Archive for October, 2008

Its a hard life wherever you go

October 30, 2008

Okay, first I want to say that I started to write this about 2 months ago right after some very good friends left to go home to the east coast, right after I had made the decision to leave my current job without having another job lined up, right after Riley started first grade and was having a lot of problems with the transition.  I finished it almost a month ago right after the Connecticut marriage decision was made.  For some reason, (maybe I was afraid of being blamed) I couldn’t bring myself to share when it was really hard, but now, now I’m feeling a lot better, a lot stronger as a family, and a lot more able to deal with schools, The Church, community, job searching, Utah and my place in it.  I share as food for thought, something that rears its ugly head now and again as we’ve lived here, not something I’m feeling particularly strongly today- perhaps that’s why today is a good day to post.  And if you don’t know this Nanci Griffith song (then shame on you. just kidding) that I posted the chorus to, you should listen to it online, it rocks.  Storyhill does a pretty good cover too.

 

It’s a hard life
It’s a hard life
It’s a very hard life
It’s a hard life wherever you go
If we poison our children with hatred
Then, the hard life is all they’ll ever know
And there ain’t no place in (Belfast) for these kids to go

                                                                Nanci Griffith

 

One way that the cycle of oppression imposes its power on individuals is through victim-blaming.  The woman who is sexually assaulted gets re-victimized by the legal system, the media, maybe even friends and family through blame being put squarely on the woman’s shoulders – “why were you dressed like that?”  “Why did you have so much to drink?”  “You had to have known he would do that?”   Even strangers hold their opinions on the culpability of victims.  This victim-blaming isn’t reserved just for one marginalized group.  I’ve been told that LGBT people deserved to be fired from their jobs because they insisted on “flaunting” themselves.  I’ve heard that argument taken all the way to murders like Matthew Shepard’s.  Comments that he would be alive today if he didn’t insist on being out, or if he wasn’t at a bar looking for a “hook up”, or that he should have known not to get in a vehicle with his killers.  To the battered spouse, we hear, “She should have left.”  To the family in foreclosure, “You bit off more than you could chew.”  Or, “Didn’t you read the fine print?”  Or, “If you didn’t understand the contract very well, why didn’t you get an interpreter?”  To the struggling racially-diverse college student, “he shouldn’t have gotten accepted here anyway, you know, Affirmative Action.”   

 

I realize the role of victim-blaming perpetuates our oppression.  These attitudes against victims of oppression sends those privileged the message that “they deserved it” and those marginalized often internalize a similar message, “we deserved it.”  But even if we work to not internalize the messages the dominant group sends about us, how do we ever really avoid it?

 

I’ve been really trying to figure out something lately.  Something related to being LGBT.  Here in Utah.  Something that’s victim-blaming sure.  But I can’t figure out how much responsibility I need to take for the circumstance I allow myself and my family to be in. 

 

We welcomed Connecticut lately along with Massachusetts and (for now) California into the small sampling of places that allow same-sex marriage.  I’ve never really even been one who thought that marriage was a place the movement really ought to spend its resources, especially when there’s so much else at stake, especially when schools aren’t safe, and young LGBT people are committing suicide and being rejected by their families and left to live on the streets, especially when LGB non biological parents have seen the courts rip their children away from them, especially now.  But at the same time, there are now 3 states that my family could move to and we could stop spending so much time and money on legal contracts and stop worrying about who in the family will have medical insurance and stop worrying about “what would happen if.”  We wouldn’t have to worry about adopting because we’d be married.  We wouldn’t have to worry about how we’d attain the more than one thousand benefits to the institution, we’d access them.  The stigma would be so much less; we’d be married.  Sure heterosexism and homophobia exists there, but it seems like it’d have so much less of a presence in my daily life.

