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Archive for October, 2012

So – I am less than three weeks from my 60th Birthday.  Of course, on my Birthday last year Susan informed me that I was now in my 60th year, so I’ve had a year to prepare!  Still – I’m not really sure I am prepared…

Birthdays have never bothered me – all 59 of them. They come and they go, it’s just pretty much another day on the calendar – but… 60 – it has me a little pensive.  Perhaps it’s because all these goodies have started to come in the mail for me – Things I obviously need when turning 60.  Medicare, AARP, Hearing Aids, Cremation information, Burial Plots, Life Insurance…  Or perhaps it’s because I am aware that more of my life is behind me than in front of me.

Whatever it is, I’ve been musing about what it is I know for sure at 60.  You know life lessons I’ve learned through the muck and mire that has sometimes been my life so far.

Here – in no particular order – are things I would tell my Grandchildren – if they ever asked me what it is I’ve learned about life in my 60 years.

  • People are not always who or what you want them to be.  If you think you have to change them – you don’t need them. Walk away.
  • Don’t ever start smoking – then you won’t ever have to quit.
  • Read Henry David Thoreau’s essay entitled: Civil Disobedience
  • Follow your passion – don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t; don’t let anyone tell you it’s stupid or worthless. Do what you love.
  • Spend time by the water; be it the ocean or a lake or a creek.  Just put your feet in the water and understand that you don’t ever put your feet in the same water twice. It’s always new, always changing, just like your life should be.
  • Don’t settle – for anything or anyone.
  • Work for the common good – remember that we really are our brothers keepers – no matter what the Republicans say – we really are responsible for one another.
  • Do not be forced into any sort of religion. Believe what you must to get you through the days and nights of your life. Know that there are many religions in the world – they all matter and they all have their place. Not one of them is more important than any other of them.
  • Know that all people matter – all people everywhere.  All colors, all genders, all races, all religions – all people – everywhere. We all have a purpose on this earth.
  • Know that the Double Stuffed Oreo trumps all other cookies ever made.
  • Parents are not perfect – and sometimes they don’t always know what is best for you. Follow your heart.
  • Understand that your family may not always be loving and kind or accepting. It’s okay to not want to be a part of something that is negative and hateful and destroys who you are.  Carry no ill-will – just walk away.
  • Rosemary Clooney is one of the best singers who ever lived…  Google her – and then listen to her sing the song – “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
  • Don’t ever let anyone take away your individuality – When you give that away – you give away your life – no one is worth that – no one.
  • Don’t ever think you can’t live alone. It may not be your choice – but don’t ever believe you must have someone in your life to survive. Sometimes living with yourself will teach you more lessons than you could ever imagine.
  • Never stay in a relationship because it’s convenient or because you feel trapped. There is always a way out – always.  This is tied in to the never settle piece of advice.
  • Watch the movie “Rhinestone” and know it was the worst movie your Grandma ever saw.
  • Read and learn your American History. Please understand that you must know where you’ve come from in order to know where it is you’re going.
  • Don’t be so busy with your life that you miss it.  By this I mean – don’t be so busy trying to get things that you don’t take the time to enjoy what you already have.
  • Don’t let your family dictate who you are.  You don’t have to fit into any mold – you simply are who you are.
  • Travel the world.  When you stand by the Eiffel Tower – know that your Grandma’s cried with joy when they were standing there for the first time.
  • Knows that dreams can come true – Read the lines above about the Eiffel Tower!
  • Don’t listen to all the Irish malarkey that Grandma Susan will fill your head with.  leprechaun’s are not good little men – they are evil little men and there is no gold at the end of the rainbow.
  • Don’t ever expect someone to make your life complete. You are the only one who can complete your life.
  • Never, ever give up on you. Never ever stop growing and changing and learning.
  • Know that your life can be over in the blink of an eye. Be responsible and cautious and don’t do foolish things that can endanger your life or the life of others.
  • Don’t let your fears prevent you from living your life. Nothing is so bad that it can’t be overcome.
  • Don’t spend your time saying:    “If only I… “    Spend your time saying:  “When I did…”
  • Know that for as long as I’m alive – there will be a place for you to go – for food, a hug,  a little spending money if you need it, someone to listen, and lots and lots of love – always.

Wonder what else I’ll know by the time I’m 80?

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I’ve decided that in the grand scope of life, this one Presidential Election isn’t going to make or break us. Indeed – life will go on after the polls close on November 6, 2012.

I believe what we must ask ourselves is how we all live with one other after the polls close on November 6, 2012.  All the snarky remarks, all the lies, all the predictions, all the insults, all the gay-bashing, all the Republican-bashing, all the Democratic-bashing, all the bashing of everything  and everyone  – It will all turn  into the giant pile of poo when this election is over, and then what?

How do we keep religion, political parties and gender out of the mix and come together as human beings?  How do we push aside the poo and understand that without one another we will all simply be what we are right at this moment; stuck in our own truths.

