As I was accidentally browsing my infernal Facebook feed today, I came across a video on a friend’s wall. This likely raises at least one question. For example, one might ask how one “accidentally” browses their Facebook feed.
Which is totally valid and fair, since I go on about how much I hate that sunken place pretty frequently. Short answer: I hate my MacBook Air anyway, but now that Apple has banned third party apps I haven’t yet found a good newsfeed eradicator, and since I have some random stuff that we brought with us when we moved here from Berlin, I wanted to sell it in a local group.
Which is a thing that I never really saw anyone using Facebook for back in Western New York, but you know, that was 3 years ago now anyway, maybe people do that now, the fuck do I even know?
But anyway… here’s the video:
It’s cute, it’s catchy, and it raises good points. At the end of the day I think it’s usually best to just let people just choose to oppress themselves. And it’s their First Amendment right! Americans do have a right to worship whatever god they want in whatever religion they choose. And that’s just what every major religion has been doing since they were invented by old men ranting, and no one is ever going to listen to common sense as long as religious rights are protected. (I swear I’m not even a Marxist but dude had a point…)
But the message of this video also minimizes the fact that while opinions and comments about things that people are not qualified to have are espoused and proliferated on social media and this is a hot mess, they are also legislated by people who have no right to be involved in the discussion at all, even if this is not always because of their religion.
Most politicians have no idea about much more about the stuff they need to legislate than a freshman poli sci major. And they have aides to find this out, to use Google for them. But aCatholic priest is the last person who should ever be advising anyone about sex and sexuality as well.
Such Priests have chosen to live with abstinence, and they don’t have uteruses. So priests should never be commenting on birth control, reproductive healthcare, or abortion. Those are healthcare decisions, and a priest is not a doctor, unless he went to medical school before Seminary.
This is true of so many more things, from policing sexuality and legally allowing ex-gay therapy to exist, to allowing employers and family owned insurance companies not to cover reproductive healthcare, to rationalising climate change as a sign of god’s dissatisfaction with the world and the encroaching apocalypse. Religious leaders are in most cases not qualified to be an authority on any of these things, catastrophic climate change being especially prescient in a conversation where some people will believe absolutely crazy shit (as in, Apocalypse level nonsense.)
Interestingly, some of the first Americans were descendants of those who survived the last Biblical “apocalypse” that came when Anabaptists walled themselves off in Münster, Germany and listened to a schizophrenic yet literate man who went mad upon interpreting Luther’s Bible for himself in the vernacular German… those groups, the Amish and Mennonites, are still around, and still speak that German in their faith and Biblical-based legal systems: Pennsylvania Deutsch, but English settlers at the time pronounced it as “Dutch.” Coming up on Thanksgiving, people are going to be having Pilgrim and Indian parties all over the place I am sure, so it’s worth noting that the Puritans had similar views rooted in Anabaptist thought, and that the British thought it was crazy and they left so that they could teach this crap to their kids… meanwhile the Founding Fathers, though now revered as a patriotic pantheon by many American “Christians,” were like most intelligent/educated people of note throughout history, fairly areligious for their day and age… and they built the Religion thing into a document that was elastic for this reason, so that those insular communities would support the secession from mother England.
It’s much worse today to follow an idiot like Trump today than it was for the 16th Century German peasant Anabaptists: Trump is not John of Leiden, and he does seem to be experiencing neurological decline in addition to some kind of mental health issue rendering him incapable of the judgment necessary to run a country.
And yet, people listen to him despite the fact that he is probably illiterate. It’s terrible; pretty much every American adult can read better than Trump can, and yet 40% still support him somehow?
Content warning for religious and spiritual abuse, coercion of a minor, and tales of the abuses by the real creepy uncles and cousins. And still, I have a misplaced urge to apologise for not keeping silent anymore.
This is all well and good. I wholeheartedly agree with my sister.
But it remains fact that everyone in our family was expected to just keep quiet about this shit happening in The *X* our surname *X* Family. And it has been dragging me down for some time. I mean, I’ve thought about this quite a lot. It is disgusting and hypocritical not to call out this behavior in families. And quite honestly, at this point it is only a blessing that I do not have nothing left to lose here. So I’m going to elaborate on this here, rather than on my Facebook wall.