 

And yet I choose to live here.  Worse still, my children live here because of me.  I at least have language and a sophisticated understanding of oppression.  I know that who I am inside is okay.  But what about my boys?  Sometimes I worry that they have too much information about the world at too young of an age.  What is, and what will be, the impact of that knowledge on their lives?  Instead of a college fund, should I try to start saving for their therapy?  I hear all the time that “If you don’t like it here then leave.” And, “Nobody forces you to live here.”  And I thought I wanted to be a person who came back to my home to make a difference.  But my home is hard.  We’d had such a hard time since we came back to live in Utah.  I know that if every queer came out and moved away from Utah then Utah would never change.  And I wanted to be among those changing it.  But it’s not easy.  And sure, some of it is that Kim is in school, the economy is in ruins, jobs are hard to come by for everybody, not just me.  Not everybody is embraced by their neighbors, its not just gay folk who struggle to find community.  Other parents have hyperactive children, not just me and he isn’t active because of my poor parenting.  Elementary school is hard for many, not just my kid.  But it seems that this isolation we live in, this place that keeps telling me, my partner, and my children how bad we are, is becoming so unbearable. 

 

And yet we choose to live here.

 

Is it victim-blaming?  Or do I have to take responsibility for living here?  Or is it both?  Is it giving up to say that Utah needs us but we aren’t up to the challenge?  Connecticut and Massachusetts and California look so warm and inviting.

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Limerick to Linda

October 29, 2008

There once was a gal who was inflicted

To cigarettes she was addicted

She’s decided to quit

But she feels like shit

Though her success will be depicted

Today is day 3 for my sister Linda.  She has not had a cigarette since 7 AM on Monday morning.  She woke up and had that last cigarette not knowing it would be her last ever.  She decided the only way for her to quit would be to go COLD TURKEY.  Quitters and researchers alike say that when you go cold turkey, day 3 is the hardest.  If you feel so inclined, send your well wishes for Linda’s success in the comments of this blog or e-mail them to me.  I know she will appreciate them.  And she has dial-up.  So whenever she gets a craving she just logs onto e-mail, surfs the web, or reads my blog.  By the time she does that, the craving passes.  So lets give her something to get through a craving with.

I wouldn’t want to be Riley’s face

October 28, 2008

Riley came home from school last week with his first “shiner.” Look closely.  You can see it, just under his left eye.  He and a friend bonked while running. 

Riley said, “J.  He’s a good reader.  But he isn’t a very good runner.  HE LACKS FOCUS.  And he stopped right in front of me and I ran into his elbow.”  I worry about anyone who Riley refers to as lacking focus.  It has got to be bad if Riley’s pointing it out.

His Auntie Carrie responded, “In a traffic situation the car that runs into the car in the front of it is to blame.” 

Riley responded, “It’s different when you run.  I was definitely innocent.”

In the car Auntie Carrie and I decided we’d have Riley use his shiner to trick Mama Kim.  Riley pretended that he got into a “fistfight” because he wanted Obama to win and his friend wanted McCain to win. 

Then Riley went on about how, “I had to hit him because I want Obama because Obama wants peace.”  It was a world class performance.  He had Kim going. 

“Let me get this straight,” she inquired, “You HIT HIM BECAUSE YOU WANT PEACE?” 

“PSYCH.  Just Kidding.  HA HA HA HA HA.”

Kim admitted later that she was going to have a hard time disciplining him because she was perhaps secretly proud in a messed up way.  I mean if your kid is going to get into a fist fight at least let it be about something like peace.  I think she was laughing underneath the WE DON’T DO VIOLENCE IN THIS FAMILY exterior.

busy busy busy

October 27, 2008

I haven’t written.  I know.  But I’ve been a little busy over here.  There’s been corn mazes to go thru, ski resort trams to ride, fall to enjoy you know.  I took a few pics here and there to prove just how much fun I’ve had the last few days.

We like to say, “Nobody can Wii like we can Wii.”  Actually, our mail deliverer also likes to to watch us Wii thru the window.  Don’t be snide.  Everybody looks ridiculous when they hoola.

Enjoying the corn maze with cousins.  The maze also had a “cow train” and corn room to plan in.  (Another get rich quick scheme.  Make a corn maze.  Entry is $6 each.  The cow train is $1 per person.  The pumpkins range in price from $1 to $12.)  The following limerick was also composed in the maze.

I once got lost in the corn maze.

I wondered around in a corn haze.

I wanted out.

So I started to shout.

They found me but it took days.

The pirates and Spider Witch had a busy day with THOUSANDS of other haunts at Boo at the Zoo.  The lines were 20 minutes long for a piece of candy, but the good news is that they had a blast and didn’t end up with too much candy!

