two shirts and a plane trip

March 28, 2013

Last week, my dear friend from college, ADM, came out to visit me for a few days. We ate good food and had drinks and talked a lot and she met MTB and I made dinner for all of us (30 minute coq au vin, which took more like 60 minutes); plus AG came over too and brought berries and whipped cream. We covered a lot of ground during our big dinner conversation – the Steubenville case, queerness, regionalism, ACT UP, HIV, teaching, college, old friends and how I didn’t know that Judith Butler was a dyke (oops).

At my request, ADM brought with her some t-shirts from her ACT UP SF days that she was ready to pass on, and she passed them on to MTB, who was ecstatic to receive them. It kind of blew ADM away that anyone would want these t-shirts. In fact, when ADM and I first talked about the shirts back in January she kept saying how they were stained and dirty and maybe they had holes in them and who would want these things. And then when ADM gave the shirts to MTB and explained that the pink stains were probably from fake blood, I thought MTB’s head might explode. Here were shirts that were 20 years old and they were shirts worn by an activist doing activism.

A lot of things happened in that t-shirt exchange, like connecting someone I love not just to queer history that’s important to her, but to my own personal history too, and connecting someone else I love to something big in my life that’s happening right now, and also connecting two people I love to each other. All that via t-shirt and a plane trip.


before I was my girlfriend’s girlfriend – part 1

March 2, 2013

I couldn’t come up with a term for myself in a relationship. Was I someone’s sweetie or boo or partner? Except for a casual thing, where the term “date” was totally apt, I was perplexed by figuring out how to be butch or how to represent that I am butch in relation to my romantic/dating/love relationships. And this was the case for the larger part of the last 10-14 years. (Also, let me quickly backtrack and say that the idea of “how to be butch in a relationship” is a totally different than the idea of the “representation of butch.” Not that there’s not overlap. But I am not going down that rabbit hole right now.) Like a number of things that have happened this fall, calling myself my girlfriend’s girlfriend was not a conscious decision. I mean, it was conscious in terms of our relationship, but not in terms of the linguistics. We just started using the term and it felt right, which kind of surprised me and also made me think about a couple things. Namely, what had been going on for me during that chunk of time when I couldn’t figure out what to call my “amour” self and when exactly did that chunk of time end, anyway?

There’s lots here to explore in future posts and I’m going to start the process by writing about that chunk of time when my romantic self went nameless. I think what was happening was I was exploring my manhood, in short, and that process was exclusive of identifying as a woman or soley/primarily as a woman. I mean, I acknowledged to myself that I had a female body, and did not argue that point with anyone, but I started started feeling kind of dissonant about it, my body I mean. Plus, for a number of years, I think I was really was trying to get my man on. For instance, for a a stretch of years, I had mostly straight cisgendered guy friends, which wasn’t a conscious choice; I really liked and/or loved these guys. Also, I loved duding up with them, which wasn’t something I did consciously, but something that just happened. And by dude up I mean we did things like check out women together, in ways that in retrospect, were probably kinda gross. Sometimes I wonder if there is any correlation between the body dissonance and getting my man on, which I hesitate to say out loud because I doubt there’s a direct line between them and I don’t want folks to draw easy and false conclusions, but this shit is complex, so it’s worth putting out there. The manhood thing was intoxicating. Not just because of how great getting having masculinity seen and validated by my male friends, but also because there had been so many times in my life, especially when I was young, that I was sure that God or biology or the stars had made a mistake by giving me the XX chromosome. And coming out in the 80’s had been so anti-butch and anti male

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i am a queer person

February 1, 2013

The other night when I was riding the tram down to the waterfront, it was packed with people going home at the close of the work day, and I ended up crammed in next to a couple guys who had been intently talking to each other ever since we’d all been standing together in a long, loose line waiting for the tram cabin to arrive at the upper. I noticed these guys in line, because like me, they were decked out in bike gear, i.e. rain jackets, helmets and carrying panniers, and as I passed by them, one guy was talking about a video he was editing for the Diversity office and the “official” use of the word “diversity” almost always jumps out at me. Diversity offices are complicated because institutionalizing Diversity enforces the idea of otherness, as in there are mainstream folks who are white, and are assumed to be straight, and their gender identity is assumed to fit within the binary, and they not too old and not too blah, blah, blah and everyone else who is not white or not straight or older than 65 or uses a hearing aid, etc is considered to “diverse.” (But I am digressing and I want to note how painful it is to be compelled to make that digression because we have been talking about the same digressable shit my whole life.) Anyway, I also noticed these guys because they were both so caught up in talking to each other and/or so oblivious to what was going on around them, that they did not move from where they were standing in front of the double doors that patients were trying to enter the hospital through. People with kids in strollers and other folks who were not moving so well were trying to maneuver around these guys as they just stood there chatting and blocking the entrance. I thought about saying something to them about moving, but I stopped myself because I I was afraid of being seen as an asshole.

