Embracing the Unexpected

Today is a special day. Not for me so much as it is for my girlfriend. It’s her birthday today. I feel really bad that I don’t have any money to buy her a gift. I will though. I’m working on improving myself. And it’s because of her.

It’s been this wonderful whirlwind romance, a beautiful experience in life. An experience in which you grow and learn – not just about your partner, but you learn things about yourself too. They (whomever ‘they’ are) say that if you change yourself, you should do it for you, not for someone else. But she…she makes me want to change, and not just for myself, but for everyone around me. She makes me want to be a better person, not because I’m not a good person now, but because I know I can be better.

I spent so much time in failed relationships, hanging on out of a desperation to feel loved, or at the very least, wanted. And that’s why I found myself back in my hometown, after a failed relationship forced me to make that 150 mile journey back home on New Year’s Eve. In a blizzard, no less. It was like Mother Nature was chastising me for blindly following my heart.

As I celebrated the new year by helping my friend (whose couch would become my bed) build a cabinet for her dry goods, I made a vow to hold off before getting romantically involved with anyone, and to hold off even longer before giving my heart away (which was a difficult vow to make as anyone who knows me knows I wear my heart on my sleeve).

Fast forward to the evening of January 18th. I was down at my favorite haunt in my hometown with a couple of friends. We were standing out on the back porch, having a cigarette, when I watched this tall woman walk from the parking ramp towards the building. My friend commented on how tall that woman was. I simply nodded. I found myself fixated on her, and felt my heart beat faster as she approached the stairs to the bar.

We all courteously said hello, and I made sure to hold the door open. This woman flashed a gorgeous smile at me and that was pretty much it. I was done for.

Well, my friends and I continued to play pool once we came back inside. There was a group of people sitting near us, and my heart flip-flopped when I saw that tall woman sitting with the group. We kept making eye contact, and she invited me to sit with them.

I did, and I met some incredible people that night. People that I’m proud to call friends. They were part of a group that had met earlier, a group for gender non-conformists. I was sad when the night ended, but I managed to friend several of them on Facebook.

The following day, the woman I held the door open for messaged me on Facebook. We started chatting and immediately I found myself attracted.

But…this little voice in the back of my head started…she’s a trans*woman. Like I’d lose my right to be a lesbian for dating her.

I was ashamed of this voice. Because just the night before I had touted myself as an advocate, an ally, for everyone in the LGBTQIA community, not just a select few. I wasn’t discriminatory. I shut the voice up by ignoring it.

We continued chatting, and this attraction continued to grow. But that voice stuck around. Keep in mind, the voice wasn’t filled with disgust. In fact, there was no disgust in the voice whatsoever. It was more…confusion…than anything else.

You see, while I was a self-proclaimed lover of all people, it hadn’t always been that way. I grew up in a house where Rush Limbaugh graced the kitchen every afternoon and a signed letter from Ronald Reagan hung in the living room. My mom was openly bigoted, and had made it clear that homosexuality was wrong and disgusting, but being…transgender…well that was deserving of a special place in Hell. Regardless of how hard you try to rebel against an upbringing like that, sometimes parts of it stick with you, like subliminal messaging.

But my attraction was undeniable. And it continued. The voice didn’t last too long though. Because on February 8th, we met again, with the same group. I was slowly (ha…) becoming addicted to her. I wished her a Happy Valentine’s Day, while secretly wanting to ask her to be my Valentine. Then on the 21st, she asked me out on a date.

Well, okay, I didn’t realize it was a date until about halfway through. I should have known though, because I was so nervous. Sweaty palms, shaky voice…the whole nine yards. And that was just while I was waiting for her to come pick me up. We went to the same bar where I held the door open for her. Over beers and some bar food, we talked. She touched my arm. And I came undone. When she brought me home, my stomach was full of butterflies, and I was convinced they started a mosh pit in there.

She dropped me off at my friend’s house and I practically ran inside. I was giddy and confused and excited…and I realized I had missed an opportunity to kiss her. I didn’t admit that to her until a few days later. But by that time we had both admitted our attraction, and she assured me I would get another opportunity to do so.

And I did. And it was glorious. You know how sitcoms used to joke about a kiss by showing fireworks going off? I used to wonder what that was like. But when I kissed her, I understood. It still happens when we kiss.

She asked if I would go to a doctor’s appointment with her. It was a particularly important appointment – the appointment that decided whether or not she would start her HRT. I was deeply touched and very honored. This was a big deal. And on March 14th, we made our relationship Facebook official.

