Tag Archives: pride

re-entering the chaos of radical love and belonging

[Photo description: a red and white sticker, young woman's face in profile surrounded by a red circle and the words "Don't give up the fight - Queer up your life"]Good morning, good morning. It’s not even seven here yet and already it looks like high noon outside, the sun making an enormously bright arc of the horizon. I close all the shades, trying to hold on to dark for a little bit longer. What do you do when you want to hold on to the dark?

I went too hard and too fast this weekend; the pendulum is swinging back from “constant engagement with others” to “go hide in a cave,” and I’m in Facebook withdrawal right now. Between following the organizing of a couple of outsider events during Gay Pride weekend (a Thursday Throwback “march” that ended up being a sweet gathering in Dolores Park of folks who all knew and loved one another in queer 90s San Francisco, and a Take Back the Dyke March march [note: that link’s NSFW] that was hastily and yet professionally thrown together when it was made known that the Dyke March was taking a new route and the community couldn’t get any answers as to why) and the Supreme Court ruling about marriage equality on Friday, I was on Facebook constantly. I get a little obsessive with it, refreshing my screen over and over, but not necessarily participating in any conversations as much as I’m just consuming, consuming, consuming. What’s happening? What did she say back to him? What do they think about this?

Yes, on Friday, it was powerful to watch everyone and their sister rainbow their Facebook profile pics in support of the newly-announced right of gay/queer folks to marry anywhere in the country, if they chose. All those rainbows felt like a virtual gay pride parade — and yet I kept reminding myself about the other side of the equation: “This isn’t in support of gay/queer folks generally — this is about marriage, about a particular and comfortable and romantic vision of togetherness. There’s lots about queer folks that mainstream America– and the mainstream gay community — still isn’t dealing with.”

Continue reading

turning the inside out: re-viewing our coming out stories

Do you remember what it was like when you first came out? What about what it was like when you had to come out all over again?

(How many different times do we come out in our lives? I’ve come out as queer, as bi, as an incest survivor, as genderqueer, as femme, as gay, as a porn writer… what are the areas identity that we can keep in the closet, or that our communities want us to keep hidden? Aren’t those the parts of ourselves that require outing?)

My dearest Kathleen tells me to remind you that, though you might not know this, I’m gay. It’s June, which means it’s gay pride month (thanks, Stonewall), and I’m living in the greater (supposed) Big Gay Mecca area. I’ve had no plans to participate in much of the plethora of queer events happening this month (like, say, NQAF, Frameline), except maybe for the Dyke March and hopefully the Queer Women of Color Film Festival (which is tremendous and which you should attend for sure!).

I watched Desert Hearts yesterday, for the first time in many, many years, and today I’m remembering what it was like when I was first coming out to myself and into the world. Today I live a life that’s queer at its core and yet not always visibly so. I don’t know if I feel jaded, exactly, but, having been out so long, I feel less drawn to participate in a public performance and proclamation of queerness (or survivorship) on a regular basis.

So why am I so glad that it’s Pride month? I feel a little swell in my belly, that thickening that says excited, says yes, says I get to be with my people. It’s the same feeling I got when I’d drive down to Boston every year for their Pride March, held usually right after graduation festivities in my college town. I’d look at all the other cars going south on I-93 and assume that every single one of them was headed for Boylston Street and the gathering of queers. We couldn’t ever get there fast enough — I wanted to get my body there, in the middle of the queerfolks, on a day when everyone you saw was assumed queer, at least for a few hours. It was a day when we got to be the norm, the regular, the majority. It felt like we took over the whole city, with our rainbows and glitter and feathers and leather and candy and mardi gras beads and streamers and flyers and palm cards and sweat and sex and need. Pride Day turned me inside out, let me wear all my joy on the outside, gave me a public space for what lived around the ache I usually bore.

The story I tell is that gay wasn’t a site of trauma for me; I didn’t struggle over it, didn’t fall into the well of loneliness, didn’t get washed through with shame or guilt. I liked girls; that was nothing compared to the trauma that was my homelife. When people asked what my family thought, I laughed: my queerness is the least of our issues, I’d say. My story was that queer was good and fine, a place of blessing and joy that rose up like a surprise blossom in the middle of the devastation that was my traumatized sexuality.

In Desert Hearts, there’s a scene toward the end of the film, when the two main characters go out to a bar for a meal after the first time they’ve had sex. One woman has been out for awhile, at least to herself, and sort of tacitly to her community; the other woman is only just discovering that she could love a woman, is terrified and exhilarated – she can’t sit still, she fusses whenever her lover looks at her or touches her hand, she alternates between smiling lovingly and appearing to want to crawl under the table.

Watching this, I remembered going out for a (very) late breakfast the afternoon after the first time I slept with a woman — which was also the afternoon after the first time I kissed a woman, after the evening when I first realized that what I’d been doing with this new friend of mine all night wasn’t just teasing, it was flirting. We ordered cafe mocha grandees and waffles loaded with strawberries and whipped cream, and I was certain that we had neon signs over us flashing Lesbian! Lesbian! Lesbian! Every time I lifted my coffee cup to my mouth I could smell on my hands what we’d spent the morning doing. I wouldn’t let her touch me (except when I reached for her hands surreptitiously), and I didn’t want her to flirt — what if people saw us?

And what would they have seen? Two young women, obviously delighting in each other. Maybe they would see new lovers. Maybe they would see good friends. Maybe they wouldn’t see us at all. Our waitress, a tall, rangy, old-school dyke, surely knew who she was serving. We left her a big tip, and I wouldn’t meet her eyes.

