Universal Background Checks Bill

tomns.JPGRemember TOMS®? The super cute slip on shoes that would donate a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair of shoes that you purchase? As if this company wasn’t socially conscious enough, TOMS® is now doing even more.

I’m a big advocate for a reform on gun control, hoping that we can live in a world where gun safety is regulated the way automobile safety is. I believe in universal background checks, routine safety regulations, and appropriate training for all guns that are issued. I myself do not want to ever own a gun, as that would make me wildly uncomfortable, but I understand that others may feel differently. On a PERSONAL level, I hate guns. On a REALISTIC level, I just want the proper protocols to be in place.

After all, over 90% of Americans agree on universal background checks.*

Think about all the steps it takes to own a car. You have to study to pass a written test to get your license. Then, after practicing with a licensed adult, you earn your hours and take your driver’s test to get your real license. Then, you update that routinely. You also obtain a vehicle, which is also checked routinely to ensure the safety of you and those around you. While on the road, you obey the laws of the road, and you don’t let others drive your car who aren’t legally allowed to do so. If you break the law and get caught, you’ll get fines and penalties against your license, and could even have it taken away if you do not follow legislation. Now, nothing will ever prevent accidents from happening, but think about how much more chaos there would be if we didn’t have these rules and regulations for automobiles in place. Why do we not have the same routines for gun control? Both are man-made objects that accidentally take the lives of innocent people every single day. Why are they not treated the same?

UBGC 4On January 8th, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require universal background checks for all gun sales.* The bill is knows as H.R.8, and is a gigantic step for the gun reform movement. This proves that even in such divided times, we still have the ability to agree on basic human issues, and we can affect change.

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In an effort to help push this action, TOMS® has launched a postcard campaign to streamline a way to contact the representatives. By just providing your information via the TOMS® website, you could help take action on this very important issue. Over 720,000 postcards were hand-delivered to Congress as a result of the TOMS® Brand’s effort to make a difference. One of them, of course, was mine!

And now, we can proudly say that the universal background checks bill has been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives!

UBGC 6I hope that this is a historical first step into ending gun violence in the United States. Next stop: THE SENATE! We still have a long way to go, so please remember to vote this November for the representatives that are helping to make the world a better place.

Thanks for reading!

*All information found on the TOMS® website.
Visit https://www.toms.com/ for more information on how TOMS®
is getting involved, how you can help, or to go shoe shopping.

Gendered Languages

As I become more aware of trans issues and stories (and consider myself an active supporter of human rights), I’ve been thinking a lot about language as a whole and how we use it.

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I speak intermediate Spanish (I am not even close to being fluent, but I can communicate a little more than just the basics). Spanish is a gender-based language, which means that almost all nouns are assigned a gender – everything is either masculine or feminine. For example, “la mesa” means “the table”, which is assigned female as indicated by the -a ending, where as “el boligrafo” – “the pen” – is assigned masculine. Other gendered languages besides Spanish include French, Portguese, Italian, and many more.

English is not a gendered language, which is why our main obstacle for trans individuals in terms of language is pronouns. The other words that we use to describe people are gender-neutral for the most part (for example: tall, short, funny, crazy, etc.).

However, for any trans individuals who speak gendered languages, I imagine that they are constantly being reminded of the bi-gender system. In Spanish, if someone wants to describe a trans person as tall, would they say “alto” or “alta”? Short – “bajo” or “baja”? Crazy – “loco” or “loca”? The trans community in gendered languages have to navigate so much more than just pronouns, including adjectives as well.

Then there are some languages, like Chinese, who do not have pronouns at all – the language itself is almost gender-less as a whole. Some of the gender-less features of these languages focus more of the idea of an “it” rather than a “he/she”, which can be either helpful or problematic depending on how you look at it. To be honest, this isn’t something I have a whole lot of knowledge about but would be really curious to learn.

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Like I said, this is a topic where I have some knowledge to gain. If anyone has experiences in this area with languages other than English, I’d absolutely love to listen! All of this sparked a lot of interest for me as I hear more stories of trans experiences and how they might differ from not just person to person, but also place to place.

Thanks for reading.

The Dreamers

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Are we really the home of the free?

America has been called a “Nation of Immigrants”. We were founded on the principle that people come here in search of a better life. However, our current leadership has decided that it is now time for America to throw out its values and become exclusive.

I understand that immigrants need to be registered and go through the legal process. I understand that everyone living here needs to pay taxes and follow the law. I understand that immigration needs to be regulated.

That being said, the current policies are evoking a fear across the nation that has striped America of its core values.

We are supposed to be a nation of dreamers. 

“Dreamers” is now the title given to individuals who came into America, illegally, as children. President Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has prevented over 800,000 immigrants from being deported. As a result, the Dreamers were able to get an education, start a career, and live the American dream they’d always hoped for.*

I believe in DACA. I believe that immigrant parents come to America dacapurely to give their children a chance at a better life that they may not have had. I believe DACA protects children who do not even know their “home country”, but instead have always known America as their home.

Now, their future is in doubt. Trump has said during his campaigns that he would not threaten the Dreamers, but he has gone back on this word. The crackdown on immigration has not only ripped families apart, but is also installing fear across America.

