Archive for the ‘Gay’ Tag

The Tally

Sometimes I can’t talk about what’s hurting me, but I can write. 

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For two days I’ve been battling to control my emotions. Tears come without warning at the slightest provocation. And a heavy, burning, acrid lump of shame and fear is stuck in my throat preventing me from gaining any calm or comfort by talking through the awfulness. 

Ambush emotions suck. Hard. And the shame and stress of having them come while I’m at work is doubly awful. Being busy will stem the flow for a time. But focusing on work or on anything outside of my head is a daunting task. I’ve been trying, but I’m failing more than succeeding. 

One of the emotionally fraught conversations I had with coworkers today (in which I was mostly silent and tearful) centered on the breathtaking variety of people who will be negatively affected by this new regime. We decided that really only one demographic isn’t immediately and directly harmed by it: straight, white, male, Christians. All others are less than, second-class, and targets for every kind of discrimination and hate. People of color, people of size, people who are LGBTQI, people with physical or mental or emotional challenges, people of any faith other than Christian and people of no faith, and all women are less safe today than we were on Tuesday (to the extent some of these groups were safe at all).

That led to us discussing in how many dimensions each of us is viewed as less than, as undesirable, as unworthy and unwanted. It was a grim discussion and it was repeated with a different set of people later, spontaneously. Because everyone is conscious of the danger that this ungoverned hate represents. And because talking seems to be the only way some have to cope…or not cope but try to commiserate. 

I know its not healthy or helpful to pursue these dark thoughts. But it’s difficult to avoid them when it’s still so raw. It’s akin to the obsessive prodding of a sore tooth, or the scratching of a scab: it hurts and is not productive, but it keeps you conscious of the injury and is, in a way, comforting to feel something even if it’s pain. 

So here’s my tally of factors of un-safety: 8.  I’m a fat, Hispanic, gay, gender non-conforming, woman with mobility issues and unpopular opinions, who holds a position of corporate power over men. 

These are among the most prominent defining characteristics of who I am. They are important to me. And, under this administration of horrors, they number the ways in which I am wrong, misfit, rejected, and reviled. 

I’m sure that tally will increase over the course of the next four years. Because there’s no chance that any of these factors will diminish, but every chance that these hate mongers will find new reasons to hate the hated even more. 

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Wounded 

Friends, I’m really struggling. It’s difficult to fully articulate the trouble I’m having. In a way, it boils down to a tension, a tug-o-war between what I’m feeling and what I hear from the community I should be feeling. I feel stretched, pulled in opposing directions, pushed into an emotional corner, and I don’t know how to react or deal with it all. 

Here’s the nut of it: All the rallying cries to not be afraid, not be cowed, not be intimidated, and all the righteously indignant declarations of fortitude and perseverance are stirring, glorious examples of the best possible mindset, the reactions to aspire to. But I am afraid. I am sad. I am outraged and angry. 

Yet, I am so weary. 

It feels as if I, in my safe Midwestern town and with my good fortune in job and home and family, have no right to be weary and hurt and afraid. It feels as if I, being so recently out and so remote from the cultural experience of those whose journey to authenticity included finding sanctuary and solace in the bars and clubs and associations of IRL LGBTQ community, am not permitted to feel grief at the hate constantly flung at this community, that I’m somehow an interloper to this communal outpouring of grief. It feels as if my grief and hurt and sadness and anger are regarded as false, as not counting, as a burden to an already burdened community. It feels as if my emotional reactions are a betrayal of the fight that went before me and a weakness in the face of the fight that lies ahead. 

Mind you, no one has said these exact words to me. But every “we will fight”, every “rise up and march”, every “we will not be silenced ” pierces my heart, indicting my feelings as cowardice. Because I currently cannot muster the courage and energy to raise my fist and voice in protest. I’m bruised, wounded. It feels like too much. It feels never ending. The hate and danger burn like fire. The fear and paralysis burn like ice. 

Yet I am, today, safe and whole. There are people in my daily life that love me. I have a home with comforts and necessities. I have an income that supports me and those I love. So how — I hear screamed at me by my inner saboteur and the faceless media — can you feel this overwhelm, this acute injury? 

