Category Archives: Love Is Love

I’ve Waited A Lifetime for this Interview – Part One

ec867-0900631b811f3468mcd0ca-crossblueI love my family, even when it sometimes seems as though they do not love me. One faction of my family are fundamental Christians, and their disapproval of me and my family has, at times, been palpable. They’ve always been polite to my Traf, and I’ve been grateful for that courtesy and still am.

But, just as the terrorist attack on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando earlier this year caused a niece from that part of the family to reach out and mend fences, I’ve been asked by a nephew who is a leader in his 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 the first question and my response:

1) As regards yours and Traf’s journey towards marriage, what were some of your greatest triumphs and setbacks?

You have to understand that until June of 2002 the concept of gay marriage didn’t exist in my mind. I’d never heard of such a thing until someone at Twin Cities Pride asked me to sign a petition. It was a paradigm shift so great it took me several weeks to wrap my head around it.

Until then, our relationships were so clandestine we never talked about them outside of our own homes and close circle of lesbian friends. Our neighbors probably knew we were gay, but they didn’t mention it and neither did we. In May, 2002 Morgan was born, and I became a grandmother. Traf’s daughters had accepted me as their mother’s lover, but when my darling granddaughter entered our lives, we became a true family. A month later, as I registered voters at Pride, I first heard the words ‘gay marriage’ and our world turned upside down.

When we lived outside the law and went unrecognized by our own country, we were second-class citizens. Looking the way I do, I often passed as straight unless I was in Traf’s company. She is such a butch that people immediately recognize we’re a lesbian couple whenever we’re together. We’ve heard conversations about how horrible we are spoken just loud enough to carry to our ears, we’ve been insulted to our faces, called foul names, and denied service in public restaurants.

During the most horrible night of my life, when Traf ended up being transported by ambulance to a hospital with a suspected heart attack (thankfully only angina), the witch behind the glass at the Emergency Room registration desk openly smirked while gleefully telling me I didn’t count as family and wouldn’t be allowed to see her, even after I provided her with a legal document giving me her Power of Attorney. Thank goodness there was glass in place to protect her because I would have gladly killed her in that moment. Her delight in being able to give me even more pain than I was already in was unforgivable. She may be the only person in my life I’ve ever truly hated.

A year later, in 2004, we were visiting your grandmother after she’d been diagnosed with lung cancer and was recovering from the operation that took a portion of one of her lungs. It was my birthday, February 12th, and I was turning forty-seven. Traf was fifty-six. While watching the television we saw a story about the first legal gay marriage taking place in San Francisco. Mayor Gavin Newsom was allowing marriages to take place at City Hall during the long weekend. I thought, How quixotic. They’ll be stopped immediately. But because it was Presidents Day weekend, the government was not in session until Tuesday. Valentine’s Day was Saturday, and Traf and I looked at each other and jumped in the car to drive to San Francisco.

I wrote a piece that answers most of this question here:  Please read it.

During the bittersweet years following the invalidation of our marriage, we faced the backlash of discrimination as our people fought our own government to be recognized as equal citizens. I’ll answer the next question on your list tomorrow. I think I’ve given you enough to mull over for the time being.


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:





UglyShirtMany gay folks have reported their straight co-workers, friends, and family coming to them with words of support, understanding that the trauma of #OrlandoPulse spreads farther and wider than the immediate neighborhood. Some describe the concern and warnings their loved ones can’t help offering, others tell of important conversations that help them cope with their sense of loss, fear, being lost, and to counter the feeling that once more we’re being shoved back in the closet like the ugly shirt no one wants to wear.

I wouldn’t know. I’ve had exactly three supportive messages, one from my mother, and the other two came from (1) a young, white, cis-gendered man in my creative writing group who sent the same message to every LGBT friend he has on Facebook, and (2) my somewhat estranged born-again niece who honestly feels who I am deliberately flaunts God’s will.

My mother got very upset over the phone, telling me she doesn’t want to hear the phrase “Never again” ever again because in her words, “There’s always an again, and again, and  again. It never ends!” I comforted her as best I could.

I was pleasantly surprised by my co- writer’s supportive message. It was unexpected and came out of the blue on Monday morning. And it was very much appreciated.

But it was the response of my niece that stunned me, there’s no doubt about it. I distinctly remember, not so long ago, her vehemently scolding a mutual family member of ours, insisting that she needed to repent being gay and turn back to God. I assumed that particular diatribe was also aimed at me, so I’ve largely avoided interacting with her since then. I mean, she’s still my sister’s child so I ask about her, follow her posts online, and have commiserated with her trials and rejoiced in her successes since then, albeit not directly with her.

So when she read my last blog post and responded with sincere understanding and the loving command to ‘be safe’, my heart melted like a crayon on a hot sidewalk. I believe she still thinks being gay is a sin and I’m damned to hell, but at least she recognized the trauma that I, and every other gay person on the face of the planet, felt on Sunday as we woke to the news of the massacre. More than that, she commiserated.

But not one of my siblings has offered a single word of support or understanding. Not one straight friend has reached out to me (except the white cis-boy). None of our neighbors have stopped to talk about it with us even though we’re out, open, and they attended our wedding reception.

Should they have to? No, of course not. Would it have been nice, something that might have helped me cope with the flood of feelings I’ve had over the last few days? Yes, absolutely.

I remember the degrading reports of the Stonewall riots, which happened during my pre-teen years as I was wondering why I wasn’t like everyone else I knew. I wept bitter tears at the killing of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in America. I remember all too clearly the horrifying murder of Matthew Shepard, crucified and left as an example of what could happen if you’re gay. I have seen the movies Boys Don’t Cry and Brokeback Mountain, both of which end with violent murder and send a clear message to never come out, don’t let your true self be discovered, stay hidden to stay safe. I lost friends during the height of the AIDS scourge and buried them when their families wouldn’t. And I have watched with mounting horror the bullying that leads to murder and suicide among not only gay youth but specifically transgendered individuals.