The two guys seemed equally oblivious on the tram, taking up a little more space with their wide stances and maintaining a couple feet of distance between each other, while everyone else around them was standing shoulder to shoulder, like sardines in a can hanging 300 feet up in the air. I tried not to listen to them talk about their schedules and work etc, but at some point one of the guys said something like “when I do have free time, I just do a lot of gay stuff.” In my head, I thought, oh fuck, I have to stand here and listen to these assholes malign the word “gay?” And as I was trying to work through in my mind what I was going to say them and when exactly I was going to say it, I noticed that it seemed like they were kind of sarcastically joking around about actual gay stuff the one guy did, like a gay hiking group or a gay running group. Which made me think at least the one guy was gay, and that potentially both of them were gay, and they were just shooting the shit. I thought about following the one guy off the tram, the guy who said he did gay stuff, and asking him if he was gay, but that felt weird and maybe confrontational in a not helpful way and I didn’t know what I would say if he said yes. But something bugged me about it either way and I don’t know what it was.

I think, in part, I am still kicking myself for how last year on the tram, I overheard students, (i,e. young people in scrubs discussing classes) talking about something being “gay,” as in that lab was so gay, as in that lab was such bullshit, and how I didn’t say anything to them about how offensive it was to use “gay” the way they were using it. I think anytime I am in a public space that is not queer, and I hear “gay” being used as adjective, as in hearing someone on the tram say “gay stuff,”  my ears perk up. Because usually “gay” means something derogatory. I once worked with a guy, who knew I was queer, and who was bitching to me about some glitch with our IT department by complaining that it “so fucking gay.” I had to say to actually say to him, “you can’t say that and you definitely can’t say that to me.”

Anyway, all this got me thinking about what the world would be like if all of us queers and gays and lesbians, etc, wore some kind of signifier of our queerness. And not some secret signifier, like a pink triangle or the color lavender or a labrys. But something like a badge that says “queer” so  that every where we went, at the gym, at the grocery store, at work, etc. everyone around us would know they were sharing space with a queer person. What kind of difference would this make? Because it’s not a post queer world. So I am going to make some queer button/pins and I want to experiment.

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school’s out

January 31, 2013

Courage: A kid in school comes out to MTB after class.

Meets courage: MTB comes out to the kid.

First off, WAY TO GO HOMOS! Seriously, this shit needs to be happening every day. Also, it’s 2013 and it’s still a radical and scary thing for anyone in a school to come out and be out. And for everyone I know who is prepared to tell me a story about how there are out kids in their school and its no big deal, I am more than 110% sure I can come up with a boat load of stories about how it sucks or is impossible to be out in school, as in teachers and coaches getting fired and kids getting harassed and beat up. The It Gets Better Campaign is a bullshit answer. How about some ACLU action? Better yet, how about us queers organizing to make schools a safe fucking place to be queer? Seriously, how do we do that shit?

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staying queer

January 17, 2013

This week I spent a 1/2 hour reading a book review in the New Yorker – the subject being twentysomethings and a handful of new books about what that’s like. I’m not sure why this interested me, maybe the pictures or pull quotes; most likely, it looked like the kind of mildly interesting thing to read before falling asleep, as in something that wouldn’t keep me awake. Anyway, somewhere in the last part of the article, probably when the author started in on the topics of delaying the decision to get married and/or having kids, it struck me that this was a review of books for straight twentysomethings. (And probably for straight, white and middle or upper class twentysomethings, too), and  the author, who was calling himself a critic, wasn’t even going to comment on that. That pissed me off. And then I got pissed that I’d wasted my time reading the stupid article in the first place. And then, after that, I got pissed about all the shit I read like this, that really is so herteronormative at its heart. And then I thought maybe I am still a “raging” queer, which made me sigh and say “whew.” Because at some point in the latter part of the 32 years I’ve been out, it seemed like I’d just stopped getting outraged*, which seemed kind of fucked up because fucked up stuff is still happening.

