Wednesday, May 1, 2013
In case you hadn't noticed, Poppets, I have been silent recently on same-sex marriage. There's a reason for that. If you've been reading my articles for any length of time, you know I am a proponent of marriage equality. I'm a proponent of all kinds of equality, have even written about marriage equality here before, which is why I think many people have been confused by my recent silence.
First, let me say that I am still in favor of marriage equality. The benefits that will be bestowed upon couples once we acknowledge this basic right are vital. They are indeed rights, which means the debate should be moot, because humans cannot bestow rights on other humans; they simply exist. So, no, I haven't changed my mind about marriage equality and still believe in it. Strongly.
But here's the thing – I am distressed and angry over how all-encompassing it has become. Just as I have written about my support of marriage equality, I have also written of my anger over the fact that we, as a community, cannot seem to stay focused long enough to care about anything else. To change anything else. We weren't able to support McDonald's or JC Penney when they supported us. Why should I have faith we can stay focused on everything else beyond marriage equality that still needs to happen. Because there is so much else that still needs to happen.
Marriage equality will not end bullying in schools. Will not protect people from being fired, or evicted, or beaten. Will not prevent parents from disowning their LGBTQ children. Will not keep parents from losing custody in divorce proceedings. Will not address the homelessness faced by LGBTQ youth. Will not allow transgendered men and women to be respected as their correct gender, regardless of the bodies they were born into. Marriage equality would not have even prevented the man who was arrested last month for refusing to leave his partner's hospital room. They each had the other's medical power of attorney. Legally, he was the person who was supposed to be making those decisions anyway, married or not. He was still arrested.
Tell me again how important marriage equality is?
Now, Poppets, I want to be wrong. I want this to be the first step. I want us to achieve this goal and rally around the next one. I want this to be the issue that unites us, that actually makes us the community we claim to be. And if that is how it works, I will stand on every mountaintop I can find and shout that I was wrong. Okay. Maybe that's a bit melodramatic. I will, however, step up and announce it here. With great happiness.
I just don't think I'm going to be wrong. I think – I fear – we are going to get this milestone and then...forget. We will have gotten what we wanted and we will move on, without much thought to the bullies, or the employers, or the landlords, or the parents. To the LGBTQ people who really haven't been able to think about marriage because they were trying to get by day to day. Every now and then, we will change our facebook avatars so we can feel good about ourselves, but this level of engagement? This level of commitment? I don't believe we will keep it up.
Life and death. Legal recognition. Basic human dignity. Respect. The ability to put food on our family's tables. Rally around these issues, Poppets. Rally around them the way we've rallied around marriage. Children are dying, bullied to the point of suicide, and even flat out murdered.
Tell me again how important marriage equality is?
Look, I'm not saying marriage isn't important. I'm not. I believe it is. We just cannot let it be the only important thing, the most important thing. Let's use it as a first step, a really solid starting point. And then let's get things done. We can do this, Poppets. Prove me wrong. Please.
Until next month, Poppets, take care of you – and each other.
Monday, April 1, 2013
Like many people, Poppets, I have a love-hate relationship with labels. On the one hand, life is a lot easier when we can use a word or two and be on the same page. On the other hand, too often labels are used to pigeonhole us, to confine us. To label us. Yes, I am a rubenesque, Pagan, cis-sexual, non-gender binary conforming, liberal-leaning, Southern, married, Bostonian brunette who dyes her hair red. But I’m also just…me. See the issue? That first paragraph tells you far more about me than the second one, but the second one is far more complete.
Which brings us to the issue I have with talking about “the LGBTQ community.” What exactly do we mean when we talk about that? Sure, we mean lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, transgendered people, and queers. However, anyone who knows much about sociological spectrums knows that there are far more than five points on any scale. Thus, I have come to appreciate the word “queer.”