What happened on Sunday in Orlando is not the same as denying couples marriage licenses, or wedding cakes, or housing. Mass murder is not the same as introducing and passing legislation to restrict and deny people equal rights. To some, the uproar caused by the deaths of 49 people among a total American LGBT population of over ten million may seem disproportionally large and that, overall, things are better for gay folks. And sure as hell telling a gay joke, or laughing at one, has nothing to do with buying a weapon of mass destruction and letting it loose on innocent people.

But… it does. Every single time a gay joke is laughed at, a blow lands. When hatred is taught in the name of religion, parents and other authorities threaten banishment, and the reviled group itself begins to beckon just the right self-suppressed gay guy, he will decide to hurt himself and the group he is unwillingly a part of. He’ll do it through restrictive legislation, or humiliation, or even murder. And everything he’s ever heard, seen, intuited, learned and practiced will be a part of that.

I have lived with the wariness of knowing some people want to hurt me ever since I came out. Think about that. Every stranger is a potential…? (Hint: not friend). Whenever someone looks at me funny, I tense. If I hear whispered muttering as my wife and I pass, I wonder. And whenever I attend our public places, Pride, bars, picnics, I watch…carefully. That’s the way I’ve lived forever. I was forcibly reminded to sharpen that vigilance last Sunday.

And – it triggered a PTSD behavior in not only myself but almost every other LGBTQIA+ person I know. We’ve been here before. Not in such a huge, horrific, way but repeatedly, over and over again across the years. It’s a mental torture all its own, a tearing down to a bone weariness, a sudden clutching of anxiety in your gut as you realize that it very well could have been you, your loved ones, and your friends, lying dead on a familiar floor.

So what can you, a well-meaning ally and true friend, do to help?

Stop me and say, “I’m so sorry. What a horrible thing has happened.” Meet my eyes with sincere concern and interest. If I look like I want to talk about it, sit me down and ask, “How do you feel?” and then let me talk. As my terror, self-doubt, worry, and despair spill out, add your supportive asides and let me know you understand, and maybe share, my emotions.

Or send a text, old-fashioned greeting card, handwritten letter, or dial the phone and make contact. Don’t pretend everything is fine. It most definitely is not fine.



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. 


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.

A Sneak Peek at A Man’s Man

 I needed to expand my YA novel, A Man’s Man,  to 50,000 words. So today I wrote a dream sequence for the protagonist, RJ, who is determined to turn his gay father straight by driving away his boyfriend. In honor of the novel’s near release, I’m sharing the chapter with you.


To Sleep, To Dream

Sometimes I think of Mom. I talk to her picture, but it’s not the same. When I talk she never answers but once in a while I hear her speaking in my head, mostly when I’m just drifting off or beginning to wake up.

Of course, her voice is only a memory now and I’m not even sure it really is hers. Maybe I’m just pretending I remember what she sounded like. I’m glad I have that one old tape though, because without those bedtime stories I’d forget the sound of her.

The tape has just clicked off and I’m lying in bed watching the moon move across the sky through my window when I see her clear as day.

“RJ,” she says, and I recognize her voice right away. I’m flooded with happiness that she’s back, that it was all some terrible mix up, a horrible joke.

“Mom,” I shout, jumping through the window and landing on a cloud beside her. I grab her and hug her so tight she’ll never get loose. She doesn’t try to, just stands still and hugs me back. Finally, I let go of her. Then I look down and shriek. Our farm is far beneath me, a swatch of white outlined by the roads that surround it.

“No worries, Little Man. You won’t fall.” She takes my hand and we stroll through the clouds which feel oddly like the sand dunes on the beach in San Diego. We climb up to the top where the moon is shining brightly. His old face beams, just as glad to see me with my mom as I am to be with her.

“Why did you leave?” I ask her the one question I really want answered. “Why didn’t you live?”

“Well, it wasn’t my choice, baby. There are some things you cannot control,” she says conversationally, pulling me down to sit beside her on the cloud. A shooting star falls in the distance. She wraps an arm around me, hugging me close. “That’s something you will have to understand sometime, soon I hope.”

“If it hadbeen your choice you’d have stayed, right Mom?”

She kisses my forehead, leaving a warm spot like the imprint of lipstick. “I wouldn’t part with you for anything in heaven or hell,” she reassures me. “Nothing could have split us apart short of death. I’m so sorry, RJ, so very sorry I’m not there with you now. But I left you in very good hands. Your father loves you every bit as much as I do. I’m so very glad you love him back and want him to be happy.”

I suddenly feel disloyal. “Yeah, I do Mom, but not in the same way I loved you.” I’m trying not to cry but first one tear escapes, and then another. They float off into space to become twinkling stars.

“That’s the wonder of love, Little Man. You can love more than one person with all you’ve got because your heart will always make room. You can never love too many, or too deeply. Of course,” she says using her mommy voice, “you marry only one at a time and you bring respect and trust to that union as well as love. That’s what makes a family. Like you, your dad, and Stephen.”

“You know about him?”

“Oh sure, honey. Your dad and I talked and texted back and forth every week. I always consulted him when making big decisions about you and often took his advice. If it’d been up to me, you’d have been studying music rather than playing sports to earn a scholarship.”

“That was Dad?”

“Yes it was. He needed to be part of your life even if he didn’t want to shock you with his lifestyle.  I sent him pictures of you as you grew, and he sent me photos of life here on the farm.

“When he found Stephen something changed. He’d always loved you, and me, but a part of his heart he’d always kept closed opened up. We had decided you were old enough to deal with his having a boyfriend and were going to start sending you back to the farm more often so you could meet Stephen and see how happy they are together, but then fate took a hand. I understand they’re going to get married. They must be very happy.”

I focus on the face of the moon rather than look at Mom directly. “They were,” I answer, “but I fixed that. I helped Dad see the light.” The moon in front of me dims. “He’s straight again now.”

“Oh no, I thought you wanted him to be happy?” Her voice and body fade away and I’m left sitting on a cloud all alone.

“What do you mean, Mom?” She doesn’t answer. The moon goes dark like a total eclipse, and the cloud beneath me starts to shift like drifting sand. “Mom!” I call for her as loud as I can but she’s gone. Again.