I can say only that I feel it. Yes from the horror at the Orlando tragedy, but also from the constant, ubiquitous negativity that floods every media feed and story. The stress of political and social strife, of brutality and hate, of unkindness and inequality pervading the news and social interaction is at a peak. It seems hardly possible to go to any public place (physical or virtual) and not encounter some form of aggression, hate, unkindness, or discrimination. What you wear, who you love, where you come from, who you do/don’t worship, what you do for a living, what you think about issues trivial and momentous…all are reasons today for someone to hate, injure, or murder you. I wear at least six of those targets as a Hispanic fat gay non-binary FAAB lawyer every day. 

That kind of insecurity and instability naturally inspire fear and dread in my heart. My instincts scream for me to make myself safe from it all, to withdraw, be still and quiet, to avoid attention. Yet the community demands we risk those dangers and assert ourselves, put ourselves in the line of fire to preserve the future from these tragedies. 

This is right and good and noble. I cannot speak against that call to action. I would be a part of it. Yet, I still am afraid and isolated from the stronghold of the movement. What good is a fearful, timid soldier? How can a weak tool complete a task?

Only in the strength of many can the fearful become bold, the weak become strong. Room must be made for people to feel what they feel without derision, without guilt. In our rallying for tangible action, let’s not trample those who aren’t able to run at the same pace, or at all. 

Peace & love & light to you all. May you find strength, validation, support, and love in your community both physical and virtual. 🙏

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Maturity?

I just had a mini epiphany looking in the bathroom mirror as I washed my hands. See, I’ve let my hair grow too long without a cut and it’s been really humid with all the rain, so my hair has more volume than normal. So, between the extra curly, swirly, voluminosity and the weird side-part, flat-over style necessary due to its length, my hair looks like an ’80’s televangelist’s do, a-la Pat Robertson. Catching sight of this, and noticing how grey it’s getting, made me think of the IRL evangelist (not tele-) that led my church growing up. He had hair like this, too. And I’m sort of the same shape now as he was the last time I saw him. And, like him, I’m not likely to be welcomed back to that church…unless I hide or renounce who I am. 

All these thoughts flashed quickly through my brain and I had a realization that shouldn’t surprise me, but does: youth and immaturity aren’t the same thing, just as age and maturity aren’t the same thing; the one doesn’t guarantee the other in either instance. But it’s only maturity that reveals how greatly lacking in compassion, empathy and insight the judgements of our youth sometimes were. 
In this case, thinking of my old minister, I now realize I made some very harsh, inflexible and compassionless judgements in my mind when he fell from grace. In my 20-year-old mind, convinced that I understood adult responsibility and even what love requires, his choice to divorce his wife, leave his sons, and move away with his younger, more svelt secretary, was inexcusable. In my moral certainty, nothing could justify his radical departure from everything I had learned, chiefly from him in his church, was the way Christians behaved. I was certain that there could be no circumstances that would adequately explain what appeared to be a betrayal of trust on every level. 
The truth of their marriage and his departure will never be fully known to anyone but them, and it really is irrelevant to the point I’m trying to get to. 
The lesson that slapped me in the face after I saw his face in my reflection is that (1) we don’t and can’t know the burden that any other person carries at any given moment; and (2) sometimes even that person doesn’t understand everything about themselves; so (3) don’t presume to know what someone ‘deserves’ for a decision or action taken in private. 
The classic lesson: judge not, lest ye be judged. 
But the reason it was an epiphany, despite that exact proverb being ingrained into my upbringing, is simple…and a bit sad. I’m now the one whose circumstances set me apart from what I previously believed was the only right way. I’m the one, now, who is seemingly rejecting all the wisdom of my faith and family for a personal truth none of them can fully understand. And I feel the gulf that so-called choice (living my truth) puts between us very sharply. 
Look, I get that there’s a meaningful distinction between acknowledging one’s true nature and choosing to live authentically in the world, and the choices a couple make when a relationship ends. Living the truth of your nature, and thereby confusing and offending some, is as far removed from the acknowledgment of the end of a relationship and its attendant hurts and sadness, as the night is from day. Adjacent, yet irrevocably separate. Similar, yet worlds apart. 
Nevertheless, the lesson holds. 
Even though that preacher, whom I was raised to revere and obey, acted in every way against what he himself taught me and our congregation is right and good, I didn’t then, nor do I now know all of the burden he and his family bore together. Yet, wrongdoing is such, irrespective of the subjective conditions of a given situation or the judgement of outsiders. 
In the same way, the justice and righteousness of living your truth, regardless of opposition from those you respect and admire, is just as much a moral absolute. The confusion, dismay, disbelief and derision of those who cannot understand the burden of living a falsehood does not change the truth of who you are. 
So what I learned in that flash of insight is that judgement is not something to take lightly, nor an office one should presume to hold over others. The moral judgement of so-called sin is for the creator or the universe in their or its time. The judgement of crime is for those who govern and those appointed to adjudicate. But the judgement of life and it’s authentic truth is for those who live it. And those that see and practice this discretion are happier and make the world better for those who live in it. 
A little personal growth spree while washing my hands. Who knew that could happen!?

