The birds are hungry! We’ve been going through a twenty pound bag of birdseed about every ten days. At $17 a bag, that was expensive. So, yesterday, Lee went on-line searching for a less costly bag of seeds the birds would actually eat. We’d bought cheaper varieties only to have them sit untouched in the feeders. He found a twenty pound bag for $6.99 at a tractor store about ten miles from our home. It had great reviews, so we went there last night to buy a bag.
Sitting in lawn chairs by the front door, was a man dressed in camouflage. At his feet was a massive, overweight white boxer. Beside him, in another lawn chair, was a young boy also in camo about ten years old. As we approached, the dog and the boy stood up and walked towards us. Lee reached down to pet the dog as the man greeted us with, “How you folks tonight?” While we both answered and stroked the friendly pup, the boy lunged closer until he was inches from Lee’s face and shouted, “I know you!”
Lee and the boy shared of meeting at the electronics store where Lee works. Then the boy asked if we’d buy a raffle ticket to support his 4-H club. The prize was to be our choice of two different guns. The 4-H event the $5 contribution supported was the BB shooting competition. The dad joined in as both told of how fierce the competition was and how it was strictly funded by this very fund-raiser. The dad told of how they’d been beat last year by a girl from a neighboring county who was competing for the very first time.We visited for a few minutes, talking of dogs and kids and sporting competition in general.
Once finally in the store, we were warmly greeted by the cashier, a small woman with a big smile. We don’t often venture into tractor stores and were delighted to find a vast array of dog food, toys and treats along with all things animal. I loved the smell, like a very clean barn. We quickly found the birdseed in the middle of two rows of seeds and feeders of every size. Lee carried the twenty pound bag as we leisurely meandered down every row, unable to not look at everything. I stopped to take a picture of the baby ducks. They were real ducks by the way.
At least a dozen times, we were asked if we needed help. Each time, the clerk smiled and looked us in the eyes. When not offering to assist us, we could hear her talking with other customers. She was equally friendly, greeting human and dogs, who were obviously welcome there, alike. Finally, we checked out, reluctant to leave the store that had surprised us not only by all the unusual things they sold, but by the unusually friendly and welcoming manner we have been treated.
I tend to cringe when I see camo. It’s almost like seeing a Civil War confederate flag. I halfway expect the KKK to come from behind whoever it is, flying towards us on horseback in their white robes, torches in hand. Fortunately, I usually cringe for nothing. I certainly did last night.
I like to think that by our friendliness we penetrate stereotypical impressions. I like to think that by connecting with someone with a smile, we invite another to see us differently by seeing us the same, if even for a moment.
Last night, the friendliness of others invited me to see differently and penetrated my own stereotypical impressions.
Lee and I attended the Gay Straight Alliance Youth Summit at Georgia State University this past Saturday. I’m not sure we were really supposed to be there, but we were. Our friend Vanessa has two daughters. A friend had invited us whose brave daughter is very active with GSA and has been trying for a year and a half to start a GSA group at her high school. Mother and daughter had gone to the summit last year and told us we must go this year, so we did. We met them all there.
It was amazing. There were at least 150 people, the majority high school and college students and a handful of supportive teachers, counselors and parents. P.F.L.A.G. and Georgia Equality had a notable presence. They began the day by going over terms used to identify and describe us. They also talked about the terms that belittle and shame.
I learned a lot. I’m over 50. I’ve only been a part of this “community” for four years. The first thing I learned was that the most accepted umbrella term now is “queer.” It makes me cringe a bit, I admit. It was a negative shaming term most of my life. Yet, I see so clearly how a term that identifies us all is helpful.
