Sunday, June 28, 2015

Music Me a Revolution

For as long as I can remember, music has always provided a soundtrack for my life. Whether I am going through tough times (Sarah McLachlan and India.Arie work as my personal spirit guides), good times (Lady GaGa and Rihanna are staples in that department), or sad times (usually anything blues- or country-related. Think Susan Tedeschi, Johnny Cash, anything by George Strait).

So, of course, I have soundtracks for transformations, whether they be personal or universal. And what better time to discuss my transformation soundtrack than now. A time of constitutionally-ordered marriage equality, a time when states are asking themselves if flying the Confederate flag is the best way to honor the South, a time when sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia are being discussed, debated, and confronted on a daily basis.

For your listening and viewing pleasure, here are my Six Ways to Music Your Way into a Rebellion (Personal or Otherwise):

1. Fall Out Boy; "The Phoenix" released 2013.
I fell in love with this song as soon as it came out. I was counseling a 14-year-old girl, at the time, who was OBSESSED with Fall Out Boy and this song was a way for us to connect. While the video itself seems to reflect a bank-job-gone-wrong scenario, the lyrics are very empowering and leave me reflecting on the social changes happening:

Put on your war paint!
So we can take the world back from a heart attack, one maniac at a time we will take it back.
Hey young blood! Doesn't it feel like our time is running out?
I'm gonna change you like a remix, then I'll raise you like a phoenix.
Wearing our vintage misery, no I think it looked a little better on me!

2. Angel Haze ft. Sia; "Battle Cry" released 2014.
***TRIGGER WARNING!!! Video shows depictions of abuse and self-injury***

I love love LOVE Sia and equally LOVE female rappers. And Angel Haze is spot on! This song is emotional, strong, soft, and hard all at once. It leaves me reflecting personal struggles, but also empowers me to "keep fighting the good fight." Words of wisdom include:

Money cannot buy all the love that's here tonight.
It's just you and I, so lift your hands towards the sky.
"Bitch you can't tell me nothing!"
I'm trying to outrun my past, but still trying to defeat my limits.
You're the only person alive who holds the keys to your healing.
We don't wanna fight, so sing with me a battle cry.

3. Little Mix; "Salute" released 2014.

I first heard this song in ZUMBA class and it quickly became my favorite! This song is fun, fierce, and pro-woman, EVERY kind of woman, as the lyrics suggest:

It's who we are, we don't need no camouflage.
Get your killer heels, sneakers, pumps, or lace up your boots.
Representin' all the woman! Salute! Salute!
If you think we're just pretty things, you couldn't be more wrong.
Ladies: the time has come...let us stand together!

4. The Dollyrots; "Because I'm Awesome" released 2007.

I am a firm believer everyone should start and end their day with this satirical, "go me!" anthem. Complete with empowering lyrics and a shout-out to "Smells Like Teen Spirit"-style cheerleaders:

Just look at me!
I'm a leader, I'm a winner, and I'm cleaner 'cause I'm awesome!
I don't need you, 'cause I'm neat-o, and I beat you 'cause I'm awesome!
They say I'm gifted, well I'm a certified prodigy!
I'm gonna own you, I'm gonna bring you to your knees!

5. Beyoncé; "Run The World (Girls)" released 2011.

The reason for this song is simple: Beyoncé.

Who run the world? Girls!
I'm repping for the girls who taking over the world, have me raise a glass for the college grads!
To the other men that respect what I do, please accept my shine.
Boy you know you love it how we're smart enough to make these millions, strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.

6. 4 Non-Blondes; "What's Up" released 1993.

My last pick is more introspective, while also touting the discrepancies we continue to battle in society. We have come so far from 1993, yet still have many roads left to travel. Plus the lead singer, Linda Perry, is married to "Darlene" from Roseanne and that makes me happy:

I'm trying to get up that great big hill of hope for a destination.
And I take a deep breath and I get real and I scream from the tops of my lungs 'What's going on?!'
And I try, oh my God, do I try, I try all the time in this institution!
And I pray, oh my God, do I pray, I pray every single day for a revolution!


