Hey, Hey, Hey – Where’s the GSA?

So pretty much since the beginning of the school year, I’ve been in quite a go-around with Seth and Owen’s middle school about starting a GSA. The principal early on told me that yes yes yes we want a GSA and go see this guidance counselor, who is interested in running the thing. The guidance counselor is a first-year staff member, very enthusiastic, ready to go, but is stymied by the small matter of there not being a stipend for the club, and her union won’t allow her to volunteer her time after school. Back to the principal, who gives me mixed messages, saying things like, “I’ll find the money!” “We have the money!” but secretly believing (as far as I can tell) that the guidance counselor should just buck the union rules and volunteer her time. As a result, not only is the stipend not forthcoming, but the principal bruits around that the guidance counselor is young and untried and quite overwhelmed by her job, so, gosh he worries that she won’t be able to handle starting the club. Which makes the guidance counselor furious, since she’s been bringing this up every week at their meetings, saying very clearly, “I am ready to start. Get me the stipend.” Other players in this drama are a school committee member who I’m friendly with, the kids at the high school GSA who have been trying to get the middle school GSA going since last year, and in fact, went over to the middle school and bearded the principal in his den (to no avail, so far), and various parents and middle school kids. I just talked with the guidance counselor today who is feeling VERY FRUSTRATED and just wishes the principal would be honest with her – if there really isn’t money this year, can we get the promise to earmark money next year? Also, she’s unhappy that he keeps attaching her name to this whole thing, making her into the fall guy, when the entire guidance department is behind the GSA, will, in fact, probably all contribute, and it’s up to the principal, not the guidance counselor, to cough up the stipend.

I’ve written a letter to the editor of the local paper (cc’ing the principal and the superintendent), I’ve informally encouraged other concerned parents to contact the principal, I’ve talked with the school committee member who says he’ll follow up, and every time the PTO has a meeting (I’m the self-appointed LGBT Coordinator, intrepid parent voluteer) I ask about the errant stipend once more.

I know the principal has about 8 million things on his plate, including very nasty budget cuts looming in the near future. On the other hand, this is something he says he wants, and a middle school GSA is imperative – a sanity saver, a life saver. There is no question about that. The guidance counselor says the principal is a yes man who spreads himself too thin, makes promises he can’t necessarily keep, and wants everyone to be happy . To which Seth, when I was telling him about this, asked, “Even the neo-Nazis?” Maybe not them. But a yes man can be a difficult creature to deal with, and I’m feeling a little out on a limb here. Next on the agenda is a mass email to a bunch of parents I think will care, giving them step by step instructions on how to contact the principal in order to show that the GSA has a lot of parental support. I have a feeling that if we just keep pushing, he’s going to have to cough up the stipend, but it’s a long haul, I tell you, and it’s very tricky – am I dealing with a lot of homophobia, or just incompetence, or both or what?

These days, I find myself opening my big gay mouth a lot. I find myself somewhat involved in politics. I find myself doing community activism. These are all things I never really thought I would be doing, but here I am, doing them. It doesn’t come exactly easily, but it feels pretty good. And I find myself engaged and interested, even though it’s frustrating and can feel odd, out there on a limb, all by myself. Calling things out that other people don’t much seem to notice or care about. Are there enough LGBTQ books in the middle school library, in the town library? Why does this town still have an Indian mascot? What’s the deal with the beloved town tradition of doing “Colonial Days” in all the grade schools, where kids dress up in colonial garb and no mention is made of the Indians who were already living here? Don’t all the queers living here want to have a more coherent community so we can, say, have an organized response to things effecting queers, like when those nutjobs from that Kansas Baptist church were going to come picket a production of “The Laramie Project” or right now, when the middle school needs a GSA? These and many other niggling questions and observations occupy my mind, and along with writing (I’m a writer, used to sitting around thinking all by myself) I find myself wanting to push a little, engage a little, see what can be changed.

Maya Angelou said, “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities,” a quote I find extremely inspiring, especially since I’m not aiming for a million – just a few townies would do.


Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 5:43 PM  Leave a Comment  

Your Clipping Service Never Sleeps

When I was a girl, my father had a large library of piano music. Every day, he would choose one or two pieces to sight read, getting great satisfaction out of what he perceived of as a rescue operation. He imagined that no one had played these hoary old tunes for years and years, and he was doing them a service by allowing them to give voice once more.

