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Archive for September, 2012

I was told many times in my life I would never be a success, I believe the phrase was: “You’ll never amount to anything.”  I heard it so often, I started to believe it. My parents never encouraged me, never pushed me, never expected great things from me, in turn I didn’t expect great things from me either.

How does one measure success? Is it by how much money you have? How many children you have? How many times you have or haven’t been married? How many friends you have? What sort of work you do? Where you live? What kind of car you drive? Where your place is in society?

Or

Is success measured by who you are as a person?  Is it the amount of friends you have or the quality and the character of the people you choose to call your friends? Is it the amount of money you have or how you choose to use the money you do have?  Is it whether or not you have a job or how you choose to spend your time being a productive member of society?

And

Is success measured by where you come from or where you end up?  Is it by what you were told as a child, or what you say as an adult? Is it by the family you were born in to or the family you chose to end up with? Is it being stuck in the mud of “You’ll never amount to anything” or is it living your life free of secrets and lies?

I don’t measure the success of my writing by how many columns I write, how many people read my blogs, or how many articles I get published.  I measure my success by the emails I receive from people who read my words and are helped out of a very dark and lonely place and by the people who read what I write and are changed by something I said. I feel most successful when someone simply says: “Thanks for writing this.”

I measure the success of my life by the fact that Susan decided to share her life with me. By my friends who don’t judge me but instead just love me. By Susan’s children who have accepted me as another Mom who loves them and now trust me to be a part of their lives. By my grandchildren who simply know and love me as Grandma Barbie, and have learned that I am the Grandma who will cave first!

If success is defined as a favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; then my life as it is at this moment in time – is most certainly a success.

How do you measure success?

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You all know that Chick-fil-A will never end their contributions to anti-gay organizations, right? You know that no matter what they may say and however they change the wording in their comments, money from the customers will continue to flow to the anti-gay Christian groups bent on saving America, right?

It’s not about the chicken or that cute little cow in their commercials; it’s about what it’s always been about – hating on the gays.

They may say things like: “… the Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We are a restaurant company focused on food, service and hospitality; our intent is not to engage in political or social debates.”

This many sound all politically correct but what I see when I read this is the following: “Chick-fil-A will be more than happy to take your money no matter who you are, but – we will use your money regardless of your belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender against you if we deem you a scab on the face of humanity.”

I’m just wondering how the president of the company’s remarks about gay people falls in the not engaging in political or social debate category.
It’s not about how well they train their staff to treat their customers that matters to me. What matters to me is where my money goes after the fact. Yes, I’m aware that once my money goes into their cash register it is no longer my money, which is why I have chosen to not give them any of my money – ever again.

They state the following:

“The Chick-fil-A Corporate Purpose is: To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”

See this is where they lose me. I don’t believe that you glorify any God when you send money to keep a certain portion of God’s people from having equality. And – if this is the God that you spend your money and time glorifying – then I don’t believe you deserve my money.

Let me be clear – not all Christians are these hate-filled, anti-gay types of people. Some actually do believe in the teachings of Jesus when he stated that we were to love one another. Still, we need to understand and acknowledge the hatefulness of those who say they are Christian and yet follow the road that leads to hate, racism, discrimination and inequality all under the guise of glorifying their God.

Chick-fil-A is not going to change. They will change the wording to get what they want, and they may change the way the money gets funneled to groups like Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defense Fund, but know that the money will find its way to these anti-gay organizations. They believe that this is what their God wants them to do – what their God actually demands them to do, so they will continue to discriminate “to glorify God.”

To those of you who say: “Hey, I’m not homophobic, and I’m going to keep buying the chicken and the waffle fries and those shakes.” I say: “Hey – that makes you a person who is contributing to organizations that are anti-gay, and that makes you a hater. Enjoy your chicken combo.”

To those of you who say: “Hey, it’s only chicken.” I say: “Hey – it’s only love.”

To those who say: “Hey, they aren’t stopping you homos from walking in the door and buying the chicken.” I say: “Well – I don’t really know what to say that would be intelligent and lady-like.”

I’ll leave you to say it for me.

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I understand we all have problems in our lives. I also understand we all have different lives. We come from different places, different experiences, different families, and different places in time.

What I don’t understand is that we all don’t want something a little better than what we had.

