Take My Arm, My Love

When ABC news did their second social experiment about Public Displays of Affection (PDAs) by having a gay male and a lesbian couple kiss and cuddle in public (the first experiment used straight couples), the reactions were varied.

There was the woman who called the cops:

Operator: "Birmingham Police operator 9283"

Caller: "We have a couple of men sitting out on the bench that have been kissing and drooling all over each other for the past hour or so. It's not against the law, right?"

Operator: "Not to the best of my knowledge it's not."

Caller: "So there's no complaint I could make or have?"

Operator: "I imagine you could complain if you like ma'am. We can always send an officer down there."

And they did . . . . The officer told our couple that the police dispatch received a call because the two of them were making out.

"Just don't do that in public," he told them before leaving the scene.
There was the woman who said:
"I would actually want our kids to grow up in a place where they would see various types of people engaging in behaviors that [are] loving."
And then there were the people who took a whole different "think of teh childrenz!" tack:
"I don't really find it inappropriate, especially during the day when schoolchildren aren't running around. They might get confused and want an answer for what's going on," bystander Mary-Kate told us. The majority of the people who spoke about children seemed to echo Mary-Kate's feelings."
Which means, basically, these folks are fine with "Gay PDA" -- as long as they don't have to face the uncomfortable, icky business of explaining to their children that not everybody on earth is like mommy and daddy.

Which kind of sucks.

My partner and I rarely engage in kissing in public (even around our friends), but that's a personal choice based on our desire to keep our sexual intimacy extremely . . well . . . intimate. When we kiss, we like to kiss for real, and that's for us. (And yes, it is hot, thank you very much. And no, you may not watch.)

However, I doubt that most straight, cisgendered people think about, or notice, how frequently they touch their partner in public in ways that are not necessarily "sexual" (in addition to kissing, cuddling, and the odd bum-squeeze) -- ie. holding hands, walking with an arm around the waist, smoothing the other's hair back out of their eyes -- nor do I think that most straight, cisgendered people are probably aware of the fact that when I touch my partner in public, it's nearly always a considered act.

I don't obsess about this -- as in -- it doesn't eat up my days and nights -- and I'm probably about as "out" as a queer can be in this country -- but every single time I take my partner's hand on the street, or toss my arm over her shoulder or around her waist, hug her goodbye or hello, I do a little, tiny "security sweep".

I notice who is around, and where I am, and what the energy feels like -- before I touch her in public. It's a tiny amount of attention, most often, but it's there.

I just noticed recently that in an unknown situation that seems "sort of" safe, (like walking in a crowded mall) I'm more likely to curl her arm through mine than to hold her hand -- which may seem counter-intuitive, since arm-in-arm actually affords much closer body contact -- but after I thought about this, I realized that walking "arm-in-arm" is something that I see straight girl-friends do more often than holding hands (after they're 12, anyway). In considering this choice, I also realized that in many situations, I'm happy to give any possible bigots in an uncertain setting the option of assuming that we're just a couple of straight girls.

Which sorta sucks.

I recognize this as the internalized homophobia that it is, but I can't deny that it's present in me. The fact is, that I stop, look, and listen before I demonstrate physical affection toward my beloved in nearly every public setting that is not clearly "queer safe".

I'm butch, and I seem butch (even to people who will tell you that their gaydar is hopelessly mis-calibrated). I seem butch no matter what I'm wearing, or what length my hair is. It's fairly difficult for me to "pass" -- even when I want to. My gait is stompy, and my demeanor, direct. I've always been that way -- from little on. My favorite colors in clothing are black and blue (Couture D'Bruise, as I like to call it) -- partially because my color sense sucks ass, but mostly because I have better things to do than figuring out what to wear.

My partner is androgynous-to-femme. She often wears dresses because she genuinely likes wearing them, and usually sports smashing combinations of floral tones or deep purples with highlights of teal.

And we adore each other.

If you caught us in an unguarded moment, this adoration would probably be very visible to you, whether we were snogging away like sex-crazed maniacs or sitting across the room from one another reading our respective books -- so moving out into the world also involves, for me, some adjustments beyond whether I touch her physically or not.

I notice that, in public, I seem to have an automatic timer that warns me not to gaze at her as long as I might at the privacy of our dining room table, a subtle mask that shifts the set of my smile when I respond to hearing her laugh, and an inner language editor that reflexively erases "honey", "my love" and "darling" from my lexicon as I'm calling to her across a parking lot.

I want to make it very clear that I don't think about these things.

These adjustments have become so internalized that I rarely, if ever, notice them -- until I sit down to write a post like this.