What did Mom mean when she said she thought I wanted Dad to be happy? I do want him to be happy. Happy and straight. No one who is gay can be happy. She must not understand, I think, and then laugh at myself because she’s nothing but dust to dust, ashes to ashes. She can’t understand, or misunderstand, anything now.

The cloud sand beneath me opens up and I start falling back to Earth. I try to scream, but suddenly my mouth seals shut. It won’t open, so I try flapping my arms like I’m a bird. I know it’s foolish but I’m desperate. And it works.

My pajama sleeves turn in to wings and I find I can soar. It’s a joyous feeling, better than Christmas or sinking the winning ball in a game, even better than getting straight A’s. I fly high, high, as high as I can go to see if I can find Mom among the clouds again.

This time the clouds feel like spider webs, sticky, light, and creepy. They clutch at my wing sleeves, slowing me down, but I shake them off and continue upward.

It’s not the moon that greets me because the sun has risen. Golden rays spread out from its surface to warm my face. When I look straight at it I’m blinded for a moment and lose control. I’m falling and my sleeve wings burn away, but a huge hand catches me in its palm. I try to follow the hand to the arm and up to the face of my rescuer, but the light is too bright. I’m blinded by its brilliance, so I focus on the hand.

Standing beside me is a boy about my age. His clothes are strange to me, a swirling cloak of many colors. He’s playing a stringed instrument I’ve never seen before and starts to sing:
“There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy,
And while we spoke of many things, fools and kings, This he said to me:
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love, and be loved in return.”
Listening to him fills me with a feeling of safety. When he finishes, I say, “My mom used to play that song on the piano. Do you know where she is? Who are you?”

“Yes, I know where she is and she’s safe. As for who I am, I have a million names. The one I want you to use is Friend.” His eyes, dark with understanding, gaze into mine.

“How did I get here? How will I get home?” I ask him.


“You came here searching for something. You’ll go home when you find it.”

I think that over and say, “Sounds like a lot of books and movies, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, A Wrinkle in Time. Can’t you give me a bigger hint than that?”

His face lights up with mischief. “Ultimately we all search for the truth.”

“But that’s as vague as the first hint.” He shrugs. “Listen, Friend,” I try, “how about if I ask questions? Will you answer them?”

Suddenly he’s standing in front of a large and colorful game board. On it are ten spaces leading from the first one, marked Confusion, to the last one, labeled Understanding. Above it hangs a flashing sign that reads: WHAT AM I SEARCHING FOR? A marker with my face on it stands smack in the middle of Confusion, ready to go.

I’m standing behind a contestant’s pulpit with bright lights in my eyes, and somewhere behind them is an unseen audience applauding. They quiet down and Friend says to them, “Welcome, welcome, welcome to the game of…”

 He pauses and the audience shouts back, “…What Am I Searching For?”

His teeth gleam white in the spotlights. “That’s right. Our contestant today is RJ, age thirteen. He loves sports and academics, any competition really, but as we all know his only opponent today is himself.”

Friend turns to me. “Good luck, RJ. You may ask me any question you’d like but I’ll only answer with one word, ‘Yes’, ‘No’, or ‘Partially’ so consider your questions carefully.” Among fresh applause he calls out, “So if you’re ready we’ll let the game begin.”

My first question is easy. “Am I searching for something I can touch?”

“No.” Friend moves my image one step along the path of the game board.

“Am I searching for myself?” I realize it’s a throwaway question as soon as I say it.

“Yes.” He turns around and raises his arms as if conducting an orchestra. As his hands fall the invisible audience choruses with one voice, “We all are.” My icon moves another step.

Twenty percent of the way across already. I’ve got to think of better questions. I take a moment before asking the third. “Okay, it’s not something I can touch, but it is, in some way, a search for myself. Am I searching for love?” It seems to me that’s a crazy question, but so many people online post about looking for love I think it’s worth a shot.

“Partially.” That mischievous look is back on Friend’s face. That makes me think of Jessica.
Uh, why? Where did that come from? But it does make me think of another question. “Am I searching for ability?” Like in sports, or medicine…

“Partially,” but this time as my piece moves Friend’s face darkens, and the unseen audience shifts nervously in their seats.

Question number five will take me half way across the board and I am no closer to finding out what I was searching for than I was before the game. I plan my words before I speak. “Will I be a better person when I’ve found it?”

The audience breaks into spontaneous applause, my piece jumps happily to the next spot on the board, and Friend looks relieved as he answers, “Yes.”

As the applause fades the lights dim and a team of people come flocking out of the dark. They swarm Friend blanketing him from sight and I hear him protest good-naturedly. One woman pulls herself away from the pile and looks at me standing behind my podium.  She walks over to me with a smile jumping from her lips to her eyes.

Taking a towel from a pocket she begins dabbing at my face. I realize I’ve been sweating heavily, but she pats me dry quickly and applies a little clear powder too my face. “You’re doing just fine, honey,” she says as she works. “Most of ‘em give up by this point, but you scored a big one just now.” She looks around and leans in conspiratorially. “Figure out the difference between that question and the ones before. It’ll make things clearer.”

I refresh my memory. “My last question started with ‘will I’ rather than an ‘am I’. Does that make a difference?”

She dips into another pocket and produces a glass of cold water, which she hands me. The lights come back up and she along with the other flock of people begin streaming out. But she pauses long enough to look over her shoulder and nod before disappearing with the others back into the dark.

Friend is standing in front of the game board just where I’d seen him last. He’s spruced up and looking good, his robe is cleaned and adjusted, his face patted and powdered. Even his smile seems brighter. He turns to face the unseen audience.

“Welcome back to the second half of our game. As you will remember, RJ has made it halfway across the board and has five more questions to ask to discover…” He raises one eyebrow expectantly.

“What He’s Searching For,” answers the audience on cue.

Turning back to me Friend asks, “Are you ready, Friend?”

I know he’s speaking to me, but I can’t help asking the obvious. “You told me to call you Friend and now you’re calling me Friend?”

“I call lots of people Friend, with a capital letter and without,” he says. “I’ve always found it a nice way to keep relationships peaceful. It’s hard to get mad at someone you call friend.” The audience applauds. “Now,” he says to me again, “are you ready?

