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There was an article in the LA Times today suggesting that if the Proposition 8 Marriage Amendment passes, all the marriages that do take place in the precious few months of marriage equality before then will most likely be annulled. At the end of the article, the author concluded rather sympathetically that while this poc hoc revoking of civil rights might not be fair, that doesn’t mean it won’t be legal.

The small thread of assurance that they won’t be able to take away the marriages that take place before November 5th has been the only string tying me to any semblance of emotional stability in the tumultuous month since the Supreme Court handed down it’s decision and the opponents countered with their proposed amendment. Today, I watched it slip away. The political wars are only just beginning, and already I am all cried out. Given enough time, I might be able to convince myself that this is not the end of the world… that my girlfriend and I might very well have other chances to make our love legal. But I cannot, no matter how hard I try, wrap my mind around the idea that all of those beautiful couples I have been seeing in the papers who have already been waiting decades for this moment, and may have even already gone through one involuntary annulment after the brief window of marriage equality came and passed at the City Hall in San Francisco, will have to suffer through that humiliation yet again.

But I am getting ahead of myself, I know, because there are still 127 days left until the state takes to the polls, and I am not giving up yet. But for those of you who aren’t living this along with me here in California, let me point out that it is a strange sensation to suddenly feel as though your life and your relationship are on trial, and everyone you encounter has been placed on the jury. It is a more than a little unnerving to imagine that every conversation you have– or fail to have– might impact the decision that someone makes about the future of you and your partner when they turn in their verdict on November 4th. More than unnerving, it is exhausting.

I am currently alternating between being paralyzed with fear that something I have just done or said- or failed to say- might move someone towards voting yes to pass the marriage amendment, and an irrepressible desire to climb up on top of our own glorious City Hall building and scream at the top of my lungs that we may go down come November, but damn it, we will go down fighting!

But then I am reminded of Vienna Teng’s song about the brief San Fransisco marriages, and her final haunting lines where a woman who has just been able to marry her partner after ten years of waiting sings: “even if they take it away again someday, this beautiful thing won’t change.” And as that song plays over and over again in my head, I can’t help but thinking that even more than we will go down fighting, we will go down loving. Because love, after all, is what we’re fighting for, isn’t it? And that beautiful thing won’t change.

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Dear California Voters,

It is not, as those who are closest to me will surely attest to, generally in my nature to ask for help. From anyone, really… let alone someone I don’t even know. But I would prefer not to think of you as strangers, seeing as you hold so much of my future in your hands, and it seems I am left with no option but to ask for your help. In a little over four months, you will have a choice to make. In all fairness, I will have a choice to make as well, but it will be blended together with your choice, and with all of the other choices of my fellow Californian citizens, to create the landscape of my future. You will have before you a ballot, with 12 propositions. It is the 8th that I would like to talk to you about today- the proposed constitutional amendment to place a limit on marriage in California. With that 8th proposition, you will have two options before you. The first option will be to say yes… yes, I think that you are less than me, and yes, I believe we should take away your newfound freedom to marry the one you love…and because I think that, I think the children you have or one day may have should also suffer for it. Yes, I think it is fair to rip these tentative strands of hope right out of your hands just after you were first able to grasp hold of them… because not only do you deserve less, you are less. Your second option will be to say No. No, I won’t tolerate inequality any longer, not here in my own state… not in my neighborhood and in my own home. No, I don’t think you are any less than I am, and no, I won’t stop you from making your love as legally valid and respected as mine.

When you see the ballot before you, try not to think of them as stationary words; as a split-second decision with no real ramifications, or as an intellectual argument you feel you have exhausted with your line of reasoning, whatever it may be. Think of it, instead, as you, making your reply directly to me, and to the thousands of other gay and lesbian individuals whose futures you are holding in your hands. Don’t just picture the words before you; letters typed on a page… picture your neighbor, your aunt, your classmates; your children and your children’s children. Picture your grocery clerk and your librarian; that woman in your Pilates class and that man who brews your morning latte. Picture their faces, because I promise you, the answer that you choose will shape at least one of their futures.

And if you cannot, for whatever reason, picture any of their faces when you envision the lives that your decision will impact, then picture mine. I am 5’9 with shoulder length dark brown hair, and even darker brown eyes. My partner is just a bit short than I am, with short red hair and eyes that range from green to blue, depending on her mood.