Finding…me

Day Thirteen: Serially Found

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

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I’m not making this post the second in a series, as suggested in today’s Twist. When I wrote about loss, it was a very personal tribute to a beloved uncle. I won’t cheapen that by linking it to a story about finding some trivial possession or discovering some dry fact or some personal betrayal. So today’s post stands on its own.
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I’ve lost and found a whole lot of things in my 46 years, both physical and intangible. Most of the lost objects are only misplaced and turn up on their own sooner or later. But some things–friends, family, love, commitment, interest, passion, all the essential and intangible things–take a lot of work to discover, recover, or find in the first instance.

That’s true of my discovery of my true identity. I think, really, that I knew myself very well when I was a little kid. But somewhere along the way, I lost sight of that essential truth amid a sea of external pressure and expectations. Through years, decades, of trying to be something and everything that everyone else wanted me to be, I accumulated a thick layer of social and emotional camouflage that hid me even from myself.

Finding my way back to myself was the work of years full of honest, even brutal, self examination and dedicated self improvement. Overcoming fear was the biggest hurdle. I was afraid of everything, to some degree. Fear of disappointing my family and friends, fear of rejection, fear of violence, fear of homelessness and poverty as a result of all the above, were my biggest concerns.

Ironically, it was an even more pressing and weighty fear that helped me get past the first level of inertia. I feared that I would live out the entirety of my existence without ever actually knowing myself. Ignorance of my own nature, of my own potential, and of my own capacity to love and be loved, seemed to me a fate much worse than my fear of losing home and career as a consequence of owning my true identity.

So, quite a few years ago now, I began a slow, sometimes painful, often secret journey of self discovery. I started with the simple, private admission that I was not living as my true self, that there was more of me than I acknowledged to the world at large. I was not certain the exact nature and dimension of my discontent. But I knew there was something not right and that only I had the power to make it right.

Many experiments in appearance, mannerisms, philosophies and lifestyle choices (no, not homosexuality; gay is not a choice, lifestyle or otherwise) ensued. Self improvement initiatives of every stripe were tried in fits and starts, most of which failed. But the deeply personal exercise of these activities was satisfying, even when some of them fell flat.

I committed to being better than I was before. On a micro scale, day by day, I worked on one aspect of my personality or spirit or (on the rare occasion) my body. I didn’t schedule the work. Rather, I took up each task as it occurred to me. One day I’d notice a weakness in my confidence and I’d concentrate for days on limiting hesitation and unnecessary apologies. Another time I found myself equivocating and hiding things in my answers to people who mattered to me, so I redoubled my dedication to truthfulness and transparency.

These betterment efforts all related to the overall objective of discovering my truth. These self improvement projects helped me strip away the layers of camouflage hiding my true self. With personal growth and emotional maturity came the courage to confront a lot of insecurities. Taking back my power from the fog of other people’s expectations and disappointments, I freed myself to name my own identity and live with authenticity in that identity.

Gender and sexuality are a big part of that truth, yes. But they aren’t everything. I found new dimensions of freedom, confidence, and comfort in my own skin that I hadn’t dreamed existed. When I stopped chasing the pat on the head and empty platitudes of everyone else and started valuing my own notions of right and good and real as they relate to my self and my life, whole new vistas of possibilities were revealed.

I think the most valuable thing I’ve found in my search for myself is a means to accept myself so that I can let others accept me too.

Of course, the journey and the search never end. That’s a very good thing. But at least I have discovered myself, chosen the path of authenticity, and am now living rather than merely existing.

Words of Equality

The fight for equality among LGBTQI peoples in the US has gained significant momentum in recent years, particularly in the last 12 months with respect to marriage equality. In the last two days we’ve come even further with federal district court rulings in Oregon and Pennsylvania declaring marriage laws in those states (defining marriage so as to exclude same-sex unions) as unconstitutional.

These are the thirteenth and fourteenth such wins in a row, I believe, making OR and PA the 18th and 19th states, respectively, to recognize same-sex marriage. So, not new or unique, thankfully. But I still find the decisions thrilling on many levels.