When I nod my head he asks, “What is your sixth question?”

“As it’s something that will make me a better person when I find it,” I muse aloud, “involving love and ability, I think I’ll ask this: “Is it difficult to find?”

The mischievous light is back in Friend’s eyes as he says succinctly, “Yes.”

Watching my game piece move another step forward I say, “Mom always used to tell me that the hardest things to achieve are the most rewarding.”

Friend’s compassionate gaze doesn’t irritate me as so many others have. He says, “She said many wise things during her short life on Earth.”

“Is there any way I can bring her back?” I cross my fingers hoping he’ll say ‘Yes’. If there is, I’ll do anything and everything it takes.

I hear the audience’s collective sigh of disappointment. “No,” says Friend with a touch of sadness, “which you knew already but couldn’t stop yourself from asking, huh?” He knows me pretty well for meeting so short a time ago. My icon moves forward and there are only three spaces left. I have to make them count.

Which is why I’m shocked to hear myself blurt out, “Is it something I have to learn the hard way?”
“Yes,” nods Friend firmly. The game piece with my face on it moves forward on the board.

Well, now I have some clues with which to work. A difficult to find lesson I have to learn the hard way which will make me a better person, involving ability, and love. Lots of wriggle room there. I’ve got to narrow the field.

“Only two questions left,” announces Friend to the audience as he holds up two fingers. “Will RJ finally get his answer to the question…,” He waits.

“What Am I Searching For?” This time my voice alone can be heard. The audience is silent.

“Okay, RJ. What is your ninth question?” I see hope on his face and realize he’s been rooting for me all along.

“Does this have anything to do with my plan, Courageous Change?” I ask.

“YES,” Friend shouts, and again my game marker skips happily to the next space. “You’ve got one more question. Can you figure it out, RJ?” He’s nearly jumping up and down he’s so excited for me. I hear a chattering among the unseen audience. They’re pulling for me too, I can feel it.

A lesson learned the hard way involving Courageous Change. It will be difficult to find but will make me a better person. Ability and love will play a role. And suddenly I know.

“I am searching for something that will make my dad happy and straight!” I announce. “That’s it, isn’t it?”

Just as Friend opens his mouth to answer a loud bell interrupts him. The huge golden hand in which this has all taken place tilts. While I slide down Friend floats up. He shouts the answer to me but the bright light of the sun shining through my bedroom window distracts me and the ringing alarm clock blocks my hearing. It’s time to get up. I have to feed the dogs, chickens, and Nanny before the school bus gets here.

As I stumble to the bathroom I hear Dad going out through the mud porch. Morning starts pretty early for a farmer working a piece of land the size of ours, and his workload has doubled. When I finish my chores and get to the kitchen for my own breakfast I find only a cold cup of coffee at his place.

I’m not stupid, I watch TV. I can see Dad is suffering from a broken heart but the afternoon talk show hosts say those eventually mend. A lost soul is a lot harder to fix. I have to stick to the plan.

Courageous Change is for the greater good and soon Dad and I will be happy, living as a straight family like everyone else.

Still, I watch Dad moping around here when he thinks I’m not looking and wonder when the happy part is going to kick in. Maybe he needs to date a woman.

I set about figuring out who that should be.

Book Review Friday – Slow Dance in Paris

If you’re looking for a gentle lesbian romance story, this is it.

Mary Wright’s Slow Dance in Paris follows the adventures of Sophie, an unsophisticated young American fresh from high school in the early 1970’s. Confused about a sexual liaison she has with a hippie after smoking hashish, unsure if she’s been raped or not, Sophie puts everything behind her. She’s finishing a grand tour of Europe when she meets a pair of charming lesbians. At their invitation, she goes to her first ever gay bar, where she dances with Genvieve, a fascinating woman who captures her imagination.

Is Sophie gay? She’s had attractions to girls before, but has also chalked up two boyfriends in her past. Although unsure about her orientation, every time she’s with Genvieve the young American heroine finds herself drawn closer to the exotic world of lesbianism. However, just after they begin a tentative relationship Sophie must move to another town where her school is located.

Separated by kilometers and the restraints of job and school, Sophie is drawn closer and closer to the idea of being a lesbian, even as the differences between having a girlfriend as opposed to a boyfriend become embarrassingly clear. People who were friends treat her differently, and she finds herself restricted in ways unexperienced by straights. It makes her uncomfortable, but she soon forgets everything when held in the strong arms of her new lover.

Eventually everything builds to a head as Sophie deals with an unwanted pregnancy, a mail strike, and massive guilt over her choice to have an abortion. Will her burgeoning relationship with Genvieve continue to grow if the Parisienne learns the truth, or will Sophie’s choices lead her back to the world of heterosexuals and so called normality?

Slow Dance in Paris is an easy, gentle read, one that takes you into the mind of a young woman during a time when women’s liberation and gay pride were still in their infancies. The city of Paris, and the surrounding landscape are artfully captured by the author, who deftly weaves them into her story as characters in their own right. If you’re looking for a lighthearted romantic story, spend some lazy afternoons curled up with Mary Wright’s Slow Dance in Paris. You won’t be sorry.

Fred Phelps – Unwilling Gay Ally

Fred Phelps hated fags. I don’t think anyone can dispute this fact. He was nearly rabid on the subject, and some have suggested that he was tossed on a sea of madness for decades.

It was this very craziness that made him such a valuable ally in the fight for gay rights. He and his family church became instruments of change in the culture war over acceptance of gay rights.

Phelps’ ugly persona, almost a caricature of fanaticism, held a mirror up to people who had casually denounced gay rights as special rights, or voted against gay marriage because they vaguely thought it was icky. While gay activists held civil conversations with everyday people, as more and more closeted people came out to their friends, families and co-workers, as prominent politicians, celebrities, and artists voiced their support, Fred Phelps flaunted the ugliness of bigotry back in their faces.

As votes were held people who had never had to think about it before confronted their knee-jerk reactions to gay marriage. On one hand they saw the happy faces of joyous people celebrating legal wedding ceremonies, and on the other they were confronted with ugly striped signs shouting judgmental messages. One side said LOVE IS LOVE, and the other side said GOD HATES FAGS. Which message is more appealing, really?