Looking back at the last 16 years, I can see what happened. Mainly, I got tired of dealing with the difference of being different and I just wanted to stop being the lesbian co-worker or lesbian classmate or lesbian neighbor or lesbian friend or the dyke you served coffee to or the dyke you bought your bike from or the dyke you sat by on the bus. I wanted the luxury of not having a bunch of wrong assumptions and stereotypes foisted on me. I wanted the privilege of not having my whole complicated and nuanced self distilled down into playing softball (which I never played) or listening to Melissa Etheridge (who I was never a huge musical fan of). I am exaggerating. Kind of.  But hopefully you get the point. Also, I didn’t want to be policed for how good a dyke I was being, as in how well I represented and how much I was or wasn’t like your lesbian cousin or your best friend’s dyke sister or some magazine article in the Sunday Times, etc. I didn’t want to be somebody else’s version of who I actually was or am (paraphrasing Toni Morrison here). But of course I didn’t stop being different and of course me being different didn’t stop making a difference, and even if I did at times kind of convince myself I’d stopped caring about it, that really wasn’t true. No matter how much I tried to be heads down in my tech career and my relationships and for a while, my band, and owning a house. I think I thought I could maybe assimilate into the larger culture, but I couldn’t and I’m really fucking glad about that.

Don’t assimilate. That’s my message today. Assimilation means giving up on queer subculture and conforming to the mainstream, where queers will always be outsiders anyway. Because we don’t fit in the mainstream. Because the mainstream is about the gender binary and gender conformity. And the mainstream is about male privilege and misogyny. And mainstream is about exploiting race and class to feed capitalism and bolster up entitlement. And the mainstream is about commodification of everything, including your queerness, if someone can make some money off of it.

*I did have some serious outrage over how It Gets Better Project became the de facto national campaign for fighting bullying queer youth in the schools. It’s such bullshit that’s its best we can — make videos telling kids to wait it out.


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on being a young dyke in the 80s

January 3, 2013

Yesterday, as a result of talking with MTB about Ani DeFranco and some other stuff, kind of related to queer history, I ended up listening to some old womens/womyns/wimmins music. Meg Christiansan, Holly Near, Chris Williamson, Ferron . . . names I’d filed away somewhere in the back of my 21 year old brain. I was never a big fan of the music and I’m not even sure I owned any records, myself, but I got the cultural significance for sure, even if I only went to Michigan once, which was ground zero for the womens music movement. Actually, the whole point for me, was the cultural significance, although it was also pretty powerful to see dykes up on a big stage singing about being dykes. But what blew me away, and what I mean by cultural significance (and that may not be the right phrase), was the whole thing of coming together and creating a safe space to be an out and open dykes. It was a big ass deal. At that point in the early, 80s, the Gay Pride movement was new and festivals were just starting to get organized across the country and even then, a lot of that didn’t really take off in midwest (outside of Chicago) until the 90s.  So the upshot is that when I was a young dyke there wasn’t a place to go where you could and be out and proud and safe en masse. Except festivals. And in retrospect, I got lucky because The National Women’s Music festival was held in Bloomington for at least 5 or 6 years during my 20s. And while it was not as intense as Mich, it was, at the time, amazing to have 1000s of lesbians descend on Bloomington and take over a small section of IU campus and create an alternative reality, where it wasn’t just safe to be out, it was fun and hot to be out. So a shout out for that part of history and that I got to be in it.

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sad dad stuff with an unexpected gay twist at the end

October 15, 2012

Should I have read Billy Budd when my dad was alive? Did I fuck up? I hope not. I really don’t think so. It is hard to imagine it would made any difference, really, that it wouldn’t have changed our relationship, right?! He never asked me about the book after he gave it to me for Christmas however many years ago.  I don’t even know when that was. Is that significant that I can’t remember that? This is maybe the most open hearted I’ve been since he died. So is this new bout of sadness and anger all just the normal long tail of grief and it feels different because I am in a different place? Heather? What do you think? Kath? (There’s some other names I’d post here, but I want to respect your all’s privacy.)  I keep thinking about Dad’s friends, Joe and his brother, Patrick, and that guy, Gary, and Delbert and his sons and how they all knew Dad loved them. And how they knew Dad would do anything for them because Dad did do so much for them. He was a wonderful friend. The best. ( Also, Mom, you can’t pipe in here and say how much Dad loved us because it was an abstract thing — all idea and no action.) God, I just don’t want to be this person anymore with these sad-ass Dad abandonment feelings. It sucks. It really does. I know I will be fine. I know these current feelings or sadness and anger and rejection will pass. But the stuff in my psyche – man, dude, not the legacy I was hoping for. (Mom, you also can’t tell me about all the great things I got from Dad, right now. I know how much we are alike. I wouldn’t trade that in, either.)

