How Edu Saved My Ass -or- Yogurt

Last night, Edu made curry. I made a point of talking to her while she cooked, because I knew she would feed me if I stood there long enough. It’s not that I’m lazy and can’t cook for myself. It’s twofold. The first is that I would rather eat a Pop-Tart or whatever (crackers and cheese, etc.) and call it a day. Edu makes me excited about food.

She knows that when I show up, it’s because it smells good. This was shrimp, dal, rice, onions, chilis, and masala. Masala is any spice blend in India- garam masala is hot spices, but Edu had already added fresh peppers- gods the fruit was beautiful. Heat tastes so much better, fresher off the vine. The difference is stunning.

That being said, I am the type person that does like the thrill ride, but I need enough fat and sugar lining my stomach before I take it on. It also helps if the dish is very, very hot to cool it down a little. In India, that means plain yogurt or raita. I like both, but I could eat plain straight out of the container.

By this point, I don’t even know who I am. Like, what the hell even are these? Carolina Reapers. F ME RUNNING WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

I don’t think I’ve ever been so high in my life, and I’ve taken caffeine and Ambien TOGETHER. My bathrobe and my SpongeBob doll talked to me all night when I was 19. The story behind it is really innocent. I didn’t know that Ambien wasn’t really sleeping medication. It doesn’t knock you out in that way. It’s an amnesiac, and you basically go into a fugue state if you’re amped up on something like caffeine. There is one Canadian in particular that will know what I’m talking about quite intimately, because we once had a hilarious conversation in the middle of the night where he stood on his head because of the same combo….. and didn’t even remember picking up the phone in the morning.

I thought of myself as still dating Meagan platonically. I would say that she didn’t know that, but she did. She knew it was a big deal when she came to visit her parents, and she pulled out all the stops. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked her for this…. She even came home from college either in the second semester or the fall of her sophomore year. She took me to Starbucks and we had our classic high school date. It was so romantic, but only in an Anne Shirley and Diana Barry sort of way. I was extraordinarily observant of the fact that Meagan was never coming back to the United States under any circumstances. High school was it.

If there’s anything about my relationship with Meagan that still burns me up after all these years, it’s that my parents are still in Houston and hers aren’t. No more dates, even platonically. All hope is not lost, though. Here’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever done for Meagan in my life.

Meagan used to be married to a woman named Deah. Deah and I had our differences, but she was fully aware of how much I loved Meagan because I told her that all the time. I am sure she still looks back and laughs over how pathetically in love I was with my memories. Because you see, when I looked at Meagan, I didn’t see the capable & successful massage therapist, wife, and mother. I saw my little girl on a high school soccer field, the whistle blown and the game stopped……. and the forward who didn’t hear the whistle and kicked Meag so hard she went down. If you want to find my smallest place, the one where I feel the most emotion, just talk about that game. I dare you. It won’t be pretty. I ran down to the field and would have been able to get to her if I hadn’t been stopped. I looked around at the crowd. Oh, shit. Now I’ve confirmed her mother’s worst fears…………………

Deah, knowing absolutely everything there is to know about this, decided to surprise Meagan for her birthday one year (I forget which). Meagan was equally enamored with me in a first love kind of way. We’ll never go back, but we can still cry about how obsessed we were in 1996. So, back to Deah.

I was very, very surprised to hear from her. She said that I should come up and spend the weekend, because she wanted to do something big for Meag. Oh, hell yes I was in. That’s my girl right there.

Because here’s what those dates our first year of college did for us. The first one was AWFUL. I was still so upset about our breakup that I couldn’t really enjoy myself. I was jealous of the women she was actually romantically interested in because I had basically picked them for her by telling her about a college group that was queer on her campus, because I was thinking about transferring up to University of New Brunswick after I was done with junior college.

But that was just the first one. After I accepted that I was TX and she was NB, we were able to build on a friendship instead of thermonuclear war. As a result, she was my first girlfriend, and she’ll be with me until I take my last breath, because my memories are pure and beautiful where she is concerned.

Off I go to give my girl and I an emotional roller coaster for the weekend where Deah just got to sit and gloat at her awesomeness, which was entirely deserved. I really only remember two lines from that trip, one funny and one that hacked me in half.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but sometimes when people are awful to you, you get an apology you never asked for and yet mightily deserve. She apologized for breaking up with me. That wasn’t new. It was the context. She didn’t apologize for being a bad kid. She apologized for not sticking around long enough to see what would have happened had we become partners as adults, because, and here’s the kicker. It made me cry……….. she thought it was something that we would have been very good at and she was sorry she never got the chance.

In what universe would that not take your heart and beat it within an inch of your life? Everything I had ever felt about Meag (and it was Niagra Falls) just rushed to the surface of my skin. Outwardly, I didn’t say anything. Inside, I was 18 years old, crying for myself and for all the missed dinners with our own kids.

I also had to get angry to get over it. My inner monologue ran thusly.

“HOW DARE YOU TAKE AWAY MY CHOICE! HOW DARE YOU NOT ALLOW ME TO FORGIVE YOU! HOW DARE YOU NOT TELL ME ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE THIS UNTIL IT WAS SO ENTIRELY POINTLESS?”

