Whose Pride? Who’s Proud?

The below is offered for those of us who are working for queer liberation in mostly straight, liberal enclaves, where the going vibe is “hey, gays, we’re all ok!” and queer energy is cheerfully coopted to keep the straight status quo on the go. It’s a challenge to keep exhorting these good-hearted people to bust out of their complacency without actually using the f-word. Below is one of my latest attempts, to be published in our UU church newsletter. The backstory is more complicated than I will go into here, but basically, Interweave is sort of a UU church GSA, and (surprise) it’s mostly G and the G are doing almost all of the work while the S in the larger congregation stop me at coffee hour and thank me for the wonderful work I’m doing.

Whose Pride? Who’s Proud?

What percentage of our UU church is LGBTQ? Sometimes it seems that we make up half of the congregation! The numbers are quite a bit lower than that, however, but one reason LGBTQ folks might seem more prevalent here is that our visibility is quite a bit higher than it is on the outside.

We have so much to celebrate.

Our chapter of Interweave was formed in order to give straight and LGBTQ members of our church “opportunities for fellowship, support, spiritual growth, social justice work and community activism, both within the congregation and in the wider community.” One of these opportunities is fast approaching! Yes, it is time to start planning for the Pride Parade.

Last year, our church officially registered with the Pride committee and marched with our own banner. The Sunday before Pride, we had a Pride service. The day of Pride, we enjoyed a Pride breakfast, a moving Invocation, and an After Party here at church. This year, we are planning to secure a good spot for folks from the congregation to watch the Parade together, as some would prefer not to march or are unable to. And we hope to encourage more members of the congregation to attend the very moving service at the Arlington Street UU church before the Parade. Our observances of this wonderful and important day are becoming deeper and more varied.

We have so much to celebrate.

Our very first Interweave Interlude, published last year, was about Pride. An Interweave member and lesbian mom wrote:

Our family plans to march with our church in the Pride Parade…and we want to invite you to join us. I know if you don’t identify with the gay community, or don’t have close friends or family members in our community (or even if you do), it may not feel as if it is your place or responsibility to march with our church in the Pride parade. If this is the case, I invite you to reconsider. Pride is our one day of the year to come together, gay and straight, to promote awareness, justice, understanding, acceptance, and equality… If you want to show your support for equality for all and help our church become a more inclusive community for everyone, this is the single most important event that you can get involved in.

Interweave again extends the invitation not only to participate in Pride activities this year, but to lend a generous hand in helping plan for this wonderful and important day. At the time of this writing, we do not yet have our two marshals, nor have we secured enough members of a Pride committee to do all of the necessary planning. Our next Interweave meeting will focus on Pride. Please plan to participate!

Let’s celebrate together.

The Total Femme

Chair, Interweave

Published in: on March 23, 2014 at 8:55 AM  Leave a Comment  
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How Chill?

After the Sturm und Drang of Middle School, Seth, a junior, and Owen, a freshman, both assure me that things are much, much better at the high school. People just let each other be, they tell me. “Mom,” says Seth definitively, “Things at the high school are chill.”

I’m sure the atmosphere has changed. Perhaps the two of them — straight as far as I know, white, middle class, loved, catered to and taken care of – have felt certain middle school-specific pressures lessen. Certainly, Seth no longer feels it necessary to purchase and wear clothing on which the names of the clothing companies are written so cunningly. Owen, well, Owen pretty much gets along wherever he lands, but there may be hidden Owen worries that have resolved themselves now that he’s a high schooler.

Once, at a high school soccer game, however, I overheard a bunch of female students talking about a truly terrifying incident that had happened to them the night before, where male students had followed them in a car and threatened them. Seth told me about being at a basketball game where his friends made homophobic remarks about one of the players. And yesterday I was told something in confidence about another student at the high school. Despite equal marriage, despite the groovy liberal vibe wafting over from the People’s Republic of Cambridge, despite our high school having one of the oldest GSAs in the state, this youth is in the closet, because “it’s just easier that way.”

