Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year In Review

I'm not sure what it is about the end of a year that makes us sit down and reflect on our life during that year, but reflection is good for understanding.  It's also good for wiping the proverbial slate clean in order to start the new year on a good note.  My review turned out to be a lot longer than I expected but if your up for it, here goes.

This past year began with me dressed up and in a tie for the evening and out celebrating at the now defunct E-Room (what used to be Portland’s only lesbian bar but has since closed) with a bunch of really great friends and my, then, wonderful girlfriend.   It was awesome to start the new year with my friends and even better to start it off with a kiss from someone I loved very much. 

Shortly after the year began I flew down to Vegas to attend the only Women’s Football Camp and Conference in the nation.  It was a whirlwind of an experience but I got quite a bit out of it and gained some new friends.  I also had the financial and emotional support of my friends and chosen family around the country who helped get me there.  It was something I had been wanting to do ever since I had heard about the camp in 2009 and I am eternally grateful to those who helped.

After returning from the camp I discovered a lump in one of my breasts and had my first ever mammogram.  That was an experience, to say the least.  I was worried but as it turned out, all was well and there was nothing to be concerned about.  Thankfully.

In February I spent an amazing weekend in Cannon Beach with a wonderful woman.  Memories from that weekend still linger.  Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock were always favorite spots of mine but after that weekend they became sacred.  I still find myself being drawn there to ground and re-group when things get overwhelming. 

February and March also brought a lot of fundraising planning and executing for the football team that I was playing for, the Portland Fighting Fillies.  I spent the first year as not only a player but an owner, treasurer and fundraising planner.  It was a lot of hard work but we pulled off an amazing first season. 

Unfortunately, during a practice in mid-March my left foot got pinned and my left knee was fallen on causing an injury that took me out of the game for good.  I have cartilage coming off my bone inside the joint and I’m told it isn’t repairable.  My only option is to try and not over do it and when I do, elevate it and ice it to keep the swelling down.  This injury sent me into a spiral of depression that I am only now realizing and working through.  Playing sports and my ability as an athlete meant a lot to me.  It was a huge part of who I was.  You don’t realize how much you use your knees until you just can’t use them, or one of them, anymore.  Even as I type this now, tears are rolling down my cheeks just thinking about how much it’s affected my life and how I see myself.  I still have a lot of work to do around that.

April brought the beginning of the football season for the Woman’s Football Alliance and I found myself on the sideline of our very first game as the Portland Fighting Fillies.  Our trainer was working with me to get the knee recovered because at that point I hadn’t yet seen a doctor to have it thoroughly looked at.  This was probably my biggest mistake.  I figured if I could still move it I must not have torn anything so it’ll heal if I just give it time and work on getting my range of motion back. 

April also brought the joy of watching her play softball again.  I was so happy to see her out there playing the sport she loved.  It was the first time I had a girlfriend who also played sports and it was then that I realized exactly how hot that was.

Finally by May I felt ready to get out on the field again so I was back in at practice and played briefly in a game then got back into the gym and the second set of squats did me in.  That was all she wrote for my football career.  I still took my time getting into the doctor but finally did it after a few weeks of it being perpetually swollen.  An MRI was ordered and a few weeks later my injury was discovered.  Physical therapy was started to get the swelling down and my range of motion back then began the up hill battle of getting my quad muscles back.  I’m still working on that when the knee will allow me to.

In May I flew down to Vegas again to support my team in a game against the Las Vegas Showgirls.  By the end of June I was supporting them from home as they traveled back to Vegas to play that team again in the first playoff round.  We were eliminated but were still excited about and proud of the fact that we made it to the playoffs in our first season as a team. 

Also in May, my son and I drove down to Southern California to pay respect to my Grandmother who had passed away after a long and busy life.  After listening to the minister list all the things that she had accomplished in her life my son leaned over to me and whispered, “Now I know where we get it from.”  It was an enlightening trip for both of us and I was thankful to spend the time with him and see my family again. 

My son celebrated his 20th birthday in June and I still can’t figure out how that happened.  We truly have grown up together and he is one of my best friends now.  He’s an amazing and talented animator and I am very much looking forward to seeing what the future holds for him in his life and career. 

The end of June brought another fun filled camping trip on the coast.  This time with a big group of friends and the wonderful woman I had spent the weekend with on the coast back in February.  It was great fun and lots of really good memories were made but it was to be, unfortunately, the last camping trip for me for the season and for us as a couple. 