Now, I know for many people, queer is an insult. This is not to invalidate or negate that. It was for me for a long time as well. I considered it a word we could not reclaim, regardless of our best intentions, akin to the n-word for black people or “girl” for women. A word that was too derogatory for too long – still currently, even – for us to ever be able to adopt it without the stigma hanging over it. If you still feel that way, I get it and you have my respect around it. However, my feelings on this have changed.
For me, the word queer has come to include every point on the spectrum, not just the four LGBT points. You can be a gay man, or a non-transitioning, lesbian, transgendered woman and both be “queer.” I have written here before about the prejudices bisexuals often face, and the biases against bi-gendered people. Non-transitioning transgendered people struggle for acceptance and validation. I have friends who, while they are indeed gay men, reject the implications of the word gay. I have lesbian friends who have been called out for identifying themselves as gay when they “are really lesbians.” The label we adopted in order to include us all has become something we use to exclude each other instead. If we don’t fit neatly into our label, our specific alphabet soup, we can be more easily outcast. More easily judged. And really, isn’t that what we were trying to end in the first place?
So I have come to embrace “queer.” Queer includes the whole non-heterostandard spectrum, regardless of sexual identity, regardless of gender identity, regardless of comfy settling into accepted alphabet soup. Queer says enough. It labels enough. We can be on the same page, without pigeonholing ourselves or each other. It works the way labels are supposed to work, by making us freer instead of holding us back. And that’s a label I can live with.
Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.
Friday, March 1, 2013
As an ally, I had a wake-up call this past month, Poppets, in the form of two separate events, a thousand miles apart. One took place among people from the
Pacific Northwest. The other,
among people from the Louisiana and Mississippi. Let’s start
with the happy one…
David and I were out one night when we met three women. Two, Sarah and Trisha (not their real names), were a young couple. The third was Mama, Sarah’s mother. Sarah and Trisha were young, articulate, happy, ambitious, gorgeous, you name it. They were confident in themselves, each other, and their place in the world. Mama spoke of both of them with great pride, telling us about each of their accomplishments and goals. As the evening wore on, Trisha invited us to her family’s picnic the next weekend. Her mom would be cooking and her dad always had a couple kegs of beer. It was a huge event with friends and family from all over. Mama could drive us all in and drive us home again. It was the epitome of family and love and hospitality at its finest. And yes, two young lesbians were at its core. Now, I admit, I don’t know their story. I don’t know if coming out and acceptance was easy or hard, loving or painful. I can tell you that the kind of confidence and comfort these two young women have does not grow in a vacuum. If it was hard or easy, they know they are loved and supported by their families and friends. They have the strength of knowing they are okay behind them, and that’s a powerful gift.
Which brings us to the second event. A friend of mine, who happens to be a gay, Black man, got into a discussion with acquaintances of his. One of these people made racially derogatory and anti-gay statements. My friend called him out on them. Not rudely, but appropriately. The situation escalated until the bigot stormed off in a huff. At which point, the rest of the group got on my friend’s case about hurting the other man’s feelings. About not embracing the teaching moment. About being divisive instead of inclusive.
Really? A straight, white man says nasty things about gay people and people of color and his feelings are the ones to be considered? Again, let me be clear. This wasn’t someone making a good faith effort or who spoke out of ignorance and was willing to learn. This was someone who used derogatory language and then escalated when he was told he was being inappropriate. But the gay, Black man should watch his tone.
Neither of these events is particularly noteworthy, or surprising. Until I tell you that Trisha and Sarah are from
and Louisiana, and the group who were more
concerned about the bigot were the ones from the Pacific
Northwest. That’s when it becomes a wake-up call.
