Category Archives: LGBT

BLOOD MONEY MURDER Book Review

blood-money-murder-1mbBLOOD MONEY MURDER SLAYS!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and here it is:

Author Jessie Chandler always hits my funny bone. I’d never heard of cozy mysteries before starting this series, and now I’m seriously hooked. Her latest book in the Shay O’Hanlon series, Blood Money Murder, is seriously feeding my addiction.

Life is never easy for Shay, co-owner of the popular coffee shop and bakery, The Rabbit Hole. This Saint Patrick’s Day, her crusty but caring surrogate mother, Eddy, is visited by two unsavory characters. Shay is immediately protective, but doesn’t understand the significance of their threats until she and her half-sister are kidnapped by two leprechaun disguised thugs.

Handcuffed to irritating, favor currying Lisa and trapped in the basement of an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, Shay has to fight her way free of jealousy before they can attempt an escape from their bonds. JT Bordeaux, her long-suffering policewoman lover, risks everything she’s ever worked for to search for her missing girlfriend.

The usual posse of delightful characters rally around. Sweet geniuses Tulip and Rocky, and Coop, Shay’s oddball friend from childhood, jump in with their brand of genuinely funny detective work. Together, they tackle a thirty year-old robbery and murder completely unaware that it’s one of their own who has the biggest confession to make.

Blood Money Murder earns five stars. I recommend this book to everyone as a delightful read, and a perfect gift for lighthearted mystery lovers.

 

I’ve Waited a Lifetime for this Interview – Finale

Jumping The Gun... I Mean BroomAs you know if you’ve read my last few posts, I’ve been asked by a nephew who is a leader in his evangelical church to answer some questions about my life in general, and gay marriage in particular. He asks a series of questions, and I will answer them one at a time to give him time to digest my answers. Here are his final questions and my responses:

4) In what ways are you pleased and/or frustrated with progress in this area, socially and politically, in our country?

Obviously I’m pleased that my family is now legally recognized by our country. No one can keep me from Traf’s side if she’s ill by insisting our family is illegitimate (again, a deliberately chosen word). No doctors can refuse to give me pertinent information about her, and must accept my directives as her medical representative when she’s unable to do so.

When I die, she will inherit my belongings in the same manner that your wife will inherit yours, without having to pay the exorbitant taxes of a non-spouse and thereby lose half or more of what we shared together in life. She will be my widow instead of a mourning friend and will be accorded the respect and benefits due her.

We are raising our three-year-old great-grandson. I know you’re beginning to understand how great an undertaking that is, with all the worries and fears that any parent faces. Every minute of every day and night we guard him from harm, worrying over his health, safety, and happiness. I’m pleased that his playmates in school will (for the first time) understand that the family he is growing up in is as valid as their own. Although he will eventually run into the prejudicial bigotry against rainbow families in which such a large segment of our society indulges, perhaps it won’t hit him as young as it did our granddaughter only a few years back, or Traf’s daughters when they were children. Maybe now, we’ll attend school events together rather than one at a time to keep people confused about our relationship and thereby deflect potential abuse from our kids.

But, I’m frustrated that the LGBT community is facing such a serious backlash from those who are angered by our legalized marriages. Bullying bigots and self-righteous prigs are encouraging an ‘ew…ick’ response to us, again, based on assumptions concerning one aspect of our lives, our sexuality. That causes those with less self-control to act out, and ‘gay-bashing’ is occurring at a frightening pace. Any Google search about violence against LGBT will bring you face to face with horrifying statistics. In a two-minute search just now, I found an article by The National Geographic that says, in part:

The motivations behind attacks against LGBT people “have always been, and continue to be, [about] seemingly religious rhetoric,” says Kaila Story, a professor of women’s and gender studies at University of Louisville.

LGBT folks, especially those of color, have a disproportionately high victim rate of violent attacks, murder, and suicide. This number triples for transgendered men and women. One in four LGBT folks will deal with some form of violence in their lifetimes. Nephew, between me, Traf, your Aunt T-, Ba-, and Ja- (not to mention the other LGBT folks you know) which of us will be sacrificed on the altar of hate? Which ones of us will be brutalized, hospitalized, or buried due to “religious rhetoric” spread by your church and others like it, as the professor above calls it?

5) If you could change one thing about society in regards to perspectives or opinions on same-sex marriage, what would that be?

Same-sex marriage, just like any other marriage, is a social contract between two people and their government. It requires certain responsibilities, and gives certain rights that exist to protect one thing: family. When people wish to deny gay marriage, they are trying to leave certain families vulnerable.

The one thing I would change is the perspective that denying gay marriage will somehow sanctify heterosexual marriage. Your marriage is in no way threatened by my own.

Your sweet son and wife are in no danger because Traf and I are married. But our great-grandson would be DIRECTLY threatened by the reversal of our marriage, left vulnerable and unprotected by the laws of the land. He could be removed from us (the only safe place he’s ever known) and put in Foster Care. If religious conservatives have their way and vote in representatives who will strip our marital rights away, we will return to the days of living in the shadows as outlaws, existing at the forbearance of our ‘betters’, and with no legal recourse to right the wrongs and injustices done to LGBT folks and their families.

Is this over-dramatic rhetoric on my part? No Nephew, that’s the way it was only a few years back.

6) If you would have me relay one message or thought to my church on this topic, what would you have me say?

LGBT folks are just that, plain folks. We work, pay taxes, raise children, vote, and are productive citizens. What makes your spouse and children any more deserving of love and protection than mine?