Here’s what was true: I was still being abused by my stepfather at the time, even though I was twenty years old and away at college. I wanted to go back to my new friend’s room, climb back into her body, and I wanted to avoid my own room, where my phone lived, and the phone was his mouth, his face, an appendage that could at any moment call out and demand my full attention. I was terrified of him finding out what I’d done, because he would take it away or use it for his own ends. Or both. But I couldn’t tell this woman that — no one knew what my stepfather was doing to my family. This thing that had happened between us became another secret for me to wear.

To this first woman I loved, at least those early days, I must have been just another straight girl freaking out because she’d had sex with a woman. Of course I wanted to keep us secret. They all did. And she did her best (despite my sneaking into her room at night and making all that noise).

In my life, homophobia had the face of my stepfather, a psychotherapist who was raping his daughters and yet had the audacity and authority to demonize homosexual with the standard 1970s DSM story: underdeveloped; domineering mother, absent father; narcissistic; suicidal; selfish, and obsessed with sex and the death drive.

His was the story I had to swim through if I wanted to live — and his was the embodiment of psychoanalytic homophobia. And so I learned to breath that belief even as I was trying to justify sanctify regulate reconcile it with the complicated, beautiful, kind, generous, catty, smart queer-spectrum folks I was beginning to get to know. It was one thing to have internalized the idea that I was narcissistic and selfish, and another to not see that in this community I had found (at least, no more so than in any other group of people).

So, it’s not exactly true to say that my coming out was unfraught. It was actually terrifying, woven as it was into the life I was living as this man’s stepdaughter.We tell and retell our coming out stories; they take on a shape and a structure for us, they organize (as does any narrative) what is a disorganized and explosive/implosive experience. I am grateful to get to revisit my own well-told stories, to reach into and underneath them, to write them again, to find the slippery and scared parts, the parts that haven’t been told yet.

Coming out is ongoing, everpresent. What did coming out look like for you? What does it look like now?

Thank you for the way you continue to look inside the petals of your stories, to find what new life there is to discover there. Thank you for your words.

proud that she got us here

graffiti from Gay Youth Galway -- Big rainbow "OUT" with the words "No to homophobic bullying!"Happy Friday! Here where I am, it’s blue & green outside the windows, sunshine pushing into everything, lettuces quietly growing like gangbusters, puppy curled in a fed-n-satisfied-n-sleepy ball. The carpet is in desperate need of vacuuming, and the puppy toys are gathered up and tossed on top of the fire box. What’s it look like where you are?

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Just spent about 25 or 30 minutes typing more of that first journal entry from 1993, and am paying attention to what happens in my body as I do so. I got very cold, and my fingers would go from being able to type quickly & accurately to slipping and stumbling all over the place. But this entry is from right after I broke contact, or rather, right at the beginning. He called me constantly, trying to get me back ‘in.’ It’s hard to just type the words, just be with that voice, that 21-year-old self, who is still stuck in the perpetrator’s language, trying to argue her way out of his boxes with his words and persuasions, still thinking that if she’s able to do so well enough, he’ll let her off the hook. I want to respond to her, clarify as I’m typing, say it out loud: that was all bullshit, Jen! You didn’t have to think that way!

Of course I know it now. The blessing of all these journals is that I get to see, again, when I started to shift in my thinking, when I began to get free in my head. This entry is the beginning of that. It was one of the first times I’d written down (and not destroyed, or sent to him) what he was doing to me, and that it wasn’t ok with me). This entry is a revolution, quietly sitting there in black ink in an unlined Artists Sketch Book. I am proud of us, of then-Jen and me, now, for doing it, for both taking the steps and writing about them. She got me started. I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing now without her. As hard as it is to read her words, and how she/we/I thought then, that ever-present tangle of cognitive dissonance, I won’t change them. They’re ours.

I’m grateful for this record, for the opportunity to be, again, with that voice, that self, this written memory.

I’m going to take a long shower after I post this, and leave more transcribing for another day. It’s heavy work, that reading & typing, moving those words through my body again, from paper to eyes to brain to nerve impulse to fingers: I want to take good care of me as I do this. Take the transcribing in small bites, drink lots of water, stretch, play with the dog, wash it through & clean.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

It’s Pride weekend here in SF.

Today’s the Trans March— are you gonna be there?

Tomorrow’s the Dyke March, and Sunday’s the big Pride festival (which I wish were still called the Gay Freedom Day Parade — I like that so much better).

Have fun, if you’re going to be partying, and stay safe, ok? You deserve it! Keep an eye on your friends, watch one another’s backs — let’s act like we matter, like it matters that we’re safe.

So much going on, for so many of us — and lots of folks still feel overwhelmed, left out, deep loss and shame.

What does pride mean for you? Maybe let that be your write this morning — and you don’t have to be queer-identified to write about Pride, of course! I don’t just mean pride as big gay celebration, but pride as a concept related to your whole self. What does it mean to feel pride? What about yourself/your work/your relationships/your communities brings you pride? What would bring you pride if it were manifested? Take 15 minutes (set a timer), settle in with your notebook and coffee, and dive in. If you’re going out into queer community this weekend, what do you hope for with respect to pride? Let it all down onto the page. “Pride is…” or “I’m/She’s/He’s/Ze’s/We’re proud of…”

I’m proud of you, of him & her, of all of us. I’m proud of how high we fly, how we stay grounded, too, even through all the voices that tell us Never & You Can’t & Forget about it. I’m grateful for how you remember and fly anyway. I’m grateful for your words.