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Some thoughts on Frankie’s birthday.

Today is Frankie’s birthday.

This is the third time that I have been with her on her birthday. And one of the best things about it – and about her in general – is how happy and excited she gets about parties and gifts and special things that we don’t get to do all the time.

One problem with this is that I can almost never resist giving her gifts when they are in the house for me to give. Because her joy is such a beautiful thing to me. Making her smile is the best part of my day.

So here is a message for Frankie on her birthday.

It’s been three birthdays now and you still make me smile every day. Your intelligence delights me. Your smile thrills me. You make every day with you fun and challenging and fulfilling. From making sure that we both eat healthily to creating a great environment for our puppy and taking care of the kitties, you make life so easy.

Thank you for always thinking of me. For being considerate and blunt. For being my cheerleader all the time. You are the best and I love you with my whole heart.

Thank you for making wherever I am feel like home all the time.

Here’s to many more birthdays together.

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Schrodinger’s Homophobes

I bar tended a fabulous Hallowedding this weekend. I do not know the couple well, but the love that mutual friends have for them endeared me to them immediately. Listening to their vows was so touching. And seeing the massive outpouring of love that their friends and family have for them was deeply moving.

Sitting in that room, handing out drinks and celebrating along with a room full of people gathered to celebrate the love of two people, I started to think about what my own wedding would look like. Who would be there. And who wouldn’t.

When I came out to my family a few years ago, it was really strange. Mostly my sexuality has been such an open thing to everyone I was not related to for so long. The idea of copping to a thing that so many people already knew was super strange.

Now that I’m OUT, I look around at the people I have known for years and wonder if they give a shit. I mostly don’t care. But one thing that I do care about is who I will invite to the day when I commit myself to someone for the rest of my life.

I have always wanted to do the whole wedding thing. I wanna have a big ass sleepover and wear a gorgeous dress and have all my friends around me and say nice stuff to my partner and hug and kiss everyone I love and also eat all the cupcakes.

These are my goals. They are simple goals, but they are mine.

And one thing that I 100% want for my wedding is no drama of any kind. I really don’t have dramatic friends, so I’m not all that worried on that front. And on the whole, my family is not a dramatic one. But the addition of gayness makes people behave in unexpected ways.

That said, since I have come out I have been looking at my family in a new light, trying to decide which of them might go all hetero-mad and say something or do something shitty at a gay wedding.

The shitty part is that I have virtually nothing to report at this point. Other than the two people who disowned their daughter for being married to a woman, there aren’t any glaring “I’M A HOMOPHOBE” signs on any of my family members’ heads.

And that frightens me. It frightens me because I don’t want to exclude people because they are from a generation that seems to have more trouble with LGBTQ people. But I also don’t want a flashbang of homophobia to go off in the middle of my wedding because I don’t want to deal with that shit.

I mean, it’s not like I can make my RSVPs look like this:

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That would just be too much. I’ll just have to keep my ears peeled and hope that anyone with shitty feelings about me marrying another woman decides to do the right thing and just check “Regretfully Decline” on my inevitable RSVP.

Honestly, I would worry about their safety if they didn’t make that choice and made any kind of scene. I have very protective friends. Keep that in mind if you read this, undercover familial homophobes. Assholery at my future nuptials will be severely policed.


Featured image found here: http://phys.org/news/2014-02-peeking-physicists-quantum-particles.html

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Moving. Doorways. Exhaustion.

Frankie and I are getting ready to move. Moving is always a really strange feeling. The uncertainty of it. The odd, liminal feeling of being between places. Of having one foot in a solid, real-feeling space and the other in a dream. The whole process fills me with anxiety.

What if there isn’t enough water pressure?
What if the utilities cost a fortune?
What if the neighbors are homophobic?

There is an element of throwing oneself into the unknown. Of leaping and hoping to be caught.