She started hormones shortly after that, and while the changes have been subtle so far, I’ve noticed them. I’ve also noticed a growing confidence as she comes out to more and more people, and these people continue to throw their support behind her. And now, she’s celebrating her first birthday as Mira, the woman I’ve seen since I’ve met her.

One of the people I met that night said that of course I saw them as they were, because that’s all I had known them as. But that’s not true. You can put on clothes and makeup and hats and look like a man or a woman, but when you look into someone’s eyes, that’s when you see who they really are…who they’re supposed to be.

And when I look at Mira, I see this beautiful woman who is taking me on this amazing journey. I constantly fall in love watching her…the way she moves and her gestures. Her soft femininity, the strength in her eyes, the way I melt when she catches me watching and she smiles at me. I’m in love. Smitten. Head over heels for her. And it’s wonderful.

That voice? Oh that voice packed its bags long ago. I’m not confused. I don’t think I ever was. I think it was a fear of falling in love again, because I’d been hurt so many times before. Because when I look at Mira, I see the same beautiful woman I held the door open for back in January. And I find myself falling in love all over again.

She’s a blogger too. And she has such a beautiful voice. I know some of you have found her. But here’s a link to her blog in case you haven’t: http://miracharlotte.com/  She has some really incredible stories to share.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering how I remembered all the dates? I do have a good memory, but actually…I saved all the messages we’ve sent each other on Facebook. Every single one. Makes me smile to go back and read them.

Anyway…I love you, sweetheart. Happy Birthday!

 

 

 

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Jack Sprat could eat no fat. Apparently you shouldn’t ever, either. Ever.

The ideal body – the hourglass figure. Barbie had it in the 50’s. We spend so much time searching for the right mix of body parts when we know that in a few years, that ideal type is bound to change. And history shows us that it has. The website Viralnova reposted this blog from A Weighty Subject, depicting vintage beauty ads, along with the title ‘Here Are 18 Beauty Ads From The Past That Would Result In Mass Protests Today’. What’s disturbing is that while yes, the ads are incredibly aggressive and insulting, they aren’t that much different than what we see today.

old-ads7Ads like this are really no more insulting than a larger woman cramming herself into a Spanx because society has told her that her curves are unacceptable.

The wording is different, but the concept is still the same. The ads in the link range from telling women they’re too fat and need to lose weight and wear compression undergarments to telling women they’re too skinny and need to bulk up by eating ironized yeast. There’s even ads for clothing designed to make overweight girls appear thinner – and reference it as ‘Chubby Fashion’.

At one time, voluptuous women were desirable. Then skinny, size zero women were ideal. Back and forth, over and over again. And each time the ideal changed, you could guarantee an increase in eating disorders. Society continues down this path today, but the battle is much more fervent than it’s ever been.

Recently, a UK lingerie company, Bluebella, conducted a survey between men and women to get their ideal bodies. Here’s their results:

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So while it might not be acceptable to call some one ‘chubby’ or ‘fat’, clearly neither one are considered perfect. And obviously there is no living man or woman that is ‘perfect’, otherwise these diagrams wouldn’t have been Frankensteined together. I understand the idea of Darwinian aesthetics, but as humans, we rarely mate with the sole purpose of producing offspring anymore (despite what some people are saying when speaking out against same-sex marriage).

So why do we torture ourselves? The only acceptable body type you should be concerned about is the one you see in the mirror. If you aren’t happy with how you look, why is that? Is it because you want a slimmer stomach or more muscular arms? And if that’s the case, why? Because you’ll feel better about yourself? Or because you’ve been brainwashed into believing you have to look like one of the figures above in order to be desirable?

People ask me if I have a type. I don’t. Not a physical type, anyway. I’ve been with and loved women of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Eyes and smile, intelligence, personality – those things get me every time. The physical attraction just comes along with it.

Granted, being at either end of the scale can be very unhealthy. But the mental issues that come along with weight obsession can be just as deadly, and lead to you ending up at either extreme. My mom ruined her thyroid by constantly dieting. She robbed her body of necessary nutrients in an effort to hit that ‘ideal weight’, and ended up with hypothyroidism – ironically, a disease with a side effect of difficulty losing weight.

I’ve struggled with weight all my life. Taking corticosteroids made me retain water and balloon out to the point where I was convinced I’d burst. I’ve had friends who have struggled with eating disorders. We put so much focus on weight loss and body image. Reality shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “My 600 Lb. Life” show morbidly obese people in a last ditch fight for their lives. And when they show they can’t get on the path to that ideal body type, they fade from the camera and we never find out what happens to them.