Of course, I expect we can all imagine any number of situations where it’s easier to be in the closet, especially if coming out would put you in physical danger, and perhaps that’s the case with this student, although I don’t think so. I think more, it’s about not wanting to stick out, not wanting to be different, even in a “welcoming” community. Or perhaps especially in a “welcoming” community, where protests that “we understand” are so shrill. The kind of thing that makes the narrator in Openly Straight by Bill Koningsberg decide that he’s going back in the closet when he starts a new school. It’s just easier that way.

A colleague and I have been working together to widen areas of support for our local queer youth. Neither of us is paid for this, nor are we employees of any of the town organizations which should already be doing this work. Recently, we visited the high school GSA. We wanted to discuss with the members their thoughts and ideas about getting a queer youth center established here. Currently, as my colleague and I have been discovering, there is nothing other than the GSA at the high school, the GSA at the middle school, a homeschooler QSA and a monthly queer youth and allies social drop-in night at the library. And as pure information and not to brag, although I’m proud of this work, I had a large hand in instigating the last 3 items on that list. I also know that this list is much, much longer than the list of what’s available in so many other communities. But this is Massachusetts. Very close to Boston. Massachusetts has a Commission for LGBTQ Youth, we have a chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educators Network, we have an amazing chapter of PFLAG, we have the Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth, we have the Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition. Our town should be so much further along than we are.

I believe the liberal suburbs pose a particular challenge to queer organizing. So many people — straight, certainly, but even queer — think that everything is fine.  Until their kid comes out or gets depressed or gets bullied or they’re the victim of a hate crime, as lesbian neighbors of mine recently were in the form of a nasty little note, slipped under the windshield wiper of their car as they were shopping at our neighborhood grocery store. Everything is fine only if you look at things in a very, very superficial and hopeful manner, and systemic oppression doesn’t go away just because your neighbors are polite to you.

Later today, I’m attending a meeting of a coalition made up of representatives of town organizations from the police to the schools to the local counseling center. The coalition is grant-funded, and was formed to pay attention to local youth health and safety issues, including things like suicide prevention, substance abuse education and dating safety. Until I started attending, as far as I can see, no one had anything at all to say about queer youth and their specific needs, about how to support this vulnerable population. I’ve been trying to get their attention, and below is the statement from the high school GSA that I’m going to read at the meeting today.

How chill is it, really, at the high school? I guess it depends on who you ask.

 

As the town’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, we would be in support of the creation of an LGBTQ youth center here, for our town and the surroundinåçg communities. We feel that this would fulfill a very present and as of yet unrecognized need in the town, for a place where the LGBTQ youth of this area could meet each other and form a community. It would also be an incredibly fun experience for all youth involved, and would provide a social platform currently unavailable to these youth. In addition, school GSAs are unable to meet these needs, as their membership and participation is limited to members of the school and therefore cannot operate on a wider field. Finally, as of now, there is no easy-to-access facility for health information for LGBTQ youth in these areas, so this youth center would fulfill an important need. Overall, an alliance of LGBTQ youth for the surrounding towns would be incredibly beneficial for everyone involved.

 

–Members of the GSA, March 2014

 

Published in: on March 12, 2014 at 12:12 PM  Comments (5)  
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Very Much Better

Last Sunday, I took Seth to this Dominican-run baseball place where the owner calls him “DiMaggio” and kicks his butt in a baseball workout. It’s so cozy over there, so sweet the way all the employees treat the boys and there’s a softball coach for girls, as well. I hate many things about baseball, which seems to constantly teeter on the brink of outright mysogyny, but this place reminds me of the things I love: the friendly community, the “we’re all in it together” camraderie, the way Seth was training with a couple of 9-year olds, and they all got equal respect. As I was sitting there reading my novel, the owner passed by, squeezed my shoulder and said cheerfully, “He is very much better this year, Mama, very much better!”

Baseball: it’s complicated.

Saturday night, Tex and I decided against joining the boys at an intergenerational dance being held at church. We were still grumpy about the way the choir director was fired and the way lip service is given to diversity when the reality is business as usual.*. And because of our snit, we missed the opportunity to see our boys all dressed up in their ties, busting a move with their friends.