It’s also exciting. You start to plan out what your life will look like. To fantasize about where you will put your things. About walking home. About the things that you fell in love with about your new space. I get lost in daydreams about no longer dealing with the things that frustrate me about my current apartment. It’s such a good feeling, knowing you will be free.

The whole process is exhausting in the extreme. Boxing up your life and preparing to take it to a new place is stressful and time-consuming. There are so many things I am going to want to do in the next month that I’m not going to be able to.

All this is to say that I’m super excited about the move and all the possibilities and opportunities that it opens up, but I am also going to be totally wiped over the next month or so and ask you all to bear with me.

Good things are coming!

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National Coming Out Day: I’m late as usual

In middle school, I fell in love with my straight best friend. As so many lesbians are wont to do, it seems. Identifying it as love or sexual attraction was something I didn’t do until later, but the way that I hung on her every word, the way that I pined after her for years, how I mourned when she passed from my life, all of that was the beginning of me coming into myself. A process that would take far longer than I expected.

Like so many people, coming out for me was more gradual than the stereotypical and somewhat fictive egress from the social closet. I spent years questioning my sexuality. Years in and out of shitty relationships. Settling for less than I deserved. Struggling with the “bi” label and trying to figure out why my relationships with women always felt like fantasies, too easy to possibly be true. While my relationships with men were always a struggle. A struggle that I associated with realness and authenticity in a way that was incredibly damaging. So, you know, thanks for that, romantic comedies.

Oddly, coming out to myself was the hardest part. I remember sitting in bed with Frankie, early on in our relationship. I had this sick feeling in my stomach as I turned to her and said:

“I’ve been having this really ugly thought.”

“What thought is that?” she asked, not giving away at all the fact that she already knew the thing I was going to tell her.

“What if I’m just… gay?”

The impact of that question was like a physical blow. Frankie let me eat a lot of ice cream to console myself. And she did not let on that she already knew for a whole hour after my initial statement. Because she’s sweet like that. The implications it had for every relationship I had entered into before her were staggering. I felt like I should apologize to every man I had dated from age fifteen to twenty-nine for being totally gay and not really present at all during those relationships. For playing house with them.

The coming out process isn’t as simple as acknowledging it to yourself, of course. The coming out process is ongoing and public as well as privately played out. It’s not as if we all get slapped with a rainbow sign when we admit who we are to ourselves. It’s not that simple. I still come out once or twice a week because, as a queer femme person, people never expect me to have a female partner. The ongoing and repetitive outing of myself can be frustrating. But it can also be surprising and comforting, to see how positively people react. How excited they are for us to be together. Support and love can be found in the strangest places.

Coming out to my friends has always been as simple as showing up in a place with a girl. Or talking about girlfriends. Coming out to strangers is similarly easy. Coming out to family was harder. Way harder.

I think it can be hardest for family because they set ideas and expectations up about you from a very early age. They imagine a life for you, build an image of you in their heads that it can be hard to deviate from. Although, to my brother’s credit, he knew about my dawning queerness from the moment I fell in love with Liz in middle school. And he never once gave me grief about it.

I told my mom pretty early on that I was queer. When I experimented with polyamory, she knew about that too. But I don’t think my sexuality became real for her until I moved in with Frankie and brought her around at holidays. And even then, it didn’t really hit until we got the right to marry in Pennsylvania and she and my dad had to grapple with the reality of that legal shift.

The initial fallout was hard. We’ve gotten past it, though. And even that has happened in small steps. Little gestures and statements that move us past the hurt and betrayal of that first explosive fight that ended in me cutting off contact with them for several months.

So that’s it! That’s my coming out story. Such as it is. It’s strange and involved and a little convoluted. It was hard to write about because the narrative is so much bigger than one of stepping out from the shadows. I’m still working through all the baggage I’m carrying around from having not known myself for so many years. I suspect that process will go on for quite some time. But I’m happier now than I have ever been, all things considered. Reconciling with who I really am has been such a worthwhile process. And it will continue to be. That much I am sure of. Because hidden in the depths that I’m revealing is a sensation of caring for myself that is new and gentle and worth all of the strife and upset that it took to get me to this place.

Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone!

 

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Radical Issues: An Interlude

This morning I read Rebecca Solnit’s “letter to my dismal allies on the US left.” So much in it resonated deeply with me. In it, she said:

Maybe it’s part of our country’s puritan heritage, of demonstrating one’s own purity and superiority rather than focusing on fixing problems or being compassionate. Maybe it comes from people who grew up in the mainstream and felt like the kid who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, that there were naked lies, hypocrisies and corruptions in the system…

When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, but that’s not a good reason to continue to pound down anything in the vicinity. Consider what needs to be raised up as well. Consider our powers, our victories, our possibilities; ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling.

So often I feel like we spend so much time as feminists and activists pointing out the nudity of our leaders and the systems that they put in place that we cannot enjoy our victories even for a moment.

A prime example for me came in the form of the SCOTUS decision on Friday regarding marriage equality in the US. You have to have known that it happened. The internet has been awash in rainbows ever since.

Anyway, about halfway through my day on Friday I noticed a vocal minority starting to talk about how there is a lot more work to do and how we need to turn our eyes to the future.

They’re not wrong.

But I couldn’t help the frustration that welled up in me. Can’t we just have ONE DAY? I thought. Can’t we just celebrate this culmination of so much blood, sweat and tears and then think about the rest of What Must Be Done tomorrow?

One of my biggest issues with being involved in social justice as a feminist is this constant nitpicking at everything that happens. I know that there are larger issues at stake. I know that we are not done fighting. I know that things are getting better in small increments that appear big when they suddenly have a cover story in the New York Times.

But sometimes I just want to celebrate without delving into the minutia of complications that suck the joy right out of a victory. Sometimes I just want to say “Hey, isn’t it great that SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality?” and have people respond with “Yes” rather than “Yes, but…”

I’m not an idiot. I don’t live with my head in the sand. I recognize the irony of Facebook plastering everyone’s profile pictures with rainbows while still not allowing trans folks to use their actual names on their profiles. I’m aware that the right to get married to my girlfriend does not mean that, in certain states, we can’t still be fired or evicted based on our relationship.

I know that. I know all of that and more. But it’s fucking exhausting to be reminded of it even at the height of something wonderful happening.

As Solnit said:

There is idealism somewhere under this pile of bile, the pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t – and that it never will be. That’s why the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because, really, people, part of how we are going to thrive in this imperfect moment is through élan, esprit de corps, fierce hope and generous hearts.

We all want to live in a perfect world. We want to see things change for the better. But I think that being constantly on edge and constantly picking at people about the problems is not necessarily as healthy for ourselves or our causes as we would like it to be. When we are delivered a solid win like the one we had on Friday, I think it’s OK to let go and celebrate the victory for the moment and set the inevitable problems aside to analyze later.

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Wentworth v. Orange is the New Black

Four months ago Frankie and I went to XenaCon. It is by far the gayest thing I have ever done aside from having sex and intimate relationships with women.

We had a great time. The actors who came were all sweet and kind and welcoming. Some of the Xenites had huge sticks up their asses, but we mostly ignored them in favor of finding a few cool humans to spend our weekend with.

That weekend was when I first heard the name “Wentworth.” Danielle Cormack was in attendance speaking about her role as Ephiny on Xena. When the time came to ask her a question, one of the first ones was from a Aussie woman who wanted to know what was coming down the road for Bea in the next season.

I wish I had realized how amazing Wentworth was before I went to that con. I would have had so many questions for Danielle.

In the time since XenaCon I have started and finished watching Orange is the New Black and enjoyed it immensely. But I have to say that I’m glad I watched it before I dove into Wentworth. Let it be known at this point that I am going to describe my reactions to these two shoes without a single spoiler. Because I am cool with you all like that.

I love OITNB. That said, there is something about it that feels cartoony to me. It could be the buffoonery of the guards. There isn’t a single guard or boss on that show that I take seriously. Even the villainous ones seem like villain parodies rather than actual bad guys.