(I struggle to find my place here. I am straight. Yet, I no longer live in the straight world. I am not a part of a straight couple. Oh, I also learned the termed “heterosexual” is out now. I won’t go into that right now though … A reader suggested the other day that I was pansexual. They mentioned that term Saturday. It’s used synonymously with omnisexual. While theoretically that does describe me, it doesn’t really feel authentic. Pansexual means (as I understand it) that the sexual attraction follows a personality or emotional attraction and is not dependent on a certain gender or orientation. Yes, that works for me logistically and I don’t reject it completely. I find that concept beautiful in and of itself, by the way. However, I was attracted to Lee as a man. I relate to him as male. So, that leaves me ‘straight” and without a name. That is, until now. Now, I fit quite well under the inclusive “queer” umbrella, used to describe the other 15% of the population that is strictly “straight.”)
Throughout the day, I heard the young people there relay (when asked) if they experienced bullying, threats and harassment. Almost all said they did. Some told of being threatened daily and of being afraid of being jumped, beaten, or even stabbed. The Summit provided them, at least for a day, a safe place, an accepting place, a home even. I wondered how many of their parents knew they were even there. I wondered how many were afraid to come out to their mothers and fathers. One told of being thrown out of his house when he told his family. How many of them were being themselves for perhaps the first time ever without fear.
There were a few who said they never experienced any sort of bullying. Imagine!
In another life, I worked with teenagers in a spiritual setting. I would accompany them on weekend “rallies” and “retreats.” The first time I went, I was amazed at how the kids behaved and more amazed by how they were treated by the adults there. They were respected and honored. They were the leaders of the events with the adults functioning in a supportive role. This one day felt much the same way. The difference on Saturday was that these kids had found self-respect and honor not necessarily from the adults in their lives, but perhaps in spite of them.
It broke my heart thinking of these beautiful young people leaving that safe place and returning to homes where they hid and schools who hated them and adults who preferred to think they did not exist. Still, I felt lighter by the end of the day. When I was in high school, I’m sure at least 15% were queer. I knew no one who would have dared claim that name then. There was no GSA, much less a summit. There was no discussion or demonstrations. There was no discomfort felt by our presence. There was no Pride or rainbow. There were no brave politicians or even teachers willing to fight for equality for queers. There were no out teachers, either. There was no safe place, for even a second.
Straight kids came too on Saturday. They came to support their friends and start GSA groups at their schools. They stood and sat together as one.
Their generation will not tolerate the insanity and fear of my generation.
While we were both still floating in the experience of the summit, on Monday, we received an email from a woman at Storycorps. Last year, Lee and I had recorded an interview for the non-profit. They had given a presentation at the Phillip Rush Center and asked for members of our community to go and tell their story. Anyone can do it and can talk of anything they like. The stories are all filed at the Library of Congress.
For our story, I interviewed Lee. Our focus was on his being transgender. Our personal love story was woven in the telling. Anyway, we received this email saying that part of our story was going to be aired on WABE, the public radio station in Atlanta. It was at that studio we made our recording through Storycorps. They aired it twice on Tuesday and it’s the featured story on the Storycorps website right now. It’s only 4 minutes of the 45 minutes we talked, but it’s a beautiful little section.
Here is the link
It was a bit scary letting people know it was going to air. For Lee, it is coming out again, and again and again.
It’s crazy that “being lesbian” seems so much easier.
Perhaps it is the assumptions that are easier, to agree with the assumptions that people make.
We struggle ourselves with the pronouns.
We strive to make people comfortable and meet them where they assume we are;
as far as they can go without experiencing any discomfort.
We do ourselves no favor.
What a price when someone’s momentary discomfort is more important than our own authentic self truth and honesty.
No more. I will not tolerate the fear and insanity anymore. It was my own. It is worn as a crown by my generation. It has defined my gender, the conforming and gentle lady who empowers others and not herself.
We are the courageous product of the 60’s. We defied the racist agenda of the generations before, yet walked in deep paved footprints and called them our own, carrying a torch of separation and discrimination.
We even let them highjack Jesus, as my brother in love Eric says, and claim the footprints were made by a vengeful God of hate.