They are part of the enculturated self- censoring that most queers learn in order to assure their own safety in the world (and sometimes, their very survival). In fact, I had to "unlearn" many other, more rigid, tendencies to automatic hiding when I finally made the decision to be completely "out" as a lesbian.

I don't edit myself this way because I am ashamed of being a lesbian. I do it because I'm afraid that someone else, who thinks I ought to be ashamed of being a lesbian, might hurt me -- or worse, hurt my beloved.

Back in 1988, when I came out completely and publicly via a two-part article in the Oregonian, the nutcase Lon Mabon was mounting the first of many campaigns to curtail LGBTQ rights in the state of Oregon, in the guise of "Measure 8".

My oldest and best friend (a straight, married girl) poo-pooed the whole thing, saying "we've come farther than that, the Measure will never pass, tempest-in-a-teapot, blah, blah, blah" -- and stated that she couldn't understand why I was so upset about the whole thing.

This friend is the sister I never had. I loved her (and love her still) dearly, and her inability to see how the Measure 8 (which was passed that year) was likely to affect me and my family was incredibly painful to me. I remember weeping in her living room as I tried to explain something that was, to her, completely invisible. I talked to her about how scary it had been to come out publicly after having led a fairly comfortable life as a closeted queer, and she just didn't seem to get why it should be a big deal at all.

So, I issued her and her husband a challenge (and I'll issue the same challenge to any straight coupled allies here who want to raise their awareness of LBGTQ issues):

Spend an entire week pretending that you're not a couple. Don't write a check from a joint bank account. Hide all the photographs in your home and office which would identify you as a couple. Take off your wedding rings. Touch each other, and talk to each other, in public, in ways that could only be interpreted as you being "friends". Refer to yourself only in the singular "I", never in the "we". When you go to work on Monday, if you spent time together on the weekend, include only information which would indicate that you went somewhere with a friend, rather than your life-mate. If someone comes to stay with you, sleep in separate beds. Go intentionally into the closet as a couple. For a week.

They took my challenge.

They lasted exactly three days.

My friend returned to me in tears on day four and said: "I'm sorry. I had no idea what it is like for you."

[For those of you straight allies who are not coupled, but who want to play along, your challenge is (perhaps) simpler: Spend one week in which you make no mention and give no hint of your sexual orientation at all. When straight people around you are parsing the hotness of the opposite gender, go silent, or play along in a way that makes it seem as if you are part of the gang, but never reveals any real personal information. If someone asks you about your love-life, be evasive and non-committal. If you went on a date, and you're talking about it later, de-genderize all the pronouns, or consciously switch them (him to her, her to him, etc.).]

That is how I lived for the first 32 years of my life, whether I was single or coupled.

And while my current self-editing is not nearly as extreme as it was before I made the choice to live as an out lesbian, it's still self-editing.

I am still alert in public settings and default-cautious with strangers around revelation of my sexual orientation, no matter how much self-esteem I posssess. Every time I meet someone new, I silently (and mostly, unconsciously) assess how I think they will handle the information that I am a lesbian.

That's one reason that I like my handle (PortlyDyke) -- because people's immediate response to it (friendly or foe-full) usually gives me some information in that initial assessment process, and saves me the trouble of "coming out" to them. I also let potential clients know, via my business website, that I am a lesbian -- right out front -- and figure that if they still hire me, well, they knew what they were getting.

It's one of the reasons that I've chosen to live in a small town that is known for its liberality and quirkiness -- where it is unlikely that I'm going to get hassled on the street for looking butchy, and where, if I was hassled, there would probably be some people around who would help me out (I hope) -- but also one of the reasons that I would not consider setting foot in the road-house near the paper mill unless I were accompanied by two or more straight friends.

In truth, these assessments and considerations are so much a part of my existence that I barely notice them, and the availability of the choice to either remain closeted or come out (a choice which is available for many, but not all queers) is one of the things that can make homo-/trans- phobia a very tricky sort of "-ism" to deal with.

[A thought which arises at this point: I imagine that these types of behavioral adjustments and choices are also made by people of color who can "pass" and mixed-race couples.]

The queer couples smooching for ABC had a camera crew and back up. The city officials and police departments had signed off on the experiment. I'd really love to hear an interview with those couples about whether the public affection they displayed is typical of how they would act on any street, at any time, or if they noticed subtle or overt changes in how they interacted because they had "permission" to be fully de-cloaked as queers.

In examining all this, I realized that, for me, choosing the closet, even in this incredibly subtle way -- by taking my beloved's arm instead of her hand on the street -- is simultaneously a direct participation in the heterosexist system that would deny me equality, and a prudent move to preserve my safety.

