"Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, but it is the only answer."--Dorothy Day


It Gets Better.

I am heartbroken every time I hear of another child taking their life because they were bullied for being different. I like to hope that the world is constantly spinning forward, becoming a kinder, more compassionate, more tolerant place, but I know that this isn't true. I have known too many people who have lived in despair because of their sexuality and what they have been led to believe it means for their life and soul. I have lost a sweet friend to suicide because he had no hope for the lifting of this despair. So yes, I know my hope is only that.

I was listening to Dan Savage's podcast yesterday, and heard about a project that he has started, encouraging GLBT adults to make
videos posted on YouTube for the viewing of gay teenagers who may be in despair due to bullying or bigoted actions of others in their community. The theme is simple. It gets better. This point that you are at right now, where you feel so alone and so hopeless for the future, is likely the hardest your life will ever be. In a few years, you will be free to leave that town/school/church/home that is making you so sad, and to live a wonderful, joyful life. The videos so far are wonderful to see, and hopefully will provide some hope to young people who feel so isolated and desperate.

As I am only an ally of the GLBT community, and I don't relish the thought of putting a video of myself on the Internet, there will be no video from me. But I want to offer something up. My high school years were not bad. They could've been much, much worse. I was for the most part invisible to the bullies and mean girls at my school. And I made friends with important people (i.e. football players, the girlfriends of football players, principals) and so was protected. (Also I was really intense, so people may have been afraid of setting me off.) But there were still points of despair, where I felt so out of place and like there was a boulder on my head, keeping me from being anything other than what I was then--someone who knew how to fly below the radar, who would do your homework so you wouldn't make fun of her or maybe would leave her friends alone, someone who lived everyday hoping that this was not it. And now here I am. I live a life unlike anything I thought possible for myself. I live in a beautiful city. I know the most interesting people. I do amazing work. I have a truly great life.

And so I offer this to you, anyone who may stumble upon me through a random Google search. It gets better. The day you leave home for college might be the best day of your life. It was for me. You can see it in the smile on my face on my University of Texas ID. I keep that card to look at whenever I get bogged down in the pains of the past. It is a photo of optimism personified. The wide smile and bad haircut of a new beginning.

[And to take the road of schadenfreude for a moment, all those kids who make your life hell today will never be anything other than who they are now. They will continue to live in that small town that smells of sulfur/pig poop/industrial run-off. They will work at gas stations and auto part stores and trendy mall shops, dressing far too young for their 30 y.o. body. They will spend their days remembering their teens and knowing that that was the best their life will ever be. And they will get bald, and fat, and at least one of the jocks that called you homophobic names will be gay himself. And you will be hotter than him.]


A Letter Regarding Your Letter.

Dear Dr. Starner Jones (I doubted you were real, but you are. I looked you up. I still blame Sarah Palin for this.),

Your letter was enlightening. Thanks for putting yourself out there. But I have some questions/statements in response. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a socialist-thinking type since long before it was all the rage. My degree even has the word social in it.

So with regard to your letter. I am bothered by the prospect of you working in the ER. I imagine it was not your first choice, that you were hoping for a match in Plastics or something a bit more glamourous. But while you’re there, please take it as an opportunity to see how the other half lives.