And the tide began to shift. I felt it and watched with relief as one by one states agreed that having two separate classes of people in America is unconstitutional. As court after legislature have come to their senses, so has the public because the idea of being as horrifically uncivil as the Westboro Baptist Church is much more uncomfortable than accepting that Anna and Eve want to marry, and Patrick and Bill are adopting.

So thank you, Fred Phelps (a phrase I never expected to use). If you hadn’t spread your virulence far and wide, we’d still be battling one court case at a time, and trying to persuade one representative or senator after another. We’d still be taking one step forward, and two steps back. But now, because of the ugliness of Fred Phelps and his family church, Americans are choosing to side with LOVE instead of HATE.

Off you go, Fred, a true servant of your God, an instrument in the battle between good and evil. Too bad you were the face of evil, but you can tell it all to Judas over a drink at Hell’s Bitchin’. He felt a little used in the end, himself.

I’d ordinarily send someone off with a wish that they rest in peace but for Fred Phelps, not so much.

History Is Being Made

Our wedding day.

I haven’t had butterflies this active in my stomach since the night I stood in line during a San Francisco winter rainstorm to have my chance to marry the woman I love. If we win today, can I sue the state of California to undo their vicious invalidation and reinstate our wedding day as Feb. 16, 2004? I’m serious. Can I?

I’m being flooded with memories fast and furious. So I’m going to share a piece I wrote in 2005 about our experiences during that now infamous, first Valentine’s weekend of love.

Call me Quixote

by Genta Sebastian
Feb. 16, 2005

I looked up from my personal puddle, and down the line of huddled figures trying to find shelter under umbrellas and blankets from the frigid San Francisco storm. Strangers had come by earlier, but when they left, so did the last of the hot coffee. It was four in the morning of Monday, February 16, 2004, and I was camped in a borrowed lawn chair under two sodden umbrellas, waiting for the volunteers who would open City Hall on this Presidents’ Day holiday. Traf, the woman I’ve loved for years and planned to marry, was sleeping as best she could in our parked car across the street. Through the punishing rain I could just make out our Minnesota plates among the California ones.

We’d driven non-stop from my mother’s house in central California, where we were visiting, as soon as we heard legal gay marriages were being performed in San Francisco, and arrived on February 14th in the City of Love. It was already night, and City Hall was closed, so we’d waited in line for a Valentine dinner on Fisherman’s Wharf, relaxing in the atmosphere around us enough to whisper words of love and hold each others’ hand covertly beneath the cover of white tablecloths.

We found the only hotel room left in the entire city that night, and slept like the two women in comfortable shoes that we are. My Beloved was fifty-six, I nine years younger, and the long road trip had taken its toll on mind and body.

At eight the next morning I rose first, still tired but excited by the knowledge that today at long last, was our wedding day. I was making complimentary coffee and had just turned on the news when the TV filled with coverage of block long lines around City Hall. I stared at Traf, she stared back at me, and we both turned to stare at the television. We flew into action and raced for our chance to be married. Apparently we weren’t the only ones eager to take part in this historical moment.

The gay community had been abuzz since the sudden action by Mayor Newsom three days earlier, legalizing marriage for the first time anywhere in the United States in the City of San Francisco. Conventional wisdom held that the weddings would be stopped on Tuesday, February 17th, as soon as government got back to business as usual, being run by duly elected homophobes and cowards. The weddings had started on Friday, and it was already Sunday morning when we arrived at City Hall. When we tried to join first one, and then the other line, we were told that only those with vouchers would be married today, Line A first, and if there was time, the people in Line B. We were told they’d decided not to hand out any more vouchers because they couldn’t be sure how long they’d be allowed to proceed legally, and we should go away and try again tomorrow.

I looked at Traf’s face, grumpy because she hadn’t had any coffee yet, and thought about just giving up. We’d raced off without the proper funds or preparations for a vacation, and we were exhausted after a 2,500 mile drive from Minnesota a few days earlier. We’d arrived too late the day before to get married, and today they were telling us only the two lines which had formed before dawn surrounding the block would be served.

We weren’t the only ones looking frustrated. Tuesday morning would surely bring an end to the weddings, and damn it, Traf and I wanted to be one of the fortunate couples. We wanted our chance to be married, and had come a long way to realize it. I was deeply in love with Traf, and had already tied my future to hers, but I wanted to honor that union as legal, to have our marriage recognized as equal to that of any other couple. So I stared at the lucky ones in Lines A and B and was jealous of their good fortune.

We walked the block surrounding City Hall, talking to some of the excited couples waiting to get married. They crossed all economic, racial, and religious lines, since we’re a steady four to ten percent of all populations. Two women were both in white wedding dresses, and more than one couple of men wore tuxedos. Others were dressed very casually in jeans and t-shirts. Some people wore very feminine clothes and others more masculine ones. A few of the women might have passed for men. Some of the men were in drag, from the outrageous to the frumpy. Several couples were dressed as if they were attending a costume party, others were elegantly draped and coiffed. Many had family and friends in attendance, others had come in small groups together, and still others, like Traf and I, were little islands unto themselves.

After circling the block aimlessly, we finally talked to several people and found a group as lost as we were. Together we formed a third line, intending to wait and see if we could be fit in today, after those with vouchers had been married. We told anyone and everyone who would listen that we were the self-proclaimed C Line, and we would wait as long as it took to get married.

Volunteers wandered in and out as during the morning Line A, then in the afternoon Line B, were allowed into City Hall. Happy couples waving their licenses burst through the glass doors to descend the long stairway, jumping into their cars and honking horns as they drove away. Friends and families, and some total strangers eager to share in the joy, gathered at the foot of the long staircase, throwing rice and flower petals at the legal couples so happy in their declared love.

Traf was growing restless, wandering in and out of the crowd. Standing on the hard sidewalk was beginning to hurt the double fusion in her back. I found aspirin in my purse, and held our spot watching everything, determined to forget nothing.

We were maybe the tenth couple in the new line. A pair of men from Bakersfield stood in front of us, and a lesbian couple behind us, from Palm Springs, near the Mexico border. As the morning passed, conversations rose around us. We joined in.

