As You Know, Bob, the Thomases and I broke up in a terrible and extended way in January (Lynne on the 6th, Michael on the 20th). I didn't contact Lynne in any way post-breakup. I tried to reach out to Michael a few times in order to see if his Lynne-prepared breakup script was how he actually felt... because when your barely-former partner who's been gaslighted and emotionally manipulated by his wife for years reads a speech by her and goes silent, when he's always told you that silence means he is spiraling into anxiety/depression/suicidality and needs help, yes, an "are you actually okay? can you tell me in your own words when she's not in the room?" call is a rational thing to do. It is very worthy of note that neither of them ever asked me not to call. When met with silence, I was still very worried, but walked away, knowing that she would not allow me to help him, hoping that someone else would.
On January 28, Lynne had me served with a "stalking no contact" order. In it, she alleges a number of completely false things. (I've elected not to post it and an accompanying point-by-point takedown, but a PDF is available upon request.) It would have just been a bizarre nuisance if not for two things:
* Stalking is a serious crime. It's on the sexual violence spectrum. To accuse a rape survivor of that... and yes, Lynne knows that I was stalked when I lived in Atlanta and that that was traumatic for me, and knows from my post about the rape in Vegas how scary it was that my rapist might have been stalking me before the rape. The Stalking No Contact Order is the wrong order for our situation, even. The correct order for former dating partners is an Order of Protection. She chose the incorrect order in an attempt to trigger me, I'm pretty sure, given that she spent our entire last phone call throwing triggers mined from my private conversations with Michael at me and asking mockingly "are you triggered yet?" I was not triggered, but I was deeply upset. (She also listed my hair color as "bald" and my eyes as "black", and that was, I suppose, just as honest as the rest of her claims. Though she does know that I'm sensitive about the hair loss I experience with dramatic weight loss, and she knows I've lost 10 pounds over the course of her harassment of me.)
* She requested the bog-standard remedies: that I not go to their house, her place of work, et cetera, which is fine because obviously I was never going to do that anyway. Like, your disabled, unemployed ex who can't drive due to her epilepsy is not at high risk of flying to Chicago and taking a $100+ cab just to show up at your door and say boo, even if that was a thing she'd do if you lived in the same city, which it isn't. No e-mail, no phone, all fine; I hadn't been contacting her anyway.
Actually, I'm going to pull that sentence out to highlight it.
I hadn't been contacting her anyway.
The last time I spoke with her was the night of the breakup on January 6. Last time I contacted her? January 2nd.
So if Lynne's actual goal was no contact from me, all she had to do was nothing. She was already getting that. That wasn't her goal. We'll get to her real goal later.
But the important thing in that list of remedies was the last bit. Because it sought to bar me from attending any and all "conventions and conferences sponsored by the science fiction community."
This was not "you have to stay X feet away." This was not "don't attend cons they're at," which would still have been a problem. This was a ban on me attending any con for two years.
And that's why I had to fight. Because that? That is a clear attempt to end or severely curtail my career.
(There's your headline: Hugo Award-winning editor Lynne M. Thomas attempts to bar ex-girlfriend from pursuing a career writing science fiction.)
I don't think I have to tell you how professionally valuable cons are to a writer. If I do, hit me up in the comments and I'll lay it all out. Believe it or not, I'm trying for brevity here. Is that order enforceable across state lines? Yes. And cons are Very Aware of harassment these days. So imagine you're on a concom and someone e-mails you this order. Are you going to take time out of your busy schedule to research just in case something's weird? No, you're going to hit the ban button. Which is what you *should* do if there's an actual case of harassment.
So if the order went into effect, that would be two years of restricting me from doing what is, frankly, my job. So. I had to fight it. Lynne chose to punish me in a way that forced a response, weeks after I had already turned my back and closed the door on her. Also? I'm not going to have an order with my name and a crime I did not commit out there. I will gladly fess up to everything I have ever done. But I'm not taking the blame for things I did not do.
The only way to fight it was in person, I discovered to my dismay. And the hearing date was too soon for me to get plane tickets I could even somewhat afford. So I had to hire a lawyer to file for a continuance to give me time to get there - $1,500. (A very kind soul saw the order, realized that this was 100% harassment and persecution and that I would never have done the things I was accused of, and covered the deposit on this. Thank you, friend.)
I got the continuance, and my lawyer said we could try to negotiate an agreement over the next two months so I wouldn't have to come out. I said "Okay. If she drops this, I volunteer to sign an agreement saying I won't contact her in any way, won't go to their house or NIU, and at any conventions we both attend, I will ask programming to not put us on the same panels. I just need the language not allowing me to attend professional engagements dropped." If the goal was really no contact, she should've jumped at that, right? Again, that was clearly not the goal, as events show. She refused the deal, then and when my lawyer offered it again last week.
So the hearing was yesterday. I was up at 2:30am because this harassment has been interfering with my ability to sleep. On the road at 6. Painful flight to Chicago -
Oh yeah. I should highlight this too. Air travel is painful for me, as Lynne well knows from all the times I was immobile on her couch post-flight. And I've been having worse pain lately, which I've talked about a lot here and elsenet. So hold that thought.
And a $150 taxi ride to East Bumblefuck. (They actually live an hour+ away from Chicago.)
And the minute they saw that I had shown up to defend myself, to get on the stand and tell the judge what was actually going on - the minute they knew that Lynne was going to have to present evidence she didn't have and be cross-examined and have to admit to all her falsehoods or risk a perjury charge - her lawyer practically ran for my lawyer, begging to make a deal.