7) Is there anything else you would like to add?

1 Corinthians 13:13

12Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is LOVE.

Love is love. Do not pervert it with religious bigotry, but respect Lord God in His wisdom. He made us, one and all, in His image, and He does not make mistakes.

ALSO – As to why we use LGBT as opposed to the original letter arrangement of GLBT:

Men have historically, and still do, take the reins of any group because of their superior physical strength, wealth, and power. So of course, when the original movement began gay men listed themselves first, lesbians second, and bi-sexuals third. Transgendered people weren’t even considered at the time, much less those who self-identify as queer, intersexed, asexual, and/or questioning (this explains the newer version of LGBT: LGBTQIA+).

In the 1980s, AIDS was known by the under-educated as The Gay Disease. Religious bigots declared it God’s punishment for being gay (which doesn’t take into consideration the fact that lesbians have the lowest rate of contagion, far fewer than heterosexuals).

Gay men infected with this plague were abandoned by their friends, lovers, families, and even hospitals turned them away leaving them to die miserable and alone. People were afraid to touch them, so no one held them or dried their tears as they struggled with their inevitable, and painful, deaths. No one bathed them when they were too weak, or brought food to nourish and comfort them. They were the lepers of modern times.

So their lesbian sisters stepped up. We took care of them as they died, replacing the people they’d loved and trusted to be there for them. We held them as they sobbed in despair, we combed their hair and bathed the sweat from their bodies. We brought food, comfort, and care. And when they died, we cried as we buried them.

I, personally, helped ease the way for three men who suffered needlessly due to bigotry and prejudice. Many people think we lesbians have nothing in common with our gay brothers, but they are wrong. We share our humanity.

In recognition of our loving support, the gay men who ran the rainbow coalition changed the order of the letters, surprising the hell out of us. The GLBT movement became the LGBT movement.

Nephew, I hope these answers will give you some idea of what it is like for LGBT folks living in America concerning same-sex marriage. Remember, we are as diverse as any other group, and these are my thoughts based on my reality. Others may have differing views based on their lives.

I wish you the best of luck with your sermon. Open your heart, eyes, and soul; God will do the rest.

I’ve Waited a Lifetime for this Interview – Part Three

Jumping The Gun... I Mean BroomAs you know if you read my last few posts, I’ve been asked by a nephew who is a leader in his evangelical church to answer some questions about my life in general, and gay marriage in particular. He asks a series of questions, and I will answer them one at a time to give him time to digest my answers. Here is his third question and my response:

3) How would you characterize (if any) your interactions with Christians regarding your marriage?

That totally depends on the Christian, doesn’t it? I divide them into three categories: LGBT Christians; Mainstream Christians; and Evangelical Christians, and I’ll take each group separately.

LGBT CHRISTIANS (and YES, there are many of them) come in at least two types: The ones who know they are the children of a living God who loves them unconditionally; and the self-hating ones who writhe in agony over the disconnect between their belief system and the reality of their existence.

The LGBT Christians who know that God doesn’t make mistakes, and that they themselves never had a choice about being LGBT, understand that He made them the way they are for a purpose. They are usually relaxed in their religion, comfortable in the presence of their fellow church members, and embracing of not only other LGBT folks, but also other diverse members of society. I have always had glorious interactions with them. They invite Traf and me to their church services and into their membership. They laugh, and sing, and praise God through whom all blessings flow, working hard to make their communities safe places of acceptance.

The LGBT Christians who believe in a vengeful God, who hates them for the sin of being themselves, lead troubled lives filled with low self-esteem, distrust, outrage, and hatred for themselves and everyone else. Too often, they end up being turned away from the only support group they know the minute they come ‘out’, so many of them stay in-the-closet their whole lives. They work hard to deny their sexuality, convinced that if they can exorcise that one aspect of their lives God will smile on them and they will be happy. It never works out that way, unfortunately. It might work for a time, but eventually their true natures refuse to be denied and internal conflict, failure to conform to the desires of others, and condemnation from those around them make them miserable. Every time their church/members talk about what they consider their secret sin they hate themselves a little more. These LGBT Christians do not interact well with anyone, themselves included. They are usually so self-involved trying to be something/someone they are not that they are blind to the lives, loves, and needs of those around them. They often join evangelical churches (see below) in an effort to control (or be controlled) themselves.

MAINSTREAM CHRISTIANS are the ones who belong to traditional churches, such as Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and others led by ministers who’ve earned doctorates of divinity (DD). Individual churches, rather than denominations, often determine how they interact with me and other LGBT folks. Some are welcoming and accepting. Others are judgmental and non-accepting. One of my favorite memories happened the year I came out.

I was terminated from my job with three days’ notice when I came out, and denied access to my classroom and students. My church told me I was no longer welcome, and not to return. The bank that held my mortgage would not work with me when my salary abruptly ended, and I lost my home. That was when I rented an RV and drove away from everyone and everything I knew, very despondent and more than a little inclined to drive off a cliff somewhere and end it all. Luckily for me, I had more curiosity than despair and kept putting off my suicide as I met strangers and visited places I’d never been before.