Which definitely sucks.

Take my hand, my love.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 2:27 PM 16 comments  

Sunday Meme-ish-ness

Phydeaux has pulled my ass out (again) by providing me with a blog-meme to pursue.

Teh Rulz:
1. Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating!
2. Find page 123.
3. Find the first five sentences.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

The Book: Animal-Speak, by Ted Andrews.

The sentences:

One was the Strasburg Brotherhood of the Crown, and another was formed by St. Nicholas of Vienna in 1288. In Germany, specifically, there existed a guild of meistersingers at Nuremberg. This schooling was to teach the power of sound, music, and voice -- physical and spiritual.
Since I believe in a synchronous Universe, I find it no surprise that the book delivered a perfect message for me.

I've been pondering, during the last few days, about when to speak and when to be silent. I want to always do so by conscious choice, not shying from speaking because I fear to speak, or fear the repercussions of speaking, nor speaking because I fear that I will otherwise not be heard, or that my silence will be construed as something it is not.

I had a very interesting experience today where I had been watching a very long blog comment-thread, and going back and forth and forth and back about whether to speak up. Through the day, I dabbled in various responses in my head (and in draft form in Wordpad), and when I finally made up my mind to post the response, the blog ate my comment. So, I let it go.

Then, hours later, I decided that I'd give it another go -- I added a few more choice words to my comment, and attempted to post it. It was, once again, eaten.

Must be a time NOT to speak up -- or at least, not until I'm a "meistersinger".

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:32 PM 3 comments  

Potty-Mouth Failure

I went into this particular "web quiz" with a high degree of certainty that I would score in at least the high 90s, but came away with this conclusion:
I must be slipping.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

h/t to JackGoff

Posted byPortlyDyke at 12:01 AM 10 comments  

An "Interesting" Weekend

It all started on Friday, when I put up my "Blog for Fair Pay Day" post.

The first thing that happened was that an anonymous source (no, really, a real anonymous source!!!! ZOMG!!! -- just check the comments if you don't believe me!) informed me that "the wage gap is a myth". (Wow. Aren't you relieved?)

I spent a little time (a very little time) addressing this troll commenter, and I must admit that I was a bit perplexed, because my readership here is usually very small, and while my readers sometimes disagree with me, it's very rare that someone comes along spouting Warren Farrel-esque ridiculousity. Occasionally, the stray troll has followed me home from Shakesville (*cough-cough*randyson/jasper*), but usually, it's smooth and responsible communication here at Chez Portly.

A couple of hours later, I got three comments on my "Robbing the Hearts of Men" post (which is nearly 6 weeks old -- don't bother trying to find them -- I deleted them immediately) -- suffice it to say that they were lovely bon-mots such as "fat hairy-legged pervert" (the mildest of the three), and I found myself wondering:

"Hmmm? Have I done anything particularly controversial today? Or yesterday? Or in the last week?"

My regular readers will know that I have not only not done much controversial blogging in the last two weeks, but that I've barely been blogging at all (*fighting the urge to apologize*).

It's times like these that site-meter is your friend.

I checked my visit history, and sure enough -- Robbing the Hearts of Men had been linked to by no less a "Men's Rights" luminary than Glenn Sacks. (And no, I will not link to his site -- not if you threaten me with wild dogs and fingernails on blackboards.)

Mr. Sacks said, in his post, that he does like to compliment feminists when they try to be fair and understanding -- so he began his post with this highly complimentary line:

"Misguided feminists do occasionally acknowledge the problems men face in our society, under the rubric of PHMT (Patriarchy Hurts Men Too)."
Oh goodie.

I visited Sack's post, read through the comments thread (highly NOT recommended that you do that), and left a comment requesting that Mr. Sacks encourage his readers to visit my blog respectfully, or that he refrain from live-linking to my blog.

Sacks emailed me his response (and posted it in the comment thread), and I went back to his blog (didn't I tell you this was highly NOT recommended?!?!), and was treated to the following lovely stuff in comments (these are just the highlights):
In the comments to his post, I was called:

Fallacious, Dishonest, Irrational, Irrelevant, Misguided, Angry, and Morally Superior.

I was told that my perspective is not legitimate, that I "hate myself", that I have a "fundamentally flawed and hateful position", that I "played the race card" (because I stated that I considered myself as having privilege by virtue of being white), and I was suspected of being conniving and dishonest (writing the original post just so I could later say "Hey, at least I tried.")

Here are some choice quotes:

"Yeah, don't you believe it. The first time she's pissed at someone that's been vulnerable in front of her, she'll attack him for it too."