Strangers came. A mother, and daughter of perhaps seven, gave me a fresh pink rose and wished us good luck before passing other flowers to the couples waiting. Some people brought Valentine candy, handing out kisses and hugs with their own best wishes. University students arrived with their waivers and endless lists of questions. Youngsters drove by and honked their horns, some yelling, “Way to go!” and others shouting, “Faggots! Dykes!” Across the street a group of relatively normal looking people had gathered with signs that read: 1 MAN + 1 WOMAN = MARRIAGE; and GOD MADE ADAM AND EVE, NOT ADAM AND STEVE. A group of Muslim women had recently swelled their ranks, dressed in symbols of their servitude to a male dominated society. They held themselves apart, standing mutely in protest of the weddings being performed across the street in City Hall.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a gaggle of drag queen nuns who do great work raising funds for AIDS and it’s prevention, swept dramatically into view, grabbing the focus of the media. Television cameras and crews had been cruising the lines all day, interviewing a few couples, but mostly giving their “informed” take on what was happening. It was a relief to watch the Sisters work their particular brand of outrageous spiritual magic on the indifferent newscasters.

Once the floodlights turned off, the Sisters turned to us, offering coffee and asking about our stories. Standing sedately in their flamboyant costumes and makeup, they listened respectfully as each couple quietly explained their reasons for marrying, and when they turned to us, my beloved Traf said, “Because I want to die a first class citizen, with all those rights and responsibilities, rather than a second class citizen, as I’ve lived.” I swear to God those were her words.

Traf’s usually very quiet, but when she speaks, her wisdom glows. I beamed at her standing behind me, taking her hand proudly. My sweetie pulled hers free, unwilling even there, even then, to expose us to harassment, ridicule, or even danger from the homophobes across the street. Some of them looked bat poop crazy.

The drag queen smiled at me sadly, nodding. It’s the age old story of our people, hiding in plain sight, unwilling to risk our loved ones to the hatred of others. I’m long used to it, although it still chafes. But it kept our daughters relatively free of harassment as they grew up, and was still protecting our four grandchildren. That’s what mattered.

I looked up when Traf growled at the people standing across the street. They were loudly cheering a decorated truck covered with the slogans, Die QUEERS Die, and GOD HATES FAGS as it turned the corner, blaring it’s horn. I had already begun thinking of the people across the street as The Haters even before Westboro Baptist Church showed up with their dog and pony show. The people on our side of the street, strangers but still family, I thought of as The Lovers. The Haters didn’t bother me nearly as much as they bothered Traf. But then, I’ve never been on the receiving end of physical violence. She has.

The afternoon was overcast when we noticed the volunteers beginning to leave. It was clear the weddings were over for the day when Mabel Teng, San Francisco’s Assessor-Recorder, came out to speak with us. She wanted us to leave, telling us they couldn’t guarantee our safety. Mrs. Teng explained a winter storm was coming, and pointed to the darkening skies. She told us to go home, and come back in the morning.

A woman called out, asking if we’d be arrested if we stayed. Mrs. Teng explained that we wouldn’t be arrested, but we wouldn’t be protected either. The volunteers were going home. They were tired from a full, exhausting three days. They’d be back in the morning, and we could try again then.

The hundred or more couples who were now waiting with us began shouting. Someone asked for vouchers guaranteeing us a place in line to get married tomorrow. By that time I was wishing for one, then we could find another hotel room and rest. It had been a long day.

But no. Mrs. Teng held firm in the decision not to hand out vouchers. We’d just have to take our chances. She once more reiterated that they could not guarantee our safety if we insisted on staying in front of City Hall. She urged us to take shelter from the coming storm.

Someone spoke for us all and said that we weren’t giving up our one chance to get married, and we’d still be here when they got back in the morning. Mrs. Teng gestured helplessly at the group of protesters across the street, and said once more that they couldn’t guarantee our safety. Many of the off duty police who’d kept the Lovers and Haters separated during the day were also going home. It was clear she feared there could be violence.

Someone, maybe me, shouted that we would take care of each other like we always had, and there was vocal agreement up and down the line. More than a few defiant fists were raised in the air. Although she argued with us a while longer, Mrs. Teng had no choice but to leave us where we were, awaiting our destiny.

The small restaurants and shops in the vicinity were enjoying a brisk business from not only the gays and lesbians getting married and their friends and families, but also those who came to witness the phenomenon. As people started settling in for the night, I found a small drugstore and bought the last umbrella, and a pair of rain ponchos. With chips and cookies, bottled water and instant coffee, we settled into our chairs to try and relax. Groups of people had wisely rented nearby hotel rooms, now completely booked, and the majority were relaxing while the few took turns manning the line. Someone left us an umbrella.

Among those still in line, the mood turned festive. Before long people who lived close enough to fetch supplies began erecting pup tents on the small raised lawn surrounding City Hall. Others brought sleeping bags, and then unrolled them to sit more comfortably on the grass. A few people had lanterns, which began glowing softly in the pre-storm quiet. The weddings were over, the reporters had turned off their lights and packed up for the five o’clock news, the well wishers had gone home for dinner. A haze of happy exhaustion began wending through those of us who held our places in line. The Haters were still across the street, but they too were less vocal now that the weddings were over, their numbers reducing as the evening wore on.

“Get those tents and sleeping bags off the lawn!” came the loud bark of an angry city cop. He was average height and a little beefy, and his eyes were looking thunderbolts at everyone around him. His voice rose even louder as he echoed himself, adding, “…or you’ll be arrested!”

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wondered if we were all going to end up guests of the City for the evening, and I thought about grabbing Traf and running across the street to jump in our car and speed off. Officer Power started walking the lawn, hurrying those who were quickly obeying his orders, and his hand rested threateningly on his nightstick. He was getting louder and more aggressive. An off duty cop I’d seen keeping the Haters at bay earlier suddenly showed up, a half eaten sandwich in one hand. He walked up to Officer Power and spoke to him quietly, gesturing at the people rapidly complying. Officer Power unpuffed and walked off with Officer Peace.

