Heart in Pieces

You came to me,

tearful,

like a child would,

their favorite toy

in pieces,

holding out your hands,

showing me

your broken heart.

 

I took the puzzled parts,

exchanged them for another,

mended,

its scars apparent

and thick.

 

And when you walked away

whole, and able to love again,

you never realized

that I had merely traded

your fractured heart in pieces

for the one

that was once

my  own.

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NC Legislature Passes ‘HateBill 2’

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. 

theautonomousbutch.wordpress.com

 

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. 

BD

Warnings and Regrets From the Dark

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.

TV Lesbian Deaths

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.

So, Nancy Reagan Died…

Nancy Reagan died over the weekend.

Please do not give her the ‘glory’ you all think she deserves.

You are hearing this from someone who was there…

Her anti-drug campaign was a fallacy based on an off-hand, dismissive comment that did not even begin to address the factors that young people faced in their every-day, working-poor lives. She flippantly told her handlers to “well, tell them to just say ‘no.'”

When AIDS reached our country, she, and her husband, the White House, the Nation, laughed and turned their backs as my friends died in droves, our communities decimated in a matter of months. No one deserves the lack of sympathy she and her husband showed us.

They left us out there, alone, because those homosexuals were not worthy of their concern.

I speak not just of the gay men whose deaths left holes in our hearts, but as a health care professional who honestly did not know if we would contract and die of AIDS simply because we touched the men who came to us, dying before our eyes so quickly, in days, weeks, and for reasons that we could not counter with any of the knowledge and medicines we had available to us at the time.

We did not know, but we touched them anyway, through gloved hands, our faces masked, our bodies covered with paper gowns that may, or may not, protect us.

My first AIDS patient was an eleven-year-old boy who had contracted the disease through a blood transfusion for a clotting-factor disease. His mother asked if she could touch him, hold him, as he lay dying, scared that she may contract the disease as well, but even more afraid that he would die alone, without knowing that she was there with him. And I honestly did not know, she knew that, but I said ‘yes’ anyway, knowing that he was all that she had and that neither of them deserved to be apart from each other in that moment.

It was a huge risk at the time, and she knew it, but she took it anyway.

She held him as he died, her tears falling on his face, risking her own health so that he would not die without her.

I will never forget that.

I will never forgive her, them, this Nation, for their callous indifference.

So please, do not glorify her. None of them deserve it.

Complacency Kills…

12/13/15

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

They had been prescribed for ‘situational’ depression. I’d been taking them for years. My ‘situation’ had not improved, nor would it. I don’t recommend this to everyone, certainly wouldn’t, without the guidance of their physician, but I knew that I shouldn’t, couldn’t, take them anymore.

“They’ve made me complacent,” I told my doctor.

I didn’t want to be complacent. Not anymore.

I have been ‘out’ since I was nineteen and moved away from home, spent ten years in a city that gave me what I needed, access to people ‘like me,’ followed by friendships, relationships, and activities that let me be true to myself, and therefore, true to everyone else, both on and off the job. I stayed ‘out’ when I moved to my parents’ town.

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, who are easily frightened by the slightest noises of the things they don’t understand, do not wish to comprehend, or even acknowledge.

I’m in a small, rural, southern town with no one to call my own. And no way of finding anyone.

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

And, I’m a little angry.

At myself, for letting so much time pass, for not leaving sooner, for the sake of a pay check. I’ve been here over twenty-five years, moving here in the year of my thirtieth birthday, when I realized that my parents had gotten ‘old,’ that, if I wanted to be with them again, I would have to join them in this backwards state. So, I did.

I lost my mother to cancer fifteen years ago. I had twelve years with her before I lost her, had spent nine of those years in a relationship with a woman, a relationship that had ended so, so badly, and when I returned to my parents, there was even less time left. A little less than two years with my mother. Another five with my father, but he was not my ‘hero,’ his bad choices had left me to claw my way through life, unable to afford both college and a roof over my head, settling for the roof. I had been angry at my mother, years ago, for not leaving him, for not breaking free from the vicious cycle of joblessness, indebtedness, that my father constantly brought upon us. She had carried us through, when my sister and I were teenagers, had somehow made ends meet. She could have done it alone, had been doing it alone, but she would not let go.

“Who will take care of him?” she’d asked.

In the end, when she died, I did. And I was angry about that. I was in Hell. Alone, in a small town, with absolutely no one, nothing to keep me sane. Except my job. The job I loved.