"This writer is making the same assumption that all feminists make. Female = Good : Male = Bad.
All female attributes are good and all male are bad."

"this woman has a purely gynocentric world view."

"this whole essay a backhanded insult"

"I do get annoyed when feminists pretend to be concerned about men. Frankly, it's an insult to my intelligence to expect me to accept mock sympathy and not be able to see their true agendas."

"If she can't take having her fallacies (or dishonesties) pointed out she should go to a girl's site [emp. mine] where she can get highbrow responses like "Wow! Awesome" and "Right On!". With opponents of such low calibre it should be obvious to anyone that the only reason feminism has come so far is because previous generations of men didn't bother fighting back."
One of the most interesting things (to me) was that many of the commenters made the case that men did not display emotion because that's "just how men are".

Even more interestingly, this line of reasoning was nearly always immediately followed up with a sentence about how women won't sleep with men who display emotion.

I hate to break it to them, but if these guys are having a problem getting laid, I think that the problem probably isn't about how much emotion they do or do not express, but maybe, just maybe . . . .

. . . . . it might have to do with how they talk to women?

The ultimate irony in all of this is that I also dealt with some intense reactions from feminists in comment threads on that particular post (and the follow-up post) over at Shakesville.

So, my trip to Sacks-ville was very educational (and, thankfully, very brief). Here's what I learned/got out of it:

I discovered newfound compassion for those feminists I know who dismiss MRAs out of hand in comment-threads, and are unwilling to extend any benefit of doubt to them, because they have experienced precisely what I experienced -- men who deny that misogyny exists -- while simultaneously actively demonstrating it. Some of these feminists have experienced far worse -- from DDOS attacks on their blogs, to death and rape threats in their email inboxes and postal mailboxes. It was a time when I felt very glad that I was blogging anonymously (or as anonymously as possible).

There were a few people who commented at Sack's in a reasoned, respectful tone (seriously -- like, a few -- as in -- three). There were even a couple who defended me, or said something like: "Well, it's a start."

Here's the thing -- Not only do nearly all of the people commenting at Glenn Sacks' site believe that institutionalized misogyny does not exist -- many, if not most, of them believe that women actually have MORE rights than men do in our society.

They honestly believe this.

(And what I wouldn't do for some "Freaky Friday" soul/body-swapping powers about now.)

Now, I'm an optimist. I believe that humans can change. In an instant.

I believe this because I have changed. In an instant.

So, I thought, "Well, maybe I just touched some nerve -- I'll go to the front page of the blog and see if there's anything that I DO agree with." (How Many Times Do I Have to TELL you, Portly -- this is highly NOT recommended!?!?!?!?)

OK, so the front page had a article about a guy who killed his ex-wife and shot the judge who ordered him 50% custody and 20% alimony payments. To his credit, Sacks was posting the video of the session before the judge that preceded the murder and murder-attempt, apparently intending to get some of his readers to stop apologizing for the guy as they had apparently done in a previous comment-thread.

What was in the comments (and in the comments from the previous thread) shocked me to my core. There were MRAs who not only excused the man's behavior, but claimed that violence of this nature was necessary.
"He killed the childs mother and took away both of his child parrents. I have no sympathy for that. If he had killed the judge only I would be sending him flowers and my judges home address."

"It may well take a lot more killings similar to this for the court system and lawmakers to come to the realization that they screwed up and need to make a change.

Simply put one man with a bullet can create more change than a thousand with protest signs.
Take that any way you want."


As I said, it was an "interesting" weekend -- and my visit to MRA-land taught me a lot (kind of like how wading in the run-off from the nuclear power station can teach you -- not to wade in the run-off from the power station . . . . ever again).

Because I like to understand things, I've been attempting to wrap my brain around this particular group and their philosophy. So far, my brain doesn't seem to be big enough to quite wrap around it (that's prolly cuz I'm a woman, and my brain is so "low-calibre", dontcha know), but I'll update you if I get any insights.

*Disclaimer: If you get all curious and google this shit and end up on that comments thread, I'll just say, I warned you -- Highly NOT Recommended.*

Posted byPortlyDyke at 2:19 AM 21 comments  

There Are Days

When I just want to see something that I know will tickle my fancy -- that's why this video remains in my favorites list -- forever:

and also why I "StumbleUpon", regularly:

Posted byPortlyDyke at 1:05 AM 6 comments  

You Know -- Sometimes Humans ARE Amazing

Yes, I'm back to daily blogging. Really. Truly. For Real. Even if it's "just" fluff about my wild, wacky, unpredictable species:

Amazing Transformable Chair - Funny bloopers are a click away

Posted byPortlyDyke at 1:05 AM 2 comments  

Equal Pay -- 45 Years Later

In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, which stated:

(d) (1) No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions
Gee, that sounds so . . . . How shall I say it? . . . . . Egalitarian? Utopian? Lofty?