You cite this patient’s smoking, eating, drinking and dentistry habits as evidence that ‘Obamacare’ is unwarranted. Do you know how much private insurance costs? On the cheap end, it’s about $300 a month for a single person. And this doesn’t cover prescriptions or pay for a significant portion of any surgery or acute medical care one might need, if one were to actually get sick. It doesn’t include dental (thus addressing the need for ornamental dentistry), or nutrition, or smoking cessation services, or myriad other needs. And it costs $300 a month. Generally people like you and me, who have been blessed with good paying jobs, have health insurance given to them. I pay like $80 a month for mine. But the average American who has no insurance, works a minimum wage job, making at most $7.25 an hour. If you work two part-time jobs (as minimum wage jobs are rarely full-time), you make about $14,000 per year. This is just above the poverty line for a single adult. [And just so we’re clear, these people don’t qualify for Medicaid. To qualify for Medicaid, one cannot make more than $700 per month (in New York) and/or must have a very expensive chronic health condition (i.e. cancer, AIDS, etc.) and even then you are rarely treated appropriately for any acute illness.] So let’s think about that. You make roughly $1000 per month. You must pay for rent, bills and food (you don’t qualify for food stamps either). Very conservatively that’s about $975 per month—rent being $700, utilities about $100 and then $175 for groceries (see below). And then you have to pay for your really crappy health insurance. That leaves you with -$275 per month. So you use credit cards to cover that. But then you have to add that to your budget, and with interest you’re never going to pay that off. So that $275 per month ends up costing you thousands of dollars. And that’s without you ever having gotten sick. Hmmm…seems I’ve hit a dead end.

Now let’s talk food for just a brief moment. I, a single person living in an expensive city who tends to eat organically, spend about $200 each month on groceries. And then maybe another $100 on eating out (a girl’s gotta have a social life). But the average, non-organic-eating, non-New York-living, person spends a bit less. According to the USDA, in 2004, the average food expenditure per person per month was $125. But then food prices have risen significantly since then, so it would be more like $175 in 2010. And once again, our example person, who has no health insurance, makes about $1000 a month (see budget above). And our example person doesn’t even have children. In a very strange paradox, obesity and hunger have become linked. Hunger is no longer about thin frail children. It’s about children who eat only processed foods, because their families cannot afford fresh vegetables. Or even better, there are no stores nearby that sell fresh vegetables. So vegetables turn into canned corn, or white rice, or French fries with ketchup. But that’s for another time.

I will leave you with a personal story of the woes of the badly insured. My second year of graduate school, I started having debilitating headaches. Anyone who knew me during that time would say that I was teetering on the edge of something really terrible. But I was insured through my university and thus went to the student clinic. I was seen by urgent care, referred to my regular doctor, sent to three specialists and physical therapy, and found no relief for months on end. I spent a night in the ER when it go so bad that I couldn’t swallow, and then two days of my life waiting for clinic appointments and being told these headaches were all in my head (in a metaphysical sort of sense). In the ended, I elected to have surgery to fix my wonky sinuses and received amazing relief for a couple of years. But my insurance only paid for 60% of the surgery and hospital costs, leaving me with a bill of about $15,000. And this was for a day surgery. Very thankfully, my doctor was a very kind gentleman and didn’t charge for his portion of the fees, about $12,000, and the rest went on my credit cards. A good portion of my debt comes from this incident and a couple years later when I had just changed jobs, and was thus without insurance, and my headaches became acute again. And I have since age 18 been gainfully employed, and insured, responsible with my ER usage and hospital choice. And here I am, with millions of other Americans, carrying large debt in the interest of my health, hoping that I can forgo another crisis.

Working in social services, I know very well that there are people out there abusing the system. People who could work but don’t. Who fake illnesses to live a life on disability. Who always choose the easy way. Or make vastly irresponsible life choices. But these people are few and far between. What we’re talking about here is families becoming homeless because one of their members needed life saving medical treatment. Or even worse, people dying because they can’t afford to see a doctor and wait until it is too late. I have seen this with my own eyes. No one should die because we have judged them unworthy of medical coverage.

Truly yours,

Casey B.

Brooklyn, New York


New-York-iversary (8).

This week I celebrate (with a nap) my 8th New-York-iversary. And so, Three Beautiful Things for my 8 years in NYC....

(1) The ridiculously awesome people I've met here. Actors, dancers, academics, doctors, lawyers, activists, radicals, writers, designers, moms. Whether known for a minute or a lifetime, they are game changers.

(2) Public transportation and all of the convenience and entertainment it daily affords me.

