Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another awesome piece from Saturday's GSA workshop

No more running.
I’ve been quiet for too long
while you’ve breathed Sodom and Gomorrah-
all those fags who done got what they deserved.

Time to express, liberate myself;
The truth shall set me free.
So here’s the meat of what I’m saying-
No more vegetables in this speech-
I’m queer as all get-out.

Now comes the hard part- resilience.
How do I cope with your eyes,
Your lips drawn tight?
How do I cope with being a different kind of human?

You ask me, what would Jesus say
when I finally reach the gilded gates?

This life is my masterpiece.
It just so happens my paint is rainbow.

My hands clench into fists.
I am alive, I say.
I’m living for love.

If Jesus asks about that at the gilded gates, I’ll tell him I’m living for that
And for girls.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another wonderful piece of writing from Saturday's GSA conference

LGBTQ Narratives received this email submission from a young person who attended Saturday's workshop. Thank you for submitting your work, Rachael!

It Will Take Courage

I run towards you, my opposition
Searching to find the commonality,
The we, we both choose to say “I” for.

Expression is freedom of choice.
I hope to liberate those who
Are confined by lack of self expression.

Together, with you,
I will face the temptation
To sit idly by as a vegetable
while others hurt.
I will do it with strong and forceful resilience.

We are all unique and different.
Therefore, each of us forms a masterpiece.
We are all human. We are all individuals
With our own roads to take.

And everyday, with conscience, deliberate action
We choose to take our own road.

We can choose to be alive.
Therefore, we can choose to love.

I challenge you to make that choice.


If you are interested in creating a common word writing, use our list from Saturday's conference or create your own. Saturday's words were:

Email your submissions to lgbtqnarratives@gmail.com

Work from Saturday's GSA conference

On Saturday, November 13th, members of LGBTQ Narratives facilitated a workshop at the fall conference of the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools. Members of LGBTQ Narratives facilitated a "common word" writing exercise, in which youth offered up 12 words and everyone in the room had 20 minutes to create a piece using those words in order. Seventeen youth were in attendance at this workshop and many volunteered to share their work on this blog. Thank you to the youth who attended!

Here are a couple of writings from youth & facilitators:

Yes, go run and tell.
I'm gay.
And I express it openly.
Liberate me.
I am not a vegetable. I'm not different.
I am resilient.
I am no different.
Don't expect me to be a masterpiece. No.
I am a human being. I should be treated as so.
I am deliberate in being true to myself.
I am alive and gay.
And all I want is love.
- Jon

The culture runs counter clockwise to Truth.
I cannot suffer the fools who follow so blindly.
Suppressing and expression like mindless vegetables.
It is within our power to build our resilience through the joy of being different.
A masterpiece of the human condition.
A deliberate celebration of being alive, of being Queer, of loving ourselves.

I run from those who hate. I express my emotions,liberating my cause, eating vegetables while I sing a song. I'm resilient to those who oppose my difference, but I am a masterpiece of the creator of the human race. Deliberating when I'll die but I focus on being alive. I believe love is love no matter what for, even if it is for a whore. Even if I'm a bore I don't care. I'll be myself not an imposter like everyone else. If you aren't you then whom the hell are you? I don't know because you pretend that I'm your friend but you are not who you are for real but that is your won deal.

Run to us, offering wares on the street corner like candy, crack, and pencils to write with.
I, I, I, I, I, One, One, One, One
Expression locked within a series of syllables like a Yoko Ono sound piece.
Will unlocking the syllables liberate the sounds?
I am going to marry a vegetable standing outside Rebecca Kleefisch's new office.
Our resilient human-carrot bond.
It's a little different, but she is a masterpiece of a carrot - orange and ridged with purple rings.
Her near human expressiveness in the nobs I pretend are her eyes.
Our deliberately gentle touching - I have to be careful with her.
You don't have to be alive for me to want you
Our love will last until she withers away in the produce drawer and I add her to the compost bin.

Running through the town
I live, my expression on
my face is that of a liberator
of vegetables.
They had resilience to empower
the different types
the masterpiece came
in the form of human
they deliberated on how to
live alive and love together.

Running on whispers,
I hear what you say.
I'm here to express to you,
liberate if you will, that you have lived the life of a vegetable.
With resilience, my community has stood proud.
You look at us as though we're different,
but I am a masterpiece, as you are a masterpiece, and we are all the same.
We, together, identify ourselves as "human."
Don't consider our lifestyles as "deliberate disobedience."
We're merely expressing ourselves as who we are while we're alive.
We all love, and not you, nor anyone, can ever tell us that's wrong.

Every time I run away
I hold my expression tight
liberate me from my shell
keeping me silent like a vegetable
Hold your resilience
Dare to be different
landed on the island of misfit toys
I'm a masterpiece
I'm a human
This isn't deliberate, I didn't choose this
I know love like anyone else
A name will not hold me back

A run in the fabric that holds us
that holds us in
Break the old habit
am "I" triumphant
a pure expression
liberates us from tradition
root vegetables
and their winter resilience
each new season, a masterpiece
each human living free
a deliberate movement
to be unique and alive
with love in our hearts.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

It Gets Better

This story is meant for you, the young person who I have not yet met, but know. You see we already share an affinity, a kinship. We are both alike and we are different. I know some of your story; you may be living some of mine. Our stories do share a common theme. Our differences create our essence and your essence makes you special. You are the only you, and you are a gift to the world.