Just because I am such a fan of Riot Grrrl anthems and this is easily one of my most played tracks on my iPod. I am always looking to add music to my collection, so feel free to share any transformation/revolution suggestions that get your inner-protestor going in the comments! I leave you with "Rebel Girl" by the incomparable Bikini Kill. (And yes this IS the second time I have referenced this song on my blog. You're welcome, world. You are welcome. #kathleenhannaforlife)


Friday, June 26, 2015

Not Crying on Sundays

Today, my world was changed. Moments after I awoke at 11am (sorry not sorry), I turned the TV on, with the intention of watching another episode of "How I Met Your Mother" on Netflix. Then I saw these words flashing on the bottom of Headline News:

Breaking News: Obama to Speak Momentarily on Same-Sex Marriage Equality

Of course, this caught my attention. I anxiously awaited President Obama's address and like a child listening to a story, I sat cross-legged, hands under my chin, leaning in with anticipation. I have always enjoyed listening to President Obama speak and today was no different. His words were sincere and compassionate, as well as booming since I had the volume turned up louder than usual. My mother entered the living room and asked what was going on. 

I looked up at her, eyes glistening, and said, "Same-sex marriage is legal. In all 50 states!" She exclaimed, "Oh my god! Really???" as she sat next to me and held my hand. She asked if I would mind rewinding the address so she could see it from the beginning. Of course I didn't mind. We sat next to each other, tears streaming down my face, as my mother hugged me and said, "Congratulations! And it's about fucking time!" 

I sniffled as President Obama declared, "love is love" and crowds cheered. My world was changed. I never thought, in my lifetime, I would see this day. I honestly thought the state-by-state "patchwork", as President Obama called it, would continue indefinitely, fearing more Proposition 8's or DOMAs. To know that I, as a bisexual woman, could potentially marry a woman and live ANYWHERE in the country without fear of my marriage not being recognized, is beyond validating. It's EMPOWERING. It's LIBERATING. It's FAIR.

In my reverie, I was aware that many people were feeling as defeated as I did elated. And I respect that. I understand that many people view marriage as a religious sacrament and do not agree with not only gays and lesbians partaking in the institution, but anyone not respecting the religious and spiritual aspects of the ritual. I have held many intelligent conversations with such people and understand that train of thought. The idea that any union joined together, outside a religious ceremony, should not be called a marriage. Therefore, involving the government in such decisions invalidates the spiritual union.

That being said, ALL opposite-sex marriages WERE recognized in every state, despite where the couple was joined in matrimony. It could have been a church or synagogue or court house or Graceland Wedding Chapel in Vegas. The couple could have known each other for 50 years or 50 minutes and it made no difference in the eyes of the law. The fact of the matter is, you need more than a church and a religion to marry legally in this country. You need a state-appointed marriage license. And that is not spiritual or religious. So, while I understand and empathize with those who oppose same-sex marriage, based on their spiritual definition of the institution, I respectfully disagree, with every fiber of my being, that the LGBTQIA+ community should continue to suffer inequality.

For those who disagree with marriage equality based solely on bigotry, hate, fear, intolerance, misogyny, and homophobia:

That's really what this fight has been about all along. Love. Not right or wrong. In fact, the Bible speaks boldly that love "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:7. I, along with my LGBTQIA+ community, have done all four: protected ourselves and our families through and during this fight, trusted and hoped that this day would come, and persevered each time we took one step forward and two steps back. That is love. Our community makes me proud, as divided as we might be at times, and this is a time of joy and celebration, of what's to come in the future. A time of reflection and remembrance, for what we've accomplished and how far we've come.

Do we have more to do? Absolutely. (Find out how here) Fighting for equality is never-ending and always changing. We are always striving to be more educated, more inclusive, less divisive, and less judgmental. This is a marker in the LGBTQIA+ history books. A day where hope outweighed grief, and love outweighed hate. I imagine in ten years, I will look back on this blog post and think, Wow, I cannot believe this was even an issue. And then I'll blink myself from my living room to my bedroom, I Dream of Jeannie-style. (We're THIS close, I can feel it!)


*Title credit: Song: "She Keeps Me Warm" released by Mary Lambert in 2013

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Has Anyone Seen My Biological Clock?

