The Closet

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…

Labels, Labels, Labels, I Made Them Up Today…

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.

Well.

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!”

Amirite?

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?

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.

Into the Darkness

01/14/16

Into the Darkness

I have just one more scene to write before finishing my first novel. I’ve put it off, more than several times, because it is the hardest one. It is one of my ‘stories,’ one of my own ‘Life’ events, and though my character is not me, the story belongs to this character as well. It is one of the hardest, because it is one of the darkest, and, in telling it, I’m am retelling it to myself. Reliving it.

I don’t want to go there.

If I am going to tell ‘Billie’s’ story, though, and tell it rightly, I have to go back, to that time and place, and I don’t know what I will find when I get there. Much like walking through the old forest in darkness, the trees rising up, casting shadows in the faint light of the stars, I fear the things that I cannot see, afraid that I will disturb something that has been asleep, and quiet, in the darkness. That I will ‘bring it back’ with me when I return here, to the present.

That I will bring its darkness with it.

There are people who no longer live in this world in the telling of it, and I do not wish to awaken them, my memories of them, because they’ve been gone from here for so long. Some of them I am glad that I will never see again, and some I have sorely missed in the here and now.

Billie, and her Lover, and their complete and undying Love as well, deserve to have the story told, it is the one that made her, that made them.

Tonight, then, is the night.

I will strike the match and put it to the wick, hold up the lamp, carry it, for them, for us, to light our way as we pass between the trees at the edge, their trunks a ragged wall as we slip between the cracks, to move through the darkness of the telling, and hoping, praying, that we emerge together on the other side, unscathed and with no more than what we entered.

Tonight, then.

We will go tonight.

The ‘War of Words’

01/04/16

The ‘War of Words’

I spent this morning reading articles on a very popular lesbian/queer website. It was addicting. One article led to another, and then another, and I suddenly realized that it was very nearly noon, and I had spent nearly three hours drinking coffee and reading, putting off the chores that I needed to do yesterday. More significantly, I had taken a large portion of that time reading the reader comments associated with those articles.

And this is where we will begin.

What I had wandered into, on that last essay, the one that had eaten up so much of my time, was a ‘War of Words’ from one very small group of readers towards, well, frankly, nearly everyone else. There were over two hundred comments on this essay that had been written by a staff member of this lesbian/queer website, an essay in which she told of her ‘coming out’ as a ‘lesbian’ only after she’d been married for a number of years and had had two children. There were quite a number of comments praising the essayist for the telling of her ‘coming out,’ for the bravery she’d displayed for having the strength to divorce her husband and live her ‘true’ life, with similar shared stories from a number of women who’d found themselves in that very same ‘closet,’ and had acknowledged, late, that they were, indeed, attracted to women.

Too late, apparently, for some (okay, a very small number- like, maybe, three) readers. And the following is what had started the ‘war.’

One reader was incensed that the essayist had the audacity to proclaim herself a ‘lesbian,’ especially after having been married and having children. The reader, presenting as a self-proclaimed ‘gold star’ lesbian, a woman who’d never slept with a man, had never been attracted to men, and most certainly, would absolutely never have children, took offense with the author’s use of the word ‘lesbian.’ The rift was based on the reader’s contention that the author absolutely could not be a ‘lesbian,’ that she was, frankly, anything but, though, more specifically, she was, in the least, ‘bisexual.’

That was the first shot fired. The argument lit up the thread as other readers got involved, and the original poster of the contentious remarks took offense to their defense of the writer, responding by becoming a typical internet troll, with comments spinning down, rather quickly, into inflaming remarks intended to wound those defenders, the readers, the website itself.

I read through them all, the ‘fors’ (those readers siding with the author’s use of the word) and the scant (though verbose) ‘againsts,’ with a feeling of deja’ vu. I have heard this argument before, in all its rage and glory over (too) many years (ahh, but with age comes wisdom, Grasshopper), and I have found myself leaning towards the ‘fors.’ That’s not why we’re here, though.

What struck me today, in thinking about what I’d read as I tended to my chores, is that I have heard this argument with regards to not being ‘ideal,’ or ‘gold-star,’ in a far different context and with far different words. The intent to ‘make less than,’ to diminish, though, was the same.

Bisexual.

Mudblood.

Okay, say what you will, but think about it. All right, yes, here is yet another lesbian making a Harry Potter reference, but in their individual contexts, the two words invoke the same visceral meaning. The ‘gold star’ lesbian used the word ‘bisexual’ as a slur towards a woman who was, for whatever reason(s), late in declaring her love of/for women, her lesbianism. The ‘gold star’ lesbian seemingly believed that including women who have had sex with men, have married men, have had children with men, would somehow dilute her own lesbianism in some (undefined) way. That belief in dilution is the same as the Slytherin House residents believing that ‘mudbloods’ dilute their wizard gene pool, and thus, their ‘power.’ In any case, the ‘bisexuals,’ the ‘mudbloods,’ must be dealt with, declared persona-non-grata, before they diminish the respective groups’ ‘powers.’

I call ‘bullshit.’

First, and foremost, the bigger we are, the stronger we are, the louder we are. The war on queers is heating up heading into the 2016 elections, and we need all the help we can get. Divisiveness amongst ourselves is not going to help further our causes. Remember, the Battle at Hogwarts was won because those loyal to all that was ‘right and good’ fought together, they didn’t splinter into self-satisfying exclusive groups that only defended themselves and no one else. It was ‘all for one and one for all,’ and dammit, that’s how we should be.

I am a full-blooded, warm-blooded, ‘gold star’ lesbian. I have known, all along, that I liked girls, that I love women, and I never faltered from that path. My journey has not been easy, but I also do not believe that ‘Life’ has been any easier for the women who did not, or could not, for whatever reason, or reasons, acknowledge their love for women, their true ‘essence,’ until later in their lives. I have shared my path with several of these women, and I can assure you that their struggle is real, that it can be painful to the point of anguish, and that it should never be discounted as less than it is just because it involves the opposite sex.

I will gladly welcome into this Life any woman who loves women. I will not fault you or penalize you for being late. It is your strength and resilience in getting here that I admire and respect, purely because you survived the trip.

You have the unencumbered right to live your truth. After all, you might well be the ‘brightest’ lesbian of your generation…