But that’s why she told me. It was pointless to her, so she didn’t attach any emotion to it. I am all emotion all the time, so it wasn’t tantamount to admitting to myself that I was still in love with her and I should drop everything and become Canadian right this very minute forever and ever amen, though the idea still doesn’t suck.

It was acknowledgement of death, grief, and loss. Our relationship has died. Our relationship has risen. (We haven’t talked in years.) Our relationship will come again. (See what I did there, Dana and Counselor?) Our relationship was just too hot to handle for a spectrum of reasons.

But I will never in my lifetime forget when Meagan and I were two peppers, and instead of being a third, Deah was the plain yogurt that cooled everything to the right temperature.

So, for a few paragraphs, I want to write directly to Meagan. Please be quiet and respectful. Take off your shoes in the house, my girl is Canadian.

Dear Meagan,

I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t introduce and close by saying “I love you.” The difference between you and all the other people I tell I love is time. It’s been 27 years since we’ve even kissed and held hands, but I love you more now because of those 27 years than I ever did as a mere child.

27 years of loving each other so much we couldn’t breathe. First because of attraction, then because of confidentiality, honesty, compassion. All the things that we really need in our friends, you presented them to me on a silver platter. 27 years where I would have literally died rather than watch you go through pain.

I am always yours, whether you need me or not. I will always love you, whether you need me or not. it’s been 28 years. There is nothing on earth I wouldn’t do for you. No boundary that would ever stand in my way. If something was going on with you, I wouldn’t even wait until we hung up to make my way to the airport.

Tony and I will be waiting in front of YOW with snacks and Starbucks. Get in, loser. We’re going home to Texas for some R&R with the boys. You can picture it, can’t you? You and me, John and Tony, O, J, T, L? It doesn’t matter that we’re not together. We’re good enough friends that we’ll fake it and make everyone crack up with laughter, because we aren’t a married couple, but we can sure as hell act like it. Surely I have enough practice at annoying the fuck out of you by now.

I love you,

Leslie

p.s. When I am chilis, you are plain yogurt. When it’s your turn, you be the Vindaloo. I’m yogurt. I’m cool.

I am editing this entry to tell you the funny story that happened on my trip to Ottawa. Meagan and I were setting up her living room like a coffee house so we could get that intimate vibe of talking with friends, and I made the tea. I was particular about the tea, because I’m particular about all beverages.

That reminds me of something I need to tell Sam…. hold please.

The way I make my coffee so good is to use the scoop that comes with the machine and take the time to level off every tablespoon. Use 1 LEVEL T of dry coffee for every cup of water. It will mellow out and be absolutely delicious if you use the same ratio with cold brew. Just set it up in the fridge at night and it’ll be better than anything Starbucks could ever dream of making. Give me Cafe Bustelo or give me death.

It’s not like Sam makes coffee wrong, y’all. It’s that I was in charge of it one morning and she asked me specifically what I did different than she did and I didn’t answer her. I mean, what are the odds that I walk into a relative stranger’s house and her coffee is the one I’ve obsessed over since I worked at Tapalaya, in Cajun fine dining.

We had our own delicious coffee, Cafe Du Monde, of course. I drank A LOT of it because it was coffee and and yet it was only half-caf because of the chicory. But there was a Cuban restaurant within walking distance of Tapalaya, so I don’t remember if Chef and I ever went together, but we definitely took turns getting Cafe Bustelo cups of coffee and lattes.

Speaking of half-caf and chicory, Cuban coffee doesn’t play. Two Bustelo lattes and you can smell numbers.

Back to Meagan and Deah and the living room and the tea.

Meagan asked me how I made my tea so goddamn good. I said, “I steep it for 11 minutes.”

Meag said something like, “what’s so special about eleven minutes? That seems oddly specific.”

Without even a hint of irony and not trying to be funny, I brought both Meag and Deah to tears.

I said, “I steeped it for 10 minutes and it wasn’t long enough.”

And scene.

We Can Do Hard Things

The title of this entry is the title of Glennon Doyle’s podcast, but the podcast is not what I’m pondering. It’s the catch-22 of how to be a white person and call the black community out on some shit that is very harmful to me… but without making it sound as if it is equal to or more disturbing than anything white people have done to them. It’s just that in this instance, I’m not speaking as a white person, especially not a white person with entitlement. I have it when I choose to use it, which is never. I’m speaking as a lesbian. I am not the person that you think I am at face value. You cannot attribute the same attitudes toward a white minority that you can toward the white, straight, cis majority, because I’m fighting them just as hard as you.

Here’s why. If I was seen kissing my paramour/girlfriend/wife on a street corner, the race of the person who saw me would be irrelevant. There’s just as much chance of me being harassed or assaulted, even sexually as a public service, by someone with any background. It’s not about my color, it’s about my perceived sin.

I came out when I was about 14. Violence against gays and lesbians has always been very real. It was 1991, not 2022. I can draw a direct parallel between me and Emmett Till, because if I was caught whistling at a woman, seemingly making advances toward her, I would have been in just as much trouble, because black Christian Evangelicals are just as brainwashed by crazy as white ones.