I was in Connecticut during June when the local Pride was held. It was not the first one I’d been to, but the small, sparsely attended and barely tolerated one in Fresno had not prepared me for this one. A large parade flowed through the streets, filled not only with Dykes on Bikes*, glitzy floats of drag queens** and dancing boys sponsored by gay bars, PFLAG***, and open cars filled with supportive radio personalities and politicians, but also with individual churches carrying messages of love and inclusion. A Methodist group was the first I saw, and the sheer joy that flooded me at seeing them in the parade made me run out into the street and up to an older woman walking with them. She took one look at my face, saw something there of my desperate need for acceptance, and enfolded me in her arms. She stood still, allowing the group to move on without her, hugging me until I was done. With tears in both our eyes, she released me and continued her journey, as I turned back to the curb to continue mine. It was one of those shining moments in your life that never leave you, and I will love that unknown woman until the moment of my death. I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Methodists ever since.

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS have disproportionately proffered unpleasant interactions, although I must confess that most of these have been online and come from unseen strangers who claim to be Christian. I can’t know they are for sure, so some of them may have been merely trolls, or simply anti-LGBT.

I’ve been an active member of online LGBT groups for over a decade now, working to educate people about what it means to be one of us. That’s why I wrote the YA books I’ve written, to help kids in rainbow families come to terms with being part of a different type of family. Riding the Rainbow is about living in an out-loud-and-proud family versus the danger of growing up with in-the-closet parents. A Man’s Man explores an unhappy teen’s coming to terms with having a gay father. The Boxer Shorts Rebellion is a thinly disguised, fictionalized exposé of the Minnesota Anoka/Hennepin school district’s horrendous few years of being a suicide contagion zone and the very real dangers of bullying LGBT teens.

Each time I publish one of these books, trolling evangelical Christians have written harsh reviews based solely on their bigotry, rather than the quality of writing or messages, in an obvious attempt to squash sales. Sometimes it’s blatantly clear they haven’t even read the book they’re bashing. Online discussions about LGBT rights/marriage have led to even nastier exchanges. I’ve been called a ‘bulldyke’, ‘man-hater’, ‘rug-muncher’, and other nastier phrases I’ll spare you. My life and safety have been threatened repeatedly, as have the lives of my family. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been informed that a good rape (like such a thing is even possible) would set me ‘straight’. Again, I have only their self-avowal that these monstrous human beings are Christians because they certainly don’t fit my definition of the word or religion, yet they claim the title proudly.

One of my worst memories I already mentioned in the link I offered in the story of Traf and I getting married in San Francisco when the Westboro Baptist Church repeatedly harassed us in their hate-mobile. Their ugly nastiness displayed on huge signs, jeering words, and deliberate intent to ruin a day of happiness for as many as possible seared into my soul. The group of protesters, Muslim and Christian alike, displaying their judgmental bigotry as some sort of badge of honor, attempted to shame and ridicule us into disappearing. They couldn’t succeed because we were a large group with each other’s backs those days and night. But imagine what a vulnerable, in-the-closet teen would feel if confronted with such hatred.

I’m afraid, sweet Nephew, that these interactions have colored my views of your church, and your unspoken feelings and attitudes, even though you, yourself, have offered me only mild disapproval along with your love. One of your cousins, however, decided to let her gay relations know exactly what she thought last year, and let loose with a condemning attack so dark and deep it shocked me to my core. D- attacked your other lesbian aunt, denying T-‘s self-avowed Christianity and deeply held beliefs. Your cousin ignored our insistence that we have not chosen to be gay but were born this way, and was disgusted by our suggestion that God made us this way with purpose in mind. She told us that if we did not repent our sins and sinful life, we would be condemned to hell for all eternity. She insisted she was loving the sinner while hating the sin, but let me be quite clear: That was not love. Adding insult to injury, her sister chimed in, obviously impressed by D-‘s deeply held religious faith, wishing she were strong enough to address her loved ones with the same message.

I’m happy to say that D- changed her attitudes and beliefs. After the Pulse massacre in Orlando, she sent me a heart-felt apology which changed everything between us. I hope she also offered one to T-, because that, too, would be greatly appreciated I’m sure.

Dykes on Bikes

** Drag Queens

*** PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays)

I’ve Waited a Lifetime for this Interview – Part Two

cbb21-wedding_cake_toppersAs you know if you read yesterday’s post, I’ve been asked by a nephew who is a leader in his evangelical church to answer some questions about my life in general, and gay marriage in particular. He asks a series of questions, and I will answer them one at a time to give him time to digest my answers. Here is his second question and my response:

2) Do you feel on the whole accepted or persecuted by your friends/family?  Examples?

This is a huge question. I will take it in two parts: Family first, then friends.

FAMILY:  On the whole, yes, I feel both accepted and persecuted by family. If I count my mother, siblings, their kids, and their spouses, I end up with nine who are entirely supportive and eight who are marginally supportive. When I say marginally, I mean they are polite and kind to our faces, then turn around and support anti-LGBT legislation to deny us the same civil rights they themselves enjoy.

Does that count as persecution? Hell, yes. Every vote to deny or strip LGBT people of civil rights encourages bigotry. Even if my evangelical Christian family members don’t act on their prejudice around us, their votes and voices in church encourage others to do so. And believe me, there are plenty of self-righteous bigots hiding behind their Bibles who are delighted to beat us with their beliefs.

Bear in mind, when I say ‘beat’ it’s only partially metaphoric. The stories of gay men being attacked, lesbians being raped, bi-sexuals excluded, transgendered people being killed, and far too many of us dying by bullycide* may not hit the mainstream media with great regularity, but they spread like wildfire among us. The Orlando Pulse Bar massacre caught the world’s attention only because of the sheer magnitude of death and destruction. It terrified everyone in the LGBT community (myself included) but not because it was new to us. Every single day that goes by, someone in our rainbow family dies because of bigotry translated into action. Hate crimes, by definition, are terrorist acts perpetrated to spread fear through an identified group.