I am now the age my mother was when I moved here. I do not have much time left. I lost two work friends to sudden death in the last two months. They were my age, or close to it. If I’m going to be what I’ve always wanted to be, do what I’ve always wanted to do, I needed to get to work.

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

I had grown too comfortable with a job that, after sixteen years, I no longer loved, or even enjoyed. I was on the hamster wheel, running the same path, week after week, none of them distinguished by anything different, any one thing that would make that week any more defined from the others, by an event, or occurrence, or even a conversation outside of work.

After sixteen years, years that flew by, I’ve finally quit that job. Like all of my past relationships, it had become lop-sided, the job demanding more and more, for less and less, and if I complained, well, there’s the door. I should have left years ago, after my father died, but my job, my ‘lover,’ still loved me then, and I buried myself in ‘her.’

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

Thank god for computers. Thank god for the internet. Thank god for ‘chat rooms.’

I met a group of women on line, in a chat room, a group of women who were literate, thought-provoking, and funny. God, so marvelously funny. I spent my off-hours with them, all of us scattered across the world, but sitting in the same room and having conversations, good conversations, about life and loves in their worlds, books to read, shows and movies to watch, a group of women that only had one thing, really, in common, at least at first. We all loved women. That was what had brought us together, initially, this core group that played well together. I fell in love with them all, and I spent as much time as I could with them. At first, I’d sat quietly, just reading the conversations, but a topic came up that I had to comment on, so I did, and it was met with laughter, comments in return, and I was encouraged by their responses, joining in at will, less shy with each posting.

Over time, though, we were joined by more women who didn’t understand the things we were saying, could read the words but didn’t understand the context and the intent, were offended by remarks not meant to wound, and took it upon themselves to chide us for what they thought we were saying, what we hadn’t said at all, they were like children invading the grown-ups’ party, and the group, tiring of having to ‘explain’ nearly everything, fell apart, one by one.

I was alone again.

Then, later, thank god for websites that showed me what Life is like, ‘out there,’ now.

I was so far behind the times.

And I am still behind the curve when it comes to the world now. I am ashamed to say how antiquated my thinking was, may still be, to a degree, and I spend my time ‘catching up’ now, learning how far people like me have come ‘out there,’ how there are people that are not ‘like me,’ at all, with as much right to live their truest lives as I do. I am learning that there are groups of people who have found each other and created wonderful, all-inclusive websites that embrace that philosophy of living a genuine life, of finding their ways in a world that is not so black-and-white, male-and-female, as the world that I grew up in.

I am learning. Every day, I am learning. And, I am changing with it. I will be leaving this backwards, dispiriting, suppressing place, soon, I hope, and I need the education so that when I rejoin the ‘real’ world, I am not overwhelmed, like an island survivor who is rescued after thirty years and brought back to ‘civilization.’ Because that’s what I think it’s going to feel like. I don’t want to drown in the deluge of the world that I might find.

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

Sometimes, I wake up in the early, darkest hours of the morning. Far earlier than I ever had to when I worked. I am wide awake, staring into the darkness, excited about what I’ve done, excited with my plans, hopes, and dreams. I embrace the wakefulness, use it to my advantage, to work on my projects in the quiet, still darkness, turning out pages as my characters sometimes take over, defying what I want them to do or say, ‘going rogue’ and taking my story in a far different, but better, more honest direction. I love when that happens, it’s exhilarating when they push themselves against me, force me to sit still and listen to them, my fingers flying on the keyboard, as they tell the story their way.

Sometimes, I wake up in the early, darkest hours of the morning. And I am petrified, that what I have done is absolutely the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. Under the covers in the chilly darkness, I am convinced that I am being foolish, that what I’ve got to say isn’t worth listening to, that any book I write will never be published. My cats have taken to sleeping with me, they’ve never done it before, and the ‘Mama’ cat, a massive Siamese/tabby with crossed, stunningly blue eyes, who’s never had kittens but raised two like they were her own, has chosen to sleep next to me. She will sometimes feel my fear, will reach out to me, place a gentle paw on my forearm and purr her solace. Everything’s going to be okay.

Everything’s going to be okay.

Words to live by.

Words that I’ve said to countless people, their lives depending on me, and the staff who were with me, while we fervently worked to stop the pending death from happening.

“You’ve saved so many lives,” I was told when I resigned.

“Yes,” I said. “Now it’s time to save mine.”

I weaned myself off of my antidepressants four months ago.

Everything’s going to be okay.