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It’s just disheartening. I don’t feel proud to be a part of a country that feels so superior to the rest of the world. I don’t feel good about families being torn apart and exclusivity being promoted.

Our founding fathers broke away from their home country to build a new nation and provide a better live for those who followed them. This idea seems basic, and yet it feels like something that is lost.

It feels like America has become a high-class Country Club, and not everyone gets a membership.

Yes, it’s wonderful to live in a country where I am free to write all this and express my opinions as I please. However, it’s also hard to be patriotic when I see so much that I want to change. I pray that one day, America will return to its “melting pot” values, and immigrants will not have to dream in fear.

I stand behind the Dreamers.

Thanks for reading.

*Time Magazine:
We Are Americans - Just Not Legally;
We Are Americans, Revisited - The Dreamers Five Years Later;
Ripped Apart - The Cost of America's Immigration Crackdown

#NeverAgain

march for our lives

March For Our Lives: a quick recap!

This was amazing to be a part of. Attending the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC truly made me feel like I was a part of history. I feel very strongly about gun reform, and have never been a big fan of guns as a whole, and this experience made me hopeful for change.

A lot of big name celebs showed up to give their support, singing their inspirational songs that the crowd already knew. It was a nice way to get everyone going, and of course was kind of like an awesome free concert within the event. Although the celebrities were far from my favorite part of the day, it was really cool so see some of my faves, including Demi Lovato, JHud, Ariana Grande, Lin Manuel Miranda, Common, and more. And don’t forget my girl Miley, who rocked it in a crew neck sweatshirt and jeans.

I think one of the things that gave me the most hope was seeing the “next generation” show up and project their voice. Martin Luther King’s granddaughter was brought on stage, screaming her support, saying “We are going to be a great generation!” Another 11 year old black girl talked about how her voice makes a difference, and how it won’t be silenced just because of her age, race, or gender.

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Emma Gonzalez, who is famous for her activism in gun reform after the shooting at Parkland High School, stood on the stage for a silent 6 minutes to represent the amount of time that the shooter had fired his gun in her school before abandoning his rifle. After a few minutes of silence, it started to feel like forever, and people started putting up the peace sign in their air with their fingers.

My favorite part was the teacher, Samantha Fuentes, who was a survivor of the Parkland shooting as well. She gave an extremely passionate speech, which included singing “Happy Birthday” to a student who was a victim of the shooting, and would have turned 18 that day. In the beginning of her speech, she got choked up and the live stream cut away for a minute to let her situate herself. When she regained composure, she screamed into the mic, “I just threw up on international television, and it feels great!”

There was also representation from big cities such as Chicago, who had an extremely important message about how this all started. This issue gained traction after the Parkland students combined forces with those who were already fighting against gun violence. A young girl who grew up in Chicago spoke about her brother passing and how she has been running from this fight her entire life. This issue started in the cities and is going to keep spreading and spreading until we do something to stop it.

In between each speaker, there was different promos on the TV screens to highlight the facts and findings behind the emotions of what they were saying. These promos included facts about the NRA, policy change, and Vets for Gun Reform. It’s not just about hearing stories of shootings, but also about the hard facts about what is causing this epidemic within our country. We have to educate ourselves completely to move forward and affect true change.

#Enough #NeverAgain #EnoughisEnough

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Take military weapons out of civilian homes. Require universal background checks on all weapons. Raise the age requirement and lengthen the waiting period. Make our schools, our concerts, our night clubs, our movie theaters SAFE again. VOTE.

Thanks for reading!

Women in the Workplace

shutterstock_183577280% of the people I have reported to in the workplace have been women. This includes every position I have had, from my high school jobs to my college internships to my career. Most of my bosses have been women.

I come from a hardworking family with two parents who worked full-time. My mom took her maternity leave to have my sister and I, and then got right back to her job, working as one of the 11% of civil engineers that are women.* And yet, she still managed to have a life AND be involved with the PTA. The women there would give her patronizing remarks when she was unable to make meetings in the middle of the day because of having a career.  “Oh… you have to work?” Really? Not to judge these women, but my mom is a project engineer managing teams across a multinational company with a masters degree from Penn State who also is able to balance being an active mom, so who are they to speak?

All that being said, it’s no surprise that I take pride in the fact that I have mainly reported to women. I have had the opportunity to work for some amazing, powerful women, (and one awful one) and I am very thankful.

My first job, however, I worked for a man. In high school, I worked at a pizza place called Bella Roma, which was/still is owned by a man named Ray. To put it frankly, he was a sexist pig. Only girls were allowed to work behind the counter and wait tables, and only boys were hired to be delivery drivers. He made inappropriate remarks about women who came into his shop. You could see it and hear it in the way he treated and talked to people. Luckily for me, he was only in the restaurant during one of my shifts each week so I didn’t have to deal with anything first hand, but the stories were passed around. He was a douche.

I worked there for a year and then I started my long line of working for women. My hometown job included working for my friends’ mom, and my college campus job had me reporting to one of the female graduate students. It wasn’t until I started my internships that I noticed the amount of women in the workforce around me.