It works. We spend too much time on guard, or even afraid. Some of us more so than others, and I’m one of them. I go to Pride festivals because it’s important: they exist to empower my rainbow family. But I’m hyper aware, ready to grab our kids and flee at the slightest sign of violence. We no longer go to gay bars, our long-standing safe places, maybe because we’re getting older and don’t drink, or maybe because of the increase in violence being experienced as backlash for the legalization of gay marriage and other civil rights legislation. Traf displays no fear, but when confronted she doesn’t hesitate to get up close and personal, fists closed in expectation of a fight. Unfortunately, I’ve seen it several times with my own eyes, once as she passed our grandbaby to my arms for safe keeping.

When our country and state, nearly simultaneously, decided to include Traf and me as full citizens with equal rights we wasted no time in getting married. Your sister was also getting married and I didn’t want to steal her thunder, so I designed invitations that recognized the distance involved and explained I understood people would probably not attend. Still, like every other human being on Earth, I wanted my family to celebrate with me now that I was finally getting a chance to marry the one person in my life with whom I’d ever truly settle down. With a light heart and expectations of their best wishes, I mailed the invitations to all my family members.

Mom waxed enthused over the phone; she truly loves Traf. One sister suggested briefly that she might come and then never mentioned it again. Otherwise, not one of my family members recognized our big day was coming.

On September 12, 2013 Traf and I were married in our home. Our granddaughter was the flower girl. Both of Traf’s daughters, their spouses, and all but one of our grandchildren attended; the other one was working out of state. Immediately following the service, we had a reception in the backyard (chased inside by rain) with our neighbors and friends. The only members from my side of the family who mailed cards of congratulations were my brother’s ex-wife (your mother) and current wife (he marries good people). Shortly after, your sister’s thank you card for the wedding present we’d sent arrived along with a photo of all my siblings, my mother, and you and your cousins attending her wedding. It stayed on the mantle over our fireplace through Thanksgiving.

I understand that my family’s seeming boycott of my wedding wasn’t deliberate persecution. It was neglect and indifference, which hurt just as much if not worse. It’s a lot like the knowledge that almost no one (Mom and one sister excepted) in my family has read a single one of my books, much less bragged about me being an award winning author. But enough about that; back to your question.

Yes, I feel persecuted by my evangelical Christian family members because they deny the reality of our lives and ignore our needs, perpetuating a system of abuse that threatens me and mine. It wounds me deeply, and because of that I’ve learned to expect hurt and disappointment. I still love them and keep the lines of communication open, but how can I trust them?

FRIENDS:

Friends are the family you choose for yourself. I don’t feel persecuted by them, because I do not choose to be around people who make me feel threatened.

However, I do have one friend that wasn’t always supportive. She’s in my writing group, and we had to find our way to an understanding.

I am completely out-of-the-closet, and refuse to hide my relationship with Traf. Now that we’re married, I proudly refer to her as my wife, but when I met R- we were caught in the limbo (a deliberately chosen word) of second-class citizenry. Still, I often spoke of Traf and watched everyone in our newly founded group for any signs of bigotry. One night, it happened.

We’d been writing together for hours, everyone encouraging one another with a set goal in mind. It was midnight and I was gathering my things together to go home. Out of the blue, R- asked me, “Why are all gays pedophiles?”

I stared at her, uncomprehending for a moment. When her words did penetrate, I answered, “R-, I am going to knock you down.” I made no move toward her, but neither did I back away.

“No, seriously,” she responded. “Why are all gays pedophiles?”

“I am going to knock you down,” I repeated, putting down my things and preparing to do battle. “Gays are not automatically pedophiles. I do not, I repeat, do not hurt children.”

“Oh,” she answered, seemingly surprised. “I didn’t mean you.* That’s what I was taught.”

I looked at her closely, and saw only confusion in her face, not anger or hatred, so I unclenched my fists and sat down. The other two women in the group looked vastly relieved, and we all settled into a long conversation about what it means to be LGBT. It turned out that R- had spent decades as a member of a proselytizing evangelical church and truly believed that every gay person is a pedophile. Luckily for our group, she really listened as I explained my reality. She asked questions that sometimes shocked me, but only because she’d seemed so rational up until then.

It occurred to me, not for the first time, that almost everyone who knows that I’m gay cannot help labeling me. It’s the first thing they think when I come to their minds: Genta, the lesbian…the homosexual…the ‘other’. The movie, On Golden Pond, first brought that home to me when Henry Fonda’s character refers to ‘the lesbians who live across the pond’ several times, and never uses their names. That’s all they were to him, ‘the lesbians’.

How would you like to identified…every…single…time as a sexual act? Whenever the word ‘homosexual’ is used to define us, it’s the ‘sexual’ part that titillates and remains in peoples’ psyches. I think that is why we, as individuals and a group, have adopted the terms ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’, to establish our identities as whole persons, rather than just a biological behavior.

Nephew, I challenge you: When you address your congregation use only the terms gay and lesbian to discuss us, but refer to straights continuously as ‘heterosexuals’. You’ll see people squirm, I guarantee it.

*  To be clear, all LGBT members are subject to any of the horrors: attack/rape/exclusion/murder/and suicide.

*  Too often, people categorize all LGBT folks as ‘other’. Since almost everyone knows someone who is LGBT, heterosexuals often excuse their friends/family members with the phrase, “I don’t mean you.” That gives them permission to continue their bigotry without having to deal with what it means/does to their friend/family member. Totally uncool.

