Who Is Dragzilla?

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You might be wondering this. You’ve probably heard of reports of someone coming to the rescue of the LGBTQ citizens of Straightlandia. While the city might be letting you down I will not. It’s not right that we have to hide in the closet because of the archaic laws that exist. No one should ever have to feel unsafe.

I will stand up for those who aren’t able to. I will avenge the deaths of our brothers and sisters. Too many have lost their lives at the hands of Roid Rage and others like him. Losers who feel it’s their duty to rid the world of faggots. I will not stand by and let this happen.

The city has failed us and we can’t wait for the politicians to save us. We deserve equal and fair treatment. We’re not second class citizens. It’s time to rise up and fight. I will be your warrior. I know many of you are scared and that’s understandable. We live in a scary time.

If you find yourself in trouble just scream Dragzilla and I will come to your rescue.

Please Rescue Me From My Homosexuality!

UPDATE: Take a moment and report her Facebook page as hate speech, including her posts. Maybe Facebook will remove her. Hate doesn’t belong on social media when so many children use it and will be affected by it.

https://www.facebook.com/theactivistmommy/

The other day a petition came across my Facebook feed about this woman who goes by the name Activist Mommy who has a facebook page where she spews her sugary coated hate. Her name really should be the Anti-Mommy or the Anti-Christ Mommy. Seems more fitting than to be labeled an activist. She’s also anti a lot of things including science, abortion, etc. She’s all things ridiculous.

I signed the petition and moved on. Then today I discovered the new rainbow reaction on Facebook and I thought I should find her page again to share some rainbows with her. There is something about trolling bigots posts with rainbows that tickles me. You won’t ever reach these kind of people and usually it’s best to just ignore them but sometimes you just gotta stand against that kind of hate. Kill them with rainbows, I mean kindness as they say.

Then I read her post about the Columbus Pride parade advertising that she was going to save some homosexuals by saying that she’s “looking forward to interviewing many of my homosexual friends in Columbus, Ohio.” In the post she further states that she’s going to interview and befriend all the homosexuals. I wonder if she will be like Kirk Cameron and bring a camera crew? She loves homosexuals and doesn’t care if she makes some enemies (from the people she says she will become friends with) that they need to hear the truth she thinks she’s speaking.

6days

This woman has mastered passive aggressiveness. Someone should give her a PhD in it. The Anti-Christ, I mean the Activist Mommy insists she loves us gays. I mean why else would she use the term homosexual to describe us? No ally in the history of queer allies has ever called their friends homosexual. Only people who feel uncomfortable by gay people or even worse are bigoted.

She doesn’t understand why she’s getting trolled with so much hate. All she’s trying to do is Jesus duty to save us from eternal damnation. I mean how could anyone think that had anything but a loving touch to it.

Anti-Mommy… gosh I’m having a hard time using Artistic Mommy… does the typical compare homosexuals to sex addicts, the fornicators, the adulterers, the porn addicts, etc.

We’re the petty, small-minded ones because we’re calling out her sugary bullshit. How dare we imply that she hates homosexuals. Why else would she troll us at the pride parade telling us what we need to hear.

Honestly I’d rather have someone call me a faggot to my face because at least they’re honest about it. They don’t hide behind a sugary coverup. You can pour a dumptruck full of sugar onto an ounce full of shit but you can smell the stank.

The stink they’re trying to cover up has nothing to do with homosexuality. It has everything to do with their own fears, insecurities and hate. To keep all of that negativity at bay they anchor themselves to a false idea of what God and Jesus is. The only way they will feel good about that choice is by convincing everyone else that their way is the right and only way.

I know all of this because I lived it for so many years. I grew up in a family full of people like this. People who felt it was their god given duty to save me. My father is one of these people. He’d go up to strangers telling them that they needed to accept Jesus Christ in their life or they’d go to hell. It didn’t matter the situation either. One time at a funeral he cornered my sister’s friend trying to save her.

That kind of hate destroys, including the sugary coated kind. I grew up hating myself because I was brainwashed in believing that I was going to hell for being gay. It almost destroyed me. You just don’t get over having your own father tell you over and over that you’re going to hell. While strangers and other family could escape his wrath, I couldn’t.

Children, teens and even adults kill themselves over this kind of hate. The age of Trump has brought out all the bigots. He is their king and now they feel even more justified in spreading their hate like shit on crackers. So I’m torn. I believe in free speech. I don’t know what the appropriate action is for someone like this lady. Ultimately she deserves love and she needs it. She’s lost and delusional. She has two young children and I can’t imagine what they’re having to endure.

Yes people like this are a dime a dozen. I think what upsets me about people like this isn’t about the hate they spread but the damage it does. I know countless people are enduring the pain I did. It breaks my heart that I can’t rescue them. They are the ones who need saving and I don’t mean by berating them.

Some will say to just ignore people like this and for the most part I do. There’s the argument that while her speech is vile it is still free speech. I believe in free speech but I also believe in standing up. If you’re going to spread your hate in a public forum expect that others will stand against you. There are consequences to hate. Now while I think speech should be speech that doesn’t mean I believe we should give them the stage like some universities have done for people like Ann Coulter or Milo what’s his name.

At what point does silence turn into acceptance and tolerance. When you stand up to people like this woman you’re standing up for those who can’t do it themselves. When she shares her sugary hate on social media it will eventually show up in the feeds of teens who are struggling and getting bullied. How many children have to die from bullying both from other children or adults before people wake up.

Did you know that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24? Here are some other facts about teen suicide.

• Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. [2]

• In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. [3]

• LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. [4]

• 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year. [5]

• Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average. [6]

So that’s where I draw the line. I refuse to sit by and let this hate destroy others. Having to grow up in this kind of hate doesn’t ever leave you. So while many survive these horrific situations they grow into adults who struggle greatly. It’s taken me twenty years to heal and I’m still processing layers.

I’ve struggled to cope as an adult. It was easier for me to literally escape from that hate including my father. All these years I knew the hate that was out there in this world. I didn’t need to look any farther than my own family. I thought I escaped it but in reality I’m still living in parts of that house still. I was reminded this the night that Trump took the election. I was devastated. I knew what was at stake and the lives that would be lost from his hate.

It was surreal seeing all the people go through what I did for so many years. People not realizing the kind of hate that’s out there. It’s one thing to know your family is filled for of bigots but it’s another thing to know there are millions of them. It almost scared me into the hospital from suicidal thoughts. It was this gigantic flashback.

For the next two months I was paralyzed by my fear. I wasn’t just reliving that night but all the nights from when I was a teen. I live in a rural area and I would find myself questioning (in my head) others who I would encounter in public. Is this someone who voted my rights away? If they find out I’m gay will they verbally chastise me or worse attack me? I’m 6ft, 400lbs and have a big beard and even I feared being found out. I didn’t hide like so many years, well after a while.

Another dangerous aspect of hate speech is that it’s usually attached to some belief of discrimination. It’s one thing to believe whatever you want to but another thing to vote away my rights… or take them away… or deny service to me… So hate speech is a double edged sword.

Most in our country were awoken to the level of hate out there in our world. There was some relief to that fact knowing that you weren’t alone. It’s so easy to think that is all that’s out there. When you grow up surrounded by hate you get tunnel vision. If the people who are suppose to protect you and become the ones who hurt you how else is a child supposed to know anything but that.

You get to a point where you don’t trust anyone. It’s this weird state of living between the world of a victim and survivor. Which is why something like gay pride is so important. There is safety in numbers. It’s not just to have a good time. I still to this day find myself weary in places where heterosexual men are like sports bars. Instantly I become that scared child having to endure my father’s hate. So it was just easier for me to stick with people I knew were open minded.

I saw time and again people posting about removing facebook friends because of Trump and his army of hate. I didn’t delete one person. I had weaned these kind of people out of my life long ago. Maybe I’m missing out by not being as open to different ideas but it’s how I stay safe. It’s easier said than done to be accepting of all ideas when those words are stones to you. I also don’t think it applies to ignorance or hate. People are literally scared for their life and many have died because of this hate. There are those of us who don’t have the luxury of taking these risks.

So I think there is nothing wrong with eliminating people in your life like this or limiting your time with them. Sometimes you have to love people from afar.

I’m a strong believer that good things can come from bad things. It can be extremely tough to see this, especially if you’re living it. After I got over the shock of Trump I started to see all the wonderful supportive people coming out of the woodworks. There were way more of the lovers, than the haters. Just recently I saw a picture of a pride section at the Kroger in a conservative small town. That’s progress. You don’t know what that does to a person who has grown up hating themselves. It’s a bright light in a dark world. To many it’s just cardboard and paper, and others an abomination.

I’ve always lived life with the philosophy of doing good. You can be the person who lifts someone up. I’ve always been open with my struggles. Some have questioned why I’ve shared so openly. I don’t do it for them. At the end of the day if my struggles can be a lighthouse to someone else I will feel better. If I can save one person I know my life will have been meant for more than all that hate, misery, tears, blood and pain.

I won’t lie I’ve not got my life figured out. It’s a lifelong battle. I’ve struggled with dark days of depression. I fight daily with these demons. People like the activist mommy are not my demons, nor do they affect me. I’ve given people like her power for so long. They’ve rented space in my mind for most of my life.

The activist mommy speaks of freedom. To read her posts and the comments supporting here reminds me just how free I am. That I can read her posts and not feel any pain. I’ve had a lot of practice and I still get caught up occasionally.

For so many years it was easier to hate my father and be angry. It wasn’t until my Mom died five years ago that I realized how much destruction the anger has caused and how much he still controlled me. I say past tense because recently I cut those ties after some realizations. The grief softened the anger and I discovered a world of hurt. Through that hurt I wished for the father I always wanted and deserved. I even thought he had changed. Years ago he apologized for how he stated, the way he approached Jesus to me.

My mom was my lifeforce. She was my rock and when she died I went floating into outer space… so I grabbed onto the closest life force I was born with. I had my heart broken all over again recently. I had seen his posts on facebook about all things alt right. Anti this, anti that. A total trump lover… So it started to wake me up again. It was directed at me this time but it still stung. Still I thought maybe he wouldn’t turn on me this time. Maybe this time would be different.

Since my Mom died in 2012 I’ve struggled to survive. It’s been nearly five years and I’m not even 1/4 back to where I was before. In the last year I’ve almost been homeless three times. Through it all I fought through the grief and I’m finally on the outside looking in. For someone with PTSD that is extremely difficult to do. While I might not be emotionally unstable all the time I still struggle daily.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in a world where I no longer have the one person who was there for me. The world seemed to dark and scary for me. I had a lifetime of pain, suffering and misery that I almost ended it all in 2013. I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted relief and didn’t think I would ever get it.

It’s so much easier to judge someone else than it is to have empathy for what the person has endured. I think that’s what bothers me the most about this kind of hate is it reminds me of the kindness I wished I had more of. Often times I feel like a fuck up. The person who can’t be stable. Some days I don’t hate myself and those days are wonderful. I’m starting to have more of those happy days but I have enough of the others to mess with my mind.

