I’ve always been the second choice,
the one they’d leave for their
Until I met the one,
that special one,
who was so
faithful and so good,
that she would not leave her
I’ve always been the second choice,
the one they’d leave for their
Until I met the one,
that special one,
who was so
faithful and so good,
that she would not leave her
This closet of mine is empty,
and has been, for years,
balls of dust and detritus
rolling to the corners
when I open the door and look in,
confirming that it is truly vacant,
and there’s nothing left inside
that needs to be aired
in the light of day.
So, if it’s become too great a burden
and you want to let it go,
I’ll let you store your pain in it…
This is a piece on the NC Legislature’s recently-passed ‘Restroom Law’ that I had written in the week it was passed and signed into law. In the time since the passage of HB2, Gov. McCrory has attempted to back-pedal on the intent of the law, signing an Executive Order that tried, poorly, to ‘clarify’ the bill, resulting in a deeper pit of shit from which he cannot extract himself.
Over the past few weeks, this state has lost millions upon millions of dollars from the loss of a number of potential businesses, meaning a huge loss of tax dollars and jobs for under- and unemployed residents and vendors. It may also lose millions of dollars in federal aid, if it has not already, funds that impact a number of programs and businesses statewide.
Not that this state really cares about that. The Republican legislators prefer a large, poorly-educated voter base over an educated middle class, and that is reflected in the cutting of education funding over the past two decades. A full reading of the bill will also provide information as to what the legislature is actually hiding (and, in my opinion, the absolute and entire reason for the bill itself) regarding workers’ rights–they now have absolutely none in this right-to-work state, thanks to this bill, and attention is being deflected away from those actions with the ‘bathroom’ shenanigans laid atop them.
Admittedly, there are ‘pockets’ of liberalism in the areas surrounding the universities and the few larger cities in the state, with populations bolstered by out-of-state students and residents transferred in by large corporations. Not far outside of those cities, however, less than twenty miles in many places, are the rural areas where the majority population of the state reside. The area east of Raleigh, extending from state line to state line (a portion of the state I am extremely familiar with), is agrarian-based, where the ‘Religious Right’ is the ruling class, and is why this state is so deeply mired in the bigotry and contempt that has long been its history.
“Who needs dystopian novels when we can just read the news?”–this isn’t mine, credit to whomever it belongs…
I’m sad. And mad. And I am too damned old for this shit.
I live in North Carolina. I am a butch lesbian living in North Carolina. And I’m really, really pissed, but, strangely, not surprised by the heinous actions of the NC legislature. I have lived here long enough to know that this state has been heading in this direction for the past twenty years.
From “Complacency Kills:”
I’m in a small, rural, southern town in a ‘red’ state, a state that has a legislature comprised almost solely of white men who are trying to pass laws that would turn back time, take the state and, in their last, best hope, the country, back to the 1950s. They are trying to legislate my people back into the closet, and, being ‘female,’ back into the kitchen. Trying to legislate the poor back into the fields and the warehouses by gutting education funding. Trying to rig elections by passing the ‘first cousins’ of Jim Crow laws. Their ‘rule of law’ is based on the Bible, or rather, their interpretation of it, where they, as white men, are at the top of the heap, standing on the backs of the people who’d elected them, their sheep, easily frightened by the slightest noises of the things they don’t understand, do not wish to comprehend, or even acknowledge.
I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know if there are enough people in this state to turn this around, understanding that the world is not just as ‘black and white,’ ‘male and female,’ as so many here would like it to be. The legislation passed by the predominantly-Republican legislators literally undoes decades of fairness in employment laws and wages, as well as the ‘restroom issue.’ The deed is done, for now, and I believe that it is not going to change until an Appellate Court and/or the Supreme Court of the United States hears a case that challenges this law, either from here or from another state.
From the time I was a teenage lesbian in the ’70’s and, at that time, living in the State of Georgia, wearing the typical jeans, boots and flannel, I have always been a little nervous about using public restrooms. I was relieved when, on road trips, I would find myself alone in the ladies room of whatever fast-food restaurant or service station we’d stopped at, moving fast to get in and out without encountering another woman. When that was managed, I could literally feel the stress leave my body as I walked out. On the occasions when I was not alone, I would wash up and leave without making eye contact, except for a few glances that let me know that I was being suspiciously appraised, and found lacking.
On more than one occasion, when I was younger, I’ve had women, usually older, say, “Excuse me, this is the ladies’ room.” “Yes, it is,” I would reply, then smile. The looks I would receive following that were sometimes sneering, sometimes tight-lipped, but always disgusted. They were aware of my ‘femaleness’ after I spoke, but I wonder how many of them would have liked to tell me to grow out my hair, wear makeup, a skirt, hosiery, and heels, so that I would not look so ‘mannish.’
