Am I in the Right Place?

Yesterday, halfway through the homeschoolers QSA meeting, there was a knock on the door. We all turned to look, and the young person who had knocked looked in turn at us. Then she asked shyly, “Am I in the right place?”

Oh readers, is there not one among you who has not asked perself* the same question? I may be 54 and ticking here in the suburban sprawl outside of Boston, but I still have magical thinking that I’ll be able to do it all over again on the other side of the country (San Francisco, here I come!) or in France (J’arrive, mes vieux potes!), or Japan (Yoroshiku onegeishimasu!).

Certainly my poor mother must be pondering that question, as she never in a million years thought she would find herself living in a nightmare version of yucky college dorm meets tacky low-budget cruise ship (aka assisted living). In this new “home”, all the waiters know her name but none of them can manage to make the water hot enough for a real cup of tea, and her husband of 60 years has been replaced by a toddler: oblivious, food-driven, extremely cheerful except when he lets out all the stops in abusive temper tantrums.

Tex and I had a date recently – we went out to eat. It was a cute little place, very neighborhood-y, full of other folks on dates, families with kids. We had a lot to talk about, and were quite engaged with one another, so it wasn’t until later that we realized how unbelievably straight the culture in the room had been. I am quite sure that every single one of the patrons sharing space with us that evening, if canvassed, would swear up and down to “be ok” with queers. Why, the tattooed bearded young man waiting on us even referred to us as “ladies”! But the cumulative effect was that we both woke up the next morning feeling slimed. In his brilliant and restorative book Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights (Random House, 2006) Kenji Yoshino speaks about the effects of having to move always in a straight culture, “I felt like Gulliver waking in the land of the Lilliputians, battened down by infinite and infinitesimal threads. Any one of them would have been easy to break, but collectively they immobilized me (p. 61).”

Yesterday, I managed to go sit for a wee bit at the Diesel in Davis Square, drinking a decadent Somerville Smog. The queerness soaked into me and felt me so much better (as Owen used to say when small). I didn’t have to ward off; I could just settle in and smile.

Am I in the right place? Oh heavens, how can I know? If I was in San Francisco, maybe me and Carol Queen could hang out and maybe I’d get to explore being femme in more depth than I have the opportunity to do where I am now. If I was in France I would know how to say all kinds of queer stuff in French and could hang out where Gertrude and Alice did. In Japan? Maybe I’d be doing research on the history of queer in Nihon and flirting with sweet Japanese butches… But here I am, with my best and sweetest Texan butch, two excellent sons, a kitty with more toes than he knows what to do with, a very upstanding terrier gentleman and many, many other blessings. And I do feel that I am very definitely in the right place when I’ve helped open queer space for queer youth, like Fridays at the Queer Mystic drop in night. The youth who come in laugh more, stand up straighter, the look in their eyes becomes less guarded. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, actually. And yes, the girl who’d been looking for the homeschoolers QSA was also in the right place that day, and we welcomed her into the fold.

 

 

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*Per (nonbinary.org)

per (person), per, per, pers, perself. Called “person pronouns,” these are meant to be used for a person of any gender. Compare Phelps’s phe pronouns, which are also based on the word “person.” John Clark created “per” pronouns in a 1972 issue of the Newsletter of the American Anthropological Association.[203]

Use in real life and non-fiction: Person pronouns were one of the sets of pronouns built in to MediaMOO for users to choose from.[204] Richard Ekins and Dave King used these pronouns in the book The Transgender Phenomenon (2006).[205]

Use in fiction: In Marge Piercy’s feminist novel, Woman on the Edge of Time, 1976, Piercy used “per” pronouns for all citizens of a utopian future in which gender was no longer seen as a big difference between people.[206]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke per laughs. (Or person laughs.)
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug per.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, per hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow pers.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds perself.

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/per

 

 

Published in: on February 3, 2016 at 11:59 AM  Comments (1)  
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Electric Blue

When I wrote the post below, Bowie was already dead. I had my suspicions thanks to a text from a femme friend (“Oh, no, David Bowie!”) but I was resisting looking it up because I didn’t want it to be true.