Church: it’s even more complicated.

As we drove back from the baseball place, I took advantage of Seth’s good mood to try and talk with him a little about emotions – how they come over us like the weather, but like the weather, we can wait for them to pass and not, for example, start beating up on our brother in an attempt to deal with anger or boredom or whatever it is. I spoke from experience, as Tex and I had just reacted to our emotions, allowing our upset at the church to keep us from hanging out with the guys in their ties. Seth claimed to understand about the emotions-as-weather thing, and I certainly should understand it, the amount of Pema Chodron I read. But will Seth beat up on Owen again? Will Tex and I balance enormous chips on our shoulders about the way straight people are clueless at best and bigots at worst?

Humans. I ask you.

*Although the good news is the colleague who we thought had let us down (see my last post) actually ended up coming through – he just needed us to stick with him while he figured things out.

Lucky Seth! He really does look a bit like the Yankee Clipper!

Published in: on February 6, 2014 at 5:15 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Al Fresco

Last night as Tex and I emerged from the library where we’d been attending a Queer Book Group event*,  there was a short white man with a very healthy head of 70s-style hair standing on the steps.

“Registered voters!” he called out. “I can spot a couple of registered voters anywhere! I know them when I see them!’

We stopped, and he went on to explain that he and his silent, frozen friend who clutched the clipboard, were collecting signatures in order to put before the upcoming Town Meeting a very, very important issue, namely…outdoor seating. See, local restaurants have just been putting out chairs and tables higgelty piggelty and these two guys feel that unless someone does something quick, all hell will break out.

If anyone had been watching the scene on the library steps last night, I think they would have witnessed two middle-aged queers practically twisting their heads off like 2 extremely perplexed canines. The fellas wanted us to sign a petition about chairs?

Let me back up a moment. For the past, oh, 20 years and perhaps even longer than that, Tex and I have been in the thick of various civil rights struggles, including fighting racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, ageism, you know, that kind of thing. Yesterday, we’d spent most of the afternoon trying to recover from a one-two punch having to do with a straight ally at church offering to do something for the queer group and then reneging in a particularly clueless fashion. And for some reason, perhaps the stars or the season, or my rapidly retreating hormones, I had been feeling particularly small and old that day, and rather unfit for the daunting battles still looming. A person can’t be fired up all the time!

Back to the library steps. We were not at our sharpest (it was almost 9pm, after all) but we both immediately got very suspicious. I wondered if this guy was working for the Man, sneakily trying to curtail workers’ rights. Tex assumed the worst and thought the guy’s elderly aunt had been pushed out into the street by unruly seating arrangements and done in by a passing car. Finally, we snapped out of it, asked a few questions, like, is this a public safety issue and how did you become interested in this (yes, and he just thinks there should be some regulation before everyone just starts doing whatever they want), and in the end, we both signed. It was just some signatures so that Town Meeting considers the proposal.

This morning we checked in with each other: had it been a dream? aliens posing as humans, slightly behind in their fashion research? the shared hallucination of two hard-working queer activists brought on by the afore mentioned sucker punch? I guess we won’t know until Town Meeting, but the thing is, as my dear friend in Chile reminded me: there are other issues, you know. And sometimes, they involve al fresco dining.

What a world!**

*our town has a Lesbian Librarian! She started a Queer Book Group! It’s so much fun!!!

**Some of you may know that this is a direct quote from Chet, who is the dog half of the Chet and Bernie mystery series by Spencer Quinn – a Total Femme fave!

Published in: on January 30, 2014 at 9:56 PM  Leave a Comment  
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I Can’t Explode

(Before I start, I have to tell you that ABE RYBEK made me write this post – not that he requested it, or anything, it’s just that he commented on another of my posts, “Abe Rybek Hugged Me,” and his sweet words reminded me that it is always worth it to make the effort to get the posts out of my head and into the blog so Abe, thank you!)

One of the consistent joys of teaching English as a Foreign Language is the wonderful mis-speaks you get the privilege of enjoying. Just recently, a new student of mine, a Chinese boy in 9th grade, said earnestly, “I know what it means, but I can’t explode.”

