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.
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.
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.
Well, you went looking for something and you thought that I was what you were looking for, and when you realized I wasn’t, you put me down, you just left me there, nowhere near where you found me and I’ve been trying to get back there ever since. But I can’t go back, no one can, we’re either picked up by another and we move on, or we pick up someone else and move on. Either way, no one gets to go back, we’re all just moving, or being moved, farther away from where we started.
And the only way to stop this is to reach out and grab on, dig in to wherever we are, and never allow ourselves to be picked up and moved again. We dig in, hold tight and then we’re alone, because it’s the only way to stop being moved farther away from where we really want to be. And all any of us ever really want, have wanted, in the end, is to go home. To just…go home…
I have always asked first, before I did anything with a girl. And that always seemed to surprise them, because I don’t think anyone ever asked them before, if it was okay to kiss them, or touch them, and I know, now, why they were surprised. They’d always been, just, objects before and now they weren’t, they had a right to say yes or no, to give permission for the privilege of touching them, and some thought it was sweet, and some thought it was weird, and one girl cried, softly, because no one had ever….
I don’t know how to explain this, I won’t apologize for it even if it makes you uncomfortable, and I certainly don’t want you to think that I’m some strange stalker of poets, but the words you’ve strung together will suddenly spring to mind, maybe from something said, or because it’s quiet, brief snatches of words and images set off like bombs in my brain, resonating in my head. Filmed through your eyes, the scenes appearing as remembrances, not well-lit and quick.
We’ve lived different lives, nothing alike but still the same, yours was mine as we both grew up, separated by distance and time. I would recognize you across the ages…
Poetry is not my ‘thing,’ I do not actively seek it out, but I am drawn to yours and there’s been only radio silence, nothing new from your world, leaving me to wonder if all is well and hoping to hear from you soon.
“Where are your books?” she’d asked, as she entered my living room for the first time, taking a look at the books in my bookcase.
“My books? They’re right there,” I answered.
“No, I mean your books-on being gay, on how to be a lesbian,” she answered.
“What?” She didn’t understand why I’d laughed.
“There aren’t any.”
“There aren’t any books? On being a lesbian?”
“Do you mean like “So You Think You’re a Lesbian?”
“Well, okay, yeah.”
“There aren’t any.”
“No. Well, the only thing I ever read growing up was ‘Rubyfruit Jungle,’ but that was years ago, and I really didn’t think it was very good.” In fact, I remember thinking that I could be a writer if that book could be published. That I could tell a better story. The reality was, I didn’t ‘get it’ then, as a teenager, how truly important that book had been, in that day and time, that its merely being published was an achievement in itself.
The thing is, I never really looked for an outside source to answer any questions I had about loving women. None of my friends did, either. Mostly because we didn’t have any questions. What was there to ask, really? As a teenager, I had crushes, had dates to dinner, movies, followed by hot make-out sessions, like every other teenager in the world, I just had them with girls who were ‘like’ me, or weren’t, but wanted to kiss a girl, to discover what they needed to know about themselves. What we did amounted to ‘field research,’ studying what worked, and what didn’t, ‘out there’ for ourselves.
I don’t remember questioning anything about being ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ or a ‘dyke,’ which I was, so totally and completely that I got ‘sir’d, a lot (and although it was uncomfortable, for a few short minutes, for the person who’d said it, and for me, I secretly appreciated it). I didn’t question myself because ‘introspection’ was not a word used much, if at all, by anyone, back then.
So, I had no books on being a lesbian. Years later, I still didn’t think that there were any.
She wanted to check for herself.
We went to one of the major retail bookstores, found the ‘lgbt’ section, which amounted to maybe three shelves between the Social Sciences and Psychology sections. Most of the books were gay-male related, or were porn, books of hot fucks written to titillate, but none of them were designed to answer her questions.
Oh, for god sake.
“Then, how am I supposed to…how do I…”
“What. What do you need to know about?”
“I want to know ‘why.’ Why I’m attracted to you. Why I would even consider having a relationship with you. I don’t…I’ve never had crushes, not any on women, at least, not before now, I like men, I don’t ‘not like’ them, what does that make me, besides confused?”
“Look, I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. I don’t know why you’re attracted to me. You wanted to know my ‘story,’ and I told it to you, and, ever since then, you’ve, I don’t know, been even more interested in me, and I don’t know why. My story isn’t any different than anyone else’s, I’ve had relationships, some died of neglect, some exploded because of cheating, one was based solely on my lover’s narcissistic personality. The only difference is that they all involved women. You could substitute men in the telling of it, and then my story would be just like, well, any of yours.”
