing of the mess they have made. No one should ever be judged for being vulnerable with themselves and wanting to shed the person they have become. In almost all cases, courage comes when we face the reality that we must heal. Facts matter and this is not up for debate. The well-known saying that “the truth hurts” is… the truth. We are only doing an injustice to ourselves, our communities, and the world by not working through this hurt each of us holds. That we hold as an individual collective.
What I want to say are two things; to students, educators, and school administration. In my opinion, you should not seek out the assistance or services of “FLSEN Lower Hudson Counties”. As someone who has experienced the inner turmoil of the group, the children you care deeply about deserve much better. Until they can truly transform themselves, whether of literal Board members or in their moral compasses, they are not doing our schools any good. In a time when our LGBTQ+ youth need us to be there for them the most, we cannot allow misrepresentation, ill-will, or lack of effort even remotely touch our advocacy.
I also want to say that we need to reexamine our relationship with governmental and political officials we see as our “allies”. Again, we cannot afford to stoop to the low standard of accepting inaction over bigoted harm. Both neglect and bigotry are forms of violence. When nothing was governmentally done to support queer people during the HIV/AIDS Crisis, that was violent inaction. When “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was instituted, that was violent, direct action. When Shelley refuses to put multiple LGBTQ+ youth support bills to a Committee vote, that is violent inaction. When the Florida State Legislature passes bills that immensely harm young Floridians, when these same youth look at pending bills in NYS they beg to have in their home states, that is violent, direct action.
This is not a movement of simply asking people to “be kind” to one another. That should be implied. This is a movement where lives continue to be violated and lost at an increasingly alarming rate. We must do something now, and we must move forward with unreserved, quality intent. M.L.K. Jr. said it best, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”