Trans woman Danica Roem beat her anti-trans opponent by focusing on … roads. Seriously.

“To every person who’s ever been singled out, who’s ever been stigmatized, who’s ever been the misfit, who’s ever been the kid in the corner, who’s ever needed someone to stand up for them when they didn’t have a voice of their own … this one’s for you,” said Virginia delegate-elect Danica Roem during a fiery victory speech on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Roem is a transgender woman, but her gender identity is secondary to the main issue she campaigned on: fixing Route 28.

“That’s why I got in this race, because I’m fed up with the frickin’ road over in my home town,” she said to laughter and applause during the speech, calling on the state legislature to fix existing problems rather than creating new ones.

Roem’s election makes her the first out transgender person who will be elected and seated in a state legislature. Photo by Danica Roem for Delegate.

Roem used her speech to highlight the importance of focusing on unifying issues like infrastructure, ensuring teachers get fair pay, working to expand access to health care, and finding cost-effective solutions to local problems.

“This is the important stuff,” she told the crowd. “We can’t get lost in discrimination. We can’t get lost in BS. We can’t get lost tearing each other down.”

It’s that view, that it’s the government’s job to address issues of infrastructure and public health, that set her apart from her opponent, incumbent candidate Bob Marshall. Marshall, the self-described “chief homophobe” of Virginia, is perhaps best known for introducing a so-called “bathroom bill” designed to discriminate against trans people. Seeing a politician so obsessed with his anti-LGBTQ views have his seat won out from under him by a trans woman just feels … symbolic.

Oh yeah, did I mention Roem is also a singer in a heavy metal band?

Mailers sent out by her opponent’s campaign before the election warned that “[His] defeat would signal that holding these [anti-LGBTQ] principles is a detriment to being elected.”

Hopefully, Marshall is right about that. The people who represent us in government should represent all of us, and his defeat shows many voters aren’t willing to put up with elected officials who don’t see things that way.

In a recent interview on a right-wing radio show, Marshall showed his disdain for Roem and trans people, generally:

“It is not a civil right to masquerade your fantasies as reality. … I’ve drawn a line. I’m not leaving it, because I don’t make the laws of nature but I think I understand them, at least at this fundamental level. I never flunked biology, so I’m not going to call a man a woman, period.”

If a candidate wants to run on a platform of legislating trans people out of public existence or thinks it’s OK accuse their political opponents of defying the laws of nature, that should be detrimental to their odds of being elected.

We need more candidates like Roem whose political ambitions revolve around how best to help their constituents.

This country belongs to all of us. As Roem said in her victory speech (which is excellent, and you should watch it below) with all the intensity of a seasoned politician:

“No matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, who you love, how you identify — and yeah, how you rock — that if you have good public policy ideas and you’re well qualified for office, bring those ideas to the table because this is your America too.”

Just as it’s not enough for Democrats to simply run on being not-Trump, perhaps this is a sign that it’s not enough for Republicans to bank on voters hating the same groups as them. During the 2016 election, then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory ran hard on the state’s anti-trans bathroom bill only to come up short; Marshall did the same in his race against Roem.

Maybe, just maybe, empathy is winning out, and maybe people are coming to understand that the purpose of government isn’t to determine who to oppress, but how to help lift us all.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/trans-woman-danica-roem-beat-her-anti-trans-opponent-by-focusing-on-roads-seriously

Nick Offerman’s thoughts on men crying are the perfect antidote to toxic masculinity.

Actor, author, and accomplished woodworker Nick Offerman had the best response to a question about emotions in an interview with Men’s Health magazine.

With his classically masculine roles (most notably Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation”), handy skills, outdoorsmanship, and remarkable facial hair, many see Offerman as the very picture of classic manliness.

With that in mind, writer Sean Evans asked Offerman about the last time he cried.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival.  