THE BOXER SHORTS REBELLION

NEWEST RELEASE BY SHADOE PUBLISHING: The Boxer Shorts Rebellion
Release Date:  September 1, 2016
Available for Pre-Order now!
TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR: Bullying, Suicide, and Cutting

48658-theboxershortsrebellioncover2b252822529

Four students tangle as they struggle to understand who they are….

Nick’s parents think he’s just sensitive, teachers consider him a troublemaker, and bullies recognize him as a target. He knows, with a fresh start, he can re-invent himself.

Popular quarterback Brent, willing to do anything to keep his secret, exploits girlfriends to deflect any suspicion he might be gay.

Penny risks everything, even her heart, to befriend a boy she doesn’t know but does that make her a heroic savior, or a gullible fool?

Convinced she’s a hopeless loser, Angela is thrilled to be a popular jock’s girlfriend. So worried he will learn the truth about her, she ignores the truth about him.

Everyone stands by while the half-naked boy cowers, watching his green boxer shorts fly from the school flagpole. But there can be no innocent bystanders when his bully devolves into a psychotic killer.

The Boxer Shorts Rebellion is a no-holds-barred, unapologetic punch to the gut. It looks at bullying from not only the perspective of the bullied, but the bully, parents, teachers, administration, and so-called innocent bystanders. Bringing to mind the works of S.E. Hinton, and John Irving, critics are raving.

Consider reviewing it on Goodreads and/or Amazon.

 

 

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

 

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

Rainbow Families – What Are They?

Mine is a Rainbow Family, which means that my wife and I have children and grandchildren who grew up with same-sex (grand)parents. Since writing The Boxer Shorts Rebellion, I have expanded my definition of Rainbow Families to include straight parents who love and support their gay children as they grow up.

When my granddaughter was born, and my grandsons were young, I was happy to have And Tango Makes Three and King and King. Soon there were a whole slew of picture books but as the kids grew older and began reading for pleasure the literature reflecting their family grew fewer.

One day I was watching Rosie O’Donnell on television talking about her then ten-year-old son and the questions he was asking about living in a same-sex parented family. Why are you gay? Does that mean I’m gay? Do you have to be gay?

My personal muse lit a fire and I began to write.

For the better part of the last ten years my writing has involved certain types of families – what I call Rainbow Families. First I wrote Riding the Rainbow (for ages 8-12) quickly followed by A Man’s Man (for ages 12-16). I compare the two to each other in much the same way Mark Twain did his Tom Sawyer to his Huckleberry Finn. They both tell basically the same story, that of fitting in to a family that isn’t like other people’s families. Riding the Rainbow is more innocent and sweet, while A Man’s Man deals with more adult issues.

Of course, those two were followed up with The Boxer Shorts Rebellion, a read for much more mature teens. Loosely based on the suicide contagion zone that tragically occurred in Minnesota a few years back, it centers around a family struggling to come to grips with a son who may, or may not, be gay and the bullying that surrounds him. The language is crude and the story blunt, without apology as it treats the subject as brutally in fiction as it is in real life.

So when people ask me what a Rainbow Family is, I answer that it’s any family with one or more gay members. It is that simple.

So, are you in a Rainbow Family?

A Whole New Form of Literature

I am proud to announce the publication of A Man’s Man, the second of my Rainbow Family novels for kids being raised in same-sex families. Except for picture books for the pre-reader, and YA novels for teens and older students, there are no (correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve looked long and hard) books written about growing up with same-sex parents for middle readers. 

If you are a Rainbow parent or grandparent, this book is for your kid. If you know Rainbow parents, this book would make an excellent present for their kid. If you don’t know any Rainbow parents or their kids, buy a copy and donate it to your local library. These kids deserve to see themselves represented in fiction.

After the sudden death of his mother, RJ, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader must go live with his gay father and his boyfriend Stephen. RJ longs for the days when his father was living with him and his mom, so he devises a complicated plan to change his father from gay to straight. The resulting scandal has unintended consequences, forcing RJ to come to grips with just what makes A Man’s Man.

Read the first chapter here, then follow the link to buy your very own copy. 

A MAN’S MAN

Chapter 1 – On The Farm

It’s like this, see. My dad’s a fag, his boyfriend’s queer, and I think I might be gay. I mean, I think it’s catching or something. 

I never used to think about it back when I lived with Mom. But now she’s dead and I have no one to live with except Dad and Stephen. Everyone knows that kids raised in faggot families turn out all messed up. I figure it’s just a matter of time before I start prancing around, or my wrist goes limp, or I start speaking with a lisp. 

I tried to talk to my Dad about it once but all he said was, “RJ! Those things don’t really happen!” and then he changed the subject. I guess he doesn’t see it as a problem if I grow up to be a homo, but to me it’s a death sentence. I think I’ll have to kill myself if I start liking guys. 

Back when Mom was alive things were easier. She could talk to me about anything and I’d understand. If I didn’t understand at first, she’d take her time and talk it out with me until I did. Now I don’t understand anything. 

Damned drunk driver! How come he’s still walking around right as rain, and she’s in a box six feet under? Explain that to me. 

Mom never liked it when I swear, but now she’s not around to remind me, words slip out without my even knowing I’ve said them, mostly. She never liked it when I called Dad a fag, or queer, or homo, but that’s what he is, so what’s wrong with saying so? It’s not my fault he’s not normal. But it’ll be his fault if I’m not. 