My grandson says, “Don’t be a hater.”
I picked up a bumper sticker Saturday from the ACLU.
Gentle, yes. Loving, yes. Outloud, yes.
Where have I been? Dace, I apologize for not responding. I took a long blog break, computer break really, only using my phone for web world connections most of the time. I read your posts though , as they came across my email and enjoyed each one.
I think I am back. I’ve written a few posts on my life with heart disease blog, a lighter sort of posting mostly about our vegan intentions and efforts. Life and living seems to be easier these days. I’m either use to the threat of dying from this disease or I really am miraculously much better. I like to think it is the latter. How else could I walk the streets of downtown Atlanta at last year’s Pride Festival in October? I was in a wheelchair the year before. How else could I walk the shores of the lake by our house? How else could I be back at all?
I wonder too, is life easier as the perceived “same-sex couple?” or, am I simply growing use to it as well? The stark differences remain. In fact, as I go and do more, I see the difference more. When I walk along the lake with just our little dog, Sam, people stop to chat. They smile and look me in the eye. When Lee goes with us, seldom do people stop or barely even say hello.
If time allows, we “win them over.” In a restaurant, we usually bring a hostile server around with our warmth and smiles. Sullen cashiers often come around, too.
There is a loneliness though. It is not a personal, as in my own loneliness, but a piece of life that is not available to us well beyond the legal gaps in our basic human rights. Other than with family, and only some family at that, there is an absence of men in our lives. Despite our being in truth a heterosexual couple, we are almost void of heterosexual couple friends.
Women are comfortable around us, both straight and lesbian. Men, however, are not. With the exception of a very few, even the men who claim to be comfortable exert a quiet hostility towards Lee and cannot seem to resist the urge to make snide remarks disguised as funny comments or sad jokes. Daniel, Charlie, Johnny, Jim, Keith, you are the exceptions should you ever read this.
Perhaps it is Lee’s own guardedness that calls this out in men. Perhaps, it is Lee’s silent demand that they not see him as a woman who puts them on edge. Who is on guard first, Lee or them? And, why?
Perhaps, it is the wholeness, the completeness, the quiet strength of Lee that intimidates them so. I have known a few so well, these biologically correct men, through failed relationships and painful marriages. None of those come close in strength, nor in gentleness. None have dared to see me nor have allowed me to really see them.
I’m reminded of the movie, “What Women Want.” Lee has lived that movie, without the comedic punch lines. Lee knows too well the woman’s heart and mind. Not only has he lived in a woman’s body, he has been allowed in where few men are allowed or dare to enter. He has been the confidant and safe place, much like the gay guy friend of a group of giddy girls. Perhaps straight men know that and are intimidated by that truth, that Lee has gone where they cannot go and would never have the courage to go if allowed to. Of course they would not be allowed there, though. It takes that gentleness and wisdom that only comes by personal understanding and even experience to gain entry.
Despite all a cruel world and the insanity a fearful humanity can dish out, life has never been so kind.
Despite all the attempts of religiosity to demonize a loving God and the layers of human love that reflect It, love itself is far greater than their efforts.
I have beside me a most gentle man of strength.
He is my last Valentine.
Life saved the best of the best for last.
I love you Lee.
We chose to accept a dinner invitation from friends for New Year’s Eve. Their home was located only about twenty miles from here, but in a county known for years and years as a KKK hub. Why a lesbian couple would choose that spot I have no idea, but as it’s our neighboring county, we often find ourselves there as well. For the most part, it seems people are just as friendly and just as rude there as anywhere else.
