We offer more than fashion tips

This weekend we’ll be having the big gay pride celebrations here in Seattle, and the Supreme Court has made them extra special. If you’ve been reading my blog you most likely know this, but for the record I’m out and proud as a dyke, a queer, and a lesbian. Today I’m going to share a few secrets of happiness with you from our community to yours (however you yourself identify). Like many of us, I’ve learned some of these the hard way.

  • Be who you are, no matter what. Others may not understand you, but you’re only going to be happy being you. Trying to fit into a model or a pattern set by someone else just makes you unhappy. I used to try to make myself girly because I felt it would get me more temp work (which I hated anyway) and because I believed what I had been told–that if I didn’t do this I was “letting myself go”. Because I only wear makeup for drag and don’t do the frilly stuff, I was told I needed to “fix myself up”. Hogwash! I am me being me. It’s really what I’m best at, and joy is the best cosmetic out there.
  • You are not the only one. These days there are more openly gay celebrities, so I think that fewer gay kids grow up thinking that they are the only gay person in the world. I am so grateful for this. No matter who you are, there are other people like you, and you will discover them. Just this evening at square dancing I had a lovely discussion with fellow dancers and found out they love to talk about Shakespeare as much as I do. Embrace your passions, and know that you can find your tribe.
  • Be proud of who you are. Most people do not realize how fabulous they are, and our complexities make us all the more beautiful. You may have walked a rough path to get to this moment in time and you may not yet have achieved even a fraction of what you plan to do. You may have even made mistakes or done something wrong. Odds are you’re doing your best. Hold your head up high and let people know who you are. If you’re not proud of yourself because you’re hurting yourself or others, know that you can change your direction at any time.
  • No matter what you do, some people are going to love you and some are going to hate you. This may sound pessimistic, but it actually gives you so much freedom. People are really random, and no matter what you do, no matter what rules you follow, some of them are just not going to like you. You may as well be yourself, and have people understand who you truly are. Odds are, they’ll be enchanted–if they’re not, you don’t need them in your life.

The older I get, the more I understand these things. This is my gift to you at Pride. Get out there and be you–the world is waiting.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
248. What can you do to be more fully you? Take a step in that direction, or even better, a giant leap.

Advertisements

So much more than rainbows

June is officially Gay Pride Month, and as we all wait to see what the Supreme Court will do on some very important decisions, I am contemplating next week’s Gay Pride Parade here in Seattle. Many people have asked why we’re so loud when we’re proud; why we have to march through the streets; why businesses around town have to sport rainbow flags to show we’re welcome to shop there. I’ll tell you. I’m a lesbian, so I have strong opinions on this issue.

We are waiting on the courts to decide on rights that everyone else already has. As I write this, many of my queer brothers and sisters can be fired because of who they are–legally. I have a close friend who was just fired for being gay. That’s illegal here in Seattle, but it still happens. GLBT people face harassment around the globe and across the United States. We’re assaulted; we’re discriminated against; we’re murdered. Yes, things have gotten better, but even the people who support us sometimes treat us like stereotypes instead of people.

I know people within the gay community who dislike the parade for this reason. They argue that the parade showcases the most flamboyant among us, those with the most alternative liftestyles. It’s true, those may be the people you notice. It’s also true that there are some of us who blend in more than others. Some assert that we’re just like heterosexuals except for the people we choose to love and have sex with. That’s not really true.

It’s true in a Shakespearean sense–if you cut us we bleed; if you tickle us we laugh. It’s not true in a cultural sense. We are a part of the larger culture, but we also have our own rich culture and tradition. Who we love and how we exist as a group shapes us as a people, and it is intrinsically linked to who we are. We are the accountants, the dog lovers, the librarians. We are the drag queens, the leather daddies, the dykes on bikes. We are so many things and the parades represent them all.

I’m in favor of the parades because they showcase our variety to the community at large. I’ve also experienced the healing power of the parade. Even in liberal places, hateful treatment comes when you least expect it. Many queer people do not have supportive families, and we form our own chosen families for this reason. We never know when we’re going to be treated differently or even harmed just because of who we are. I’ve marched down the streets of Seattle as part of the parade. It may seem silly, but it helps to hear that PFLAG loves me; to hear the cheers of the crowd as they support our display of pride. It makes me cry every damn time.

No doubt some are there to gawk. Many more are there to be supportive. I understand that some queer people are tired of the rainbow being plastered on everything. I understand that some companies are just pandering to our pocketbooks. I know that some people just like to come out and party. I understand all this, but I still think it’s important. We’re still fighting for our rights and acceptance, and every little bit of support and community is very helpful.

