Category Archives: At Issue

Movements. Controversies. Discussions.

When Communities Collide

 


More students are flooding neighborhoods around campus, leading to conflicts with property managers over living conditions and clashes with homeowners seeking to preserve their communities 


Words Sam Katzman | Photos Alisha Jucevic

It’s a typical spring day in Eugene, Oregon—sixty degrees and partially sunny, with rain clouds billowing in the distance. Living in a region saturated with rain for 144 days of the year, most Eugene residents are not fazed by the inevitable showers creeping toward the city. Katie Morrison, however, shudders at the thought of storms in the forecast.

“When it’s raining outside, it’s usually raining in my closet,” says the University of Oregon senior, gesturing toward the decaying walls meant to protect her clothing.

For many student-renters like Morrison, a leaky roof is only one of many maintenance concerns. But her biggest worry is whether the problems will ever get repaired.

Paper-thin walls, a toilet ingloriously dubbed a “dinosaur,” malfunctioning door knobs, and nonexistent water pressure are just some of the issues Morrison says plague her rental property. When a new problem arises—which she estimates to be almost daily—she says she is quick to report her complaint to the property management company that oversees her home. The company says it deals promptly with complaints. Morrison disagrees.

“They say they will come and fix it when they can,” says Morrison. “But they don’t take me seriously.”

University of Oregon senior Katie Morrison says she has many problems with her off-campus rental. Her biggest problem is a leak in her closet. When it rains she says she has to move her boots out of the back of the closet so they are not damaged.

University of Oregon senior Katie Morrison says she has many problems with her off-campus rental. Her biggest problem is a leak in her closet. When it rains she says she has to move her boots out of the back of the closet so they are not damaged.

Stories like Morrison’s are common in the communities encircling the University of Oregon. In a time of mounting tuition costs and rising enrollment, many cash-strapped students are flocking to the neighborhoods surrounding campus in search of the cheapest and most convenient places to live. But as the demand for housing increases, students are clashing with landlords and property managers over what some say are increasingly unsuitable rental conditions, while property managers say inconsistent reporting makes it tough to deal with problems. Meanwhile, private homeowners who suddenly find themselves surrounded by ‘For Rent’ signs are struggling for a say in the future of their neighborhoods.

Several factors have contributed to livability issues in student rental housing. At the heart of the issue is the heart of Eugene: the University of Oregon. Whether it’s the flashy uniforms, athletic triumphs, or innovative curriculum, there’s no disputing the popularity of the Oregon Ducks. As a result, enrollment at Oregon’s flagship university has swelled over the past decade. Since 2002, total enrollment has jumped 22 percent to 24,591 students in the 2012-2013 school year.

The University of Oregon does not offer guaranteed on-campus housing for first-year students. According to Fall 2012 enrollment statistics, 20 percent of freshmen didn’t live on campus, although some did so by choice.

“We don’t use the word ‘guaranteed’, but we do have space,” says Michael Griffel, director of housing at the University of Oregon. “We don’t know what enrollment is going to do and we are very concerned about making promises that, at some point, we won’t be able to keep.”

The University of Oregon increased its housing offerings by opening the Global Scholars Hall in September 2012. Yet some Ducks say the price tag restricts them from living there. It costs between $11,737 and $17,766 for room and board this academic year. The cheapest rooms here are roughly $2,000 more expensive than other comparable dorms on campus.

As a result, many students are migrating to the most affordable residences close to campus, and demand for rental real estate has risen alongside enrollment. Apartment buildings are continually popping up in the most densely populated student communities says Laura Fine Moro, a landlord-tenant attorney who works with students, but the remaining homes are growing scarce and many are in poorer condition.

“It’s a shame that so many older homes are being torn down and apartment complexes are going up,” says Moro. “But so many older homes have deferred maintenance and are not a quality place for students to live.”

The City of Eugene has attempted to ease livability problems through its Rental Housing Program, which requires all rental properties under the city’s jurisdiction to adhere to basic standards in order to be occupied by tenants. The housing code addresses structural integrity, plumbing, heating, and weatherproofing, as well as criteria including smoke detection and security. When problems arise, the landlord or property manager is given ten days to repair the issue after being notified of the complaint in writing. If a rental property fails to comply with this code, occupants are entitled to file a formal complaint with the City of Eugene Code Compliance office, initiating an inspection.

Says Eugene Code Compliance inspector Mark Tritt, “The most common complaints we receive are for issues regarding mold, plumbing, and heating.”

But it is unclear whether the program has succeeded in mitigating student rental property complaints. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the City of Eugene, 6 percent of Eugene renters have filed complaints against their homeowner or property manager in the last three years. However, 65 percent of these subjects reported that their issue was unresolved. Tritt said the city does not distinguish between student and non-student renters, and that he is unsure whether those numbers represent an increase.

Compounding the problem, says Moro, is the fact that students are largely unaware of their rental rights or fear retaliation from property managers. Indeed, the city survey found that top reasons renters failed to report problems were fear of eviction or an increase in rent. The result? Many renters often don’t report problems at all.

Immediately after moving into her South University rental, Chelsea Schmitt says she and her three roommates discovered that their house was teeming with mold. It crept into kitchen drawers, rendering many of them unusable. But the biggest problem lies in the basement, she says, where a combination of leaky plumbing and broken lighting has resulted in an unwelcoming atmosphere.

“You can’t really see it because it’s so dark, but you can smell [it.] It’s like instantly there is something not right,” Schmitt says.

Though the prospect of doing laundry in the basement fills her with dread, she and her roommates have only reported a few of their problems.

“We’re all graduating this year, so we’ve been through it a lot and it’s just kind of like, ‘Well, we’ll just deal with it. It’s only five more weeks,’” she says.

Sarah Vail, a property manager with Jennings Group, Inc., says that they have received no complaints of mold from Schmitt’s address.

But even those who reported their problems two years ago say they see mixed results. Senior Adam Paikowsky and his five housemates suspected the wiring in their century-old rental home was malfunctioning. After experiencing several electrical surges each day, Paikowsky became concerned and notified Stewardship Properties about the issue.

Adam Paikowsky is a senior at the University of Oregon. The house he and his roommates were renting burnt down two years ago due to an electrical fire.

Adam Paikowsky is a senior at the University of Oregon. The house he and his roommates were renting burnt down two years ago due to an electrical fire.

“Our breaker would trip so frequently that if you were using the microwave while watching TV, the power to our house would just go off,” he says.

The housemates say they took turns calling their property management company to insist that a repairman address the problem. Stewardship Properties sent someone over to look at the breaker box.

“He was the same guy they would send anytime we had a problem with our house. He was basically a one-stop-shop kind of handyman,” Paikowsky says. “For about a week, things would be fine, but then the breaker switching would happen all over again.”

In the early morning of February 26, 2011, a fire consumed their home, ignited by a single flame that Paikowsky says originated from an electrical outlet.

With nothing but the charred scraps of an uninhabitable home remaining, the fire victims were left scrambling to find a new house. Stewardship did not offer them alternate accommodations, they said, so the housemates packed their undamaged belongings and moved back into the overcrowded dorms for the rest of their sophomore year.

The housemates considered legal action. But because none of their complaints were documented in writing, their plans were quickly extinguished.

“Had we known better, we should have kept proper documentation at the time,” says roommate Andrew Keller. “Part of the blame falls on us, because we had a legitimate issue and we let it go unresolved.”

Bill Syrios, owner of Stewardship, said that the cause of the fire was electrical, and that his company was regrettably unable to help the tenants afterward.

“It was a difficult situation because they had to be relocated,” he said. “I don’t blame them for being frustrated, but we didn’t have many options.”

Like many student tenants who have never rented a home before coming to college, the fire victims were not fully aware of their rental rights, says housing attorney Moro.

“A good basic tool is to write a letter giving a historical perspective that reminds the landlord or manager that [you] notified [the manager] on this date, and the number of conversations you’ve had with as much specificity as possible, then make the request plainly for the repairs to be made,” she says.

The City of Eugene keeps a database of complaints against property management companies. Between the years of 2005 and 2013, it lists Bell Real Estate as having the highest number of complaints, followed by Stoneridge 1, Von Klein Property Management, Emerald Property Management, and Stewardship Properties. However, that list does not account for the size of each company.

Morrison, with the rainy closet, rents her home from Von Klein Property Management, which oversees about 1,100 units throughout Eugene. It is the second largest student rental housing operation in Lane County, and its highest concentration of properties is located in the West University neighborhood—which is almost entirely inhabited by students.

While Morrison says some of her complaints have been properly addressed, she says the number of her unresolved issues greatly outnumber the pleasant experiences.

“I think they get overwhelmed with all the repairs they have, but that’s not our problem,” she says.

Von Klein Property Management, however, believes Morrison’s concerns are exaggerated. Though the company acknowledges that some complaints go unresolved, owner Larry Von Klein says his company is working hard to protect its reputation.

He says that students can be inconsistent communicators. They often file for work orders but don’t ultimately give contractors permission to enter their homes or fail to return phone calls to set up repairs.

He adds that many tenants have had very positive things to say about renting from the company.

“My wife has a box full of thank-you notes written by students that were under our umbrella for four years,” Von Klein says. “We take a lot of pride in this.”

Representatives from Jennings and Stewardship also defended their companies, saying that allowing homes to fall into disrepair is simply not good for business.

“We don’t ignore complaints,” said Vail, from Jennings Groups, Inc. “We obviously want to take care of our properties, because it’s damaging to have homes with maintenance issues.”

Tension over off-campus student housing is not limited to the University of Oregon. As enrollment surges in colleges across the nation, many universities have had to rethink their plans for growth.

Take Raleigh, North Carolina, the home of North Carolina State University. The campus is considered “landlocked”—meaning expansion beyond current campus borders is not a viable option. A decade ago, Raleigh residents observed an unprecedented number of students living in poor rental property conditions near campus and in neighborhoods that were once exclusively occupied by private homeowners.

North Carolina State University ultimately made room for elaborate student apartment housing on its Centennial Campus, but the city of Raleigh is still struggling to find a more permanent solution.

Private homeowners like Carolyn Jacobs are dissatisfied with landlords and property managers who they say buy homes to rent in residential areas but don’t properly maintain them.

Private homeowners like Carolyn Jacobs are dissatisfied with landlords and property managers who they say buy homes to rent in residential areas but don’t properly maintain them.

The same phenomenon has occurred in Eugene, leading to tension between private homeowners and their student neighbors. Communities such as the Fairmount and South University neighborhoods, which once contained very few students, are now seeing more rentals, leading to conflicts over the changing feel of the area.

