Devastation and Redemption – A Story of Community

by Keith Turner on July 16, 2017

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Pocatello Idaho sits at the north end of the Portneuf Valley as it spills into the Snake River plans. This area of Idaho was home to the Shoshone and Bannock Native American tribes for hundreds of years before Europeans started to intrude into the area. The first Europeans into this area were fur trappers. In 1834 the first permanent European settlement was established at Fort Hall, just north of present day Pocatello. Fort Hall started out as a fur trading post but in the next decade became an important stop along the Oregon trail.

Up until the 1860’s Fort Hall was just a pass-through point for many people. When gold was discovered Europeans began staying and settling in the area. Eventually some of the settlers stayed and began farming.

The city of Pocatello was originally part of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. The original settlers in the city itself were squatters occupying land that did not belong to them. For the European settlers of this time they did not see the Native Americans as having any right. In 1889 the United States Government “purchased” land from the tribe to be used as a town site. It became an important railroad junction for the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1901 Idaho State University was established in the city.

In 2004 the city had a population of over 51,000 where 75 percent of the residents identified as Mormon. Located at 331 E Center Street, part of Old Town Pocatello, is Charley’s Club. In 2004, it was called Charley’s bar. In the early part of 2004 I found myself there on a Saturday night.

I had only been living in Utah for less than a year and having come out of the closet only a year previously I was still trying to navigate my way in the gay community. As a child growing up I was very smug about right and wrong having given myself almost no room for my emerging sexual orientation preferring to instead label it as a “same sex attraction” problem. As a problem, I suppressed everything about me that might break down that view. All that pressure finally exploded destroying the closet I was hiding in from the world and myself. I was naive about the world and knew almost nothing about what being gay would mean for me.

I had grown up only 55 miles north in a small town of Ammon Idaho right next to the City of Idaho Falls. Wanting to integrate my new identity as a gay man into my childhood I began to make friends with the gay community in Southeastern Idaho. That is how I found myself in the City of Pocatello at Charley’s Bar in the early part of 2004.

I would like to say that the gay community is a caring and supportive community but in my experience, it is not always the supportive community that people need and are looking for. The coming out process is often followed by trauma with family, friends and religious institutions. We find ourselves wounded seeking out this new community of gay men for support and friendship. This community of gay men often feels like being thrown into den of hungry lions.

I was vulnerable, lost and was really struggling to find my place in this new world. The reality of life was more complicated then I was prepared to handle. Making friends was so important to me when I was often feeling I might drown in feelings of loneliness.

That winter night I was hanging out with a group of people I thought were my friends. My experience with alcohol was very limited at that point, having only started drinking a few months previous. The bar tender that night wanted to have sex with me and I was not interested. Unbeknownst to me, my “friends” decided that I would going to be the brunt of a cruel joke and conspired with the bar tender to make it happen.

Drink after drink was bought for me. It was the most alcohol I had consumed at any one given day up to that point. Right before the bar closed while I was in the restroom, all my “friends” snuck out leaving me. I was stupidly drunk and now alone. The bar tender informed me all my “friends” had left. He was very clear about his offer to spend the night at his house in exchange for sex.

I was not very clear headed, but I turned down the offer. Stumbling across the street I found my car in the parking lot covered in a couple of feet of snow. Climbing into my car I knew I could not drive and I was not sure I would survive the night sleeping in my car in the middle of a snow storm. I stumbled back to the bar and accepted the bar tenders offer. The next morning hung over and sober I was devastated.

That ended my desire to connect with the gay community in Idaho and for a few years made it difficult for me to feel safe in the gay community in Utah. It has only been in the last few years that I have made good friends with any gay men.

There I was a number of years later on July 14, 2017 walking into Charley’s Club for the first time since that night. The name of the place has changed from bar to club. Gone are the booths replaced by tables and chairs. This time the bar tender was a lesbian. I ordered a beer. I walked out to the outside and asked if I could join a couple of gay men sitting at a table.