Our community is diverse and beautiful. I cannot speak for every part of it, nor even for every lesbian. We are individuals, but we are tied together by common threads. I’ll be attending the pride festivals once again this year, marching in the Dyke March, and waiting anxiously for the Supreme Court to rule on our right to marry. Happy Pride!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
247. Attend Pride festivities in your local area. If you are not part of the LGBTQI community, attend as an ally and learn about the rich variety of gay people out there beyond television stereotypes. For extra credit, go to Wikipedia and check out Stonewall to see why we started marching.

Your link, should you desire to follow it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots

Words, words, words

I grew up in New York State, although not New York City or Long Island. This is important to note, because like many of the people I grew up with, I am engaged in a great debate about boundaries. New York, like many states, has an area called “Upstate”, but even the people who live there cannot all agree on where that area starts. We all concede that Long Island and “the city” are not Upstate. Many city people think that Upstate is simply everywhere north of the city. Some even count it by subway stops.

Many of the people in Dutchess County, where I’m from, know that we’re not from Upstate either. I grew up in Wappingers Falls, one town south of the much-mocked Poughkeepsie. I grew up with New York City media, and although suburban, the culture of the area is not like the rural farming areas to the north of the county. The Metro North commuter railroad has a terminal in Poughkeepsie that takes you straight into Grand Central Station. Some New York City agencies, such as the Office for the Aging, agree—they extend the boundary up to Poughkeepsie. Some extend it even further north. There is no official consensus. This doesn’t really matter, but on the other hand it really does.

It matters because it’s an identity thing. People who are securely Upstate identify with their region, and people from the city are city people. The rest of us have an idea of who we are based partly on this nebulous geographical concept. In some ways this is absurd. On the other hand geography and culture do shape a person—I know I am a different person as a New Yorker than I would have been growing up as a Minnesotan. I’ve lived in both places—the distinctions are there. I also know that I am a distinctly different person because I have never identified with the label “Upstate”. I know who I am.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the years, and though I still have a definite opinion—New Yorkers are very prone to definite opinions—I’ve also realized that in some ways it doesn’t matter. Words are just labels. This is important to know. People go around labeling people all the time, and we also label ourselves. There are some labels that are true to my identity—like writer, lesbian, and vegetarian—and many that aren’t. People who don’t understand me tend to assault me with inaccurate modifiers and faulty nouns. Sometimes I even do it myself, calling myself clumsy, or lazy, or other words that are untrue. When I am secure in my identity, the inept syllables fall into a pile at my feet, where they are easy to kick to the side. It’s so much easier.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
240. What labels do you identify with? Are there inaccurate modifiers and faulty nouns that others use to describe you? Do you describe yourself with falsehoods? Let them fall to your feet, and kick them aside.

Extra credit:
Does your state have different areas—like Upstate New York, Outstate Minnesota, or Greater Washington? Which one describes you?  If you’re really interested in the debate about Upstate New York, check out this cool Wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upstate_new_york

Don’t be alarmed

Today I’d like to talk about the word “vegan.” At the very basic level, a vegan is a person who does not consume animal products, and therefore does not eat meat, fish, dairy products, or eggs. Since I’ve been a vegetarian for a very long time, I sense that this topic may scare you. It’s as if I said I want to talk to you about the word “Christian”. You may think I plan to convert you, or that there is a nasty lecture to follow. You may think of PETA and envision some photos of eviscerated animals, but here’s the thing: I don’t care what you eat. Really. I do what I do for personal reasons, and I believe that everyone makes their own choices according to what is right for them. I’ll happily discuss the topic with someone who asks, but everyone else I leave alone. It’s the same for many religious people, too.

Vegans and vegetarians often get attacked because of the virulent proselytizers in our midst, and so many of the people I’ve met who don’t eat any meat or animal products simply say that they follow a “plant-based diet”. It sounds less threatening somehow. No one assumes that you’re nasty and intolerant. I get hostile reactions to the word, too, and for a while I used the “plant-based diet” line, but I’ve gone back to using the word “vegan”. Here’s why—if all the friendly vegans won’t use the word, a perfectly good word will be lost. Some people think there are no friendly vegans because many of us friendly folk refuse to use the word. It’s as if all the friendly religious people stopped using the words that stood for their faith traditions—these are good words, which convey complex meanings. I’m not doing this just to defend vegans, I’m doing it to defend the English language. I encourage you to do the same.