“As soon as you start having a few rentals, the block looks different. The grass isn’t cut, dandelions are all over, there are bushes overgrown—maybe the paint is peeling,” says South University neighborhood resident Carolyn Jacobs. “Then, all of a sudden, no families want to buy the house next door. Who wants to spend $500,000 to live in a house when the property next door looks like crap?”

A 2011 report backed by the city found that, in campus neighborhoods, “there is a strong incentive to convert single-family, owner-occupied homes to rental properties.” The Neighborhood Livability Working Group, which was comprised of city and university officials, homeowners, property managers and students, wrote that “the livability and stability of a neighborhood can deteriorate as the proportions of rental property grows and is followed by disinvestment or disinterest by committed property owners. Once the cycle starts, it can gain momentum and be difficult to arrest as long-term residents grow tired of the worsening conditions and put their homes up for sale.”

The report found that crime rates are higher in neighborhoods that are heavily scattered with students. The West University neighborhood, for example, is comprised of 99 percent rentals—most of which have student tenants. It accounts for 15 percent of all the crimes in Eugene, handily leading the surrounding neighborhoods in personal, property and behavioral offenses. Between 2006 and 2010, arrests in the West and South University neighborhoods made for noise, disorderly conduct, and alcohol-related violations have increased. In South University alone, there were 2.5 times more of these types of arrests in 2010 than in 2006.

In response to these statistics, private homeowners are fighting back any way that they can. This year, the city enacted the controversial “Social Host” Ordinance, which fines violators up to $1,000 for hosting disruptive house parties.

Still, some private homeowners living near the University of Oregon are less concerned about rowdy collegians than they are fed up with landlords and property managers who they say snatch up lots for rental purposes and then disappear.

“The problem is not about students or tenants, it’s what happens when there are landlords who aren’t there and don’t care,” says Jacobs. “Once places start falling out of shape, then the whole neighborhood starts getting a negative reputation. I think our neighborhood is doomed.”

But defining the responsible party is oftentimes as nebulous as the rain clouds that torment Katie Morrison. As a common business strategy, many landlords purchase rental properties and hire property management companies to oversee their investment. Frequently, says Moro, the owners of these houses don’t want to pay for the repair, so the property management companies get stuck in the middle.

“Ultimately, though, the property management company has the obligation to make sure the place is fixed,” Moro says.

Michael Griffel is the Housing Director at the University of Oregon. The residence hall behind him, called the Global Scholars Hall (GSH), is the newest on campus. A two-person suite with a bathroom costs $16,710 per academic year with a standard meal plan.

Michael Griffel is the Housing Director at the University of Oregon. The residence hall behind him, called the Global Scholars Hall (GSH), is the newest on campus. A two-person suite with a bathroom costs $16,710 per academic year with a standard meal plan.

As the issue of off-campus student housing reaches a head, there appears to be no clear solution. Some stakeholders, like Director of Housing Michael Griffel, are advocating for the University of Oregon to expand its housing options in order to attract students back to campus.

“Statistics show students that live on-campus have a better chance to succeed academically,” says Griffel.

But for now, he says, his office is focusing on updating current on-campus housing and has no official plans to build.

Others, like Andrew Keller, simply hope student renters become more informed of their rights. “As a student renter you need to be really proactive and find out as much information on the property as possible before signing the lease,” he says. “I think a lot of property managers are able to get away with things because their tenants just don’t know their rights.”

Back at Katie Morrison’s house, the spring sunlight is dimming. She hurriedly removes her leather boots and other valuable items from her closet, just in time for the rain clouds to arrive.

Though she will move out after graduating in June, she says the day her lease is terminated couldn’t come sooner. This student renter says she is tired of living with maintenance issues and trying to take care of problems herself. On top of that, she says her property manager is raising the rent next year.

“Eugene is running out of housing and they know we’re desperate,” Morrison says. “But, they’re going to rent it easily because kids need the location.”

John Hyde, Gerda Hyde's eldest son, guides several hundred head of cattle to a new grazing field on an early Sunday morning. He uses a sheep dog to keep the cows moving as a unit. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Death of the West


BY: MAX LONDBERG
PHOTOS: MASON TRINCA


 Female ranchers face a double struggle to keep a male-dominated and declining industry afloat

Gerda Hyde looks out onto her land from her living room at Yamsi Ranch. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Gerda Hyde looks out onto her land from her living room at Yamsi Ranch. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Fifty miles from Crater Lake, and thirty miles from the nearest gas station, exists a plot of Oregon history, unassumingly settled in the Klamath Basin. Address numbers aren’t needed out here. Miles, not feet, separate one property from the next. It would be impossible to miss the entrance to Yamsi Ranch, the sign on its arch announcing what lies just past the structure’s wooden arms. Beyond the entrance, several ponderosa pines tower over the rock and earth path, symbols of the ranch’s longevity and grit.

The path forks once, then twice, creating a labyrinth molded from dirt and walled by trees. After emerging from the wood, Yamsi’s size suddenly registers as thousands of acres come into view. The stretching plain is a backdrop for two model ranch homes—one sprawling, the other stoic, and both fashioned from ranchers’ hands. Cattle dot the view. Horses stare smartly, as if they can tell a visitor from a rancher.

The same family has worked this land in Chiloquin, Oregon, for more than one hundred years. Dayton Williams started the ranch in 1911, but it took nearly fifty years for the proper alpha to claim the reins. And she hasn’t let go since.

Years of hard work have slowed Gerda Hyde’s pace, but Yamsi’s longtime matriarch still has purpose to her step. Her wrists bow downward, bent after a life of physical labor. Her dangling earrings display a hint of femininity in a gruff environment.

“She’s always been my idol,” Joe Jayne says of his grandmother. “I’ve always wanted to be like her.”

Vickie Herring stands in the horse stables at R&B Ranch in Sisters, Oregon. Herring managers forty horses at the ranch. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Vickie Herring stands in the horse stables at R&B Ranch in Sisters, Oregon. Herring managers forty horses at the ranch. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

North of Yamsi, in the high-desert terrain of Sisters, Oregon, is another woman, born a generation after Hyde. Vickie Herring developed a love for horses at a young age. Her father taught her to pursue everything, and the gender barriers most cowgirls faced at the time did not bar her from her passion. Her love for horses would develop from a hobby into a livelihood, and eventually to a commitment to protect them. She has been a livestock manager for more than twenty years.

For much of their lives, Hyde and Herring were minorities in a field dominated by men. But while both have fought tirelessly for their place on the ranch, they are facing an even bigger battle in the coming years–the survival of the industry itself.

As the economics of ranching have changed to favor large-scale industrial operations, small ranches have struggled–and often failed–to compete. The emotional and financial burdens prove too much for family-owned operations like those of Hyde and Herring. As a result, family-owned ranches are “largely gone as an economic entity,” according to a 2008 study by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.

Herring comforts a young horse moment before showing it to interested buyers. Hoses have become a harder commodity to sell since the financial crisis of 2008, and are often bought by those with means. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Herring comforts a young horse moment before showing it to interested buyers. Horses have become a harder commodity to sell since the financial crisis of 2008, and are often bought by those with means. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

 

For ranchers, sustaining their way of life is hard enough. But there is no guarantee that their land will pass to their children when they’re gone. Many believe that Oregon’s Estate Transfer Tax—previously known as the Inheritance Tax—puts their land and lifestyle in jeopardy. Ranchers who inherit estates worth more than $1 million are taxed heavily. The tax starts at 10 percent and can run as high as 16 percent, often totaling more than a year’s income.

“Oregon has a tremendously high inheritance tax, so when my husband and I are gone, we’ll have to pay about $600,000 in Oregon taxes,” says Hyde. “It breaks up a lot of ranches. They don’t seem to realize the importance of keeping ranches in the family.”

Last November, Oregonians voted against a ballot measure that would have repealed the tax.

Yet Hyde refuses to entertain the idea that Yamsi may not be in her family once she’s gone. She has managed to steer Yamsi clear of bankruptcy for sixty-three years, a success made more remarkable because of the challenges she faced as a woman.

She was born in 1930 and raised in Woodside, California. After marrying her husband, Dayton Hyde, she moved to Yamsi ranch and was under the harsh rule of her husband’s uncle. At the time, Uncle Buck didn’t allow women to help with riding duties.

“Uncle Buck was a tyrant,” Hyde says. “We did whatever he told us to do.”

But she didn’t buckle under the pressure. Today, her resilience marks her face, the lines etched from decades of meeting the unforgiving elements with a penetrating gaze. That resilience shone on a particularly cold morning in the 1950s—a morning so cold that the men didn’t show up for the day’s labor. Hyde seized the opportunity to ride, and Uncle Buck finally let her.

“From there on out I always helped with the animals,” she says with no-nonsense candor.

John Hyde, Gerda Hyde's eldest son, guides several hundred head of cattle to a new grazing field on an early Sunday morning. He uses a sheep dog to keep the cows moving as a unit. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

John Hyde, Gerda Hyde’s eldest son, guides several hundred head of cattle to a new grazing field on an early Sunday morning. He uses a sheep dog to keep the cows moving as a unit. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Nearly a generation later, Herring faced a very different experience. Her father had always allowed her to ride horses, and she didn’t know anything about the Women’s Liberation Movement until she drove a cattle truck through California. Women on the street hailed her with shouts and saluted her with raised arms for doing a job typically handled by men in the area.

“At first I thought they were cussing us out,” she says. “I didn’t realize it was a liberation thing because I was fortunate not to grow up with that.”

But she always knew that the life of a rancher would require long, strenuous hours, resting only when the sun set, and sometimes not even then. Like Hyde, Herring chose it anyway.

“You get old really fast,” she says. “But you feel like you did something at the end of the day.”

Jerri Hyde, Gerda Hyde's daughter-in-law, gathers the necessary tools in the stables to care for one of her horses. Every day, Jerri feeds and takes care of the animals on Yamsi Ranch. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Jerri Hyde, Gerda Hyde’s daughter-in-law, gathers the necessary tools in the stables to care for one of her horses. Every day, Jerri feeds and takes care of the animals on Yamsi Ranch. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Herring currently manages livestock on R&B Ranch in Sisters, Oregon.

Most of the animals she manages are horses, and she can describe each of their unique personalities, as if they are more family than livestock. In her youth she often entered bareback riding competitions, and she talks as fast as she rides. Her words are marked with a concern for the animals she loves, having once rescued 265 horses bound for slaughter due to a feed shortage in Canada.

“There are worse things than death for animals,” Herring says. “Deplorable conditions are worse.”

She says that arrangements such as four-wheelers have replaced the need for horses on many ranches, which can lead to the neglect that she decries.

Her own ranch initially housed more than one hundred horses. Today there are just forty.