“David Bowie Our Brixton Boy RIP” reads a billboard pictured in the Daily Mail article that I found first when I finally did look, along with a tweet from Iggy Pop, “David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.” There were a lot of other pictures, but those were the two that made me sob. I cried all day, on and off, and yesterday I cried in therapy, too. Even though I felt a little silly – weeping like a Beatles freak about a dead rock star? Honestly.

But I was a Beatles freak, albeit 15 years after the original phenomenon. I did wait around in front of the Dakotas with my sister Beatles freak, until John finally walked out and we got to say hey we love you to him, because he was that important to me. My favorite Beatle. I sobbed all night when he was killed, too. Because music and art, as much as literature, holds me in place in the world.

As soon as I started looking elsewhere, I saw posts comparing Bowie to Bill Cosby, saying he was a child rapist. My initial reaction was to defend him and to be angry with the people saying those things: we’re grieving here! Bowie, with his twisted, gorgeous creativity, forged a yellow brick road heading in the opposite direction of normal. Showed me a way out of oppression, long before I knew I wasn’t straight. That’s why I’m crying – part of me is him, somehow.

I don’t want to think about Bowie being a child rapist. I don’t want him compared to Bill Cosby. It was the seventies, things were different, youth had more agency, people were considered to be in charge of themselves, even their sexual selves, at a much earlier age, what male rock star in the 70s wasn’t having sex with teenage girls? (This from the woman who hates Lolita more than words can say…) And he saved so many lives of us freaky little queers! Tex vividly remembers seeing him on “The Midnight Special” when she was still in the single digits, and people, he is freaking queer as shit in that show – check it out if you want to be cheered up! She couldn’t take her eyes off of him, and what’s more, when her mother commented he was bisexual, she got to have a little discussion about that interesting way of being a grown up.

I so wanted to grow old with Bowie going ahead of me, giving me strength as he continued to make art about being human.

I was getting more and more pissed off, but being on the defense committee was distracting me from being able to mourn.

So you know what? I forgive him. I can’t say the same about Bill Cosby and still think it’s way, way off base to compare the two, but I sure as hell have a better understanding of why certain people might find it in their hearts to offer forgiveness.

We need our heroes, and no matter how much we wish otherwise, our heroes are always human.

Bowie, living in an electric blue room in my heart now, and forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on January 13, 2016 at 10:16 AM  Comments (1)  
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Nothin’ Matters and What if it Did?

When I starting hanging out with Delany second semester freshman year, it was an incredible relief. I had finally found someone I could relate to in the sea of stuck-up preppies who inhabited the honors floor where we both lived. I was queer but didn’t know it – just always experienced myself as the outsider – and she was an art school student; neither of us fit in. We delighted each other, however, finding a creative soul connection that I am grateful for even now, though we haven’t seen each other in many years. One of the things we did was make up little songs about dorm life, such as “Snack Bar Guy” and “Karina Bolton”, about the goofy junior who made us laugh while serving us late-night ice cream sundaes, and my very sweet but strange and extremely studious roommate. It was so freeing to have found someone to observe the weirdness with, to laugh with. Perhaps the phrase, “Nothin’ matters and what if it did?” started as a song, but it soon became our mantra. We would toss it off after discussing failures in love, in class, in politics (it was 1981 and our newly-elected president, Ronald Reagan, was making his evil presence known). I know we thought “Nothin’ matters…” the height of sophistication, an arch, nuanced, adult reference to the complexities of life, both tragic and hilarious. We used it to mask our real and desperate feelings of inadequacy, both of us having been sheltered in our own ways, both of us tender and innocent and striving desperately to be ourselves in that miserable pressure-cooker environment of crazy in that long-ago freshman dorm.

I think of that phrase a lot when I’m reading Pema Chodron, trying to wrap my head around the challenge of fully experiencing life while not telling made up stories about it. Being completely on the dot and not giving into your trip, as she says in her funny, left-over-from-the-seventies way. Not telling stories! That is not so easy for a writer. But also: that phrase Delany and I tossed around with such urbanity, filled with self-hate, actually, and a longing for love,* has grown up along with me and my understanding of what it means to be human, to be alive and creative. First of all, it connects me with that hopeful, naïve 19-year old, way back in the day. I’ve got one of those right now, as it happens: Seth is 19, entering his second semester of college. He’s as lost and as hard on himself as I was, and I hope to hell he’s got a few friends to keep him company. Second of all, it just does begin to sound very Buddhist to me. In a funny, left-over-from-the-eighties kind of way.