On Saturday evening we hosted a few friends to carve up the pumpkins we grew in our garden.  We had a blast.  We learned that green pumpkins are best because “they have less gross guts.”  Riley’s is on the left.(Mama Kim helped.)  Casey’s is on the right.  (Mama Kim helped.)  The pumpkins represent their personalities quite well.  Casey said, “I want mine to have ears.”  Riley said, “Make it EEE-EVIL.”  I think she did well with both. 

Hey, if you see yourself or your kid’s pic here and you don’t want it on the marvelous world wide web, just let me know.  I’ll take them down right away.  Oh, and Linda, I decided not to write about you today.  I’ll write on Wednesday – help you get thru Hump day.  Day 3.  So check back then.

My big fat gay immigration conversations

October 22, 2008

or trying not to drown in my own privilege.

I had two conversations recently that sparked me wanting to write this.  First, I was asked why I was so adamant that gay folks should be more involved in immigrant rights.  And second, I was in a conversation with an individual who blamed the current economic crisis – including the bank and credit freeze and the housing slump – on undocumented immigrants.

So why do I think LGBT folks ought to be more involved in the current local and national discourse on immigration?  My first response and admittedly the easy answer is that LGBT people come from all over the world and that some are immigrants to the US thus they are not separate issues but complex overlapping issues deserving of LGBT individual and organizational support.  Further, immigration laws are clearly heterosexist.  The lesbian who falls in love with a German student on an F-1 VISA can tell you how impossible it is for them to remain together legally after graduation. The heterosexual couple in the same position can utilize the institution of marriage to manage to stay together.  There are also LGBT immigrants in the US who fear for their safety should they have to return to their native countries.  LGBT individuals have been granted asylum in the past, but the process is lengthy and expensive.  For some, staying in the United States, even illegally, is far better than the treatment of LGBT folks in their home country. 

This is all true.  There are LGBT Immigrants.  Some documented.  Some not.  But this is an incomplete response.  And a total cop out on an issue where I hold privilege.  The person who asked me the question isn’t even in the state and will certainly not be reading this column.  However, I have a little bit more to say on the topic that I failed to fully address. 

LGBT folks ought to be more involved in the current local and national discourse on immigration because we know what its like to be scapegoated.  Because we know what its like to exist in the margins.  Because we know what it’s like to be stereotyped.  Because oppression is interconnected.  Because the power of love is more important than the love of power (Thank you Jimi Hendrix).  And mainly, because, except for the younger generation of queer folks just coming out, LGBT folks in the United States know what it means to be illegal.

               

The most resistance I hear in the immigration conversation is that it is illegal for immigrants to be here in the United States while undocumented.  And somehow this translates to some people as: therefore, the most vulnerable of us do not deserve protection.  Somehow this translates to: therefore, undocumented immigrants are bad people.   Therefore, we must protect our children from “those people”.  This sounds all too familiar for me as a queer person to really buy into the scapegoating. Sodomy laws were used historically to justify discrimination against queer folks not so long ago.  There are parallels here that I think deserve attention. 

 

 

Each of us should be able to look at the bigger picture.  At the laws themselves.  At the economic system that supports – indeed depends – on undocumented immigrants. At the companies who benefit from the labor of these immigrants.  At the history of unpaid and underpaid work in this country.  At who benefits from the work, from the fear, from the marginalization of immigrants in a country that was founded by immigrants.  

 

 

Pause and reflect on this.

 

Our most intimate moments with our sexual partners were – not so long ago – illegal. 

 

I was once an “illegal queer.”  I committed misdemeanors and even felonies in multiple states.  I didn’t steal, didn’t do drugs, didn’t even go over the speed limit while driving, but I was a self-proclaimed lesbian.  An unrepentant homosexual.  A law-breaker.   Just as sodomy laws dehumanized LGBT people and therefore justified society in general for discriminating against us so do anti-immigration laws target and dehumanize immigrants.  Legally I was once a sexual criminal just as a child molester is a sexual criminal.  Sodomy laws are now a thing of the past and since the decriminalization of homosexuality, LGBT folks have made other huge gains in civil rights.  Now we have brothers and sisters, criminalized and dehumanized because of their immigration status and so many of us are sitting on the sidelines.  Where are the allies?