“When the economy went down, the horse market went ‘poof,’” she says. “I’m not sure if it will ever come back.”

Herring has been managing livestock since the early ‘90s. At the time, she kept her horses in a stable owned by David Herman, who began buying ranches around Oregon in hopes of continuing a successful career in real estate. He had no experience with ranching, so he turned to Herring to drive his cattle. Her skills quickly earned her a vital role.

Herman sold R&B Ranch to its current owners, Rick and Barbara Morrill, in 2006. Family and friends ride the forty horses now, and Herring says the ranch no longer yields profit. It is funded by the owner’s income from a crane business in Salem.

Hyde and her husband bought Yamsi ranch in 1959. For the last fifty years, one thousand head of cattle have roamed Yamsi’s five thousand acres during the summers, but even that sizeable herd wasn’t enough to sustain it during the late ‘80s.

In the summer of 1987, Hyde made a decision that saved her ranch. She opened her doors to people interested in fishing the eight miles of river that snake through Yamsi. People come to the ranch for the tranquility and to enjoy the close proximity to the land, something that Hyde experiences every day.

“I don’t think there’s much romance in it,” she says, “but people love to get out of the city. That made the difference of making a living and not.”

Joe Jayne, Hyde's grandson, begins each day feeding the cattle using several dozen bales of hay. During the winter and early spring months, the grazing fields dry up, and hay is often used as a replacement food for cattle. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Joe Jayne, Hyde’s grandson, begins each day feeding the cattle using several dozen bales of hay. During the winter and early spring months, the grazing fields dry up, and hay is often used as a replacement food for cattle. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

Every summer, Hyde hosts hundreds of guests, each paying $300 a night to stay in her home. But even with the supplementary income, Yamsi can only support three families at a time.

Jeffrey Ostler, a professor at the University of Oregon specializing in the history of the American West, understands the hardships of the contemporary rancher, but he believes the industry must fend for itself.

“The cowboy has been mythologized in the west more than other occupations,” Ostler says. “I don’t know if that mythologizing tendency means that particular economic lifestyle should be granted any more protection than any other. Why should we subsidize a non-viable economy?”

The USDA offers a Beginning Rancher loan, and last year gave $1.1 billion to first-time farmers and ranchers. Hyde’s grandson, Joe Jayne, applied for the loan this year, and he used it to buy one hundred cows. He has worked on Yamsi all of his adult life, and although owning livestock for the first time is an important milestone for him, he knows it won’t necessarily spur sudden wealth.

“95 percent of the time you’re broke,” Jayne says. “You work your butt off, and your reward is that land.”

But for large-scale industrial ranches, the reward is monetary–seemingly at the cost of the local community and the environment. According to the Pew study, family-owned ranches and farms buy mostly local supplies and services, supporting rural businesses. Industrial facilities, however, typically buy cheaper feed from distant bulk suppliers. The study also stated that industrial facilities produce more manure than the land can absorb. The resulting surface and groundwater contamination becomes the responsibility of the community. Pesticides and fertilizers present a similar social burden.

“I think a lot of the small ranches are dedicated to good environmental practices. If you don’t take care of your land, you’re going to lose it,” Hyde says. “We look at our place as a whole: the bugs and the land and the birds and the trees. You get rid of one thing, pretty soon the chain breaks.”

Family ranchers go against the grain to be stewards of the land like the generations before them. But barring drastic systemic changes, they will continue to struggle. Hyde has combined hard work and timely decisions to keep Yamsi in her family. She is confident that it will remain that way after she’s gone, something she contemplates as the oldest member of her family.

“I think about that when I wake up some mornings,” she says softly. “I know I’m next.”

She can only hope family-owned ranches don’t follow her.

 

John Hyde checks his horse's bridle before setting off to move his cattle to a new grazing field. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

John Hyde checks his horse’s bridle before setting off to move his cattle to a new grazing field. (Mason Trinca/Flux)

The Cost of Conversion


BY: ELLIOTT KENNEDY
PHOTOS: TESS FREEMAN


For some “ex-gay survivors” of conversion therapy, acceptance comes at a high price

The glow of the headlights provided barely enough visibility in the early morning darkness. For a moment, it shone through windows and reflected against the rearview mirror, radiating yellow beams throughout the moving car before disappearing once again. In the back seat, Jason Ingram positioned a Bible above his head, waiting for the next set of headlights to illuminate the scripture.

Soon, the car would exit the freeway and Ingram would be forced to surrender his book until tomorrow’s morning drive to work. Ingram would then labor, lift, load, and haul at a factory until sunset. This arduous work would speckle his hands with masculine calluses, while the sweat would wash away traces of what his counselors called femininity. With each day of physical and emotional exertion, Ingram believed he was moving closer to building a new, heterosexual identity through the practice of conversion therapy.

“It was part of the process,” Ingram recalls. “It was a way for them to break you.”

Also known as reparative therapy, reorientation therapy, and change efforts, conversion therapy employs various methods aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation by eliminating homosexual feelings and supplanting them with heterosexual desires, therefore making the individual an “ex-gay.”

According to the official publication of the American Medical Association, American Medical News (AMN), some participants of conversion therapy have even been instructed to strip naked in front of their counselors and fellow program participants to subject themselves to a simulated “locker room bullying scene.” The AMN has also documented cases of conversion therapy counselors who direct their clients to beat effigies of their parents because they believe that attachment to a mother figure suppresses the development of masculine features and personality traits.

In light of these reported practices, all major medical associations have issued official statements denouncing the efficacy and ethicality of conversion therapy. Yet people like Ingram continue to pay thousands of dollars in the hope of becoming ex-gay, leading to speculation about the value of heterosexuality in American culture and questions about why conversion therapy persists.

In California, the survival of this controversial practice hinges on the courts. In 2012, state legislators proposed a bill that would prohibit the use of conversion therapy on minors. But proponents of the treatment fought back, claiming the law would infringe on First Amendment rights. Currently, the ban is on hold as the California appeals court hears arguments.

Jason Ingram laying on his bed reading a book.

Ingram has struggled with mental health issues and depression since his time in the program. The American Psychological Association states that because conversion therapy implies that the inability to change one’s sexual orientation is a “personal failure,” it can be detrimental to one’s mental health. (Tess Freeman/Flux)

Regina Griggs is the executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, an organization that promotes the belief that sexuality is a choice. She opposes the ban. The group supports conversion therapy as an avenue through which to make choices about sexual orientation.

“What the law is saying is, ‘We’re not only going to take away your rights, but we’re going to own you and we’re going to tell you how to live your life,” says Griggs. “No one has proven that conversion therapy is harmful, which is why it’s never been banned.”

Naomi Knoble disagrees that conversion therapy is not harmful. According to Knoble, a licensed marriage and family therapist who has worked closely with clients struggling with sexual identity, “There is no scientific evidence indicating that reparative therapy benefits people more than it harms them.” Knoble, a doctoral candidate in counseling and psychology at the University of Oregon, considers conversion therapy a fringe treatment. And, says Knoble, because the practice is not taught at accredited institutions, there are few reliable experts or bodies of research on the topic. “This is reason enough to discredit it as a therapeutic treatment,” she says.

But Ingram, like many ex-gay survivors, was desperate to change.

“I was so sure that being gay was wrong, and if it was wrong then obviously God would make some sort of way out,” says Ingram. “I was determined to find that way out, no matter what.”

Ingram found his answer in 2005 at Pure Life Ministries (PLM), a residential conversion therapy program in rural Dry Ridge, Kentucky. After paying the $1,500 induction fee and weekly $150 living fee, Ingram joined a diverse group of straight, gay, and sexually questioning men.

“What you’ll find in the ex-gay movement is that they don’t like to admit that it is an ex-gay program,” says Ingram. “They use the term ‘sexual addiction’ as an all-encompassing title and put anyone in there.”

Still, Ingram unquestioningly followed the program rules: no facial hair, no movies rated above PG, and no music other than Christian gospel. Failure to attend counseling sessions and church sermons were met with penalties.

“They called them ‘special assignments,’” recalls Ingram. “They would use it as a form of punishment. If they thought I was late to chapel, I would have to haul wood in the rain and mud, or do a construction project at one of the ministers’ houses.”

Despite his growing trepidation about their methods, Ingram nonetheless remained at PLM until his graduation from the program.

“Graduating is a sort of irony,” recalls Ingram. “You have to write down this testimony about how you’ve changed because of the program. Then they send you out into the world and you find that you haven’t changed at all. In fact, you’re a nervous wreck.”

Now living in Milwaukie, Oregon, he sustains a solitary life on Social Security Disability checks for clinical depression.

“I felt like, what was my crime?” says Ingram of his homosexuality.  “And all I wanted to do was love a man. What had I gotten myself into?”

Like Ingram, other “ex-gay survivors”—people who have experienced the practice and ultimately accepted their non-heterosexual identities—are often left questioning their decision to choose conversion therapy.

According to Pure Life Ministries, its services will “make things new as you are unchained from a life of sexual sin.” Restoration Path (formerly known as Love In Action) says that “God is in the restoration business and He can truly restore the years the locusts of sexual and relational sin may have taken from you.” The ex-gay ministry, Portland Fellowship, asserts that conversion therapy will help individuals “proclaim their freedom from the captivity” of homosexuality.

But Peterson Toscano believes that the methods of restoration are, in fact, destructive. “There are a lot of better ways to learn good lessons other than getting into a car wreck,” he says.

Toscano is a theatrical performance activist who has translated his time at the residential conversion therapy program, Love In Action, into stage productions such as Doing Time In the Homo No Mo Halfway House. He has spoken publicly of his encounter with conversion therapy to media outlets ranging from The Tyra Banks Show to BBC News, but no longer feels comfortable sharing the details of his experience.

“I think I’m going through what a lot of abuse survivors go through, which is first denial, and then a realization about how devastating it truly was,” says Toscano. “I needed to process, to understand why people were so shocked by my experience. And now I can see it as incredibly abusive as it really was.”

Yet, the ideas fueling conversion therapy seem to run counter to a growing acceptance of homosexuality in mainstream culture. In the years following popular gay-friendly television shows and movies such as Will and Grace, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and Milk, it appeared that homosexuality was abandoning the shadows of the closet in order to embrace the media spotlight. But despite Americans’ welcome acceptance of fictionally flamboyant characters into their living rooms, the country has remained at odds about the acceptability of homosexuality in the real public sphere. For example, the United States did not elect an openly gay person to a governorship until 2012. In 2009, Boston University published a study that found “school officials have often justified their discrimination against LGBT teachers by arguing that [they] do not serve as proper role models for students.” And a 2012 Gallup Poll shows that almost half of the country considers homosexuality to be morally wrong.