The regular reader of this blog (and you know who you are), may recall that these past two years have been ones of great upheaval in the Total Femme world. My father has had serious health problems, my parents have needed a great deal of care, Tex hit the mid-century mark and I am even older – we have lost a bit of youthful elasticity, I tell you! — and Seth had a miserable last semester of high school. Cats died. Owen turned 16 with a vengeance. Homophobia continued to grind away at the souls of your hard-working, suburban queers and the gender binary reared its ugly head hither and yon. And Jesus, Mary, Equal Rights, did the world continue going to hell! I know I’m not the only one waking up in the night utterly paralyzed with grief about the heart-breaking particulars of, say, global warming (stop thinking about the bees and go to sleep; stop thinking about the polar bears and go to sleep; stop thinking about the orangutans and go to sleep).

“When we wake up,” says Pema Chodron, “we can live fully without seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, without re-creating ourselves when we fall apart. We can let ourselves feel our emotions as hot or cold, vibrating or smooth, instead of using our emotions to keep ourselves ignorant and dumb. We can give up on being perfect and experience each moment to its fullest. Trying to run away is never the answer to being a fully human being. Running away from the immediacy of our experience is like preferring death to life” (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron, Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, MA, 1997, p. 72).

Delany and I were desperate to be fully human beings. We were gob-smacked by the onslaught of information coming at us that first year of college, so many ways of being in the world, so many things pointing up our ignorance, so much chaos. “Nothin’ matters and what if it did?” made a little space in the madness, gave us a moment to breathe and regroup. And of course, we knew perfectly well that we actually meant the opposite, because we were experiencing everything so deeply and with such drama. It did matter. It does matter. Everything matters and nothing matters; that essential human matter continues to occupy me intellectually and spiritually. I expect it always will.

 

 

 

*not too much later, admittedly influenced by Iggy Pop and still not out, even after a very short but sweet romantic interlude with another girl, I wrote a song called, “Dogsbody” about wanting to be used, used up, use me up! because I truly thought I wouldn’t get love any other way

 

 

 

 

Published in: on January 11, 2016 at 11:53 AM  Leave a Comment  
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As Much Tongue As Possible

I don’t know a ton about Solstice celebrations, but I’m getting ready to cobble something together for tonight’s supper. Tex, Owen, Seth back from college, my mom, my dad and I will sit down with beeswax candles burning, bits of holly from our front yard bushes strewn about, and pretty white carnations in small vases here and there on the table. I’ve got in mind a reading about impermanence, transition, the more things change…

Tex and I are once again project managers of a move for my parents, this time from their rented house down the block to an assisted living unit. The facility is less than two years old and all the folks we’ve dealt with over there have been very kind and very helpful.

We’d been told not to wait until it was an emergency, and it isn’t an emergency, not quite, but my incredibly stoic mother is stressed more than I’ve ever seen her. It turns out my dad is getting more and more “grouchy”, as she put it, by which she means he’s refusing to do anything, won’t shower, and swears and is abusive to her when she tries to awaken him in the morning. Add to this mishegas about their cat (too boring to go into, but the cat is psycho and needs constant care), and she’s about ready to topple.

A friend of ours told us about an assisted living facility in town – her mother is there – and a unit just came up, not a moment too soon.

Last year at this time, we went as a family to a play at the high school, and my folks came to the Christmas Eve service I sing in. This year, not a chance. Not only is my father unable to track anything for that long, he’s got to be close to the bathroom or there might be calamity. Like watching a kitten grow, it’s been hard to notice how much more debilitated he’s become, but it is time, it is past time, to get them more support.

This morning, Tex took my mother over to the facility to look at the unit. It’s not perfect, and it’s quite small, but once they get in there, they’re first in line for other units that come up. And once in there, my mother can get up, go downstairs for a cup of tea and to read the paper, and someone else – a professional someone else – can deal with rousing my dad, helping him shower, getting him his breakfast. “Every single member of the staff has been trained on dementia,” the staff member who was showing them the unit told them. “There’s nothing we haven’t seen, and nothing we can’t handle.” Tex said my poor, wrought up mother’s whole body sagged with relief, and tears came to her eyes. The woman I have never seen cry except for at the bedside of her just-deceased father!

