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'I'm Just Going To My Job, Like Any Other Person,' He Says. But That's Pretty Humble.

Only four openly transgender people have ever worked on Capitol Hill. Currently, it is just Congressional Fellow Ben Panico.

'I'm Just Going To My Job, Like Any Other Person,' He Says. But That's Pretty Humble.

He is a recent graduate and part of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. While it's spectacular that he has been welcomed with open arms, it would be even better if he weren't the only one.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Comedian and actor Patton Oswalt caused a stir last week when he canceled performances in Florida and Utah because the venues wouldn't comply with his COVID-19 protocols. Oswalt requested that venues only allow audience members that are vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19.

However, in Florida, vaccine mandates are illegal and the venue in Salt Lake City refused.

"This difficult decision was made due to the rising number of COVID cases," Oswalt said. "And also because I have an ego but my ego is not big enough to think that people should die to hear my stupid comedy."

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