I’m the end result of this hate. So many grow up into flawed adults who’ve never had the chance to heal and cope with the pain they’ve endured. It’s been twenty years and I still can hear my father’s voice yelling that I was going to hell and telling me that I was going to die alone in the hospital of AIDS. Those are words you never get rid of. You learn to detach the power cord but they’re still there.

Sometimes I just want to yell bloody murder. Will someone see me for who I am? and not the person they want me to be. For too long I didn’t think I deserved anything good, including love. So while I might still hate parts of myself I now know that I deserve wonderful things including kindness and love. I still struggle with believing I will find it but that’s just another thing I’m dealing with.

I wish people like the activist mommy could see our pain. See all our tears. I have to leave the situation knowing that they’re flawed and can’t see anything but their fears.

How do you combat someone like the activist mommy? Say what you want to her. Troll her with rainbow reactions but do something more than that. Reach out to someone you love who is struggling or even not. Someone in your life who is lgbtqai. They’ve probably just as scared as I am with the world we live in and could use the support. Just a simple I love you and I’m there will do. That’s what pride really is about. It’s celebrating our freedom from this hate and celebrating what being gay is all about… love and fabulousness.

I’ve never really questioned whether I was gay or not. For the most part I have loved being gay, it’s what makes me special. Though I’ve not always seen it as a gift. There was a time I tried to hide my fabulousness. I had guys make me less because of my femininity saying things to me like you’re too much like a girl, like that was a bad thing. So I tried to fit in. It was easy to do in the bear community with my size and facial hair. It wasn’t until I dressed in drag that I finally felt in touch with the person I was born to be. It was the first time that I had ever felt beautiful. Honestly I feel more like a woman than I do as a man. I recently have been describing myself as queer. It’s been rather liberating.

I’m learning to embrace who I am. So if you’re reading this and you’re going through something similar… hang on… weather out the storm. There are kind people out there. When you see people like the activist mommy remember like Glinda the good witch says, they have no power over you. If you’re living in this hell reach out to someone at school, a friend… A great resource is the Trevor Project if you can’t find anyone locally. They will help anyone including adults. You can always send me a message here as well too.

I’m with you and some many of us are. I will fight for you until I die. I’m learning to fight for myself but I will always have time for you. We’re worth it.

So activist mommy you have no power over me and others like me,  so be gone… <throws a proverbial bucket of glitter>

Huggs

SOURCES:
[1] CDC, NCIPC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2010) {2013 Aug. 1}.  Available from:www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars.

[2] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[3] James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

[4] Family Acceptance Project™. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics. 123(1), 346-52.

[5] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[6] IMPACT. (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health. 100(12), 2426-32.

 

The Fear is Real

If you’re on facebook or any other social media the days after Trump won (not fairly) the election you saw your fears come to life. If you were half of America (or at least those who voted for Hillary) you knew what was at stake. That’s why so many of us were shocked because we couldn’t believe in a world where such a hateful person could become President. So when Trump kept winning states you saw your fear grow. For me, it grew to the point where I was in the middle of a massive panic attack… full meltdown mode.

Having lived in a world full of hate growing up I knew what was at stake and what it would mean if Trump was elected. I had first hand knowledge what that kind of hate does to your soul. It rips you apart like a forest fire. That kind of hate leaves nothing behind but a blackened skeleton. That’s what many of us are fearing from a Trump Presidency.

The day after the election it was very clear that our fears were justified as the news of people already being at the end of hate from the supporters of Trump. From swastikas spray painted on buildings in NYC to actual physical altercations with Trump supporters. On Wednesday,  a female student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was beaten, robbed and had her hijab ripped off by two men. Trump winning has given his supporters validation that their racist, discriminatory beliefs are just and apart of making America great again.

It’s only four days and we have enough examples of hate in action to fill up a book. Gay people are being harassed more. Anyone who might look hispanic is told to go back to Mexico. Disabled people are being called the R word. Muslims are being targeted, so are African-Americans. Anyone who doesn’t look like a Trump supporter is a target. Trump winning gave them an excuse to remind everyone that they’re going to make America great by going back to a time where black people were segregated, women belonged in a kitchen and gay people were forced to stay in the closet. How far back do they want to go? Back before women could vote or to the days of slavery.

We live in a time that’s more progressive but this election is proof that there are millions of people stuck in the 50s. They feel they’ve been left behind when in reality the one one to blame for being stuck is themselves. Change is a part of life and if you don’t move with it you’ll get left behind. Those who want to make America great again have felt out of control seeing all the changes that they don’t approve of, that go against their God/religion. Marriage equality was the last straw for these people. So of course the only choice was to vote for the man who’d save them. They’ll quickly learn that Trump was never on their side, he just used them. What will they do when they find out that he’s not going to build a wall or doesn’t reverse marriage equality?

It goes much deeper than fearing for our safety and lives because a Trump presidency will make our lives much harder. We might be safe for now but the laws that Trump passes will make many people miserable including his supporters. I know a lot of people are saying that not everyone who voted for Trump are bad and that’s probably true but the fact remains that millions of people voted for Trump in spite of all the bad things he’s said and done. They were so willing to look past all the bad and what it would mean to minorities in order to not change their world. When in reality Trump isn’t the savior they’re looking for. Trump is like the dragon version of Republicans. He was loud and fiery but he wasn’t much different than most Republican politicians. Trump was created by the Republicans he’s the effect.

