#MeToo

Sexual assault is a pervasive beast that plagues many lives. Last night, I was privileged with the opportunity to sit on a Sexual Assault Awareness panel with three amazing women (Alex Heathcock, Julie Diehl Weil, and Commissioner Paula Ryan) who, like me, have had many Me Too moments in their lives. My sexual trauma began when I was about 5/6 years old. People who my parents trusted to take care of their children, abused their power. I later, in college, encountered an aggressive man who would not take no for an answer and began to kiss me in a hallway. Thankfully, there were friends around and I avoided what could have led to rape. My four years experiencing trauma as a child did not end with rape being avoided, and I unfortunately did not know how to communicate what was happening to my parents. It has taken me years to heal, and I still deal with anxiety (social & panic disorder), depression, and self worth. Sexual trauma is not the fault of the children involved or their parents. However, there are some ways we can move toward a culture where sexual education and social norms do not repress those conversations. It is important for parents with young children to talk to them about their body parts and to create a system of trust. It is important that we maintain sexual education in the public school system and teach young adults how to engage with each other sexually. And it is imperative that we maintain a sex positive culture and that we do not encourage women/girls to play a hard to get card while we encourage men/boys to be on the prowl. I’d like to recognize that though sexual trauma affects girls & women by in large, young boys & men also fall victim. Junot Díaz’s essay was heartbreaking but a necessary part of the conversation. Sexual assault is a pervasive beast, but together we can work to put an end to it for every single human being, because no one deserves to live their life in the shadow of sexual assault. Lastly, it’s important to have conversations like this with compassion, but have them without pity. Those of us who have to say Me Too, as Junot Diaz outlines in his essay, sometimes feel romantically and sexually isolated — we don’t fit in society’s norms for what it means to be a woman or man or lover or fill-in-blank. Many of us struggle to have healthy romantic relationships. Don’t clump us into a box with walls of pity. Approach us with honest, open conversation, and if you seek any sort of relationship, be open to difficult conversation.

**Major thanks to the Palm Beach County Young Democrats for hosting the panel, and many thanks to Tarana Burke for using her voice consistently until we were heard.**

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Pictured with the other panelists (L to R): Alex, me, Julie, Commissioner Ryan.

Sometimes it’s okay to just say “me, too.” 

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Creating empathy one guest a time

If a song played every morning when Gabriela wakes up it would be Beyonce’s Run The World. I have no idea if this Costa Rican badass feminist actually listens to Queen Bey, but what I do know is that when she moves its with the same purpose those drum beats prepare for Beyonce’s entrance on the record.

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Gabi, 37-years old and born in Alajuela, Costa Rica, is one of Air BnB’s most sought-after San Jose hosts.
If it were not for her mother, Gabi would not be a native of Alajuela, the province home to famous hot springs and Volcano Arenal.  

“My parents were migrants in Ohio, they were looking for the American Dream.”

Six months into her pregnancy, Rita, Gabi’s mother, decided she could no longer handle the quest for the dream or the weather — the family moved back to Costa Rica and three months later Gabriela entered the world, drum beats and all.

Becoming an AirBnB host can be a lucrative opportunity, but not everyone does it and those who do are not always successful. Frankly, not all people are cut out to receive guests, but Gabi manages to master the work in a manner I haven’t seen before. 

“I feel at home when I am with people who are different and diverse.”

Gabi goes on to say that “diversity is our most developed state of civilization, so I am always in need of coming together with different people.”

The key here is that Gabi doesn’t only treat AirBnB as an opportunity to make more money. Rather, she focusses on the importance of building a global community. According to AirBnB’s website it’s a “trusted community marketplace for people,” Gabi puts intention in creating community and because of that more than 400 travelers have wish-listed her home, the lovely house, light, hush and air!

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Gabi has been an AirBnB member for five years, but became a host three years ago.
More than 3,000,000 homes are listed on AirBnB. Gabi decided to join the community three years ago. She made the decision because she feels her home is beautiful and wants to share it with others.

“You don’t know your guests, but you care about them.”

That’s not something Gabi had to tell me; it’s something I felt from the moment she messaged me back.

“I’m a bit nervous because this is my first solo vacation,” I typed to her back in March.

“I totally understand you being nervous…but Costa Rica is lovely and you will find a lot of people to help you!”

I can be quite needy, it’s one of those personally traits that sneaks up when my independence takes a nap, but I truly haven’t needed anyone else but Gabi. The reason? She prepared me with a full page of information four days before my check-in. When I arrived, Gabi sat me down to review a map of the neighborhood and handed me two pages of things to do and see in Costa Rica.

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Among my belongings: a map Gabi made, a country-wide draft itinerary, and a full page of things to do and see locally in San Jose. 

 

Gabi is such a great host that one wonders if she has any other jobs. It turns out, she has four. In addition to being the chosen of AirBnB’s marketplace, Gabi prints lamps, works as an anthropologist for Civil Society Organizations and Teachers Unions, directs graduate student research at a local university, and does private sector consulting.

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On her free time, Gabi prints and sells lamps.

Of her five jobs, AirBnB hosting is a family business. Gabi’s mother, Rita, is also a host. Seeing Gabi talk about her mother is comforting; she sort of glows. “My mom is kind of amazing,” she says smiling beautifully, “I think she is a feminist and doesn’t know it.”

Rita has six other children. She raised all seven while building a career and remaining an active member of her local catholic church.

“My mom truly feels enthusiastic when people are doing well, and she has built her feminism according to her catholic values.”

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“Equality is something you build everyday, it is not given for granted,” Gabi says reflecting on how Rita, her mother, has helped mold her feminist theory. 

 

 

To close out our conversation, I asked Gabi this, “if everyone you have hosted could only write a one-sentence review about you, what would they say?”

“Thinking of my guests, I would say…” — Gabi starts to answer, but after a few words, she’s brought to tears. It’s clear that those who have shared her home are family, many of them having become lifetime friends. With her global family in mind and through quivering lips, Gabi says she’d review herself with this sentence…

“Always grateful and always looking forward to meeting again, no matter for how long.”

To book with Gabi, click here.

“AirBnB is amazing, it goes beyond the shared economy. It goes until the very point of allowing us to learn collective intimacy and instant bonding, through that we create empathy. “

–Gabi, AirBnB host of three years