I both make jokes and serious comments about my longing, as in how much I love to long. I say things like I am a “longing junkie” and I date women on the other side of the continent. I write sad songs and neurotic poems and then listen to even sadder songs and read even more neurotic poems. Longing is just so much a part of me. I cannot imagine myself without it. And the irony, and irony is not even the right word (but lots of right words don’t even exist) is that it comes from this hard and messed up place of not really having a dad and then being this little baby gender queer butch who never thought she would . . . I don’t know . . . get to thrive in this world. Thrive sounds so fucking therapeutic. I mean get the chance to have as meaningful life as everyone else around me who was not a baby gender queer butch. Sometimes, when I think of my life now I am amazed, really, that it has been possible. Right up to this very minute, I am amazed to always be becoming more myself. It seemed like the most secret dream I had when I was kid – that I would be myself in this world. I guess I am posting some belated coming out commentary and potentially ending on an unexpected up note, which is not something I predicted when I started writing tonight.


it is after midnight and i am posting to my blog

September 1, 2012

I am really going to miss late night summer bike rides. They are kind of magical, which is not a word I use very often and so you know it really means something when I say it. My watch or something in my room keeps beeping at 5  til the hour. It makes me feel a little crazy. It just beeped, so I feel like I have to say something. Like a kind of virtual, did you hear that?

Anyway, tonight I rode my bike  at dusk to a queer dance party on the roof top of a hotel by the convention center and then I rode home at midnight. The dance party was a strange scene that kind of felt like queers had invaded someone’s bar mitzvah, but in a good and interesting way. Like that kid was being bar mitzvahed hadchanged locations at the last minute, so it was totally ok that queers took over. At the dance party, I saw my old, as in from Indiana, as in 16 years ago friend, SB, and my new good friend, Nancy. And of course unbeknownst to me, the two of them have met and have become friends, because Portland is a small town, but also I know a bunch of different people even though I am an introvert. And then I also got to hang out and talk with a bunch of people I don’t know super well, but who I like and who I am always happy to see – Peggy, Dexter, Morgan and Maria. And then kind of like a magic trick, Carrot also appeared by my side a couple times tonight and inside I was like “yay, Carrot,” because I like Carrot and I knew that I could tell him that this party was weird but good and he would understand what I meant.

Maybe I am imagining that I connected with Carrot or anyone else, like Peggy or Maria. Although I hope I did. I did have some drinks, which I don’t often do, and it does lessen my inhibitions and make me more expressive and happy. i also kind of bite my lip when I am buzzed. But the good will and affection I felt and I feel, feel very real, though, and I am going to go with that — good will, affection, big heartedness, and hell yeah queers.

I kind of wished I would have danced,  but I just wasn’t in the sweaty dancing mood, even though I’ve been wanting to be in that mood at various times this summer. It’s just never quite right for me. I don’t know why and I can’t will it into being. Why is that? Oh well . It will happen and it will be fun and magical too.

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being sir in 2011

December 23, 2011

I regularly get called sir or am regularly otherwise assumed to be a guy. And, actually, I like it (probably no surprise there), except that it often leads to an expression of embarrassment or some other awkward or uncomfortable feeling from the other person, who feels like they’ve made a mistake, which I understand, even though I don’t feel it’s mistake. The gender binary really does suck.

Nothing this year rivals some of the classics from the past, like the time I was asked to show my ID as I started walking into a ladies changing room or the time at the SF airport when I was walking into the women’s restroom and this women behind me told me I was wrong place or the time RU and I were walking around our neighborhood park and this kid who had climbed up in a tree asked me if he could ask me a question, which was: was I a girl or a boy. Still, I thought I’d recount a few of the more memorable incidents from 2011