Lesbians are in a tight spot. We are seen as non-threatening if men do not know who we are courting and it is just a fever dream to have a threesome with us as they spout their “Christ is love” bullshit, because it sounds dirty coming out of that kind of mouth. However, if the man does know the woman in question, particularly if he sees us as a threat to his relationship, we are well on our way to black eyes because “we’re not real men.”

Well, no shit, Sherlock. That’s why I can make her scream so much harder than you.

Now imagine me smarting off like that to a black or white man who thinks he’s tough. Now I’m even closer to death. Additionally, I can think of no worse childhood than growing up black and trans, especially if your family is religious. Black and white Evangelicals are equally guilty of indirectly killing their children because they don’t see their faith as bullying.

Add race to being queer and it is just a mess. White, straight, cis feminists don’t have the same needs as women of color. Queer women of any race have different needs than straight. Trans women have different needs than cis. In terms of trans and cis women, it is like one man has fathered children with identical twins. We are biologically the same and yet cousins because of trans women’s socialization as men when they were young.. This is on its way to being a non-issue with puberty blockers and supportive parents, but right now, it is a hard thing we can add to the list.

I watch a lot of YouTube videos on building houses, both on and off the grid. What I’m seeing is that the entire house is wonky because in the queer community, we didn’t actually create all the vassal agreements needed to be powerful as a voting bloc. What I’m saying is that the house will fall soon if we don’t go back and fix the basement.

But don’t worry. We Can Do Hard Things.

The Voting Monolith

I hate to admit it, but not being on Facebook is really, really nice. I hid the icon on my iPhone and use Messenger exclusively. Turns out I don’t need to see when I have a like. I don’t actually care. If I want to know something, it’s probably about how the world works, or how to improve my relationships… not a contest to see how many people love me at any given moment. Why worry? I already know there’s a vast tens of you somewhere.

Apparently, I am a big deal in India.

My biggest collection of foreign readers used to be Australia (I’m American, Marylander specifically). I liked that a lot. Being associated with what is essentially a large island full of people descended from criminals directly appeals to my own sense of self. Actually, that may be one of the truest things I’ve ever said. I had an ancestor- I think his name was Anthony and went by “Tony Lanagan.” I’m not exactly sure where, but there’s still a Tony Lanagan in my family, just a much younger one.

Anyway, the ancestor was kind of rough and tough Irish. Ended up on the unlucky end of a murder. I am extremely forgiving because I don’t know what the world was like back then. Yes, my ancestor was innocent in that incident where he died. Was he always innocent? Unclear.

I can’t think of many instances in which I would actually “be gay and do crime.” Well, at least until the Supreme Court takes me to my concentration camp.

Too dark? Fuck you, no it’s not. I’m not the only one warning of complete collapse. Remember when I was out in front of the Iraq war? Just one of those Portland libtards who turned out to be absolutelyfuckingright. Does this entry sound angry? It kind of is. But actually, don’t take all my ire as anger. It’s also abject fear, hoplessness, anxiety, depression, etc. Nothing is scarier to me than undoing progress.

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Affirmative Action and the conservative supermajority is poised to overturn. Biden better pack that court IMMEDIATELY if he doesn’t want to be responsible for the downfall of all the human rights we’ve already won by the time he moves on. What a fustercluck. How sad is it that so many politicians are so popular in America and get elected easily, but because those votes didn’t come from a particular geographic location, it screws everyone in the country. So maybe do away with the Electoral College while we’re at it.

If gay marriage, Affirmative Action, Roe, and Griswold all fall (and they very well could), it points to overturning Lawrence v. Texas as well. You know, the laws that made gay sex illegal? If women have no right to abortion and no right to privacy, why do you not think gay sex won’t be on the chopping block? We’ll go back to being personified sin wishing we’d left when we had the chance. If you remember the entire world coming for Jews and gays, you better start digging that shit back up. I’m not going through that again, and I’m pretty sure the Jews are also with me on this, capiche? Get your shit together, United States.

God, I’m sure this could be signed by every minority in this country.

It’s also a sick, sick internal feeling to be white and a minority at the same time in the age of “White Fragility.” It does absolutelyfuckingnot (using it again because Heather likes it) feel like a picnic wanting to join “The Movement” and have half the black community be with us and the other half hate us so much. The Black Church is known for many, many things that are wonderful. They’re also known for treating the queer community like absolute shit.

I am not stupid enough to think that black and gay people are having the same experience of the United States. It’s not possible. But what I will say unapologetically is that even though our two paths diverge in the woods, if we each walk a mile in each other’s shoes, we can tell where they might pinch the other’s feet.

We are better together than we will ever be apart, especially as a voting monolith.

And I’m just going to leave that right there, because the truth bomb needs to sit awhile. What are we going to do? We don’t have the option to do nothing.

Sermon for Pride Sunday 2021

When Tara asked me to speak on “What Pride Means to Me,” I said yes… Then, I sat down at my desk and e-mailed a friend. In that moment, all I was feeling was that I wasn’t particularly proud of being gay. It seemed like taking pride in brown hair… or brown eyes… or being able to eat a medium pizza all by myself. These things weren’t unique, just intrinsic to me.