 

And as for the second conversation I had lately.  Let’s all be honest.  The current crisis was not spurred by illegal immigration but rampant unchecked greed and capitalism facilitated by the (so called) best and brightest on Wall Street.  I have no doubt I could have run one of these international corporations as poorly as some of these grossly overpaid executives and I would have done it on a fraction of the cost. 

 

 

Put the blame where it belongs and leave immigrants out of it.   

A hippopotamus bite

October 19, 2008

I stripped Casey down last night to give him a bath and was frustrated to notice that he had a partially healing bite mark on the back of his arm.  This bite obviously occurred at daycare.  And I understand that these type of things happen when you get a half dozen kids together in a room, but I also feel strongly that a BITE IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO TELL THE PARENTS. 

I should know when another child is eating my son for a mid-afternoon snack. 

Without an incident report to share the facts of the incident, I was left to questioning my 2 year old for the details.

“What happened?”

I was met with a blank stare.

“Did someone bite you?”

“Yes.”

“Who was it?”

I was met with another blank stare.

“Did Caden bite you?”

“Yes.”

Checking for consistency in his statement, I asked again, “Did Carrie bite you?”

“Yes.”

My sister asked, “Did Riley bite you?”

“Yes.”

Thinking we were getting a skewed version of the facts, she asked again, “Did a hippopotamus bite you?”

“Yes.”

“Did Joshua bite you?”

“Yes.”

“Did Grandma bite you?”

He looked at us with disgust.  “No!  Nana no bite children!”

I had a vagina prior to my annual exam, does that constitute a pre-existing condition?

October 16, 2008

In the past 3 days, I have spent more than 6 hours dealing with my health insurance.  First I was on the phone with my doctor getting my medical records.  Then on the phone with my insurance (who will remain nameless but is ultimately a piece of shit insurance company).  I also had to gather all my receipts, and write an appeal because my insurance is certain that I am full of pre-existing conditions. 

The girl young woman who answered the phone when I called my insurance, who I really shouldn’t be mad at, because she has no power, probably just follows a script, and probably only makes $10 an hour anyway, was trying to help me understand the need for a pre-existing condition clause.  But her rationale just made me angrier. 

Her scenario went like this, “This is important because, like, what if, a person like got cancer and then like didn’t have insurance.  So they, like, then, decided to get a job to have insurance, and like don’t you see that the insurance company shouldn’t have to pay for that?”

Me:  “But the dude has cancer?”

Her:  “Yes, but like -it like – isn’t our fault.”

Me: “Who is looking out for the little guy?”

Her: “Huh?  Like, what do you mean?”

Me: “Never mind.  What do you need from me in order to pay this claim?  Lets just problem solve this here and now.”

Her: “Like why did you go to the doctor?”

Me: “It was for a pap smear. ”

Her: “oh gosh.  oh my goodness?”  (Really, are the words pap smear off limits?  Because this is another woman I’m talking to?)

Me:  “Let me put this in a way that you can understand.  LIKE, the only pre-existing condition that LIKE existed was LIKE that I LIKE had a vagina prior to my regularly scheduled annual exam.  LIKE, does that mean LIKE you won’t pay for it?”

For the first time in the entire conversation, she seemed to understand.  Her response – and I swear this is LIKE verbatim.  “Like, this shouldn’t be a problem to pay.  Its just that all your claims are going to be denied now because like, all your claims are going to be pre-existing until January.  It’s just like how we do things.  So, like, just have your doctor show that it was your regular annual and we’ll like pay for it.  We will.”

We’ll LIKE see won’t we?

Picture This

October 15, 2008

I’ve realized my weakness.  I guess I should say, I’ve realized another of my weaknesses.  To my list that includes hyper focusing on the Rubik’s cube, gambling if given the opportunity, and overpriced coffee, I get to add pictures.

 

That’s right.  Pictures.

 

Some people have a hard time resisting purchasing clothes, or hair products, or a particular make-up brand.  Some people have more shoes than they’ll ever wear.  Others, like Kimmie, like to collect boxers (remember the pajama need?)  I myself can’t resist a good photo.

 

Apparently a couple of weeks ago a company came to my son’s daycare and took vintage photographs.  I don’t even recall if they sent home a note about it.  If they did, I tossed it aside.  In theory, I don’t particularly love pictures.  I only lose all reason when they are placed in front of me like this week when the proofs returned.  It’s a racket. They take the most adorable pictures of my most adorable kid and then say “for the bargain price of $99.99, we’ll give you a 4X6 of all 8 poses and a CD with the copyright.”