  • A TSA guy working the security line at the PDX airport waved me forward with a “Next, sir.” I handed him my ID and he quietly looked at it and my ticket for more than a few uncomfortable seconds. (I have an irrational fear that I’ll be strip searched to prove who I am.) Finally he said to me “I guess I need to start wearing my glasses.”
  • While walking around the NYC’s lower east side with RU this fall, we passed a guy on street who yelled out at me “What are you anyway?” And then the guy said something about my haircut and was a guy or not. I don’t remember his exact words about my haircut because I was fighting the urge to tell him to go fuck himself.
  • I was shopping at Food 4 Less and check out lady called me “sir” about 5 or 6 times in a row even though I was using my debit card, which has my name on it.
  • I was checking out the sale rack at J Crew in downtown Portland and this very cute gay guy who worked there came up to me said , “Are you looking for anything in particular, sir?” I told him “no,” and looked around for a few more minutes, but then I got started feeling awkward and left, but then I came back because it felt stupid to feel awkward. Plus, it was a good sale and I’ve been obsessed with trying to find good wool sweaters. I picked up a bunch of sweaters I wanted to try on and headed to the men,s dressing room and the same guy who called me sir came over to help me and we started talking about the holiday shopping madness. As he opened the door to one of the tiny changing rooms he waved his hand torward the room me and said “Oh girl, just leave whatever doesn’t work out for you.”
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gays + dads + long ass days

June 24, 2011

I meant to post this on Sunday or Monday, but the week has gotten away from me as far as writing. But I’m saying that right off the the bat here to give some context to what I say later about Father’s day.

The internet says that the sunset today was at 9:03pm, but I don’t know how the internet defines sunset, because it was still light out at 9:30. I’m guessing it must be something about where the sun is on the horizon line. Maybe I’ve been confusing sunset with sun down. Anyway, these long days are amazing, even when it’s cloudy. Looking out the window tonight, I was thinking that’s what’s gotten me through this spring, focusing on the long hours of daylight. Even when it’s raining or chilly, it is light out for along time.

I went with some friends up to Mt Tabor on solstice. We were too late to actually watch the sunset, but we did see a beautiful dusk. Lots of people had the same idea. It’s a great view. There was even some drumming, which was kind of annoying, but I appreciated the sincerity of it. I got quite a few mosquito bites when we were up there, which I can’t stop scratching now. I’m one of those people who seems to attract mosquitoes. It’s a bummer. I’m also one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap and who can smell asparagus in pee. I read the articles in these links and I think we’re kind of like perti dishes with arms and legs and brains and stuff.

Father’s day always occurs during Portland’s gay pride, which I suppose adds something special to both events. While I’ve celebrated Pride ever since I moved out here, give or take a few MIA’s due to out of town guests, I can’t think of the last time I celebrated father’s day, at least not in regard to my own Dad. Sometimes that makes me a little sad, but this year I found a lot of joy in thinking about all the great Dads I know, whom I’m going to try to name here (although inevitably I’ll miss someone and I apologize in advance for that). So here goes – the ‘great dad’ shout out: David, Ned, Bart, Jim R, Jim A, Jim D, Jim P, Jim L, Phil, Mark, Jason, Don, Chris B, Chris C, Chris H, Mack, Ray, Todd, Jeremy, Scott, Clint, Joe, Greg, Rick, Mark, John, Jamie, Erik, Toby, Sean, Brian, Daniel R and Daniel G. Plus, an extra special shout to a few fellas who were fatherly to me, (in the best possible way) – my uncles Bob and Richard and my friend, Bob Richards. And last but not least, a heartfelt ‘you’re the best’ to my closest friend’s dad, Ted, who stood up for me when I was getting outted at camp and some mean-ass petty shit was going down around me.

I imagine there are lots of gay dads and dads of gays who come to one of the Pride events. I marched with OHSU in the big parade on Sunday and a couple dads, who are fellow workers, brought their sons with them.  That is one thing that’s changed since I came out – how family friendly being gay is and how much Pride reflects that. The decadence of Pride has been turned way down, which frankly makes it less fun to watch, but that’s progress for you.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of all the things that have and haven’t changed about being gay over the 30 years I’ve been out. For instance the rainbow as a gay symbol has persisted, but not the pink triangle or the labrys. And lesbians don’t seem to wear lavender anymore either. Bears and drag queens are still around and going strong. Gym queens and drag kings arrived on the scene sometime in late 80’s or early 90’s and they are here to stay. Butches and femmes made a comeback after being ostracized back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. More people are coming out in high school than they were 30 years ago. And more folks are transitioning from female to male or male to female. Queer nation kinda came and went but queerness stayed around. Whew, I had much more enthusiasm for this exercise when I first started. I think I’ll come back to it another post.



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