How about: Simple. Logical. Fair. A No-Brainer.

The statistics below are for all women and men in the USA:
In 1970, women, on average, earned 61 cents for every dollar men earned.
In 1985, women earned 65 cents for every dollar men earned.
In 2000, women earned 74 cents for every dollar men earned.
Today, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn.
On average, African-American women earn 63 cents, and Latinas earn 52 cents for every dollar paid to white men today.

Which starts to look . . . . how shall I say it? . . . . .

Oh, I know! -- Stupid. Sexist. Racist. UNFAIR.

In the nearly half-a-century since Congress momentarily snapped out of its somnambulant haze and decided to address one of the most glaring evidences of institutionalized sexism, women have gained an overall average of 16 cents/dollar in wage equity.

Before you get out the champagne and start reminding me that this is progress, let's put it into perspective, shall we?

The gains that have been made toward overall pay equity since the EPA passed in 1963 calculate out at a rise of a third of a penny per year -- and women are still making 23% less than men.

Let's talk about that in real terms.

Take the median income of the US population -- $44,334/year. Now, whack off that 23% -- which leaves you with an annual income of $34,138/year. Anybody want to take that pay cut?

Anyone want to work an extra 9.2 hours every week just to make up the difference?

Anyone? Anyone?

Right. I thought not.

I've had people (yes, usually men, but not always) tell me that feminism is no longer necessary, because women actually have equality now. I've even had people tell me that women have more rights than men in our society (yes, usually asshats Men's Rights Advocates, but not always).

What I want to say to them on this day -- Blog for Fair Pay Day -- is this:

You think that I, as a woman, have more rights than a man, and that women are now treated equally in our culture?


Let's swap.

I'll take that 23% pay increase, and you can have all my "extra" rights (along with, of course, all the other misogynist, sexist crap that I've dealt with in my life).

So, do we have a deal?

(On a serious note, there is action for you to take regarding equal pay for women -- visit the National Women's Law Center and read about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, contact your Senators, and Blog for Fair Pay today, April 18th, 2008.)

h/t to Shark-fu at AngryBlackBitch, whose blog is not to be missed.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 1:00 AM 14 comments  

You Asked For It

Well, some of you said that you were content to hear whatever it was that I was currently thinking about.

Today, that happens to be: Sweeney Todd (Depp, Carter, Burton, Rickman)

I saw this musical live, onstage, not long after it was first released (with Angela Lansbury and George Hearn). I always loved the music (I love Sondheim, it's true) -- and I've owned the DVD of the Broadway production for some years.

When I rented the DVD of Tim Burton's version, I was prepared to be disappointed, or at least, underwhelmed -- that's generally been my experience when I've seen a movie based on a stage play that I adored. There's usually something so visceral about live theater that movie adaptations rarely pack the same punch.

Strangely, I was not disappointed by the movie.. In any way.

In fact . . . . I was moved by this production in a way that I was not moved by the live production or the Broadway DVD -- and engaged with it in a way that I was not engaged in the stage-production.

I fell in love with much of the music in Sweeney at first listen (I heard the Broadway soundtrack before I saw the play) -- Sondheim's wry wit and the entanglement of simple melody lines with complex rhythms and ever-more-creepy undertone arrangements on established themes enchanted me. (Listen to the differences in the arrangement under Toby's version of "Nothing's Gonna Harm You" and Mrs. Lovett's reprise a few minutes later -- when she's realized that she's gotta off the kid, and the discordant violin saws around amidst the heavenly harp chords.) A college buddy and I delighted in belting out a ghoulish duet of "Have a Little Priest" at every opportunity.

And while I loved seeing it all come to life onstage -- there was something a bit clownish about the production that I saw. I figured this was all to a purpose (after all -- we were talking about mass murder and cannibalism).

It was, however, the ability of film to draw in close and show the subtleties that I loved about this movie. In watching the staged musical, I found it easy to distance myself from these oh-so-hideous and damaged human beings. In movie-form, such distance was impossible, and I actually found it easier to connect to the characters as human-beings, instead of caricatures from a penny-dreadful.

Not to mention that I have a huge crush on Johnny Depp. And only slightly less huge crushes on Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter.

I watched the entire film three times in two days, and have replayed certain sections probably ten times each.