Trumps followers were led by fear like the pied piper. I know what it’s like to be led by fear. I grew up in a Southern Baptist family which was all fire and brimstone. Being gay was an abomination. During my teenage years I had this reoccurring nightmare of the end of the world and my name would never get called to go to heaven. This is what fear based teachings do, they brainwash you into believing whatever is told to you. So if you grow up in that world it’s hard to overcome it especially if you’re one of the black sheeps.

Fears are based on falsehoods. The longer you hold the fear, the larger it grows until you become the monster. My family is full of them. They have this way of thinking where the path to heaven is only for the few and if you don’t live life the right way you will burn in flames forever. Talk about being scared out of your mind as a child. The bigger the fear the person has the more they try to convince everyone else that they’re right. My father is a prime example. Growing up he would use to corner people trying to preach the word of God to them. It didn’t matter what the function was he’d go out of his way to save someone. At my cousin’s funeral he preached at my sister’s best friend. Yet if you looked inward to his own life you’d see that he wasn’t living by example.

Still to this day he’s the same way. He’s the typical Trump supporter. His facebook wall is full of hate. I recently had thought of giving him another chance. He even apologized to me a few years ago about how he approached Jesus with me. I was foolish to think he had changed. Seeing how he went on about Trump just reminded me why I stayed away from him. He’s toxic and it only means pain for me. He’s just one of many in my family. The election this year has been extremely triggering for me because the people Trump spoke to was my family. Family is suppose to protect you and lift you up, not vote against your rights and safety.

The greatest satisfaction has been knowing that I was able to get away from that hateful world. I have worked hard the past twenty years to get away from it and it hasn’t been easy. During my darkest days I had to remind myself that I had gotten away from that bad place. So to have it come crashing back around me when Trump won the electoral votes just devastated me. It felt like the ultimate defeat that hate won. The world became very scary knowing that millions of voters didn’t care if I had my rights and safety taken away. It’s bad enough when strangers do that to you but when it’s your own family it’s especially devastating. So not only did I grow up in a family full of hate I now had it validated by Trump’s supporters.

As scared as I am and stunned that I live in a world where he could be our President I can’t let that get in the way of my fight. The difference between now and then is that now I have this inner strength that I didn’t realize I had. I’ve had so much taken away that I’m willing to give anything else away anymore. I have this fire in me and I will fight anyone who tries to take away my rights and the others around me.

So bring it on Trump and his army of hate. I’m ready and so are the rest of us. If you think you’ll have it easy you will learn very quickly that you shouldn’t have messed with us. If we don’t fight for what’s right they will really win and we just can’t let that happen. America is already great because of the diverse population.

Just because when they go low, we go high it doesn’t mean that we won’t fight for our rights. So my brothers and sisters the time is now to prepare for January. Keep on letting your voice be heard. I know so many are wondering how they can help. One way you can help is by attaching yourself with the organizations that will come at risk during a Trump presidency like the ACLU, Sierra Club, NAACP, etc. by volunteering and donating to them. They’re going to need all the help they can get.

We need to keep up the protesting. My hope is that they will grow and take over more cities. We need to send a clear message to the world and the haters. A lot of people are scared including the rest of the world. Trump will be bad for everyone but the rich. If there isn’t a protest in your city/town form one. All it takes is a group of people gathering in public. We can’t give up now. The fight has just began. It’s going to be a long four years.

There are protests being held all over the country including overseas. A lot of them are organic and just happen at the spur of the moment. I’ve created a website to help mobilize the movement. To find protests visit:

http://www.lovealwaystrumpshate.org

https://www.facebook.com/lovealwaystrumpsh8/

If you know of a protest that’s not listed please let me know and I will add them. Hang in there everyone. Love will always prevail. While we might have lost the battle we will win the war. We have love and light on our side. Don’t ever forget that!

Huggs

Stop Derek from Being Homeless

https://www.gofundme.com/dereksnewhome

A few weeks ago I received an eviction from the people I rent a room from to be out of here by the end of the month. It was unexpected and unfounded. I’ve been a great tenant, paying my rent on time. I’ve come to find out that they want someone else to move in. Now they’re trying to push up my move out date by a week, which has left me scrambling for a new place to live. As it stands now the only option I have is to go live in a homeless shelter. I’m trying to raise enough money to help pay my rent (for my own place) until my SSI court date in Feb next year.
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I’m disabled and unable to work. I’m waiting for a court date for SSI disability, which will be Feb 2017. I’m hoping to raise enough money to get me through until that date. I’ve suffered from major depression disorder and PTSD most of my life. There hasn’t been a time in my adult life that I haven’t suffered from depression and PTSD. When I have a PTSD episode friends/family become strangers and strangers become enemies. It’s like being in a war zone. My current living situation has pushed me to my limit, as the last few months have been extremely stressful living here.

Stability is something I’ve never had and something I’m so desperate for. Being able to get my own place would bring that into my life. Lately I’ve made an effort to better my life. I’ve consistently been in therapy and on medicine since 2013, as well as seeing a psychiatrist. I’ve recently moved all my services to this county and having to move out of this town would put my health at risk.

I have a new therapist who I love. She’s working on a new treatment for those with PTSD called EMDR. It’s helps the patient to reprogram traumatic events into more healthy ways. I’ve finally taken my life back after four years of complete hell. In 2012, my Mom died from cancer causing me to spiral into a deep, dark depression. It’s taken me four years but I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. I’ve come to terms with my disablity and now realize that I need to treat it like diabetes.

I’ve tried to do this on my own and that doesn’t work. So I’m asking for help. I’m so very scared to be homeless. I’ve made a lot of progress the last few months and I want to keep moving forward. I’ve also started to embrace my art again by working on a new comic book. My passion for art has helped me through some very difficult times in my life. Having my own place would give me a safe space to create new works of art.