When I was your age I knew I was different. I couldn’t articulate how I was different I just knew that I was from the deepest core of my being. I felt alienated and alone. I sought connection with friends. I wanted to be accepted, welcomed, invited to the party, to join the group, become a member. Sometimes it happened, sometimes not. I often felt more rejected than accepted, more alone than together, more different than the same. Sound familiar?

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was able to answer the question of how I was different, to come out, to name myself, to understand that I was a woman who loved women. I was finally living an authentic life, embracing my essence, I was being, me. My journey was not easy, much like yours. What I needed were allies and tools, new ways of thinking and the courage to face my fears. What I needed most were people in my life who smiled at me when I entered the room. Yes, it’s pretty simple. Surround yourself with people who smile when you enter a room. These are the people who love you; the people who matter in your life. These are your allies, your family.

When I look back at my teen and young adult years, I see that there was so much pressure to be the same, to conform, and to mimic the opinions, appearance and behaviors of the dominant culture, or “in crowd.” I mistakenly thought that the heroes I wanted to emulate were those young people who were most liked, possessed the most friends, who were leaders, not followers. What I didn’t realize at the time was that they often were surrounded by others, because like me, they were afraid, afraid to be alone, to step out, to assert their individuality, to express their independence.

One lesson I’ve learned as an adult, I’ll share with you today. Sometimes we each go through life comparing our insides, our deepest fears, insecurities and vulnerabilities, with other peoples’ outsides. The smiling, confident, self-assured bravado of our friends and colleagues, from whom we desire to be accepted, liked, and invited to the party. What we see on the outside doesn’t always reflect what’s going on inside. They too have fears, insecurities and are vulnerable; they too have dark nights of the soul.

Another lesson I’ve learned as an adult is when you get a group of people together, the group can take on opinions, beliefs and act in ways that doesn’t always reflect the values and desires of the individual, but instead creates a dangerous “group think.” When you separate the individual from the crowd and interact one-on-one, you may discover you have an ally. Heroes are not born from crowds; heroes are individuals who step outside of convention, risk voicing their opinion, live authentically.

When I was growing up, the real heroes were the young, vulnerable ones, who often walked the halls of school alone; the ones who were called “different.” The ones who in spite of the shameful, abusive name calling, bullying, and shunning by others, even when their courage wavered, bravely risked being themselves, loving, accepting and embracing those attributes which made them different. What made them heroes? They believed it would get better, that they would find others who were like them, people who would smile when they walked into a room, people who would love them unconditionally, not in spite of who they were, but because of who they were.

It does get better; it gets easier and remember when you feel like you are absolutely alone without an ally or the energy to take the next step — you are my hero. Reach out, accept help, take the next step, live the next moment, you are the only you in the world. We need you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Personal Narrative from a New Contributor

I was teased consistently. Called horrific names that began with an ‘F’ on a daily basis. School was a hurting ground. My education was in how deeply I could hurt. It came from all sides for a long time I’d walk down the hall and hear it. In class, I’d sit feeling absolutely alone in a room of 25 people.

It began in earnest in Eight grade, though I’d been a loner long before then. Other kids noticed that I was different, and that I was more in tune with the feminine. They called me a girl, constantly, and I’d deal with it by agreeing with them. I knew I wasn’t a girl, but a boy who liked girl things. I soon realized, at the age of 12 that I also liked other boys. I had no friends, but there was a girl in my grade who sometimes talked to me. I confided in her, and by the end of the day the whole school knew. For the rest of the year, I was picked on, and followed home by boys who punched me in the stomach. I’d keep walking, though, and eventually they left me alone. Then there were the times I fought back. I ended up getting my head bashed into the front door of the school once, and beat up a couple of other times. I was, quite literally, a zombie. I had no desire to live and no power to fight.

One day, my parents announced that we were moving to Germany. It was the greatest day of my life. My father was in the army, which allowed us this luxury. I’d have a new start!

I was miserable. I felt lower than the lowest, and didn’t even feel like I was worth killing myself over. My family had left small town America for Germany a year before. I thought I’d be escaping all this. I thought things would get better. I was wrong. They’d gotten worse. I’d tried dating a girl in eighth grade, through my freshman year, but I just felt too ashamed and guilty. I ended up telling her. I came out to my friends too at the same time. I’d never had friends before, and had always thought friends kept secrets. I was wrong about that too.

I was in high school now, and for some reason, physical altercations had stopped. I had gotten beat up for it numerous times in small town Wisconsin, and the ending of that brutality was a relief. But words and rejection could land blows sometimes deeper than the gut punches and head slammings of yesteryear. Apparently something had shifted between the eighties and the nineties. I wasn’t sure it was for the better, at least not in high schools for American army brats.

Then, when it was time to go home, I’d have to confront the smoking section on the way to my bus.

Beth spotted me almost every day. “FAGGOT!” She’d scream from her tomboy exterior. “You godamned faggot! You wanna start something?!”

Gym class was the worst. I was a creative person and accelerated in band, choir and drama. Sports were not for me. I’d do what was required, and that was it. One day, we were playing a perverted form of hockey, and the puck was passed to me. I attempted to control it and hit it toward the goal, but was unsuccessful. Our team lost because of it. Later in the locker room, cute, blonde, muscular Jerry, was quick to point out to me my deadly mistake. “You didn’t even try!” He growled at me. I failed to see the big deal. How little I knew how he and his friends hated me.