Today, however, I’m in North Carolina and, with those encounters in mind, I think that if a man was found in the ladies’ room, a man who entered said facility with the intent of doing harm to a woman, any woman he encountered would not be afraid to 1) call him on it, 2) give him a beat-down the likes he has not received since his mother or grandmother last whupped him. See, I know the women in this state and they work hard. They are tough. I just wish they believed themselves to be that way.
The NC Legislature believes, however, that ‘women and children need protection,’ that only they, as white men, can give them, from ‘bad’ decisions and ‘dangerous’ situations. And that is the plank this whole ‘restroom’ mess of hatred rests upon and hides behind; first, that men think women need ‘protection,’ and secondly, that men think women are only just above children in the Male Hierarchy of Human Value. This is a trope (I’ve heard this word more in the past month than I’ve ever heard in my life) that is perpetuated by the White Male Patriarchy (another term that I am thoroughly sick of), and it is drilled into little North Carolina girls’ heads from the time they are old enough to recognize the difference in the sexes. It is perpetuated from the start and, as these women grow up and move through their lives, it is reinforced from all sides by their church-based communities.
And that is what makes this fight so damn difficult.
Far too many women born and raised in this state seemingly believe that they need protection, not just from anyone not straight, white, and male, but also from themselves, as seen in the ‘War on Women’ regarding birth control and abortion. These women are given no faith in their own ability to make decisions for themselves, and they acquiese to the whims of their ‘betters’ on every matter in contention, letting ‘the men’ make laws regarding their bodies and their lives, with only a few taking a stand against them for themselves. Incredibly, there are women in the NC Statehouse, holding high office, who rgularly vote with their male counterparts to pass such atrocious legislation, siding with the oppressors of all beings not white and male.
It is a present-day Stockholm Syndrome compounded by a real lack of education, both scholarly and worldly, and the nationwide scholastic testing results bear this out. Admittedly, these are harsh words, and I’ll insert the required ‘Not-All-Women’ here, but I see and interact with these people every day, as I have for the past twenty-five years. I make this point to say that far too many of the women born and raised in this state have and will vote in the same manner as their straight, white male fathers, husbands, and pastors, because they truly believe what they’ve been told their whole lives–that they are only being ‘protected,’ that whatever ‘it’ is, it is ‘for their own good.’
How gallant of these straight, white males.
I don’t know how to ‘fix’ that, either.
I can only hope that North Carolina will be where the LGBT Community and its supporters take a stand, in a way that mirrors the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro in the 1960s. The predominately-white male NC State legislature needs a reminder of its own history, because they obviously did not learn it well enough the first time.
Still, once again, because of this mess, I suspect that I will be closely scrutinized when I use any public restroom in the State of North Carolina. I believe that an altercation is far more likely to occur, given that the white male population, old and young, righteous and ‘in charge,’ will use this law as permission to put their hands on me and demand that I prove my ‘birth sex,’ in whatever way they may deem necessary in that time and place.
Ignorance and fear make people do terrible things…
Thankfully, there have been calls for ‘sit-ins’ and lawsuits have been filed by several groups to seek relief from the courts but the law essentially stands as it was written, even with Gov. McCrory’s hastily-written, changes-nothing Executive Order. Some may protest the claims I have made above, that women are ‘brainwashed’ into believing they are unable to determine what is ‘right’ for themselves, to make their own ‘Life’ decisions, and that people who believe in the full intent of HB2 allows them to physically stop me, or anyone else they may decide is using the ‘wrong’ public restroom, but I stand by my assertions and words, determined by my own interactions and observations, and by the actions best displayed by Trump enthusiasts at his rallies. They are all of the same ilk.
ALSO: In addition to noting that women had voted for this bill (following the Republican ‘party’ line), I was also truly shocked to learn, nearly ten days after the bill’s passage, that this group of cowardly legislators, working quickly and in the dark, also included eleven Democrats, six of them male, elderly, and black. This was left out of nearly every news account I had read up to that point. I found the information in an op-ed piece and the writer speculated that the Democrats’ votes were cast at the behest of the pastors of their respective churches, but I still find it amazing that, within that group, is a once- and still-oppressed minority that would willingly turn on another, and do so ‘in the name of Jesus.’
Or, maybe I should not be so naive, that these men would so quickly forget their own history in this state, or perhaps bigotry only exists when it is levelled directly at them. The Human Race has long had a ‘Hierarchy of Value’ when it comes to the people who comprise it, using skin color and religion as its quide to ratings’ worth. I find it disturbing, though, that an elected official would be so quick to discount another human’s value at a time when everyone not white and male is trying to ‘matter.’