I met “Shelly”, a younger gay man who grew up in Pocatello and is currently a student at Idaho State University. We soon established a common connection to Sweden. He lived in Sweden as a child. When I walked into the bar he was a complete stranger. Four hours later when I walked out I had made a new friend.

All of the devastation I had felt years early was left on the table that night. The hours of conversation with Shelly became my transformation of healing. I arrived in Ammon at my father’s house shortly after one where I spent the night alone and sober.

I do not know if as a community, gay men will figure out how to be a community, but I have hope. If the community has more “Shelly’s then we will figure out what it means to be a community. I see small act of kindness. I see healing. I am experiencing my own healing. I remain hopeful.

 

 

 

United States Navy – Veteran

by Keith Turner on November 11, 2016

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6e9513974d8623ddfad9f20668a8577aMay 9, 1995 I was visiting my paternal grandfather, Arlin Fell. He served in World War II in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee. For the first time in my life he talked to me about his experience in the Navy. He pulled out his photo album. There was a letter to his mother where he described being attacked by Japanese Kamikaze pilots. It was the first time we had a real conversation as adults. The last thing he said to me before I left was “NEVER JOIN THE NAVY!” Two weeks later on May 24 he passed away.

It should not surprise anyone that knows me, not only did I not listen to him but I did exactly the opposite of what he told me not to do. On February 6th 1996 I raised my right hand and said”

I Keith Allen Turner, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear truth faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”   

At that moment I was officially enlisted in the U.S. Navy and become Seaman Turner. I got on a plane and spent the next year and a half just outside of Chicago, nine weeks in boot camp and the rest of the time in training.

Boot Camp was nine weeks of hell. I found ways to survive and adjust to difficult circumstances successfully. That experience has played a big part in my life, giving me confidence I would not have had otherwise. After I graduated from boot camp my grandmother told me my grandfather would have been real proud of me. I am sure that she was right.

I went on to serve on both the U.S.S. Harry W. Hill and the U.S.S. Kinkaid. [Both ships were sunk on July 14, 2004 in the Pacific as part of military exercise.]

January 21, 2003 after a long series of events I broke the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule and told my commanding officer I was gay. In hind sight I was very lucky. My command at the time S.I.M.A San Diego made sure I was discharged in the best possible way. They called the military JAG office and made sure that my discharge was processed as an honorable discharge. During that time in the military there was a lot of dishonorable discharges for breaking the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Rule.

On March 7, 2003 I received an honorable discharge – reason for discharge: Homosexual Admission.

My seven years as a sailor was a pivotal time in my life. It was the beginning of a long exploration of me being me and discoveries about myself which has continued to this very day.

Today on Veterans Day I am taking a moment to remember the importance my military service has been to my life and how it has helped shape me into the person I am today. Those seven years were the best of times and the worst of times. I fell in love with the sea and ultimately it lead me on a journey where I fell in love with myself.

In the end it was the one thing that finally created a connection between me and my grandfather Arlin.

Police Officers

by Keith Turner on November 4, 2016

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The unexpected side benefit of attending the Unified Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy is that it has opened a place for healing from old childhood wounds. I have not been able to write anything about the police academy since the active shooter scenario. My mind started processing, bringing down walls to an otherwise inaccessible part of my past, an emotional part of that past I had tried to put behind inaccessible walls. These hidden emotions did find ways to escape, though it was mostly through unconscious means.

I am 11 or 12 perhaps younger / older I do not know. My father has come home for lunch. He has parked his motorcycle directly behind my mother’s car. Having a dentist appointment, my mother and I get into the car. She either forgets or does not know that the motorcycle is parked directly behind her car. Backing into it she knocking over the motorcycle. Momentarily we both look at each other in horror as we realize what had just happened and knowing what is about to happen.

 My father running out of the house quickly makes his way the driver’s side door of the car. A scuffle ensues as my father tries to force the door open as my mother is trying to re-shut lock the car door.  Being stronger he soon forces the car door open and begins to drag her out of the car while hitting her. Amongst all the screaming I hear her yell ‘lock the doors and stay in the car’.