I grew up in a town and a family that was white, mostly republican, Christian, and had little tolerance for things that were not considered ‘’American.”  Things like blacks and gays and democrats. It wasn’t just that we didn’t discuss these things; it was like they just didn’t exist. And if they did exist it was simply to ruin all that was right and good about America.

When I was growing up, there wasn’t a single person in my family, in my church, in my town I felt I could talk to about these feelings I was having for girls. There were no computers, there were no support groups, there was nothing but the constant drumming of the Christian, Republican drum. I was alone with no options but to do what was expected of me.  I married a man, hid who I was, and tried to live up to the person my parents believed me to be. Of course it didn’t work, and it took me until I was 50 to have the courage to say to the image I saw in the mirror: “It’s okay that you’re gay.”

I won’t say it’s easier now than it was in the 1960’s to come out because every gay, lesbian, transgendered person has their own battles to fight, and they must do it on their own terms, in their own time. The people who say: “Just come out” don’t understand that it’s not always just that simple. The “I’m here, I’m queer, deal with it” thing isn’t always the road that’s available to travel. Sometimes it’s the “I’m here, I’m queer, what now?” path that we find ourselves lost on.

I believe we have an obligation to future generations of gay kids who find themselves trapped between the path and the road. I don’t want any one of these kids to ever feel as alone as I did. I don’t want them to ever have to choose between pleasing their family and being who they are, and this is why I write about gay issues. To make people aware, to let people know they aren’t alone, to just make the world a little less scary. This is why we all must fight for what is right and good in the world.

Those of you who have never had to say: “I’m gay” will never know the angst or the courage that is involved in coming out. Those of you who do know have an obligation to make the path a little easier than it was for you for the next person who garners the courage to speak their truth.

I also believe we have an obligation to each other – to our community. It’s become obvious to me that not everyone shares my feelings as I’ve been getting emails from conservative, gay folks who are chastising me for believing that gay issues are the only thing that matter this election.  How can I be so naïve as to believe that gay-marriage is more important than the economy and that abortion rights are more important than jobs?  How can I be so arrogant as to believe that my life was more important than the lives of the poor and the old?  Quite simply – how could I be so stupid?

I suppose on some level I was stupid because I felt that people knew I cared about all of the issues with my support of President Obama.  And quite honestly; for me it’s not about being a Republican or a Democrat. It’s about being a human being. It’s about what is fundamentally right and being aware of what is just wrong when it comes to human rights and human equality. The way I see it is this: if Mitt Romney doesn’t care about gays, lesbians or women then he can’t possibly care about the poor and the hungry and the disenfranchised.

I don’t believe I’m being selfish or stupid to be voting for the man and the party that recognizes me as a human being. I don’t believe it’s selfish or stupid to want what is right and just in this world. I don’t believe it’s selfish or stupid to not want a young person to have to deal with the stupidity of bullying simply because of who they are.

I believe we have an obligation to leave the world a little better than it was while we were here. The fact that I’m living openly with my partner is most certainly proof that it does get better. However, there is work left to be done, battles left to be fought, and that is our responsibility, that is our legacy.  I find that neither selfish nor stupid.

 

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I found out that a classmate of mine from High School passed away last week.  I haven’t seen him since graduation some 42 years ago, but I remember him quite vividly.  He was smart, funny and kind and he was the best Conrad Birdie in our adaptation of Bye Bye Birdie. His last name started with a G, mine with an H, so we shared a homeroom all through high school. He could always make me laugh which always started my day out with a smile.

He died doing the things he loved and he was surrounded by people who he loved and who loved him. I’d like to think that is some sort of comfort for all of those who were instrumental in making his life good, and for him as he left this place we call home.

His death brought home to me the fact that life is quite fleeting. You’re here one moment, and then you’re gone and I found myself pondering forgiveness.  I was thinking of one high school friend in particular who was in my life for a very long time. My husband and I were quite close with this person and her husband. We traveled together, laughed together, cried together, she was like the sister I never had, so I decided to trust her with my deepest secret – that I was gay – and she betrayed that trust by telling my husband. Life as I knew it ended on that day. I never asked her why she chose to betray me in such a way; I simply walked away and never spoke to her again.

In some respects, she did me a huge favor and opened the conversation that has finally allowed me to live openly as a lesbian; however, I have never understood or forgiven her betrayal. Today I wondered if this was perhaps the moment to forgive her in my heart.