First of all, what even is family? The only reason we know about the cousin younger than our “youngest cousin,” who was conceived while our youngest cousin’s mom was pregnant with her, is because our mom, who is a fucking heroine and does not get enough credit for that (especially among my dad’s family whom she regularly takes shit from, for telling her girls about this in order to keep them safe from their predatory uncle, among other unfair things).
She told us this after he was gross with our cousin, his niece, who is around our age (he grabbed at her chest at a family party). I do not know the specifics of that, but I don’t think my mom even knew my dad’s brother, Mark, had asked me if I had my genitals pierced in a moment alone at a family dinner with my lying and abusive ex (known as Spenser), when she told us this. (And of course, Spenser was the partner I was with when everyone blamed me for ruining that picture of the entire family at another cousin’s wedding, the last one with Grandma, by my and my dad’s not being in it… he was triggered by setting foot in a Catholic Church for a “breeder wedding,” which in hindsight does seem a bit ridiculous, even to me.) Oh well. Even Cher can’t turn back time, not that I’d want to for anything, and I am most certainly am glad I did not stay… though it would have been far better and cheaper if I’d never met him. The trauma and recovery therapy following that was not cheap.
And neither is family systems therapy… which is why I want to say here, where people can read it, that it is unfair that my sisters and I have had our own relationship with our dad suffer because of his choice to stand up for and “protect” the reputation of his fucked up little brother… but we do recognise that our dad made that choice, and I think we have all taken him to task quite enough for it by this point.
And no one is a minor anymore… including my youngest cousin, and her younger half-brother. Which absolutely could not be said for the teen mom in this scenario when it happened. The fact that it came from her attending a Catholic Youth Group, in Baldwinsville, New York, a supposed “safe space,” is all the more nauseating. Given my own active participation as a Youth Catechism (Lifeteen) leader at St. Mary’s Swormville in Western New York when Bob Yetter was pastor, which I already have nothing but shame and regret for, it has really been making me feel even more ashamed not to have said something sooner about this. I do not agree with Siobhan O’Connor’s beliefs or faith, but she is a courageous BAMF and a hero, and like early 90’s Sinead O’Connor, a role model to look up to. (Personally, like 90’s Sinead, I think the Catholic Church is still one of the most abusive, harmful and socially regressive institutions on the planet). But the abuse both Ms. O’Connors have faced/are facing is really the most disgusting thing about any of this short of abusive, sexually predatory and/or rapist priests, and decades of local, officially sanctioned cover-ups of these abuses. Let’s not even go there with how disgusting it is that priests and little boys are such a common punchline. It’s not funny. It is rape. And it is fucked up. Personally, I’m ashamed of ever having made such jokes in the past, and astonished by the gall of Malone in the article to claim he believes so devoutly in his internal integrity. Fuck. That. And fuck him.
That said… it is really terrible that it’s so common in Catholicism to only protect the daughters of one’s own family, and even so, I resent that when Uncle Mark grabbed my arms and stared me down at a Christmas Eve Dinner, less than a year after looking into my eyes and asking me if my genitals were pierced at a moment alone during a small family dinner with the aforementioned abusive ex, that I was asked not to make a “big deal” about it… a dinner where some of my relatives were incredibly rude and queerphobic to me (which I was well accustomed to by this time), and also treated my friend as such too, with an additional helping of overt racism as this friend is Black. (And to make matters worse, this friend had generously done me a personal favor by coming with me to this party for moral support).
My uncle impregnated a teenager in the Catholic Youth Group he was leading nearly 20 years ago now, but people always seem to want to blame people who dare let the cat out of the bag, rather than he who couldn’t keep his disgusting his disgusting urges under control, his vile snake in its pouch. This is especially galling as the girl was a minor at the time. Was the girl 16 or 17 when my uncle did this? I don’t know, but I think everyone kind of decided to agree that she was 17 because that is the age of consent in New York State, and therefore makes Mark seem less gross than he is somehow.