Tex said she told the staff member that my father had been a scholar of 17th century philosophy, had honed his mind his entire career, and that neither of them could have imagined that he would lose that mind, and that both of them were completely without recourse. “We will help you,” the kind staff member repeated, and Tex and I were both crying when she told me about it.

“You start to empathize a little too much,” a sweet gay man in Ptown told Tex when the two of them got to talking about elderly parents this fall (in the way you can get to talking with queer strangers in Ptown). “You start to imagine your body is going down, your mind is going – and that might happen, you will get old, but not yet, honey. Not yet!”

This morning, when Tex and my mom got back to their house, Tex and I were in the basement, assessing the books and file cabinets, figuring out what to move. Suddenly, Tex pulled me into a fierce hug and whispered, “We’ll get through this, baby, and it will help if we have as much tongue as possible!” Since then, we’ve been kissing in corners all day, in-between tears, in-between serious conversation.

My father slept until noon, then came out of the bedroom wearing the orange toque we gave him for his birthday, drew himself up, and asked, “Are we moving?”

I can’t imagine what the world is like for him now – a strange planet. He asked me at the library the other day if I was checking out books (I was returning them in the bin) and he couldn’t seem to remember what cds were, but he is being so brave. We’ve learned that he might not be able to remember details, but that he retains the emotions around things, so we are telling him that we love him, that this is to give his overwhelmed wife some relief, that it will be all right.

Next week, the two of them will be living in a new place, having to learn new routines, but safer and more cared for.

Tonight we’ll light candles and read together and share a meal, as we’ve done so many times since we had to move my folks here a year and a half ago.

Calling back the light. Celebrating the green. Loving each other.

Published in: on December 20, 2015 at 4:25 PM  Comments (3)  
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When Queer Activists Have Gone Too Far..?

Some of my socks have “L” and “R” printed on the toes.

This morning, I found myself growling, “FUCK YOUR OPPRESSIVE SOCK BINARY!”

image

Published in: on December 17, 2015 at 1:03 PM  Comments (2)  
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Out, Out, Out!

One of the most poignant moments in the sweetly earnest, Canadian web series, “Out With Dad,” is when Rose, the newly-out, introverted,  15-year old lesbian, realizes that she is going to have to come out over and over. Every day. For the rest of her life.

I’m 53 years old and have been out for about 25 years. And every day, I come out again. And again. A lot of the time, I don’t notice, or it’s just a little hiccup in my day, but this past week there were two outings that have stayed with me.

Friday, I went to the nail salon I frequent, in a pretty conservative nearby suburb. I was feeling extremely nervous about that evening’s launch party for the grassroots organization I’m part of (Mystic LGBTQ+ Youth Support Network, queermystic.org), and needed something to do other than keep tinkering with my speech. Rainbow nails were in order! I burst into the salon on a femme mission, needing girl power friendliness, just like Elle in “Legally Blonde”. When I told the entire room that I needed the gayest nails possible, two employees immediately sprang to my aid, figuring out the best way to ROY G. BIV the hell out of my mani. I queered that salon to the max – everybody there became part of my gay mission. And my technician, who did an amazing job, found herself telling me about her cousin, a painfully shy butch, an amazing artist, who’s not out, but everyone knows. Because I went in there all gay and loud and proud, a straight family member was able to share a little pain and worry and love she has for her queer cousin with someone who understands.

On Tuesday, I dashed into a local convenience store to stock up on snacks before the homeschool QSA meeting. The cashier, who I think may be from Pakistan, asked me something I couldn’t understand, so I asked him to repeat it. “What is butch?” he said, pointing to the “Life’s a butch” button that I’ve been wearing on my jacket ever since I got home from a Provincetown retreat. I was glad as hell to be wearing it recently when I chatted with a butch gardener in my neighborhood, but now I wasn’t sure how to respond. I forged ahead, gamely explaining about masculine lesbians and feminine lesbians like myself and by the time I’d said “lesbians” a couple of times, the poor guy was looking rather horrified at himself, as if he’d made a terrible faux pas. “I don’t speak English very well!” he apologized, “When I don’t know, I ask! I’m so sorry!” I assured him that it was ok, absolutely ok, and even tried to give him a Queer Mystic card, but he politely declined. He was awfully sweet – “God bless you!” “And you!” — and I did my best, but I think there was quite a large cultural gap remaining when I walked out the door with my gummi worms and potato chips.