Then I started to wonder if it was this one-time friend I wanted to forgive or if perhaps I was the one who needed to be forgiven.

Our lives are lived in moments. Moments in time, moments when words are spoken that can never be taken back, moments when decisions are made and lives are changed forever. I’m not sure when the moment was exactly when I knew I was gay, I’ve just always known. It wasn’t a decision I made, in fact I made the decision to be someone else. That decision to not live the life I was meant to live for so many years is the decision that needs to be forgiven.

No one told me I had to stay in my marriage. Then again, no one told me I didn’t, including myself. I stayed because I didn’t know what else to do. My husband was a perfectly nice man, and we were friends, but I was never in love with him, and he certainly deserved more from me than he got. Yes, I understand he could have left me at any time, and I don’t know about his regrets, we never talked about it.  I just know I’ve carried my regrets with me for over 40 years. This is the moment to forgive myself. He has remarried – to my cousin – and from all accounts is quite happy. Let’s just let it be.

I’m not sure when the moment was when I knew I would never, ever be what my mother wanted me to be, I just always knew there would be no grandchildren springing from my loins. I always felt I let her down that I disappointed her in some way. I wasn’t the girl next door; I was the lesbian hiding in the closet.  We never discussed it just as we never discussed anything, and I was always left to wonder what my mother would have said about my being a lesbian.  I know now almost 60 years into my life that it was me who harbored anger about having lived a life secluded in a little town surrounded by an unforgiving family who demanded I keep my place in the family as the “funny one.”  It wasn’t my mother’s fault or my families – the blame lies with me. This is the moment to forgive myself.

I’m not sure when the moment was I decided that I should be in an abusive relationship, or how I reasoned in my mind that I could change this persons behavior, I only know I should have taken more time to think it through.  I do recall the moment when I said to myself: “You’re in trouble here,” and realized that I had to find a way out. I may have realized I needed to get out, however in a moment of “I’m so sorry, I won’t do it again,” and the “I really will stop drinking” moment, I stayed. If not for a job that I loved and people who cared for me and lifted my self-esteem, and mainly – if not for Susan – I’m not exactly sure where I would be or what sort of shape I would be in. I put myself through hell but I survived and I’m better and happier and stronger than I ever dreamed possible.  I need to forgive myself for falling into the “No one will ever love you” pit.

Life indeed is made up of moments – This is the moment I say ‘I forgive you’ to the image I see in the mirror, and I move on. It’s the moments of here and now that are to be lived to the fullest for in a moment, any moment – it can all be gone.

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I wonder if the people who go to Las Vegas know that the United States is facing an economical challenge. I also wonder if they know and understand that people are not supposed to have money to burn. I only ask this because I’ve seen a whole lot of people throwing money into machines and on tables and at scantily clad women while I’ve been in Las Vegas the past few days.

If I were not a person who read or watched television and only based my knowledge of the condition of the American economy on what I have seen the past two days; I would honestly assume that we were the richest nation on earth, we have no poor or homeless, everyone had jobs, everyone was secure, and everyone had hundreds and hundreds of dollars to just give away.

I sat with a group of older gentlemen this afternoon who were a-waitin for their “women-folk.” Yes, they actually did call them their “women-folk.” We were all in this amazing Parisian bakery inside the Paris Hotel and Casino.  I was eating this chocolate twist that made me want to do a little happy dance, as it was almost as wonderful as the one I had when we were really in Paris, France.  I was totally enjoying the decadence of it all without one ounce of guilt, when these gentlemen asked if they could use the extra chairs at my little table.

They were from Alabama, and they wanted to sit and wait for their “women-folk” who were shopping, would I mind if they just “sat a spell?”  How could I possibly refuse?

The liberal lesbian from California with three white men from Alabama with their “God Bless America” baseball hats, their fanny packs, and their “Bama” t-shirts.  What on earth could possibly go wrong?

Had I won any money they asked?  Yes, I had won a little right here in the Paris Casino.  What was I playing? The nickel Wheel of Fortune machine. Was I in Las Vegas on vacation? Yes, I suppose I was. Was I with my husband? No, I wasn’t married.  “A pretty little thing (which sounds like thang in that southern drawl) like you?”  “I just caint believe a man hasn’t laid claim to you.”