“But, when you were ‘young,’ (I shot her a look) “okay, ‘younger,’ didn’t you wonder? About why you were, about why you liked…like women?”
“What I remember, mostly, was that when I kissed a woman, I felt like it was the most natural thing in the world, that I was right where I was supposed to be. After that, there was nothing to question. And while I know that people thought that my loving girls was wrong, what I didn’t know was that people also thought I was ‘mentally ill,’ and should be hospitalized, put in an institution, based only on the fact that I loved girls, I didn’t know that I could not be hired for a job, or not be allowed to live somewhere, in an apartment or someone’s rental house, also based on my loving girls. I didn’t know that.
“And, maybe that was good, though. I mean, if I had known all of that, would it have made me afraid? To even try to do the things I’ve done? I think it would have only made me mad, frankly, and I already had enough things that made me mad. Like, I was only supposed to want to be a secretary, or a nurse, or a teacher, that those were my only options for a career, for a life. I didn’t think about my loving women as even being an issue, that ship had sailed, I really never thought about it, compared to what I was going to ‘be’ in my life. I had more ‘important’ things to think about.”
When I was seventeen, my best friend had introduced me to an older friend of hers, ‘Charlotte,’ and, apparently seeing something in me that I did not acknowledge, at that time, she did her best to educate me about ‘all things lesbian,’ things that she wanted me to know about. To take an interest in. Talking about the Daughters of Bilitis, showing me her issues of ‘The Ladder,’ sent to her from San Francisco. This was in the mid-1970s, and that was the only ‘print’ information I had ever seen about lesbians, all that I would see for a very long time. Sadly, though, I was really ‘just a kid,’ with minimal ‘real life’ experience, and I couldn’t relate to the things that she was telling me.
In a side note: Charlotte, I wish I’d been a better student. A better listener. Had asked more questions. Had appreciated what you were trying to share with me, by introducing me to and trying to encourage my ‘political interest’ in being a lesbian. I didn’t realize the ‘history’ of all of that at the time, that you were trying to tell me what the hell was really going on in the world, that we were considered ‘degenerates,’ ‘perverts,’ ‘sexual deviants,’ that the material you were showing me was ‘contraband,’ in a way that the pot we’d smoked was, and was not. I understand it now, and I have for some time. So, thank you. I’m sorry for not ‘getting it’ then.
So, she found a few, though not exactly choice, books, and she left them at my house, to read when she could, trying to educate herself as to why she was attracted to me. I looked at them, thumbed through them, read some of the anecdotes written by women who’d suddenly, unexpectantly, found themselves drawn to a ‘lesbian,’ a ‘butch,’ a ‘dyke,’ but none of them seemed to know why, either. The stories just detailed how they’d met, what they’d gone through to be together, some relationships not surviving, for various reasons, but none of the stories were actually ‘educational’ to her in the sense that she could pinpoint just why she was attracted to me.
Those books would come years later, after we’d moved on from each other, when people were less guarded, less private, about their lives and the ‘sex researchers’ could perform studies, then publish their findings on ‘human sexuality’ without losing their funding or their positions in universities or medical schools due to the ‘immorality’ of the research they were conducting.
Today is so much better than when I was growing up. There are books for lesbians, and for many others on the sexuality scale, how-to-‘s, so-you’re-a-‘s, and so on, along with websites that offer far more information on an amazing multitude of topics. Surprisingly, though, or maybe not, in this age of lightning-fast information access, some lesbians, and others, expect more, searching for books that speak to them, to their own ‘blend’ of who they are, their personal demographics. They don’t understand why “there aren’t any.”
The point is, just three or four decades ago, there weren’t any books at all, for any of us. That may seem like ‘ages,’ in this day and time, but it’s not, not really, when the printed word has been around for only about five hundred years.
So, if a lesbian, or anyone else on the spectrum, wants a book that speaks specifically to her own personal ‘take’ on the world, and “there aren’t any,” well, she’s going to have to wait until it’s written.
Or, she could write it for herself. For the next girl like her.
I spend hours,
then, whole days are lost.
Reading others’ stories, feeling their poetry,
sometimes offering my love
by repeating their words back to them,
that caught my attention,
sharing love in the form of ‘like,’
to give them encouragement,
I went to college, several times, but
Life got in the way.
I spend my time now, on sabbatical,
mending this life,
by immersing myself in their words,
learning from them,
with only scholarly appreciation
for the collected works of the masses.
No regrets, then, for those whole days lost
in the thoughts of others.
This is my education,
as I write my own dissertation,
consuming the works that show me the world,
through the minds of others,
providing the view.