I am quite sure that this entire piece will truly offend some people, but they should only be as dismayed and disturbed as I was when this legislation was passed and I was made aware of those behind it. I know that I should not fear my government but, given the circumstances, I have no reason not to, as both a worker and a lesbian.
My regrets are long,
and have sharp teeth,
nipping at my ankles
as they dart and skitter about,
jostling and romping with my grudges,
nestling against them at night
I know them by their colors,
the older ones greying
as they lose their new blueness
All different, but
answering to a single name:
Shoulda, Shoulda, Shoulda…
This old North-South highway has been a part of my Life
twice now, I’ve lived on its edges
but in different places, different States,
Sometimes, when it’s late
and I’m tired, sorrowful,
if I was to stand looking down that southbound lane,
would I connect with that girl,
the one who, in the dark heat
of that summer night long ago,
paused on its asphalt,
and looked North,
her hopes stretched out like that ribbon of road,
Or has too much time passed
to catch even a glimpse.
Okay, so I’m older than most, I’m not the Demographic Everyone is Trying to Nail, I’m more like the crazy-cool aunt you always liked hanging with because I’m up on all the shit and I always had the best shit, so…
I’ve spent way too many years in a back-woods, throw-away town in the southeastern part of the United States, so many years working and taking care of things and being a ‘good adult’ that when I finally did have a chance to put my head up and look around…well, a lot can change in ten, fifteen years.
And, a lot doesn’t.
Mostly what I’ve found, mostly, is that there are a lot of labels out there. And young people love labels! They’re labelholics, really, some of them are multi-labelled, no, actually, a lot of them are multi-labelled. Anyway, at its most basic, it’s like when we asked, years ago, “what’s your sign,” and what it amounts to is this: it still breaks down to ‘I am attracted to women,’ ‘I am attracted to men,’ ‘I am attracted to men and women,’ and ‘I am not attracted to anyone in that way, at all, ever.’
Feel free to add any more distinquishing labels to the above groups to determine your ‘Life as it Pertains to You.’
I’m not knocking this. This is great. It’s so great that even the older people have adopted labels. Labels make it so much easier to figure out if we should even continue spending any more time talking, or should we just go our separate ways, or should we just go on to having sex because we’re completely compatible.
Actually, the first woman I dated, once I rejoined the living, told me she was ‘pansexual.’
Uhm, okay…I had no idea what she was saying. I had to take a minute and google it on my phone, because, hey, I didn’t want to appear stupid but, at that moment, I was stupid.
And, let me also just take a minute to thank Urban Dictionary and its lovely contributors for educating me in All Things I Have Never Heard of Before in my Life.
So, okay, pansexual. Cool. Whatever. At least I know that I’m in the running…
We didn’t hit it off completely, though, in ways that I don’t need to detail, just know that there are still personality flaws–I mean…differences, that are insurmountable. That, and weirdly, she was born in the same midwestern Ohio town that my family lived in, in the same few years that my family lived there, and I honestly froze when I heard that because I did briefly wonder about the possibility that she and I could be half-sisters, since my father was a bounder, and how ‘yick’ would it be for a lesbian and a pansexual to date and eventually sleep together if they shared the same father.
Yeah, I thought so, too.
So, first date over, got my toes wet, let’s see what I can get into next.
I attended my nephew’s wedding last summer. First of all, I hate weddings. Always have. In this particular instance, though, it was because I knew that, with the people invited, my reputation would precede me (and I have no intention of detailing any of that here except to say that she left her husband of her own volition), and I really did not want to reignite that whole mess. This was about my nephew, though, not me, I really had no choice, my sister would have killed me if I didn’t go.
I wasn’t ready to die.
I shared my distress with my crew of girls at work, and one tried to cheer me up with the comment that ‘maybe you’ll shag a bridesmaid.’
“At my age, it would be more like a bridesmaid’s mother,” I replied.
She laughed and agreed (damn her) but then qualified her first statement with “unless you find one into May-December relationships.” I looked at her, blinking, realizing that, in this scenario, I was the ‘December.’
“Fuck you,” I said.
“Jus’ sayin’,” she replied.
So, I attended the wedding and, sho’ nuff, got hit on by one of the bridesmaids’ mothers. Well, I’m not entirely sure she was actually hitting on me but she made sure I had a list of all her labels. I wouldn’t have thought she’d have more than one or two, but her list was fairly extensive. I mean, I could practically pinpoint her location on the Big Map of Demographics that political strategists routinely use when they’re canvassing cities and counties for their candidates.