I can’t explode, either. I can’t explode when I hear that the n-word has reared its ugly head at our town’s middle school, being used as a weapon by white students against the students of color who are bussed in from the city to enjoy a “better” education out here in the burbs. I can’t explode when Seth tells me that students watching the girls basketball game at his and Owen’s* high school started saying, “Terry* plays like a dyke!” about a girl who was Owen’s best friend in 2nd grade.** I can’t explode when my UU church shows some very discriminatory colors in a recent action involving the forced resignation of a beloved staff member, rendering the church environment unsafe for minorities in one fell swoop. I can’t explode when a colleague and I go to the local youth counseling center to gather information about starting a queer youth support effort in town and the 3 staff members let us know that they have no resources for queer and questioning youth and are actually looking to the two of us as the experts (they have paying jobs as counselors; we’re volunteering our time and energy).

Much to their dismay, the boys did not have a snow day last week, only a two-hour delay. To be nice, I gave them a ride so they could linger just a little longer at home. On the way back, I saw John*, a boy in Owen’s grade, whose mother once cornered Tex when they were both chaperoning a 2nd grade field trip, to tell her she thought her son was probably gay. I stopped and asked if he would like a ride down the hill in a warm car, and he did. We chatted, me asking him about his singing group, him being the darling polite lad that he is. When he thanked me for the ride, I said, “It was my pleasure,” and readers, truer words have never been spoken. Me and Tex have had that child’s back since that bus ride Tex took with his mom way back when, and not just him, but Terry, and so many more.

See? I can’t explode. Our kids are out there.

 

*Not their real names, in case you were wondering.

**Seth gave them what for, he says. Way not to be a bystander, eldest son!

 

Expendable

Owen (14) and I like zombies. Seth (17) was traumatized by an early and disastrous viewing of “The Grudge” and even though he thought last year he was ready to watch “Alien” with me, as soon as it started, he got interested in doing something else, so I turned it off. Owen, on the other hand, well, just as soon as we get a couple of extra minutes, here we come, Ripley!

Owen convinced me to start watching “The Walking Dead” so I did, and I expect regular readers of this blog (you two know who you are!) will quickly deduce that I have quite a few criticisms of the show. Actually, since I’m pretty sure neither of you has seen it, I will quickly say: it’s from a comic book, written by men, in a certain comic book tradition where there always has to be a good guy and a bad guy. Emphasis on “guy”. White guy. So, for example, when Owen and I talk about the show, I tend to ask things like, “If they’re supposed to be in the south, how come there aren’t more black characters?” and “How come none of the black characters get to have full stories like the white characters?” and “Where are the gay people?” and “Why are those two idiots fighting again?”

Despite all that, I remain in the sorry plight of people who like zombies (or vampires, or werewolves) and am compelled to watch what’s on offer, hope springing eternal. So I’m on Season Three, and just watched the 4th Episode called “The Killer Within”.  In this episode (spoiler alert) not only does the only surviving child, Carl, have to put a bullet through his mother’s brain to stop her from turning into a zombie, he has to assist as she is killed by a field cesarean in order for his sibling to be born. Elsewhere, the only remaining black man sacrifices himself so that the only remaining mother (after Carl’s mother) has a chance to escape, but she doesn’t make it either (or at least, that’s how it seems at the end of the episode).

In preparing me for these eventualities, Owen kept saying , “Season Three is sad, Mom,” and I would say, “Ok, I know people are going to die. I just hope it’s not T-Dog! (the black guy)” and he would say, “T-Dog is an amazing character. But Mom, think about who’s the most expendable. Who’s the most expendable, Mom?” And by gum, he was right! Moms and black men. Who needs ‘em?