The event Friday night went swimmingly, and I killed my speech. Got compliments on my nails. Continued, with my amazing colleagues, to open more and more queer space for queer youth in these lovely, liberal suburbs. It’s going to take all of us and we surely do need each other.

I wish for my nail technician’s cousin that she finds the support she needs to come out one day. I wish for the convenience store man that his generosity and respect in asking for information be met with the same, and I hope that he’s a little more open to seeing that being gay isn’t something to be ashamed of. And I wish for myself, and for you, dear reader, the strength to be as out as is safe for us to be, because even a little goes such a long way.

Published in: on November 18, 2015 at 2:59 PM  Comments (2)  
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Life-Changing Women’s Week

Living in the suburbs, things are nice. We are lucky enough to have a backyard, with a wonderful apple tree, a large yew, a gorgeous dogwood and magnolia. Yesterday, walking the dog, I made him wait for a long time as I enjoyed a catbird, nestled in a tall, bushy rhododendron, going through its entire repertoire: cardinal, sparrow, blue jay, sparrow, cardinal, blue jay, cardinal, cardinal…. It’s quiet and safe here, and the air is a lot fresher than in Boston. Our house is in pretty good repair and we have lovely neighbors. It’s comfortable.

Years can pass.

Years can pass where you put off the effort that it takes to pay attention to parts of yourself that aren’t fed in the suburbs. You think everything’s ok. You have daily tasks, you’re working, the dog needs surgery, your older son has a rough patch but now seems to be doing quite well in college, your younger son drives you crazy ever since he got the i-phone that he is now never without and that has supplanted reading, conversation, participating in household chores and sleep. Your old parents live down the street and their care takes up a lot of time. Your cat has now lost six collars to his active outdoor life, a life you worry about seeing as how a neighbor just one street over saw a coyote at 7am, just trotting along. Cats have been disappearing, sad fliers on telephone poles.

Everything’s fine, though. Normal.

Earlier this month, for the third year in a row, I went to Provincetown during Women’s Week for a writing retreat. It’s always a blissful time; this year, it was revelatory.

I drove down on Friday, and Tex was to come along on the plane later in the week. In the car, suburbs behind me, my mind more or less exploded. Everything I saw and heard made me think – about my writing, two novels knocking around in my head, about the organizing work I’ve been doing, about life, about being queer. By the time I got to our rental, I was in a state. My creativity, no, my queer creativity had roared back into life and had completely taken over. I spent most of the week indoors writing, keeping reading company with Felice Picano (Like People In History) and Richard Rodriguez (Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography), doing puzzles, crocheting, writing, writing. Tex got there, and I kept beavering away. But every time I went out, something magical happened. I met a butch/femme couple who remembered my reading from last year, and was anxious to buy another book with one of my stories in it. Tex and I met another couple who have been together 37 years and who were truly some of the nicest women we’d ever met, and then we kept running into them all over town, and every time we did, Tex and I felt as though we had been blessed, because their presence was so profoundly healing. Another couple we met made us laugh so hard in Toys of Eros with their shenanigans that we almost forewent going to see Karen Williams that evening, but are so glad we didn’t, because she is such an important and hilarious lesbian visionary. We were embraced by another butch/femme couple, with whom we are now machinating about how to sponsor a couple of butch/femme events next year. And that’s not even the half of it, Mary!

Back in the ‘burbs, after (this is not metaphorical) a tearful farewell, Tex and I feel a shift in our bones and hearts. Ignoring the wellspring of queer love necessary for sanity – in other words, chugging along in our suburban haze, excuse me straight suburban haze – is taking a huge toll. We can do it, yes, we’ve proven that, and living here has provided us with opportunities to do work that is fulfilling and important (in ESL tutoring and queer organizing for me and hunger relief for Tex) but our own souls have been crying out. We can’t put off this soul work any longer, deep into middle age, surrounded by tasks and responsibilities, the precariousness of our lives as humans, fallible and without any guarantees of safety, longevity, health. This was revealed to us in Provincetown just now, a gift, a blessing. In Provincetown, the gay mecca, where we were broken open by the lesbian energy and utterly queer culture. Where we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and wanting and connected to other queers, and where we have now sworn we will return as often as possible. Not only that, but we are determined to carry Ptown into our suburban realm, be mindful of taking a spoonful – a whole bottle! – of queer medicine every day. Caught in the straight undertow for so long, we are now strapping on our rainbow floaties and paddling in the opposite direction. Sharks and storms be damned, we are swimming with the mermaids now!