And I’m not complaining. Really. She was witty and charming, could tell a good tale, and she absolutely knew who she was and what she stood for. After forty-five minutes and a shot of tequila with a beer chaser, I knew who she was, too.
She was Involved. Like, every day, all day long. I had met a rare bird in this area, a ‘radical feminist’ who ran her own flower shop, and had raised three kids on her own after throwing her ‘worthless husband’ out on the street for not keeping a regular job and putting ‘huntin’ and fishin’ ahead of his family. She was proud of herself, hell, I was proud of her, proud to know her, but I had to wonder if she took everything in her life as a challenge. She seemed to approach everything as a ‘Fight to be Won,’ but I was in her corner from the start. She was so forthright, though, as I’m sure she’d had to be to get the things she had in her life, but I’m fairly easy-going and I wasn’t sure that I could keep up that Level of Intensity all day, every day.
So, I took her number and we had lunch a week later. That was less intense, but we still had some issues (kids, raising kids, sending kids to college…) but in the end we decided that ‘lunch’ was ‘a thing we could do’ on occasion. And that’s what we do, especially when we’re approaching an election season and I want to talk politics with someone who isn’t staunchly old-guard Republican.
Okay, so, last one…I chatted with a twenty-six year-old who was smart (she could actually spell), funny, and determined to meet me, even though I explained that I was far too old for her. She asked something I hadn’t heard in years, asked if I thought people would think I was ‘robbing the cradle.’ I said “No, I think people would think you’re robbing the grave.” She laughed, as best one can in writing, and went on to give me her ‘deets’ which were: non-binary genderqueer, polyamorous, bipolar (but medicated and stable), vegan.
The only way I could reply to that was, “Hey, well, that’s great! You Do You!”
Because, shiiit. What the hell does all that mean? Well, what it meant was, because she was persistant, and funny, and smart, I met a skinny little dyke in a Denny’s off the four-lane that connected our towns. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, she reminded me of a friend of mine when I was a teenager. That girl was a misunderstood kid who didn’t quite know what to make of herself, either, but she was my friend and I paid attention to her as best I could because, in the end, that was all she really wanted, or needed, for that matter.
After about an hour of talking about a number of things too superficial to recall, I paid for my new little friend’s fruit plate, patted her on her cute little snap-backed head, and high-tailed it home.
So, I’m still in this backwater town, still looking to find my way out, but I have the Internet, I have a solid, working knowledge of all of the current Labels, and I have learned so much about Life in the Real World. I have learned, most simply put, that I am a Curious Butch Lesbian willing to listen to anything you want to share with me.
And I’ll try, really hard, not to judge…but…really? Really? That’s what you’re going with?
I want you to know who I am, that this all begins with a kiss, I will leave you, I have no choice. I leave everyone I love. Don't tell me I can change, there are far too many years that will deny that. So if you take me at my word, I will give you a love that is endless, and never-lasting. You say you willingly accept the loneliness coming, for this taste of love tonight, Understanding that I will turn your Life in a way that cannot be reclaimed. I'm telling you to run.
I am too fucking old for this.
It would seem that there have been ‘contracts’ taken out on lesbian characters currently on television, and ‘They’ (aka the Television Conglomerate of the Free World) are killing them off, one-by-one, in the most ‘trope’ ways possible. There have been eight lesbian deaths on television since the beginning of the year, and this is only March!
Did the Television and Media executives have a secret meeting to discuss this? In my mind, I see a room filled with straight, white males of varying ages, wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth, saying, “Well, they’re allowed to marry now, something’s gone wrong, it has to be the way we’ve been representing them. They’ve become too happy, too self-assured, we must do whatever it takes to break them and push them back down.”
“I know what to do,” speaks up one. “First, let’s kill them all off.”
“Yes,” says another. “This all started when we put them in our shows and movies, when we made them seem ‘almost human.'”
“You’re right,” another joins in. “None of this would be happening if we hadn’t been so kind to them, letting them think they’re worthy of existing in our world. Let’s do this. Let’s kill the ones that are there, and then, if we must have them in our shows, we will only show them as ‘defective’ and ‘sick.’ You know, the way it used to be.”
“Agreed,” shouts the group. Unanimously.
So, here we are. Again.
How do we counter this? I love your passion, I really do, but we can all ‘tweet’ until we’re blue in the face, we’ll have a few more articles written by several more International papers, maybe several ‘world-wide’ magazines, but to what end? After a few weeks, when the furor dies down, well, there it is. It is no longer ‘newsworthy,’ it is no longer a ‘hot topic,’ and everyone moves on. Back to ‘business as usual,’ until another lesbian buys a bullet, or an arrow, or a car crash, stabbing, poisoning, fall while rock-climbing…then the process repeats itself and here-we-go-again.