I’ve suffered for too long and finally realize that I deserve better. I’m taking my life back and I’m determined to get my own place. No matter what is thrown at me I don’t let it keep me down. Every time a hurdle is placed in front of me I clear it. I will keep climbing this mountain until I get a home of my own. While the last two months have been some of the worst times in my life it has helped me find an inner strength that I didn’t know was there. All this time I thought I was broken but I always rebound. Then it dawned on me through all the bad things in my life I’m still here. I’m strong as steel.

Thanks for taking the time to hear my story. Please consider sharing this campaign with everyone you know.

Here are some of my recent sketches of my comic book. Also follow my facebook page for DragZilla! DragZilla is the story of a gay man brutally attacked because he’s gay. He cries out for help and in his hour of need a glimmer of light appears. A goddess like entity, who goes by the name Glimmer, transforms him into a drag queen superhero. He starts off his journey to find justice for his attack but in the process becomes a beacon of light for the LGBTQ community. I’m really excited to have started work on this new project of mine. Having my own place would help me bring to life DragZilla!

Making the Impossible, Possible: The Journey to Triumph

Re-Visions Event in NYC

Creating the Tree of Spectacle Triumph has been a journey from start to finish. Just like life creating the sculpture wasn’t easy by any means. Creating this beautiful tree tested my patience, stamina and will. I jumped through hoops and didn’t let roadblocks prevent me from pushing forward. That’s the message in my story is to persevere regardless of what is thrown at you.

This journeyEdit_IMGL3627 started last fall when I entered my rose sculpture in ArtPrize, an international art competition in Grand Rapids, MI. When registration started for ArtPrize I debated entering due to the registration fee. I kept getting messages that doors would open. The messages started off as a whisper but eventually turned into a roar. I really feel my Mom was behind the messages. Even after I registered I kept getting the same message. A month after ArtPrize ended I received an email about a possible commission for an eyewear manufacturer in New York using eyewear material in the piece.

treeoflifeupdatedWhen thinking about a proposal I thought about what I wanted to create. At first I struggled. Then I thought about this tree I first started to create over ten years ago. It started off as an oil painting where half the tree was alive and the other half was dead. It represented the best parts of ourselves and the pain that we endure. The living part was the phoenix that rose from the ashes. It’s taken me many years to realize that I’m not my pain or troubles. The Tree of Triumph is my best, true self.

The inspiration for the original tree was a lilac bush that grew next to my family home. It was my pride and joy. In the spring the sweet fragrance would float throughout my home. I loved that lilac bush. Next to the lilac bush was an old corncrib. One day my father decided he was going to tear the corncrib down. Not only did he tear it down he set it ablaze. The flame was so hot that it bubbled the paint on the siding of the house. You could feel the heat inside the house. The flames were higher than our house.

Once the flames had dissipated all that was left of the lilac bush was a charred out skeleton of what use to be a beautiful, vibrant living creature. I was devastated. My father on the other hand acted like it wasn’t a big deal. It was just a bush to him, not important. He just brushed off my tears like it was nothing.

I thought all was lost. Spring wasn’t the same without those purple, fragrant blooms. The blackened skeleton was a reminder of the hurt my father caused. What I couldn’t see were the roots deep within the ground. Years later they arose from the ashes and life had sprouted again. It took some time but eventually the lilac bush grew to four times the size of its former self. It took a big portion of my adult life to realize the moral of the story.

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You can destroy my branches. You can knock me to the ground but you’ll never reach my roots. The roots represented my heart, soul and spirit. It was the first time I regained the power that I allowed others to take. No amount of hurt or pain will reach my soul. So it’s significant that the heart of the tree is surrounded by the roots.

I submitted my proposal and patiently waited for an answer. The date given passed and still no word. I had started to think I wasn’t selected. Another few weeks went by and finally I received word that I was one of seven artists selected. I was beyond ecstatic. My sculpture was going to be displayed during an art show in New York City. It was a dream come true. It’s one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Creating a sculpture using unconventional materials is a complicated, challenging process. It was my first sculpture of this size. The final sculpture was over four feet tall and four feet long. The next six months pushed me to my limit and tested my will. Creating the bark was a very tedious process of hot gluing small piece of frame onto the skeleton which was pvc. This wasn’t your typical glue gun. It was a professional glue gun that carpenters use with temperatures going past 400 degrees. Due to the intricate aspect of the branches, the quick harden time of the glue and the small frame pieces I had to use my hands to attach the pieces. So you probably can guess what occurred fairly frequently. I’m surprised I still have feelings in my hands.

Creating sculptures out of unconventional materials is very physically demanding and the tree was no different. There were times that my hands, arms and legs were covered in burns, scratches and cuts. It looked like I had been a fight with a cat and lost. Towards the end I had so many cuts on my hand that it became very painful to use my hands but I pushed through. Reaching through the branches felt like I was reaching through a briar patch.branches

There were aspects to the tree that were very tedious. Creating the bark was a very lengthy process. At times it felt like I was never finish it. Imagine gluing small pieces of frame to a large area. It was so tedious that it gave me panic attacks. Creating the leaves were also very tedious process due to the number of lenses needed to fill the space. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would take over 3,000 lenses. Most of these were treated and hand painted. I then had to hang each one to the branches and that part took forever.

Creating the Tree of Triumph meant bringing my inner demons into the light. The tree represented my best self and the darkness was ruthless in trying to stop me. There were times I couldn’t even look at the sculpture because there were parts of me that still believed that I didn’t deserved it. I faced the darkness and once again pushed through.