 Soon my father drags her around the car and onto the lawn. My mother curls up on the lawn with her hands wrapped around her head as my father continues hitting her and yelling.

I found myself sitting in a locked car watching helplessly as my mother was being beaten by my father. My mother eventually escapes, running off to a neighbor’s house. My father tied to get into the car but I am too scared and refused to unlock the doors. I was terrified.

Eventually my father picked up his motorcycle and drives off.

Within minutes a county sheriff  officer arrives, walks up to the car, knocks on the window and ask me if I am ok. 

He was a tall man as seen from the eyes of a child. I still see him clearly in my mind, all but the details of his face. Even that is probably stored somewhere in my memories.

Most if not all of my memories of police officers as a child involved them arriving to my house just after a moment of extreme violence. Their arrival was the indication that all was now momentarily safe. The violence had ended for the day.

For the last ten weeks I have spent every Wednesday night and one Saturday morning surrounded and interacting with police officers. At the end of each of these classes I have climbed into my car and started crying as I have drove myself home. I told Detective Bennett, one of the COP officers, a few weeks ago that my interaction with police officers as a child was as a result of them responding to domestic violence at my childhood home. This last Wednesday night, which also happened to be the last Citizen’s Police Academy class, one of the scenarios we did was responding to a domestic violence call. I  found myself acting in the role of a police officer responding to a domestic violence call. The actual scenario was non-violent just a lot of yelling, though it was enough to destroy any and all remaining walls I had encased around those childhood emotions. After running the scenario I mentioned to Detective Malm, who is in charge of the Citizen’s Police Academy, a similar thing that previously most of my interaction with police officers was through responding to domestic violence calls as a child.

Wednesday night I might have slept on and off for three hours and by Thursday morning the barriers to all those emotions were finally gone. I am now finally in a place with my life where little Keith feels safe enough to unlock the car doors and come out. I have a better understanding that some of the emotional, psychological and physiological reactions I experience when interacting with a police officer has been rooted in an emotional past that until now I had been unwilling to fully acknowledge and deal with.

What started out as an intent to better understand the life of a police officer has turned into a better understanding and integration of myself.

 

[note: My father is a good person with his own issues like everyone else. As adults we do have a good relationship. I am sure that I will have more to say on this in a later post.]

You Be You

by Keith Turner on October 2, 2016

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Miller Lite I had the  most interesting weekend all due to a Miller Lite sign I had posted on Face for sale. Not long after I had posted it on Facebook I received a message from my sister “Your selling this sign? Matt is interested in it and obviously we’d pay for shipping.” Up to this point my Sister and I had almost no contact for over 13 years. Matt has been her husband for over 11 years and we had never met.

Coming out of the closet and telling my family I was gay caused a big family rift. For basically the last 13 years I have pretended that my five siblings do not exist and they have pretended I do not exist. After receiving the message from my sister I felt like maybe it was time to reconnect with her.  I decided to drive to Boise and deliver the sign in person.

The last time that Robbie and I really interacted was in 1994 when I took her to see The Lion King. I was a judgmental asshole. I made it clear that I thought she was living a sinful life and needed to repent. I was coming at this from a place of thinking I was being loving. At that time I had no real idea what it meant to love someone.  Robbie who is my younger sister understood life and love much better then I did at that time.

I have stopped being anything other than me as defined by me for the last year. It has opened up a whole new world of wonderful discoveries about me. I love me more then I ever have. I love my life tremendously. I am no longer fitting into others perceptions or judgement of how I should be or act. It is from this place that I have been able to release my judgement of other people things and places and be open to receive all that is in the world.

It was from this place that I met my sister Robbie for the first time in Boise. All other times we had interacted I was in a place of judgement. This prevented me from being able to really see her. Matt and Robbie are wonderful people. It took me a long time to open myself up and release any judgement I had and be able to see them as they are.

Robbie is Robbie and did not hide any of herself from me. Matt is Matt and did not hide any of himself from me. I am Me and I did not hid any of myself from them. It was a magical weekend of personal discovery and the beginning of a beautiful relationship between us.