First of all, I am proud of my Black Ops-playing baby for understanding that what passes for mindless entertainment carries all the sins of the society (racism and misogyny being just two), and second of all, what the fuck? Carl’s poor mother had a shitty role, badly written dialogue and a mostly one-dimensional, wide-eyed character, but she did sometimes offer a different take on how people might interact in the vastly changed world. My favorite line of hers, tossed out in between puerile musings on how she’s a bad mom and gosh she’s sorry she cheated on her husband when she thought he was dead and the world had just gone to hell, was something like, “We cleaned up a spot for Carl where he can…do whatever it is he does now.” She can’t say “play” anymore, even though Carl is only about 11, because he has had to turn child soldier in order to get along in the zombie apocalypse. I like the line because it indicated to me that she might be capable of thinking differently about how humans are changed by the dire circumstances and how they might start exploring those changes and keep hold of some life- and soul-saving emotional and spiritual complexities. Rather than just doing the easiest thing: me good, you bad, me kill you before you kill me. Later in the episode, she tells Carl never to do the wrong thing, that he’s a good person and he’ll know if it’s wrong, even if it feels like the easy thing to do. Then comes the gory cesarean scene and then the bullet. Hey, the baby’s alive, though!

Owen and I love zombies. I also love vampires and werewolves and aliens, and he loves dystopic novels and fantasy where there’s lots of fighting. We love our genres and as mad as I am about T-Dog and the moms, I’m going to keep watching “The Walking Dead” because I’m interested in spite of myself, and because I like talking with Owen about it. To comfort me before the fact, during the same “who’s the most expendable” conversation, he also kept saying, “Mom, the women are about to get really badass!” “The Walking Dead” is adapted from a comic book. “FunHome” and “Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel are also comic books, only now we have been taught to call them “graphic novels”. Genre has its rules, and wherever there are rules, when you bend or break them, the effect can be sublime. Within boundaries there are worlds, as any writer of sestinas or haikus can tell you. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” George Romero’s movies, all the “Alien” movies, “The Matrix” movies – thank god for the genre benders and breakers. I don’t know what’s going to happen in “The Walking Dead” and I really don’t know what kind of weird relationship (I think these are their names) Andrea and Meshaun have and am constantly on the verge of being offended with Meshaun’s servant role and Alison’s flirtation with gross men, but, if the woman are fixin’ to be badass, I will keep watching. Hope springs eternal, and plus, hanging out with Owen is just a pile of fun.

Published in: on October 28, 2013 at 10:39 AM  Comments (1)  

Interweave Interlude

This is something I wrote for my UU church newsletter. 

As I write this, the Supreme Court hearings about Prop 8 and DOMA are much in the public eye, and I mean the whole world public eye. My friend who lives in Chile forwarded me a post from another ex-patriot there, a straight woman, who wrote about Edith Windsor, plaintiff in the case before the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA. The post heading was, “The sweetest little old lesbian I’ve ever seen!” and went on to call Edith “adorable”.

I found this post so interesting, because that is not how I would describe Edith Windsor. When I look at her, I see a very powerful person, who, after a lifetime of abuse by a homophobic society, is fighting back and doing some very serious ass kicking. I see someone, who, even though she is a lesbian, a woman, and decidedly in the twilight years of her life – all of which are things that have most certainly been used against her in the effort to shut her up – has found the energy and courage to give an unjust system what for.

The tone of the post from Chile reminded me of another time, in another town, when I had to do a double take. “Oh, she’s just the funniest little lady!” was the remark, made in passing, by a straight woman. The person she was talking about, a local lesbian business owner, was someone I, too, had noticed around town, someone who appeared to me to be hard working, complicated, attractive and extremely competent. I could hardly recognize her in the straight woman’s off-hand remark.

I asked my friend in Chile if she thought the post she forwarded me was meant to be supportive. She said she thought so. I think so, too, but is it a real, lasting and substantial support? Calling someone “little”, “adorable”, “funny” feels dismissive to me. Like the support could vanish in a heartbeat if the lesbian stopped being attractive or amusing, like those folks wouldn’t even notice if they came across a lesbian who was not little or adorable or funny.