We need to remember, each one of us is an ally to someone, in that each one of us carries privilege somewhere. Maybe you are gay, but male. Female, but able-bodied. A person of color, but straight. Each of us is an ally to someone. But this doesn’t give us carte blanche to pat ourselves on the backs and know we’re “the good guys” because we’re aware, or we reject out and out prejudice, or because we hang out with the other good guys. Just because we’re from the “right” part of the country, or we don’t run around using slurs, doesn’t make us the good guys. Being part of one marginalized group doesn’t absolve us from having to be sensitive to another. How are we raising our lesbian daughters? Our transgendered sons? How are we treating our children’s Black boyfriend or their Hispanic girlfriend? In situations where we have the privilege, who are we more concerned about? The person who was rude? Or the person who defended themselves?
It’s easy to stop asking ourselves these questions. It’s easy to rest on our laurels and point the finger at others. Too easy, Poppets. So this month, let’s not rest. Let’s take note of the times and places where we have privilege and make sure we are actually being allies, not just claiming to be. Let’s stop lumping everyone together and making assumptions. Let’s work on making our corner of the world a safer place, by starting with ourselves.
Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.
Friday, February 1, 2013
February means Valentine’s Day, Poppets, which can be delightful or dreadful, depending on your outlook. For me, personally, I love it. When I was single, it was a great day to pamper myself, hang out with my friends, and eat chocolate. Now that I’m married, it’s a great day to pamper David, hang out with my best friend, and eat chocolate. I do recognize, however, that I am a bit unusual in this way. However, single or partnered, I’m about to make your Valentine’s Day more delightful and less dreadful. No love coupons. No heart-shaped chocolates or stuffed bears. Not even gas station roses. Ideas that actually work, for your partner, or yourself.
For the traditionalist, it’s hard to beat flowers. Sure, they are an old standby. A little clichéd even. That doesn’t make them bad. Consider them classic. Mix it up a little bit, though. Instead of roses, buy a bouquet of several different flowers, all in the same color. Or buy a single flower for each room. Or go with flowers for their meanings. If you are buying for a partner, know these: pansies for loving thoughts; ranunculus for radiance; sunflower for adoration; and passion flower for, well, passion. If you are buying for yourself, consider these: aster for contentment; gardenia for joy;
Casablanca lily for celebration;
and my favorite, gerbera daisies for cheerfulness.
For the person who loves to be pampered, bath products are your friends. If you already love baths, great. If not, trust me on this one. If you are building a bath for your sweetie, or putting it together for yourself, start with a nice candle. It doesn’t have to be one of the $20 deals at a boutique. It can be from the grocery store. And it doesn’t have to be fruity or flowery. They have all kinds of scents these days, from linen to pine, to cologne. Find a scent you like and pick up a couple – or three. Light the candles and run a bath. Don’t like baths? Fine. Run the shower. Either way, feel free to use up all the hot water. It’s one night. Find whatever music you, or your partner, likes and play it. Add bubbles or a moisturizing body wash and let the hot water make all your troubles go away.
For the nontraditionalist, if you are partnered, agree to do the thing he or she has wanted to do, but you have resisted. Maybe it’s taking dance classes. Maybe it’s watching a chick flick or an action movie. Maybe it’s trying a new ethnic cuisine. Whatever it is, make the arrangements yourself and join in, wholeheartedly. Don’t half-ass it. Don’t complain if you aren’t having fun. Don’t let yourself not have fun. Enjoy it for and with your partner. If you are single, do the thing you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t been able to bring yourself to do. Maybe it’s change, cut, or dye your hair. Maybe it’s ask your crush out for a coffee. Maybe it’s get a tattoo. Whatever it is, February is your month. This is your day. Do it. Not for anyone else, but for you.
At its core, Valentine’s Day is about love. Love is something we often lose sight of, and that’s a shame, especially given how hard we are still struggling to have our right to love be accepted. This month, let’s embrace love. If it’s love for our partners, our friends, or ourselves, it’s Valentine’s Day, Poppets, and it’s all good.