 

Me:  “Kim, we HAVE to have them.  He’s so cute.”

 

Kim:  “You should have thought of that before you HAD to quit your job.”

 

Me: “Please.  It’s the only moment in his entire life that he’ll look just like that.”

 

Kim:  “Yes.  I believe that is true.  The kid is wearing knickers with suspenders and a newsboy cap.”

 

Me:  “But…” 

 

Kim:  “This is not a moment to treasure.  Besides, look how gendered the photos are.  They took the girls in dresses with little umbrellas and the boys with baseball bats and footballs.  We’re not getting them.”

 

Me:   “Can I at least pick out a pose for our FREE 8X10?”

 

Kim:  “Hurry.”

 

37 minutes later, I had settled on the picture of Casey reading when I finally made it out to the car.  By the way, at least 25 of those minutes was waiting in line for my chance to select my free 8X10 so a mere 12 minutes was spent picking it.

 

Kim:  “Exactly how free was that?  You’ve now wasted 37 minutes of my time and Casey’s time – not to mention your own time.  That means this picture cost almost 2 hours of our time.  How do you call that free?”

 

Ruth:  “It’s not like any of us work anyway.  So in reality it IS free!”

 

Yah.  I can’t believe I touted that proudly.  Umm.  Neither can Kim. 

What’s a mentor to you?

October 13, 2008

Kim’s research for her dissertation has something to do with mentoring queer students.  I don’t know all the ins and outs of her research but I do know that she’s looking at relationships that LGBT young people make with mentors – perhaps other LGBT people.  The assumption is that since LGBT people aren’t necessarily born to LGBT parents that newly coming out queer folks try to find mentors to kind of “teach them the cultural ropes” so to speak.  Kim’s research is going to look at (she says “queer”) that assumption, those relationships, and mentorship dynamics.  At least that’s what my non PhD mind makes out of where she’s at right now.  But the interesting thing in all this is that neither Kim nor I had a mentor – certainly not an LGBT mentor.  Definitely not when we were coming out.  In graduate school I met the gay dean only she wasn’t a gay dean at the time.  I wanted her to be my mentor but she was dealing with a whole lot of personal stuff at the time and didn’t really become my mentor til later.  And for me it’s a whole lot more about having a professional mentor to me, not someone to show me the gay ropes.  I had already found my gay identity.  And before I ever think of her as a mentor, I think of her as a friend.  A very successful, very authentic friend.

 

I grew up in Roosevelt where homosexuality was completely invisible.  There were those 2 female teachers that lived together – and everybody talked – but they never presented themselves as possible gay people nor as possible mentors to me.  Hell.  Even now, I’m not even sure if they were gay.  A secretive life in the closet wasn’t what I was looking for.  Maybe I didn’t reach out.  They certainly didn’t reach out.  College was also gay-mentor free.  For both of us.

 

It begs the question – why spend years of your life researching mentorship when mentorship never made an impact on your life?

 

Does Kim feel a lack of mentorship?  A need that was never filled?  Do I?  Or is mentorship some made-up dynamic that exists more in theory than in reality? 

 

 

I’m sure Kim and I aren’t the only ones without gay mentors.  My friend Vee knew gay folks in high school and college but came out on her own, without ever seeking a mentor.  I pushed myself on her – determined to be friends.  Was I trying to fill some desire for mentorship?  Another friend had a gay mentor in high school – a coach – and the two ended up in a brief sexual relationship.  Was that a gross abuse of power?  It was certainly illegal.  Or was it some sort of valued and desired mentorship?

 

For the past 12 years, Kim and I have lived half-dozen different places.  And the one commonality is that in each of these places we have found other LGBT people, typically younger than ourselves who have reached out (or did we) and developed friendships.  And I look at these friendships now – some of them years later – and we’re still in touch.  We’re still close.  And even though we don’t see many of these people very often, I still feel very connected to these friends.  Were we their mentors?  Was I?