What if we stage letter-writing campaigns to the advertisers? Boycott their products? Do you think they honestly care? Has anyone heard Proctor & Gamble make any statement siding with us? Do you think they’ll shed real tears if you tell them you can live without their Tide laundry detergent? Has any other national or international corporation come out on our side, expressed their condolences or spoken against the manipulative and hateful behavior that’s come from the networks-in-question, or the ill will from those who believe that because we’ve been ‘represented,’ we have no reason to complain?
Of course not. It would be ‘bad for business.’ They ‘could’ lose consumers from the ‘other side,’ the Million Mother-whatevers, the majority of their market share. It could lead to ‘burnt bridges’ with the Media Conglomerate itself, where ‘They’ could diminish a company’s ability to advertise, or, possibly, force them to pay higher costs as punishment for their support.
So, where do we go?
First, let me propose this: turn off your TVs. Don’t watch ANYTHING. No shows, no news, no weather, nothing. Granted, it won’t do a damn thing to their ratings because you are not their primary audience. The point is, you are not going to find anything worthwhile for yourself there, nothing that will make you feel good so…just…STOP. Hell, unplug the damn thing.
Secondly, go online. Everything you could possibly want or need is there. There are some great websites out there, in every flavor you can imagine. If you have to watch something, YouTube has some pretty good series going on that deserve more viewers (looking at you, CARMILLA), and you can actually tailor your searches to your own ‘likes.’ Anything you want, I’m pretty sure you’ll find it, or something close to it. Or, seriously, start your own show. I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff from people who have no association with Mass Media Conglomerates doing some really neat things out of their own kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, garages, shot with an iPhone.
Read a f*cking book. Use your own imagination. You’d be surprised at what your mind can conjure on its own. There are a lot of great books out there, with all kinds of people in them. That’s what PUBLIC LIBRARIES are for! Thank you, Ben Franklin! Free books!
Write a book. Write your own story, with your own characters tailored to you and your goofy crew. You don’t have to be perfect, just get the words down to start, share them with your friends. Hell, write fan fiction and put that on the web. Who knows, maybe someone’ll share your story with a friend, who shares with another friend, who shares with someone in the ‘business’ and suddenly, you’re talking to editors and oh, hell, how far can this go!
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The point I’m trying to make is that they, the ‘mainstream media brokers,’ don’t care about us. They never have. We are not their ‘target demographic.’ We have little-to-no representation in the offices and on the sets. While those from our ranks that are there do what they can to help our cause, their jobs are their livelihoods. They are not likely to go toe-to-toe with the showrunner about minority representation and storylines without cutting their own throats in the process, with the threat of ‘never working in this town again’ from someone who could do just that, in the insular little swamp that is ‘Hollywood.’
I am heartbroken, not just for myself, but for all those young and younger people out there who’ve been manipulated for ratings, been lied to, cheated, then cast off by showrunners and media executives who didn’t give ‘a good goddamn‘ about the people they used and abused to further their own objectives and careers. Don’t give them the opportunity to do it to you again.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me every damn time we play and I’ll quit your sorry ass. I know you don’t care, but I will not be hurt by you again.
I will not watch you perpetuate the myth that ANYONE WHO IS NOT straight, white and male, between the ages of eighteen and thirty-six, deserves a ‘less-than’ world, a ‘less-than’ ending to their story.
You can take that to the bank.
I was cold, like glass, when I was young, fragile enough that my sign was ‘Do Not Touch.’ I made love, it wasn’t a mutual exchange, not to her, them, but my head told me otherwise.
One, managing to chip that glass, reached in, ran her hands over my smooth surface, and I cracked under her touch. I broke into a thousand pieces with her and when she left, I gathered up all that I could, pieced myself back together, swore that it would not happen again.
I am sure that there are pieces of me still scattered over this world.
Now, though, there is not as much of me as there had once been, and I hold what’s left all the more closely.
I watched as the boxes were unpacked, decades-old and carted around with all the other things. Pulled from deep within, the shoes of my youth, still stained with the orange clay of those fields.
I remember those shoes. I remember those fields.
I remember you.
And it’s warm, the air is full of fever and promise, the sun casting long shadows through the pines on the edges. We race for the ends, cheers from the sides, our girls watching and chatting and smoking, applauding the points and the sharp turn-arounds.
We ran those fields the way we ran our days, fast and looking to score.
And I remember you.
Your smile, the shine in your eyes as you followed us, laughing, so happy to be where we were.
That is where I leave you.
So that I won’t remember you anywhere else.