Maybe it’s my industry. I was a Communications major with minors in PR and Professional Writing, and my experience has been in HR, PR and Marketing. I had four internships while I was in college, all of which I reported directly to women. Three of these internships were within small businesses, and, this next part is noteworthy, ALL THREE OF THOSE BUSINESSES WERE OWNED BY WOMEN. These women were boss ladies, bad bitches, and I wanted to be like them. They were rough around the edges, intimidating, hardworking, and determined with something to prove. I was given mentors at these internships as well, also women. I was inspired by the attitude they had and the image of themselves they they projected into the world. Say what you want, but women get shit done, and done well. Today, almost 40% of all businesses are owned and operated by women.*

My first job out of college, I worked for an awful woman named Heather, who was the HR Director for a small manufacturing firm. When I first started, I heard rumors that she wasn’t well liked, but she was so nice to me in the beginning that I figured they were just saying those things because she was a dominant female. As I got to know her more, I realized that she didn’t make a whole lot of sense most of the time. She wasn’t great at managing people. She was no where to be found for 90% of the time, and the other 10% she would micromanage so much that it was hard to do our jobs. One time, she told me that instead of teaching me the new way she wanted things done, she had been giving me a look periodically to see if I could figure out this own my own. Sorry I didn’t pick up on  your telepathic signals, Heather. I could continue on about the strange things she used to do, but my point here is that I didn’t see her as a good boss. She was off-putting and manic and hypocritical and backwards. She didn’t know how to handle people, but then again, neither did most of this organization. I worked there for less than a year before I was begging another company to take me.

After that, I did a complete 180 and started working for a wonderful individual named Cheryl. You can put Cheryl on the top of the boss lady list. Professionally, she helped build a branch from scratch and was running the HR department for her home office and several other offices in the region. Meanwhile, she was dealing with a mother battling cancer, a husband having multiple surgeries on his airwaves, and a daughter in and out of the ER with asthma issues. As if all that wasn’t enough, she also fought against the daily prejudice of having an interracial family (a beautiful one) and fought against stereotypes of women in leadership. I was continuously inspired by her strength and prosperity, and the fact that she was a baller breadwinner for her family. Over 40% of moms today are the sole or primary source of income in U.S. households.* Cheryl also was a phenomenal manager. She cared about us on both a personal and a professional level, cared about our growth, and cared about us overall being happy. The year she was my boss, she won HR Manager of the year across a national company, and soon after I left the company, she was promoted to Regional Manager. To put it simply, she dominates.

When I interviewed to leave that company, it was with a man named Glenn. Upon accepting the offer, I learned that Glenn is who I would be reporting to. Truly, my immediate thought was, Wow, this is the first time I’ll be reporting to a man since Ray. I wondered if the differences would be noticeable or noteworthy between working for a man versus a woman. I was unsure of how my experience had shaped me or catered to me in my career. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but certainly curious.

However, it was obvious from my interview experience that working for Glenn was going to be a much better situation than the man I worked for when I was 17. True to my expectations, Glenn has been a great leader who is extremely knowledgeable and a great teacher. He’s also managing a team of over 40 individuals while juggling a daughter at home with health issues. I’ve clearly been fortunate to work for several admirable leaders. Lucky for Glenn, we are now adding leadership to our department, and his team of 40+ will be broken up into four teams with four separate leaders. As we make this switch, I will no longer be on Glenn’s team, but will now be reporting to a woman named Michelle.

What I’ve learned about great leaders and managers, is that they are also great people. They are professional and experienced, yet level-headed and caring. They are advisors, mentors and confidants. They multi-task, they prioritize, and they execute. They are the kind of people that you want to surround yourself with. And in my case, they have mostly been women. This should be celebrated! But we have a long way to go.

Almost 52% of professional-level jobs are owned by women*, and yet only 15% of executive officers are female.* Not to mention the prevailing wage-gap issue – despite the spotlight that has been put on it, women still make about 78 cents to the man’s dollar.* I won’t even get into the workplace harassment issues that the media has highlighted, but let’s just recognize the amount of mountains that women have to climb.

So I say, keep climbing! Inspire and empower the women around you. Celebrate their successes, and learn from them to create your own. Collaborate. Nominate. Share knowledge and information. Acknowledge accomplishments and milestones. Break boundaries and tear down stereotypes.

I want to thank the women who have inspired me. From my mom, to my previous bosses, to my mentors, to my friends – you all dominate everyday. As leading women in your industries, you are constantly knocking down walls and paving a greater way for the women who come after us. I hope to pass along the gifts that I have been given from you to other strong women with powerful potential.

Who run the world.*

Thanks for reading.

*11% of civil engineers are women, according to bls.gov.

 *30% of all businesses are owned and operated by women, 
over 40% of moms today are the sole or primary source of 
income in U.S. households, and the pay gap across all 
occupations is 77.5%,  according to resourcefulmanager.com

*Almost 52% of professional-level jobs are owned by women and 
15% of executive officers are female, according to americanprogess.com

*Who run the world? Girls. According to Beyoncé.