Picture us, waking up next to each other each morning… she makes the bed while I start the coffee, and then we meet at the front door to take our two little dogs out for their morning walk. Picture us sipping white chocolate mochas at a local independent coffee shop while we brainstorm ideas for our upcoming dissertation proposal. Picture us sitting side by side in church. Picture us mouthing along with the actors at our favorite musical, and picture us laughing our way across a dance floor, knowing that I have no rhythm but dancing anyway, because it is exhilarating to move across the room together, even if we don’t get all the steps right. There, can you see it? Can you see our love? Can you see our humanity?

Now picture us waking up on a lazy morning just last month. Having somehow both slept through our early classes, we are pulled out of sleep by a call letting us know that although we had gone to asleep in a world where we had only the faintest hope of ever getting legally married, we had woken up to a world in which it was a sudden tangible reality. Imagine the way the air itself might seem to taste a little fresher… a little lighter… in a state where you were now viewed with dignity and equality… a state where we can get married, just like almost every little girl has dreamed she one day might. Imagine our joyful tears when we discovered that the children we will one day adopt and foster and give birth to might now be protected not only by us, but also by the law.

Picture our tears of joy, our laughter, our hopes and our dreams… but also don’t forget to picture our fear. For on the tailwinds of this gift has arrived a paralyzing threat: that the gift will be taken away from us before we can even begin to fully embrace it.

What would you do, if your discussion about marriage was suddenly transformed from finding the perfect time, to deciding whether or not to seize the only opportunity you might ever see in your lifetime?

My girlfriend is terrified to hope that we might not have to choose between now and never; that come November, the air will have that same element of freedom and fairness that has us so giddy with excitement these days. I am terrified too… paralyzed even, in certain moments… But I wanted you to know that right now, I am also daring to hope. I am daring to hope that you will make your voice heard on November 4th; that you will cast your vote of “No” on Proposition 8 into a wave of votes on which my girlfriend, myself, and all of the other hopeful faces who are looking towards you in this moment, can be swept into a future where we can stand proudly beside you. Where we can be viewed with equality in our love, in our pain, in our hopes and dreams, and in our humanity… knowing that our freedom to marry the person we love had been upheld not only by the California Supreme Court, but also by you. This, dear California voter, is what I am asking you today. Will you vote No on Proposition 8, and use your voice to help make this dream a reality? Please bring your answer to the polling booths on November 4th. I’ll be anxiously awaiting your reply.

Everyone’s recent writing activity has spurred me on (thanks B and D). Part of the reason I’ve been rather silent has to do with reflecting on the purpose of my blogging and the direction of my thoughts. While there is a lot of political/social stuff that ravages through my small brain, it took me a while to realize this isn’t the venue. I’ll stick to what I know – me. Ergo:

I was in a relationship for 4 months. It ended a few days ago and the free time that I’ve rediscovered is absolutely astounding! I didn’t realize how much (freely-given) time was given to that relationship! For the sake of the other I won’t go into details of how it was, what went wrong, etc. Suffice to say that A 2.0 (3.0? 4.0?) has arrived. And looking ahead it is going to be quite the ride. The semester is over in less than a month, and I just solidified my plans for the summer. My professional self is coming together, as is my adult self starting to get some feet. It looks as though I’ll have more blogging-time, too! Anyway, on to some notables.

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I told my parents.

With the same forceful energy that I have been using over the past six months or so to resist telling them, suddenly and without any particular catalyst or tangible reason, around this time last week I decided that I would do it. And then I did it.

That makes it sound a lot easier than it actually was, of course. But the truth is, the panic is fading, the details are blurring, and the only thing I can solidly wrap my mind around is that it is done, and I will never have to do it again. And I am remembering how to breathe.. or rather, not having to remember to breathe nearly so much lately.

On one hand, it has been a long time coming. But on the other hand, it happened in the exact moment in which the time had finally come. A few months ago, a friend of mine who had been through the same process told me that she didn’t come out to her parents until the very moment in which she could no longer breathe until she had told them. And I am sure there are easier ways in which to undertake the process of coming out to one’s parents, but for her and for me, this is exactly what we did. And for me, that time was inconveniently on Valentine’s Day (thankfully, my girlfriend and I had already celebrated the day before).

I had every intention of driving home to tell my parents on Friday, because I was under the impression that one should tell their parents these sorts of things in person. But then my girlfriend gently reminded me that I have been working really hard at eliminating the should’s as a driving force behind my decisions lately, and that it’s more important to consider what might be right for your own family, rather than what might be right for a how-to-guide on coming out. And so, when I told my mom on the phone about how I had acquired a tiny diamond piercing in my nose since she’d last seen me, as a sort of trial run for what was coming next, and her reaction was an alternating pattern of silence/anger/silence, I decided it was time to get practical about the whole business. I didn’t want to be anywhere where I could see her face when I told her, and I sure as hell didn’t want to have to drive back three hours if they kicked me out. I am pretty decent at multi-tasking, but driving while crying has never been my strong suite. So, with my girlfriend on her way over to pick up the pieces when I was done, I called my mother back post-nose-piercing-disclosure, and I told her, in the indirect, round-about sort of way that marks my family’s favorite communication style, that “I am not one of those girls who likes boys.”