As I wrote, that feeling lasted for five minutes. For five whole minutes, I forgot the rest of the world exists. It came crashing back, bringing me a sermon seed. From the riots at the Stonewall in to the foreseeable future, pride isn’t about being gay. Pride is about your reaction to others’ disappointment, fear, and anger at something that doesn’t need an opinion.

In fact, homophobia, transphobia, and acts against the queer community fueled by hatred conspire to form the perfect storm. Lightning bolts come at us through major events. Sodomy laws weren’t completely abolished until 2003. Gay marriage wasn’t legal until 2008. AIDS has been a never ending struggle because it has been the proof that conservative Christians needed that being gay was a sin and we could die from it. Conservative Christians are still struggling with the sin aspect, when other scientific progress has been institutionalized. For instance, we no longer think of the left-handed or the divorced as morally bankrupt.

Hypocrisy echoes like thunder all around us.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus and the Disciples are out on a boat in what is now Lake Kinnaret, then called the Sea of Galilee. Mark writes that it is storming, and Jesus is asleep in the boat. The Disciples are scared, and wake Jesus up. They say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are in peril?” In short, what they want is for Jesus to wake up and help bail water.

Biblical stories are often told in parables. This one is not spoken by Jesus, but imparts a lesson all the same. In the Bible, storms are often used to represent chaos. The Disciples internalize it by saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are in peril?” Jesus isn’t having it. Instead of working through the storm, he yells at it.

It obeys.

The AIDS crisis begat the slogan “silence equals death.” To me, that plays right into our gospel, because as all these messages of fear and hatred are coming at our community, progress is not measured in how well we go along, but how well we stand out.

We dismantle chaos when we yell at it. We dismantle chaos when we refuse to take it in. The storm is not of us, it is around us.

What pride means to me is not pride in the fact that I’m gay. It’s pride in yelling at the storm, even when my voice was shaking.

Amen.

The One That’s Mostly About My Sister

It’s the middle of the night and I just randomly woke up. I can’t get back to sleep, so I’m going to tell you about a funny conversation I had with Sam and then start reading. If I’m not hooked, I’ll go back to bed. If I am, I can’t think of a better way to spend a few hours than blissed out on the dopamine of a good book.

So, Sam wished me a happy Pride. We were talking about the events, and I asked her when the parade was. Then, I said, “I used to feel embarrassed about having to ask straight people when the parade was, but then I realized that no introvert willingly knows when events this size happen. We know it’s coming up, but we’ll wait until we know the approximate date and time before asking the exactly details.” I think it’s because we’ll spend time being anxious about the crowd- it’s sensory overload on every level imaginable. I like to be surprised with answers like “it’s tomorrow” or “it’s three days from now.” I do not want to know that the Pride parade is in three months. That’s three months of worrying about how to participate in the smallest increment of time possible.

She replied by telling me when it was (I don’t remember now…. I’ll have to look it up….. again), and then said that straight people like to be asked when the Pride parade is because they like proving they’re in the know. They like being thought of as “hip.”

Fine with me. I am not hip. I am the worst gay who ever gayed.

I’ve really only had one Pride parade that was so fun I never wanted the night to end. My sister marched with me, and we were both really young. I think she was 15-16, so that would have made me 20 or 21. There is nothing better than seeing the Pride parade through a kid’s eyes, because they notice everything and their perspective is just, well….. It’s better. They’re blown away by the floats, beads, flags, etc. and they just want to love you up and make you feel appreciated. They GET IT. Kids understand better than most adults, because they don’t like it when they feel like their loved ones are being attacked for something they can’t change, and the idea of one night to celebrate with a big party in the middle of the streets is catnip to a teenager. I think the meaningful parts of Pride move her differently than me, and I can tell you exactly why. If someone’s going to hate their sibling, it has to be them. Anyone else is just asking for a knock-down drag-out. Earrings will be taken out. Ponytails will be hastily made.

It’s not just the neighborhood block aspect. It’s also that my sister isn’t gay. She hasn’t had years and years and years of being picked on, so she has no immunity to it. We’ve never had this conversation, but I think it’s a tiny bit like Quentin Tarantino being worried that Jamie Foxx would recoil at saying the n-word while filming “Django Unchained.” Foxx said not to worry. It was Tarantino that was going to be uncomfortable, because for him, it was just Tuesday. If you are queer, homophobia and transphobia are just the iocaine powder to which we’ve built up immunity.

The struggle did not go unnoticed. The Pride parade impacted my sister’s life just as much as it did mine. She gave me so much self-confidence and love. I gave her the will to take on state and federal legislators who want to outlaw trans medicine by exposing her to what was going on in my community early and often.

My sister is pretty much the straightest straight woman I know, but at the same time, I’ve “raised her” to be a better gay person than I’ll ever be. Like, there’s no contest.

She’s a lobbyist for a federally funded health clinic that serves the queer community, working in Austin and DC. She knows more about queer issues than I’ve forgotten, and if I have questions about trans medicine, she’s the person I ask first (I’m not trans, I just always have questions about medicine). She was one of the people fighting prohibition of giving teenagers puberty blockers and the ban on trans girls in sports.