I might get dragged by many in this family for saying this, but my own hypocrisy of not having used my own voice to stand up for those with no voice has only been coming back and hurting me for years now. Carrying a name emblematic of this hypocrisy continues to smart… but ah well, at least all the child support is all paid up now, and we can only hope that my unknown cousin had a better dad and family than that of his bio-dad.
I mean, it’s bad enough that everyone beside my mom and sisters always acts like I’m dramatic and unfair for being upset at the many disgusting things our cousin Josh has done, from grabbing me and motor boating my chest when we were both teenagers to sliding into all of our DMs in the grossest way ever as an adult. But that pales in comparison to the sins of his father, even if that is not the type of thing you do to your first cousins. And on second thought, maybe Josh is perfect for politics after all.
And as my sister says of Bishop Malone, both my cousin Josh he and his father Mark will meet his own God on judgement day and have to answer to a higher power for his own sins. Booboo also hopes that Bishop Malone is ready for that. However, I really don’t care if Mark, Josh, Bob Yetter, or Bishop Malone are ready for that. I was not ready to be molested by my cousin, or asked about my genitals by my gross child rapist uncle… or to carry the burden of silence and abuse and shame for trying to call it out. And what teenage girl is EVER ready to be a teen my mom by a Catholic Youth Organization leader with a pregnant wife? It’s absurdly vile. Absurdly. And I literally bite back the urge to projectile vomit every time his daughter talks about being a “daddy’s girl” on any sunken place of a social platform.
And as for Bob fka Father Yetter and Bishop Malone… well it really says a LOT about the Church’s ideals and what the Catholic Church stands for, that an Archbishop would defend or hide the actions of priests sexually assaulting young men, young women, or young people in general, while denouncing consensual queer relationships and identities. Shame on Bishop Malone, shame on Bob Yetter, and shame on anyone who stands behind or defends men like these. #EnoughIsEnough.
These patterns of abuse need to stop, and I am sure that more than one relative, more than one person in my FAMILY will want to slap the mouth right off me for saying this, will want to break my fingers so I can no longer type. All I ask is that you examine why this violent response is directed toward me, and not the people who have hurt me, and/or my sisters (and those who are sisters in solidarity only). And if it’s you… well, examine your behavior.
Especially if you’re a young woman, queer, or otherwise vulnerable person who is really used to defending and/or hiding this type of shitty and abusive behavior in people close to you and “loved ones…” even more than we first realized. I have tried to talk about these things again and again. Each time, I was silenced by people who “love” me. By relatives, even if the definition Family is completely lost on them. Perhaps that is a family trait, after all. Who knows? That ship has long since sailed, and seasickness always sucks.
One more thing: people (ESPECIALLY members of the *X* our surname *X* Family) need to STOP using the excuse of losing one’s dad at an early age as an excuse for this shit. After YEARS of my casually dating and even sometimes being friends with people who were unkind to me, treated me like utter shit, and/or spread lies about me after the fact (which I still take responsibility for! After all, it was I who was unwilling or unable to call that out or stand up for myself, or get myself in a good enough place to make healthy connections.)
But now, I am finally with one of the good ones. And his dad died when he was 6, and he does not use that as an excuse to be a disgusting predator or abusive creep. Instead, he recognises the struggles his mom had in raising him, the youngest by over a decade, to be a self-sufficient and decent, upstanding human being, and treats her as the confidant and best friend she has been to him. Even further, he tries to make his incredibly white male-dominated industry (of intensive MtG/trading card and board gamers!) a safer and more welcoming place for anyone who just wants to enjoy that hobby. And he would hate the praise, because he is modest and humble and has that sort of sisu that the rest of us just can’t quite translate.
So to be clear, this is not some angry rant by some man-hating feminist, and I’ve been waiting for the time and place to say this for some time, even hinted at it on this blog at least a few times… Furthermore, this behavior is #NOTallMen. And we ALL know that. But we ALL need to be better about calling out the ones who are, and holding the institutions and individuals and families that uphold, silence, and normalise this violence, accountable. It is a damn shame that a few bad people poison the whole well, and it’s sadder still how everyone pays for this. Not calling out the bad ones delegitimizes all of the good ones.