Stand up for the words that define you and your traditions. Don’t let others add meaning to them that isn’t there. As a gay person, this has special meaning to me. Others have tried to define the word “queer” or the word “lesbian” to be inherently negative. They aren’t, and I’ll proudly continue to use those words, too. Be proud to be yourself— whether vegan, omnivore, gay, straight, bi, Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other designation. This is true joy.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

226. What words do you use to define yourself? What baggage do others attach to those labels? Consider what you might do to reclaim the word.

 

 

Meandering

It’s Sunday, a day to relax and not worry about staying focused. Despite this, I managed to go to a very efficient meeting for our upcoming square dance event. I even got in a walk on the way there. It had started to rain by the time the meeting was breaking up, and one of my friends offered me a ride. I told her I lived nearby, but she was concerned because it was raining. I thanked her and gave her my standard response—I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West, so I won’t melt. (Indeed if I am any of the witches from that movie I would be Glinda. Who doesn’t want to travel around in a bubble and look gorgeous all the time?)

I relish these chances to walk in the rain, to breathe in the fresh clean air and enjoy the sound-dampening characteristics of the mist. I could hear the birds enjoying it with me, and I walked around a little bit extra once I got where I was going, just to soak it all in. Ah bliss!

I’ve been doing a lot of walking this weekend. Last night I marched in a candlelight vigil for the recently-formed Queer Ally Coalition. There’s been an increase lately in gay bashings, so our community wants to remain visible, organized, and strong. The walk felt very positive to me, and I think we got our message across.

Now I’m off to commune with friends. I know many people go to a church to worship on Sunday, and I support them in that. I feel like I’ve worshipped all over Seattle today. Life is good.

See you tomorrow!

Link, should you desire it:

http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2009/02/28/anti-hate-vigil

Dancing no matter what

I’m back, but my posts will probably be shorter than usual for a while. Like many people, I’m unemployed and things are continuing to get more difficult. I need to spend a lot more time finding work than even before, and that means the blog may be a little sparse for a while.

I’m still working on joy, though, but today I’m not feeling particularly joyful. I’m working towards it. In the middle of my personal stress, a threat was announced in the press to one of the major places where I go dancing. Some wacko is threatening to kill the customers of local gay bars. I found this out right after I opened the book of lesbian short stories I borrowed from the library—there was an insert that someone put in to tell me that “the wages of sin are death” and that I was going to hell. This sort of thing is more stressful at a time when I’m already stressed, but I’ve progressed from sadness to anger. Eventually the joy will return. It always does, especially when I go out dancing. I won’t let this self-appointed vigilante stop me from going dancing, just because s/he doesn’t like gay bars. I will be careful be more careful than usual, however.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

218. Next time you’re in a difficult spot or a difficult mood, keep going. You’ll catch up to joy soon enough if you keep onwards.

Link, should you desire it:

Details on the threats in Seattle made to gay bars,

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2009/01/06/gay_bars_receive_threatening

Something to see

Happy Sunday! On Sundays I often spend at least part of the day watching movies and eating dinner with friends. We’ve come to treasure this little ritual. Usually we watch movies at someone’s house, but occasionally we go out. I’ve recently seen two treasures you might want to look out for. They may not yet have been released where you are—that’s one of the perks of living in a big city like Seattle.

The first is Slumdog Millionaire (2008, Danny Boyle). There’s already Oscar talk about this little gem, and it’s well-deserved. This movie is about the Indian version of the television show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? A contestant from the slums is about to win the big prize, and everyone wonders how he could know all the answers with his background. The movie tells you. I love a movie that can surprise me like this one does, and many scenes in it will stay with me. Unique and uplifting.

The other is Milk (2008, Gus Van Sant). Sean Penn has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk, who was the first openly-gay elected official. Although Milk was assassinated, this movie is ultimately uplifting, and Sean Penn is amazing here. I should have known better than to wear eye makeup the day I saw it, but I left the theater feeling good. I also love the movie’s tag line—Never Blend In. I couldn’t agree more.

On a related note, there’s a short internet film I just adore. It’s called Prop 8 The Musical, and it’s a three-minute star-studded musical about the recently enacted ban on gay marriage in California. Here’s the YouTube link, but if that doesn’t work, just search the name. I hear there’s talk of making this into a full-length musical. I would love to see it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5-fZKg4Uj4

See you tomorrow!