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Metro Gang Unit

by Keith Turner on September 28, 2016

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The Metro Gang Unit is made up of a number of Federal and State agencies that work together to identify, reduce and prevent criminal gang activity. During the presentation we learned about gang culture and current gang activity in Salt Lake County.

It was really helpful to go over gang culture. There was a lot of information that I was not aware of. One thing I learned is that gang tags are full of information that can assist the police. In the future if my property is ever tagged I will take a picture of it first before painting over it.

Narcotics Unit

by Keith Turner on September 28, 2016

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There are two different narcotics units in the U.P.D. There is the Neighborhoods Narcotics Unit. They deal with local level drug dealers and supplies. There is also the Narcotic Diversion Unit. We had officers from the U.P.D. Narcotics Diversion Unit come talk to us. They spoke to us a little bit about what they do and then gave us a presentation on the common illegal drugs on the streets right now.

From the U.P.D. Website:

The Unified Police Department Narcotics Diversion Unit is a specialty group of very unique detectives. This unit is the law enforcement arm of the Salt Lake County Felony Drug Courts. …The detectives of the Narcotics Diversion Unit are on the front lines of the newest drug abuse trends and are instrumental in identifying the dangers posed by the ever changing illegal street drug market. These detectives communicate directly with the judges and legislators to assist in passing effective controlled substance laws that make our community a safer place to live and work.

The biggest issue in Utah right now is opiods and synthetic opiods. This is followed by methamphetamine and marijuana. [I will not  jump into the marijuana debate in this post.] This is a change from a decade ago where methamphetamine was the biggest drug issue in Utah. Currently synthetic opiods are causing a big problem. They are easy to order though the mail or obtain on the streets. With any opiods you may be getting a different type then you think you are purchasing. Overdoes is a problem. Opiods are also highly addictive.

Drugs and drug use is a extremely complicated social issue. I was not aware how big the problem opiods currently are until the Narcotic Diversion Unit’s presentation. These are complicated issues within a complicated multi-cultural society.

Narcotics Diversion Unit Detectives may be contacted regarding questions about drug abuse and the prevention of dangerous street drugs in your neighborhood. If you have a family member, friend or loved one who is struggling with drug abuse help is available. Narcotics Diversion Office Number: 385.468.9800.

Desert Journey

by Keith Turner on September 26, 2016

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In the desert the landscape
is stark. Vastness swallows
my soul into great nothingness.

Did I make the right decision?
Another voice pleads,
“Please do not give up on me yet!”

I feel the wind rush around me. It chills
me, whispering of frailty
and life. Or death. My soul
enveloped in dark.

I desire to lie down in the sagebrush
and die in the pungent scent.

I hear the mantra: I am fearless
in the face of any
and all challenges.

It floats into the fog. My brain grasps the words
as the cloak begins
to fall. as if for the first time,
I see the start beauty.

My soul begins to sing
the song of courage.

[originally published in Peculiar a queer literary journal
volume two issue two peculiarjournal.com]


 

Fall Equinox 2016

by Keith Turner on September 22, 2016

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I find the  Bonneville Salt Flats a magical place of transformation. It was decided this year that it was a perfect place for the fall equinox. Leaving Salt Lake City late afternoon I arrived at the Salt Flats just after 5 p.m. A storm hit just before leaving the city. When I arrived the area was covered in about a foot of water. I spent some time out in the water on the Salt Flats. It was the prefect place for me splash around and have fun. The place was radically changed temporarily into a lake. Moving into this new astronomical season will be one of metamorphosis in my own personal life. [a special thanks to Natalie Henry for the pictures and permission to use them]

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Police Scenario Training

by Keith Turner on September 22, 2016

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The training for this week was about basic police scenarios.

Building Clearing

Building clearing is done for anything as simple as a building/home is found with a door open to an active shooter scenario. In an active shooter scenario they would eliminate that threat before clearing the building, as was the case in the Trolley Square shooting in 2007. Most of the time they are just dealing with simple building clearings to insure that no one is in the building.