 

It sounds weird but some of these folks called Kim and I their moms.  Long before we had children of our own, we had children scattered across the country, calling us on the phone, “Mom.  Guess what?  I qualified for the Boston marathon.”  In all actuality, we got that call yesterday.  (Congratulations Mikey!  I’m seriously going to get a job, save my money, pack my bag and hand you water at the 19th mile!)  Two of our kids live in Boston.  Hi Kara and Kellie.  Can we stay with one of you during the marathon?  And Kell maybe you should schedule your wedding then so we can do it all in one trip?   I also got a call last night from another one of my “kids” who now lives here in Salt Lake City.  She was on the way to the emergency room with what turned out to be a kidney infection.  Of course I met her there, spent the next 4 hours there, and then brought her home to spend the night where Kim and I could take care of her.

 

A few years ago, Kim and I went back to Massachusetts for a visit.  We stayed with our friend Sheri (she’s not gay, but taught me more about social justice than any one person I can name.  Is she my mentor?)  We sort of made her house home base.  And at one point I remember her saying something to the effect of, “I’ve never seen so many young white lesbians come and go in my house.” 

 

Yes.  Some of these folks are my “kids”.  Are we friends?  Is there some sort of mentoring going on?  Was there in the past?  Are they my kids only because I’m (we’re) older than they are?  Or do they see me (us) as their mentor(s)?  Is this the way I’ve (we’ve) filled my (our) need for mentoring relationships?  Or have I constructed these friendships as being mentorship based to fill some personal “need” when in fact, I’m the only one constructing it as such?    

 

If you’re queer and read this blog, please comment on this, or if you’re shy to comment, e-mail me off-blog.  (qweirdutah@gmail.com) I’m really interested in your thoughts.    

 

Do you have mentors who passed on queer culture to you?  Did you through coming out but then not desire it anymore?  What did you look for in a mentor?  What need did he/she fill?  What about those queer folks who don’t have mentors?  Is there an ongoing need for it?  How did you construct your identity?  Was there a need through coming out and accepting yourself but not now? 

 

Next time Kim starts in asking me a bunch of questions, I’m going to start quoting all ya’all.

spring cleaning, job searching, and worshipping coffee

October 9, 2008

I’m actually supposed to be applying for a job at this moment, but now that I’m sitting, I just want to….drink coffee, read blogs, and now write.

Ahhhh.

My home feels so good right now.  Friday was my last day of work (Did I mention that I quit my job?) and I have now spent 4 days totally “spring cleaning.”  Everything is dusted, scrubbed, organized, put away – or at least shoved out of sight.  That’s about as good as it gets for me.  I went through kitchen cupboards and actually threw away a couple of food items with expiration dates as old as my son.  (The older son.)  I found a box of falafel purchased at “Bread and Circus.”  I don’t think it even exists any more, but “Bread and Circus” was a spendy little whole-foods-ish store in Amherst, Massachusetts.  Did I mention that we haven’t lived there since 2002?   This box of falafel must have moved with us to Colorado then here to Utah.  Only to be tossed aside.  I hate to waste food.  Even food way past its prime.  I don’t even like falafel.  Why did we buy it?

My week has gone so fast and has been so busy that sometimes I wonder how I ever fit full time employment into my life anyway.  There’s just so much to do.  And those boys are growing so fast.  But this is just a few week job hiatus.  I have to get back to work.  Which is why I have to hurry up and finish this so I can apply for that job…

The stock market sucks.  We’re seriously headed into a recession – we’ve slid a lot but there’s more downhill to this thing.  We ate up our savings on my last bout of being unemployed but all I can think of is –

ahhh.  this feels good.  my house is clean.  the coffee is good.  the boys are beautiful.  the sun is shining.  and I’m not bundled up in response to an overactive air conditioner.

I spent five months trying to fit myself into a job that wasn’t a fit for me.  Life is too short to have a job that you think about as you fall asleep at night.  And you think about the moment you wake up.

I’m thinking I might wait tables again.  Whenever I mention it, Kim starts in on how we barely paid of school loans for me to get my master’s degree.  And, she says that, “you certainly didn’t get a master’s degree so you could wait tables.”  No, I got a master’s degree so I could change the world.  But then I had children.  I got tired.  And I wasn’t sure I wanted to change the world anymore.  Maybe my boys can change it.

This post just took a turn into sounding tired and depressed and I am neither.  So I will again go to how clean my house is.  How hot the coffee is.  How bright the sun is.  How beautiful the boys are.