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Mental illness and gun violence have become big topics in the news this summer after mass shootings killed more than 30 people within a week in Gilroy, California; Dayton; and El Paso.

To me, the issue is personal: I have concerns that I will be killed by a person with mental illness and that this individual will kill himself.

Several years ago, three perpetrators raped me in my home. There was not enough evidence to get a successful prosecution.

One of them now has purchased a gun. He posted on social media earlier this year that he had done so and that he is glad to live in Arizona, where he is able to quickly and easily buy a firearm.

This man has been hospitalized a lot because of problems with his mental illness. I have had contact with his family, who shared with me the information about these hospitalizations and about his several suicide attempts.

This man knows that I have been speaking out about my sexual assault more and more so that I can heal myself and help others who have been through similar violence. He indicated his outrage about my sharing this information in a voicemail and in an email he sent me. This is the same man who almost killed me in that rape on that horrific night.

How can I verify with public officials whether this man was ever involuntarily hospitalized for his mental illness? If he was, that would prohibit him from owning a firearm under federal law.

But I may never know because of the problems with proper reporting of such information at the state levels.

I have shared my concerns about this man with my family, my friends, the police in Phoenix, Arizona (where I live), and a judge during a hearing.

Now I hope for the best, just like so many of us across Arizona, the Kansas City area, and the United States. I hope that this is not a day when gun violence enters my life.

But what else can I do at this very moment? And what can be done to protect him, too? He has attempted suicide, after all.

In 2011, U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D, Arizona) was injured in an assassination attempt by a gunman near Tucson. After that, Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, became anti-gun-violence advocates.

A report by one of her advocacy organizations in this effort, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, states: “Existing state laws do not do enough to remove access to guns from dangerously mentally ill people.” It’s in the executive summary of the report, called Commonsense Solutions: How State Laws Can Reduce Gun Deaths Associated with Mental Illness (https://t.ly/Mwl59).

Even if my perpetrator was involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness, he could still buy a gun at a gun show. That’s because with private gun sales in Arizona, there are no background checks.

The issue of wellness and guns should indeed be about common sense. At the very least, owning a gun probably presents a danger to someone with an extensive history of suicide attempts. The Giffords Law Center report states: “Suicides account for more than half of all gun deaths each year, and about half of suicides are performed with a gun.”

I was concerned about this man and his mental illness well before he had a gun. And now he has one. Isn’t there something more we can do?

This wellness information is brought to you by Ron Blake, who can be contacted at rblake5551@hotmail.com.

 

 

How to talk about transgender issues

So how do we talk about transgender issues (even if you're not transgender)? There are three main things to remember when discussing transgender issues today, so before getting into the meat and potatoes of it all, let's keep these things in mind:

  1. It is not a political discussion, it is a human rights discussion.
  2. There is a rich history rooted in transgender rights that must be considered when discussing these issues.
  3. Humanization should always be at the forefront of the conversation.

Before going into any conversation, no matter who it's with, try to keep these things in mind before you say something that may be inappropriate, misguided, or just plain wrong. Even those with the best intentions can mess up; remember that it is always ok to admit when you do not know something or when you are wrong. That being said, let's get into it.

sign with a 'friendly for all genders' image showing a person in a wheelchair, and a person with half a dress and pants on.

Transgender bathroom bills

commons.wikimedia.org

So whether you choose to become a transgender activist or if you just want to be a better ally, this easy talking point will generally keep you in line and on the safe side of conversations while still putting forth the effort to encourage and better represent transgender rights.

Easy, all-around approach: This will work for almost all transgender issues and expand on the previous three rules; firstly, trans issues are not a debate. When discussing with someone, do not indulge in hypotheticals and always remember that transgender people are the exact same as anyone else, with the exact same feelings. Keeping this in mind, let's use the bathroom bill as an example. When discussing this issue, one should humanize, de-politicize, and normalize the conversation. How does one employ this, though? Here is an example of how the conversation may go.

Person 1: I don't want men in the women's restroom, they will rape my daughters.

So this statement is clearly based on reactionary conversation perpetuated by anti-transgender ideals. This means that the person probably has a misconception of the history and oppression of transgender people. They also show concern for their family, which is a step towards humanization, despite the misconception. Here would be an appropriate response that helps to humanize, de-politicize, and normalize the conversation.

Person 2: I don't want men in the women's restroom, either, which is why we need to make sure people who identify as women are using the women's restroom. There has never been a documented case where a transgender person has raped either a man or woman in a public restroom. And by forcing people to use a restroom that does not match their gender identity, it is promoting violence, as there is a strong history of physical violence against transgender people.

By only saying about three sentences, you are able to do the previous steps while discussing the issue in a civil manner without opening it up to debate. The key to this is to keep it short and sweet, stating both the truth and an ally's stance to support the transgender community. It's critical to make sure that what you say is backed with confidence, though, which is why this second approach is more encouraged as it gives the person speaking more confidence in their opinion.

gif of a man in a suit talking about number 1. Number 1 GIF by PragerU Giphy

The second approach: backed by facts and history, is the exact same as before, but this approach leaves the other person with more questions about their stance and gives them something to consider. Before going into this approach, however, it is important to keep in mind that you are not debating the existence of trans people, nor are you trying to change someone's mind. That is not the goal; the goal is simply to get your opinion across in a way that honors both the trans community and their ideas. Let's take the same example as before but add the new sentiments.

Person 1: I don't want men in the women's restrooms, they will rape my daughters.

Person 2: There has never been a documented case of a transgender person raping anyone in a public restroom, and the only published cases of such were proven to be false. Further, when people say things like this, they are perpetuating violence against transgender people, which has historically (and still does) oppressed and insight further physical violence against them. And honestly, the most common reason there is this stance is because the person typically does not know a trans person and may not even know a person who does know a trans person. But the truth is, they probably do. The probability is more likely that the transgender people around them are just not comfortable enough in the environment to come out and speak up about their gender identity. And yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it is quite sad that some people's opinion does not invite civil discussion but instead incites violence.

This approach is more confrontational, which requires more confidence when using it in a conversation, but it still holds true to all of the previous rules and sentiments. It adds truth based on history, which is an important aspect of trans rights as it reminds people of where we were/ where we are currently with human rights. These ideas can be transferred to most all trans issues and will honor the transgender movement and your allyship. The last thing to keep in mind is the person or reason you are standing up for/with trans rights. The passion -the compassion will shine through in conversation if you keep your reasoning close to heart. Whether it is because of a transgender friend, family member, or just because of your moral values, if you put your emotions into your reasoning, it will create more compelling statements, especially if the statement is well versed with the facts.

Tips to Remember When Discussing Transgender Issues

  1. Transgender issues are not political, they are human rights issues
  2. There is a rich history behind transgender issues
  3. Humanize transgender people through our words and ideas and don't forget to include:
    • 3(b). The facts
    • 3(c).The confidence
    • 3(d). The inspiration behind the support for transgender rights

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