The tough part of creating a sculpture out of unconventional material is that for a big portion of the time creating it there isn’t a clear defined picture of what the final picture will be. It’s not until the end that you start to see the picture. It wasn’t until I started to add the leaves that I was finally able to see what I had envisioned. It’s amazing how quickly the final picture comes to the surface. It’s like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

The art that I create is very time consuming. I like to create little biodomes. My specialty is creating creatures out of the unconventional materials. A part of the design included a little girl swinging from the tree which was based off my seven year old niece. I also included one of the creatures (the frog) from my rose sculpture. It was my way to honor where the tree came from. If it wasn’t for the rose I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity.

Connie 236The creation of the tree was a family event. My nieces and nephew helped me paint lenses. My seven year old niece was quite the helper. She would come down frequently asking if I needed any help. My sister was my sounding board. Many of the decisions like not painting the bark came from her.  My brother in law was my technical expert and made sure the sculpture was secure during the long trip in a Uhaul to NYC. I couldn’t have created the sculpture without their help so it was really important to make them a part of tree. I had them each sign a lense and put it on the tree. It was my way of honoring their contributions and support. While they couldn’t be there with me in NYC they were definitely there in spirit.

Original Sculpture

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During this whole experience I have felt a strong connection to my Mom to the point where I would turn around thinking she was there. She was one of the person I turned to as a sounding board and I found myself physically turning to her thinking she was there. I strongly believed she brought me this opportunity.

I thought that challenging aspect was done but boy was I ever wrong. Originally it was my understanding that the sculpture would be crated. With over 3,000 lenses the sculpture was extremely heavy, at least over 200 pounds. The shipper just wanted to bubble wrap it and cover it with a furniture pad, and throw it on the truck.

cocoontreeI had spent the past six months (over 1500 hours) in creating this beautiful creature and I wasn’t about to let it get broken. I put my heart and soul into this tree. It had became a part of me because the tree represented me. I became a part of this tree and it a part of me. When I had the idea of driving it to New York City it never dawned on me how rough of a ride a Uhaul moving van is. Thankfully my brother in law came up with a system that would keep the sculpture secure in the back of the Uhaul. He attached it to a pallet and then boxed it in between the wheel wells. Finally he secured it by attaching a 2×4 to each side.

The trip was only suppose to take 10.5 hours. The client wanted it at their location at 5pm. I made sure to leave enough time for stops, etc. I had tried to fall asleep the night before but with the nerves and excitement I wasn’t able to. So I left for NYC with only 4 hours of sleep in 48 hours. I left at 4am. About 5 hours into my trip I started to become very sleepy to the point where I struggled to keep my eyes open. I did everything possible to stay awake including blaring the music and turning the air on full blast. Anyone who’s driven on highway 80 through Pennsylvania knows that the terrain is very hilly and rough. Imagine driving on it when you’re majorly sleep deprived. On top of all the hills there are many drop offs. It got to the point where I couldn’t even look at them as they made me seasick.DSCF8390

Around the fifth hour I was pulled over by a cop. He said I had went over the white line and wanted to make sure I was okay. He ended up being really cool but it just added to the nerves of the trip. Anyone who has ever driven a Uhaul knows it’s like driving a boat.

I had downed a red bull, a Starbucks cold drink and several Mountain Dews in the hopes that it would keep me awake. About into the seventh hour I went into this sleep deprived state where I felt like everything around me was warped. It was like I was on this major trip. It felt like the mountains were coming at me both in fast forward and slow motion all at once.

Towards to what I thought was the end of the trip I started to count down the hours. I counted down the hours to help comfort me. The last two hours I started to become so tired I wasn’t sure I could make it but I knew they were expecting me and I couldn’t let them down. So I continued to push through.

Eye of the Tiger came on the radio and it helped give me the steam needed to finish the trip. I finally got to New Jersey during rush hour mind you. At this point I was so tired that I was wired. I continued to count down the time until Manhatten came into sight.

Finally I could see the city. I wasn’t ever so happy to see a city landscape. It was around 5pm when I drove into the city limits, so you can imagine how crazy it was. The traffic went from a slow pace to a crawl. I was stuck in a traffic jam. I was only 15 minutes away from my destination and only one mile from my next exit which was the Lincoln tunnel. What I didn’t know that there was an accident up ahead.lincoln+tunnel+traffic

It took over ten minutes to move .05 of a mile, if that. Anyone that’s driven in a major city knows that traffic jams are inevitable. About an hour into the traffic jam I started to lose hope in getting to my destination in a timely matter. I had already missed my time to drop off the sculpture. At this point I just wanted to get to the dinner that evening with all the artists but as the time crept by I realized there was no way I was going to make it. All of a sudden I hear this bang. Someone rear ended me. I was like great how can this day get any worse. Thankfully there was no damage to the Uhaul and the only damage to his vehicle was to his license plate which was bent in half on the ground. How does one hit a huge moving truck with the brake lights on and stopped???

Finally after four hours in the traffic jam I was back on track. At this point I thought the plan was for me to go to the hotel and drop off the sculpture in the morning but when I contacted the client I was told that it needed to be delivered tonight. I was told if it wasn’t delivered tonight it wouldn’t be in the show. The next thirty minutes I pretty much circled time square over and over in a Uhaul. I was starting to panic. Imagine driving a huge truck at 11pm at night in Time Square. I was sure I was going to hit something or someone. There were people all over. They crossed the streets in mobs like ants out of a ant hill. Eventually I said heck with it and started driving like a mad man.time-squares-at-night-wallpaper-2

I finally made it. I should have known the night wasn’t going to get any easier. Earlier I had a bad feeling. There was one point during the traffic jam where I almost turned around to head home. When I opened the back of the truck the first thing said was it’s not going to fit. I could also tell they really didn’t want to have to move the sculpture. I have always been upfront with them on the size and weight.