Here’s Offerman’s applause-worthy response in full (emphasis added):

“I went to theatre school. I took two semesters of ballet. I’m the sissy in my family. I cry with pretty great regularity. It’s not entirely accurate to equate me with manliness. I stand for my principals and I work hard and I have good manners but machismo is a double-sided coin. A lot of people think it requires behavior that can quickly veer into misogyny and things I consider indecent. We’ve been sold this weird John Wayne mentality that fistfights and violence are vital to being a man. I’d rather hug than punch. Crying at something that moves you to joy or sadness is just as manly as chopping down a tree or punching out a bad guy. To answer your question, I recently saw Alicia Keys perform live. I’d never seen her before and the sheer golden, heavenly talent issuing from her and her singing instrument had both my wife and me in tears. What a gorgeous gift she has. Her voice is so great. And I had no shame [about crying.] If you live your life openly with your emotions, that’s a more manly stance than burying them.

BOOM! That’s the kind of thinking we need to dismantle toxic masculinity.

And apparently, the internet agrees. The quote was shared by Twitter user @TylerHuckabee and has already been retweeted more than 31,000 times in two days.

Offerman’s words are vital, especially for men and boys who are socialized  to  believe “boys don’t cry.”

Though it may seem like a different world, gender roles and expectations have changed very little in the past 30 years, and a bias against men crying — especially in public — persists.

“That crying is a sign of weakness and a reason for shame is a lesson most males learn by the time they reach adolescence,” wrote Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D., for Psychology Today. “Whether by ‘swallowing tears’ or actively avoiding situations that might lead to crying, males actively suppress their emotions or express them in other ways that seem more suitable for their gender roles.”

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

Actively suppressing tears can lead to other physical and emotional concerns. Stifling this natural response can temporarily raise a person’s blood pressure or heart rate since the body’s fight or flight response has to work overtime to figure out what’s happening.

Not to mention, crying is almost exclusively a human trait, and it’s one of our body’s built-in mechanisms for emotional release. It also reveals our capacity to have empathy for others. When we see a sad movie, learn good news, or as in Offerman’s case, witness a remarkable talent, our bodies react with emotional, empathetic tears. That’s not weakness (or “fake”) — that’s a physiological marvel.

So take it from Offerman, a multi-faceted, talented, emotional man: Let it allllllll out.

No matter your gender, having emotions or feelings so strong you’re moved to tears is nothing to be ashamed of. Offerman is right. We should never be afraid to have a good cry when the mood strikes — no matter what Ron Swanson says.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/nick-offermans-thoughts-on-men-crying-are-the-perfect-antidote-to-toxic-masculinity

Theres a surprising science behind making friends, and this psychologist is teaching it.

Imagine if someone jumped into your conversation at a party without an introduction, interrupting you mid-sentence.

That might strike you as odd or rude. But when we give someone the simple advice to “just go up and introduce yourself,” we’re skipping many of the nonverbal steps important to making a good impression.

For most, connecting with other people relies on intuition. However, social interactions of all sorts — from just saying “hello” to a new acquaintance to interviewing for a new job — can be challenging. For people with autism, it can be even more difficult to know how to strike up that first conversation.

Image via iStock.

That’s why UCLA psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson made it her mission to help.

Through her work at the Semel Institute and her work with Fred Frankel in 2005, she created a program that helps young adults with social challenges, such as those on the autism spectrum, make and keep friends by breaking down social interactions into easy-to-follow steps.

This program, called the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), teaches them how to listen, interact, and communicate with others.  

Photo from UCLA PEERS via AP.

“We want to teach to the way that [people with autism] think. What works? Concrete rules and steps,” Laugeson explains.

Most people pick up on social cues, like body language and facial expressions, quite naturally. But many people with autism struggle with abstract thinking. Concrete communication works best for many, according to the Indiana Research Center for Autism.

That’s why, Laugeson explains, the first step is actually about learning to listen before jumping in.

“The first step is that you’d watch the conversation and kind of listen to the conversation,” she explains.

Image via iStock.

Some of us might use a prop, like a cellphone, to look distracted while listening to a conversation we’re thinking about joining. We’ll spend this time eavesdropping for a common interest.

Next, we might move closer to the conversation, waiting for a pause to jump in with something on topic. Of course, this process involves assessing whether the person or group is interested in talking to us.