Paul Cameron is among those who strongly disagree with homosexuality. As a former conversion therapist, Cameron says his work was extremely important to saving society’s declining values. “I believe that we need to change the gays because homosexuality is a liability,” he says.

Cameron, founder of the Family Research Institute, was a psychologist until his expulsion from the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1983 for failure to comply with an ethics investigation. The details of the investigation were undisclosed in APA documents.

With the Supreme Court mediating a national dispute of ethics over Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act—laws addressing issues surrounding same-sex marriage—Toscano believes that the time has come to re-evaluate the origins of attitudes toward homosexuality. Says Toscano, “People think of you as far more valuable if you are a heterosexual.”

Ingram performs a hymn during a service at the Metropolitan  Community Church of the Gentle Shepard in Vancouver, Washington. (Tess Freeman/Flux)

Ingram performs a hymn during a service at the Metropolitan Community Church of the Gentle Shepard in Vancouver, Washington. (Tess Freeman/Flux)

“The lure of heterosexuality is still quite powerful,” Toscano says. “There’s an idyllic dream that’s shoved down our throats since we watched that first Disney movie about finding your perfect person—of the opposite sex, mind you—and having your happy ending. So ex-gay ministries use language like ‘broken’ to connect with people struggling with their sexuality.”

But he believes that the value of heterosexuality is dwarfed in comparison to the financial and emotional costs of conversion.

Toscano sought support in multiple conversion therapy groups, and paid more than $30,000 over the course of more than fifteen years.

“Love In Action was considered the Cadillac of ex-gay ministries—and cost about as much,” says Toscano of the most expensive of his various conversion therapy treatments.

Ingram, too, paid thousands of dollars for his treatment at Pure Life Ministries. But he feels that his health and happiness paid the biggest price.

“I have regrets,” says Ingram. “And I have psychological damage.”

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that members of the LGBTQ community who were rejected by others because of their sexuality had higher rates of drug abuse, depression, and suicide. The study also found that, of the individuals interviewed, two-thirds had tried to kill themselves following familial rejection. The American Psychological Association says that conversion therapy is a detriment to these individuals because it “frames the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

Yet Ingram believes that the testimonies of ex-gay survivors show the strength of individuals who face a future as uncertain as the stock market, but have managed to move on despite a major crash.

“There will always be people who are anti-gay and there will always be people who want to change folks,” says Ingram. “But I believe we can all be healed.”

Ingram hugs Vicki Girardin after church services at the Metropolitan Church of of the Gentle Shepard, which embraces members regardless of their sexual orientation. (Tess Freeman/Flux).

Ingram hugs Vicki Girardin after church services at the Metropolitan Church of of the Gentle Shepard, which embraces members regardless of their sexual orientation. (Tess Freeman/Flux).

What is Conversion Therapy?

Between 1952 and 1973, the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. American culture at the time compelled gay men and women to keep their sexual identity hidden. With the stigma of homosexuality forcing sexual secrecy, conversion therapy organizations were also concealed from the public. But when HIV/AIDS was discovered in high concentrations in the gay communities of Los Angeles and New York in the 1980s, the practice of reparative therapy burst onto the public scene.

Two of the largest groups to emerge from this trend were Exodus International and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), both of which remain active supporters of conversion therapy today. In the late 1990s, ex-gay ministries—organizations that purport to “cure” individuals of their homosexual feelings using religious-based counseling—were established under the purview of Exodus International. After 16-year-old Zack Stark documented his experiences with reparative therapy on his MySpace page in 2005, the methods employed in conversion therapy were examined with intense media scrutiny, leading many medical associations to condemn the practice and many more ex-gay survivors to publicly share their experiences.

Ree McSween sitting in her home office in the shadows.

Taming the Shadows


BY: CAITLIN FELDMAN
PHOTOS: TESS FREEMAN


For female veterans who have experienced sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder turns everyday life into a nightmare

Ree McSween stood at the front window of her cold, dark house with a loaded weapon in her hand. Snow coated the ground—rare for a Eugene, Oregon winter. She was isolated, save for a large snowball in her driveway. It wasn’t there earlier, but suddenly there it was, taunting her.

McSween didn’t see an oversized snowball. In her mind, she saw the unknown person who put it there. A threat. A danger.

Standoffs were this snowball’s specialty. It sat silently, patiently contemplating her move. McSween’s weapon was loaded. The gun was a .45 caliber Colt 1911.

She turned off the lights in her house. The heat was off, too, but that was no matter; she could stand the cold if it meant catching the assailant.

For ninety minutes, McSween stood at the window.

Waiting.

Nothing.

The perpetrator never arrived.

“It finally dawned on me how crazy it was, waiting at the window with a loaded .45 in my hand,” McSween says. “The fear was real but the evidence didn’t show the threat.”

McSween is one of 7.7 million American adults suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Because women are the most common victims of domestic violence, rape, and abuse, they are twice as likely as men to experience PTSD in their lifetimes, according to the PTSD Alliance, an organization made up of professional advocacy groups that provide resources to those affected by the disorder.

Along with depression, anxiety, and insomnia, fear is among the most common symptoms of  PTSD. Often occurring after traumas such as sexual assault, combat, or natural or industrial disasters, PTSD can be life-shattering, altering the way victims see the world and themselves.

McSween believes she’s been dealing with undiagnosed PTSD for most of her life. It began with her father, an alcoholic who she says abused her physically and sexually, then continued through a brutal beating she suffered at the hands of two siblings.

Yet it wasn’t until a she says a senior officer attempted to rape her that McSween’s symptoms came to the forefront. In the US Armed forces, the term for sexual abuse is Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and this event would transform her dormant PTSD symptoms into an active monster.

Today, her symptoms are triggered when someone stands behind her right shoulder–the direction from which her attacker approached.

“He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t agreeing to the rape. That’s where his ego was,” McSween says. “He bent me over a bunk and was trying to rape me, and I was able to fight him off by swinging my elbow around and knocking him off.”

McSween never reported the assault.

According to the Department of Defense’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, an estimated 19,000 cases of rape, sexual assault, or harassment occur each year. Only 2,617 of those estimated cases were reported in 2011.

Anonymous, mandatory culture surveys reveal these numbers. But not all participants trust the anonymity, says Jennifer Norris, an Air Force Veteran and victim advocate for the Military Rape Crisis Center in Maine. As a result, Norris believes that 19,000 is a low estimate.

“I think it’s more common than what people even know,” she says.

McSween didn’t report the assault because she’d been taught to remain silent her whole life. Instead she buried the event deep within herself—to tell the secret would mean certain death. It’s what she said her family threatened when they discovered she was a lesbian; it’s what she believed would happen to her military career if she told her superiors of the attack.

So it remained hidden.

“I knew I didn’t have a chance,” McsSween says. “Because in the military you can’t just report that to your authorities, it has to go through your chain of command. And since he was a senior person in my chain of command . . .” The hierarchy only reinforced her decision to remain silent.

Ree McSween puts her hands over her mouth while sitting in her home office in Eugene, Oregon.

McSween has dealt with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder throughout her life. Some days she has difficulty answering the phone or checking her email. “There are days where I’m just not in the right head space to carry on a conversation,” she says. (Tess Freeman/Flux)

Although she says sexual abuse was considered an ordinary occurrence in this environment, McSween refused to accept it as part of “military culture.” When she became a senior officer, other servicewomen told her of their experiences with MST. McSween passed the information on to other officers, but says she was soon instructed to stop. Nothing could be done, she was told. It wasn’t her job to help—it was her job to train.

According to McSween, that was when her superiors began to actively search for reasons to discharge her.

She said officers began harassing her about her weight. She was sent to the unit where “mess-ups” go, where she was routinely tested for drugs and questioned about her sexuality.  Eventually, she checked herself into the psychiatric ward—an infamous career killer.

“There were times I was starting to get suicidal,” McSween says. “I was driving and I’d think, it would just take a minute to yank this wheel over and cross the line and get in front of this truck coming at me.”

By now McSween’s PTSD was in full effect, but she had no idea. She didn’t understand how she could be a human when she didn’t feel like one.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) states that in order for PTSD to be diagnosed, victims must show signs of stressors, including intrusive recollections—commonly known as flashbacks—as well as numbness or avoidance and heightened emotional arousal.

“You can be numbed out,” says Megan Wuest, a psychologist associate specializing in trauma therapy in Eugene, Oregon. “Your world starts to get smaller because of the event. You also have to have hyperarousal—difficulty falling asleep, irritable outbursts, being hyper vigilant.”

McSween later realized that she displayed all of these symptoms. At the end of her military career, she felt like she was going crazy. She was depressed and estranged from her family. She says the Coast Guard encouraged her to quit and she was eventually discharged.

The reason? Unsuitability.

“I wasn’t functioning well. I was barely surviving,” she says. “And I was feeling like I was imploding upon myself. I didn’t have any friends. That’s what isolation does to you—you just don’t have anybody to talk to.”

For the next fifteen years, PTSD took control of her life.

In 1991, McSween was in a motor vehicle accident that crushed three discs in her back and dislocated her shoulder. Today she uses physical therapy and adaptive recreation to ease her pain and build her back strength. (Tess Freeman/Flux)

In 1991, McSween was in a motor vehicle accident that crushed three discs in her back and dislocated her shoulder. Today she uses physical therapy and adaptive recreation to ease her pain and build her back strength. (Tess Freeman/Flux)

Around the same time, Krista Shultz was fresh out of the Army and fighting her own battle with undiagnosed PTSD. As a linguist during Desert Storm, she never encountered harassment while enrolled in her language program.

But when Shultz left her language program and was stationed overseas, the catcalls began. The problem, she says, it that they were allowed.

She complained about the harassment once, but says she was told to simply avoid that area of the base. Shultz says her superiors told her she was the problem, not the harassers.

Says victim advocate Jennifer Norris, “We cannot minimize sexual harassment. [Harassment] is insidious, subtle, long-term, and very degrading to a person’s psyche, self-esteem, and self worth if you can’t get away from it.”

As time moved on, Shultz could not escape. Her job was to fight the enemy, but she felt an entirely different enemy lived on her own base. Eventually, she felt that even going to the bathroom alone wasn’t safe, nor was showering.

At one point, a sergeant requested that Shultz join him and an all-male group of soldiers in the desert to simulate living under hostile conditions.

“He said in front of everyone, ‘We just brought you out here so we could rape you,’” Shultz says. “He said it. He said it and you know, there’s my PTSD right there,” she says. Many of the male soldiers around her laughed at the sergeant’s statement, but Shultz took it seriously.

She made it clear she would shoot anyone who came near her.