And she already knew, as mothers will, but that did not soften the blow even one little bit.

It seems that I have not come to a place within myself, and perhaps I never will, where I am quite prepared to cast her words out into the void of blogland with the good conscience that I have done justice to a moment that I suspect will for quite a while, at least to a certain degree, define both my mother’s life and my own. But suffice to say, by the end of the conversation, it was decided that she didn’t want to see me that weekend, but she did want to see me again… and that she would be the one to tell my father.

What I do, however, feel confident putting into words is the way my girlfriend literally carried me in her arms when I collapsed after I hung up the phone, and didn’t just watch me cry but actually cried with me in the aftermath of what I hope will be one of the most difficult conversations I ever have to endure. And also the way my old friend, the one behind the counter at the coffee shop, came over too, and they both sat with me in the way-without-answers that I believe is one of the truest things we can do for one another in our most broken of moments.

And even more grace came flowing my way the next morning when I called my father, and he reacted in a most unexpected manner… in the way that we might all hope our parents would react to this kind of thing: with unshattered love and with a grief moderated by hope and compassion, leaving the faintest of impressions that this might be less of an end and more of a beginning.

It has been a lasting impression; that not only in my relationship with my father, but also in the way that I am able to interact genuinely and resiliently with a world that has generally not contained much space for girls who don’t like boys… this will be less of an end, and more of a beginning.

I wrote before about the lament Psalms, and how we have been studying them in my Old Testament class, but I left out what comes after the lament Psalms (otherwise known as the Psalms of disorientation). What comes next, you see, is the Psalms of Reorientation. But the key thing about them is that they are not merely a return to your life the way it was before it got dumped on its face in the mud; they are a new orientation, in a new place. I can’t help but thinking how ironic it is that the word orientation is used here, when that in and of itself is exactly what i am trying to adjust to… a new sexual orientation, or at least a new realization of it. But it’s my personal opinion that this book about the Psalms oversimplifies things by breaking them down into three specific categories: orientation, disorientation, and reorientation…particularly when it defines them as songs of praise, songs of lament, and even more songs of praise. I personally, in my own period of reorientation, have been singing songs of praise, sure, but that’s certainly not all. There have also been songs of anger and panic and depression and hopelessness, and foot stomping, and surrender, and hope and… well, you get the idea.

So here is where my theology classes end and my psychology classes begin (my integration professor would not be pleased to hear me speaking like this): Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood, DSM IV code 309.28. That’s my current self-diagnosis, and I would venture to say that I am not alone in this. I have yet to meet a person who has gone through the coming out process without dealing with some form of depression or anxiety, or a combination of the two. And it is on these grounds that I would like to argue, at least in the case of gay and lesbian Christians, that a period of reorientation is not just marked by songs of praise. It is marked by a swirling, dizzying mixture of reactions, both predictable and utterly unexpected, to a world and to a self that we are just beginning to recognize, both again and for the very first time.

I have been trying, though, to make this a time of praise. Not just because that’s what my theology professor seems to think it should be, but because it is spring, and I have always had such a soft place in my heart for spring. It seems that each year around this time, I throw away whatever darkness has been accumulating in my soul over the winter, and throw myself into the celebration of new life. And so this year has been no exception. I even went so far as to go and buy arm loads full of potted daffodils and tulips, and scatter them around a room I had already decorated only the week before with a brightly flowered bedspread, and blown-up photos I had taken of spring-times past.

It was a noble effort, but a bit of a failed one… because the excitement I feel from seeing the red and yellow blooms that fill my tiny corner of our less than spacious apartment is tempered by the anxiety I experience every time a flower wilts and dies. Did I over water it? Underwater it? Is there too much light, or perhaps too little? Is that a plant eating insect right there on its leaf, that somehow made its way into our second story apartment? Will they ever recover from that time my girlfriend’s cat ate their leaves? Is my little dog peeing on them in my absence? The options for worry are limitless, and I begin to suspect that in this area, as in many others, there is still something standing between me and embracing the new dawn of spring…

My therapist suggests it is the fact that I am angry, and that I generally do a shitty job of expressing it, or even really recognizing. When he first said this, I agreed politely, seethed internally that he could make such an assumption about me, and then promptly sunk into despair that I had failed yet again, and anxiety that I would never improve. And then I cried. Because the equation goes something like this: anger, unexpressed and unrecognized = anger turned inward = depression + anxiety. Shit. Shit shit shit. This all starting to feel a little bit familiar.