Introductions usually don’t come until mid-conversation, Laugeson says. This is why “just go up and say hello” may not the best advice, especially for people who struggle to pick up on subtle cues.

There are social nuances that go beyond first interactions, too, and the curriculum at PEERS addresses many of them.

UCLA PEERS also teaches students how to deal with conflict and bullying, for example.

Individuals with autism are especially vulnerable to bullying. The Interactive Autism Network found in a study that 63% of children ages 6 to 15 with autism spectrum disorder have experienced bullying.

Image via iStock.

This is another area where neurotypical people may give ineffective advice. People usually suggest dealing with teasing in one of three ways: ignore the bully, walk away, or tell an adult. But these strategies don’t always work, Laugeson says.

“These responses often make it worse for the victim and not better,” she explains.

During a bullying situation, a neurotypical person will usually respond with a short, dismissive comeback. A casual “whatever” or “Is that supposed to be funny?” can make the aggressor’s comments seem boring.

This is a great way to show the ability to stand up for one’s self while diffusing the situation and avoiding more confrontation. Laugeson teaches this tactic in PEERS to her students, helping them deal with teasing in a way others might naturally react.

Image via iStock.

These are just a few ways that PEERS helps students who struggle socially.

Since 2005, PEERS has expanded from UCLA to locations across the country and throughout the world.

The PEERS method can also help preschoolers, adolescents, and young adults with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other socio-emotional problems too.

And it’s more accessible than ever, thanks to her book, “The Science of Making Friends,” and an app called FriendMaker, which acts as a virtual coach for social situations and includes role-playing exercises for making and keeping friends.

Friendship is a critical part of mental health, though it’s easy to take this for granted.

This is why programs like UCLA PEERS are so important, particularly for individuals who can’t easily navigate social situations.

According to the Mayo Clinic, friendships can boost happiness, encourage a healthy lifestyle, reduce stress, improve self-confidence, help in coping with trauma, and much more.

Laugeson teaching social skills at a PEERS group. Image from UCLA PEERS via AP.

Laugeson shared a story of a student who had been in and out of psychiatric units with a long history of mental health issues. The young man had tried many medications by the time he joined PEERS.

“This was a kid who had been highly medicated over the years. He came to me at graduation and he told me friendship was the best medicine for him,” Laugeson recounted. “It absolutely can change a life to have a friend.”

PEERS has helped numerous students like him, not only in making friends, but in attending college, getting jobs, and even embarking on romantic relationships.

For the past 12 years, the skills taught at PEERS have helped improve the lives of thousands of people all over the world. For a skill set that’s so rarely taught, it’s transformative to make the art of friendship a little more accessible for those who need it.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/theres-a-surprising-science-behind-making-friends-and-this-psychologist-is-teaching-it

The wildly simple reason Trump joking about Pence’s anti-LGBTQ views is not OK.

In the Oct. 23 issue of The New Yorker, it was reported that President Donald Trump likes to joke about Vice President Mike Pence’s long history of anti-LGBTQ views.

In Jane Mayer’s exquisite story “The Danger of President Pence,” a source shared that Trump likes to remind Pence who’s in charge and frequently mocks his commitment to religion (Pence is an evangelical Christian). Specifically, he jokes about Pence’s need to limit the rights of women and LGBTQ people. Here’s the excerpt from Mayer’s story (emphasis mine):

“Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. ‘You see?’ Trump asked Pence. ‘You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.’ When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, ‘Don’t ask that guy — he wants to hang them all!’

There’s nothing wrong with Pence being a man of faith. But when he hides behind it and uses it as justification for a series of policies and positions that threaten the livelihoods of many, many Americans, that’s dangerous. Furthermore, joking about someone hanging gay people wouldn’t be funny at a bus stop or in a locker room. To know Trump thought it would be appropriate to say in a meeting is the very definition of deplorable.

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

To Trump, it seems that Pence’s backward, dangerous views on women’s health and LGBTQ people are not backward and dangerous, they’re punchlines.

But we are not punchlines.