Published in: on October 21, 2015 at 2:30 PM  Comments (1)  
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Brimful of Seth

Seth is working on taking up every atom of space in our lives right now. We are all obsessing about his motives, actions, health, well being. It’s his gift – to suck up all the attention like that. The flip side of charisma. I don’t think he even knows he’s doing it, despite me having tried to point it out to him many times.

Although he (finally) chose Umass Amherst for next fall, it looks a lot like he’s flunking out of school right now. He told me he wanted to go to college, but maybe he doesn’t? See, there we go. He won’t talk about it, so you have to try and figure things out but just end up in some big Seth fantasy that probably has little or nothing to do with the reality of what’s inside his head and heart. He holds onto these things so tightly. So parsimoniously. There’s no getting a clue.

When he was a baby, I used to amuse myself by thinking about things he might do to try and get my goat. Piercing, being queer, being sexual – none of those were going to bug me, as long as he was safe. Ok. Not being safe. Wanting to join the military. Getting a girl pregnant. Those things sounded a lot scarier, and, in fact, he did say he was going to join the army for a while there. And he smokes. And drinks. And is foul to everyone who loves him, even spilling over onto my venerable and vulnerable old parents who now live here. Upsetting. But lots of kids do that shit, and he hasn’t said anything about the military for a while. What I really, really didn’t see coming was not graduating from high school. I’m not saying he’s not going to, because with Seth, anything is possible, but let me just say that when I went on the Big Brother website (“power school”) earlier today, dude has all F’s.

I didn’t see a C-section coming, either, and was completely unprepared. Seth had the cord wrapped around his neck, tightly enough that he wasn’t going to budge without help. Hmm.

At his birth, the doctor and the midwife got him out, though, and he was ok. A little blue for a few moments there, but definitely ok. I was ok, too, after some grief counseling. I really wanted to have that baby naturally, in the birth center, but it was not to be.

Let’s add Misty* to the mix, just for complete disclosure. She is my ex and her gift is to infect everyone with her anxiety until the world is nothing but a miasma of horror and worst case scenarios. I am furious with her because she recently told me she won’t be paying any of Seth’s college tuition. I would like never to have to speak with her again, and am hoping that will one day be possible. Being “divorced to” someone mentally ill has taken a huge toll on all of us. “If I were me,” I find myself thinking these days, “what would I be doing?”

Probably indulging in a little empty-nest melancholy, but I can’t even do that, worried as I am that the nest may remain all too full.

Mama, I’m tired of this sad and unpleasant song. Let’s listen to this one instead: Brimful of Asha

*My ex; gets a new blog name periodically

Published in: on May 9, 2015 at 1:46 PM  Comments (2)  
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One Late Afternoon in Early Spring

As I’m puttering around in the kitchen, waiting for Tex, my parents, and Owen to get home for supper, Seth is at the computer, humming along with David Bowie on his i-pod.

Me: Honey?

Seth (only slightly grumpily): What?

Me: You may have been raised in a den of lesbians, but the music was good.

Seth (unable to stop from grinning): That’s true.

Published in: on April 6, 2015 at 6:02 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Shove Your Suggestion

On good Friday, my spouse and my parents came to hear me sing in the UU church choir. As far as I can tell, everyone except for me and the director, an old friend, are straight.

After the service, one of the other first altos swept up to us, asking me brightly, “Oh, is this your husband?”

“My spouse,” I corrected her, and she and Tex shook hands. This happens all the time, and it was by no means the first time my dear butch husband had been mistaken for a man at that particular church, even though I’m certainly not in the closet. Did my choir-mate forget? Did she think I’d reverted? Who knows!

Yesterday morning just before the 8am call for Easter service, yet another first alto came up to me, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and said, “I have a suggestion!”