Why can’t we just let people be?  I don’t care what you believe as far as religion goes – why would you care what I believe?  The beauty of America is that we have the freedom to believe or not believe whatever we choose.  Just because someone doesn’t believe what you do or read the same book you do or follow the same god you do doesn’t mean you must demonize them.  Just let them be.

And why do people care who I love? Why does it matter to anyone that I’ve been in love with the same woman for over 30 years? And why, instead of making us look like we are spawns of the devil, isn’t someone saying: “30 years? How wonderful!”  Isn’t love simply – love?

To be honest, I’m not sure how I’m going to look at the Republicans in my life after this election and find common ground with them.  I know I need to just let them be, for they are to enjoy the freedom of their beliefs – then again – they voted for me not to enjoy the same freedom that they enjoy and that is poo which goes right to my heart.  Is there any common ground with these people? Perhaps not and perhaps just walking away would be the right thing to do for me. Like I said – Just let them be.

We all live in the same space and breathe the same air, but the playing field is not a level one.  We all know this, and we all at one time or another acknowledge this. Any one of us could be living on the streets, or in shelters or in a tent under a bridge if circumstances in our lives had been different.  These are the people who need us to put aside all the poo of politics and just help when and where we can.

After all the poo of this election – I’m going to focus on the good in the world – where to find it, how to give it, how to write it.  In the end, we are all only here on this earth for a short time, and it’s not about how much time you have, it’s about what you do with the time you have that really matters.

I’m going to find the good poo and roll in it!

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As a woman who will be turning the age of 60 in less than a month, one would think I would have a fine grasp on my life, wouldn’t one? And as an out and activist lesbian who writes a weekly column, one would think I could find the appropriate words for every situation I find myself in, wouldn’t one?

Lately, this has not been my experience.

I find myself in a position of knowing what is right for me, and yet not knowing how to get my point across with style and grace and not come off sounding pissy and self-serving.

Allow me to try to explain…

As a woman and as a lesbian, this Presidential Election is a clear choice between what is right and what is wrong for me.  President Obama is what is right; for women (me), for the gay community (me), for the citizens of the United States of America (me).  Period. End of story.

Each and every one of us should vote our conscience and in doing such, this is where the problem lies with me and those who choose to vote Republican in this particular Presidential Election.  For me, I take it personally when someone I know and who knows me is choosing to vote against my being equal to them in every sense of the word.  It’s personal to me that you believe that I’m somehow less valuable than you – that my life isn’t quite as important as yours. You may say: “Barb, I most certainly don’t feel that way,” but a vote for this Republican ticket most certainly says that you indeed do feel that way.

And how exactly am I to feel about you casting a vote against me?  Seriously, what am I to do with this smack-down of my civil and human liberties? You tell me how I’m supposed to treat someone who votes to make sure I will be kept as the “less-than” status for at least four more years – perhaps longer. Am I to treat you with the same disdain with which you are treating me with your vote?  Am I to wish the same inequalities for you and your family that you are voting for me and my family?

I’d like to think I could just shut you out of my life – and in some instances this is exactly what I have done, but…  I’m not sure this is really the right thing to do.  How do we reach people with the truth when we shut them out of our lives? How do we make people understand that the gay community is simply a community of human beings who simply want to live our lives as free and equal Americans if we cut out everyone who chooses to vote against us? Will this not just prove the point that we are pissy and self-serving?  Will that simply not keep us divided and uncommunicative?

Then again – how can I have any respect for someone who knowingly votes against me? How do I keep you in my life when I know your vote went to keep me from having the same civil liberties as you? That your vote went to make sure women don’t get equal pay for equal work. That you voted for a man who has no desire to allow women to make their own decisions about health-care and abortions, and that you care little for the environment and the arts and look at the elderly and disabled veterans as moochers and victims.  How do I find any redeeming qualities in your vote?

This is where my firm grasp on my life tends to slip a little. I know full well who I am; I’m out and proud and make no excuses or exceptions for that. But, I also understand that we all have differences, and we all see the world with different eyes.  Still, I’d like to believe that human dignity is something every one of us would see clearly through every set of eyes. I could be wrong, but I still have hope.

The one thing constant about life is that is just keeps going. We will all survive this election, some of us better than others depending on the outcome.  Either way, if you vote Republican and we come in contact with one another – I’ll be asking you face to face why you believe I’m not equal to you, and why you believe I don’t have the same right to everything this life has to offer as you do.  Don’t start by telling me your vote wasn’t anything personal against me – for it most certainly was – Start by telling me why your human dignity is more important than mine.  I’ll try not to be pissy and self-serving, but I can’t guarantee anything…

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I got an email this morning from my ex-husband.  Whenever I turn on the computer and see his name in the in-box, my heart stops for a few seconds. See – We rarely speak and when we do it isn’t always pleasant or mature. Sometimes it’s just down-right childish.

But this morning he wrote to tell me that his Father had passed away last evening. He just thought I would want to know.  My emotions surprised me as I was sad – very sad – at the news. His Father was sweet and funny and always made me smile.  He had nick-names for everyone, but he could never come up for one with me. That should have been some sort of foreshadowing that the marriage would never work!