We are human beings with dreams, goals, and families like everyone else. Yet, among two of the most powerful men in the country, one thinks gay couples cause “societal collapse” and the other apparently thinks that’s funny.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

We’re not laughing.

We’re not here for your amusement. We’re not to be used as some sort of perverse bargaining chip.

Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images.

People around the world, and here at home, are dying because of their gender or sexuality.

Did President Trump laugh when parents in Chechnya were told to murder their gay children before the government did? Did he slap the table and get happy tears in his eyes when he learned at least 23 transgender people have been murdered in 2017?

Did Vice President Pence hear the news of seven people in Egypt being arrested and jailed for raising a pride flag at a concert and think, “Serves them right”?

People gather at a vigil for slain transgender woman Islan Nettles in New York in 2013. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

When the administration turns its back on transgender kids and makes it harder for victims of sexual assault to come forward, that’s not humorous. That’s not holy. It’s cruel and it’s unforgivable.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

No, we’re not laughing. We are mobilizing.

We are speaking out. We are fighting for the equal rights and considerations we deserve.

Any person or party who views our health, our bodies, our lives as something to laugh about or something to be “prayed away” or changed is not a person or party who deserves our support.

We’ll see who’s laughing next November.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/the-wildly-simple-reason-trump-joking-about-pences-anti-lgbtq-views-is-not-ok

20 thingsMike Pence did while you weren’t looking and why it matters.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

With the exception of an infamous trip to see Hamilton last November and a controversy about whether it’s OK to dine with women other than his wife, we’ve heard relatively little about Vice President Mike Pence since the election. In May, CNN even ran a story with the headline, “Mike Pence’s Disappearing Act.”

He’s a heartbeat away from the presidency and seems interested in following his own political ambitions beyond this administration, so what exactly has Mike Pence been up to lately? A lot, actually.

Here’s 20 things Mike Pence has done since taking office:

1. In January, Pence and others lobbied Trump to take hard-line positions on abortion, making good on some of his anti-choice campaign pledges.

Just days after taking office, Trump signed a slew of executive orders. Among them was the reinstatement of the so-called “Mexico City policy,” restricting foreign aid from going to groups that offer abortion services.

The Independent wrote about the decision to reinstate the policy, saying that pro-choice activists “feared [Trump] would reintroduce the policy as a gift to Vice President Mike Pence, known for his staunch opposition to abortion rights.”

2. Pence has led the charge to advance Trump’s policy agenda.

You may have seen him popping up on the Sunday morning political talk shows to push Trump’s agenda items. This has especially been the case when it’s an issue where Trump himself may not appear to have a total grasp of the policy being discussed, such as health care.

3. He’s been very vocal about supporting the use of tax dollars to fund religious schools.

Under the guise of “school choice,” Pence has been a long-time supporter of using tax dollars to fund charter schools and religious schools. As governor, Pence expanded Indiana’s charter school program and opted out of the nationwide “Common Core” standards. One of the side effects of Pence’s reign in Indiana was an uptick in the number of publicly funded schools teaching creationism. Pence, himself, hasn’t given a clear answer on whether he believes in evolution.

Trump was short on specifics about education policy during the campaign. In office, he’s rallying behind Pence’s ideas.

4. In January, Pence met with anti-abortion activists at the White House and delivered a speech at the annual March for Life.

During his address at the anti-choice march, Pence riled up the crowd with a pledge to “work with Congress to end taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers,” along with promises to support Supreme Court nominees who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

5. Pence spent much of February selling the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as “mainstream.”

Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat on Jan. 31. Gorsuch, who had a record as a far-right, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ judge, would face an uphill climb. That’s where Pence came in.

Rather than nominate someone who could receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster, Trump picked Gorsuch, and Pence immediately began work urging Republican leaders in the Senate to blow up the filibuster. They eventually did, and Gorsuch was sworn in on April 10.

6. Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, the first time a vice president has done so on a cabinet pick.

In February, DeVos was under immense scrutiny from Democrats and moderate Republicans. The billionaire heiress had zero education-related qualifications to run the department, but she did have a history of donating to far-right causes and championing the use of public money to fund schools that would “advance God’s kingdom,” in line with Pence’s own views on education.