Maybe it's just me, but I do have this thing about Johnny Depp. And it's not his looks (OK -- it's not just his looks) -- there is something compelling for me about Depp -- I can't really figure it out, but the end effect is that when I see him onscreen, I can't seem to take my eyes off him. I do think that he's a fine actor, but I don't think that's all of it. I've had this experience watching him since I first saw him in a movie (maybe Benny and Joon, or possibly, Gilbert Grape). It's just . . . . something.

Anyhoo -- after three days of Sweeney saturation (amidst work and other stuff), I will say that my ONLY disappointment with the film was that they cut one of my favorite bits from "Have a Little Priest":

"How about General?"
"With, or without his privates?"

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:30 PM 4 comments  


(In a moment of extreme rarity, I'm actually posting before 11 pm. It's a miracle, I tell you -- a miracle!)

Last night, I was reading a thread about someone who could not imagine how teachers could survive on a salary of less than $50,000/yr (current average in the US for teachers is around $46K).

It jogged my memory about something I'd received via email a while back, and I just had to reprint it here:


I, for one, am sick and tired of those high paid teachers. Their hefty salaries are driving up taxes and they only work nine or ten months a year!

It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do...baby-sit! We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That's right...I would give them $3.00 dollars an hour and only the hours they worked, not any of that silly planning time. That would be 15 dollars a day. Each parent should pay 15 dollars a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now, how many do they teach in a day.... maybe 25.

Then that's 15 X 25 = $375 a day.

But remember they only work 180 days a year! I'm not going to pay them for any vacations.

Let's see... *that's 375 x180 = $67,500.00

(Hold on, my calculator must need batteries!)

What about those special teachers or the ones with master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage just to be fair. Let's round it off to $6.00 an hour. That would be $6 times 5 hours times 25 children times 180 days = $135,000.00 per year.

Wait a minute, there is something wrong here!!!

As the daughter of two school teachers, I appreciated this deeply.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:45 AM 4 comments  

Orphan At The Family Picnic

Let me begin by saying: Yes, we've made progress.

When I was born (and until I was in my early 20s), I was, by virtue of being a big old dyke, "mentally ill", according to the DSM II.

When I was 14, I still had to wear a dress to school, because I had a vagina -- even though no one was supposed to know about the whole vagina thing, except Mrs. Stains (unfortunate name, that), my phys ed/health teacher who was, apparently, the only person in the entire world who was actually authorized to use the word "vagina" out loud.

By the time I was 28, Wisconsin had become the first state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

So, yes -- we've made progress.

However, as this campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has unfolded, in a time when I think I should be all up and shouting "Progress!" because we (finally) have a black man and a woman vying for the nomination -- two historic "firsts" -- and we might actually have a Democratic president for the first time in this millenium -- I've realized that lately, I feel a bit like the orphan at the family picnic.

In many ways, I've actually been grateful that the process has exposed the underlying race-hatred and misogyny that I believe is alive and well in our society -- I think that having these destructive forces rear their ugly heads and become more exposed is probably helpful in the long run, if painful in the short run.

The danger of excusing "underground" racism/sexism/homopobia/classism is something I've written about many times, and exposure is probably the only way a culture in denial is ever going to really deal with the fact that we remain a society shot-through with institutionalized racism, sexism, homo-/trans-phobia, and classism.

There have been many, many discussions on the internet about the various racist and sexist tactics used during this nomination process.

I'm glad. I want those discussions!

I've noticed, though, that there really isn't much talk about LGBT rights these days. Sure, all the Democratic candidates say that we shouldn't be beaten up, or harrassed -- 'cuz that would be . . . you know . . . wrong -- but of the original candidates in the Dem race, only two supported full marriage rights for LGBT couples -- Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich.

You know -- the weird ones -- the camera-starer and the UFO chaser.

In the course of various "political" discussions I've had in the past few months, I've been told, literally (by "progressives" no less) that it's "too soon" for gay marriage, that I should be patient, that if I feel concern about a candidate associating with a known homophobe, that I'm being "overly-sensitive", that I need to suck it up and vote the Party ticket even if I feel disenfranchised, and pitch in to help to put a Democrat in the White House, because they are going to be my only hope of change, etc., etc., etc..

If I put on my Political-Savvy Brain Modifier, all of those things even make sense. In a way. Sometimes.

But if I put on my Institutional Memory Stimulator, and dig into my Current Lifetime Experience Archives, I seem to remember that most things didn't actually change because disenfranchised people politely folded their hands in their laps and did as they were told.

The DSM II was changed because people (like me) started coming out, and refusing to cooperate with the code of silence, and refused to wear the mantle of shame that had been standard operating procedure for "How to Be Queer" up until the mid to late sixties.