I got a job at Popeye’s Chicken on the base, and began making friends from the smoking section. The person I became closest too was Lindsay. She was oversexed, gorgeous and exciting. She asked me once as we got on a street car to go to the HaupStrasse if I was bisexual. I was so excited about going to this main street where everyone went to drink at the bars legally (it was Europe after all) that I didn’t know what to say. I also wasn’t sure how she would react if I said I was full-blown gay. She looked at me and said, “Joey, I’m bisexual. I’m with Beth.” My jaw dropped, at least in my mind’s eye. Beth? It made sense, though. Looking at it with this juicy piece of information, Beth looked like a total dyke. I took a deep breath and said, “Well, not exactly.” She asked me what I meant by that, and my heart stopped. “I’m gay.” There it was….and she was fine with it.

Over the next couple of months, my grades dropped, I drank a whole lot, and I began to cut class with my new friends. The pay-off was that for the first time, I felt completely accepted. The friends I had previously were still around, lurking in the corners, but I had a new life, and I loved it. I actually spent time feeling cool! The hurt and pain I felt at school was easier to deal with, and my new friends were able to deal with what my loneliness brought: a lot of drunken crying.

One night, we were all at a bar called Eichbaum’s. I have no memory for what that word means, but I remember the bar well. It was primarily all American high school alcoholics frequenting it. I was having a great time, and the Tequila was a-flowing. I went to use the bathroom, drunkenly. I entered the stall, and sat down to take a crap. The door had no lock, so I just figured people would see it closed and that would be that. As I tried to focus on the graffiti wondering if it was really primarily in German, or if I was really that drunk, the stall burst open. It was Jerry and his cohorts. “Look, guys! Check it out! The faggot’s taking a shit at Eichbam’s!!” They all laughed. For a moment I just sat there, trying to figure out what was wrong with taking a shit at Eichbam’s, then I slammed the door, and waited for the room to clear. After awhile, it did. I exited the stall, and stumbled past my friend’s table and out onto the street. I lumbered over to the church on the other side and sat down by the wall to cry. I don’t remember if I did, but I do remember lying down and looking at the sky.

My view was suddenly blocked by three dark figures. One of them said, “Look at that faggot.” Then he said the phrase that burned, with hateful lasers into my mind. “We should piss on him.” I remember waking up wet. The Universe has saved me from remembering anything else from that night. Suffice to say, it changed my deeply, and it took a long time to get over it. Piss itself is pretty sterile, they say. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it does dry after awhile. Being pissed as an act of degradation leaves a stain and infects you, though.

Later, one of Jerry’s friends tried to talk to me about it without actually bringing it up. He tried to explain, shame-facedly that Jerry was screwed up. I already knew this and took a deep breath, not believing someone would try and excuse that moment to me. Then he said quietly, “He was molested when he was little. That’s why he hates gays.” Inside, I felt an understanding, and even a certain amount of compassion for Jerry. It at least explained his hate. Outside, however, I snapped. I educated his friend, in so many words, that being gay does not mean you like children.

While times have changed since my schooling, things are no better for many children and teenagers. I tell my story to horrify those who don’t know and to expose what is happening before our very eyes. I tell it to encourage every adult exposed to young people to talk about bullying and anti-gay speech and acts. I also tell it, to assure those who are struggling that this is an experience that can be survived. Reach out and get help anyway you can, and remember that it really, truly, does get better. I promise that. There may very well be scars that you are left with to heal for a lifetime, but life will get better, especially if you embrace who you are, and go to the places in the world that embrace you, and if you surround yourself with those who embrace you for being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered or Questioning, you’ll be even better off. You may be stuck and unable to do that right now, but you will be able to someday, I promise. Someday, it will be your life to do with as you wish. I wish you a happy, fulfilling one.

Queers Read This Too

I may appear smiling, with no clue to the world. But don’t let that fool you. Because you don’t know what’s going on in my mind. Straight people are all “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

My life doesn’t revolve around spouses, soccer practice or other kid drama, but it’s still important. I do more than work…really. You can ask me about it, I’d really like it if you do. I’d like to talk about all the things you can’t do because your heterosexual lifestyle doesn’t permit itself to let you do. After all, you all subject me to your heterosexual bullshit…how about some of mine?

I have to proceed with caution when the laws of attraction come into play. As I wonder, “Is he really attracted to me?”
I also have to add, “Or is he lost in his straight guy world?”
I mean, does he have a clue what he’s doing? Is he flirting with me, or just playing with my mind? If I ask, will he feel threatened? Will I be hit? If he asks, is he joking? Will he humiliate me in front of people?

And what if a straight woman is attracted to me and I say no. I’m gay, sorry not interested. Will she persist, convinced all I need is a good fuck from the right woman to cure me of my problem? Will she treat me like every gay hairdresser, gay interior decorator, or gay friend a straight woman has on every television program she’s ever seen…like a lap dog? Will she politely go away or assume I want to be the Will to her Grace?

And what if I have an actual life, and am asked about it?…Will they realize I’m just as human as they are? With real feelings, emotions, thoughts and desires…just like them? Would their world shatter if they realized…I’m just like them? Could they still hold their rightwing, conservative, homophobic values if they realized…I’m just like them? Or would they spontaneously combust on their own ignorance and hate, like time bombs?