Don’t forget to go to the D sharp? Remember we don’t sing on page 2? I was all ears.

“If your spouse identifies as female…”

Shocked and irritated by this sudden foray into my personal life, I said, rather loudly, “Yes, she does – I’m queer!”

Undaunted, First Alto 2, carried on, “Yes, I know, so when you introduce her – because it’s confusing, it’s hard to tell — I suggest that you introduce her as your wife!”

Dear reader.

All I could do was say, extremely loudly, “No!”
“No?” she was confused.

I’m the wife! And it’s way too early for this!” I spun on my heel – I really did! the cliché is true! – and walked off. Trying not to cry. Bang goes my concentration for singing “I Was Glad,” Handel’s insane wall o’ sound we were going to be performing.

By the way, this church is supposed to be a “Welcoming Congregation” and there is, prominently displayed in the main hallway, a bulletin board of advice about how to be good allies to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

The regular reader of this column ( and you know who you are) is probably beginning to wonder just about now why it is that I keep going back to UU churches, and you know, RR, I think I’ve just about had it. The hand that reaches out in fellowship and turns out to have a buzzer permanently embedded in the palm is truly not the hand for me. Despite how much I adore my queeny friend the choir director, it may be time for me do some serious research into how I can combine my love of singing with the lifesaving balm of queer love so that I don’t constantly get torn down in my attempt to be lifted up.

After the service yesterday – neither I nor interfering First Alto 2 sang at all well – I tore out of there like my damn Easter bonnet was on fire. The only person home was Seth, and I told him all about it. We shook our heads at the permanently clueless UUs. Will they ever learn?

“Mom, it would have been good if that was a joke,” he opined. We agreed, though, that you can only make jokes about that stuff if you have some kind of respect and understanding for the queer person’s life. Seth, for example, often tells us that we’re “gay” and all members of the company fall about laughing.

I know First Alto 2 was utterly shocked by my reaction to her friendly suggestion. I didn’t have any shields up at all – it was 8am on Sunday morning! – and I know my face revealed everything. I am 53 years old and have been in a relationship with my butch for over 10 years; did she really think I hadn’t pondered how to introduce her to straight people until just now? Of course, the bottom line is that she wasn’t thinking. She wasn’t thinking of anyone but herself and other straight people. And, one of her many mistakes was thinking that one of my priorities is making straight people feel comfortable.

After Seth went off to Easter dinner with my ex, his other mom, Tex and I hied us to downtown Boston to take in the Queer Women of Color shorts, part of the Boston LGBT Film Festival. We just fucking needed to get out of the house, out of the burb, and into an 100% queer environment. The shorts were awesome. Life giving. My soul unshrivelled just a bit.

The last film of the batch was about vocal activist, Melanie DeMore, the most amazing person. Watching her talk about leading a choir of hundreds of elementary school kids, how she writes a song for them, how over and over she offers her unbelievable talent to help heal the world, made me weep. As the film went on, however, I got more and more uncomfortable. Afterwards, Tex and I agreed that it was one of those “queers as magical creatures” pieces, because nowhere did it discuss Melanie’s personal life, despite her having said that she believes there is no separation between one’s work, one’s art, and one’s life.

I don’t even know if she prefers the pronoun “she”. I don’t know if I should say that she’s one insanely hot butch, or if she prefers to be called “stud” or something else. Because that part of her life was left out. Completely. If the film is to believed, all she has in her life are students and colleagues and a birth family. Guaranteed to make straight people feel great about how much they adore their special friend. For us other queers? Empty of what I, in particular, needed so badly that day: in-depth representations of my queer people in all their complexity and wonder.

The thing about magical creatures straight folks should know is that they can turn on you. Look at Pokemon. One minute, they’re cute and fluffy, the next, they’ve grown fangs and have an extremely evil look in their eye. There’s just so very much you didn’t know about them, especially if you never made any kind of effort to find out. And it’s coming after you now.

Shove your suggestion that dehumanizes and infantilizes me in order to make you feel good. Reach out that hand in false fellowship again and I WILL CUT IT OFF (as the choir director often threatens to do in his dramatic way if we don’t get things right).

And oh, my queer people. Let us find each other, open our hearts, and sing together!

Published in: on April 6, 2015 at 11:00 AM  Comments (2)  
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