Now – at this particular point in time – I wondered if I really needed to make my gay-marriage, gay-rights stump speech.  Did I really need to attack these 3 old white southern men who were simply a-waitin for their women-folk? Would it make a difference? Would they even understand what I was a-sayin?

They didn’t give me any time to answer them as they started drinking their Parisian coffee and talking politics amongst themselves.  I started to eat my chocolate twist a little faster as I was sure the Republican rhetoric was going to force me from the table. I was thinking of what liberal comment I could make before leaving the table, and what gay image I could leave with them. I was preparing my little speech in my head when I heard one of them say: “I sure hope The President shows that Romney a thang or two in the debates. That poor white boy don’t stand a chance.”

I must have had this look of total shock on my face as these 3 men looked at me and apologized if they had offended me.  I told them that I was not offended on any level and I apologized to them for just assuming they were white, southern Baptist, racist, homophobic men from Alabama.  They roared with laughter and said that no they indeed were not, but their “women-folk” most certainly would fit that description!

I sat with these three men for another 45 minutes and we talked about more things than I could ever write on paper.  These men were sweet and funny and knew the ways of the world. They hated the south of the 1960’s and never agreed with the whole slavery thang. They aren’t fans of the Rebel flag, they don’t like re-hashing the Civil War, they believe in the freedom of and from religion and don’t believe it has any place in government. They think Paul Ryan looks like Eddie Munster and they called Mitt Romney: “Milk-Toast.” I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t think it was a positive thang.

They do not like Chick-Fil-A, they love, love, love college football and confirmed for me that football in the south truly is a religion. These men were WWII veterans, and their voices changed when they spoke of their service to this Country during WWII.  War has a way of defining the people who fight in it, and live to tell the tale. Their eyes filled with tears and they spoke softly of buddies who never came home and they told me that some 70 years later they have never really come to terms with the men they were told to kill. Indeed – war changes people.

I wanted to stay and meet the “women-folk” but I somehow knew that I would have absolutely nothing in common with these women, so I hugged each of these men, and went on my way.  I stopped at a bench, pulled out my journal, and wrote down everything I could remember from the past 45 minutes. It was like taking notes during a college lecture on history, religion, philosophy, sports, politics and human nature all in one course!

I will smile every time I watch an Alabama football game knowing that these three men are somewhere together cheering on their Crimson-Tide.  I will forever be grateful for their honesty, their kindness and the lessons learned in that Parisian Bakery in the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  The jackpot I hit with these three men was far better than any I could have hit from a slot machine.

Roll Tide!

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This election is one of these moments in time when you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask the reflection you see just what it is you believe in.

You have to ask yourself if you want to keep perpetuating the anger and hate and blame and bigotry and homophobia, or do you want to rise above that and vote for acceptance and tolerance and citizenship.

There are a great many people in our country who will choose the path of hate, and hate is really is what it’s all about. If you ask any of the Mitt Romney supporters what he plans on doing about the tax policy, they can’t tell you. They can’t tell you because they don’t know. They don’t know because Romney doesn’t know. He has been real clear about not revealing his plan until after the election. Think about that: You have no clue how he will reform the tax policy – and then think of what sort of mind-set it would take to cast a vote for this man.

Mitt won’t discuss abortion – but you know that he was once pro-abortion and is now pro-life. But don’t ask him or his wife – they won’t discuss it because that isn’t what this election is about. Mitt is for an amendment to the Constitution to make marriage be between a man and a woman – but don’t ask him or his wife any questions about that — they won’t discuss it because it isn’t what this election is about. Mitt’s economic plan is to give more tax breaks to the rich and raise taxes on the middle class. Do you know his plan for Afghanistan? Do you know what his foreign policy is all about? Ask yourself what exactly it is you do know about this man – other than what he is against, which is: gays, women, Medicare and Social Security.

If you really know nothing about Romney and his plan for America, one must ask oneself, am I voting for Romney or am I just voting against President Barack Obama? And if you say yes to the later, then you must ask yourself why it is you are voting against President Obama? Is it the economy? Is it the whole gay-marriage thing? Is it his belief that a woman has the absolute right to equal pay? Is it his belief that a woman should make her own choice when it comes to abortion? Is it his stand on Afghanistan? Is it because he bailed out the auto industry? Is it his decision to kill Osama Bin Laden? Is it the fact that he ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and gave gays and lesbians the freedom to serve their country openly? Or, is it simply the color of his skin?