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *


Hello. Some of you may not recognize my voice because I have been silent for a long time. But some of you may hear the familiar edge, the resonant anger, the cadence that calls for action. Admittedly, I am coming to you a little sheepish today as a result of the length of my silence, especially because when I first found my voice, I used it momentarily by screaming and shouting for a couple of years. And then nothing. It is both exciting and scary to remember what I sound like; I almost didn't recognize the sound of my own voice.

The term “silence” is thrown around so much in the queer community that we have perhaps become desensitized to its deadening quality. And everyone always talks about it from the larger, systemic level, like “Those fucking heteros and their silencing!” I agree with recognizing and trying to change systems of power and oppression, but the stories I hear on a daily basis, in addition to my own story, implore me to recognize the subtler forms of silencing, the ones that really fuck with us and continue pushing and pushing our voices down until there is complete silence. The tick-ticking of clocks. The chirp-chirping of crickets. The drip-dripping of faucets. The silence that accompanies death.

It starts large, the silencing. It does begin with the institutions of power and knowledge. And we, and everyone else, consume these messages constantly – that we, as queers, are not okay. No, we are more than not okay. We are vile. We are unworthy. We are better off dead. So, we are bombarded day after day with these messages, and the really fucked up part is that we often don't question them, so we can be pretty sure that no one else is questioning them either. The double fucked part is that these messages are reinforced by both those we love and who

presumably love us, and by the randoms in the world. It's those closest to us, however, who take the first snip at our vocal chords. It is in the home, at school, between best friends and lovers where the true silencing begins. Of all of the people we need in the world to recognize and reinforce that we are worthy, they sometimes just add to the dog pile until our lungs collapse and we turn a lovely shade of blue. More reinforcement that we are pieces of shit that should be silenced. What do you think happens when we hear the same thing over and over again? It becomes our reality. And then we join in the silencing. We silence ourselves and we silence others who we claim are part of our community.

Perhaps the most difficult part is recognizing and acknowledging the silencing we are doing to ourselves and to others in our community. I understand that my position on this issue may not be a popular one, as I am putting a piece of the responsibility back on us, as individuals who are part of the queer community. The anger and sadness in my voice today is less about how the heterosexual community has silenced us but a deep grief for how we continue to silence ourselves. This is what I hear in the stories of my queer clients sitting before me asking, pleading, “why am I so fucked up?” And there I am sitting across from them, trying to help their voices gain a little volume for when they return to the world fifty minutes later. Sometimes the hardest part is finding my own voice, or working past my own beliefs that I am fucked up in order to help these people believe that they are not. I often feel hypocritical sitting across from them, pretending that my self-acceptance runs so deep. That I have finally figured out how to love myself and use my voice. Bullshit. My heart aches for them because I see so much of my own story, my story of self-silencing and questioning my worth as a queer human being in their stories. The self-loathing is so painful to see; just as painful as it is to feel.
So, my call to action today is less angry and more tender. Trust me, I have plenty of anger from time to time about the existence and impact of oppression. But I am feeling more compassionate in this moment and am putting the responsibility on us as a queer community. I just want to say that we matter. Every single one of us. And are worthy. And our voices are right. Right and strong. I do believe in big system change and think that we should be fighting for that. AND while we are out fighting the good fight, we also need to make sure that we are not silencing ourselves in some way. A large part of the responsibility for change falls on the “outside world” and larger systems. But we also need to examine to what degree we have internalized the messages that said, “Shut the fuck up, you worthless piece of shit.” And, in some ways, only we can reclaim that voice. No system of power is going to reach down our throats and extract it. We have to believe that our voices deserve some airtime and just put them out there. Slowly, slowly and then feel the rush of the power as we believe that the air needs to hear and feel our voices. We have to make room. The room will not be made for us.

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *

I’m Not Sorry…

I’m not sorry you didn’t want to be around me – in public.
You were ashamed of being seen with me.
You didn’t want anyone to see us together.

What were you afraid of?
What people would think?
You didn’t want to be called fairy, faggot, femme to your face?
That was okay for me, but not for you?

How were you different?
Did your other friends make fun of you?
Hanging out with the fairy?...are you one too?
Was that what you were afraid of?

People think what they’re going to think.
People feel what they’re going to feel.
You. can’t. change. that.

Oh, so that’s why you bragged about your girlfriend the way you did.
You wanted everyone to think, “You’re a man.”
You’re somebody. You’re just like everyone else.
You’re not me. I bug you…or so you said.

I’m not sorry. It’s not my problem. It was yours.
Have the balls to claim it as yours.
Don’t pin your insecurity on me as if I represent all that you’re not (supposedly).

I’m only sorry for one thing. We WERE friends. Friendship is a gift. I take it away.
Hate yourself for all I care.

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *

Bigots Read This:

When you see my girlfriend and me in line for a Gossip concert, you don’t get to ask “who’s the man and who’s the bitch?” All you need to know is that her cock is bigger than yours. When you see me at a wedding reception alone because I’ve been told I can’t bring the one I want, you don’t get to drop a lame pick up line and ask “Are you sure you’re gay?”
I’m sure. About as sure as I am that the tattooed wedding band on your finger that outlasted your last marriage was a bad idea.
When you tell me that you can’t accept my “gay lifestyle” you need to know that I no longer answer to you. And what you don’t ask – about my home, about my partner, about my plans for the future – keeps you from ever knowing me.