No one wanted another confrontation, so the small tent city evaporated. The sleeping bags made islands on the sidewalk, used for a little insulation from the cold concrete. Friends and families of the couples waiting began to show up, either sharing in the lovers’ vigil, or taking their places to give them a rest. There were still some half-hearted cat calls from the dwindling group of Haters, but we ignored them.

Out of the darkening gloom three of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence showed up again, still in drag, handing out homemade PB&J sandwiches and hot coffee. The Haters jeered loudly, but were clearly envious of the warm drinks. I was ecstatic. The temperature had dropped and I had naively dressed for a warmer climate. Drag queen nuns perhaps, but to me they were angels of mercy. I needed that coffee.

It had now been more than twenty-four hours since Traf and I left my surprised but supportive mother in Fresno to strike out on our greatest adventure together. We’d slept for six of those hours. My exhausted body and over stimulated brain were screaming for a bed, and I was sure that Traf’s were too, although she stoically denied it. We agreed to take turns grabbing some sleep in the car, but neither of us was willing to leave the other alone in the line, not with the Haters still across the street.

The after evening services crowd had begun arriving over there, and some of them looked the worse for a six pack or two. Traf asked me if I was sure I wanted to stay, that she’d understand if we admitted defeat and left before anything bad could happen. Her kind eyes were concerned. She didn’t want anything to happen to me.

I took her hand and held it firmly, causing someone to yell at us from across the street. This time Traf didn’t pull back, but gripped me tightly. A comfortable silence descended between us. We’d see this thing through, wherever it took us, just as we’d lived our lives.

But after a while I needed a bathroom, and the businesses around us had closed. I’d never dropped my drawers to pee behind a bush in my life, and I certainly wasn’t going to start on the front lawn of San Francisco’s City Hall. I grit my teeth and refused to drink any more. Sitting very still helped, but only a little. I stopped talking to anyone, focusing on keeping control. After a while, I began to realize that soon I’d have no choice in the matter of where I went, and just then a miracle happened.

Some kind soul arranged for three port-a-potties to be set up at the corner. I wasn’t the only one to jump up and join the line and soon we all felt much better, exchanging words of support and encouragement once more. God bless and keep our wondrous benefactor. It’s a thousand times easier to be brave and true when you’re not doing the potty dance.

The rain began lightly enough, but grew steadily in intensity. At first it was possible to stay reasonably dry wearing ponchos and huddling under the umbrellas, but then the skies opened up and dumped gallons of water on us, a strong wind blowing it in and under everything. Drenched, miserable, we huddled in small groups, taking pleasure only in the sight of the Haters scattering. They stood up for what they believed all right, until they got wet.

Traf’s back had forced her to sit down hours earlier and the cold wind and rain were making her stiffen miserably. Since the Haters were gone she agreed to take shelter in our car. I told her I’d replace her in a few hours. She shambled off under the meager shelter of a ball cap some kind soul had distributed in the first minutes of the rain. I wrapped a sodden blanket around me and clenched the handles of the two umbrellas with my arthritic fingers.

The media showed up just after midnight, thrilled to film our misery. Their flood lights pierced the darkness, showing the sheets of pounding rain battering us. Handsome and/or beautiful reporters clutched their trench coats and pontificated on our determination. Each channel took turns interviewing the first couple in line. The two men were blooming, warming themselves on the attention. I was happy for them, but as for me I wished the media would go away and leave us alone. The flood lights swept over us again and again.

Three in the morning came and went and I let Traf sleep. I was already as cold and miserable as I was going to get, and I just closed my eyes and suffered the incessant pounding of the rain and the water running down my thoroughly chilled body. The early morning hours drew out for an eternity, and I filled the time remembering why I was doing this.

Traf and I owned a house, planted a garden, and took care of our family. We paid taxes, donated to charity, and baked cookies for the neighbors every Christmas. We lived exactly like the other married couples on the block, down to decorating Easter eggs with the grand kids, and holding a candlelight vigil on our street corner the evening of September 11, 2001.

Her back was broken at work, crashing two discs and injuring four more. Two surgeries later she was declared totally disabled. She chafed at the restrictions, begging her doctor for a work release. It was denied. I can’t speak for every butch, but all the ones I know, Traf included, feel very strongly identified with their jobs. It devastated her to stay at home.

When my school district finally discovered I was a lesbian after years of teaching, they fired me on the spot. Never mind my sterling record, many awards, and public recognition for saving a student’s life with the Heimlich maneuver. They refused to let “a pervert” work around children. That put me in a financial bind, and into a deep depression.

Thank goodness Traf was covered by Medicare when she started suffering angina in 2002. The worst moment of my life came when her eyes rolled back in her head and she crumpled at my feet, showing no signs of life. Time moved too fast and too slow in the nightmare time between the 911 call and driving to the hospital following the ambulance.

The Emergency Room nurse wouldn’t let me in to see her until one of our daughters arrived twenty minutes later and vouched for me. Nurse Ratchet wouldn’t even tell me if Traf was alive, or dead, smirking at me from her cage. She enjoyed heaping pain upon my already suffering head. It pleased her to hurt me. It was then I understood the plate glass between them and us; I wanted to reach in and throttle her.

Excellent doctors diagnosed heart disease and inserted three stents in Traf’s heart. However the surgeon didn’t consider me immediate family so I was not notified when my dear one came out of surgery. I was left sitting in the waiting room for several extra hours, worrying about the unusual length of the procedure, until a passing nurse took pity on me and told me where she was. I was still clutching her medical Power of Attorney in my hand, having shown it to one and all.

Every time I’ve been hurt Traf has been there to hold me and offer words of love and support. She’s been my rock and muse, a most wondrously unusual combination. Over the years our extended families have accepted us, even the born again Christian faction, and together we’ve suffered the anguish of loss and illness on both sides. I’ve dried her tears, she’s dried mine.

Traf taught me how to fish, and stay within a budget. I taught her to swim, and spell. She gave me two daughters, I gave her three cats. We’ve colored each others’ gray hairs, and kissed each wrinkle as they’ve blessed our faces. And yes, we’ve found passion in each other’s arms, as well as strength and comfort.