I don’t have the desire, will, or stamina to talk to Texas Republicans about that, because the fact that puberty blockers would alleviate their concerns was beyond them. Puberty blockers are a non-permanent way to treat gender dysphoria in children while giving them plenty of time to see a therapist and decide if they’re happy with their bodies as is, or whether they’d like to have surgery. It also gives them an “out” if they decide not to transition at all. As soon as you stop taking the pills, puberty resumes. I can’t imagine the disgust I would feel for my body if my entire brain was wired as male and I started seeing breasts grow in. By keeping trans people’s bodies immature, it also makes surgical transition easier later, because your face hasn’t grown into the appearance of your assigned gender- the one people decided for you because you’d just been evicted from your first apartment and measured on the Apgar scale.

For trans women, this could mean that their Adam’s Apples aren’t as pronounced and their facial features stay soft. For trans men, this could mean that their hips don’t widen in preparation for childbirth, they don’t start menstruating, and they only have to have bottom surgery later on.

It’s also misogynistic that this stuff is being targeted at trans girls, because I’ve never heard a legislator talking about males assigned female at birth and how that would affect boys’ teams. No one brought up trans men during the bathroom bill debate. It’s almost as if being female is the problem.

I don’t have the chutzpah to even read this blog entry to legislators, but my sister will keep knocking down obstacles on my behalf.

She is my Pride.

Dear Black People,

I hope that you are not offended by my opening salvo, but one of my favorite shows on Netflix is “Dear White People,” and it seems rude not to write back. However, I am not here to be as flip and funny as that show. For instance, there will be no take-downs of shows that made me laugh so hard there were tears and snot running down my face. I hope and pray there will be no “white people are weird” moments, because I agree with you. I’m just here to talk about yesterday, and what it means for our collective futures.

I have said many times that no minority has the capability to be racist. Prejudiced, sure, but not racist. This is because racism is clearly a top-down, systematic, institution. No minority has the kind of power to create such a thing.

Though I would never compare my own struggle to yours, I feel so much empathy and sympathy toward it. Even though I’m as white and nerdy as they come, I am a woman and a lesbian, two things that have worked against me my entire career.

The one shining moment of equality that I’ve ever experienced was in Texas, of all places. I needed two forms of ID to get my driver’s license renewed, and I realized that I only had one… my old driver’s license. And then I remembered that I had a copy of Dana’s and my domestic partnership license from Oregon in my backpack, and I asked if they would take that. There was the usual “let me ask my manager,” but then they said “yes.”

I’ve also experienced some truly cringeworthy moments, the white people are awful moments that we share- the difference being that people can immediately tell that you’re black. They can almost immediately tell that I’m female. But knowing I’m a lesbian is just conjecture until I come out to them. It is not the same, but I hope that we can share some common ground.

For instance, when I was in high school, I told one person that I was a lesbian and two hours later, the entire school knew. One of the percussionists in my orchestra used to hold up Playboy centerfolds where the conductor couldn’t see them and whisper at me to look in his direction. It was mortifying, and it went on for days.

Later in life, I had a boss who spent 30 minutes talking about her children. She said, “I know you’re not going to have any, so I guess you can talk to us about your cat like that.” She also forced me to wear make-up because she said that I always looked like “I didn’t feel good.” Believe me, I was much more comfortable in my own skin without makeup, because while I am not androgynous, I’m not a girly girl, either.

When I was a teenager, I worked at an early childhood daycare center. They didn’t know that I heard them say I shouldn’t be around children, but they didn’t know if they could fire me for that. Over the next few weeks, there was a concerted effort to make me look incompetent instead.

Another story from my junior year in high school was that I had who I thought was a fantastic English teacher, and she would ask me to do things like help her with bulletin boards. I felt safe enough to come out to her, and after that, she had me transferred into a different class.

I realize that the last few paragraphs seem like I’m trying to make this entry all about me, but that is not my intent. I am trying to say that I will always be a part of the Black Lives Matter movement, because if I have had these experiences, you have stories that are 80 times worse.

Yesterday, while the verdict was being read on Derek Chauvin’s case, police shot and killed a 15-year-old girl. She had a knife and was not only lunging at another girl, she lunged toward the police. What I will never understand is why lethal force was necessary in that instance. Perhaps the police could have used defensive moves to take away the knife. Perhaps they could have used a taser to get her to drop the knife altogether so that they could get her into custody alive. She would have stood trial and probably done some time in juvie, but at the end of it, she would have been able to come home to her parents. Shooting four bullets at her was not, and should never, be the answer.

It should be known that the police are also trigger happy with white people, but the reason the Black Lives Matter protests are so important is that the police act as judge and jury in the moment and decide the punishment is death at a rate far greater than they have ever done when white people commit a crime.

Timothy McVeigh is a prime example. He blew up an entire building in Oklahoma and was taken alive to jail. The important part here is that though he died at the hands of the state, it was a jury’s decision. No police officers decided to kill him in that moment, at the site.