Could you imagine where we’d be as a society if we put the same kind of effort into education, the environment, our children or our communities as we put into our struggle to achieve the perfect body?

I’m not saying that it’s unimportant to be healthy. But if you want to be healthy, do it for you. Not because an ad in a magazine made you feel inferior as a human being.

 

On a side note, I’m not entirely sure this particular ad should be condemned. Though if it does what I think it does, it would take more than five minutes for three days to achieve measurable results. Unless walking around with a smile on your face and a hitch in your step is considered measurable results…

old-ads12

Onions, lesbians, and layers.

Lesbians are like onions. Some really stink and others make you cry.

Okay, that’s not where I was going with that pearl of wisdom, but it at least caught your attention. It’s true though. Lesbians have layers.

There are some that seem to think my lesbian life consists of this:

Because, of course, this is what all lesbians look like
Because, of course, this is what all lesbians look like

And there’s others that think it looks something like:

Let's get one thing...ah...erm..*straight*...I'm not the super sporty type.
Let’s get one thing…ah…erm..*straight*…I’m not the super sporty type.

And still others think this:

Even if I did this, I'd be more likely to wear a pantsuit. I just look goofy in a dress.
Even if I did this, I’d be more likely to wear a pantsuit. I just look goofy in a dress.

But what is truly interesting is those who think that we partake in these varying events also want us to keep all of this in our bedrooms, where it belongs. Because obviously softball should be played in the bed. (Keep the euphemism to yourself…)

Every lesbian has heard of the butch-femme continuum. I’ve mentioned it before on this blog. It’s this scale that lists the varying gender identities among lesbians. It’s similar to the Kinsey scale in the varying extremes of how lesbians present themselves. It’s essentially a persona.

And because it’s a persona, it’s a bit harder to ‘keep it in the bedroom.’ I identify as a butch lesbian (that’s about as far as I get in the specifics of the continuum) and wear guy’s clothes, keep my hair short, and just generally present myself in a more masculine way. It’s what I find most comfortable, and it works for me. The way I sit, the way I walk, even some gestures and mannerisms lean more to the masculine side. These aren’t things I can just keep in the bedroom.

I won’t pretend to be something, or someone, I’m not. I won’t put on a dress or makeup because you can’t figure out if I’m a guy with boobs or an actual woman. I refuse to change the way I look so you feel more comfortable around me. I’m old enough to know what bathroom to use. I know I’ll probably be called ‘sir’ at some point. I know someone will unknowingly refer to me as ‘him’. I’m fine with that. It comes with the territory.

download (4)Being butch has its advantages and definitely has its disadvantages. I understand discrimination on a degree that most cisgender femme lesbians don’t. I’m more likely to be called out because of my appearance. Using a public restroom can sometimes play out like an episode of The Walking Dead.

 

Wait...butch lesbians use the women's restrooms??
Wait…butch lesbians use the women’s restrooms??

Most of the time though, I get looks of confusion if I don’t make it to a stall before anyone sees me, or when I’m up at the sink washing my hands. I’ve even gone so far as to mess with ignorant folk in a bar by using both restrooms.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but I do find myself amazed at how many people become members of the Potty Patrol when a butch lesbian walks into the bathroom. (That sounds like the start of a bad joke…) I’m sorry, but am I one of the few people that believe that most people use the bathroom for its intended purpose? It’s where you poop for cryin’ out loud. It’s not a single’s bar.

Okay, enough toilet talk.

I’m proud to be butch. I hold doors open (In fact, that’s how I met my girlfriend). I let others enter in front of me. I dress in vests and ties and wear fedoras. I like doing heavy work. I like being sexually dominant. I own a chain wallet, a pocket watch, and I shop in the men’s section at clothing stores. I have several straight guy friends who consider me ‘one of the guys’, and I love it.

I try hard not to subscribe to the stereotypes. I do have flannel patterns. But I don’t pair those flannel shirts with Birkenstocks. I don’t always wear a fauxhawk. I do own aviators, but I don’t pop my collar. I like beer. I really like craft beer. I don’t own a ridiculous amount of polos. I do however, own a pair of plaid shorts.

I wear my persona proudly. And when I walk into the women’s restroom, I do so with my head held high (even if it’s just so I can quickly assess the situation and make it to an open stall with as little visibility as possible).

I am a butch lesbian. I am an onion. And I will not hide my layers in the bedroom.

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“Not in my house.”

Depending on who you ask, homeless LGBTQ youth may or may not exist.