First, the weight of two more decisions, two more states, to the body of law and sanity can only be good news. The more states and nations that get on the right side of history, the easier it will be for oppressed and devalued peoples of every ilk everywhere to break free and gain their rightful equality.

Secondly, I’m excited to see love validated, regardless of the fears some harbor against what they perceive as different or other. Love is love is love…and it is legal in more places today to solemnize that love in marriage. Hallelujah!

But even in the midst of all these lofty social and ideological benefits, I am equally (heh) stoked, on a professional & word-geekery level. Reading the two latest court opinions stirs my internal word-nerd and excites the slumbering constitutional fan-butch inside me.

The prose these judges have used to convey their rulings and explain their rationale is so much more than dry legalese and incomprehensible chain citations. These judges have taken the time to illuminate their rationale and precedential commentary with words that convey the weighty burden they bear in the midst of a sea-change in American jurisprudence. Their voices in these written opinions clearly articulate the feeling and power of these judges’ convictions that they are delivering decisions on the right side of history and constitutional interpretation.

Here are the concluding sentences of each of the PA and OR opinions. If you read them aloud to yourself as I did, you can hear the ring of certainty in the truth and rightness and justice of these rulings in every word:

“In the sixty years since [Brown v. Board of Education] was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex-marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage. We are better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.” John E. Jones III, U. S. District Court Judge, wrote in the conclusion of his opinion today declaring the Pennsylvania marriage laws unconstitutional.

This, after yesterday’s opinion by U. S. District Court Judge Michael McShane did the same thing to Oregon’s marriage laws. Judge McShane’s conclusion was perhaps a shade more lyrical and no less inspiring: “Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other…and rise.”

I’m so happy to be witnessing this evolution of civil rights in this country. It gives me hope that one day soon there will be no impediment to my marriage to my Special Femme, or to anyone’s marriage to their chosen love, regardless of their geographic residence.

Struggle, pressure and stress…oh my!

This is a long one that probably deserved to be more than one post. But it’s my stream-of-consciousness, mind-dump attempt to grasp at a little bit of sanity.

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I’m struggling…

With having the coming out talk with my family

With the physical separation from my beloved

With getting control of work/life balance

With self care

With being at ease in my freedom, identity, accomplishments

I’m struggling to be comfortable in my own skin.

Why?

I’ve been the odd, ostracized, misfit, nerdy fat girl my entire life and have grown used to what that means and have been happy (at least content) with my own company, enough within myself, and sufficient on my own. I’ve had the companionship of my siblings and a few close friends. I have a career in which I’ve excelled. I’ve had books and music and movies and art to make my life well rounded and comfortable. So what if I was alone? I was all I needed and had everything my simple tastes required.

But that’s a lie. A lie my mind insisted upon to balm the wound of not being alone, but of being lonely. A lie the world helped me perpetuate by filling my time and senses with entertainment and social media and shiny, unnecessary things. A lie that even my faith made persistent by condemning the existence that would shatter my complacency and bring the opportunity for happiness, for true joy.

As my blog’s tag line says, I have awoken to the lie, the emptiness of that false existence, and have begun the process of living my life and seizing my happiness.

Yet, I am struggling.

Lately, “stress” and “pressure” and “struggle” seem to be recurring themes in my life. But I grow weary of them. It’s time to figure it out & fix it.

Stress is unavoidable, both at work and in personal life. It’s a fact of life that, for the most part, I deal with pretty well in terms of my profession and the every-day. But the stress from new aspects of my life I didn’t anticipate (naive, much?) and it’s taking some getting used to. Increased responsibility, changing family dynamics, learning as I go how to be a good partner, all of these are welcome challenges and the stress endemic to them will eventually subside. But it is wearying.

Struggle and pressure, for me, are linked. I feel pressure, both steady and sometimes increasing, to do and think and say certain things, or behave a certain way or be a certain kind of person. When I feel that pressure I take a hard look at its source and do my best to make a reasoned decision on how or if to respond. The struggle comes when I am uncertain if the pressure is righteous, deserving of reaction, or if I don’t know how to respond.

That’s my problem right now: uncertainty. There’s a block, an invisible obstacle that I can’t name and take away its power.

Part of it is that I don’t know all of the things I need to do. I feel like I only have half the picture and a quarter of the pieces needed to complete the puzzle. How, what steps, what method do I use to find the missing pieces? Who can I turn to for help? Isn’t asking for help admitting defeat or error? Shouldn’t I be able to handle this myself? After all, the core issue is my identity. Who better to identify and overcome related challenges than me? Yet, I still struggle.