Part of the problem is that our society is currently so homophobically skewed that fully realized and detailed descriptions of lesbian life, whether in the news media, movies, literature or art, are incredibly hard to come by, at least any that make it onto the heterosexual radar. If you’ve been exposed to untold numbers of heterosexual stories and maybe just a handful of homosexual ones, it’s going to affect how you see the world. I hope that this is changing, and certainly if the Supreme Court does the right thing, our society will have taken a step in the right direction. Until then, let’s do what we can to make room for the stories that so often get overlooked. They are devastating, fierce, arousing, unique, riveting, inspirational, ordinary, spiritual, and some of them are even seriously adorable. But not one of them is simplistic or one dimensional. Just ask any of us.

“Interweave Interludes” will be offered occasionally by different members of our Interweave Chapter.

Our chapter of Interweave Continental is a member-based, grassroots church group providing the church LGBTQQIA community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Allies) opportunities for fellowship, support, spiritual growth, social justice work and community activism within the congregation as well as within the wider community  and beyond. 

 

Published in: on March 31, 2013 at 6:11 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Comes to That

This past Saturday morning, I was spinning. My community organizing work had boiled over, I had several writing deadlines and a bunch of stuff to do for the kids and I couldn’t make up my mind which of the many pressing issues I should put my very limited time and energy to. So mostly I was whining.

 

“Go take a walk without the dog. Now!” said Tex. She knows, does my darling husband, that a walk always helps me sort things out, and without the dog, I can carry on as I will without cramping his style (I tend to want to walk more quickly, and I don’t need to stop, sniff, and mark).

 

Of course, a walk can also generate more ideas, which this one did. Is there a 12-step group for this? Too Many Ideas Anonymous? “Hi, my name is The Total Femme, and I think too damn much.” “Hi, The Total Femme.” And then we have donuts and coffee in Styrofoam cups and the whole time I’m trying to figure out a way they can make this meeting more green and if there are Too Many Ideas Anonymous meetings just for queers and if not how can I get one started, and then I notice that there’s an empty bookshelf in the room and I start scheming about getting books the local library routinely throws away to put in the bookshelf for people to take for free, well you get the idea.

On my walk I did manage to wrench my day into order somewhat, take some notes for this post, for a future post, and for something I want to write for church. Feeling pretty good, pretty reigned in, I decided to go a different way than usual. In the distance, I could see someone else walking on my path, and in good New England fashion (I’m from the Midwest, but I’ve lived here a long time), I considered going back to my usual route so I wouldn’t have to pass the guy (I could see now that it was an old guy), but I made myself continue, because, my goodness, it won’t hurt me to say “Hello” once in a while. And as I walked along, still thinking of ideas, I smelled shit. Human shit. I looked down, and saw a trail of little plops. Dismayed, I made the connection: it must be the old man’s shit. I slowed down, keeping an eye on him to see if he needed help, if he was sick, and only went on my way when I saw that he was turning in to his driveway.

 

In my early 30s, when I worked for the Evil Empire*, one of my office mates, probably in her 50s who was dealing with a chronic illness, told me about how she had shit herself on the T. I was completely horrified, putting myself in her position and concluding that I would probably rather die than have that happen to me. 20 years later, I put myself in the old man’s position and just felt compassion. Have I turned into an OWL**? I don’t know about that, but who among us has not been humiliated by shit, our own or someone else’s? Diarrhea, childbirth, colonoscopies, enemas; parenting, pet owning, traveling, owning a house. All these and more! When I passed that old man, shit all over the cuffs of his pants, I thought, “Ah, it comes to that.”

 

I think of a story Jewish Buddhist teacher Sylvie Boorstein tells about how members of a meditation group she leads take a few moments after every session to say things they’re thinking about, worried about. They’ll say things like, ‘I’m worried about my son’s medical results,” or “Please keep my friend in your thoughts because she’s lost her job.” One day, somebody said, “Everything happens to everybody!”*** So true.