I like to rescue things, too. I like to hold on to things. On any given flat surface in our house (windowsill, end table, refrigerator door) there are rescued things – or rather, things I like to look at, that remind me of this or that. I’ve got a blue plastic toy motorcycle on my windowsill that was Tex’s when she was a boy, right next to a shiny red rock I got after Seth’s birth, to remind me how brave I was. Owen’s art work from preschool — a star mobile — hangs in my study (he’s in 6th grade).  My metal file cabinet has a postcard of two stroppy gals advertising a local roller derby, along with a sign I liberated from a telephone pole that says NO PARKING AT ANYTIME (see my post of the same name for more on that). Said file cabinet is full of files of wonderful things, too – I tell ya! I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

The other day, I finally had a little time and energy to go through a huge stack of clippings, many still in the original envelopes. These are clippings my parents send me at quite a brisk clip – as my mother penned on a sticky in one envelope, “Your clipping service never sleeps!” I do try to OHIO (Only Handle It Once – a useful concept I learned from a book about adult ADD), but when I don’t, they go in a pile. I don’t like to toss them unread, as I love my parents and in this age of no more letters, getting something in the snail mail is a treat; plus, I usually enjoy the read, as my parents and I share a love for the unexpected, the odd, the ironic, the marvelous, the animal story. In this particular stack, there were many wonderful things, although I did get a little tired of articles warning about cell phone use, a particular horror of my father’s. More entertaining were: a picture of an intrepid and plucky seal plundering fish from a fish farm, having traveled a great distance over land and crossed several roads to get there; an Idaho Rottweiler who adopted a baby sheep whose mother had rejected it; a couple of articles about men attempting balloon chair flight (one of which ended badly); a story about the Iroquois team and the World Lacrosse Championships; a stern op-ed by Joyce Chicoine entitled “Hard times are nothing new for seniors” telling people to stop whining and offering teaching stories like this one, “Building a raft and floating down the river was a big adventure. Playing softball in a neighbor’s yard was common and swimming in an irrigation ditch provided a bit of excitement. We had an old Chevrolet car that took us to town once a week where we would do our shopping and stop by the local café for a piece of pie or buy an ice cream cone at the local drugstore. Somehow, we found ways to have fun without needing a lot of money”; the story of a trucker who lost her dog at a truck stop and many weeks later was reunited with her thanks to the efforts of a sympathetic local woman who baited traps with “the strongest, stinkingest smoked meat” available; an article about the inventor of the game Anti-Monopoly and his lifelong fight with Hasbro and a letter from a woman thanking the Wall Street Journal for their article about cilantro (boy, do some people hate it! my mother and Seth included); an article about Ansel Adams having taken pictures at Manzanar, the Japanese internment camp in California, now a National Historic Site.

People, there are untold millions of wonderful things in this world! I love knowing about them, which is why I really have to limit myself on the internet in this day of extreme informational overload, especially since I  have this crazy desire to hold on to these things, put them on display, somehow honor them. But my penchant/curse/blessing/talent for wanting to hold and treasure them all (I do! I really do!), archive them for some unknown audience (the boys? a future archeologist? a scholar who will find me because he/she is looking for exactly what I have collected on my windowsill and I will be vindicated once and for all, damn all of you who said it was clutter?) severely drains my creative energy. While I’m slowly filling the house up with crumbling clippings, for example, the people in those clippings have surely gone on to do ever more wonderful things, and I’m at a standstill. Rather than hold all of them close to me, I am so much happier when I find a way to let them fly, fly, fly so I can make room for my own creative work.

I therefore take this blog moment to formally acknowledge the infinite and glorious people, events, animals, and teaching stories filling this world, and pledge to try, try, try to love them and let them go so that I can do what I need to do to add to the wonder.

Except for clippings.

Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 3:36 PM  Leave a Comment  

Would MLK Love the Gays? Three Things That Happened Monday Night

Monday night was the MLK Day program in our town, here outside of Boston. Tex and I went on our own, as Seth and Owen were with Sarah* in Vermont, skiing and snowboarding. Last year, the boys were with us, and we ended up writing a letter to the minister at our UU church because not only was she out of town on MLK weekend, her fill-in gave a sermon on local food – no mention at all of civil rights, or MLK. We were all so shocked that we came home and wrote her a letter, which she subsequently read in church, promising that next MLK Day she would not fall prey to such an oversight again. Sure enough, she preached a rip-snorter last Sunday, and, as we told the boys, that was partly because we took the time to say something to her. It was our MLK Day action.

At any rate, Tex and I were feeling good, having come home from church on Sunday to do another MLK Day civil action by brainstorming about and researching ways to support the LGBT members of the congregation, something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. So when we walked into Town Hall Monday for the MLK Day program, we were fired up. Being confronted by a phalanx of boy scouts in uniform drew us up short, as you can perhaps imagine. That was number one.