Part of it, too, is that I’m weary. I’m so tired of having to fight for recognition, acceptance, support. My petulant internal mind screams that I’ve done enough, earned these golden blessings and demands to have them NOW, without further ado. Then the part of my mind trained from birth to conform, be quiet, not make waves, responds by shushing that screaming, admonishing me to be still, put my head down and work some more.

But that thin sliver of my self that exists between the screamer and the shusher, that relatively rational adult independent thinker, says there’s got to be something in between the hard-line demand and the unrequited effort. There’s got to be balance, a reward of some type, to encourage future excellence and diligence.

Right?

So where does that leave me? Let’s take stock:

I am immeasurably blessed. I have a beloved partner who loves and accepts me and supports me in all things. I have siblings and niblings whom I love and who love me. I have a good job that is intellectually challenging and professionally fulfilling. I have a warm, safe home full of comfort and plenty. There is clean air and water, abundant food, clothes, tools, vehicles and things of every type to make my life easy and comfortable. I have everything I need and more in terms of material gifts. I am loved and supported and mature enough to carry the blessings and burdens alike.

So what’s the challenge? What are the missing pieces I complain of?

First, what do I do about talking to my family? They know, now, that I’m gay and that I’m in love with my beloved Special Femme. Yet that information wasn’t given to them by me and there is still a significant amount of tension in my home. There’s an expectation that I’ll “come clean”, approach the throne and confess to be forgiven and set things right. (Yes, that’s my bitterness and snark showing in that sentence. I won’t apologize for it.) So, the first hurdle appears to be stubbornness and, perhaps, pride. Mine, my family’s, or both is not yet clear. What’s missing? A way to approach this discussion without judgement on either side, as well as an opportunity to begin.

Second, what comes next? Once everything is truly out (pun intended), what then? Yeah, I know, enjoy the relief and live your life. I get that. But what does that life look like? Even without the pressure of hiding a vital part of myself, I’m still in the same spot: in my mid-40s, living in an unconventional family arrangement, in a house too small for two complete families and separated from my beloved by 9,000 miles and three oceans. Where’s the path to living my life of happiness?

One of the missing pieces, I think, is why this is still a struggle, why haven’t I fixed this yet? I am a creature of comfort and this pressure, stress and struggle is uncomfortable. Why hasn’t the discomfort served to prod me, get me moving in the right direction?

Excellent question.

I think the pervasiveness, the sheer magnitude of the consequences of reacting to this pressure is so significant that the fear of the possible outcome is greater than the discomfort of the ongoing pressure. Hence: stagnation.

The Quandry: My immediate family now know I’m gay, but they found out by means I find objectionable (forcing my partner to admit our relationship when I wasn’t around, outing me in abstentia against her will). Ever since, there’s been silence on the subject. The tension from what’s unspoken on all sides is mounting. They’ve relayed a clear message that I must be the one to come to them, make a confession and receive their reaction.

Yet I feel that responding to this relayed demand for my confidences is capitulation, or at least a diminished, eroded form of communication that may end up crippling a formerly robust family relationship that is extremely important to me.

I want to be mature and approach the whole discussion with love, free from accusation and rancor. Yet I feel an obligation to hold them accountable for their treatment of Lulu. I also feel a duty to my identity and dignity to resist my freedom to be authentic being subrogated to their feeling hurt by my not choosing to confide in them this deepest, truest part of me.

What to do? At this point I’ll consider all serious suggestions, but reserve the right to reject them all and go with my gut at any moment…which may mean grabbing Lulu and running away to join the circus.

This is it…

…the last Friday I have to spend separated from my beloved (at least for a few weeks).

…the last week I have to live with an essential part of my life hidden.

…the end of a critical and painful division of my in-real-life world: the world centered on her and the world that only acknowledges her in passing as an abstract idea.

This time next week those worlds will be united when my Faraway Love is here, live and in person, living in my home for a few precious weeks. The family with whom I spend my day-to-day time will finally meet my love, the part of my family with whom I spend countless hours on Skype and who occupies my every thought and dream.

I have no words to adequately describe how exciting! thrilling! breathtaking! this is. Every particle of me is leaning forward, reaching, longing for that moment when the people I love most in the world are finally all a part of the same world, in the same space.