“You’ll have to go to sleep sometime,” she recalls her sergeant responding.

His joking tone was gone.

Krista Schultz runs along a bark trail at Alton Baker Park in Eugene a week after completing her first marathon.

Krista Schultz runs along a bark trail at Alton Baker Park in Eugene a week after completing her first marathon. Schultz is a four-year survivor of breast cancer and would sit in the park before her treatments. She says she also has PTSD from her time serving in the military. (Tess Freeman/Flux)

Not all of Shultz’s PTSD symptoms are from sexual trauma, however. Some stem from being the target of Scud Missile attacks. Wind chimes trigger her symptoms because they remind her of the alarm that signaled a gas attack. The smell of canvas reminds her of being surrounded by untrustworthy men in the desert. She sleeps best alone because she fears for her safety if someone else is in the room. Loud noises at night trigger her symptoms, as does being woken abruptly.

Shelley Corteville is also triggered by loud noises. She startles easily and has night terrors. She cannot stand it when people are behind her, either.

Corteville served in the Army from 1977 to 1981. She says she was raped five times during this period.

Four years ago, she attended a Soldier’s Heart retreat and shared her story for the first time. It was also the first time she’d felt safe since joining the military with parental consent at age seventeen. Like McSween and Shultz, Corteville knew something was wrong but could not pinpoint her apprehension.

Speaking with other veterans has given her allies in the battle against PTSD.

“I found out I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one,” Corteville says. “Even though our experiences might be a little different, they’re all so much the same.”

Today, she still struggles to form intimate relationships. She never had the chance to learn what a healthy sex life is like, and although she wants to improve her relationships, she doesn’t know where to start. For Corteville, her scars overshadow the act of sex itself. Her PTSD affects her trust not only of others, but of herself.

Shelley Corteville stands outside of her home in Eugene, Oregon.

Shelley Corteville has been married and divorced four times. She feels the military sexual trauma she experienced has robbed her of the ability to maintain healthy relationships and a healthy sex life. (Tess Freeman/Flux)

While none of these women believe their PTSD will ever fully go into remission, they still continue their attempts to heal.

For McSween, the healing process involved creating Cycling for Veterans, a group that helps former military personnel and their families be active in safe social situations. In addition to forming the cycling group, she also began telling her story.

All three PTSD survivors have been open to sharing their stories in order to help others with similar experiences. Through sharing what happened to them, they hope to change the culture surrounding MST.

“Walking through these fears shows me that the fears are just paper tigers. They don’t have anything to do with reality,” McSween says. “My job is to talk about it. My job is to get it out of me.”

It’s been six years since McSween held a snowball at gunpoint and decided it was time to get help. She no longer waits for paper tigers to appear, ready to attack her like a flesh-and-blood beast.

But when they do, she defeats them one by one.

Michael Jones leads a tour through Portland, Oregon's shanghai tunnels. (Michael Arellano/FLUX)

Tunneling for Truth

[deck]The controversial shanghai tunnels lie at the center of a heated battle over history.[/deck]
Michael Jones leads a tour through Portland, Oregon's shanghai tunnels. (Michael Arellano/FLUX)

A tour group led by guide Michael Jones sits in an underground room within Portland's shanghai tunnels, which some like Jones believe were used to transport victims of kidnapping. Whether the tunnels were used for this purpose remains a disputed subject among local historians. (Michael Arellano/FLUX)

Relying heavily on a cane adorned with a silver dragon’s head, a hunched over Michael Jones leads a group of tourists through Portland’s “Chinatown” district. Jones, a historian, has spent his life trying to uncover the hidden past of Portland’s North End. He stops outside of Hobo’s Restaurant and Bar and pulls a steel cover-up from the sidewalk to expose a claustrophobia-inducing staircase leading to the damp underground. He descends below street level with a tour of twenty people in tow, crouching down in an effort to not hit his head on the shallow tunnel. The group follows Jones to a place that many have never heard of, but for Jones it’s home: underground Portland.

As of 2013, Jones has spent fifty years underground in what are called the shanghai tunnels. He discovered them as a seven-year-old boy sauntering around the Lenox Hotel in downtown Portland, where his stepfather, Dewey Kirkpatrick, often stayed. Jones hung out in the lobby looking for elderly patrons to question about the tunnels. He hungered to know what they had seen over the years in hopes of uncovering dark secrets of Portland’s past.

“I loved history,” says Jones. “It really captivated me.”

Jones spent years exploring the tunnels alone but it wasn’t until he started teaching a class for instructors at Portland State University through its Continuing Education program that he eventually started taking his students through the tunnels, even going so far as to create a class that studied them.

Word of the tours got out and eventually Jones started commercial tours. Now, Jones gives one to two tours per day. He explains to his visitors that the shanghai tunnels were built for the transportation of drugged men from bars down to the waterfront, where they would be sold to captains as slaves. The “shanghaied” men, as they were called, would serve three to five years aboard a ship in the ocean before being returned to Portland. Jones claims that the tunnels also served as a way to transport prostitutes and drink alcohol during prohibition.

Above ground, Jones appears as a sincere and dedicated historian, but during his tours he seems more like a guide for a roadside attraction—occupied with myths and legends rather than the facts. Though his tours include historical information, ghost stories are the prevailing theme.

“Things are happening there that I can never explain,” Jones says. “It always catches me off-guard and it definitely catches people on the tour. People do sight apparitions (ghosts)—there’s no getting around it.”

People peer into a crate of discarded boots taken from former victims of the Shanghai tunnels. Those unfortunate enough to find themselves drugged and taken into the Shanghai underworld would awaken to find their shoes had been taken, which, combined with  floors laden with broken glass, prevented captives from escaping.

Tour group members peer into a crate of discarded boots said to be taken from former victims of the shanghai tunnels. (Michael Arellano/FLUX)

Jones says his primary job has been uncovering the “real” history of human trafficking in Portland, but his belief in the supernatural has lost him credibility amongst his peers. Portland historians agree that the city has a dark past and that “shanghaiing” did happen in Portland, but the vast majority do not believe that it actually took place in the tunnels.

“The secret passages of Chinatown were created by Chinese businessmen, mostly the owners of gambling establishments,” says Barney Blalock, member of the Oregon Historical Society. “When the city tried to make secret passages illegal in 1914, the law was opposed by the Chinese as discrimination against them, and them only—a violation of the Bill of Rights injunction against unreasonable search and seizure.”

Articles published between 1904 and 1935 also support Blalock’s claims. These articles, most from The Oregonian, describe underground systems like the shanghai tunnels being found in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver, British Colombia, but never reference the practice of “shanghaiing.” The tunnels were generally in the news for being used for Chinese gambling houses and opium dens.

Blalock says that Jones is not the first person to claim that “shanghaiing” took place underground, but rather the latest.

“Today’s center of the shanghai tunnel story is Hobo’s Restaurant and Bar,” Blalock says. “[Here], Mike Jones gives the naïve and gullible a taste of old Portland ‘shanghaiing’ in the dark recesses of the basement.”

Blalock wrote in his recent book, Portland’s Lost Waterfront: Tall ships, Steam Mills, and Sailor’s Boardinghouses, that “shanghaiing” took place above ground. According to Blalock, drunkards would commonly be coerced into signing a chunk of their lives away to ship captains, who would take the drunkards to sea as slaves. Blalock claims this was common knowledge and lack of law enforcement made it unnecessary to take the crooked behavior underground.

“Most serious historians of Portland history think that the myth of the Shanghai Tunnels is simply that: a myth,” says Geoff Wexler, library director of the Oregon Historical Society.

Jones, 61, shares the background and lore of the underground network of tunnels spanning Portland's downtown area. Jones first explored the tunnels at the age of seven, when he was guided through the network by an old sea captain. (Michael Arellano/FLUX)

To combat these skeptics, Jones is working on a series of books containing first-hand accounts that he says support his claims. He hopes the books will be enough to silence critics, at least momentarily. Until then, he’ll continue to pull up the steel cover in front of Hobo’s every day, searching for what he believes to be the truth.

“One of the things that the Oregon Historical Society has done is they’ve made people afraid to talk,” Jones says. “Because then they will be ridiculed. That to me is wrong. That to me is almost like censorship . . . I have had people on our tours tell me ‘We don’t want the Oregon Historical Society to ridicule my relative and say it didn’t happen.’”

Skeptics like Blalock will continue to refute Jones’ claims, but Jones won’t be deterred from his mission. Fifty years of his life have gone toward exploring the tunnels. As long as he is physically able, he will continue to dig for clues. Regardless of what history tells us, the shanghai tunnels will ultimately be what its visitors want them to be: a haunted shelter for criminals and kidnappers, the site of a First Amendment legal battle, a lie, a childhood dream.

Different Race; Same Love

[deck]The west coast leads the country as interracial marriages increase.[/deck]
Alycia and Nick Gonzalez-Bush relax on the sectional couch in their apartment home in Gresham, Oregon. The couple have three children, and a fourth one is on the way.

Brittany and Joey Horner just purchased their first home together in Wilsonville, which they are in the process of renovating. (Arrellano/FLUX)

When Brittany and Joey Horner got engaged four years ago, their friends and families were concerned.

Joey was 20, about to move from Oregon to Montana and still searching for his place in the world. At 18, Brittany was about to leave for college and a fresh start. Though it would be two years before they married, she would still be unable to legally drink at their wedding.

Everyone told them they were too young, too impulsive. But no one told them they were too different.

Like 20 percent of Oregon newlyweds, the Horners are an interracial couple. Brittany is the child of an African American mother and a Caucasian father, while Joey is Caucasian. The Horners didn’t think twice about their racial differences before saying “I do,” choosing instead to focus on their shared values. And forty-six years after interracial marriage was officially made legal, their outlook is becoming increasingly common.

Interracial marriages are on the rise in the United States, according to a national study conducted by the Pew Research Center. One in seven new marriages are between people of different races or ethnicities, more than double the rate it was in 1980.

This is especially true on the west coast where 22 percent of new marriages are interracial. Likewise, all states with interracial marriage rates of 20 percent or higher are west of the Mississippi River.

Most interracial marriages are between a Caucasian and a person of a different race, according to the study, but the specific pairings vary greatly. For example, African American men are more likely to marry outside their race than African American women. However, for Caucasians and Latinos, gender is not a factor.

Brittany, now a professional photographer, knew from an early age that her husband would share her father’s skin tone.

“I grew up with a white dad and I’ve just always been accustomed to that,” she says.

She spent her early years in the predominantly Caucasian city of Salem, Oregon, where she feared that any of the few African American boys might be related to her. Raised by a mother who stressed the importance of accepting others for exactly who they are, she was encouraged to “just love everyone.”