With Republicans Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) voting against DeVos’ confirmation, the 50-50 vote went to Pence to break the tie. He voted to confirm her.

7. In May, Pence was named the head of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

This commission was established based on Trump’s unproven and unfounded claim that there was widespread voter fraud during the 2016 election. Pence was named commission chair, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice chair. Together, Pence and Kobach have begun making requests for extensive voter information from states, with many voting rights groups worried that the commission will lead to widespread voter suppression.

8. Pence invited anti-abortion activists to the White House to discuss how to merge their agenda with that of the administration.

On March 9, Pence met with anti-abortion activists to discuss what sort of provisions they would like to see in the American Health Care Act bill, later pitching it to conservative members of the House of Representatives.

9. Later that month, he would cast the tie-breaking vote to nullify an Obama-era rule allowing that Title X funds be used for family planning services.

In his eight years in office, Joe Biden never cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Pence, just months into the job, has broken four ties (confirming DeVos, the motion to proceed on blocking the Title X rule, the final vote on blocking the Title X rule, and the motion to proceed on the Senate’s health care bill).

Gutting the Title X rule is bad news, especially for low- and middle-income women across the country.

10. Pence has met with members of the financial industry and championed efforts to roll back Dodd-Frank consumer protections.

Shortly after taking office, Pence addressed the GOP retreat, promising to dismantle the legislation enacted in the aftermath of financial collapse and its “overbearing mandates.” In May, he spoke out in favor of Republican Rep. Hensarling’s (Texas) CHOICE Act, which would deregulate the financial markets once again.

11. In May, Pence addressed the Susan B. Anthony List “Campaign for Life” gala.

Touting the administration’s successes when it came to curtailing reproductive rights, Pence declared, “For the first time in a long time, America has an administration that’s filled top to bottom with people who stand without apology for life.”

To cheers, he would later promise to ensure that people receiving health care subsidies would not be able to purchase insurance coverage that includes access to abortion.

12. Pence played a role in urging Trump to sign a “religious liberty” executive order during a National Day of Prayer ceremony.

While the final order was viewed by many conservatives as simply being one step in the right direction and not everything they wanted, the move showed just how much pull the extremely religious vice president has over his boss.

13. Pence addressed the first-ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians on May 11.

The speech bolstered the administration’s narrative that Christians are the true victims of terrorism in the Middle East. The truth is that people of all faiths have been targeted by ISIS, and messages about how Christians are the most persecuted only help advance some of the inherent Islamophobia in actions such as the travel ban — which only helps ISIS.

14. At the University of Notre Dame, Pence delivered a fiery commencement address, targeting “political correctness.”

The idea that college campuses are suppressing freedom of speech is a popular talking point, especially among conservatives. Pence used his platform to stoke that fire, saying, “Far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness — all of which amounts to nothing less than the suppression of freedom of speech.”

15. In May, Pence started his own political action committee called the “Great America Committee.”

Marking another first for a sitting vice president, the formation of a PAC signals that maybe he has some larger political ambitions that go beyond the Trump administration and his role as VP. Coupled with outgoing White House press secretary Sean Spicer saying that he’d be on board with a Pence run in 2024, this is worth keeping an eye on.

16. In June, Pence was put in charge of U.S. space policy.

Pence, being someone who likely doesn’t really believe in that whole “evolution” thing and once claimed that “smoking doesn’t kill,” seems like an odd choice to dictate anything related to science. But that’s what President Trump did after signing an executive order bringing back the National Space Council.

It’s still unclear what sort of direction Pence will take, though he has made promises to put people on Mars.

17. He’s raised money for his own PAC and other political causes.

What’s the point of having a PAC if you’re not going to raise money for it, right? In July, The New York Times reported that Pence has been playing host to “a string of dinners held every few weeks at the vice president’s official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington,” courting “big donors and corporate executives.”