(I have to note that when I completed this post, I checked for possible pictures to add in the “WordPress Recommended Media Gallery.” Over half of what was “recommended” based on the content of my post, was pictures of the KKK, even though the above paragraph contained the only mention of it. A few fireworks and the KKK. Interesting, kind of like the news actually, grabbing the most abrasive content. Or perhaps more intuitive than I like to believe…)
New year’s Eve, however, we stopped at a couple of stores on the way to pick up some last-minute things for the family dinner we were hosting the next day. We stood in line at the checkout of one of the stores behind a couple, a man dressed in camouflage and his supposed wife. About halfway through their checking out, he turned and saw us. Really saw us. He immediately moved closer to his wife and put his arm around her. He then whispered in her ear, both of them giggling as she turned to steal a glance at us. I felt a little angry and even a little frightened. I realized this could still be a scary place, especially on a night when people would be drinking more than usual and in large groups.
As unpleasant as that was, the clerk running the register was as friendly as they had been rude. She was the best kind of friendly, not treating us with a strained overdone crooning, but with an authentic kindness we could assume was how she treated everyone.
Over the holidays, we’d seen parents pull their children away when they noticed us and watched eyes roll. We’d seen the jaws clinch and the heads shake. We’d also been smiled at and had doors held open for us. We’d been treated well, and respected at least as often as not.
We’d been embraced by neighbors and the family of our son-in-law. One of my grandsons gave Lee a measuring tape that said, “Grandpa’s” on it. The other gave him a pack of monogrammed handkerchiefs. He considers them his favorite gifts and now two of his most prized possessions. We spent the holidays with cherished family.
While the political state of affairs may not look as promising this year, progress can’t only be measured by the passing of laws that force equality. Progress also comes when one person, just one allows themselves to lay down a fearful belief or just for a second see someone they fear as a person, just a person, just like everyone else.
Old habits die hard. Even in my family thoughtless phrases are used and degrading terms slip. My grandsons hear things at school and especially the younger one, repeats what he hears not realizing the term he is using is used to hurt his grandparents. Nervous giggles are telling and speak volumes to children. Yet, the nervousness is a good thing! It means a new idea has butted subconscious heads with an old belief that lay hiding behind the best and most loving intentions. I know I have plenty of my own. I also know I can be way too sensitive for my own good.
Sing it with me, to the tune of “You’re So Vain,”
“I’m so gay…I probably think that stare is about me…”
I sincerely doubt we’ll be able to legally get married in Georgia this year, or even the next. I suspect we’ll continue to get stares and giggles and spastic head and eye movements sent our way. For the most part though, we’ll live our lives quietly, unequal but content and oh so grateful for each other, our friends, our families and for every little ounce of kindness. We’ll keep walking hand in hand and sitting side by side except for that occasional moment when we feel to do so could be unsafe. Thankfully, those moments are few and far between.
Last year, we had the joy of performing a Commitment Ceremony for two beautiful women.
Here they are.
Happy New Year Everyone
One might think I’d fallen off the edge of the blogosphere. Over a month has gone by without a word and not even a mention of the wondrous and last minute repeal of DADT. To say I have not thought of writing would be like saying I had not thought to look in the mirror or smile or breath even. The holidays take me places I wouldn’t ordinarily go and to people I wouldn’t ordinarily see. Some of these encounters bring relief and surprise at how embracing and loving us humans can be. Others remind me that we can pretend and assume our pretense isn’t seen through, but at least for me, the feelings behind the pretense come through loud and clear.
There are clenched teeth and tense jaws. The head cocked slightly to the left while the mouth smiles. There is the nervous ring to the voice as it says sweet words. Thankfully, the hostile feelings are held covertly and discharged carefully, as a stifled sneeze. Like the passing of gas in a crowded room, we might not know for sure from who or whence it came, but the air is suddenly tainted and the hostility palpable.
When horns blow in impatience and Christmas shoppers ignore the bell ringers, instead rudely grab things from shelves and steal parking spots, perhaps I take these felt slights and judgments too harshly. Perhaps I judge too harshly, period. Humanity isn’t the sweet species after all, or maybe it’s that we aren’t that different and it really is survival of the fittest. Call me romantic or even Polly Anna, but I keep hoping for more from us.
