Where Two or Three…

Every week, I reserve my Tuesday morning for the homeschool QSA, never knowing how many kids are going to show up.

Sometimes no one comes at all. I’ll sit for a while, reading a book or writing something, just hanging out, keeping the space open. Then I’ll go home and have an early lunch.

Sometimes it’s just me and one other kid. Sometimes, that kid really needs to talk and we stay for the full 2 hours. Sometimes, it’s been awkward, because that kid would much rather be interacting with peers and we don’t stay much over 30 minutes.

Today, I thought it might be me and one kid, and I told him that two people can change the world. Another kid showed up, and I said three people can do even more to stir things up. We got started by looking at a 1971 copy of Life magazine that was kicking around, and I talked about how gay rights have changed since that time, which led to a discussion about liberal lip service, “just like you” folks, the isolation of not knowing about queer history and having to reinvent the wheel all the time as well as assuming homophobia is just your own personal hell because Americans like to think everything is about the individual instead of looking at systemic oppression. We talked about how some of their peers feel that the era of GSAs is over, thinking themselves too cool or too sophisticated to ever darken the doors of such a passé group. We talked about queer space and why it’s important. We got to talking about how a radical queer movement has a lot to teach the straight mainstream population, for example, about sexuality and gender norms. Another kid showed up, kind of late, and we talked about liberal lip service again, something she is just beginning to explore and understand.

We also planned our next meeting, which will be open to younger kids, a Junior QSA, and we planned the upcoming GSA Summit we’re co-sponsoring with Queer Mystic: “Combating Lethargy in Your GSA”.

Yesterday, Monday, after a miserable 2 ½ hours at the assisted living place trying to comfort my sad and lonely mother, talking to the administrators about some communication problems and the fact that said sad and lonely mother had pressed her call button Sunday night and no one came to check on her until 3 hours later, I drove off feeling pretty rough. Panicking about where Tex and I will be when we’re old, how we can prepare. Feeling old and lonely right then. Feeling very “what is the point?”.

As we meandered through our discussion this morning at the QSA, we got onto the topic of paths not taken, and I mentioned my little fantasy of what if I had gone to live in San Francisco with the super-radical queers. One of the kids said, “But maybe you’re more needed here, and you’re making more of a difference here than you would out there. Maybe the work that you’re meant to do is here.”

Every Tuesday morning I make the commitment to spend two hours with members of the homeschool QSA. Can I get an amen?

Published in: on February 23, 2016 at 2:02 PM  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

 

 

——————————–

*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)  
Tags: , , , ,

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)  
Tags: , , , ,