Number two was that, as we were sitting waiting for things to begin, after having reluctantly parted with our corn muffins (the boy scouts took them off us because they were setting up the food tables), the mistress of ceremonies kept peering at Tex, trying to read her name tag. Tex finally went over to her to see what she wanted, then came back with a bemused expression on her face saying, “She thought I was ‘one of the young men’ they’re going to honor tonight.” Later, we learned that the young man in question is a high school boy who has done a lot of work researching players from the Negro Leagues, with the result that some of them were awarded long overdue pensions. Very inspiring and impressive work, but Tex is neither 16 nor male.

Number three: When the featured speaker was introduced, the man doing the introduction made a big deal about “a black president thanking a Latino man who had helped a white Jewish woman”, obviously believing that he’d covered all the civil rights bases. Gay! Gay! I felt like shouting out, and I actually did whisper it and then I told my neighbor that Daniel Hernandez is gay – news to her.

Oh, and I guess there’s a number four, because as far as we could tell, we were just about the only queers there – of course, you can’t be certain, but none of the queers from church were there (there was a pretty big contingent of people from church), nor any of our fellow queer parents, nor any of the queers we know from around town.

It was just deflating, is the thing. As Tex said, “You start to feel safe, you’re going to a civil rights celebration, and then you realize you’re not really included. It hurts.” It does hurt, and I am always astounded that connections being made between discriminations are still so far and few between.

Then we got to talking about Dr. King and would he have liked us. We have to assume yes, but we know it’s iffy. Here’s what makes me think yes, from his speech denouncing the Vietnam War which I heard on the radio on Sunday (“A Time to Break Silence”, April 4, 1967):

“Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.”

If he can make that connection – over the protests of a lot of people he called colleagues – then I can only hope he would have embraced the civil rights struggles of queers as well, since he very clearly saw the world in which we live. The flavor of our battles might be different and NO, gay is not the new black, but all downtrodden people can learn from each other’s hopes, dreams, and strategies, and together we are stronger and will go so much further.

I can’t wait to see what our family’s next MLK Day action will be; the boys will be with us and there is no telling what we might get up to. Oh, wait, I forgot: EVERY DAY IS MLK DAY!! In the spirit of passionate, intelligent resistance to bigotry of all kinds, may you – may all of us – stay true to ourselves, which is, in and of itself, a powerful force in the world. Amen!



*my ex, called by whatever name comes to mind as I write

Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 12:40 PM  Leave a Comment  

Mean, Scary Tex! (Who is like unto a boy.)

My butch husband now has a pseudonym: Tex. This is because our next story requires that she have a name. Ok: two nights ago, Seth was faffing around, postponing getting into bed by various methods, mostly having to do with sorting through his Magic cards. Then he asked if he could take a bath. I said ok, but told him to ask Tex if she needed to get into the bathroom first. He looked up at me with an innocent expression,

“Could you, Mom?”

“No.” I started walking out of the room – he’s always trying to get out of doing things, the original Mr. No we call him.

“But Mom, wait.” He still had the innocent expression, frowning just a bit. I had turned back and was looking at him perplexedly. He continued, “To tell you the truth, Mom, I’m a little bit scared of her. I mean, is she a girl or a boy?”

At this point I was scoffing and laughing at the same time and I really did leave the room and he went down to ask her about the bathroom, also laughing.

Last night at dinner I suddenly remembered Seth’s joke and related it to the whole table, and we all had a good chuckle. “Mean, scary Tex!” said Tex, who often remarks that she’s the evil step parent. “I’m a girl who is like unto a boy.”

“That sounds like a song!” said Owen, and immediately the two of them started singing, “Mean, scary Tex!” and then Tex added, “Who is like unto a boy!” and then I added, “Stay out of her way, stay out of her way, stay out of her way – she will steal your joy!”

We were all cracking up. It was one of those moments where everybody is completely at ease with who we are, like that wonderful scene in “The Kids Are All Right” when the sister, on her way off to college, says to the brother something like, “I’m sorry to leave you with the moms…”

Even just a year ago, Seth was feeling completely put upon by our queerness, and here he is, joking around. I can’t say I don’t miss his babyhood, the curls, the serious expression on his fat little toddler face, the sweet way he spoke in his little boy voice, but people, I am loving seeing him come into his manself, his sense of humor, the way he’s starting to feel more at ease in the world.

We are a queer family. We are a happy family – like and unlike any other. And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I am one lucky mama.