No, I haven’t come out to my family yet. (I would’ve told you all!) Instead, Lulu and I have agreed that she will come here as my friend (absolute truth, since she’s my best friend) and let my family get to know her as a person first, without the complexities of labels like “gay girlfriend”. We agreed that this measured approach provides the best chance for a smooth transition, once we’re both ready to take the next step.

That’s all a very clinical and polite way to say that Lulu is incredibly patient and understanding and is giving me a pass for my irrational fear in order for us to get a chance to enjoy our visit together without my having to come out first.

My gratitude for her loving patience is inexpressible. I have an enormous amount of respect for her kindness and understanding. Thankful is too small a word for how I feel toward her for that. I’m one lucky butch, that’s certain.

At the same time, though, I struggle with a deep sense of failure at my inability to overcome this fear-induced paralysis. Lulu and I have talked about it and I know, intellectually, what the problem and the solution is. But those facts, divorced from emotional context and viewed from arm’s length, mask a more complex human story inside of which I live every day.

Of course, it is no different from the fear and pain and struggle that everyone who has had to come out to a potentially hostile family has had to endure. Likely, my little story is far less traumatic and dramatic than many others’ stories, especially those who live in places where it is unlawful to exist as nature made me: butch…gay…queer…different.

But all comparisons aside, my story is real, it’s mine, I live it, and my fear persists. So my story has hit an infinite loop of pressure to be authentic followed by fear of rejection and abuse followed by avoidance. Rinse and repeat.

But this repeating cycle is about to encounter a new variable, approaching at high velocity, and collision is imminent. My hidden reality is about to meet my acknowledged reality and I have no idea what outcome to expect.

I have zero desire to avoid this meeting of worlds, though. It is necessary. And it is welcome, even if it is fraught with emotion. It is my best opportunity to breach this wall of fear and emerge on the other side into a single, united world where there is no division between the identity I know inside and the identity I live on the outside.

So, here I go: hurtling into the unknown, excited and terrified at once, and thrilled to get started. The next four weeks are packed to overflowing with exciting things. In the next month, I will:

– welcome my girlfriend to the US and into my home to stay with me and my family
– introduce my Faraway Love to my friends and work colleagues
– show my day to day world to the one person who matters most to me
– travel with my beloved to NYC to meet Twitter friends in person, witness the wedding of two of them, and see a Broadway show featuring k.d. Lang
– celebrate my first Valentine’s Day with a girlfriend
– celebrate both Lulu’s and my birthdays, as well as our 11th month together as a couple
– travel with Lulu to California to meet more Twitter friends in person, some for the first time; and
– reluctantly say goodbye-for-now to my beloved as she wings her way back to Australia

It’s gonna be a wild ride. Come along for the giggles!

Claiming My Place

Author’s note: fair warning that this post has been rattling around in my head for a couple of months, banging off the walls of my skull, chipping off the smooth edge of my politesse and reserve, leaving sharp, jagged edges of emotion that come out in some of the imagery and language I use. This post is full of big feelings and is odiferous of fear and anger. Feel free to skip this one if its raw, unpolished nature is intimidating.
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Part of the reason I struggle with coming out in my family has to do with “place”–as in the phrases “it’s not my place to”, or “put her in her place”. Also part of it is the concept of selflessness. I’ve touched on them in earlier posts. But these two ideological forces are converging with my practical reality now, as they never have before. The result is a huge pressure front building inside my head and chest, threatening to overwhelm me.

“Place” is a hard concept to articulate. For me, the idea is that each person in a given group has a place, a specific role to play relative to the others, and stepping beyond that role is seen as presumptive or transgressive. This rigid role dynamic can be the source of great stability and comfort, relieving the uncertainty that comes when boundaries are undefined or non-existent. But more often in my experience, it is the source of significant friction and discontent when the parameters of one’s role become dated or out of alignment with one’s personal identity.

Then there’s selflessness, specifically, “having a servant’s heart” (as in Christlike service) and being of service to others. These precepts formed the basis of my upbringing. My siblings and I were taught and were expected to seek what was best for others, to think of others first before ourselves. It was a blending of traditional Southern ideas of ‘elders and ladies first’ and fundamentalist Christian ‘Christ washing the apostles’ feet. And the resulting family ideology yields a social programming powerful beyond the sum of its parts. The fact that I recognize this as ideology and programming does not dissipate it’s effects.