 

How do I decide which project to work on, which idea to pursue, when to rest, when to push myself, which goals are reasonable, which are pie in the sky? How do I combat the niggling sense that I should actually be doing something else, something more important than what I finally settle on? I still really suck at all of that. In an essay I just read by Barbara Smith, a black lesbian feminist revolutionary who has been an agent of positive change since the 1960s, she says, of a spiritual revelation she had upon moving from New York City to the much more conservative Albany,  “[Y]ou have to brighten the corner where you are, which meant to me that I had to do the most effective and needed political work I could in the situation where I was. The conditions for making social and political change are never perfect; if they were, you would not need the change to begin with. Serious activists know that they are a part of the struggle for their entire lives, which means that success must be measured with a very long yardstick. Committed organizing guarantees not just a lifetime of very hard work, but the most incredible triumphs” (italics mine).****

 

Are you spinning, too, my beleaguered, plugged in, maxed out, information-overloaded sisters and brothers? Maybe we can take a few deep, cleansing breaths together (the boys love it when I suggest that to them when they’re upset!). Maybe we can remember that we’re in it for life, wherever we are working for change, parenting, church, school, small town, big town, in our families, in our world, and look on it as a blessing, not a curse. It also helps to remember that at the heart of it all, our best bet is just to love each other. All through the arc of our lives, until we shuffle off this mortal coil. I can deliberate for months before I make my choice of what action to take, what to write, what to work on, or I can shut my eyes, spin around, go with whatever my finger lands on. Either way, if I continue to work with love, I will be putting more love back into the world.

 

I want to rest in the knowledge of that incredible triumph, when it comes to that.

 

*Harvard

**Older Wiser Lesbian (Duck and I just watched The Owls http://theowlsmovie.com/index.html)

***I’m pretty sure this is from Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life by Sylvia Boorstein

**** “Doing It From Scratch: The Challenge of Black Lesbian Organizing” by Barbara Smith, in This is What Lesbian Looks Like: Dyke Activists Take on the 21st Century ed. by Kris Kleindienst

 

 

Published in: on March 21, 2013 at 10:50 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Magic Circle Butch

 

Recently, in the fabulous pilates studio I frequent, as my classmates and I worked our inner thighs and did secret upper ab curls and frogs and stomach massage and other exciting pilates moves known only to the select few, there was a butch having a private session on the cadillac directly across from my reformer.

I know there are a couple of other lesbians who take classes there, but usually I am the only queer in the room. All the instructors are lovely and I feel pretty relaxed there, but it is nonetheless an incredibly straight, incredibly girl environment. My heart went out to that brave butch. Was she there to recover from an injury? Does she have back issues? A hip replacement? Whatever the reason, there she was in her sweats and big t-shirt, surrounded by straight women in skin tight pilates wear, being bossed around by one of the more diminutive instructors. Who, as I watched, produced a magic circle, which is a circle made from thin, flat, springy metal with pads on two sides so you can squeeze it. The instructor had the butch lie down on her back with her knees bent, legs apart, and put that magic circle right between her legs.

“Now squeeze! Be determined!” urged Miss Diminutive.

*          *          *

Even when people know that I’m queer and am married to another female, they quite frequently use male pronouns to refer to Tex. This is really no problem at all, but usually they get really embarrassed about it. The other day, this happened, and the straight woman, true to form, apologized up one side and down the other, and then proceeded to refer to Tex as my wife the rest of the evening. Even other queers do this, and also often refer to the two of us as “girls” or “ladies”.

*          *          *

At the Brown Bag Lunch Talk referred to in yesterday’s post, I watched with concern as an old person sat herself down across the room from me. At first, all I could see was her walker, and how tired she looked, tired and possibly ill, as she kept listing to the side and then wrenching herself back up. Slowly, though, I began noticing other things about her. Her brogues. The way her jeans were cuffed at the ankles. Her button down shirt. Her short hair cut. How she snickered when the talk turned to the (very odd) idea that femmes “go butch” when they get old. By the time she got up to leave, that old butch was fully in focus for me, and the enjoyment I got seeing her butch that walker the fuck out of the room was intense.

*          *          *

Babies, Mama sees you. All you brave, brave boys. I try so hard to let you know that I see you, in my home, in the pilates studio, at a lunchtime talk, everywhere, everywhere. I know you’ve been hurt and I know you’re being careful, holding it all together, not making eye contact and just maneuvering your way through a world where your precious butch sexuality is ignored, misunderstood, denigrated and ridiculed. But look up sometimes, not all the girls are straight, and some of them have your back. Some of them are so glad to see you, and are working hard to make a little room in the world for you to shine. Some of them know who is the girl and who is the guy, the wife and the husband. Some of them, with ancient femme sorcery, are surrounding you with a sexy shimmering magic circle of love and appreciation and support and joy. Some of them are walking with you, every fucking step of the way. You know I am.