Cuffing Techniques

I just always assumed the when someone was cuffed they were being arrested. That is  not always the case. There is a difference between being detained and being arrested. In some circumstances the civilian is demonstrating behavior that could be a danger to the police officer or themselves. In those cases it is often better to put them in handcuffs for everyone’s safety. If the handcuffs are not attached to both hands they could become a weapon and put the police officer in more danger.

Case Scenarios

The police are called out for a wide variety of reasons. Depending on the situation it is either a civil matter and they cannot get involved or it may result in someone being arrested and taken to the jail. It is up to the jail to determine if they will be accepted into the jail or not. We went through a number of them and how each situation would be handled by the police.

Action v.s. Reaction

Someone doing an action is always faster then someone reacting to the action. A police officer is usually reacting to someone else’s action and are therefore always a few second behind. One way to protect themselves is to always stay 21 feet away or more from the person they are dealing with. Where they are behind on time they have the distance to help over compensate for that.

The officers doing this training were the same officers that did the routine traffic stop scenarios for the EVO class. I always enjoy their training. Each of us were given the opportunity in a practice scenario to go out on a call. In my case I was dealing with a person in the park who was sword practicing. In situations like this you do not know if there could be violence or not. The main thing they wanted us to experience was the stress response that is typical in situations like this. Your ability to hear changes under these acute stressful situations. A color would be spoken out loud on the side. The person participating in the scenario did not hear the color that was spoken outloud.

My Thought About Tonight

Each class I am learning something new about the dangers the police officers face every day they go to work. Often it is little things that I would not have considered before. If we want a good policing in our communities we have to be engaged with the police. As with all jobs there are sometimes “bad apples” but for the most part people do try to do their best. If the community is engaged with the police officers it strengthens those relationships and helps to weed out the “bad apples”. Also a lot of the people that police officers deal with on a day to day basis are criminals and the bad elements of society. A little bit of kindness will go a long way.

Gun Range

by Keith Turner on September 15, 2016

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VirTra Simulator

This evening was spent at the gun range with Range Master Nick Roberts. He has a very impressive knowledge about guns that he has accumulated over many years. I hope to have the opportunity of take his concealed gun course someday.

The first thing I did was to do a couple of scenarios in the VirTra simulator.  Basically is simulates actual scenarios in a 360 degree environment to give you an idea what a real situation might be like. In both scenarios I was involved in the scene escalated to a shooting and if it has been real life I would have been dead. The simulation is real enough that the body responds as if you were in an acute stress environment. It is a great way to train for those kind of situations.

When I was in the U.S. Navy, on watch I would sometimes have to carry a gun. Once a year I would go to the gun range to shoot and as long as I hit the target a few times I would pass. Being in an actual acutely stressful environment where guns are being fired was something I had no training for. I had wrong assumptions about how I would react in such a situation, which I learned after doing 2 different scenarios in the VirTra simulator. In the 2nd  simulation I was so focused on one area that I never saw the person who appeared on the side and fired shots.

Things can happen so fast and get out of hand in a few seconds. Sometimes the only thing that police officers have between them and death is a few seconds to make the right decision. The officer sometimes has to make split second decisions in an almost impossible to manage situation. In an high stress situation things can go wrong really quickly and mistakes can be made.

  Gun Vault

The second part of my night was a tour of the gun vault. All I can say is wow they have some pretty awesome guns in their vault. They had two different Thompson Machine Guns one from the 1920’s and one from the 1940’s in the vault. I got to hold both of them. All of the guns owned by police officers in the U.P.D are maintained and fixed in a shop in the vault. That is also an impressive operation. They have a lot of different varieties of guns that they maintain and fix.

Live Fire Range

I was able to shoot a machine gun in semi-automatic and in automatic mode. That was an awesome experience. There is just something about holding all that power in your hands and then pulling the trigger. It has been a long time since I shot a gun. I had forgotten how much I enjoy shooting a gun on occasion.