Mine was a home steeped in guilt. Christians and members of our family clan knew our place and served others (particularly the family), eschewing anything that smacked of selfishness. Any time one of us stepped beyond our designated role or acted in our own self interests, the guilt was a rising tide that swamped the lot of us, so that we all learned the lesson of the guilty one. Guilt on steroids.

So, here I am, nearing the end of my 44th year, struggling with the necessary step of coming out to my family. I struggle because doing so means both stepping outside the role designated for me by the expectation of the others in the family, as well as taking what is an essentially self-centered action to claim a new place of my choosing, of my own definition.

Identifying and taking up the space I want to occupy in the world (both literally and metaphorically) without apology, as if by right, is an exercise of supreme selfishness. And it flies in the face of my family’s expectations and desires for my role in our family unit.

As I’ve alluded to in other posts, my family have a fairly narrowly-defined idea of who I am as a person, and that viewpoint is not entirely flattering or confidence-inspiring. As the youngest in the family, a female, overweight and unattractive, I’m a burden to them in many respects, from their perspective. But also, this makes me very low-ranking in terms of perceived influence. Ultimately, this place means that, to them, I really have no right to claim a place of privilege, of self care, of my desire over others’. Instead, I should submit to my elders (especially the men of the bunch) in their estimation of what’s best for me and for the rest of the family. Their expectations and wishes should decide my path.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s never as overt and black-and-white as I’ve stated it here. It’s a much more insidious campaign of peer pressure. Akin to a wolf pack or other collective organization, it’s a matter of molding each other to the will of the rest of the pack by negative reinforcements and passive-aggressive communication in the form of growls and snarls and nips. Despite this patriarchy, this binary system of privilege, I have a deep bond of love and gratitude to my family. But I’m no longer willing to squeeze myself inside the box they’ve built around my identity.

Hence the struggle.

As I’ve said before, I’m scared to lose them, scared of being shunned and disavowed. As imperfect as we are, we’re still a family and the love between us is 100% real. It’s just not 100% in harmony with my internal picture of myself.

My fear is of being shunned for being who I am. It’s fear of loneliness and trepidation at laying claim to the right to be free from their judgment. A rising sense of panic tightens my throat when I think of the choice I must make: conform to a false identity and resign myself to personal misery, or risk being outside the gates of my family’s community by claiming a place of my choosing.

And so, I’ve succumbed to silence. I feel like I’m living that line from Sarah McLauchlan’s song, I Will Remember You: “It’s funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word; We are screaming inside, but we can’t be heard”.

I continually ask myself why it matters so much what they think, why is their comfort more important than my happiness? What if I want to think of myself first, for once? Does that selfishness make me a bad person, fundamentally? Can I survive the hurt that will come if my fear proves well founded?

I don’t have a neat, tidy ending. Just a raw, ragged tear in the fabric of my courage and resolve. But I’m not a quitter. I will accomplish this at some point. It’s just a matter of time…else the passage of time will do the job for me when one of the people who do know reveal the truth to them before I can muster the guts to do so. That would be a fitting capper to my cowardice, I guess.

Thankful for…fashion

I’m a big butch. I’ve always been butch, even as a kid, long before I’d ever heard the term or knew what it meant to me. Although, to me, “butch” isn’t all about outward presentation, the look is a big part of it. “Gender non-conforming” isn’t precise enough a term, in my opinion, for such a complex topic (after all, butch is my gender), but sometimes labels make communication easier. So butch it is.

And butch fashion is so much fun!

In my youth, my fashion sense consisted of grubby jeans and t-shirts. Dressing up was a nightmare I avoided like the plague. But, when forced to do so, my fashion stretched only so far as cords or twill slacks and a long sleeved mock neck or button-down Oxford. Woe betide the mom, aunt or cousin who suggested a skirt or dress! Although it did happen, it never really happened without a fight.

But with the independence of my adulthood and a more flexible budget, I’ve discovered the joy to be found in dressing sharply in clothes that feel good and which coincide with my gender identity.

I’ve dressed in exclusively masculine clothes for over fifteen years. Can’t even recall the last time I capitulated to the pressure and wore a skirt. The last semi/formal events I attended (a wedding, a professional presentation, and a business function) saw me sporting men’s dress slacks, a dress shirt and a blazer. Only recently though have I found the courage to wear ties and even bow ties. But I’ve discovered a real delight in them! In fact, last week marks the first time I’ve ever worn a tie to work every day of the week.