On the other hand, Wentworth feels more authentic than OITNB in a lot of ways. The guards aren’t a joke, for one. They do their jobs and, when they don’t, their choice to break the rules seems much more believable to me as a viewer. Even their relationships make more sense. The mistakes and choices that they make have more impact because their connections to other characters seem really informed by their personal identities, rather than being flash-in-the-pan shock material, which OITNB delivers in spades.

Another thing that makes OITNB feel cartoony is the unrealistic hotness of some of the actresses. Not that I don’t appreciate it, mind. Because I do. But I think that hotness is an unfortunate symptom of the American television system. There are a few stellar actors on that show that don’t fall into the stereotypical box of sexiness, but they are more than balanced out by the parade of eye candy that is the rest of the women.

On the subject of hotness, the women in Wentworth are much more believable. There are a few stunningly attractive people, namely Franky Doyle. But Franky’s sexiness is explained by her position as a reality TV star on the outside. The rest of the women look like friends or people you know in your life, rather than unattainable Beautiful People. Again, this is probably due at least in part to the differences inherent in the Australian television market as compared to TV in the U.S., so it’s a somewhat unfair comparison to make, but the difference is there and it makes a difference in how I view both shows, so it needs to be said.

The content of Wentworth is also much darker. They go to more nuanced places regarding addiction as well as women’s lives both inside and outside of prison. Rape isn’t a persistent theme, thankfully, but on the occasion where it has been brought up, the consequences of and reactions to it feel very real as they are described and lived out by the people in the show.

On the whole, they are both good shows and I enjoy them immensely. But OITNB feels like junk food to me after having watched Wentworth, which feels like a hearty meal.

http://chaoslife.findchaos.com/homo-hint

Lesbian Impostor Syndrome

Let me tell you a story.

When I was 13 I was in love. I did that young lesbian thing where I fell for my straight best friend. The first few weeks of 7th grade I followed her around the field where we had recess like a lost puppy. When she finally caved and decided to be friends with me, I was over the moon.

I loved everything about her. Her long blond hair, her taste in books and movies. We watched The Breakfast Club one night in my parents living room after everyone had gone to sleep, sitting close to it with the volume turned down because it was a movie we had heard was dirty. I laid across her bed in her room and listened to her play Pachelbel’s Canon on her flute.

Sometime in the midst of high school, we stopped being best friends. She started hanging out with a different crowd. I didn’t identify what I had with her as full-on “pangs of despised love” until my senior year.

In the interim, I fell head over heels for a girl the year ahead of me. She looked like Delirium from Sandman. Or Tori Amos. I memorized her poetry and read it back to her in the lunch room on one knee. We visited cemeteries like the goth wandering children that we were. We kissed one day under a gas lantern because she told me that was the ideal way to start a romance.

We dated briefly. They figured out that they were trans during our time together. I spoiled the relationship in my confusion in dealing with the totally new concept and how it related to me and to this person that I loved. That is something that I deeply regret.

Throughout this entire period, I had boyfriends who were far more serious on paper than my relationships with these women. I was an emotional chameleon. I poured myself into the molds they had for me. The perfect girlfriend. Compromising. Understanding. Patient.

My relationships always ended the same way. One big fight during which all of my bitterness at having been The Thing They Wanted but not Who I Was would come flooding to the surface.

After the breakup, I would head out on a bender that would usually end with me in a different stupid relationship. It would usually middle out with me in the arms of some beautiful girl, though. I would feel comforted and safe. But also like an impostor. My relationships with women always felt like oases in the desert. Beautiful and cool and uncomplicated.

But I worried that they were just escapism. I associated relationships with the strife inherent in making myself seem like something that I wasn’t.

After my last relationship with a man, I was so lost that I couldn’t even begin to enter into another one. I stayed single for a while.

Then I started dating Frankie.

One night, in the middle of summer, not long after we started dating, I had an ugly thought.