According to AM radio host Linda Harvey, homeless LGBTQ youth do exist, but not because their parents kicked them out. Rather, they exist because the teens stormed out in a tantrum of sorts:

“The teen storms out by choice and leaves voluntarily because the homosexual relationship is more important than that of his or her parents.

“And when that all-important relationship ends, the teen is too stubborn or already too involved in alcohol or drugs or the premature independence of the homosexual life and he or she would rather drift than return home.

“I’ve heard [it] far too often.”

I bet you have, Linda.

And if you turn to statistics, well, statistics say there are homeless youth, but finding absolute numbers is exceedingly difficult. A federal study in 2002 claims that there are 1.7 million homeless youth each year. And a study done in 2006 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Coalition to End Homelessness states that anywhere from 20 to 40% of all homeless youth are queer.

If those numbers are correct, then that means that roughly 680,000 homeless youth are queer.

To say that 680,000 queer youth are out on the streets by their own choice, of their own volition is not only preposterous, but it completely discredits any struggles and pain experienced by these kids. Yes, Linda, you may have heard of such instances, but I can assure you from experience, that kids are kicked out of their homes because who they are goes against the grain of who the parents want that child to be.

I should know. It happened to me. I’ll never forget my mom’s reaction when I came out to her.

“Not in this house. Not around my daughter.” In thirty seconds, my mom had absolutely crushed me as a human being.

“Not in this house.” Because my announcement of being a lesbian somehow suddenly tainted the house I grew up in.

“Not around my daughter.” Because my sin was so great it could reflect on the successes of my sister; therefore the only plausible solution was to disown me.

And I found myself without a home. Fortunately, I’ve managed to make it (somewhat) on my own since then. But not everyone is so lucky. The kids being put on the streets don’t have the life skills to always pull themselves out. There are resources out there, but honestly, who pays attention to the homeless? We see panhandlers out on street corners, with signs saying they need money for food, and we draw our own conclusions as to why they’re on the corner, and more often than we’d like to admit, we either turn away in disgust or do our best to focus on that red light, waiting impatiently for it to change so we can drive away and leave that awkward uncomfortable feeling behind.

But how often do we see kids standing on street corners?

“Gay and homeless, please help.” That’s one sign I’ve never seen.

Are these kids able to get some kind of education? Do they eat regularly? Have they succumbed to drugs and alcohol and prostitution to cope? What kind of a chance do these kids have to succeed?

And who is helping them?

Groups like the 40 to None Project, spearheaded by Cyndi Lauper and an offshoot of her True Colors Fund, bring awareness to the fact that there is a hugely disproportionate number of homeless queer youth. And there are homes out there, like The Ozone House in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Streetwork Project through Safe Horizion, in New York.

But there needs to be more awareness. These safe houses are in big cities where the homeless population is high and has high visibility. What about places like my hometown? I know there’s homeless here. I’ve seen them, but where are the kids?

And then there’s the intangible number of those kids that are afraid to come out because they don’t want to end up on the streets. Linda Harvey had something to say about that, too. She feels that queer youth shouldn’t come out to everyone, and basically should stay closeted until they can be straight.

(Keep in mind this is the same woman that says Jesus may be forced to marry a man when he comes back to Earth.)

So these kids struggle daily with an alter-ego of sorts, pretending to be someone they’re not because of a fear of losing their family, their friends, their home. I know what that’s like too. Before I came out, I was going down to the gay nightclubs and had to make up stories as to where I was really going.

Mom: “So where are you headed tonight?”

Me: “Oh, out to the club.”

Mom: “Which one? And with whom?”

Me: “Oh, The Crush. And I’m going with Stephanie (who actually did exist) and some guys from work. Mark, John, Paul, Peter.”

Eventually I was going down to the bar with the 12 Apostles and George Glass. That was when it was time for me to stop pretending. But I played that game for a while before it became too overwhelming for me. I’m a facilitator for the local LGBTQ youth group here, sponsored by our LGBTQ resource center. I’ve only been to two meetings so far, but it’s really opened my eyes.

For instance, the group wants to make a float for our Pride parade. Some of the kids are so afraid of being outed that they say they can’t work on the float. Others spend their time looking over their shoulders, as if everyone they’re afraid of knowing the truth about them are standing outside, peering in through the windows. This is unacceptable. These kids have enough to worry about as teenagers without having to add a queer catalyst to the equation.

“Not in this house.” These are words that these kids should never have to hear. To be told their own blood doesn’t see them as human or equal or acceptable – I can’t change the hateful actions of those parents, but I can offer shelter and guidance to those kids who are either already on the streets or at risk of being on the streets if they are true to themselves.