So I bore the cold wind and battering rain, because we’re a couple. We’d always been a family, and we always would be. A piece of paper wouldn’t change that one bit. But for the first times in our lives, we’d be recognized as just as good, just as valid a couple as any other – at least in San Francisco until Tuesday morning. But even if we were married for only a few hours, we would have told the world, “This is my wife, and I am hers, with all the same rights and responsibilities as any president, senator, or convicted felon.”

Traf prodded me out of my stupor at five in the morning. It was still very dark, and the rain showed no signs of letting up. She looked much refreshed, and I gratefully made my way stiffly to our car. I dropped the sodden blanket in the street beside the passenger door. No sense bringing it in with me. I locked the door, turned on the car heater and fell deeply asleep under the lap robe we always carry, ignoring the media trucks parking all around me, setting up for their early morning field reports.

Traf roused me at eight. Mrs. Teng was back, and had told those waiting in line that she’d been moved through the night by the news coverage of our determination to get married. She promised to open City Hall to get us in out of the rain as soon as possible. Then she turned to the watching TV cameras and asked all volunteers to come in as early as possible. She vowed to marry as many of us as possible. It was President’s Day Monday, the courts would open in twenty four hours. It was a race against time. We were allowed to move our line up the grand staircase. This was it.

The reporters chased her into the building, then turned to devour us. One even interviewed me as I watched Traf immediately wander out of sight. She rejoined me once the camera was turned off and playfully called out to the reporter, a pretty young woman, asking if she were married or not.

The reporter was walking away, and tossed back over her shoulder that no, she wasn’t married. Traf called loudly after her, “Well I’m single for a few more minutes. You want to mess around?” The reporter stopped dead in her tracks and did a slow swirl on one high heeled pump and then burst out into great guffaws of laughter, much larger than one would expect from a person so small. The people in line around us, who had heard the exchange, all laughed uproariously.

We were ready. The importance of the moment was flooding through those of us who had stood the storm, warming our chilled bodies and souls. We would all have the same anniversary, if we had any anniversary.

Around nine the rain finally began to let up, and as our line slowly filed into City Hall, we took turns changing clothes and sprucing up as best we could in the public restrooms. Someone had thoughtfully left a blow dryer, hair spray, and several shades of lipstick in the Ladies’ Room. Traf lugged in our overnight bag from the car, and we changed into our nice clothes, a dress for me and a suit for her. We might have been decades older but I felt every bit as much the eager bride as the young women around me. In only a few minutes more I would be a married lady.

Everyone had been well trained in the legalities, and great pains were taken to ensure that everything was done right so as to stand up under future legal challenges. Nothing was crossed out. If mistakes were made, new forms were supplied and filled out. Fees were paid, applications were sworn to and signed. When all the legalities had been observed, we joined a line in the rotunda.

All around that magnificent edifice, joy was abounding. Wherever there was room to gather, volunteer officials were performing legal marriages for glowing couples. Voices rang through the rounded dome, excitement in every one. As a wedding ended the marriage certificates were quickly signed, and a new group would pass the old, exchanging best wishes and congratulating each other.

A bright-eyed young man greeted us at the head of the line, asking if we needed a witness. Neither Traf nor I had considered this and we quickly agreed. He told us his name, and that he was a straight college student who’d seen the weddings on the news. He’d come to see the gay weddings for himself, and ended up staying to offer his services as a witness. He said to me, “I wish some of the guys in my dorm could see this for themselves. They’d know then it’s not about sex. It’s about love.” I nearly kissed him.

I expected to be led up the grand staircase to be married by one of the dozens of officials performing weddings, but instead we were swept up by a lovely young woman who introduced herself as one of Mayor Newsom’s assistants. She took us upstairs in a private elevator to the Office of the Mayor, and we were married there, standing before a window framed by one American flag, and one California flag. I was suddenly flooded with memories of Mayor Moscone, and brave Harvey Milk, and could almost feel their benevolent spirits blessing our union as we repeated the magic words that transform two into one.

As I kissed my wife, I knew completeness for the first time in my life. We’d done it. We were married. At this time, in this place, we were legally conjoined and recognized by a legitimate government. It was a moment of tremendous romance, historic significance, and personal triumph. I did what any other woman in my shoes would have done. I smiled through my tears, and hugged everyone in sight.

As we walked out of City Hall into the sunlight breaking through the clouds, we held hands. Traf lifted our newly printed marriage certificate over her head and the crowd of well wishing strangers gathered below cheered. The crowd across the street booed. Traf stared at them for one moment, then turned and kissed me right there, out in the open, for God and everyone to see. It was our first public kiss, the kiss of unashamed newlyweds in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

In my hand I still clutched the rose, remarkably preserved in the cold weather, that the mother and child had given me over twenty four hours ago. I raised it to my lips and kissed it. As we walked down the steps together, hand in hand, I gave it to a glowing woman waiting her turn in line to marry the woman she loved.

The city of San Francisco fought discrimination long and hard. Six months later we were sent a letter from the State of California, invalidating our marriage, and offering a refund for the fees we’d paid. We donated the money to the continuing effort to legalize gay marriage.

The powers that be have stripped us of legitimate legal status once more, but for six months last year we were recognized as a legally married couple by the progressive City of San Francisco. I will be eternally grateful to Mayor Newsom, Mabel Teng, and the hundreds of volunteers who made my dearest wish possible.

Being equal for the first time in my long life has transformed me. I no longer sit back, content to hide in the shadows. When people are needed to make a statement, I am there and so is my pocketbook. I volunteer. I organize. I speak out. I’ve met great support, and great opposition. It is important that I do this for future generations of families like ours. I do it for Traf, and the past that binds us together.

There are too many times when I am beaten down, feeling myself a Don Quixote battling giant windmills. I wonder if it’s madness to expect change in the current regime of fear and repression. Will I live to see my own country recognize us as the equals we are, rather than the second class citizens they proclaim us to be? That thought always spurs me to action once more. I take a deep breath and rejoin the fray. I will fight for my family and the woman I love until my last breath, if need be.

Some impossible dreams are worth all sacrifice.