This brief post is dedicated to my ex, the only partner I have lived with before my current partner, and his lies and destruction of reputations (including my own). I have known for well over three years that Spenser was telling people in my communities that I raped him.
And for juuust over two years now that Spenser had lied not only to me and my own community, but also to the midwestern slam poetry community (in particular, to garner sympathy from Layne, a poet whom he then dated and then proceeded to treat the same way, and also following with a social media smear campaign again (in which he told a bunch of people only he knows that two exes raped him rather than one.)
So in my experience, Spenser “needed” to be patently emotionally abusive at all times, and in need of pity and care and financial support because of all the shitty people who had hurt him and because he was a recovering addict and blah blah blahhhhh he is righteously angry and volatile, and no one is ever sensitive to that or him and I was the only person who had ever made that stone butch squirt before and the only one who ever “got” him or whatever…. and how could I call his slam poem about how the Irish were treated comparing them to slaves and the middle crossing racist when that’s just the history of the Irish and no one ever supports his art or understands him?!?!?!?!
….whatever, man. To be honest, I am not even sure he ever told me his real, LEGAL surname… and we signed a lease together. That stupidity is on me, and ever shall be. Maybe it’s Coughlin. I remember the day that I left him. I went in, and he handed me one long-stemmed rose and apologised for a heinously abusive tantrum he’d had in my car earlier that week, as I picked him up from work with one or two members of my carpool home from the university where I was working, and dropped him off on a corner near our apartment (as in within 300 yards of the house), as it was a hot day and we were all en route to go swimming. I don’t remember if we made it to the pool after that… but I don’t think so. Pretty sure we ended up at the splash park off Niagara St. in Buffalo, the one where the junction with the 190 (I-190, that is, for readers not using the Western New York colloquial vernacular.)
I moved out in a hurry that weekend, when my mom’s sister was in town. And Spenser kept the deposit, and never paid me back for the furniture or paint or other household items I’d bought, to the tune of over $1000. I remember when I found out he’d lied about all of this in order to endear Layne to him and later validate his abuse of Layne… I was in an İstiklal Vodafone outlet in Istanbul, having left all this drama firmly in my past (or so I thought), waiting for shitty service with my friend Bella. Upon discovering how Spenser had lied not only to me my own community, but also to more victims I burst into violent tears.
Even five years ago, I didn’t say much to combat the lies or feed the rumors. First of all… why bother fanning that flame. Second of all, I figured I’d be fine eventually. And I still believe that believing survivors is the most important message. If I was so fucking scared to say anything, I cannot even imagine how hard it is for someone to have to stand up to their abuser or attacker on a national stage.
And he knew 5 years ago that this would isolate me and give him credibility. People like Spenser are the reason that people like Dr. Blasey Ford are not believed. And I knew that then. So I never said anything. Believing survivors enough to look into it should ALWAYS come first, unquestionably so. And it is so rare we lie about this. The fact that Spenser used this lie to garner sympathy from Layne was a huge breaking point for me, shortly before the 2016 election.
So I have now known for over two years that I was not the only vulnerable queerwho was victim of his in this regard, and I remain committed to my own integrity and health and safety… and offer my solidarity to Layne, who also needed two years to be strong enough to speak up in October 2016, and ask forgiveness for the two years of silence. I wasn’t strong enough until now. And I’m sorry it took me so long to add this for the world to see.
Here’s Layne’s testimony, in case you need more proof:
In 2014 I dealt with an extremely abusive individual. I have him blocked everywhere I possibly can. He currently goes by Spenser Bakri Newton, Classic Pendergast and possibly, Spenser Coughlin or Spenser Cockcroft. This individual has hurt me and many others. This blog post is a timeline of my abuse.
If you are going through something like this, speak up and be loud. Message me if you need to talk and remember, it is not your fault.
Suffice to say that I don’t really want a bunch of drama again, I’m well over that. But adding my testimony to my own experience and backing up Layne’s words has been much too long in coming at this point.
We can only hope that anyone who wants to get involved with this creep will fucking Google him moving forward.
Note: This post is GDPR compliant as I am unsure if any of us really know this person’s real name.