I’m working on creating a nonprofit organization, so I can establish a safe house here in my hometown for these kids. I’m calling on you for help with this. Because I’m pretty sure that those who read my blog and whom I call friends would never ever turn their kids away if they came out of the closet.

These queer youth deserve a chance to succeed. They deserve to be who they are, to explore who they are, without fear of feeling unloved and rejected.

When someone says, “Not in my house…”

I want to be able to say, “Welcome home.”

Edit: Here’s a related story, definitely worth reading…

If you have an interest or want to know more, please fill out the form below and I’ll get back in contact with you as soon as I can.

 

 

What To Do In Case of Lesbian

Earlier this week Jody Rosen, writer for numerous magazines including The Rolling Stone, tweeted a picture of a document he came across designed for a Women’s Studies 101 class. The document was from the late 1980’s (1988 to be exact) and outlined some appropriate responses for heterosexual women when they encountered a lesbian.

The document does have its snarkier aspects, however I’m inclined to believe that the creators of said document were of pure intent and non-snarkiness, which makes the following document that much more difficult to fathom. The paper provides 15 ‘tips’ on the appropriate responses that a heterosexual woman should have when coming across a lesbian.

Here’s the original document, which reads something like a survival guide:

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  1. If you encounter a lesbian in the wild, it is important not to run. Not only is it rude, but the lesbian may give chase. If you do run, and she does give chase, you fortunately have a few options. You can either run to the nearest Chick-fil-a  or shout out your loyalty to Rush Limbaugh. Either one should deter a charging lesbian.
  2. I agree, it is important to use discretion when backing away from a lesbian. They sometimes travel in packs, and backing up without discretion can put you in a very awkward position, perhaps up against another lesbian. Also, it’s important to avoid eye contact. Direct eye contact with a lesbian for extend periods of time can cause the lesbian to charge unprovoked, and could potentially turn the heterosexual woman into a lesbian. They can see your soul.

3-5.Do not assume anything when it comes to the wily lesbian. They can trick you into thinking they are attracted to you, or that you are attracted to them. The lesbian is a very manipulative creature, and is capable of making you feel things you’ve never felt before. Especially with a man. The lesbian also has a silver tongue, and will lure you in with the promise of the ever illusive orgasm. She will also make claim to be able to locate the mythical g-spot. It is imperative you do not fall for such fairytales.

  1. Lesbians only get excited about rugby, craft beers, and Shane from The L-Word. She will not think it a novelty that you are a heterosexual. Nor do you need to point out the fact that she is indeed a lesbian. The lesbian is very intelligent, and wouldn’t overlook such vital information.
  2. Conversations about men should be avoided in general. Most lesbians are members of another species – The Feminist. The Feminist vehemently hates all things male, so referencing a boyfriend or husband is not only absolutely unnecessary, but could also provoke the lesbian into a full charge. Also, they can smell your heterosexuality. It’s an ability referred to as ‘gaydar’ and is highly specialized. There is no need to insinuate your sexual orientation. The lesbian already knows.
  3. Men are not oppressed. Everyone knows this. The lesbian neither cares nor needs to be reminded.
  4. While it is true that not all lesbians hate men, it is a safe assumption to make that no lesbian desires phallic representations (standard equipment for some bachelorette parties) waved in her face. She is likely to attack if provoked in such a manner.
  5. When communicating with a lesbian, it is good advice not to ask her how she got the way she is. If you do so, you’re in for a long tale of an epic journey in a land far from here. A tale of another time, another place…a small shire in Middle Earth, the dark pull of a ring…and the struggle of a lesbian given an unimaginable task. Wait…I don’t think that’s right. Well, regardless, asking a lesbian how she got that way is about as absurd as asking you why you like dark chocolate and Zumba.
  6. The only truly valid point on this entire sheet. The label of ‘lesbian’ may be a reference to sexual orientation, but there is much more to who she is than what happens behind closed doors. Do not underestimate her experiences, her life, or any aspect of who she is.
  7. All lesbians do not want to be treated like men. They would much rather be treated like lesbians in lesbian porn.
  8. This is a given. Women are emotional creatures. When you put two lesbians together in a room, they’re either going to start a fire, or blow the place up while trying to start that fire.
  9. It is impossible to be friends with a lesbian. She will turn you into a lesbian. It’s similar to how vampires function.
  10. If you meet any woman named Mary, Pam, or Lori…they are lesbians. That is a perfectly safe assumption.

And if you want to be a lesbian for 24 hours, I suggest you just go ahead and plan a long-term transition.