One cannot ignore the race question when it comes to this election. I’ve seen too many websites filled with racist cartoons and hate-filled rhetoric for me not to believe that we are still a nation filled with bigots who believe that gays, women and people of a certain color and religion have their place and need to be kept there.

Sadly, the Republican Party plays on that with their anti-gay, non-Christian-baiting, women-hating, “let them eat cake” platform. The folks who don’t know Wall Street from Main Street only know that this is the party that validates their hatred of gays, women and religions they don’t understand.

This is the party to associate yourself with if you want to own guns you don’t need, and have enough ammunition to kill whoever and whatever you want a hundred times over. This is the party to cling to if you want to blame everyone but yourself for what you perceive to be wrong in America.

Mitt and his party will take us down the road of hate, bigotry and towering fences at our borders. The poor will get poorer and the middle class will be no longer. You’ll have to leave the country to find a job, and anything with the stamp “Made in America” will be called nostalgia.

My fellow travelers in the gay community, our time is now. Our time is now to stand and be counted. Our time is now for you to be proud of who you are as a person and who we are as a community. Our time is now to vote as if our future depends on it, for it most surely does.

Vote!

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I’m sitting in my room on the 12th floor of the Rio All Suites Hotel in Las Vegas, NV.  My room faces The Palms Hotel and the mountains to the East.  I’m watching the clouds roll in and simply enjoying the view that Mother Nature is giving me without having to drop any money into any machine!

On the drive over this morning my son-in-law had the car radio set to Sirius 60’s on 6 and we found ourselves singing and laughing and telling stories of our lives in the 1960’s.  We tried to guess the bands and found ourselves saying what most old farts tend to say: “Now this – this was music.”

In those ten years of the 1960’s so many things happened in the United States of America that forever changed the face of who we were as Americans.

  • 1961 gave us the Bay of Pigs Invasion – The fatal CIA-lead invasion of Cuba to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro.  The Cuban forces defeated these forces in three days.
  • IN 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis took us to the brink of nuclear-missile war with Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet Union.
  • John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, which ended abruptly the short period of time in our Country’s history known as Camelot.
  • The Beatles become a part of American music in 1964 and changed the face of music forever.
  • Also in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act which was to outlaw major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, religious minorities and women.  It was supposed to end unequal voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, in the workplace, and in facilities that served the general public (i.e. – Woolworths).
  • In 1965 American starts sending troops to Vietnam – this would change millions of lives – and to this day some 47 years later, we still carry the burden of this ill-fated conflict.
  • In 1966 – “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”  Yes, it’s the beginning of Star Trek.
  • January 16, 1967 – Super Bowl I was played in the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.   The Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35 – 10.
  • Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were felled by an assassin’s bullet in 1968, changing politics and civil rights as we knew them.
  • Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969

I was 8 years old in 1960 and by the time 1970 rolled around I was graduating High School, trying to figure out how to keep my gay self from taking over the fake Barbie that was allegedly living the American dream.

It was during the 1960’s that I fell in love for the very first time, and realized that yes; I most certainly was a lesbian when that person I so loved was another girl, and this changed who I was forever.

My brother was one of those who left for Vietnam in 1967 and came home a year later also changed forever.  Nothing in his world would ever be the same which meant nothing in our family would ever be the same.

What is it about music that transcends time and space?  I may have been in a car headed east on Interstate 15 toward Las Vegas but I was also once again a little girl struggling to grow up…

When I heard the Vogues ”Turn Around Look at Me” I was that young 16 year-old version of me aching to be with this girl, this first love, knowing it would never, ever be.  Still – I knew I loved her, and I knew those feelings were real and true no matter what I was told in 1968 about “the queers.” This morning I still knew those feelings to be real and true and hoped she had found the same happiness I have.

The Beatles – Love, Love Me Do – had me playing a wooden guitar with strings made out of twine, in the basement of a friend flipping my hair back and forth in my best Paul McCartney imitation.

“Hello darkness, my old friend – I’ve come to talk with you again…”  When I heard this – I was 15, alone in my room feeling that I just don’t fit in anywhere…

“Hang on Sloopy” had me doing that little “Sloopy” dance at the Quarryville Pool on a Friday night in 1966.

By 1969 – The Stones were singing my theme song for my life at that time… “You can’t always get what you want…”

Now this – this was music…

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