Published in: on January 11, 2011 at 9:06 AM  Leave a Comment  


The regular reader of this blog, and I believe there is at least one of you, will know that I am divorced from my ex, Stephanie* and that we share custody of our sons, Seth (14) and Owen (11).

Yesterday, I was waiting at church for Owen to finish rehearsal with the children’s choir. I was rather blissfully engaged in writing an actual letter on an actual card, something I’ve been allowing myself to do lately, when Stephanie appeared, looming over me, beckoning me back out into the foyer so we could talk. Urg. But I went. (We belong to the same local UU church, which is not always the easiest thing, but it’s pretty much worked out so far, and it’s a very good thing for the boys.)

Now I can’t even remember what she wanted – she prefers talking in person about minutiae that I prefer to ignore or address via email. The thing is, the longer we talked, the more irritated I got, and the more irritated I got, the more I copped a ‘tude. I didn’t notice it at the time, all I noticed was how irritated she makes me, but once we were done and I went back to my seat, thoroughly out of the letter-writing mood, I had a sudden picture of myself out there. Maybe this is because one of the church ladies, who had been bustling about, passed us several times, and smiled warmly at me every time – she was seeing us and I was seeing her seeing us. Seeing me. Maybe it was because that morning’s sermon had been a good one. I don’t know, but I got it, all at once, what a fucked up attitude I have with Stephanie. I could see myself in my mind, standing at a remove, a distasteful expression on my face, speaking probably more loudly than necessary, waiting impatiently for her to finish or even interrupting so I could make my point, without really listening or giving her ideas any consideration. Talking down to her from my position as a superior parent, one who is more thoughtful, warmer, more understanding of the boys’ needs and desires, and really, an all around better person. Fuck! I thought to myself. No wonder she doesn’t listen to me!

Many people will tell you that Stephanie is a difficult person, even people who get along with her will tell you that. For various and complicated reasons, she has her own problems listening, she’s got severe control issues, she’s highly anxious and chronically unable to see the world from any other viewpoint than her own quite narrow one. With our history, it can be nigh on impossible for me to treat her firmly but respectfully, making sure I stick to very rigid boundaries and do not become emotional, which is the absolute best way to deal with her. It’s hard because she drives me crazy and I absolutely believe that I do know what’s best for the boys and I am the superior parent, BUT she is not an evil person. Fucked up, yes. Evil, no. And she was once a little girl who dressed up to go to a tea party at her Aunt Mary’s house (I used to display the photo; she has it now), a little girl who stayed late at school with sympathetic teachers because it was so hellish at home. Not to mention that we hold between us the precious lives of our babies, who love her and need her. The result of me knowing these things about her is that if I am not EVER VIGILANT, POTTER, EVER VIGILANT#, I get into this vicious cycle of being nice to her because I remember the former and then screeching to a sickening halt and copping that extremely unsavory superior parent/you’re a blithering idiot attitude when she uses my being nice to her as an excuse to practically move back into the house with me.

Ok, but the ‘tude is gross. It keeps me from paying attention, from being the kind of person I want to be, from spreading kindness instead of grumpiness. Here I am, trying to be wise and spiritual and calm (I do devotional reading every morning! I exercise! I work hard!), wanting to give the boys a good example of how to be a grown up, wanting our home to be a refuge and a source of happiness, really thinking a lot about what it means to be human as I start this very last year of my 40s, and I’m standing around in the church foyer where all the church people can see me being a complete fuckhead to my ex? Oh dearie me.

I guess, in the way of these things, by the time I get my degree in the extremely complicated art of Being Divorced From Stephanie, the boys will be off on their own and I won’t have to talk with her but a couple times a year. Well, some people train to be Buddhist monks, some people deal with very difficult divorces with as much grace as possible. And I haven’t been very graceful lately. I really really need to work on not being such an asshole to her – the boys need me to, and Stephanie needs me to, and all of us are important. You are my witness: I’m copping to that.

*her name changes from post to post

#a la Mad Eye Moody in the Harry Potter books

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 5:20 AM  Leave a Comment  

Jazz Ensemble Rumble

Over the summer, Seth started taking trombone lessons. This was completely mercenary on our part, or, as my Magic The Gathering offspring might say, we had a major strategy. Seth would have preferred the saxophone, but everybody plays the sax, and only a few play the trombone, and we have it on good authority that if you play the trombone, you are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the high school jazz band. The high school jazz band is the alpha and the omega, the absolute bees knees, the pinnacle of groovazoid, being run by one seriously suave band director, a really hot Italian number who not only has a facebook page devoted to him by his adoring fans but keeps all the ladies and surely many of the men in a heightened hormonal state when he directs. Those moves! Those shoes!