We get the sculpture into the main lobby and I’m dumbfounded when I see the elevator. The door was extremely narrow. I honestly never saw an elevator so small. There was some discussion about getting the sculpture into the elevator. Someone suggested leaving it in the lobby. I wish I had pushed for that. I was informed that they learned the day before that the freight elevator was broken.

My sculpture was at least four feet tall and four feet across. The elevator door couldn’t been bigger than three feet across. I suggested angling the sculpture into the elevator. They got the sculpture in the elevator but getting it out was another story. I couldn’t watch them try to get it out. I honestly was done with the whole situation so I sat in the conference room knowing something bad was going to happen. Never in my worst nightmare did I imagine what I would walk into…

Every branch was broken and lying at the base of the sculpture. They had tried to fix it by shoving branches into the wrong holes. They basically decapitated the tree. It was like they dropped it from the top of the building. I was in complete shock. In just a matter of minutes they had destroyed something that took 1500 hours to complete. Until you see the pictures of the demolished piece you can’t begin to understand how badly it was broken. In a sculpture that size a strong foundation and structure is crucial in securing the piece. Individually plastic lenses don’t weigh that much but when you use thousands of them they become very heavy.

Broken Sculpture

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On top of them destroying something I put my heart and soul into I wasn’t treated very well. One of the employees started to take his frustrations out on me, accusing me of lying about being stuck in the traffic jam. I was dumbfounded by the whole situation. If I wasn’t so out of it and delirious I would have never let them put it in that small elevator. After spending over twenty hours in a Uhaul my night ended with them doing the worst thing you can do to an artist. I was told that they could fix it. I didn’t have a lot of faith. We agreed to come back the next day which was the day of the event.

I didn’t get checked into my hotel until 1am. Thankfully my good friend lives in New York City and came over to my hotel. I don’t think anyone would have questioned if I did have a meltdown but I was surprisingly calm. I obviously was upset but I didn’t let it destroy me. Prior to my Mom passing away I would have totally turned into Chicken Little. I posted on Facebook that the breaking of my sculpture didn’t even make my top ten list of bad things that had happened to me. When my friend left I had accepted that my sculpture was destroyed. I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to show a broken piece.

After I had dropped the Uhaul off in the Bronx I headed to the office. I wasn’t sure what I was going to walk into. I had four hours to salvage my piece. The event started at 7pm. Thankfully one of the employees was experienced with construction and offered to help me put it back together. I had used pvc to build the structure. When they broke the piece they not only broke apart the branches they broke the connecting pieces. So you couldn’t just connect pieces anymore because there was big chunks missing.

Thankfully I had packed my glue gun and brought a lot of supplies just in case. If I hadn’t brought my glue gun I’m not sure we could have put it back together because we used the glue to connect the pieces together. After a few hours he was able to rebuild the structure the best he could. There were still three main branches that we couldn’t put back together which left a lot of holes. I had put a lot of effort in creating the shape of the tree.

When I finished the sculpture I was relieved to be done. I had very little energy left in me. I felt accomplished for finishing it but I was also relieved to not have to work on it again. So once again I was forced to give more than I had and rebuild something that took countless hours to create. I got on the floor and began to work my magic which again meant burning myself with that boiling hot glue.

I worked on the sculpture until the very last minute. I did what I could to rebuild it. Most everything on the sculpture had something wrong with it. The wire butterflies were bent out of shape. The iris was broken, so was the dragonfly and girl. Thankfully the damages to the creatures were minor and I was able to fix them.

We had done the impossible and was able to put back together the broken pieces. The salvaged sculpture was a lot more rough and exposed than before. The shape of the tree was also drastically altered. I was relieved to have a finished piece to show. There wasn’t anything else I could do.

Salvaged Sculpture

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The event was amazing. I met so many wonderful people, many who had no idea that earlier that day it was a broken mess. I wove the whole experience into the theme of the piece. It’s not coincidental that of all the pieces that were broken the roots weren’t touched. I was able to weave what happened into the story of the piece which many of the guests at the event were able to connect to. I talked to many people who themselves also had moments in their life when they felt broken. Without the sculpture breaking I’m not sure the impact would have been as strong.

It was very symbolic that the sculpture was broken. The theme of the piece is resiliency, rising above the difficult times in our lives. There have been times in my life that I have felt just like that broken sculpture. When something traumatic happens we are forced to pick up the broken pieces.brokentree14

While I wouldn’t want to relive this experience ever again there is a part of me that is glad that it happened. It was a major confidence boost. I could have given up. I could have thrown a fit. I could have went home with my tail between my legs but I didn’t. I pushed forward and didn’t let anyone stand in my way of getting what I wanted and deserved. There have been many times I have cowered down in defeat. This wasn’t one of those moments. This was my moment of triumph.

Like the tree I was strong. Stronger than anything that ever happened to me. You can cut my branches. You can cut my bark. You can even knock me to the ground. You’ll never reach my roots and I will always rise from the ashes.

I’m not alone. There are so many people out in the world who themselves feel broken. After my Mom died I wasn’t sure I could go on. It felt so broken that I didn’t believe I could be put back together. That’s why my sculpture breaking wasn’t really a big deal because I had already gone through something a million times worse. This was nothing. It was also out of my control. I couldn’t bring my Mom back, neither could I undo my sculpture breaking.