And so for lent I am practicing anger. Well, that’s not the full story… I am also practicing solitude and meditation… but I am definately practicing anger. After all, Jesus himself never hesitated to express an angry righteous indignation whenever he saw religion used for people’s own selfish purposes instead of in a way that honors God and the entirety of God’s creation. And so, I am angry… I am angry about the in group/out group dynamics that keep a few overtly moral straight upper-middle class folks at the center of God’s will and toss a whole slew of minorities to the fringes where they are repeatedly thrown against a brick wall by the sheer centrifugal force of all this incessant spinning in circles that’s been going on lately. And I am angry about my inability to do anything about it. And I am angry that I don’t know how to come out to my parents. And I am angry that my best friend would rather invite the boyfriend of a coworker to her wedding than my own girlfriend, even though I am her bridesmaid. I am angry that I have so much to learn about being in a relationship, and that I have so few models to look to. And, well, you get the idea…

So as spring pokes up its hopeful head all around me, I committed this year not just to embracing the rebirth of new life, but the cycles of life in their entirely… because even today, as I was noticing all the wealthy gardens filled with newly purchased flowers… I was also noticing men and women who were living on the streets, pushing their entire lives around in shopping carts that held all their earthly belongings, headed towards homes they haven’t yet found. And even as we face presidential elections that speak the language of hope and change and a brighter future, most of the world (and myself included) looks on in a confusing combination of wanting so badly to hope, and also being paralyzed with fear that it is too soon to hope that the global winds might really be changing. And even as I settle into a rich network of support and healing, there are still days when I am afraid I will not remember how to breathe.

But today, just for today, I could breathe just fine.. and so I plucked a dandelion from the ground and blew with all my strength, making a wish that for all of us… for those of you I know, and those I have yet to meet, that it will all be just a little less painful this spring.

 

 

Token ^^

Spending 3 days locked in a condo with my staff (8 peers and 2 slightly older female bosses) is not my idea of paradise. In fact, I’d almost rather watch the superbowl with my testosterone-flooded, hunting-crazed, fundie relatives. First off, Palm Springs is a glorified retirement home, without nurses or CNAs to be there when they stroke or code. Not exactly “retreat” material. Secondly, my staff knows I’m gay and plays the “this-is-my-token-gay-friend-coworker” relentlessly. This was compounded by the fact that one of my bosses is recently engaged and reading a premarital sex book in preparation for the Big Night. That opened a lot of doors for blunt sex talk. I was conspicuously quiet during these discussions, and I would get the inevitable “what’s it like for you” questions. ::internal groan::

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When I look back over the past few months, the one word that comes to mind is “progress.” When I started this blog, I hadn’t come out to anybody who hadn’t already come out to me at least ten times over… and now I can safely say that I’ve had “that conversation” with all of my closest straight friends, and they were overwhelming positive experiences across the board. I’ve told my best friend, my roommate, new friends from seminary and old friends from college, and out of the dozen or so people that I talked to, only one said the dreaded phrase that we all brace ourselves against: “I still love you, but…”

Mostly, what I heard instead went a bit like this:

“I don’t care, as long as you’re happy…” said my long term college friend, who once told me she was permanently boycotting IKEA after they showed a male couple with their arms around each other in a commercial for their furniture.

“You didn’t seriously think this would change things between us, did you? And don’t think this means you get off the hook either… whoever you date still has to be a Christian, you know” said my best friend of six years, and roommate all throughout college.

“Ok,…” said my current roommate, “But seriously, how cute is our dog?”

“Congratulations!” said one of my closest college friends “… but really, like I was saying, I honestly don’t know which of those three boys I should date.”

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised,” said another college friend, “but you can definitely call me whenever you want to talk about it…” as she proceeded to share with me several insightful connections between the challenges I will face in my relationship, and those she is already facing in her own biracial relationship.

And in some way or another, they all thanked me for sharing; for being vulnerable and honest… for the very things I had felt so saddened about omitting from my relationships this past year.

In short, these experiences were all varrying shades of beautiful. And so, I came home thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was ready for the one big step I have left to take… telling my parents.