I’m queer. If you don’t ask, I’ll tell. I’ll tell you that my family goes beyond blood and an injury to one is an injury to all.
I feel the attack on my queerness seep into other memories in my life in which I felt the blood boil and I had no response...
I sit on a bus, on my way home from campus.
“You married?
No, and I’m gay.
“That’s alright. I can appreciate a woman who likes to go down on other women.”
I shoot him the dirtiest look I can muster and continue to sit, hot ears, in silence, hoping he’ll get off before me. He did.

Just like the time in LA when I sat on the bus and I felt a hand on my thigh and I choked down my thoughts, “You don’t get to touch that.” I clenched my thighs closer together and the hand followed. When I got home the pit in my stomach was still there – I should have raised a fuss, I should have told the whole bus about the perv with the wandering hand. I couldn’t even look him in the eye, let alone give him a piece of my mind.

Synapses race, backwards, backwards, time reeling back.
Lets off a domino effect of Steven on the playground, 2nd-4th grade, saying I’ve got a nice ass. I’d hide in the bathroom at recess to avoid his harassment, my only retort, “You sing like a chimpanzee.”

I walk home from school – my mother slept through another afternoon pick up – and across the street I hear laughter. A pack of teenage boys, one of them I know. He was at my babysitter’s house several times and he looks at me while the others say, “There’s your girlfriend.” I don’t remember the origin of why I get hackles thinking of him, or why I did not speak to boys or men during that period in my life, even when my friend’s older brother innocently asked me if I wanted a piece of gum. I shut my mouth.

One of my earliest memories of my father is of me sitting on the bed. I am young, and he asks me if I’ll marry him one day and I say yes. I didn’t know what it meant. Something, too, about this memory – or lack of – it’s just a jumbly haze from before I was old enough to go to school and I fear what I don’t remember. I hope that my fear is unfounded.

I feel ready to puke it’s been so long that I’ve been waiting to spill my guts like this. I feel naked. Naked like the day in my college apartment when I stood bare in front of my full length mirror, in my reflection round hips and breasts, overexposed flesh and the sight of your dick in hand on the other side of my window, in the few inches beneath the blinds and above the window sill. I never saw your face because I ran into my closet, closed the door and covered myself and sat there until I was sure you were gone. I can’t stand in a room exposed without checking for cracks in the curtains and blinds any more, you bastard. I spent the rest of my lease at that place wondering who you were, every male face a suspect. You could have been anyone. They always say it’s the ones you know…
Why couldn’t I find words when he asked to use my computer and I let him in? He was the neighbor’s boyfriend. He took off my skirt and I didn’t say no. My mom asked if this – this unnamable event in her eyes – is why I’m gay. He doesn’t have that kind of power. I’ve always been gay, but maybe I haven’t always had words.

Under a male gaze I feel a familiar burn, puckering my skin with boils that make me feel not beautiful, but obscene – pornographied in ways I do not know but only feel under the leer of prying eyes and creeping hands.
I wonder how I ever lost my voice, or maybe it was a matter of finding it. These words speak for all the times I wish I could have spoken up. How many times over are these encounters echoed and mirrored in others’ lives?

This is my body, my words, my family, my enemies, and they are not so different from one another. And that scares me.
But perhaps therein lies the solution – bigots, misogynists, everyday assholes read this, and see me in you. I am human; not some mythical creature called a homosexual, not a woman downsizeable by parts – breasts, or ass or a cunt who likes other cunts.

I’m tired of my sex life being politicized. I’m tired of my sexuality being called a choice. I’m tired of being treated like a walking piece of meat, or something you think you have the right to touch.

This bitch has a bark and this bark has a bite. Just. Like. Yours.

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *

I used to hate the person who’d yell the ‘F’ words at me. (You know…fairy, femme, faggot…) I’d make damn sure they saw me look at them. Who knows what they thought? All they really cared about was that I was singled out as somehow different from them and those ‘F’ words covered all the bases. He/She is not me, and I didn’t belong. That’s all that mattered.

As time went on in middle/high school, I learned to hate the friends who stood around the person who yelled the ‘F’ word. Their condescending stares of disgust…leering at my every reaction to their friend’s call out, then the turn and huddle as they dissect my every move.

These people…excuse me, those condescending eyes passing judgment without jury…were more dishonest, more terrifying, more inflicting. The person who shouts it out, to a certain degree, is honest about their feelings. But the circle of “friends” around him/her…they’re the ones to look out for.

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *

Lexical Lessons in Living as Queers

They eagerly took the money she raised for their causes, but many of them never took her seriously. “She talks about herself that way, so why can’t I?” they would retort disdainfully. Never willing to examine their bigotry, their privilege, their violent neglect of someone who gave of herself selflessly, building community, rebuilding herself. Their hateful words launched like fire-tipped arrows against the solid smooth surfaces of her construction.

True, her tongue was sharp when she needed it to be. Her first line of defense. But I refuse to accept that it should have been left up to her alone to bare the burden of her difference and sameness. Who stood up and sheltered her from those vicious attacks? And now that she is gone, are you crushed and ashamed? I know many of you should be ashamed.

She told me once, gesturing towards her surgeries and special diets, her switch from screwdrivers to vodka sodas: “I have to look good so people will respect me.”


transphobia noun refers to discrimination against transsexual or transgender people based on the expression of their gender identity. Like other prejudices, the discriminatory or intolerant behavior can be direct and can take the form of harassment, assault or murder, or can be indirect, including the failure to take steps to ensure that transgender people are treated in the same way as the conventionally gendered.


