Category Archives: Family

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

rainbowphoenix Well, in another example of how the world shifts and tilts upon occasion, I was thrown for such a loop I landed keister up, arms and legs akimbo. (If you can picture this without thinking it out, you’re my type of person.)

My last two posts have been dismal, but the best I could do in a world full of disaster, hatred, and animosity.  I’m sure you know the feeling, and if you don’t, please read my last two posts. The Pulse massacre exploded into my consciousness and took over, quickly becoming the reference point in my life; the thing around which every word and action were measured for safety, concern, and ability to cope. If my life were a movie, it would have been the opposite of The Wizard of Oz. I stepped from a wondrous world full of the brilliant colors of the rainbow to the sepia tones of severe depression.

And part of that depression was knowing that there’s a faction of my family that passionately believes because I am a lesbian I am doomed to an eternity in hell unless I repent of my sin and embrace their version of God. I’ve tried to let their judgmental bigotry slide off my back, but it’s leaked through more often than not. They are unfailingly polite in person, however, for which I am incredibly grateful. Family gatherings are never strained unless the conversation strays to the topics of religion (their favorite) or gay rights (mine). But I know they vote to repress me and refuse my family any legal recognition. I’ve been to visit their pentecostal church and know they are shored up by their fervent friends and reactionary preacher.

And then this showed up in my Facebook feed:

My niece posted this on 6/17/16.

posted by my niece (YES, the same one I referenced yesterday), a particularly zealous young lady.  Although I love her and have tried to be a good aunt, we’ve spent a great deal of time estranged from each other. Once I told her that I had always loved her and that not a month since she’d been born had passed without my asking after, or wondering about her. She reacted by telling me that she had ‘never been so insulted’ and blocked me for months.

So you can imagine my surprise to see her bravely flying in the face of everything she holds dear in support of me and mine. I immediately replied with wisdom and grace, and that witty way I’ve perfected as a professional author:

Wow. And thanks!! 😀

Okay, I probably could have done better, but I was up in the air and flailing. Remember, at the moment I saw the meme I was wading hip deep in depression, so to be pulled from the sucking mire and tossed ecstatically into the air in the blink of an eye clobbered the words right out of me. And then she responded with this:

Of course.  I’ve actually been meaning to write this out for a while. I owe you a huge apology. I have no excuse for the kind of behavior and horrible homophobic things I used to say about the LGBT+ community. They were out of ignorance and misdirection and fear of the unknown. And while that doesn’t excuse anything I ever said or did, realizing that I was so ignorant and so fearful forced me to reckon with the pain and persecution that I was unintentionally inflicting on you. When I parroted the ideas that homosexuality was a sin at you instead of loving you for who you are, I thought I was showing you what love was, because that was how I had been taught to love. But instead, I was showing you what fear was and projecting the fears of other people, who I listened to in the naïvety of my youth, directly onto you instead of thinking for myself what was right and what was wrong. Over the past year I’ve learned more about love than I’ve ever known in my whole life. I’ve learned things about others and about myself that have changed my life completely. And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I’m the biggest hypocrite I’ve ever met and truly don’t deserve your forgiveness for being so hateful in the past. I take full responsibility for the things I said, and accept the consequences of speaking the words I now know were horribly horribly wrong. You deserve to be able to be who you are without judgement from others, you’ve always deserved that, because all people are screwed up and it’s not anybody’s place to say anything to anyone about anything that’s none of their business. You deserve to be able to go to a church with your wife and be loved and welcomed with open arms because that’s what churches are for, loving and welcoming people. And you deserve to be able to go out in public and not be afraid for your life because some crazy person disagrees with who you are. Because all people have the right to be happy and live their lives in peace. I am disgusted by the person I was, and by how I made you feel about yourself. I understand if you can’t forgive me, because of the nature of the pain and persecution I inflicted on you. But please know that I love you, and support you in anything you to do. And I have decided that I will fight for you to be able to openly be who you are, because you are precious and you are loved and you deserve to live a life full of love instead of judgment.

Out of tragedy arises triumph. As I resume my life, I will feel the loss of the 49 and the fear of the surviving 53. I will commiserate with their loved ones, and my loved ones, and all my LGBTQ+ friends as we find the strength to carry on.

Thank Goodness, in an almost suspiciously timed way, I’ve been reminded that:

LOVE is LOVE is LOVE

 

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RAINBOW AT HALF-MAST

It’s been a hard couple of days, I won’t lie.

There are the inevitable questions: Why there and then? Who was really behind it all? What made him do it? And while there are answers, they won’t satisfy, because there are no answers good enough to make up for the sickening horror, pain, and devastation.

Time does strange things when you’re grieving. Two days can seem like a week, and hours can disappear in the blink of an eye. The heaviness I carry around makes me tired without having done anything. Fighting despair is apparently exhausting.

Friends have put up heart-warming posts on Facebook telling me that it’s okay to grieve and feel bad, passing along celebrity reactions to the horror, wise and witty memes to distract, and doing what we ALWAYS do when attacked as a group; bucking each other up. Even one of my white, straight, cis-gendered male friend (35 years my junior to boot) reached out to tell me he valued me as a person and a friend. My mother sent me a text telling me she thought the massacre was horrific.

And although all of that helps, none of it makes the fear go away. It’s easy to say that we must answer hate with love, that our Pride counters his cowardice, and that just keeping on keeping on is enough. But it’s a lot harder to ignore the gut-gnawing fear that swam into my belly as I realized that I’m suffering a kind of PTSD, born of the many times I’ve reacted to the number of attacks in our history. There have been so many, too many, over the years and like an overstretched rubber band I’m finding it hard to bounce back.