I’m so happy. This feels so right. Holy shit… have I always been gay?

Frankie was super nice about the fact that she’d already figured that out. She gave me ice cream. And I settled in for the process of figuring out how exactly to be myself with this new information.

It turns out, it wasn’t that different from what I was doing before.

It turns out, the only real difference was that my life was more healthy and functional than it had ever been.

I spent the majority of my life up until two years ago feeling like some kind of impostor. Like I was doing something wrong by feeling comfortable and safe with the women in my life.

Impostor syndrome is a real thing. Amanda Palmer calls it the Fraud Police. The idea being that someone at some point is going to jump out of the shadows, flash some kind of badge at you, and drag you off to Fraud Jail. You will, thereafter, stand accused of Not Knowing What You’re Doing. And there will be Consequences.

Impostor syndrome is dangerous. It’s the sound of your own voice in your head telling you lies.

You aren’t really [insert thing that you are]. 

You’re fooling yourself. You’re fooling everyone.

One day everyone is going to see you for what you really are. And then they’ll humiliate you.

The tragic thing about impostor syndrome is that it is so often the people who are the most qualified or genuine who feel as though they are somehow pulling the wool over the eyes of those around them. There are so many people out there who are 100% assured that they are The Best when they are really The Worst. I wish those people had crippling self-doubt hammered into them by their own brains. They deserve it.

So listen, qualified and brilliant and genuine readers, because I’m going to tell you something.

The Fraud Police do not exist.

You, my friend, are qualified. You are worthy of the distinctions heaped upon you. You are worthy of your career and your position in life. You are probably even worthy of more than you tell yourself you can achieve.

Fuck the fraud police. You’re awesome. And so am I.

I’m also suuuuuuuuper gay. Thanks for keeping me from that discovery for 14 years, Fraud Police. You badge-flashing imaginary pains in the ass.


Featured image from the lovely people over at Chaos Life.

Rainbow flag flies in the Castro.

Feelings: Philly Pride and Anniversaries

This weekend is Pride in Philadelphia. This year Pride is special because Philadelphia is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the picketing of Independence Hall in 1965. Gay rights groups gathered on July 4th of that year to demand legislation securing the rights of LGBTQ Americans. They would gather to protest on the steps of Independence Hall every year on that date for four years. 50 years later, the lives of LGBTQ people in this country have changed dramatically. From being able to legally marry in 37 states across the country to gender reassignment surgery being covered under the ACA and other forms of insurance, the landscape being navigated by LGBTQ people in this country is vastly different compared to the way it was in 1965.

This Sunday is also another kind of anniversary. Two years ago, a few months before Sugar Moms closed, Frankie took me there one night and asked me to be hers. It was one of the happiest moments I can remember. Since then, I have learned and grown so much as a person, just from knowing her and loving her. I feel so grateful every day to have her in my life. She is so brilliant and funny and genuine and sweet. I am so proud to be with her.

As far as Philly Pride is concerned… I have mixed feelings about it going back a ways. I have avoided going to Pride in the past. I’ve never been the sort of person who really wants to party in the streets, for one. And for another, for years I was pretty sure that I was fooling myself one way or another about who I was and what I wanted. So, not feeling a lot of pride myself, it was hard for me to join the throngs flooding the streets as anything other than a bystander. An ally. And even that never felt right.

Coming up on Pride this year, I feel an immense amount of relief at being who I am and how my life has shaped up after my coming out to my family (which was the Final Goddamn Frontier of Gayitude for me). I’m happier with myself. I’m more creative. I’m honestly… proud. I’m proud to be living my life out loud and out in the open. I’m proud of the things I have done and been exposed to that I never would have even tried before a few years ago.

I can finally say, after all this time, that I feel genuine pride for who I am as a person and where I am in my life. I am so grateful to the people in my life for being so loving and supportive of me. And to the people who came before me who tore a path through the world so that I could walk my path in relative ease and safety. I am so grateful. I am so proud.