When observing how I greeted Felicia with admiration, one of her self-proclaimed friends interjected: “that ain’t no lady.” My glare like the energy held in a block of ice – hydrogen pre-combustion – a slowly moving glacier redirecting the river’s flow. And his pitiful apology, so small and empty, he receded next to her. So safe in his pierced and tattooed gayness, in his maleness. I am still fuming.

It has been two years since her murder, five years since I first witnessed someone trying to take a piece of her in language, by destructive targeting of the very words she chose to employ to
become who she wanted to be in the world. His cheap shot
backfired. And I turned my back on him that day. Has he met my gaze since? Should I ask him if he remembers and regrets this transgression? To me, all of these violences are connected.

Gay bar employees are on a chartered bus to Chicago when a kid in the backseat of a car passing us holds a plastic clown up to the window for us to see. Someone yells: “Just show them Felicia.” I remember the laughter, my frozen tongue and the tightness in my chest that lingers still.

The impact of complacency.

Two gays leave a bar
One points at my friend’s poster
And asks: “who is that?”

“Oh, it’s some drag queen
who picked up a prostitute
and he murdered her.”

The brutality of ignorance.

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *

2010 and you think homophobia is over? Read it and weep:

1. It’s 12 years since I wrote my mom a letter and she changed the locks to the house.
2. It’s 11 years since I called a gun shop in Janesville to find out exactly how much it would cost to kill myself.
3. It’s 5 years since I quit teaching because I couldn’t take the phone calls, the threats, or being called a dyke every fucking day.
4. It’s 3 years since my cousin outed me to my grandma, whose voice was disapproving and uncomfortable every time I talked with her after that.
5. It’s 2 years since some asshole doggedly followed my girlfriend and me down the street, wanting to know if he could get his hand held too. Asshole.
6. It’s 1 ½ years since my brother got married and me and the other queer sibling were sidelined, my girlfriend magically absent from the wedding photos.
7. It’s 1 year since I heard my coworkers laugh with somebody in the lobby who was spewing homophobia. You know, because it’s so funny.
8. It’s 1 week since my grandma died and I had to mourn the loss of the time we could’ve had together at the end of her life, the time I lost because I was so fucking scared to have to see one more person that I respect look at me like that; couldn‘t face another face that stared at me like I was a stranger when I loved that face all my life.
9. It’s every god-damned fucking day that I am dis-included from my family, my friends, my community, my society, and my rights, like when I run into people from my hometown and they’re shocked to hear my parents have a daughter, like when I have to come to a funeral without my girlfriend and hear all the bullshit questions about why I’m not married yet, like when I go to a get-together and feel so fucking uncomfortable because I’m the only one who isn’t in heels and I’m sized up accordingly, like when I have to wrench my body apart with sobs because I was so terrified to go see a lonely old woman, like when I see my mother’s embarrassment that I even exist, hear her apology for who I am.
10. I fucking hate the fucking society that condones this shit, that adds to the normal stress that already comes with “normal” life and makes the support system for me and the woman I love shrink down to the size of our own bruised bodies. I hate that we get de-legitimized, silenced, ignored, disregarded, devalued, and erased around every fucking corner. I hate the fucking society that makes me afraid to kiss my girlfriend in front of my workplace, that makes me skip all kinds of social situations because it takes so much out of me just to perceive the demarcation of difference in the air I breathe, the system that makes me nervous to display affection in the movie theatre, that makes my heart stop beating if my girlfriend puts her hand on my leg when we’re sitting in a restaurant…the system that makes me hyper-vigilant, ever-ready for explicit or implicit attack.
11. I fucking hate the perpetuation of this situation, the transgression of oppression, the system that works against our shared existence and tells us we should loathe ourselves and just kill ourselves already. I fucking hate the system that tells me I need to fight to be with the woman I love rather than counting on support from my family and hers. I fucking hate the system that’s made me lose friends and family over the years to prejudicial fears. I fucking hate the system that makes me go and beg my neighbors to vote for me to have rights like them. I fucking hate the system that allows bigots to tell me I can’t get married anyway. I fucking hate the system that allows people who claim to support an ideology of love and kindness to condemn the very act of my being in the name of self-righteousness. I fucking hate the system.

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *

7th Grade English class – the class was at the end of the day.

Every year, there was a spelling bee. Every year, we all competed. The line was down to three students, including me. The teacher looked at his sheet of words, got an evil smile on his face, looked at me, and said, “Masculine.”

The entire class erupted with laughter, including the teacher. I stood there, glaring at everyone individually. Some tried to cover their face, some looked away, some kept looking right at me – including the teacher.

I said, “What’s so funny?” No one stopped laughing. The teacher looked back at me and I asked, “What’s so funny?!” Some laughter died down, but the teacher just said, “Just spell the word.” I did. It was correct. We moved on.

The next day, we had another contest. He did it again. No one laughed that day. I spelled the word correctly again, but added, “Your little joke wasn’t funny today, huh?”

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Old Lesbian Speaks Out

I'm an old Lesbian – 69 to be exact. I identified myself after ten years of marriage. My husband died thirty years ago. We didn't have children. My parents are both deceased. My only sister and her family are estranged from me. I see my cousins and their families only at 50- or 75-year wedding anniversary parties. They have their own families; I'm not close to them.
I came out to myself during the Women's Liberation movement, and I lived through the Vietnam War era of the 1960's. I wasn't involved with Stonewall or Auschwitz; but they're in my memory reminding me who I am.