18. On June 23, Pence addressed Focus on the Family, a powerful anti-LGBTQ organization, for its 40th anniversary.

Speaking about the administration’s commitment to helping “persecuted people of faith” and protecting their right to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious liberty,” Pence told the crowd, “This president believes that no American, no American should have to violate their conscience to fully participate in American life, and he has taken action to protect the expressions of faith by men and women across this nation.”

This is the same organization, mind you, that has called homosexuality “a particularly evil lie of Satan” and has called transgender people “mentally ill” and “like Cinderella in a fantasy world.”

19. As special elections have popped up across the country, Pence has been hitting the campaign trail in support of his fellow Republicans.

It’s not so surprising that Pence is getting out there. A little curious, however, is how little Trump has done comparatively — and how little coverage Pence’s presence has garnered. This once again shows Pence for the shrewd politician he is, able to help prop up other candidates. Trump, on the other hand, is mostly good at promoting one person: Trump.

20. Pence has been pressuring Congress to implement anti-transgender policies in the military.

Days before Trump tweeted that he was banning trans people from serving in the military, Foreign Policy reported that Pence was lobbying hard to fight back against trans inclusion in the military. Pence was reportedly putting pressure on members of Congress to hold the 2018 defense authorization bill hostage unless it included a rider barring funds being used on transition-related health care.

According to Politico, Trump was motivated to outright ban all trans people from the military for fear that the defense bill would stall and he wouldn’t receive the funding he requested for his wall. In the end, however, Pence got what he asked for and more. Though the Department of Defense is holding on implementing the tweeted policy until Trump formally submits a plan, it’s nearly a done deal.

This matters because Pence might not always be in the background.

It’s pretty clear that Pence’s political ambitions don’t end with being Trump’s vice president. With scandals rocking the White House on what seems like a daily basis — including calls for investigations and even some for Trump’s impeachment — it’s pretty important to take a long hard look at the man next in line for the position.

During the campaign, Pence’s extreme positions were largely whitewashed. His extreme anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion views were rarely talked about. As vice president, Pence has shown himself to be the man he’s always been: a smooth-talking politician with far-right social conservative views. So let’s keep a watchful eye on what he’s doing now because he might just be president one day.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/20-thingsmike-pence-did-while-you-werent-looking-mdash-and-why-it-matters

She fought to get a mat on the sand so her wheels could take her to the sea.

The day Gabrielle Peters started using a wheelchair was the day she started learning how to fight.

Peters is prickly, and it’s earned. For years, she clammed up in the face of condescending stares from strangers, platitudes from politicians, and second-class treatment from doctors. Now, when people try to “fix” her, she recommends they “take a good, long look in the damn mirror.”

When the housing complex where she lives in Vancouver was sold to a Mennonite group that forced residents to participate in prayers in the communal dining hall, she told Canada’s largest newspaper.

She doesn’t want to be saved, humored, or, worst of all, anyone’s “inspiration porn,” that flat, familiar treacle where a disabled person “overcomes” the odds to run cross-country, throw a javelin, or juggle a dozen chainsaws behind their back stories told mostly to remind able-bodied people how “good” they have it.

Peters wants equal health care, equal access, and equal rights. She also wants to go to the beach.

Until Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, it had been more than 10 years since Peters had been on the sand. “The world I exist in was not designed for me, and the people I exist with have all sorts of messed up ideas about me,” Peters says.

A self-proclaimed “city person,” the water is her favorite place to be. The forest is a close second. When Peters was discharged from the hospital after rehabbing from the autoimmune disease that required her to begin using a wheelchair, she was determined not to let her new mobility arrangement reduce her quality of life.

But, without a flat surface, determination means squat.

She tried hiking the “accessible” trail in the city’s expansive Stanley Park to no avail. The surface was uneven, the paving was intermittent, and the grade was too steep.

A photo Peters took of the trail in October, showing pebbles and pine needles over uneven dirt. Photo by Gabrielle Peters.

Accessibility, it turns out, is subjective.

At the beach, she would sit as close to the water as she could by a paved seawall far from the tideline while her friends lounged on on a sandy section nearby. When she left, her friends would get up and move closer to the water.

Unlike the United States, Canada does not have a major federal law mandating equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities.