Joey had exclusively dated Caucasian girls before Brittany, but feels his dating patterns weren’t a result of prejudices. Instead, he says they were a result of the limited cultural exposure he received while growing up in Montana.

The two met in high school after Joey moved to Woodburn, Oregon, but they didn’t start dating until after Brittany graduated in 2008. Inseparable until Joey moved to Montana to be closer to his family, their connection was strong enough to maintain a long-distance relationship. Four months later, Brittany proposed.

In the two and a half years the Horners have been married, their challenges have been unrelated to race. Their struggles are those of a couple growing up and growing together—months spent long-distance, the death of a beloved dog, and learning each other’s communication styles.

For the most part, theirs is a typical story of an interracial couple in 2013. But it wasn’t always this way.

Until 1967, sixteen states still had laws banning what was then called “miscegenation,” or the mixing of different racial groups. The couple that brought the issue to the national stage was the aptly-named Lovings.

It all began in Caroline Country, Virginia. Richard Loving, a Caucasian, and Mildred Jeter, an African American, met there and fell in love. When the young couple decided to marry in 1958, they drove to Washington, D.C., where interracial marriage was legal. However, upon their return to Virginia, the Lovings were arrested and sentenced to a year in prison for their crime, according to an article by The Washington Post. The sentence was lifted before they served their time, but they were told to leave Virginia and not return for at least twenty-five years.

Almost a decade later, the Supreme Court sided with the Lovings and ruled all interracial marriage bans as unconstitutional. Oregon, for its part, had repealed its own laws barring interracial marriage sixteen years earlier.

Since then, social acceptance of interracial marriage has risen along with the numbers. A 2009 Pew Research survey found that 63 percent of Americans were accepting of a family member marrying outside of his or her race, with the level of acceptance depending on the races in question.

According to the study, the biggest factor in determining whether a person marries inside or outside his or her race is largely due to the person’s individual personalities. For some members of a mixed marriage, the partnership is a surprise even to them.

Nick Gonzalez-Bush, a 29-year-old independent insurance salesman, has a Latina mother and a Caucasian father. Growing up, he was certain he would marry a Latina or African American woman, but no African Americans attended his high school just outside of Corvallis, Oregon. Eventually, he married Alycia, a fair-skinned, blonde-haired woman a couple weeks after his twenty-first birthday.

Alycia Gonzalez-Bush, who is pregnant with their fourth child, says the pairing was unexpected for her too.

“I’m like, ‘Wow,’ ” she says. “I really don’t know who or what my husband is going to look like.”

Brittany and Joey Horner just purchased their first home together in Wilsonville, which they are in the process of renovating.

Alycia and Nick Gonzalez-Busch relax on the sectional couch in their apartment home in Gresham, Oregon. The couple have three children, and a fourth one is on the way. (Arrellano/FLUX)

For this couple, a shared faith was far more important than physical appearance. Since meeting the summer after high school graduation, Nick and Alycia’s biggest connection has been through Christianity. Without their relationship with God, the couple believes their own marriage would be missing an element.

“It multiplies it, magnifies it, makes it better,” Nick says. “It showed me in a bigger picture how I met Alycia and where we came from.”

But interracial unions are not without their challenges—particularly when the partners are also from different cultures.

In 2006, Tanell Ogbeide, 37, met a native Nigerian named Wilson Ogbeide, 35. She fell in love with his warm and upbeat personality, and he was drawn to her passion for life. They were married six years later.

“When I was dating, I wasn’t looking at her culturally,” says Wilson. “I was looking at her individually, you know? We get along.” His accent is heavy, but toned from years of bouncing between countries like Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy before landing in the United States. When he tells a story, he takes up the whole room with gestures, standing up and spreading his arms as wide as they go. When conversation is more serious, he sits down and leans in.

Although the Ogbeides have a solid, loving relationship and a growing family, they acknowledge that marrying someone with a different background can sometimes be hard.

For example, Wilson says he was surprised at the way Tanell made a simple cup of tea. Instead of adding milk after the tea was ready, Tanell added it first. If a Nigerian had made tea this way, Wilson says he would have been frustrated. However, he understood that his wife didn’t know the Nigerian custom of tea-making. Tanell smiles and defends herself through Wilson’s playful re-telling. When the story ends, they sit even closer together.

“You should know that you will be able to handle the cultural differences before(hand),” Tanell says. “And if someone isn’t sure, then they shouldn’t commit for life.”

Tanell Ogbeide and her husband Wilson Ogbeide together in their home they share with their young daughter in north Vancouver, Washington. The pair met in 2007 and were married five years later in 2012.  (Arrellano/FLUX)

Tanell and Wilson Ogbeide share their home with their young daughter in north Vancouver, Washington. The pair met in 2006 and were married five years later in 2012. (Arrellano/FLUX)

In addition to the internal compromises that every couple must face, interracial couples are often subjected to the scrutiny—and sometimes, the outright disapproval—of the outside world.

Though the Pew study reports that four in ten Americans view interracial marriage as good for society, 11 percent of Americans feel its increase is a change for the worse. Brittany and Joey Horner found themselves on the receiving end of that statistic at a Wal-Mart in Woodburn, Oregon several years ago. A woman in her seventies or eighties completely stopped shopping and glared at them as they shopped.

“She was just looking us up and down with that look,” Brittany says. “She was obviously judging us because of who we are together.”

Although the Horners felt the experience was eye-opening to the realities of modern prejudices, it didn’t affect the their relationship. In the four years they’ve been together, they’ve grown as any loving couple does, regardless of race.

“Our relationship is better now than it was then,” Joey says. “I think we know now that we can only be strong and move on together in our relationship.”

The young couple sits next to each other on their tan loveseat in their dimly lit, immaculate apartment with its perfectly mismatched pictures on the wall. Joey occasionally rubs Brittany’s back; she occasionally squeezes his knee as they reflect upon their relationship so far.

“Things have been perfect,” Brittany says. “Beyond perfect. Almost too good.”

While Brittany continues to reminisce, Joey slips his hand between the couch cushions, leans into his wife, and crosses his fingers—a secret wish for their continued happiness.

Loving More: A Portrait of Polyamory

[deck]A polyamorous triad shows that love comes in all sizes.[/deck]
Partners Deborah Benson, Kris Riek, and Pete Benson holds on their living room couch. (Boyd-Batstone/FLUX)

Partners Deborah Benson, Kris Riek, and Pete Benson hold hands in their Springfield, Oregon home. (Keartes/FLUX)

Strolling into the Eugene Mattress Company on an autumn afternoon, Kris Riek, Pete Benson, and Deborah Benson are not discreet that they are buying a king-size bed suitable for three.

“We find that a queen is quite nicely big enough for sex for three, but not for sleeping for three,” Pete says.

Kristin (Kris), Pete, and Deborah are a polyamorous triad. Polyamory (called “poly” for short) describes relationships in which there are more than two partners or participants. Unlike swingers whose lifestyles thrive on casual sexual encounters, and polygamists who marry more than one person for religious or spiritual reasons, polyamorists see their relationships as a nurturing emotional connectedness between people.

After purchasing their new bed, Kris, Pete, and Deborah return to their home in Springfield, Oregon. Surrounded by bookshelves filled with a hodgepodge of books on witchcraft, Russian, and meditation, the triad assembles on a denim couch in their living room, the clanks and slurps from ceramic tea mugs filling the silence.

Kris commands the center, occasionally clasping Pete’s hand or caressing Deborah’s leg. Kris points to Deborah, perched to her side.

“She’s a damn good looking woman,” Kris says. “She doesn’t look her age either.”

Although Kris and Pete met offhandedly on a “poly” chat room seven years ago, the triad’s relationship began in late 2011. A few years prior, Deborah and Kris met during a business trip Kris made to Washington D.C., where Pete and Deborah were living.

At the time, Pete and Deborah, who have been together since 2000, were exploring a relationship with a different woman. But at the triad’s first dinner, Deborah and Kris locked eyes instead.

Reminiscing about the dinner, Deborah turns to Kris. “I started falling in love with you there,” she says.

Pete Benson (left), Deborah Benson (center), and Kris Riek (right) have been a polyamorous triad since 2012. Photo taken in studio. (Boyd-Batstone/FLUX)

Pete Benson (left), Deborah Benson (center), and Kris Riek (right) have been a polyamorous triad since late 2011. Photo taken in studio. (Keartes/FLUX)

While Kris and Pete’s relationship continued to flourish through e-mails, Kris made a trip out to Oregon. Captured by its sandy coastlines and lush scenery, Kris moved to Springfield, Oregon, during the middle of spring 2012. By July, Pete and Deborah had moved in with Kris.

What’s life like for this polygamous triad?

“Can’t say it’s boring,” Deborah says. Kris and Pete laugh in agreement.

The three meditate, debate over movies, cook, cycle, and attend contra-dancing events together–a genderless type of partnered folk dance. They also attend the Eugene Poly Meet-Up, a once-a-month polyamory support group. Held in a dimly-lit sports bar, the meeting serves as a support group for local poly couples. The group converses comfortably about work, politics, child-rearing, sex, and poly relationships–a conversation that few in the group feel safe sharing elsewhere.

Despite the support, their transition hasn’t come without struggle. Before the purchase of the king-size bed, the triad’s nightly conversation about sleeping accommodations involved two words: who and where. “We call it musical beds,” Kris jokes.

Inevitably, someone would be forced to migrate to the bed downstairs to sleep for the rest of the evening. The conversation of “who slept where” unearthed jealousy among the partners. Kris felt twinges of jealousy during one period when Pete and Deborah spent a few nights together without her.

With the introduction of Kris, Deborah often felt replaced. Kris was farther in love with Pete at first, causing tension between the two women as they tried to improve their relationship with each other while sustaining their relationship with Pete.

“There were some times that I was ready to walk because of her feelings,” Kris says. “As much as I was in love with him, I simply would not be able to live with me making her feel like I ousted her.”

The triad also struggles to find alone time. Kris and Pete work from home, and Deborah, who Kris calls their “domestic goddess,” is on disability after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2007, which grounded the “thruple” under one roof.  Says Kris, “The choice always comes down to, every day: do I stay, or do I go?”

In order to tackle these obstacles, Kris, Pete, and Deborah abide by their own fundamental pillars of polyamory­: openness, honesty, and communication. To honor these values, the triad wrote a relationship agreement. Like a contract, the agreement outlines the boundaries and needs of each partner. “It forces you to sit down and think about what it is going to feel like for you and what do you need,” Kris says. “It’s almost like a marriage vow.”

Unlike traditional, monogamous marriage, the triad chose to maintain an open relationship, meaning they’re allowed to have secondary relationships with people outside the three primary partners.