At the beginning of this school year, I told Seth he should try out for the middle school jazz ensemble (he’s in 8th grade), so he could get in some experience other than the huge, unwieldy school band, but he refused. I mean, he refused quite firmly, probably involving swears, although it has now somewhat faded from my mind. What with fall kicking my ass*, let alone the distinctly unhelpful vibe from my ex, Seth’s other mother (“Ohhh, but….what if he isn’t good enough, I wouldn’t want him to feel bad if he couldn’t keep up with the other kids, blither, blather, blother,” – this about our son for whom competition is life). I reminded him that the whole reason he took up the trombone was to get into the jazz fast track, that they need him, etc., but had to slink off to the tune of his middle finger and deal with the eight billion other fall issues being slung my way.

So here we are in January. In December, there was the all-school winter concert. The huge all-school band wheezed and groaned its way through “Super Heroes R Us” and a few other huge, unwieldy tunes. A young person in the 6th grade chorus swooned in the middle of the token Hannukah song, staggered back to his feet still singing, only to swoon again. And the jazz ensemble tore it the fuck up. They were having fun and kicking out the tunes and were leaving everybody else in the dust.

As we were walking home, Seth said, “I wish I was in the jazz ensemble.”

OH REALLY?? Calmly, casually I asked if he’d like me to email the director, who I happen to know is really nice and is perfectly willing to give my novice trombone player a try, because, they need trombones in the middle school jazz ensemble just the same way they need trombones in the high school jazz band.

“No, Mom,” said Seth. Firmly.

What would you do? This is a child who loves baseball with a burning passion, and yet when Adrienne# set him up with, I believe it was the Tigers, (and I do try to remember this when she is at her most tedious – it was due to Adrienne, not super-un-sporty me, that Seth got on his first ball team), he kicked and screamed and threw fits for quite some time until he finally settled down and started in on his brilliant fielding career.

I emailed the director, and she said, “Sure, come on down.”

But the story doesn’t end there! Seth wasn’t too grumpy with me, as I feared he might be, and he went off to school on the day he was supposed to audition carrying his trombone. And came home and said he forgot to go. I tried not to pop off my head in anger, and while I was trying, asking him mildly what he’d like to do about it, and he, of his own accord composed and sent an email to the director apologizing for not showing up, saying how interested he is in the ensemble and asking for another date and time. She, bless her long-suffering heart, wrote back, telling him to come along to rehearsal today.

This afternoon I was enjoying this really incredible cookie from the health nut store and a cup of Darjeeling tea, perusing the local gay rag, when the doorbell rang. Usually when the doorbell rings on Wednesday it is a certain waif-like lad with the ears of an 80 year old man (seriously pendulous! I am always impressed) who is looking for Owen. Today it was Seth. Carrying his trombone and wanting me to drive him to Adrienne’s (it’s her day today).

We chatted. I said I wanted to finish my tea. Did he want tea? No? Did he have everything? Yes? Ok. I was practically bursting to ask about jazz ensemble, but I held on, and was at last rewarded when he casually said, “So, I guess I’ll be coming to your house to get a ride every Wednesday after jazz ensemble rehearsal because I don’t want to lug this thing all the way to Mom’s.”

Well, I hugged him, gave him five, told him how proud I am of him, that I knew he’d been nervous about it, but he hung in there and did it.

Driving along, we passed a very short boy wheeling a huge case – the tuba player in the jazz ensemble, Seth told me. I said the tuba was practically as big as him, and we both laughed, and Seth said he has a great big personality to match. We laughed again and I had this moment of pure bliss, when the two of us were on the same wave length but completely different people, liking each other, coming together as individuals, no power dynamic, just me and him. I marveled at how mature he’s gotten, how himself he is these days, out in the world.

Then he said,  “Mom, you should have made me try out at the beginning of the year! Why didn’t you? You should have made me, the same way you make me do everything!”

So I pinched him and smacked his arm and gave him hell and we were still both laughing, but back to Mom and kid, but that’s ok. That is always ok.

*see Mommy with a Penis for the penultimate blog entry about fall ass kicking:


and have I mentioned lately how much I love, nay rely on Mommy with a Penis?? Mwah, Mommy!!

#My ex – she gets a different name every post, usually. Hmm, now that I think about it, this could be interpreted as a nod to her completely impossible, schitzy personality…

Published in: on January 5, 2011 at 9:50 AM  Leave a Comment