While many Americans, particularly those who lean left, tend to view the country as a sort of “America Plus” what we could be if only our self-involved, short-sighted politicians rolled up their sleeves, delivered a killer Aaron Sorkin-style speech, and started working for the common good on disability, Canada largely relies on a vague statement of principles laid out in documents like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, which calls for “equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on mental or physical disability.”

Efforts led by groups like Barrier Free Canada, Every Canadian Counts, and others to establish concrete, nationwide standards for accessibility, have thus far failed to produce legislation.

In the meantime, many disabled Canadians are forced to rely on the generosity of local governments and the tenacity of their fed up, pissed off peers like Peters to safeguard and expand their right to access public spaces.

In summer 2016, Peters (@mssinenomine on Twitter) began tweeting at the Vancouver Park Board, the agency responsible for the city’s beaches, demanding access to the shore.

The solution, she discovered, was 2,700 miles away, in Northern Bruce Peninsula, Ontario where the town had installed a flexible mat on the sand, allowing wheelchair users to glide all the way up to the waters’ edge.

If a tiny Lake Huron community of fewer than 4,000 people could get its disabled residents and visitors to the shoreline, Peters argued, her wealthy global city had no excuse.

The Park Board replied with a “survey of a plan of priorities for some time in the future.”

It felt insulting.

It turns out Vancouver city officials were indeed working on a solution having spent the previous two years searching for a way to open up the shoreline.

Park Board Chair Michael Weibe, who also sits on the Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, spends a lot of time on the road.

When he travels with his mother, who uses a wheelchair, he keeps a running note of “what works and what doesn’t,” based on her feedback as well as the feedback from residents who write and call his office with suggestions.

“Its always great to have such a healthy user group thats willing to share the information with us,” he says.

Part of the solution, it turned out, was in Vancouver’s own backyard.

The Park Board purchased a single MobiMat dirt cheap from an event company eager to sell it.

The low cost turned out to be a warning sign. The mat didn’t come with all the required parts, which required money the board hadn’t budgeted for and then had to find.

There was another problem too. Unlike Northern Bruce Peninsula, Vancouver has 14-foot tides. If the MobiMat was rolled all the way out to the water’s edge, parts of it would quickly be swallowed by the sea.

As a result, the mat sat in storage for the first few weeks of the summer.

Peters didn’t think she should have to wait for something able-bodied residents already had unlimited access to.

On June 23, she emailed a representative from the Park Board who had contacted her after her earlier tweets. She explained the feeling of dependency that comes with having to call in and request a beach wheelchair which are not self-powered in order to get on the sand. She explained the fear of leaving one’s wheelchair unsecured, and that many people have no desire to be pushed. She explained the longing she and others experience standing or sitting by the seawall, squinting at the waves meters away.

“I want on the beach now,” she wrote.

A member of the board followed up with a phone call a few days later. The hold up, he explained, was the missing parts, which were awaiting delivery.

For the first time, it was evident that someone was listening.

On Aug. 9, the city finally rolled out the mat at English Bay Beach.

Peters had been having health complications and had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that day, but was determined to “soak in this tiny little win in a sea of inequality.”

And, of course, to “try it out and get close to my water.”

This time, her determination was met with the right piece of equipment.

She was nervous wheeling to it. As her chair edged on, the artificial surface slowed her pace, but did not leave her feeling “tippy or off balance.” She found that it wasn’t difficult to maneuver. A small gap in one section turned out to be easy to navigate.

A few minutes later, she caught the sunset.

“You’re a trailblazer,” an older woman told her.

Peters explained that she didn’t work for the Park Board, and she left to go get a hot dog. Back near the seawall, her former high water mark, she saw a man in a motorized wheelchair and told him about the mat. She watched him power over and down the path, stopping at the edge.

As she was leaving an hour later, she noticed he was still there.

“I never spoke to him, but I think I know how he feels about it,” she wrote on Twitter later that day.

Still, years of delayed promises have left Peters feeling anxious about the mat’s prospects.

“What if no one uses it?” she wonders. “What if it turns into an excuse to not make something else accessible because it wasn’t popular enough?”