“I have more heart in me than one person can fulfill all of,” Kris says, lightly brushing Deborah’s salt and pepper hair from her shoulder. “It’s unfair to look at one person to fulfill all my needs.”

As of November, Kris has been scheduling romantic dates with outsiders while Deborah is considering taking on another lover. That doesn’t mean she’s abandoning her primary partners, however. “I like the fact it’s open, but my commitment belongs to these two; their needs are important to me,” Deborah says.

In honoring the relationship agreement, Kris confronted Pete and Deborah about feeling excluded from the bedroom. “The way I chose to handle that situation was to share that with them, not to make them feel guilty or control them,” Kris says, “but to simply state my need and say, ‘May I please have a turn soon?’ ”

Neither Kris, Pete, nor Deborah is new to poly. Pete’s long history with polyamory stretches back to his first marriage; he and his first wife met another married couple and, together, formed a polyamorous quad. In 2008, after multiple polyamorous relationships, Pete wrote a book called Polyamory: The User’s Guide to assist others in their own journey through their poly identities.

For ten years, Deborah remained in a monogamous marriage that left her unhappy. The dissolution of her marriage awakened her to her suppressed bisexuality and sparked an inclination toward dating multiple partners. Kris, like Deborah, unearthed her bisexuality after she and her previous husband had a polyamorous relationship with another woman for thirteen years.

The triad encourages each other to pursue potential secondary partners. “I’ll see a good looking guy and I think I’ll go flirt with him,” Deborah says. “Then I’ll think, wait a minute, I’m an introvert, and [Pete and Kris] say, ‘The hell with that, go for it.’ ”

Aside from sexual variety, the triad believes polyamory leads to emotional and individual growth. In Deborah’s previous marriage, her husband discouraged her from becoming an archeologist, asserting that her role was at home with the children. Now, Deborah says, she feels encouraged to explore her passions. “I don’t need to fulfill everything,” Deborah says. “I can be myself without the fear of doing something or being something that would alienate or destroy a relationship.”

On this Sunday afternoon, in the comfort of their living room, Kris, Pete, and Deborah sit hand in hand-in-hand. The room brightens as a rare stream of Oregon sunlight filters through the window. The triad pauses, taking in the spot of sunshine. Kris inhales, then flashes a toothy grin and says, “Ain’t love great?”

The partners are like any couple trying to make their relationship work. Fulfilling the needs of three people is a demanding balancing act. But at least for now, the triad has resolved the issue of “musical beds.”

Unlike a queen-sized mattress,  for this polyamorous relationship, love has no capacity.

Polyamorous partners Deborah Benson (lower left), Kris Riek (center), and Pete Benson (right). (Boyd-Batstone/FLUX)

Polyamorous partners Deborah Benson (lower left), Kris Riek (center), and Pete Benson (right). Photo taken in studio. (Keartes/FLUX)

Not On Our Campus

[deck]Student survivors of sexual assault struggle to be taken seriously by their peers and educators.[/deck]

TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with accounts of sexual assault and may be triggering to some people.

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

*Sarah can’t sleep on a raised bed—there’s enough space for a person to hide underneath. The moment she enters a room she’s already begun scoping out all possible exits, just in case. Her fear of darkness and crowds continue to place limitations on where she can do, what she can do, and with whom. And of course, there’s her daily dilemma: whether or not to lock the door when she showers.

“If I lock the door and someone were to come in through the window, then I’d be trapped,” Sarah says. “But if I don’t lock the door, then someone could come through there. So it’s like, where do I want to be attacked from?”

She knows this thinking is irrational, but after being sexually assaulted multiple times throughout her childhood, paranoia has become harder to shake when she steps into the privacy of her shower every morning.

For the first several years of her life, Sarah lived with her mother and five other women who ran a brothel out of their apartment. She is thankful that being so young at the time has kept her from remembering the graphic details, but fleeting memories of that environment still haunt her.

Though she wishes those memories vanish completely, Sarah is still finding ways to cope with the traumatic after effects of shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety on her own.

These are emotions that victims of sexual assault know all too well. The lasting effects of sexual assault can be devastating; 80 percent of victims suffer from some form of physical or psychological problem after the attack and upwards of 50 percent undergo therapy or counseling.

Statistics completed by the U.S. Department of Justice state that one in four female students will become a victim of sexual assault during their time in college, but some, like Sarah, a junior at the University of Oregon, enter higher education institutions already as victims.

In the seventh grade, Sarah and three other girls were harassed by a group of boys and girls, who Sarah believes felt a sense of entitlement for attending the school longer than the other students. To assert their dominance, the students would follow Sarah to the bathroom, where the culprits would reach their hands under her clothes or twist her arms behind her back and kiss her neck. Sarah and the other victims were physically unable to push the students away.  Occasionally these same bullies would hold Sarah onto a desk and simulate sexual acts while the other students cheered them on.

Their teacher, a 22-year-old fresh out of college, did not report any of these incidents despite being aware of his students’ behavior.

The problem continued for months. Sarah took the brunt of the harassment for the sake of her best friend, another bullying target. But the situation escalated. Sarah’s friend was biracial; her mother was white and her father was black. The bullies began singling the friend out for sexual and race-based harassment.

Sarah could no longer be a barrier between her friend and the attackers, so she turned to the administration and other students for help. No one stepped forward.

“I thought we were going to rally up, but it just sounded like I was angry and accusing people falsely,” says Sarah.

The administration switched Sarah out of the class where the majority of bullying was happening, but her friend, who remained in the same class, was forced to endure the harassment until the end of the school year.

Later on in high school, Sarah was raped twice; first by her long-distance boyfriend, who used manipulation, aggression, and shaming to control Sarah’s sexual behavior, and then later by a friend who violently cornered and raped her in private. She continued to see this friend at school for the next three years. Fear and shame kept her silent. Each assault continues to exact its effects on Sarah’s mental health.

In the feminist movement, the administration’s failure to acknowledge that sexual bullying was taking place and Sarah’s hesitation to report her assaults would be seen as symptoms of rape culture. Rape culture describes a culture in which rape, assault, and sexual harassment and aggression are normalized, defended, and even condoned.  Rape survivors like Sarah are encouraged to stay quiet about their assaults, and if they do report or confront their attackers, they often face societal punishment or are shamed back into silence.

Abigail Leeder, director of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education program at the University of Oregon, says the school is trying to change views about rape and assault on campus through the use of an advocacy team, poster campaigns, and awareness-raising events. She hopes to create a campus culture where victims feel safe coming forward to report their assaults and talking about their experiences. A culture like this should also work in tandem with efforts to inspire communication in relationships, Leeder says.

In Leeder’s view, both male and female students should be actively discouraging threatening behaviors and supporting victims rather than blaming them for their own assaults. Victims often internalize negative messages about reporting their rapes, and this can cause them to turn away from getting help or seeking justice.

“It’s just scary to tell your story, especially if it’s someone you know,” Leeder says. “If you’re part of the same friend group or a club, then people are going to take sides and may or may not be super supportive. Survivors intuitively know that and make the choice not to [tell others].”

Just last year, Sarah’s former friend who assaulted her in high school lashed out at her through Facebook, telling her to move on from the “bullshit of high school” like he had.  Ironically, this was on the same day of Take Back the Night, an internationally-held rally and speak-out session for survivors of sexual violence and their allies.

Sexual assaults are a gruesome reality that many do not believe is a serious problem, and even victims themselves don’t always consider their rapes to be rape. The American Association of University Women states that 95 percent of attacks are never reported, and only 5 percent are shared with police authorities. Ten times that number are phoned in to crisis lines. Sexual assault is a silent epidemic.

One University of Oregon campus group specifically focused on preventing assault and intimate partner violence is SWAT, or the Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team. Sarah has been a member of SWAT since her first year of college. She and other peer educators teach students about sexual assault and dating violence through interactive workshops. Instead of reading from pamphlets and lecturing, the educators create role-playing and theater-based activities that demonstrate and encourage healthy communication between sexual partners, as well as how to intervene as a bystander. Vassar College’s Sexual Assault Violence Prevention website fleshes out a Bystander Intervention Model, which guides visitors in confronting abusive behaviors. Vassar’s goal is to “create an empowering climate free of interpersonal violence.”

On a national spectrum, 3 percent of college women have experienced rape or attempted rape during their school years, according to the American Association of University Women. This may seem like a small percentage, but on a campus with a population of 6,000 students—roughly the size of Winthrop University, Villanova, and Duke—this would be equivalent to an average of one rape occurring every day.

According to the 2012 Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report put out by the University of Oregon, there were a total of forty-five forcible sexual offenses in Eugene, Oregon between the years of 2009 and 2011. The report defines these as any sexual act directed at someone against that person’s will—including rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, and forcible fondling. These were recorded for the on-campus, residential, non-campus, and public property zones of Eugene.

Sarah knows what it’s like to become one of those “cold” numbers, which is why she works with campus groups to make sure other students are aware of the assault epidemic.

“People say things like, ‘Well, you’re a survivor so maybe you’re just a little emotional about it,’” says Sarah. “They think anything I have to teach them is invalid. But I’m open because I want people to know it’s okay [to talk about it], and [the victim blaming attitude] needs to change.”

Sarah says education is the best way to prevent sexual assault. In her experience, most students are unaware or misinformed about the rates and occurrences of sexual assault on their own campuses. As a result, many students are shocked to hear about a rape or assault within the student community because they assume it only happens to people they don’t know or those enrolled at other schools.

“We live in a society where people don’t think we can talk about it,” Sarah says. “People aren’t ignorant, they’re just not given an opportunity to learn.”

 

 

Kailan Kalina at age seven with her mother Stacey in Palm Springs.

Learning From Loss

[deck]College students struggle to heal after the loss of a parent.[/deck]
Kailan Kalina at age seven with her mother Stacey in Palm Springs.

Kailan Kalina at age seven with her mother Stacey in Palm Springs. Image courtesy of Kailan Kalina.

[caps]T[/caps]he last time I saw my mother was over a Skype call from my dorm room. Her name was Stacey and it was her fifty-third birthday.

My dad fixated the camera on her fragile body, limply lying on the recliner. She was staring out the window at our front yard at a hummingbird, her mouth agape and her curled fingers settled on her stomach. She was present but only in spirit. To anyone else she would have looked like a rag doll.

I said hello and told her I loved her, but I knew my words would not be reciprocated—she hadn’t been able to speak for weeks now.

It was obvious to everyone present how shaken I was to see my mother like this.  Only two months before she was able to keep her eyes open for more than a moment and move her head under her own power.

The tumor in her brain was the size of an orange.