I have had to come out in several different ways, to many people, over the years. The first (and arguably most important) was coming out to myself. That took years and years of journal entries, tears, and online searches (before I was smart enough to erase search history!). Once I accepted, to myself, that I had an undeniable attraction to the ladies, I had to resolve what that meant. My coming out journey in 5 bullet points looks like this:
  • Told my parents I was bisexual in a note. They took said note to IHOP and my mother anxiously read the note ALOUD to my father over eggs and pancakes. They were both relieved to find out: "That was it? We thought you were pregnant or sick!" *BEST PARENTS EVER.*
  • Told my brother (He actually beat me to the punch as I nervously beat around the bush and this is why we are soul mates) and friends.
  • Started dated a woman and followed my New Year's Resolution for 2004 which was: "I will come out to my family before the end of 2004 or if I start dating a woman, whichever comes first." Only New Year's Res I ever kept.
  • Told my entire family. Some one-by-one (I received a ravioli dinner and margaritas from one thrilled family member-shout out to Auntie!), some as a group (think post-Easter Sunday dinner...) 
  • Commence lifelong decisions about what to share and with whom, but always facing the risk of exposure to ignorance, intolerance, anger, rage, confusion, and disgust.
After 11 years of coming out to every friend and family member, most employers and co-workers, and select friends of friends it has gotten, somewhat (see previous post), easier. That being said, I never thought about other ways I might find myself "coming out" that could create equal parts denial and confusion.Which leads me to...

I do not want to have children.

I know. I. KNOW.

Seeing as I am unattached, romantically, this revelation has not become much of a topic of conversation. (Especially since I have failed to concretely espouse this statement until now.) But I imagine I am speed skating on paper-thin ice. I have thrown this statement out willy-nilly at various points in my life, with little commitment or fervor. And even with my lack of sincerity, there has been a bit of a backlash.

Well-meaning family and friends have made assumptive statements, even when their advice was unsolicited. I have heard many versions of the "You'll change your mind" persuasion:
  • When you meet the right person
  • When you get a little older (this was in my 20's...I think by now, the idea is almost inconceivable...see what I did there? You're welcome.)
  • When everyone around you starts having babies
  • When you get settled in your career
I've also heard what I lovingly refer to as "the classics" from people who barely know me:
  • "But you love kids!"
  • "You would make a great mom!"
  • "There's nothing like having children." And my personal favorite...
  • "Being a mother is the most important/magnificent/wonderful thing a woman can do."
Now, I am well-aware the Child-free Movement is nothing new. I am also aware this blog post is a drop in the bucket of literally hundreds of others like it: here, here, and here. But this is my blog and my story. Considering most of my jobs have involved taking care of other people's children, coming out as child-free by choice has been challenging. It ends up sounding like: I so wanted children, until I took care of yours.

Quite the contrary. Being a babysitter, camp counselor, daycare teacher, and nanny has illuminated me to the extreme responsibility and dedication it takes to be a parent. Let me be clear, my reasons for remaining child-free are personal, carefully considered, and (for the most part) set in stone. I say that last piece, because it IS possible I could change my mind. But, to put it in clear terms, I am 98% sure I will not have children.

I'm no statistician, but my reason for landing on that number seems simple: there is a 1% chance birth control could fail and and a 1% chance I will change my mind. To go "big picture" on you, when the weather reports calls for 98% chance of rain-you're bringing your umbrella, expecting rain, and shocked if it doesn't. That's how one should go forward with me and procreation.

As also mentioned, my reasons are personal (read: private) and, in my opinion, irrelevant to this conversation. While it's understandable a typical segue from such a proclamation would be "Why not?", the connotation reads that my reasons are up for discussion or debate. And they are not.

For example, the thought of asking why my brother and sister-in-law are having a baby seems bonkers to me. That's a personal decision, made within the confines of their marriage, dealing with private topics such as fertility, finances, career, etc. So, when they revealed they were expecting, I wasn't struck with dozens of questions, trying to "understand" why they would make that decision. I was overjoyed for them and was consumed with emotion and tears when I found out. I am going to be one hell of an auntie and couldn't be happier.