The sculpture breaking just added to the depth of the piece. It multiplied the strength of the piece exponentially. The Tree of Triumph is confirmation that the impossible is possible. We are never truly broken as our soul always remains in tact. No power or force will ever reach that. So say what you want to me, it won’t hurt or affect me.

So many people have been apart of this journey. This has been the best part of this experience. I have received so much love and support it’s lifted me up from depression and my troubles. It has proved that I deserve so much more. Losing sight of your dreams makes for a very dreary world. This journey has proved that our dreams can come true. Just keep moving forward. Even at a snail’s pace you’ll reach your destination. Our trials and tribulations make us into who we are today. I wouldn’t have been able to handle this journey if I walked down an easy road.

Check out my new artist website:  http://www.derekstephens.net

Progress Pictures

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Re-Visions of Art Show in NYC

Last year I was in ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize is an international art competition. About a month after the art show had ended I was contacted about a potential commision. I had to submit a proposal of my idea. My design was one of eight selected.

My sculpture named The Tree of Life will be displayed at an art show August 5th in New York City. I’m very excited at the opportunity to show one of my works of art.

I also have a new website for my art. You can view my art and purchase my art.

http://www.derekstephens.net

MarchonFlyerHere is my proposal.treeoflifeupdated

This is What Hate Does

Friday’s monumental Supreme court decision left me feeling so many different feelings both good and bad. Mostly ecstatic but there was a tinge of sadness looming. You might wonder how could I feel sadness on such amazing day. I should be nothing but happy right?

As logical as that seems it wasn’t the case for me. When something is brought out into the light I’ve learned that those still left in the darkness will do whatever they can to keep their worlds safe, even if it means dragging you back into that pitch black hole. I purposely didn’t read comments on various media website knowing there would be hateful comments. For the most part rarely do I engage in someone’s rant but regardless it can seep into your consciousness before you know it.

With the sea of rainbow on my rainbow feed I started to ponder why do I let these people bring me down so? What is it about them and the situation that hurts so much. Out of hundreds of rainbows there were only a few storms. While the storms weren’t directed at me I could still hear the booms and bolts.

It’s funny something can happen to you twenty years ago and in a flash you are transported back to that time left feeling what you had put aside.

I’ve been at the end of the religious persecution. Sure I wasn’t kicked out but I often think that would have been the best thing that could have happened. Certain words you don’t ever forget. While they don’t call you worthless, they say everything but. Words pile up like heaps of trash in a landfill.

What that hate and intolerance does is make children feel less. They grow up to hate themselves. Parent’s are suppose to love and pick you up, and the sad reality for some children that just doesn’t happen.

I’ve heard a lot about religion this weekend and I guess it’s triggered me. I think the most damaging thing someone who promotes hate does is pushing people away from God. That’s the biggest abomination and they don’t even realize what they are doing.

Sure while it’s wonderful that we have equality think about the children who still live in households that don’t love and accept them. They are children of God who are pushed out into the world all alone, floating in outer space.

Tonight I watched a video tonight made by an organization called Catholic Vote. In the video are people who believe marriage is between a man and a woman talking about feeling ostracized for their beliefs. They wrap their ignorance, bigotry and hate in a very pretty bubble. They are clueless to the fact that they are only spreading hate, not the message of love they say they’re doing.

This message reminded me tonight of my own experience. I hate myself. You get told you’re going to hell enough times and eventually it sinks in. I’ve covered it up and put it aside but my actions proved otherwise. I’ve forgotten how deep seeded it was. Sure I had glimpses into that dark box like with my weight, etc.

I didn’t get help when I needed it. No one was there for me. I had to endure it alone. So I did the best I can and tried to move on. I coped by replacing one harmful choice for another. So many children don’t get the help they need. Many runaway… many turn to alcohol, drugs and sex… many die…. My drug of choice has been food. I buried my horrible feelings one piece of pie at a time.

So how do you begin to love yourself? I guess the first step is seeing the truth. Do what you have to do to heal if that means screaming at the top of your lung then do it. We are entitled to our anger but bottling up that anger only eats away our core until you’re left we very little fight.

I’m tired of hating myself. Tired of feeling that I don’t deserve love. Tired of thinking God hated me. Tired of thinking I am going to hell. Just tired. I have to remind myself that I’m out of that harmful situation and I never have to go back to that place.

Some people just don’t get it and probably never will but I won’t stay silent because five people were brave and stood against tradition families can finally be protected by having available all the rights that marriage brings including benefits, adoptions and so many more. The Supreme Five has helped remind me of my own inner courage and I know it has to so many more.

For children growing up in a world filled full of hate they desperately need to hear our message. They need something to hold onto. They need to know that they’re not alone.

Healing is a lifelong process. It’s much like cleaning up a landfill. You get one area cleaned up to only find another pile of trash that you forgot about. If you keep at it, even at a snails pace, you’ll eventually get to that diamond. You’re worth it and so am I. I might not fully believe that yet but I’m going to keep going until I do.

God isn’t this tightly ball of yarn put into a cramped little box. God is all over. His/Her love is free, unconditional. Again this is something I must repeat over and over. I won’t lie there are still parts of me that believe that I’m going to hell but as time goes by that becomes less and less.

I’m comforted knowing that the percentage of those against gay people are becoming smaller than smaller. What they’ve tried to do to us, has become of them. Outcasts. The tides have turned and there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s important to remember that there are those who still have to deal with that kind of hate. Gay people can also still get fired for being gay in many states. So there is work to be done but this is a gigantic leap towards equality.