“It’s rude,” Mom would tell me. She said I should just think of him as Dad, which I did. My faggot father. My queer dad. My homo pop. Ha, ha. 

It’s been two months since we buried Mom, and school is starting next Monday after Labor Day. I’m so not looking forward to it. As if it’s not bad enough to be known as the new kid in school, I’m also the kid who’s Mom died. And when they find out, I’ll be the new motherless boy with two dads, which is totally untrue because Stephen is not, and never will be, a father to me. But once the kids know, the damage will be done. Eighth grade is so going to suck. 

Which is totally unfair, too, because I was way popular back in my old school in San Diego. I was good at sports, I got good grades, and I had lots of friends. They’d come over to my place to play, or I’d head over to one of their apartments. It was fun. We’d play outside almost all year long, and swimming at the public pool was my favorite thing to do. 

Out here in Minnesota no one knows me, and there’s no one to hang with nearby. I live on a farm, now, of all things. Can you believe it? I left sunny, warm San Diego and now I’m stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, with only two other farms in sight. I miss the sounds of traffic in the night. I miss the sound of voices everywhere. I miss Mom’s voice.  

I’m afraid I’m forgetting it, but once in a while I think I hear her call my name. I always look around before I remember she’s dead. Dead, it’s an ugly word. I didn’t know what it meant before. It’s being alone, all the time. It’s never seeing her again, or talking to her about things that matter, and things that don’t. I’ll never hear her voice again. Never hear her call, “RJ!” in just that way.

I’m forgetting what she sounded like, and even sometimes what she looked like. When that happens, I panic. I get out my pictures, and a CD she made of stories to put me to sleep from when I was little and visited Dad in the summers. I listen to it as I look at all the pictures of Mom and me. I’ll remember her always, even if I have to look at them every single day for the rest of my life. 

Dad grows corn and milks all the cows twice a day, and Stephen cares for the rest of the stock and takes care of the house and garden. They think I’m going to do some healing or some such, just by helping out with the animals. Well I’ve got news for them. I’m not a farmer, and I’m never going to be. They can milk their own cows and feed their own chickens, and don’t even start with me on the goat. As soon as I’m old enough, I’m lighting out of here. I’ve got plans, and they don’t include Minnesota. 

Being thirteen is better than being twelve, but only by a little. I’ve still got eighth grade ahead of me, before I’ll finally be in High School, where you start to grow up. Everyone still treats me like a little kid, and now that Mom’s gone there’s no one who really understands me. I feel like a desert island, and I’m the only survivor. I want her. 

She was like sunlight. I know I’m remembering her maybe better than she really was, but so what? She’s gone, and I’ll never have her again, and if I want to remember her as wonderful, what’s wrong with that? And she was like sunlight, all blond and fair. Her blue eyes were the color of a cloudless sky, and she had tiny little freckles sprinkled all over her nose and her knees, which probably no one ever noticed but me. When she smiled, the whole world smiled with her, me most of all. She could always make me feel better, no matter what the trouble. But she can’t help me with the trouble I have now, ‘cause she left me. 

I get so angry at her sometimes, I just want to hit something, or yell until I don’t have a voice anymore, or just lie down and die myself. She promised me once, when I was real little and scared by a storm or something that she’d never die. She lied. She might not have meant to die, but she did, and now I’m alone. It’s not fair, and I want to yell at her and call her a liar, and then she’ll apologize and call me Little Man like she used to, and I’d do anything to see her smile once more. 

But instead I’m imprisoned out on some cow palace in the middle of nowhere, with no kids in sight, much less any boys my age. I’m hoping to meet some guys to play sports with when school starts, but you never know. I’ve never been the new kid in school before, though I’ve seen plenty of them. Never looked like much fun to me. 

I don’t think I’ll have trouble with the school work. If I was at the top of my class in San Diego, I doubt if these country bumpkins will be able to keep up with me. The teachers better be decent.  

I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up. Mom and me, I mean I, planned it all out, and I’m going to make it happen. The first step is getting all A’s on my report cards. That I’ve been doing since first grade. The second step is playing team sports, so I can earn a scholarship. This was going to be the year that Mom signed me up for every sport, starting with football in the fall. She promised she’d be at every game and every practice too. 

Yeah. Well. She lied. 

I’ve already told Dad that I want to go for sports, and he sees nothing wrong with it. Good thing, because I would have done it anyway. I mean, imagine me letting a pansy stop me from doing sports? No way. Good thing he didn’t push me on it. 

I guess I get my height from my Dad, because he seems kind of short to me. Stephen is at least a head taller, and with blond hair and blue eyes, a lot better looking, too. Dad looks like me, a homely little guy with dark brown hair and gray eyes. He’s not handsome and never will be. That’s all you can say for him, with his deep lined face and eyes all squinted up from working in the sun. But even if he is small, he’s got some pretty good muscle on him. I watched him slinging hay around in the barn one day, and later when no one was around I tried it. Boy, it was a lot heavier than it looked! 

Now Stephen, he’s just a fairy, a tinker bell, a poof. He waltzes around here like he’s dancing everywhere. I had to look, one time, to make sure his feet were still on the floor and he hadn’t started flying. He’s very excitable, and it doesn’t take much for him to raise his voice, unlike Dad who hardly speaks at all. 