We can also add Dylann Roof to the mix. He killed nine people at a Charleston AME church, and was taken alive- even given Burger King on the way to the police station after a manhunt that lasted two days. He did not receive the death penalty, but life imprisonment. So, even though he will never live with his family again, they will get to come and visit. And again, he got to stand trial. No one in that manhunt decided that they were responsible for punishing him.

Getting caught stabbing someone is the least of our worries. Let’s start with the idea that black kids and adults can apparently be killed for holding anything. A toy gun (Tamir Rice), snacks (Trayvon Martin), and it was a cigarette that provoked the white cop’s ire in the Sandra Bland case. Worse, black people don’t even have to be holding anything. Ahmaud Arbery was killed while jogging through a park, though not by the police- by white supremacists in Georgia.

So now we’ve arrived at the part where it’s not just the police. It is all white people, clearly some more extreme than others. Most white people would not identify themselves as racists because they aren’t physically or emotionally violent towards minorities, particularly black people.

Or are they?

I get that most people aren’t physically violent, but the emotional piece is ever-present and pervasive. Believe me when I say that most of the time, white people do not even realize what they’re doing. They have grown up in a racist system that they can’t even see because it’s always been there. White supremacy is still a problem; extremists still exist. But every white person in America has committed the sin of blindness. I am including myself in that crowd, because the color of my skin still allows me privileges it doesn’t give you.

I can buy a car or a house easier than you. If you buy a nice car or house, the police are more likely to believe it isn’t yours.

Remember when Henry Louis Gates was arrested in front of his own house because when he came back from a trip to China, he found that his front door was jammed, so he and his driver tried to pry it open? The neighbors called 911 and claimed someone was breaking into the house. Gates is one of my favorite authors and has been on TV for interviews plenty. (“Finding Your Roots” hadn’t started yet.) Yet, no one recognized him or believed him in the moment.

If it can happen to a respected scholar, it can happen to any black person in America….. like Amanda Gorman, who had literally just been on TV a few weeks before, and if I remember right, it was a national broadcast (that’s the one joke you’ll get in this piece).

I am heartened by the election of Rev. Raphael Warnock, for a very particular reason. He went to Union Theological Seminary after he graduated from Morehouse. At Union, he went all the way to a doctoral degree. He is the antithesis of everything the Religious Right (which is neither) has done to the Republican Party. Instead of living in a comfort zone thisbig by emphasizing fear of hell and damnation, he is letting his votes be inspired by what the historical Christ would have wanted. He is bringing the kindom of God through the soul of politics, which I would support even if I was an atheist…. because his theology is one of civil rights for all, feeding and caring for the least of us, and changing our racial identity as a country, which for a long time has been rightly compared to South African apartheid. He is not trying to convert people to his religious beliefs, just using them to ask himself the important questions.

In “The Black Church” on PBS, Henry Louis Gates paraphrases James Cone’s work in “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.” I had heard of Cone and the title of his book, but I’d never read it in depth. It struck me where I live.

Gates said that when Africans were first brought to the United States, slave owners forced Christianity on them because there was a lot in it about how slaves should behave (that is a whole different story for another day, but sufficed to say, that interpretation is abominable…. and at the very least, the slave owners should have paid more attention to the master’s responsibilities, the bare minimum for people that misunderstood those scriptures so badly). The slave owners didn’t anticipate that the slaves wouldn’t identify with those scriptures at all, but the man who was beaten and crucified, someone they could indeed understand.

To take it a step further, there is no such thing as competitive suffering. Jesus did not suffer more than American slaves, and to say he did is to undermine you both. Howard Thurman said it best when he entitled his magnum opus “Jesus and the Disinherited.” Martin Luther King, Jr. carried a copy of that book everywhere he went, and he kept it close to his heart- literally in the inside pocket of his suit jacket.

There’s probably nothing that I, a nerdy white lady, can offer you in the way of comfort. However, I believe that these two books might become important to you, even if you are not religious. I will also add a second book by James Cone called “Black Theology and Black Power,” which argues that Jesus’ liberation of both Jews and Gentiles alike was the same message that Black Power was preaching. In fact, you’ll read that it was Malcolm X who shook Cone out of his complacency….. Malcolm said that “Christianity was a white man’s religion,” and it stuck with Cone long enough for him to realize that Malcolm was right. The church universal has a lot of work to do in terms of widening the net and dissociating itself from white supremacy…… going back to ancient missionaries trying to bring white European Christian culture to people who already had civilizations older than theirs.

White, heterosexual, cisgender supremacy has become inextricably interrelated with white church. It’s just more polite. Hidden behind smiles and “bless your hearts.” If there is anything the Trump administration showed me, it is that there are still so many people who would treat you as lesser than just because your skin looks different, and treat me as if I am sin personified. I don’t go to a church like that, but I am wary of walking into any of them with which I am not familiar…. or if I’ve heard the things that go on there.

Any church that looks at the Bible as if God literally had a pen in their hand and wrote it all down is ridiculous to me. It was written in a time and place that has no bearing on our own, in addition to being inspired by many, many people…. some of whom made it into the canon, and some who did not. I look at theology as a lens through which I see everything else, and I have to admit, I did not write that sentence. Marcus Borg did. The best analogy I can bring to the table is a scene from “Shadowlands:”

Harry: I know how hard you’ve been praying; and now God is answering your prayers.