Special Femme likes to see me dressed sharply, too. We recently had a Skype-enabled shopping date (I know!) where she helped select some looks more suited to the season. Actually, she and the shop assistant ganged up on me and chose two ties that, but for their insistence, I’d never have bought. But, after wearing each, I admit they have a certain appeal…even the black and red paisley “mafia tie”. 🙂

Today, I’m wearing my first ever cut-to-measure dress shirt. It has French cuffs, so cuff links for the first time, too! I bought this one for an event in October, but it didn’t arrive in time. No matter, it’s here now. And I’m awaiting (barely patiently) for a few more custom shirts from Tomboy Tailors (one of the hot new fashion houses for masculine-presenting women that hit the ground this year–I think they’re actually the first with an IRL store, located in San Francisco). Can’t wait to get them!!

What I like most about fashion now is the way it makes me feel. With a well-fitting masculine dress shirt and tie, whether over jeans or slacks, and a pair of wing tips or boots, I feel more real, more authentic than ever before. When I dress consistent with my gender identity, in a fashionably cut outfit, I’m finally comfortable in my skin, so to speak. It feels as if the world can now see the closest thing to my inner image of myself. That feeling of being genuine, fully transparent, is amazing.

So, today I’m thankful for butch fashion…and my growing collection of ties! 😉

Here are a few recent chin-pics of my forays into butch fashion.

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Thankful for…restoration

So Saturday started off kinda rough. I agreed to go with my brother & sister-in-law to their studio for some family time and creativity. Despite having to miss time with Special Femme to do so, I was looking forward to it. I love them, I like spending time with them and I take real joy in playing with my tools and creating pretty things.

But in the truck on the way there, my brother made us listen to talk radio. I absolutely loathe talk radio. But, as he was the driver, he chose the station. He loves that drivel. I find it coma-inducing at the best of times and when it’s bad, as it was today, infuriating and demoralizing all at once.

It was a political talk show, with a local former politician and lecturer as host. We came into the middle of the segment, but I quickly gathered that they were discussing at least one piece of legislation giving LGBT people access to rights others have by default. The callers were uniformly anti-gay rights and some vey belligerent in their expression.

Opinions ranged widely, but several expressed some form of belief in an “evil agenda” by “LGBTs” to siphon the morals from our society and purge morality from our laws–basically condemning my very existence as a butch lesbian as immoral. At one point, an angry, outspoken man called and proceeded to both speak for “god” in condemning the entire LGBTQI population as evil and amoral, but also label all of us as pedophiles. Horrible bile largely unchallenged by the show’s host.

But, what I found most demoralizing happened after I’d had enough and asked for it to be turned off. My brother did turn it off, but then went on a 10-minute tirade confirming the “dangerous” nature of the legislation, which he characterized as legitimizing various forms of “deviants”. Surprisingly, I was able to keep calm and ask for clarification on his meaning in using that word. Upon exploration, I understood him to mean that he believes the law allows people to declare an identity different from (i.e. a deviation from) their apparent gender assignment and thereby gain access to the amenities available to that other identity (primarily bathroom and locker room facilities labeled for a different gender). But his cavalier use of the incorrect word “deviant” was jarring, pejorative and unnerving, despite his lack of mean-spiritedness.

Then, at various times during the day I heard him touch on the subject with the guys in the shop and heard their less-than-supportive blathering. The lack of respect in their discussion, which arises from their position of privilege, grated on me all day.

Follow that with a dinner out with a group of acquaintances who spent far too much time griping and gossiping about others not present and an uncomfortable noise level in the restaurant, and you have one powerful recipe for a headache. By the end of the evening, I was completely over having to deal with people and just wanted some quiet.

That’s when the day got better. With the peace of a quiet bedroom, comfy PJs and a good Skype connection to Special Femme, I was able to resign the trouble to the aether and let Lulu’s sympathetic voice soothe me to sleep.

I’ve always been a believer in the restorative power of sleep. Not only does the body need the rest to gather strength for a new day, but the mind needs the peace. I process a lot of information in my sleep. Sometimes this manifests in bad dreams, particularly when I’m stressed. But last night, with the peace and soothing comfort of my beloved, I had no nightmares.

I rested and am restored to live another day. Though I’m not happy at the set-back in my confidence and plans to come out to my brother, I’m still happy and at peace on a fundamental level, knowing that I have the love and support of a wonderful woman and the will and intelligence to eventually overcome this hateful ignorance.

I won’t be deterred. I am renewed. And I’m thankful for the restoration of sleep and the perspective it brings with a new day.

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