We went back and forth, because what Lynne wanted was to keep the Stalking No Contact Order and for me to agree to stay 50 feet away from her at all conventions. No dice, I said - she's proving herself to be extremely vindictive, and I'd expect her to disrupt panels I'm on by walking in, sitting in the front row, and glaring at me with her phone out to force me to leave the room. My lawyer agreed that that seems in character. She also wanted me to edit LJ posts mentioning them and change how I blog in some way....? I'm not sure how, because my lawyer dismissed that idea out of hand and refused to even bring it back to me for consideration, because free speech. (My lawyer pointed out that for people who say they don't want anything to do with me, they sure were reading my blog a lot. Me: "You have no idea. He reloads it dozens of times a day; she reads it at least three times a day. I haven't read hers at all." My lawyer also pointed out that the only thing in the order that could be bent to fit the definition of stalking was that I called their house twice and left a voicemail, and that only counts if they had asked me not to do so, which they hadn't. "She must have put on a hell of a show to get the judge to grant the emergency order," he said, "but that won't work for the plenary. She needs proof that her lawyer isn't even claiming she has.")
So what did we settle on?
The withdrawal of the frivolous and fallacious request for the Stalking No Contact Order, and the exact agreement I'd proposed in February..
But, since my lawyer is a good lawyer, with additional protections for me and my right to attend conventions.
I have to admit, it was a bit of a letdown; I was looking forward to giving my testimony, and to watching my lawyer cross-examine Lynne and point out all of her lies and distortions and her lack of any evidence. But with my original agreement on the table, I asked myself a question: What are my goals?
My goals here were to get the harassing order dropped, establish the freedom to pursue my career, and never hear from Lynne again (the agreement for no contact goes both ways). My goals were to shut the door on all of this and go on with my life.
Pushing for the hearing would have given me that plus watching her squirm and maybe even getting contempt of court charges due to the flagrant abuse of the judicial system that she confessed to by admitting that I had, in fact, never stalked her. Which is... mean thrills.
The day before she filed the order, I posted here in my LJ: "We all have our choices to make after this. Mine, as always, is to be kind, even when I'm not getting kindness in return. Could I get into a vicious slapfight? Oh hell yes. But that's not the person I want to be. And that's what's important now: making the choices I need to make to be the person I want to be."
So I looked at who I am, did not allow her vindictiveness and bullying and desire to punish me to create a reflection of herself in me, and signed the agreement I'd proposed in the first place. And walked away.
Why am I posting this? Because I know she's lied to other people, some of whom have been struggling to reconcile the Thomas and Lipkin versions of events. So I wanted you to know - when it came time to speak the truth, I flew out there at great cost to my health and my wallet to do so, and she refused to get on the stand. Let that tell you some things right there.
Now let's get down, as promised, to goals.
I proposed that agreement on February 11, the day after my continuance was granted. If what Lynne actually wanted was no contact, she would have agreed to it then or at any time over the course of the next five weeks.
If Lynne had any grounds for a judgment against me, she would have taken the stand. She did not.
So the true goal here is clear. Lynne's goal was to punish me - either with the order if I didn't show up, or with spending over $2,000 that I couldn't afford to defend myself (see also: bullying via the judicial system by people who have money and know that their victims don't), with the severe pain of air travel and hobbling all around Illinois, with the theft of time and energy and my ability to focus on writing.
Occam's Razor. If all she wanted was to be left alone, she already had that. If she wanted a guarantee that that would continue, all she would have had to do is agree to my proposed agreement. By agreeing to that exact agreement after forcing me out there, she shows that the goal was to force me out there, with all that that implies.
During her diatribe on January 6th, she repeatedly said "I don't know how your breakups usually go." Not like this. Generally very quietly. Generally my exes are some of my best friends. Because you can still care for people even if a relationship isn't working - and even if you can't stand them, you can just say "we're over, don't call me again." And when that person doesn't call you or reach out to you in any way, when they are publicly and visibly closing that door and continuing on their own path, you can let them go. Yanking them back to harass and torture them when they are trying to move on is some deeply fucked-up behavior that really needs to be looked at.
So here's looking at Lynne. I hope that she and Michael look at themselves and their choices. I hope someone close to them pulls them aside and says "my god, STOP. Let her go. Stop pulling her back and throwing punches when she is trying to just go on with her life without you."
There are a lot of choices I could make from here. There are charges I could've filed against her yesterday, and still can. I have grounds for two separate lawsuits.
But what do I want?
I just want her to stop harassing me. I don't want to punish her; I'm not the vindictive one here, and the greatest punishment, anyway, is Being Lynne, having a mind that works this way. I originally wrote an angrier post (pre-hearing), because yes, she deliberately tortured me. But no. I pity her. She is constantly angry (hence the chipper false face), she hates herself and her life, and she clearly has a mind full of spiders. That's a horrible way to live. I couldn't top that if I wanted to, and frankly, I don't want to. I want to write my novel, work on my medical issues, be with my awesome community, and do the other cool things I have planned. All I want is Lynne out of my life so I can move forward.
This agreement should do that. And so I'll answer questions in comments, but I hope to never have to write another LJ post about her, because I hope that she'll abide by the agreement and leave me alone. The door has been closed for months. Stop chopping and put the ax down.