Jack: That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.

I can only hope that the reverse is true with the Black Lives Matter movement… that through the fog, we will carry the light together, bringing along everyone else.

Love,

Leslie

Straight Fragility

The Black Lives Matter movement has changed me in ways I didn’t know I needed. I am beginning to stand up for myself, not afraid to make waves. I hope that I am a white ally in the best sense of the phrase, but I am not naïve enough to think I won’t stumble along the way. The thing I think I’m doing right is that I absolutely know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am not having the same experience they are, and unless they are a person of color who is also LGBTQ+, they aren’t having the same experience as me, either.

This knowledge has made me less afraid to claim what is mine- to look at what the Black Lives Matter movement is doing, and drawing similarities as to what I can apply to my own life as a minority of a different stripe.

For instance, today it was a Facebook group that asked for a queer roll-call. I got a ton of notifications that said “I’m straight, but I’m an ally.” In what universe is being an ally and being queer equivalent? They may have fought for marriage equality, but they could get married while they were doing it. They’ve never felt the pain of rejection and the internalized homophobia it causes. They’ve never had someone claim that part of their identity is a mental illness. They’ve never had anyone stare in disgust if they gave their spouse a peck on the lips goodbye. They’ve never had to seek out safe space, because being gay in a non-safe space can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous.

The main difference between the struggle regarding race and sexual orientation is that people can automatically see that I’m white. I haven’t dated anyone for five years and change, so I don’t wear any outward signs that I’m also a minority. Now, because I fit the stereotype of short hair and nails, boys’ clothes, etc. they might have their suspicions, but they can’t say so definitively unless I tell them. Until I was 36, I thought they could, and then I met a straight woman who dressed like me, with roughly the same haircut, and it was a light bulb moment. I wasn’t actually advertising anything. I now know this is true due to the sheer number of men who’ve asked me out on Facebook Dating (man, that algorithm is off).

I also think that straight people wearing the pride flag or associated accessories is problematic. I’m trying to get used to it because it’s popular, but I am, shall we say, old school. Enlightened straight people are over others mistaking them for queer, but for me it is also a matter of cultural appropriation………………. and because I know that my friends mean me no harm, and in fact are cheering me on, I try to let it roll. I know who’s an ally or not among my friend group, but if I meet someone who lights up my world and it turns out they’re straight, my throat tightens. It’s hard putting toothpaste back in the tube, capiche?

The double standard that’s my work to release is that I don’t care if men do it. I’m not interested in them. Whether a man is straight or gay is of no consequence. With women, depending on how much I like them, the effect varies in severity. If I can’t see myself dating them anyway, it’s a simple “nobody’s perfect.” If I can, there may or may not be waterworks I have to pass off as allergies….. because not only am I disappointed, pining for a straight woman is the oldest cliché in the book…. I mean, if Eve had a lesbian friend, I guarantee she was miserable. It makes me feel embarrassed and stupid, and that will last years longer than the actual attraction, because I tend to get stuck in my flaws and failures. If I was weird to you once in 1992, I’m still thinking about it.

The other thing that gets the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up is the community moving toward acceptance of straight people using the word “queer.” I realize that it’s shorthand for all the letters. I get it. The longer the acronym gets, the more comfortable I am with using it, too. At the same time, it feels like being called the f or the n word. I am much more easygoing about queer people reclaiming that word for themselves as opposed to giving straight people license to use it. Not everyone feels the same way I do, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow, because people are increasingly of the “get over it” mindset and I’m just not there- and maybe not ever. Younger people do not have the same word association that I do.

It’s a conundrum, because I feel that the strides younger generations are making are positive. I also feel that if they knew what it was like before they were born, they’d have a different outlook. That’s the other difference that really shines, because unless you are actually the child of a queer person, you don’t inherit our institutionalized pain…. and even though Lindsay (my almost six-years-younger biological sister) didn’t inherit it, she lived through it with me, so we have roughly the same outlook. She uses those lessons every single day in her job (it honors me to no end that I’m part of the reason she took it). She works in government relations for a queer health care outfit in Texas, which in my mind is God’s work. I wouldn’t want to meet with Texas Republicans on issues like trans health care. I would vomit before work out of nerves every single day. She’s just far enough removed from those specific fears to be effective.

It is again why straight allies are so important. I am not interested in denying their contribution. I only get wigged when I feel they are trying to say “we’re in this together.” No the hell we are not. You can run your mouth all day long about gay rights, and other straight people will hear it better from you. But you’re not going to think before going into an unfamiliar situation that it’s possible everyone will hate you when they know. Moreover, that fear is tripled going into an unfamiliar church. The Religious Right is the source of most of the things that cause me pain, because their bile is still infecting millions. You are not in danger if a trans person uses the same bathroom as you. You are not in danger if I’m in the locker room with you.

I mean, I’m not even going to hit on you unless you’re wearing a pride flag.