Still, Barack Obama, George Takei, and dozens of others have soothed my ragged nerves some with their balm of rational concern. It will take time (which may pass quickly, or not, depending), but eventually I will carry on again, if not calmly, at least with hope for a better future.

The bastard may have scared me, but not witless. As long as I have a brain, and I can express myself through words, I win.

#Pride #NoHoldingMeDown #AmWriting #PTSD

LET THE WEDDING BELLS RING

Congratulations, America!

I’ve worked a long time for this, and it’s been a bumpy ride along the way.

I remember the very first time I heard the phrase, “Gay Marriage”. It was the last weekend in June 2002, and I was registering voters for a mid-term election at Twin Cities Pride. It was a good crowd that year, full of high spirits. As I was cajoling passersby to sign up, a young woman shook me off because she was already registered, then turned around and said, “But I won’t vote for anyone who won’t vote for gay marriage.”

It was one of those moments when time changed, everything slowed down as I tried to reconcile her words to the world I knew. Her companion, who I don’t remember clearly at all, added something to the effect that until we could marry, we’d never be equal.

My mind went blank. It was a true paradigm shift. My world tilted to the side and shook cobwebs from my brain. I had never thought of it before, why would I? We were barely tolerated as couples. The idea of gay marriage was completely out of my realm of conscious thought. But the seed was planted.

It took root because my sweetheart/partner/special friend (as we were labeled) had developed heart disease earlier that year in a medical event that included a smug clerk safe behind a shield of glass telling me that since I wasn’t ‘family’ I would not be allowed to see her in the ER. Once I knew my sweetheart was going to survive I realized the depth of anger in my heart towards my own country. I’d been terrified, and the witch behind the counter had taken a cruel delight in adding to my torture. That was one reason I was so politically active at Pride that year, an event I’d always enjoyed as a casual participant.

We also had a beautiful granddaughter born that year who quickly became the light of our lives. The idea she might know me not as her grandmother’s ‘special friend’ but rather her wife filled me with hope. The idea wouldn’t stop playing in my mind. What if? What if?

On Thursday, February 12, 2004 I turned 47. (I see you doing the math, there.) My Beloved and I were in Fresno, CA visiting my mother. During the news that night we saw the funniest thing; a beautiful couple of elderly women had been legally married in San Francisco. How quixotic I thought. Talk about tilting at windmills.

When the marriages were still taking place two days later we looked at each other and said, “Let’s do it.” It was Valentine’s Day after all. So we quickly packed an overnight bag with the nicest clothes we’d brought with us and took off.

A very long story later (ask me nicely and I’ll tell you all about it) we’d weathered the Phelpsians, two days of waiting in lines, a nasty night outside in a raging Pacific storm, and stood on the San Francisco Courthouse steps, waving our brand new marriage certificate at a crowd of cheering strangers.

They invalidated us six months later (not even the dignity of an annulment), but we’d known the thrill of being legitimately married in one place in our country, if only for a handful of days. When our home state of Minnesota legalized Gay Marriage, followed swiftly by recognition by the Federal government, we were finally married in 2013, surrounded by our daughters and grandchildren. It a transcendental day.

But the fear of finding ourselves facing an emergency in a hostile state that would not recognize our marriage haunted us. We travel a lot, and some of the local governments of some of our favorite places would have happily added to our anxiety and grief during an emergency. I carried a photo copy of our marriage certificate with us everywhere.

Today I finally took it out of my purse. I won’t need it anymore. My family is now recognized in every state in the Union, and I’m no longer at war with my own country.

Authors Abroad


Vacation time, a chance to write, or is that wrong?

The long winter is finally over (or ending, depending on where you are), and many people are planning or already going on vacation. Sun seekers from all around the world congregate in favorite locations to socialize, relax, reconnect with their families, and build memories to last through the next fifty weeks, if not a lifetime.

The question for writers becomes: Should I write while on vacation? Exotic locales can help the author stimulate creativity, suggest plots, unveil fantastic settings, observe great characters for sketches, and get to a shared place with the likes of Hemingway and Anais Nin. In other words, a writer’s dream, nay, euphoric fantasy.

However, most authors are on vacation with their families. Those same long suffering loved ones who put up with burned dinners, one-sided conversations, and long rambling discussions about your characters or plot with ridiculous questions that can’t be answered (what would you do if you were on the moon and an alien was…). Your spouse, children, parents, grand-children and/or grand-parents are the ones who’ve waited a long lonely year to regain your attention and be loved and appreciated. They know you’re a wonderful person, they just haven’t seen much of you lately.

So do you write, or is that wrong?

I don’t know. I’m asking you. Really, what would you do?

As for me, I spend time with my family and leave the writing until I get home. I may not have the immediacy, the immersion into the fantasy of world travel, but I write down what I remember when I get home. If I have a brilliant idea while traveling, I’ll take no more than fifteen minutes to jot the idea down in a notebook, otherwise every minute of vacation time belongs to the people I love.

I’m not saying that’s the way to become a successful writer, but I know it’s the way to build and strengthen a happy family. Although I will admit to a small part of me wishing I could be two people, the one unattached and able to revel in the writing possibilities that arise when away from home, I’m much happier being part of a supportive, understanding family who deserve the best of me while on vacation.