Published in: on March 14, 2013 at 2:49 PM  Comments (1)  
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Better OLOC Next Time!

There is a wonderful organization in my town offering LGBT programming to retired LGBT seniors and friends: the Rainbow Lifelong Learning Institute. I’ve been wanting to get to something of theirs for a long time, and yesterday I was able to make it to a brown bag lunch talk by a local woman who has started a chapter of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change. Three members of the homeschoolers QSA accompanied me (I’m the adult advisor to the group), so in the room were teen, middle aged, and old lesbians – cute!

The talk was wonderful. The 78-year old presentor gave background on OLOC, which got its start in California in the early 90s, and then talked about the process of starting a chapter here. Apparently, old lesbians are trendy or something, as a local senior center welcomed them with such enthusiasm it was almost embarrassing. They decided from the beginning to welcome anyone who defines herself as a lesbian, although apparently the national chapter does that stupid women born women thing. They’ve discussed lowering the age limit (the national chapter sets it at 59) and welcoming allies. They have an ongoing discussion about “old” and “older” and which is a better adjective. Our local chapter has been very popular and they are slowly going through their group process, experimenting with topics and discussing potential projects. They are planning a conference for November on sex and the old lesbian, a topic that was so thrilling to me that my enthusiasm brought about my downfall, thus:

After the talk, I rushed over to the presenter and thanked her, then rushed on to say that I’m an erotica writer and would they want to do an erotica-writing workshop at the conference because I would be interested in helping with that. She looked at me with a blank expression, and at first I thought she hadn’t heard me because earlier she had said she’s hard of hearing. I repeated myself, and she said, very quickly and without engaging me in any way, “The conference is for old lesbians.”

So I heard a welcome and she saw intrusion and she shut me down. Because she’d said that thing about lowering the age limit and welcoming allies, because I was so inspired by her talk, I wanted in. I certainly had heard her say how they’re working very hard to give leadership to old lesbians, that young people often end up having leadership in areas that concern old people. I went with the information that worked for me, though, and that turned out not to be what worked for her. She dismissed me with a glance. It was hard and it hurt my feelings, but I can also see that she probably gets lots of people coming at her with good ideas and taking up her time. And even though I related to so much of what she was saying about getting old, I am only 51 and that is just too young for OLOC.

Which does beg the question, where do we middle aged gals go? I certainly don’t feel particularly comfortable with folks in their 30s and early 40s, either. But more importantly, the whole thing got me thinking about being an ally. An ally takes cues from the oppressed minority she wishes to be in solidarity with. She comes up against her own ignorance all the time, she does what she can to educate herself, and she takes a lot of hits for the team. She can’t let the hits stop her from her dedication to being an ally, even though it’s easy enough to just walk away. In this case, easy enough to be so insulted that the relationship ends there, and I don’t want that. So I wrote an email to the presenter apologizing for my presumptuousness. I told her how much her presentation inspired me, and how grateful I am for her organizing. I waited until I wasn’t feeling so raw and could say those things genuinely without any hidden agenda, because they are true. I am not going to stop being an ally to old lesbians just because I got my feelings hurt. Especially given the sprinkling of handsome old butches in the room yesterday. In the end, my biggest regret is not that I bounced up to the presenter with my good idea, getting roundly shut down and embarrassed as a result. Nor is it that I handed off most of my lunch to the QSA gals, which is, after all, only the motherly thing to do. Nope, my biggest regret is that I forgot, for just that fatal moment, essential information that the Femme Rule Book tries so hard to instill in us all: You never know when you’ll encounter a butch in public.

My biggest regret is not taking the time before the talk to put on some lipstick.

Published in: on March 13, 2013 at 12:50 PM  Leave a Comment  
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