The current setup is not perfect. Right now, there’s only one mat and the beach gets crowded. Also, it can’t really get that close to the shoreline because of the extreme rise and fall of the bay.

But there are signs the tide is turning. One of the first things Peters noticed was that there was no sign alerting beachgoers to the presence of the mat. If you didn’t already know about it, she realized, you would have no idea it was there.

Peters wrote the Park Board on Twitter. This time, they replied immediately.

Weibe notes that other residents have recommended creating more sitting areas adjacent to the mat to make it a social space. Recently, the Park Board purchased nine new wheelchairs with inflatable tires that can travel over sand to the water line, though they still require the aid of a friend or lifeguard.

A beach wheelchair. Photo by the National Park Service.

“Our goal is to have them at every beach because the call in [to get a beach wheelchair] is just another barrier,” Weibe says.

Peters agrees and has a million more ideas for what the city can do next.

She wants Vancouver’s beaches to get waterproof wheelchairs powered by compressed air for use in the ocean. She wants the Park Board to install a ramp by an area of stairs near the water. She wants adapted versions of the dozens of adventure activities in the city.

“I don’t get people who see this accessibility innovation as burdensome,” she says. “It’s fucking amazing and cool and requires the best kind of integrating of tech, design, ideas, and people.”

Gabrielle Peters knows how to fight. She fought to go to the beach and won. She’ll keep fighting until every space everywhere is accessible for everyone.

Until that happens, she’ll celebrate the small victory the way she prefers. By soaking in the salt air.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/she-fought-to-get-a-mat-on-the-sand-so-her-wheels-could-take-her-to-the-sea

One of the Portland heroes made an emotional video for all those sending him support.

Praise and gratitude continue to pour in for two men slain in Portland while defending two young girls from violent harassment on a train.

On, Friday, May 26, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Rick Best were stabbed by Jeremy Christian after they confronted him for harassing two young girls, one wearing a hijab.

The response around the globe has been nothing short of inspiring.

There have been vigils throughout the city honoring both men, who died as heroes. Support has overflowed on social media, and Namkai-Meche’s mother even wrote a powerful open letter to President Donald Trump urging him to condemn the attack.

There was a third man on the train who was brave enough to step in as the girls were berated: Micah Fletcher. He was lucky enough to survive the fight that followed.

Now, nearly a week since the attack, Fletcher is speaking out about what he saw.

After being treated for serious injuries, Fletcher is recuperating home. He posted a video to his Facebook page on Wednesday that quickly went viral:

“As a poet, you would think that I would have the words. It’s kind of my job,” he begins. “But for once, I don’t.”

https://www.youcaring.com/survivorsofthemaxattack-833557

#ChangeHerDestinee

Posted by Micah Fletcher on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Amid all the donations and support coming his way, he wants people to know one thing: He is not the real victim.

A clearly emotional Fletcher grasps for words at times before issuing a powerful reminder:

“Can you imagine being the little girl on that MAX [train]?” he says in the video. “This man is screaming at you. … Everything about him is cocked and loaded and ready to kill you.”

“So brave that young girls experience that and still find ways to wake up in the morning with smiles on their faces, to trudge through the day and make their parents proud,” he continues.

Fletcher says that, of course, the men who died by his side while defending the women are heroes, and they deserve to be honored. But he urged his viewers not to get swept up in what he calls a “white savior complex.”

We should praise the men who stood up against it, but we can’t forget that this kind of violence and harassment continues to go on every single day around the country.

“I think it’s immensely, morally wrong and irresponsible how much money we have gotten as opposed to how much money and love and kindness have been given to that little girl,” Fletcher says near the end of the six-minute video. “These people need to be reminded that this is about them. That they are the real victims. “

Fletcher encouraged everyone watching the video to donate to a fundraiser that would provide the girls with meals, transportation, and mental health care as they recover from the traumatic attack.

Doing so is without a doubt the best way to keep the fight against hate and intolerance alive.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/one-of-the-portland-heroes-made-an-emotional-video-for-all-those-sending-him-support