My initial reaction, as soon as I arrived, was to chicken out entirely. I mean, things were going so well. And why would I want to screw up that? But then there is the little messy detail that I am actually dating someone now, and while I could justify not telling my parents the abstract idea that I had been questioning my sexuality, because abstract conversations are just not how we operate around here anyway, I am fairly certain they would want to know that I am in my first real relationship. I am fairly certain, given my complete lack of ability to hide things, that they will find out eventually anyway.

And so, I have been toying again with the idea of telling them, as my week here at home is wrapping up, and the amount of time that I would have to face them after the conversation is getting comfortably shorter.

But then, last night, the Grandchildren conversation suddenly popped up, and with absolutely no permission from my brain whatsoever, my mouth asked my parents: “If I had foster babies, or adopted, would you love them? Would you treat them like your own grandchildren?” Now, this is a conversation that the girl that I am dating and I have been having quite a bit lately, because a desire to go buy a house and fill it with the voices of children who have been forgotten by our society is what almost kept us each individually from coming to grad school in the first place, but it is certainly not a conversation that I meant to have with my parents.

“Sure, we would” said my mom, because she would, I know she would… just look at the way she squeals with joy every time she sees my dog, the same raggedy little lost puppy she told me firmly I couldn’t take in around this time last year.

My dad, though, my dad launched into a discussion of how said hypothetical-adopted-grandchild will almost certainly have antisocial personality disorder, or in layman’s terms, no conscience whatsoever, which is a leap in logic that I have never been able to convince him is lacking in several dimensions.

 A few minutes later, he is well into his famous “Speech on How You Have no Idea How Much Trouble Those Troubled-youth Can Be”… in which he always omits the fact that I have a fairly good idea indeed, having spent the past year working at a residential treatment center with aforementioned youth. When he is done with that speech, he is onto his all-time favorite: “You Would Be Much Better off to Pick a Nice Husband and Give Birth to Your Own Perfect Babies…”

At this point, I interrupt him: “but would you love them,” I ask… “If I did have foster babies, or adopt, would you still love them?”

He sighs dramatically. “I guess it would have to be on a case-by-case basis. If they were a lot of trouble, then no… but if they were really good kids, then yes, maybe we would.” My mom, still listening from the kitchen, nods her agreement to this case-by-case assessment. If they are good kids, if they behave themselves, then we will love them.

Now, rationally, I know that my parents are not talking about me… and this is not a fair way to assess how they will react to the news I am trying so hard to work up the nerve to tell them… but I can’t help but feel, at my very core, the implications of this message: if you are good, if you play by the rules, and continue to fit our standards of “the perfect child,” we will love you. Now, this is probably more my fault than it is their own, because I never fulfilled my teenage duty to test this assumption with a Class A Rebellion that would have proven to all of us, once and for all, that their love for me is not conditional…that they will still love me when they find out that my poster-child career is about to veer seriously away from the normal curve.

I know, deep within myself, that the time is coming. The time is coming for me to take a step of faith, and trust in the grace they hold deep within them… trust in the love we have been building up all these years now, just as I have already done with all the other people I hold close to my heart. But so far, that time is not quite here… not yet. I still have a little courage left to build… a little praying left to do.

But for now, in the pocket of time before I am ready to take this final major step in coming out to the people I hold dearest, I am content to sit in overwhelming gratitude for the grace that I have already been shown… for all the different ways my friends have shown me that I can step outside of their expectations without stepping outside of their love. I’d call that progress.

It’s been a tough last few days for me. Shit, it has been a really tough semester for me. These last few days haven’t made it any easier. I don’t want to spend the time to explain what has been shitty, its nothing all that abnormal from my other experiences. Lets just say that there have been frustrating classroom discussions and depressing glimpses of reality…moments of breaking out in tears in the most embarrassing and unexpected places, feelings of deep hopelessness, in this season of advent, when I am supposed to be most hopeful.

I sat on my couch last night, in front of the fireplace, curled up in a ball, sobbing, clutching my stuffed gorilla Bummer, as I listened to this song play over and over and over again: Read the rest of this entry »

I just got off the phone with my best friend, and we were just talking about life and some of our friends that we used to live with, and go to church with (way back in the day, pre-Mountainside).
“Do you ever talk to them?” she asked.
“No” I explain. And than I chuckle a little bit “I don’t know if they would want to talk to me if they knew… if they go on myspace at all.” Of course I am referring to my sexuality and my myspace page where in the about me: orientation box, it says lesbian. Read the rest of this entry »

I think the video clip speaks for itself…. but this is a bit of my experience with the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride. Unreal, but, sadly, very real….