The LGBT “community” is my family. For many of us “community” IS family. But are we really a “community”* or are we more of a “population”**? I'd like to think that community means we're here to help and support each other.
I want us to be more than just a population; a number for statistical purposes. Yet numbers are important. We struggle desperately to find a larger identity, trying to find larger numbers through which we can be validated statistically to get support for our issues. We want to belong to a BIG movement. We need to be big to move the huge mountains of homophobia each of us lives with daily, even hiding away inside our souls to protect our vulnerability from our very selves. There's comfort in numbers. But how can we really be counted when some of us don't even “come out” to ourselves?

*President Bill Clinton said, “A community is a group of people who recognize that they will go forward or fall back together, that they have obligations to one another and that they become better and fuller and richer by fulfilling these obligations.”

**Webster defines population: “The whole number of people in a county, town, etc.”

But beyond numbers, we want to support each other. Will the “community” be there for me when I’m old as a traditional family might be for a parent? Will some people be afraid to face their own aging and not feel comfortable around me? Who wants to identify with being old, wrinkled, paunchy, frail and voiceless? Can you see something in me – a lasting value – that goes beyond the external? Old women and men can be invisible and are easily undervalued and underinsured in a society that is youth oriented. In a traditional family, women are expected to be protected by a male, living under his roof and being financially supported by him. But nowadays many men can barely support themselves, especially gay males and transgender female-to-male people who face job discrimination. When will the myths catch up to reality?

As I age, my close friends also age. At some point I may outlive them. In heterosexual families, after elders have contributed, the expectation is that the younger generation will be there to help. But will they be there in a “community”? As I see it, the complication in “being there” for the seniors in our community family is that our younger people often have their own biological family to care for. That means our population is trying to juggle TWO families to a heterosexual individual's one family. Our Baby Boomers have increased caregiving stress levels!

I want to keep myself as far away from hospitals and nursing homes as possible, and stay in my own home. Since I don't have children of my own, will the younger people I know be there for me in the same way children can be there for their heterosexual parents? Do laws and agencies allow for that? Will they in the future? Will I be able to pay for all the support I'll need from outside agencies when my retirement income is not as much as many heterosexual seniors who have had the benefits of marriage laws?
I still work part-time; I can't yet afford to fully retire. I'm not ready to declare myself unemployable, to live at the poverty level or below. I know I'll face this decision soon. I feel my body slowing down. I can't be OLD yet!! I've got so much
I want to do; I have so much to offer. I don't want to be invisible! But, in so many ways, I am.

I go to a heterosexually-run senior center that legally cannot discriminate against me. I remain carefully closeted in groups with heterosexual seniors I don't know. Those who know me
don’t know my sexual preference – by my choice. If/when I disclose, I don’t want to start a big discussion or fight or deal with silence and rejection or abandonment. I’m too old for petty nonsense or educatable moments in someone else’s life. Could I feel comfortable dancing with another woman at an afternoon ballroom dance? Probably – as long as we don’t look longingly at each other and hold each other close.

Some seniors who go to the senior center would rather not have us there. Why? Will we infect them with our special problems, like the homophobe syndrome that follows us around or maybe HIV-AIDS? If they'd only get the message that THEY, too, have HIV-AIDS and we didn't give it to all of them; they passed it between themselves. And the homophobe syndrome is inside them; they created it. Their issue is not for us to deal with – but we are affected by it.

Finally, I want funding for a “community” center on which I'm dependent. When heterosexually-run agencies get funding to provide services for our seniors because the overall population they serve is larger than ours, will our community center suffer? Let's get together to advocate on behalf of LGBT seniors. That effort will help our seniors, families, the whole “community” and our community center. Let's do it!

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You better listen to me. If you’re going to get through middle school, you’re going to have to do what I say.

First, they don’t care about music. If they do, they listen to REO Speedwagon or Styx. All they care about is sports. Football, Basketball, Baseball. There’s one guy who gets picked on because he doesn’t know all the football teams, so you’re going to learn all of them…

Don’t shake your head “no” at me! I’m not going to have a kid brother who’s going to get picked on! Now c’mon! I’m going to teach you how to play football….

MOM! He Won’t Play Football!

I told you, you’re going to play sports and be part of the teams or else. You’re not going to be some kind of weirdo who doesn’t fit in. I TOLD YOU…

LOOK! If you don’t do as you’re told, you’re going to be picked on or WORSE. And I’m NOT going to have a little brother who gets picked on! Because I’m not going to be the big sister who bails you out…Now, CATCH THE DAMN BALL!

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *

Baby Dyke Blues

Looking back at it now, I admit that I was quite naïve when
I first came out: I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I had no idea about the silent homophobia I would soon face from people I thought I could respect with my secrets, or the fact that I would feel incredibly lonely even while surrounded by a group of people I call friends.

It's been almost two years since that day in January, when
I came out to fifty strangers in the Dells during a leadership retreat. I have learned and noticed a lot in that short span, and although I have never been happier in general, I HATE most of it.

I hate how I'm immediately looked down upon with just a mere glance at my backpack. The secret homophobes that are on the bus every day with me may not know what the pink triangle means, but they sure as hell know what the rainbow means...oh well, at least I get two seats to myself! One for me, and one for my big gay backpack.

I hate how my cousin's relationships/love life will always be tolerated over anything I even think of. Wait, let me tell you what hers is...she's got three of the most adorable kids I've ever seen...from two baby daddies. And she doesn't even take care of two of them...she takes care of the youngest one alone because her “fiancé” is in PRISON. But you know, that's totally cool, because at least she's got a dick inside her regularly.