Aunts and siblings popped in and out of the frame to keep the conversation light and lively, but a violent wheeze from the background put a halt to the pretense that this was just like any other family get-together. The wheeze escalated into a coughing attack so forceful and raspy it didn’t sound human. My heart stopped.

Is it going to happen right now, right here, in front of my face?

The computer screen was like a prison. It killed me that I couldn’t squeeze her hand and urge her to stop. As if she could control it.

By the time the coughing subsided I was in tears. Later my cousin would tell me my mother’s eyes and cheeks were moist; she must have heard my sadness.

[caps]T[/caps]wo hours after I ended the video call, my mother was gone. She passed away a year and two months after she was diagnosed with cancer, three weeks before finishing my freshman year at the University of Oregon.

I had tolerated seven months of worry and guilt for not being by her side, and now I’d spend the rest of my life without her.

At the time, I thought being nineteen years old and capable of living on my own meant that I would be fine, no matter the circumstance. Big mistake—believe it or not, entering early adulthood doesn’t mean you acquire the power of emotional invincibility.

Losing a parent at any age is difficult. Whether it is unexpected or a slow process that one comes to accept over time, it is the end of the life of someone who gave you life. College is a brand new playing field, and one where parents are often left sitting on the sidelines. Every teen endures their adolescence in anticipation of the moment when his or her parents no longer have the home team advantage.

Many don’t realize how much they need their parents during this time in their life until one of them is unable to fulfill that need.

When Katie Whitaker’s mother Sally passed away from ovarian cancer, she and her two siblings had the support of friends, acquaintances, and even strangers in their home of Redmond, Washington. During one instance, community members handed our t-shirts at school basketball games with a blue ovarian cancer ribbon and Sally’s name printed on the back. Sally’s service was even moved to a larger location to accommodate the large number of guests who attended.

No outside support could make up for the loss of Whitaker’s mother during pivotal points in her life as a young adult.

“I think it’s more difficult to lose a parent in your teenage years or even in your twenties because it’s when your most memorable life moments happen,” says Whitaker. “My mom never got to see me finish my high school basketball season, graduate, fall in love, or even turn eighteen.”

Jennifer Mauck, now a high school teacher in Seattle, Washington, recalls losing her father during her sophomore year of college. Shock overtook her body as she sank to the ground when she received the numbing phone call.

Mauck had doubts about returning to school the following year. Only when her mother said it was what her father would have wanted did Mauck decide to continue her studies at the University of Colorado for her junior year. While she found it heartbreaking to be away from her mother and sister at such a tumultuous time, she’s glad she learned to deal with her father’s death on her own terms.

“I started to write to him in a journal,” says Mauck. “It helped me realize that he is around me all the time and I could get my feelings out as if I were speaking to him. I tried to live my life in the present and laugh a lot.”

Mauck has coped with her father’s death through journaling for thirteen years now. Although there were emotional breakdowns along the way, writing helped her nurture a positive attitude.

“You can’t let [losing a parent] break you,” Mauck says. “Let it inspire you to be better and live life in the present. It’s crucial to talk about them and reflect too—keep their memory and soul alive, even if their body is not.”

Whitaker, too, found her silver lining with the help of friends and family, but inner-strength was what nudged her to move forward.

“I keep a smile on my face and just go with where my life takes me,” Whitaker says. “My mom set me up with an excellent support system and helped me to learn to fill myself with a good heart.”

Despite support systems, the complexities of college life can bring up agonizing reminders that a parent who would have shown their child how to defrost a chicken or use the correct amount of detergent for a load of laundry is no longer there.

Matt Tyner, a University of Oregon junior and cheerleader for the Oregon Ducks football team, lost his mother when she was taken by a rare heart condition last summer. For him, it’s emotionally painful when he does activities he knows she loved when she was alive.

“I used to send her pictures of me and my friends or some of the great meals I’ve cooked,” Tyner says. “I grab my phone thinking about how I can’t wait to text her and tell her about it, and then I realize I can’t anymore.”

Being 120 miles away from his father and sister in Beaverton, Oregon compounded the situation. To cope, Tyner found comfort in those around him and in his relationship with God.  He enjoys talking to friends about the great life his mother lived, and they have shown him support and understanding. Tyner says his mother’s death provided him with lessons he can share with his peers.

“Cherish all the memories you had with your parent and use it as a lesson,” Tyner says. “Realize that life on earth is not eternal. Appreciate each person, say thank you, and tell people you love them. And do what my mom demonstrated so well: Enjoy everything you have, be happy, and love life.”

[caps]M[/caps]y own mother’s death has intensified the whirlwind that is the college experience. Sure the papers, exams, and social scene keep me preoccupied. But I still wake up every morning knowing I will live another day without my mother.

I know I haven’t grieved properly. I haven’t cried since the funeral, and I talk about her in a tone as if she were still in our house whipping up a feast like she did every evening. Since her death, I’ve questioned whether I was stable enough to finish my education. But then I hear her voice:

“Kailan Danielle, don’t you even think about it.”

I remind myself every day that she would want me to be here.

Stacey Kalina was a giver, a caretaker, and a listener. She was a woman who could stun a whole room with just one smile. I strive to be the woman she was, but I must first tackle a phase all college students must go through: learning how to be an adult.

My mother may not be with me physically, but by carrying her in my heart, I’m one step closer to conquering the adult world and figuring out who I am.

She would be proud.

Heart of Home

[deck]As part of a larger cultural shift toward economic self-sufficiency, many women are returning to traditional domestic pursuits.[/deck]

Watercolor painting requires patience—each layer of paint must dry before the next is applied. Marina Taylor has worked on this painting for a few months.

[cap]M[/cap]arina Taylor surveys her home. Clad in a faded green skirt with an apron twisted around her waist, she is surrounded by mason jars of homegrown vegetables and unfinished craft projects in need of her attention. A cutting board’s worth of carrots await the evening meal. Light streams in through the windows, resting upon a mending basket of clothes that have been worn and torn. Her eyes linger upon the pile as she makes a list of the day’s tasks.

For the past five years, this has been Taylor’s life. Back then, a newborn baby meant a new  set of priorities, and she wanted to stay home with her son. She decided to focus on creating the perfect place to live—one where dinner clucked in her backyard before appearing on her table, where vegetables were grown in her garden and canned by hand, and where socks with holes were mended rather than condemned to the garbage can. She would often spend days without ever leaving her home, toiling in the kitchen in pursuit of her dream.

“Home,” Taylor says. “It’s a word that [says everything about] who I am and how I raise my family.”

Taylor is part of a growing movement among American women in their twenties and thirties who are embracing a brand of domesticity straight out of a bygone era. They can their own vegetables, teach their children at home, bake bread, and knit their own clothes as part of a back-to-basics movement that values simple living and doing it yourself.

Often referred to as “urban homesteading,” the trend is gaining ground. Blogs such as Gracious Girl, New Domesticity, and Fuck Yeah Domesticity are creating online hubs for the movement, and bookstores are overflowing with how-to guides for everything from raising poultry to re-upholstering aging furniture. According to the National Gardening Association, an estimated 38 million households grow food in personal gardens. The National Center for Education Statistics claims the number of home-schooled children has doubled since 1999. Even First Lady Michelle Obama’s home garden has added fuel to the homefire.

For many women, the return to domesticity has been spurred by a renewed sense of pride in one’s home.

“We live in a culture where we forget about words like ‘homemade’ or ‘home- grown,’ thinking that it prevents progress,” Taylor says. “But domesticity allows us to create a strong foundation upon which to progress.”

In addition, many women are drawn to the ethos of the movement’s tight-knit community.

“Women tend to be more community-based,” Taylor explains. “Women under- stand the relationships between people and nature and a sustainable community. Nothing can teach you the value of a community more than being a mother.”

Others see modern homemaking as a way to take a firm stand against American consumerism.

Taylor knits the body of a toy lion. Knitting is one of many activities gaining popularity.

[cap]E[/cap]lizabeth Hartman joined the movement after tuning into her consumption habits and deciding that less is more. Although she can’t grow or make everything her family needs (she’s succumbed to buying blue jeans), she strives to make the majority of her food and clothing herself.

Before moving to Colorado, Hartman converted her Eugene backyard into a small- scale edible production by raising bees and chickens and growing her own produce.

“I started with some basil and tomatoes and it grew from there,” Hartman says.

With nearly any trend, however, there comes resistance. Many believe that by focusing so heavily on domesticity, women will negate years of feminist progress and unintentionally enforce stereotypes about what constitutes “women’s work.”

“It’s a trend that’s often compared to the pioneer wife who can’t vote or go to work and is rarely seen in public,” Taylor says.

She found herself confronting the issue when her son once claimed that he didn’t need to do his laundry because it was a “woman’s job.”

“I realized my husband didn’t do laundry and that I enjoyed doing work around the house,” Taylor explains. “But this wasn’t a stereotype that was going to last in my house, so by the very next day, all the men in my home were doing their own laundry.”

For the most part, the backlash is drowned out by those who define feminism as a woman’s right to choose her own path. Mindy Lockard, an independent etiquette consultant, argues that the rise of domesticity does not jeopardize feminism at all. Her own website and blog, The Gracious Girl, provides women (And men) with inspiration, tips, and etiquette resources, such as a thank you note tracker. She says that modern domesticity allows women to pursue their interests without being shamed, and that social media websites such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr allow them to feel more connected and empowered.

Still, many women acknowledge that total domesticity isn’t for everyone.

“Get a group of your girlfriends together, put on some music, and drink a bottle of wine while you can 100 pounds of tomatoes,” Taylor says. “You’ll find out really quickly is this is something for you.”

She says she sometimes feels trapped in her own home, and has wanted to throw her plates against the wall. Taylor has felt frumpy and unfeminine when comparing herself to women dressed for the workplace in pencil skirts and blazers and the perfect dash of blush.

But then she reminds herself that her actions create the world in which she wants to live, and returns home to wax another block of cheese. When Taylor’s son turned five, she enrolled him in school and accepted a job as a handwork teacher at the Waldorf School in Eugene, which has allowed her to create a balance between work and home.

Being self-sufficient by growing one's own produce is a hallmark of modern domesticity. Taylor is picking homegrown sorrels from her garden.

[cap]F[/cap]or Hartman, embracing domesticity feels like a calling, and has cemented her belief in gender equality.

Her voice fills with pride when she explains that her ultimate goal rests in arming her infant daughter with the domestic skills she has worked so hard to learn, and hopes that by the time her daughter is ready to take on the world, she’ll know a little bit about almost everything.

“For my husband and I, this is a permanent change,” she says. “What can be more empowering for a woman than being able to dress a turkey and change your oil?”