I shot off an email back telling him how sorry I was – and that his Dad had always made me smile, and I thanked him for telling me.

He emailed me right back telling me that his Dad had been ill and that it was a blessing of sorts – and he wanted me to know that his Dad had always liked me.

I sent a message back to him telling him that even if it was a blessing – it was still his Dad, and I told him not to do his strong man imitation – to just feel however he was feeling and be okay with that. I told him I’d be thinking of him – and I most surely will.

The thing that I get this morning is that my ex-husband and I have this thing… We’re friends. Underneath all the crap, away from all the noise of the world – we care about one another. We had been in each other’s lives for over 30 years before we divorced and as hard as one tries – one cannot run from history. It will follow you… everywhere.

This morning, my ex-husband needed his old, familiar friend, and I was there for him. I found I didn’t want to be snarky or pissy or condescending. I wanted to make him smile and remember happier times, and give him some sort of comfort. I hate to say it; but I think I’m maturing!

The next conversation may be childish and not pleasant at all, but this morning – this morning  we were old friends giving comfort to one another – remembering a kind man who made our lives just a little better by being a part of it.

Rest in Peace, Pop.

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California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012 signed Senate Bill 1172 to ban “reparative therapy” for minors.

With this historic legislation, California becomes the first state to ban licensed mental health professionals from practicing psychological therapy aimed at turning gay and lesbian youth straight – a controversial practice also known as “ex-gay” therapy, conversion therapy and sexual reorientation.

To put it in plain terms – these quack therapists and their supporters want the homosexual to become the heterosexual.

I was going to research all the groups, pro and con, and inform readers on the lawsuits that we know will follow this legislation. I have chosen not to do that, and instead write from personal experience on reparative therapy: trying to change from dyke to wife.

I was born in 1952, and as far back as I can remember, I knew I was different. I knew I wasn’t the frilly little girl my mother wanted me to be. I was way more comfortable in my Sally Star cowgirl hat, boots and gun with holster. I filled my doll carriage with dirt, rocks and twigs, and I ran with the boys on the block. I was the best wrestler, the best pin-ball player, and my little blue peddle car was my pride and joy.

My family was all over the town I was raised in. Aunts, uncles, cousins were everywhere. It can be both a comfort and a curse. When I was a small child, it was a comfort to run from aunts to uncles gathering hugs and kisses as I went!

Holidays were spent together all wrapped up in bows, lights, laughter, love and food, food, food. Any picture you might have in your head about the 1950s and families gathered around a table with the roasted turkey in the middle – my family could have been that family. We were Methodists, Republicans, and very pro-country and pro-military. My brother was the oldest and the boy – so he was favored, and expected to do great and wonderful things. I was the girl and expected to get married and have babies. This was small-town life in America in the 1950s.

It was in the late 1960s that I knew for sure that I was indeed a lesbian. I had no idea what to do about it, had absolutely no one I could talk to about it, and instinctively knew that my family would never, ever understand or accept. It’s a small town, and I knew my mother would have suffered greatly from the gossip and the innuendo that would have come our way, so I chose to see my girlfriend on the sly, and while other girls were sneaking out to see their boyfriends and have their first sexual experience, I was doing the same with my girlfriend.

This was 1968, and it was certainly not safe to be gay then, and certainly not in the confines of my little town.

To keep away the gay rumors, I dated boys and pretended to be involved, but there was rarely kissing and certainly no sex of any kind. The thought of that was just more than I could bear. It actually made me physically ill to think of having sex with a boy, especially when I was enjoying sex with a girl. My life was complicated – to say the least.

Life got even more complicated as I got older, and as I understood there was nowhere to run and no life I could ever have as a lesbian in my little town, I did as my parents wished and got married. It was the 1970s reparative therapy for gays – you ignored who you were and tried to be what society, your church and your family wanted you to be. I did my best. I went to church, I sang in the choir, I had a job. I cooked, cleaned, did laundry and tried to be happy.

The thing is – I wasted over 20 years of my life, and the life of my husband, trying to be someone I wasn’t. No amount of prayer or Bible reading or laying on of hands could change who I was. No amount of pressure from family or promises from books, literature or therapy could change who I was, and in the end – everyone suffered, and I didn’t suddenly change into a straight woman wanting that heterosexual sex. The lies, however, did change every single one of us.

The “dyke to wife” therapy was a bust and certainly no one was a winner. Lives wasted, hearts broken, lies, deceit, anger – for what? Appearance? The church? The family? Society? When I finally came out and refused to partake in any more of the lies, most of my family walked away from me or followed me around reading Scripture, and friends went by the wayside. It turns out that the Scripture is more relevant to them than the human being standing in front of them.

Any gay or lesbian who has lived a life that doesn’t involve your gayness – you have been through your own version of reparative, conversion, reorientation therapy. Your own little version of hell.

We are simply who we are. We are not defined by anyone – gay or straight. I commend Gov. Brown on his courage to say exactly what this type of therapy is: “quackery.” And I’m proud to live in the State of California, which values the life of every one of its citizens.

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