I hate how I'm asked to keep things quiet at extended family outings while my sisters can go on and on about their newest boy toys, and my little brother can talk about how he's recently discovered girls. Why can't I talk about my stuff? What I'm doing in school – besides, you know, NOT being in the band or going to football games – is mostly queer, but nope, even though it's doing good for the community, that's bad. It doesn't even matter that I haven't had a single girlfriend, or even anything close, and it shouldn't matter. I hate how I'm asked to hide who I am. Heaven forbid I even mention how cute the sportswoman is, goddamn!

And as much as I love them sometimes, I hate my group of straight girlfriends. No matter what time or day we get together, the conversation always turns to, you guessed it, BOYS. And SEX. And either how much they're getting or how little they're getting and the respective emotion behind that. They say, “Oh, you'll find someone!” to me, who's sitting there twiddling her thumbs, trying to find a place to chime in. Yeah you might. It's a little hard for me. And when I try to talk, usually about the unrequited woman that's currently catching my eye, they just smile and nod and even ask me who I would go straight for. If there's any phrase I hate more, it's that one. I used to say it yeah, but that was only very few times as a stupid attempt to try to fit in. But I know better now – nothing, NOTHING I do or say will ever make me fit in. I'm not only the token minority in my group of friends, I'm now also the token queer. I fucking hate it.

“Oh hey,” they say, “you'll like this episode, this book, this blog, this group, it's about lesbians.”
And no, don't say that your day was horrible and that your life is so bad because it's not. You haven't had to go through half of what I have to go through EVERY SINGLE DAY, even on my very best days, because of who I am.
I’m sure that being an out and proud queer woman is one of the reasons why I haven’t had good luck with roommates since I moved out of my sisters’ room, but I don’t care. The truth is that I will not go down without a fight until I get the same respect as Sally Straight and Harry Heterosexual.

I have officially boycotted weddings until I can have my own, and I don't know if I even want one. The fact still remains, it's not right that a man and a woman can get hitched as they please in Vegas but since I'm a woman who wants to have a female partner, I have to fight for what should be civil rights.

I will keep my queerness on my Facebook profile. If straight people can put up pictures of them and their partners kissing and emphasize the fact that they're interested in what they want, I can too.

People say “keep it to yourself,” but I won't because I don't care. My parents have always taught me not to care about what other people think. “If they don't like you, fuck 'em, they're losers,” they said. Why is that any different now? Because I took yet another big step away from the norms of society? No. It shouldn't matter.

People, websites, and businesses say “keep it to yourself,” but I won't because I refuse to hide who I am.

Tone down my queerness?

Why don't you tone down your heterosexuality?
Then we'll talk.

And no, that's not “so gay.”

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *

I looked around at all my classmates on the night of my high school graduation. During one of the speeches, that seemed to go on longer than it really needed to be, I realized something.

I don’t have to see any of these people ever again.

Suddenly, a wave of happiness came over me with this realization. I never have to walk in the war zone that was middle/high school again.

I don’t have to be stared at with their homophobic gaze. I don’t have to be whispered about. I don’t have to be objectified and speculated about.

I’m free to be…

* * *          * * *          * * *          * * *          * * *

The Courage to Change the Things I Can

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

Today, I say this prayer because I’m pissed off. Yes, I’m angry down to the cellular level. As they say in meeting rooms for people like me who work to stay sober, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. So what is the solution, the answer? Get off my ass, take to the streets, find my voice, make love not war, and rage against the tyranny of ignorance and prejudice that kills; challenge the voices of those who claim to speak for God or who have “God on their side,” yet damn us to hell and suffering with their words of hate and take our lives with their hands and weapons. I’m not arrogant enough to claim I speak for God, but I know this with certainty, the God of my understanding doesn’t take sides.

Today, I demand a moratorium on straight speech and privilege. When I go to work to do my job, I don’t want to hear about your fucking weddings until you are able to honor my marriage, support me during divorce, or respect my choice to live openly, freely and pursue happiness in a manner that fills my spirit and “completes me,” and doesn’t take a damn thing away from you or your choices.

When I go to the hospital to see my partner and make healthcare decisions, get out of my fucking way. You have no right to be the gatekeeper of my life. When I attend a parent-teacher conference, I’m there as a parent, not the nonbiological spousal-equivalent “friend.” And, while we’re talking about the power of words, keep your euphemisms off me. I have a right to be recognized, affirmed and respected for who I am.
I am someone’s child, parent, spouse, lover, friend and I’m QUEER. Not queer as not normal, but queer as different. Different means many things, including diversity, which I
celebrate with pride. I possess the “wisdom to know the difference” between hate, and love and acceptance. Ask yourself, do you?

Here are the stakes I drive into the ground: Don’t tax me without representation. Don’t penalize me with your unfair laws. Don’t ask me to go back in the closet. Don’t censure me. Don’t ask me to “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Silence does kill. I will not be silent and “go gently into the night.” I will kick and scream, march in the streets, vote with conviction, boycott with my dollars, contribute my energy to the causes and people who nurture life and love with an open heart, and I will fight and pray for “the courage to change the things I can.”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

LGBTQ Narratives on WORT

Click below to listen our interview on WORT and hear excerpts from QUEERS READ THIS TOO

LGBTQ Narratives interview on WORT