(3) The knowledge that though I have lost many battles in/with this City, I am winning the war. And creating a peace agreement. And setting up a humanitarian alliance of states. And installing a puppet government. And throwing huge independence day celebrations complete with beer and meat and fireworks.


100,000 Homes.

This is a program started by the organization with which I do homeless outreach. It's called the 100,000 Homes Campaign. They're hoping to house 100,000 people who are living on the streets by 2013, using the outreach model create by my program. Pretty stinkin' amazing.


A Post.

So it’s been a long time. Here we go…

(A) A few months ago when I was at the conference referenced in the post below, someone asked me about my blog. My response was “I used to write a lot, but since Barack Obama was elected, I’m not as angry. I have nothing to say.”

(B) Barack Obama…I am undeterred. I still love him without condition. There are many things I wish were different. I wish that Guantanamo was actually closed. I wish that the war would actually be over by 2011. I wish that there were more jobs, and less debt. I wish that I didn’t see so many new people on the street each week. But I am confident, for the first time in my adult life, that my president is doing all that he can in the best interest of the country. And yes, there are daily things that go horribly wrong. Slow response to the flooding in Nashville. Massive oil spill days after the approval of off-shore drilling. The State (and state) of Arizona. But if we actually pay attention, we will see that things are changing, however slowly. You just have to pay attention.

(C) Attention….I got an iPhone back in October before I started my new job. I needed constant map access so I don’t get lost and murdered. : | I love her (my iPhone). Her name is Imogen. But one of the things that Imogen has brought into my life is a constant stream of media. Book reviews, restaurant reviews, movie reviews, blog and FB comments—all brought to me by way of app. With this flood of information, I’ve begun to notice that we, the young Internet users of America, are a hypercritical, snarky bunch. All books are dull. All restaurants are slow and bad. All movies are lame and unrealistic. All posts are stupid or fake or an opportunity for misplaced criticism of ones president/first lady/mayor/university/TV show/Ryan Seacrest. And so I wonder, how is it that we have so much time on our hands to read and comment in so many places with the sole intent of being nasty? Is it really so important to be the first commenter? I’m hoping that the revolution will include reading books. Positive, well-written books, with correct spelling and punctuation.

(D) Punctuation…I’ve got nothing to say about it. I just really like it. No, love it.

(E) Love…So in November, I took a new job. It was a job I’d had before, but part-time. I’m back homeless outreaching in Bklyn, full-time. I’m the clinician and supervisor for the overnight team. I love this job. Not always the actual job, but the potential of it. I often feel like I'm spinning my wheels, fighting against the currents of bureaucracy and staffing silliness. But the job has renewed my faith in good work, and good people, and has given me a bit of head space to think and plan and read and move forward. I struggle each day with my fatalistic tendencies, cultivated over many years of trying to not be disappointed by life. But there are times when I feel like I come out on the other side, and meet the day with hope. And compassion. And optimistic expectation. Ready to make a better world. And to do it all on about 4 hours sleep. Hardcore.



I spent last weekend in Washington, D.C. taking part in the 1st Annual Social Justice Camp. It was organized by one of my friends, and some of her friends, who just thought it was a good idea and saw the great potential that is possible when like-minded people are given the chance to put their heads together. It was a wonderful event. Friday night, there were 16 speakers, each given 5 minutes to spark the interest of others in their project or topic or insight (if anyone is interested in hearing my voice, I am at 28min, giving a shout out to Brooklyn and discussing Mental Health, Homelessness and Substance Abuse). And then on Saturday, there were roughly 40 sessions led by individuals participating in the weekend, discussing things they are experts in, things they are interested in, or things they are passionate about. I walked away feeling recharged and well-accompanied in my commitment to creating a better world. (And having been indoctrinated with Twitter facts.)

Thank you, Kelli, Aaron, Jenn, Ben, Greg, Christiana, and Wayne for putting on a great event.