Until next month, take care of you.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Back when I worked in human services, I had an exercise I did with my groups. Take a piece of paper and brightly colored pens and write everything you liked about yourself all over the paper. It was good for these women to see it, have it there in front of them. One woman, though - it was eighteen years ago, but I remember her so clearly. When it came time for me to show off everyone’s papers, hers was almost blank. In one corner, in little tiny letters, in black ink, she had printed “I’m a good friend.” All I could do at first was look at it. Finally, I looked at her and asked if that was really all she liked about herself. She nodded. My heart broke.
I did the only thing I knew to do; I told her it was the saddest thing I had ever seen. I told her we were going to fix this. The rest of the group chimed in. They loved her. They knew there was more to her than that to like. As much as I wanted to let them go, the point of the exercise was to acknowledge what we liked about ourselves. In this instance, the group didn’t matter.
Instead, I turned her paper over and handed her a hot pink marker. This time, though, she wrote I AM A GOOD FRIEND! It filled the page. Those five words took over those 8.5 x 11 inches in hot pink. She started to weep, saying “it’s so beautiful…it’s so beautiful…” Poppets, let me tell you, there wasn’t a dry eye in that room.
On that note, I have a recommendation. For many years, now, I have gone on record as being…less than excited, shall we say…about New Year’s resolutions. Starting a new year that way inherently requires us to make a list of things we don’t like about ourselves. Why would we do that?? Instead, this year, let’s celebrate the things we like about ourselves.
Get your piece of paper. Get your colored markers. Fill your page. Make it big. Make it loud. Make it yours. I promise you, there is something wonderful about you. You are worth hot pink letters pouring off the page. What better way to start a new year than by remembering those things?
When you’re done with it, tuck it away somewhere safe, frame it and hang it on your wall, tape it to your bathroom mirror. Whatever you do, don’t just throw it away. We can revisit them next year and see what we can add in a year.
May your 2013 be even better than your 2012, Poppets. Until next month, take care of you.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
It’s the holidays, Poppets, and you know I love them! Halloween through New Year’s, I’m giddy. This year, though…this year was looking unusual. According to David’s schedule, we were supposed to be on the road for all of them: October 31st, November 22nd, December 25th, and December 31st-January 1st. And not on the road, as in over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go. On the road, as in living in a hotel room in some small town in northern
he worked every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We talked about me getting a ticket to one of my sisters’ homes, and doing Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. I nixed that idea. As much as I love my sisters, “family holiday” means being with David. Wherever we are, so long as we’re together, I’m happy.
Then, the day before we were scheduled to leave, he got a call that the site he was to take over had been closed for the winter. He didn’t have to go to work until early January. Um…yay?
I mean, I am the queen of the unusual holiday. I have fed over a dozen people. I have fed two. I have served at soup kitchens. I have been a hostess, and a guest. I have eaten my own recipes, and dishes I had never seen before. I have even turned up the heat and poured daiquiris for misfit toys. Yes, I had managed to embrace the idea of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas in a hotel room in
with nothing but a mini-fridge, a microwave, and the specific days off.
Now, we get the holidays at home, but at what cost? Like most people, when David doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid. Sure, there is a token salary to keep him on payroll, but it’s really just that – a token salary. With less than a day’s notice, we were facing somewhere between six and eight weeks without a real paycheck. And those weeks include not only the holidays, but his birthday. And my mother’s birthday. And approach our wedding anniversary. And, oh, by the way, we’ve just moved so we have a new apartment to set up, plus slightly higher rent with people who don’t know us, so have no goodwill toward us. And, and, and…
And, my dear David looks at me and smiles and says “We get to have the holidays together. In our home. They haven’t laid me off. We can decorate.” He pointed to his computer, and added, “There’s so much free stuff to do here over the next two months!” When I looked into his eyes, he was genuine. This wasn’t an act, meant to make me feel better, or to convince himself it was okay. He was truly embracing – was thankful for – this turn of events.