I’m thrilled about the repeal of DADT. I’m still floored that so many still voted against it and will no doubt fight it in 2012. In other words, I’m grateful for those who are genuinely kind, fair, loving, just. I’m grateful many who aren’t are at least pretending to be. I’m still a bit afraid of those who aren’t and don’t pretend. We fear what we don’t understand. I guess I just don’t understand.
Merry Christmas Everyone. May the New Year bring more understanding. Dear Santa…
This came today from Georgia Equality,
“Transgender Day of Remembrance
Saturday, November 20th
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
GA State Capitol Courtyard
(Washington St. side)
201 Washington St. SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Let’s stand together as a community for a vigil in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Throughout the world, people gather every year to pay respect to those needlessly killed by hate crimes against the transgender community, and to call attention to the threat of violence faced by gender non-conforming people.
This event is hosted by the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc.”
When I think about people actually killing someone because their heart and mind do not match their body, all I can do is shake my head in confusion.
I watched Oprah this afternoon. On it were several people who had gone to see “John of God.” They had each gone for different reasons. Some on the show went to him for healing, some as a journalist and at least one went to prove him a fraud. “John of God” is a spiritual healer in and from Brazil. He performs “spiritual surgery,” or rather, claims that God works through him and sometimes that involves surgery. This surgery is often a scraping of one’s eyeball or inserting this probe up a person’s nose. Most often though, he does nothing that can be seen or even felt. There are thousands of accounts of healing however and the most convincing fact of all may be that he doesn’t charge for his services.
I personally saw this “John of God” myself a few years ago when he came to Atlanta. I was still in ministry then and had been invited to go along with other “clergy.” We were directed to wear all white and were lined up at the front of the huge auditorium and we each introduced ourselves before the healer arrived. We were then ushered into a room and directed to meditate until further notice. At the time, I meditated regularly and sitting still on a hard chair for a couple of hours was relatively easy. We were told not to open our eyes.I had no divine revelation or profound insight.
I’ve always been one to follow directions, a trait that has both served me well and been a curse. I kept my eyes closed and while I had no great insight, I was very aware of when the healer walked through the room we were in. It wasn’t because I heard anything. It felt as if a strange wind had blown through, not a scary wind, but not warm and comforting either. It felt strong. It felt powerful. It felt foreign. After a couple of hours, we were allowed to go before John of God, joining the long line of those hoping for miracles. He simply took our hands and nodded at each of us, as I recall.
I say all that because each of the people on Oprah today, both believers and skeptics say that they were changed by the experience whether healed or not. One man, a doctor in fact, the one who went to prove him fraudulent, said that he now believed we are all so much more than we think. Our lives and living have far more dignity and significance than we think. He said he now feels this life both conceals and reveals our truth (I love that statement, by the way). This doctor went on to say we have no idea who and what we are and how connected we are.
They all spoke of the energy of hope in the room and how they had all been instructed to think loving thoughts. THey all said that combined feeling of hope felt good.
None of what was said on the show today was new to me. I taught it from a pulpit for years. Yet, it struck me as ironic that this aired just a few days before this Day of Remembrance that most won’t even be aware of.
Most are not aware of transgender anything.
Most don’t know a transgender anyone.
Most have no idea people are killed for being trans.
As for the Day of Remembrance, one can’t remember what one doesn’t even know. But, one can remember to be kind, compassionate, fair and even how to love.
It’s like asking what is our default mechanism?
What comes natural to us when faced with something or someone new; someone or something we don’t understand?
Is it kindness or cruelty?
judgment or acceptance?
love or hate?
Since I became a part of the “LGBT community,” my default mechanism isn’t near so trusting as it was before. I hope however, it is still kind.
Kindness really is easy. It does come naturally to us. We started out that way.
Remember to be kind to yourself, too. Let’s all hope. They said it feels good when we all hope together. I guess I need to remember that.