Waking Life

I am drinking a mediocre cup of coffee; it’s my second one if I’m being honest. That probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but the mug is 16 oz. I normally drink iced green tea in the morning because DC summer has set in, so I’ve got a bit of a buzz going. Though it’s basic, I put four Splenda in it, so at least it feels like dessert going down. I normally add a plant milk- coffee tastes better with fat- but I’m out. I need to go to the grocery store, just one of the things I need to add to my growing To Do list because I’m ready to get out into the world again.

It startled me when I realized I hadn’t written anything since the end of May on this web site. I get so busy with e-mail and Facebook that I forget to be a writer in public. Facebook is easier because I can write in short snippets and it’s not a large, blank page staring back at me.

I have a different “voice” over e-mail, and I like who I am when I write them. I tend to make them weighted because I can let myself go with one person or a group of friends. It’s not so easy with my hundreds of subscribers and thousands of casual readers. It becomes intimidating when I think of it that way, so I need to go back to framing it as writing only for myself, an e-mail from me to me.

Since I’ve come back from Texas, my depression and anxiety has flared up to an enormous degree. It’s another piece of the puzzle when I think about why I haven’t been eager to write (or engage, really). It’s frustrating because with mental illness, I can’t point to where it hurts and I can’t vocalize what will make me feel better. I legitimately have no idea. I have tricks to fool myself into a brighter mood, like putting on gangsta rap with a great hook and lots of bass, or at the other end of the spectrum, ABBA or Aqua.

Today, it’s the Argo soundtrack, because I’ve been writing to it for years. It helps to go back to music that encourages body memory, the feel of typing into the night even though it’s 11:00 AM. Night is when I’m the most vulnerable, which I feel is universal. Conversations that happen when the sun go down are different than the ones had when it comes up.

For instance, during the day I am unlikely to admit what I’m really pondering. It is the barbed wire fence around my emotions, and how much I’m willing to take it down depends on the day. I get the most defensive when it comes to my lack of a love life, because I  think I have good reasons for not wanting someone to walk around in my inner landscape, but as more and more time passes since my disastrous break up with Dana, those reasons don’t seem good enough for other people. I grow weary of people asking why, as if it’s their right to know and try to the be judge and jury of my answers. I want to live life at my own pace, which is infinitely my choice. I just want to tell people, in the words of an old Texas gun safety video, “leave it alone. Don’t touch it. Call an adult.”

My reasons fall in many percentages, but the largest piece of the pie is that when two adults are in a relationship, it is codependent unless both people are strong in themselves. One of my favorite quotes from Khalil Gibran in The Prophet, paraphrased, is that couples should be like trees, not entwined at the trunks, but the branches. I am not that person yet, and I currently have no indicators as to when it will change. Because I am incredibly sapiosexual, I will be sparked eventually by the way someone thinks and interacts. It has happened three times over the last five years, but something hasn’t been right in every case, mostly timing. For instance, my admittance of feelings led to the conversation of “I’d totally be down for dating if I hadn’t just started dating someone else.”

Just to be clear, I thought I was admitting feelings to someone who was single. It wasn’t as if I knew she was with someone else and didn’t care because my ego was big enough to think she would jump at the chance to date me no matter her status. I also didn’t think of her “that way” until Samantha saw us together and said we looked cute…. and then, of course, I had to overthink about it before I said anything, and by then it was too late. This was about a year and a half ago, and since then I have been battling the up and down of depression medications, and if you’re taking them as well, you probably know what I mean. For the uninitiated, the downs mean lack of lust for life, much less anything else. However, I do enjoy being chilled out and relaxed, and that more than makes up for lack of a partner.

I also know that when someone does tilt my vision their way, it probably won’t come through searching profiles on web sites. Every date I’ve been on by doing so felt like a job interview, stiff and uncomfortable to the point of nausea. I just feel done when it comes to internet dating. I’m over it.

I am the happiest when going out alone or with close friends, those that have become as close as siblings while I wait out disinterest. When I’m alone, I am very good at chatting up strangers, so it feels like I’m meeting up with friends I haven’t met yet, as opposed to being insular. I am very much in love with my own thoughts, and I want to wait until I feel that way about someone else’s. I also feel that waiting is appropriate until I don’t feel like my crazy spatter is going to stick to their clothes. That seems like cruel & unusual punishment.

The smallest piece is not feeling ready to compromise or share. I enjoy not having to check in with anyone about where I’m going or when I’m going to be home. I don’t want a relationship to feel like an obligation instead of a joy. The woman I picture is drop dead gorgeous, smarter than I am, and has respect for the fact that we will not share everything. There is a box inside me that I will never unlock for anyone, for any reason. Lack of privacy or jealousy on her part would ruin everything.

In short, I would give my heart to the right person, but I’m not going to settle for the wrong one, even if she is a basket of hotness. More than one person has been worried I’ll be an old lady with seven cats.

Well, what in the hell is wrong with that? I wouldn’t necessarily choose it for myself, but I’d choose it every time over being irritated with someone else. As I have said before, relationships are a lot of work, but they shouldn’t feel like trying to nail a square peg into a round hole every damn day…. and those relationships are worth the wait.

As is, I hope, waiting for a new entry.