I gotta hand it to Stephen, though. For a poof, he’s pretty handy to have around. Since I’ve been here he’s already done a tune up on the tractor, delivered a litter of puppies, and made a batch of strawberry preserves, which he put up in glass jars now lining the pantry shelf. Pretty tasty, too. He’s repairing a window pane I accidentally busted when practicing my throwing yesterday. He said I could help him this morning, if I want to. 

So I wander over to the front yard, and sure enough, there’s Stephen, shirtless in a pair of old overalls, wearing thick gloves and pulling the broken shards free from the window pane. He’s slender, but with his shirt off you can see he’s got some muscle. It looks strange on him. I keep expecting to see him in an apron or something. He looks up and sees me, then waves for me to come join him. I walk up closer, but keep my distance. 

“Want to hand me that hair dryer, RJ?” he asks, and since it’s close to hand, I do it. I laugh. 

“What you gonna do with that, Stephen?” I ask, all cocky. “Your inner hairdresser straining to come out?” I put my hand to my ear, pretending to hear someone. “Oh, there’s RuPaul’s Drag Race phoning.” 

He just laughs at me, and plugs the hair dryer in to a thick extension cord he’s got coming through the window from inside. Then he aims it at the window pane and turns it on. “This’ll heat up the putty,” he explains. “Soften it up so it’s easier to take out.” 

Well this I’ve got to see, so I wander on over to take a better look. Sure enough, that cracked old putty is loosening up and we start to work it with our fingers. Pretty soon we’re pulling most of it down.

“Now we scrape,” says Stephen, and picks up something that looks kind of like a really wide, flat screw driver. “This is a putty knife,” he says, and starts shoving it gently against the putty that hasn’t pulled free. It scrapes up nice and clean. 

“Now hand me some of that linseed oil, and we’ll prepare the wood for our new pane,” he says to me. I cast around looking and find a tin can on the ground with a clean rag sitting on top of it. Stephen pours some smelly oil on the rag, and begins wiping down the wood of the window pane. 

When that’s done he has me look the new pane over to decide which side is the “out” side, beveled he calls it. Then he gives me a piece of fresh putty and I roll it in my hands until it’s a little thinner than a pencil. He takes it from me and shows me how to fit it into the bare window pane. 

He takes the glass and sets it in real careful, making sure the beveled part is facing outside. Stephen hands me these pieces of metal, kind of like large staples, and tells me to wedge them into the putty every few inches, tapping them in gently with the butt of the screwdriver. Those will help hold the glass in place while it dries. Then we take a little extra putty and press it around the corners. Finally he shows me how to use the edge of the knife to wipe away the extra. When it’s all done it looks just like the other panes of glass except for the color of the wood. Stephen says it will dry for a couple of days before we paint it real carefully so it’ll match. 

“Good job, RJ,” says Stephen, but I try not to take it too much to heart. After all, what a poof thinks of you doesn’t count for much. But I tell him thanks anyway, then go sit on a big tractor tire they’ve got hanging from a tree in the front yard, missing Mom again. 

“Why don’t you go down to the lake, and see if you can catch yourself a turtle for a pet?” calls Stephen as he gathers up the stuff to put away. More of a command than a suggestion, but it sounds like as good a plan as any, so I thrust my hands deep in my jeans pockets and start walking down the road.

It’s hot, already August, and there’re millions of gnats singing in the air. They swarm around my head, and I bat at them, but it only drives them away for a minute and then they’re right back at me. I remember something Dad told me a long time ago, and I start humming with as deep a voice as I can muster. Sure enough, those gnats must not like my singing, because they float away and decide to go bedevil something else, most likely the cows. 

I can smell the manure just hanging on the hot air as I pass the holding pen outside the milking barn. Dad’s out there shoveling away what’s left from this morning’s crowd of milling cows, and he looks up and waves as I go by. I pretend not to see him, kicking up dirt clods like it was the most important thing on the Earth to accomplish. 

I don’t know why I’m so mad at him, besides the fact that he’s a queer and ruining my life, I mean. It’s not like they kept it a secret from me. After all I came here to visit for a month every summer, back in first and second grade. But he wasn’t really gay because he didn’t have a boyfriend. It was just us, then, and he was just my Dad. 

Then he wrote Mom a letter and told her about Stephen, and she decided I shouldn’t go out to visit anymore. Probably didn’t want me seeing them kissing and stuff. Not that they do that around me, but still, it would gross me out, make me hurl. So I haven’t been up here on the farm since I started third grade. I guess that’s too long, because everything seems different to me now. 

I used to enjoy feeding the chickens, but now I just want to kick them in the face. I hate the way they crowd around me, trying to get the food before I toss it to the ground. Greedy guts, that’s what they are. I told Stephen I don’t want to do it anymore, and he said that’s all right, he’s used to doing it. So good, I figure. Let him. 

I remember how big everything used to be, but I guess that was just because I was so little. It seems to me Dad looked so tall once, he could reach up and touch the sky with his bare hand, but now I just see him as short. And the corn used to taste so sweet it was almost like candy. Now it tastes like the dust covering my shoes. 

I get to the big tree sitting at the corner of the dirt path that will take me down to Silver Lake. Our land butts up to it, but it’s a lot quicker to go by this worn down path, probably first walked by Indians a thousand years ago, and maybe even cavemen thousands of years before that. 

Stepping off into the woods it’s easy to feel like I’m traveling back in time. Everything is so dark and cool beneath the heavy headed trees nodding in the summer breeze. Huge mosquitoes buzz around my ears, and I know I’ll be covered in itchy bites, but I just don’t care. In here, where no one can see me, is where I cry what tears I’ve got left. 