The dress code at my High School was changed because a bunch of girls just stopped wearing dresses. They refused. They were threatened with expulsion. But pretty soon, there were enough of them that expelling all the offenders would have resulted in a an all-boy prom . . . . . and we couldn't have that, now, could we?

The State of Wisconsin passed anti-discrimination laws because there were some pushy, insistent, persistent queers who just would not STFU (to be fair -- it is possible that the majority of the straight populace may have been so busy watching the Packers and eating cheese curds that they simply didn't notice that the queers had taken over).

So, being told to shut my trap, mellow out, lighten up (yes, someone told me to "lighten up" yesterday, about the queer stuff) sounds to me exactly like: "Lie back and think of England."

At times, I've felt loathe to bring up the whole queer thing, what with all the meaty discussions of racism and misogyny that I believe actually DO need thorough discussion -- but that's when I start noticing that I feel like an orphan at the family picnic.

You know. No one wants to throw you out -- after all, you look too much like them -- but no one really wants to claim you, either. Everybody knows that it sucks to be you, but they're not really sure what to do about that. So here, kid, have a buffalo wing and some potato salad. Just don't expect anyone to be whipping out the old adoption papers.

Now, I could almost (I said, almost) understand this in the General Election. It's pretty easy for the Republicans to break out the old "Oh noees! S/He's friendly with teh Homoeees!" (Which they are probably going to do in any case, come the GE) -- but this nomination race is a race between DEMOCRATS! -- you know -- the people who are supposed to be all about Teh Freedom and Teh Equality?

The fact that most of the candidates (with the two quirky exceptions) haven't really made many strong statements about LGBTQ rights (except under direct questioning or as ass-covereage) during the run for the nomination troubles me . . . . a lot. [Update: As I was writing this, Hillary Clinton's interview with the Philadelphia Gay News was brought to my attention -- and yes, I consider that a strong statement in support of LGBTQ rights.]

As someone pointed out in a comment thread about candidates who are connected with known homophobes: "to make excuses for our candidates when they turn their backs on genuinely progressive issues---just because we've been flogged and fatigued into a place of fear and desperation---is to accept the ultimate Republican framing."

I think that maybe that's what troubles me. I seem to remember a time when truly progressive candidates were more unapologetically and vocally supportive of LGBTQ rights -- in fact, some of them actually pointed to this as one of the ways that they stood out from the crowd -- but it seems to me that the past 15 years of extreme right-wing Christianist pushback has put the fear of the fundies into our so-called progressive candidates (I believe that both the front runners are, essentially, moderates -- maybe even leaning-to-the-right moderates in some areas).

And that troubles me, too. The "political realities" for these two historic candidates almost mandate that they appear publicly moderate -- the old "fold your hands in your lap and wait your turn" thing being brought to bear -- but if I'm honest with myself, I think that, even politically, it's a mistake.

I think we need to be starting at our broadest, highest ideals, not starting from some luke-warm middle place in the hopes of acceptance. Because in the shell-game that is politics, it's very likely that there will be compromise from that broadest, highest vision -- so why start with something so diluted that it is sometimes virtually indistinguishable from conservative thought?

I often wonder: How can Hillary Clinton, a woman who's had to fight every step of the way to get to the place she is, and Barack Obama, a person of color who's had to fight every step of the way to get to the place he is -- (I believe that they both probably had to deal with a lot of shit to get where they each are, regardless of any current advantages they may have in terms of power and wealth) -- how could either of these people not understand that change comes only when oppressed people stand firm, talk back, and refuse to cooperate with the systems that are oppressing them. How can they not know this? Did they forget their own journeys?

It's at about this point in my ponderings that I often find that I just have to slap myself awake again. I mean, it's not as if I sit around everyday, all day, chanting "I'm queer, I'm queer, I'm queer." Most of the time, I don't even think about it -- I just go on living my life -- until I run into some reminder of homophobia, or I notice that teeny, tiny tick mark being made in my brain when I hear a speech that says something about "all people, regardless of race, creed, color, or class" . . . . but there's nothing about sexual or gender orientation.

For me, the entire situation brings up various spiritual dilemmas -- as a person who adheres to the concept that everything I manifest in my life is perfect -- even the stuff that may not look perfect at the moment -- I bring myself again and again back to a state of equilibrium when I get all wrought up about things political and social.

It is at these moments that I train my focus on the larger scope of things, and the smaller scope of things, attempting to remember that the political drama of one country on one planet looks much different from the stars that are shining outside my window, and from the viewpoints of the insects that are just beginning to hum lazily in the yard. I remind myself that politics is, in many ways, a form of Junior High Drama -- what is hot and bothersome today will be all but forgotten by next week, and that someday, as my friend John says: "This will all be history."