So, why then, should my decision NOT to have children permit people to make assumptions, share opinions, and throw judgments? It shouldn't and that's the point. Sure, I have felt that desire to get married and have children. Hell, I was in a state of near panic for months leading up to my little brother's wedding, questioning why my life had strayed so far from what I pictured at age 29. Then I realized the expectations I carried with me were so heavy, I wasn't even sure I wanted them anymore.

So, I tabled my expectations and got very zen about the process. I trusted in my mother's mantra that "everything happens for a reason" and decided not to worry about it, until it was time to worry about it. And I haven't worried about it since. It's a non-issue for me, a no-brainer. Maybe when I decided to stop freaking out about societal expectations, I hit the snooze button on my biological clock for infinity. Maybe at age 38, I'll marry someone with children and become a stepmom. Maybe at age 43, it will go off again and I will adopt "hard to place" children. Maybe at age 48, I'll still be content with a decision I made 15 years earlier and be living my life the best way I know how: with love, compassion, and authenticity. And isn't that what it's all about, anyway?


Monday, June 22, 2015

Charleston, Queers, and Me

           I moved to South Carolina 3 weeks ago. I am already thinking about leaving. Maybe I was too naïve, assuming there would be some homophobia, racism, and sexism, quietly tucked away like in my native state of Connecticut, because what I have experienced in the past three weeks way surpasses some

I should begin by explaining I moved in with my parents, after a particularly trying 2 years of mental anguish and hopping from job to job, hoping to relieve my rampant Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Living with my parents, again, felt like a good place to “clear my head” and get a “fresh start.” And it has been…from inside the house.

I have ventured out with my mother and her neighbor-friend on occasion and in the sixty minutes spent in her presence was met with all three. To be fair, my neighbor is ten years my mother’s senior and has lived in this town her entire life. I tried to remind myself of that when my anger began to bubble up in my throat and mouth. And maybe that is why I have failed to speak up. Something that is profoundly foreign to me.

At 33, I feel less inclined to rally for my rights than I did at 23. Why is that? Is it easier? Is it all to “protect my parents”? Is it really to avoid making them pariahs in the neighborhood, long after I’m gone? Or is there a deeper issue here?

It’s possible I’ve put my own needs (calming my mental unrest, figuring out my next move…) above my previously innate desire to fight for human rights in a “loud and proud” way. And if that is the case, I am supremely unhappy with my decision. In doing that, I am rejecting the very reason I left everything in the northeast in the first place: to become a more authentic person. By shunning that part of myself, in the name of “being a good neighbor” and “making things easier for my parents”, I am setting myself back at least 15 years…

Residing in the very state that still flies a Confederate flag, where racism is as common as a Waffle House, woke me up to the damage I was undeniably doing. Denying my sexual identity as queer, bisexual, pansexual (insert whichever term fits someone who has no bias on the gender, gender identity, or sexual identity of the person she wishes to date…), enduring racist comments, and accepting sexist assumptions not only quietly concedes to such ways of thinking, it actually speaks for me stating: “I agree.” AND I VERY DON’T.

So, what to do? I have weeks and weeks of self-exploration left before I feel willing and able to obtain a job and resume contributing to society. The answer is not simple, as it rarely is. I’m unsure what to do in the large sense, but in the micro sense I need to continue my journey to authenticity. I need to reconnect with the woman who marched in the New York City Gay Pride parade, not two feet behind the mayor, and proudly smiled as she walked, alone, through the subways decorated head-to-toe in rainbows. 

The woman who participated in the National Day of Silence on her college campus and watched as passersby took our flyers, promptly crumpled them, and threw them at us, when they realized what we were standing for. 

The woman who was verbally assaulted by the word “Dyke!” while walking down her street, holding her girlfriend’s hand. 

The woman who challenged Pro-Life protestors outside Planned Parenthood. 

The woman who for 2 years hung an enormous rainbow flag in her living room window. 

The woman who felt secure in her spirituality when countless churches told her “once you repent, God will forgive you.” 

That woman is still inside me. She is screaming to get out, shouting to be heard, despite acceptance from the world. She wants to make a difference, again, no matter the cost. I think it’s time I let her freely roam this globe again.