So, I thought about it. We’ve been worse off. Far worse off. We’ve spent the holidays apart. Driving in dangerous snowstorms. Flying in treacherous weather. Broke. Unemployed. Homeless. Truthfully, I was shocked. Shocked at myself. Shocked at how quickly I had forgotten how far we’ve come. How blessed we are. You might even say, if you wanted to be emotional about it, that my Grinch heart grew three sizes that day.
Do me a favor this year, Poppets. Remember to find the gifts that may come in unexpected packaging. Don’t stress if it’s not all perfect. Or even at all how you’d planned it. Embrace the bumps that will come this month. Enjoy the imperfections, and even the setbacks. It’s the holidays. Wherever you are. Whatever you’re doing. Whomever you’re with. Decorate, even a little. Find the free stuff. Look at the world with a sparkle in your eye. If this year is better than last year, or turns out to be worse than next, who cares? It’s now. It’s this holiday. It’s now. It’s a blessed time, whatever you celebrate. So stay here. Stay in this moment. And enjoy this holiday season, whatever it brings.
Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
It’s November and there is so damn much to write about this year, Poppets. Being me, I’m going to focus on the election, though. In case you hadn’t put it together, I tend to swing liberal. I know; you’re shocked. But I have also never voted strictly party line. Talk to me sometime about how furious I was with the Democrats during the bailout a few years ago, and what they pushed through as part of the economic recovery. Let’s chat about illegal immigration and speaking English in the
I will shock you for real, I’d venture. All that being said, I tend to swing
liberal and am quite proud of that fact. I am also, in spite of having called
him out before, a huge Barack Obama fan. Huge. My fear is that this makes me a
minority without our community, and I have to ask why? United States
The man has been called the worst president for LGBTQ issues ever. He has been ridiculed and insulted for not doing enough. People are saying they would rather not vote than vote for him. All of which is just stupid. Let’s break this down.
First: President Obama has been on the cutting edge of LGBTQ rights and issues, right along with us. And, he has been doing it while trying to ensure the rights of women, children, the unemployed, the elderly, non Christians, and every other American in the world. He is, indeed, our President. He is not, actually, only our President. If you lost sight of this for a little while, think back on Mitt Romney’s 49% comment, where he, in essence, washed his hands of almost of half of the nation. Just because we want him to spend all of his energy and time on us, doesn’t mean he can. He has to care for his entire constituency, not just a certain percentage of it. And he has given us more of his time, energy, advocacy, and nerve than any other president ever.
Second: President Obama has been serving with a Congress one half of whom has come out and said their only goal is to see to it that he is a one-term president. That’s it. That’s all they care about. That’s where their energies are going. This Congress has not cared about jobs, any marginalized group – including, but not limited to, us – the economy, sagging education, spiraling insurance costs, keeping people fed, keeping people clothed, keeping people housed, or a partridge in a pear tree. Their entire focus has been on making sure Barack Obama only serves one term. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to accomplish anything at all when the people who are supposed to be working with you are actively trying to stop you? And yet people are blaming him for not accomplishing enough.
Third: President Obama is worth your vote. Go back and re-read those first two. But even if you disagree with me, Mitt Romney doesn’t deserve your vote. I lived in
while he was governor. He was not good to us. Oh, he was lovely, so long as we
stayed in the closet where we belong. He even “played fair” by signing into law
rights bills that had been passed by the state legislature. But…since when does
signing a law that your state and your constituency want earn you cookies? And
let’s be clear, not voting at all because you don’t want to vote for Barack
Obama is, for us, the same as voting for Mitt Romney. Do not fool yourself into
thinking that you remained neutral or took some kind of higher road. You won’t
There you have it, Poppets. Get out and vote. Research the candidates. Pay attention. Listen and read beyond the spin. Vote your conscience and your pocketbook. And do not be fooled into thinking that not voting is somehow moral. You’re better than that. I have faith.
The month begins with an election and ends with Thanksgiving. Let’s hope we have something to be thankful for. Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.