I'm really not sure where I'm going with this post. It's just that I noticed that orphan-y feeling coming up now and again, and I wanted to get it out of my head. I don't want to deny that part of me that sometimes feels as if it's standing outside in the cold, peering in through the window at the happy family gathering around Christmas dinner. I suspect that there is something informative and useful for me in that yearning.

Ah! Wait! Now I've got it! (I just knew that if I flopped around in my own language long enough, I'd get to the point.)

I don't want to wait anymore. It's a simple as that.

I don't want to scrape away at the mountains of ignorance with my needle. I want radical transformation. I don't want to be "reasonable" and "realistic", because I think the way most people in the status quo are living is not really well-reasoned, and the reality that is created by just accepting the same old shit isn't a reality I want to live in.

I want basic human rights and respectful treatment for everyone. Right now.

Because it's the only reasonable reality -- the only thing that makes sense for humans.

The only way that we all get to come in from the cold, and sit down to dinner.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:00 PM 12 comments  

Just in Case You Missed It

This was the BBC's April Fool's bit for this year:

And this is how it was made:

And, just for good measure, here's the very first BBC April Fool's video -- released during my first year of life:

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:30 PM 4 comments  

20 Years

Today is the 20th anniversary of my being self-employed.

Twenty years ago today, I drove to my last pay-check job, had a head-on collision which totaled my lover's station wagon (but from which I walked away unscathed), and that was just the start of the day that ended my previous 15 years of wage-slavery.

I took my first "real" job when I was 17 (I'm not counting baby-sitting and other odd-job work that I did as a kid). In 1973 I was a Camp Counselor. Between then and April 1, 1988, I was paid money to hold the following positions:

  • Camp Counselor
  • Education Theater Company Performer
  • Meat Packing Plant Weinie Packer (no shit)
  • Meat Packing Plant Bone-Room Knifer (again, no shit)
  • Dolly Madison Factory Worker
  • Professional Actress/Singer/Dancer
  • Catering Company Server
  • Gas Station Attendant
  • Bank Over-draft Manager
  • Waittress
  • Punk Rock Musician
  • Institutional Cook
  • Program Manager for HUD Pilot Program
The past 20 years have held even more job descriptions, and a lot of ups and downs for me, but I must admit that there have been far more ups than downs. One of the main reasons that I opted for self-employment originally was that I wanted to have more time for myself and more time with my family. I think it's safe to say at this point that I would never, ever, go back to work for someone else. For one thing, I think they would find me an insufferable know-it-all that doesn't take direction well -- for another thing, I'd hate it.

I haven't blogged since the turn of the Equinox.

I've been busy being . . . . well . . . self-employed.

That's part of it, anyway.

The other part of it is that I've been taking a good long look at my involvement on the internet, and how it has affected my outlook on life.

I love the part where I feel connected through this incredible medium -- the part where I have a sense that the conversation I'm having with thousands of other human beings might be helping us move forward as a species -- but recently, I've had the sense that I was just having the SAME conversation, over and over, and maybe none of us were really expanding in the process. So I took a step back -- not really consciously at first . . . but one day turned into two, then two into three, and then a week had passed, and now, nearly two weeks have passed.

In truth, I'm tired of the bitching and moaning about politics which are 90% dog-and-pony-show anyway, tired of reacting to a media that doesn't deserve my attention anyway -- and, turning my attention away from these recently, I've noticed that I haven't been certain that those who read my blog would be interested in the other stuff I might have to say -- because what I've been putting my attention on lately has been profoundly based in "real" world interactions, understandings, and spiritual question and answer periods with myself.

I thought about re-appearing today with some story about how it had all been an elaborate April Fool's joke to make you think I'd fallen off the edge of the earth (or been Raptured) -- but that would have been . . . . you know . . . a big fat lie (and you probably know how I feel about lying).

I've been remembering back a while ago when Waveflux disappeared at Shakesville for a time, and reappeared with a post about needing to just take a break, take a walk, get back to things real and visceral -- and I remember thinking: "Hmm. That's probably going to be me one day."

The computer breakdown helped, I suppose. A few days high and dry without my beloved computer, and I realized that I would not, in fact, die, if I didn't read every single blog in the Universe, much less comment on them.

Then, about the time I got to posting again, there was the pile-up of work that had accumulated while the computer was down, and an Equinox celebration to have, and then . . . . well, then there was the soul-searching.

I'm back, though. Again. And to Phydeaux, I'll say -- apparently I'm not shame-proof yet.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:54 PM 5 comments