This morning I wait for some to come squeezing out, but there doesn’t seem to be any need, so I just stomp on down the path. When it suddenly opens onto Silver Lake I stop and stare, just like the first time I saw it all those years ago. This is the one thing that hasn’t changed. The lake is always beautiful, ringed with tall trees and grasses, about a hundred different greens. Even now, when the nights are starting to cool, the leaves are still green. In a few weeks they’ll turn red, gold, orange, all the colors of autumn. But right now, everything is its own shade of green. 

When Dad first left us, I was only four years old, too young even for school. He and Mom gave me some lie; I don’t even remember what it was now, about why he had to go to a place called Minnesota. When I asked where the mini soda was, he’d burst out laughing and crying at the same time and told me it was far away from San Diego, but that he’d visit me, and I’d visit him. I don’t think he knew he was lying about visiting me, I just don’t think he figured how much work goes into a farm, though he should have, having been raised on one. 

When Dad was married to Mom, he was a banker, and we had a big house, with a lawn and a backyard to play in. Then there was some trouble, it had something to do with him finding out he was queer. Someone else found out too, and made trouble for him at his bank. Mom always said it wasn’t fair that they fired him. Anyway, we had to move into a small apartment, and suddenly Dad wasn’t a banker anymore. He wasn’t anything at all for a while. Except sad, maybe. 

Then Grandpa died and left him the farm and that’s when he decided he didn’t want to live in a city anymore, or be married to Mom and me anymore. He divorced us, and went back to his roots. When I was young and dumb, I thought that meant the roots of his corn but I found out it meant he wanted to go back to where he grew up. So my roots are in San Diego, where I lived with Mom. 

Dad might have thought he was going back to something, but from where I stood in San Diego, it sure looked a lot like running away to me. 

I kick off my shoes and settle my hot feet in the cool water lapping up on the shore. Away off in the distance I can see a motor boat, but it’s not moving so I figure someone’s out there fishing, probably some straight dad who took the time to show his boy the manly arts. Dad and I used to go out on a rented boat to fish, before Stephen. I enjoyed it, even if we didn’t catch enough to eat. Just being out on the lake alone with Dad was enough. We don’t fish anymore. Stephen. 

I search the bank for baby turtles, but don’t find any. They’re probably almost grown by now, or waiting to start school, like me. Maybe they feel the same way about it I do, partly wanting to go just to have something to do, and also wanting not to go, because I know there’s going to be trouble. If I had a shell maybe I’d just crawl inside and wait everyone out until I was grown up and could make up my own mind about stuff. 

The coolness of the water feels good against my hot dry skin, and I think about jumping in to swim. But besides the harmless box kind you can keep for pets, there are snapping turtles in that water, and I’m a little afraid of getting chomped. Dad showed me once how they latch on to what they bite, and won’t let go, by teasing one with a broomstick. We finally had to throw the whole thing in the lake for the snapper to let go, and wait for the broom to float back to shore. The bite mark it left on the broom handle convinced me I don’t want one fastened on any part of me. No way, I’m not that stupid. 

No sense in getting myself bit. Best to stay as far away from unseen dangers as possible. You never can tell what’s out there, going bump in the night, or hiding below the surface to bite. Or driving drunk on a dark and lonely street.

IT’S NOT MY FAULT IF HE’S NOT NORMAL. BUT IT’LL BE HIS FAULT IF I’M NOT.


After the sudden death of his mother, RJ, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader must go live with his gay father and his boyfriend Stephen. RJ longs for the days when his father was living with him and his mom, so he devises a complicated plan to change his father from gay to straight. The resulting scandal has unintended consequences, forcing RJ to come to grips with just what makes A Man’s Man.

Read an excerpt below the line.

It’s like this, see. My dad’s a fag, his boyfriend’s queer, and I think I might be gay. I mean, I think it’s catching or something.

I never used to think about it, back when I lived with Mom. But now she’s dead and I have no one to live with except Dad and Stephen. Everyone knows that kids raised in faggot families turn out all messed up. I figure it’s just a matter of time before I start prancing around, or my wrist goes limp, or I start speaking with a lisp. 
I tried to talk to my Dad about it once, but all he said was, “RJ! Those things don’t really happen!” and then he changed the subject. I guess he doesn’t see it as a problem if I grow up to be a homo, but to me it’s a death sentence. I think I’ll have to kill myself if I start liking guys. 
Back when Mom was alive, things were easier. She could talk to me about anything and I’d understand. If I didn’t understand at first, she’d take her time and talk it out with me until I did. Now I don’t understand anything. 
Damned drunk driver! How come he’s still walking around right as rain, and she’s in a box six feet under? Explain that to me. 
Mom never liked it when I swear, but now she’s not around to remind me, words slip out without my even knowing I’ve said them, mostly. She never liked it when I called Dad a fag, or queer, or homo, but that’s what he is, so what’s wrong with saying so? It’s not my fault he’s not normal. But it’ll be his fault if I’m not. 
“It’s rude,” Mom would tell me. She said I should just think of him as Dad, which I did. My faggot father. My queer dad. My homo pop. Ha, ha. 
It’s been two months since we buried Mom, and school is starting next Monday after Labor Day. I’m so not looking forward to it. As if it’s not bad enough to be known as the new kid in school, I’m also the kid who’s Mom died. And when they find out, I’ll be the new motherless boy with two dads, which is totally untrue because Stephen is not, and never will be, a father to me. But once the kids know, the damage will be done. Eighth grade is so going to suck.