July brought heartbreak and some really difficult emotions that took some time to work through.  Unfortunately, I went a little crazy during it all and not only did things but also said things that I wish I hadn’t.  Hopefully, those who were affected by my insanity will eventually forgive me.  I'm still finding my way through that insanity but I think I'm gaining a better grip on it now.

July also brought more beach time with friends and a new tattoo to honor the relationship that had just ended and the person who brought so much to my life in such a short period of time. 

With August came some huge, I mean HUGE, life changes.  The changes that actually started this blog.  I finally came to the realization that my job as a Senior Accountant for one of the Pacific Northwest’s chain of pubs and breweries was sucking the life out of me and making me absolutely miserable.  By the end of August I made the decision to quit and step off the cliff.  I had very little savings but tons and tons of support from friends and family and people I hadn’t even met in real life.  This is when I begun to really understand why things had happened the way the did the previous month.  It was all supposed to be and was making a way for me to find my true self, my authentic self, by becoming the artist I had always wanted to become.

Since quitting that job and my life as an accountant I’ve found temporary warehouse work, house and pet sitting gigs from friends and dog walking gigs from friends of friends who are becoming new friends to me.  I’ve also sent away a short story that I worked on for a few months, with the help of a very talented friend and writer, and am hoping to have it accepted into an anthology next year.  Photographs that I’ve taken have been purchased, loved and shown proudly by me in my first art show ever this past October. 

The last few months of the year have brought many wonderful and amazing things to my life.  A good friends visit and lots of great information from a journey she did for me while she was here, another trip down to Southern California where I found peace with my parents and fun with some new friends and chosen family, registration as a volunteer with the Oregon Humane Society as a dog walker (which I thoroughly enjoy), more sales of my prints and note cards and lots and lots of friend, family and doggie time. 

As one of my good friends put it to me this morning, this has been quite an epic year for me.  It hasn’t been an easy year, but I truly feel blessed for all that 2010 has brought.  New friends, a new life, new experiences and more insight into me.  I very much look forward to seeing what 2011 holds in store for me and can’t wait to share it with all of you here. 

Happy New Year to all of you!  May your new year bring you an abundance of love, joy, happiness, wealth, health and laughter! 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

First Writing Submission

A few moments ago I emailed off a story I've been working on these past couple of months for a BDSM anthology that Sinclair Sexsmith is editing.  It's to be published in the Fall of 2011 by Cleis Press.  If it is chosen for the anthology, it will be my first published piece.  Needless to say, I'm a wee bit nervous about it.

I posted a short teaser on my Facebook page after several inquiries to read it.  There has been only one other set of eyes to read the piece in it's entirety and that's because that person helped me in the editing process.  It's always good to get a second set of eyes on it before you send it off.  Anyway, to be fair to those who read my blog but who are not on my Facebook page, here is the teaser:

     After leading her out to the bike, I stood behind her for a moment as she prepared to mount the powerful machine.  The combination of her black leather boots, tight fitting jeans and the black mesh riding jacket I had just handed her made my blood race to all the right places. 

     Before she slid her helmet over her long, dark curls I walked up behind her, slipped my arm around her waist, and whispered in her ear, “It’s okay, baby.  Just hold on tight and Daddy will take good care of you.” 

     I could feel her body tremble as she leaned back against me and whispered, “Yes, Daddy.”

Copyright Wendi Kali 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010


I am stuck between me and some version of me.  A made up, partially shut down version of myself.   The observer who is watching the movie of my life.  Scenes flicker on the screen, characters come and go but there’s no forward movement.  No plot to this particular story.  I am a part of it yet disconnected.  Removed from my emotions and sense of, well, everything.  Numb.

Words don’t flow very easily when I’m in this space.  I’d like to say that I’ve ‘gone within’ but that doesn’t feel true.  I feel more like I’ve shut down.  Numbed myself to things around me.  A sense of overwhelm does this to me.  With the holidays and so much happening around me and in my life, I seem to have an incredibly difficult time staying present.  The ‘fight or flight’ mode has kicked in and I mostly want to flee.  The idea of renting a cabin on Mt. Hood for the entire month of December sounds comforting at this point. 

I just realized that I am much more complex than I had originally thought.  I’m not yet sure how I feel about this revelation, either. 

This morning I re-read my piece that I wrote to submit to the BDSM anthology and was thankful that I was able to get it out before I found myself in this space.  I am happy with it and am excited to see what happens with it.  Perhaps by this time next year I can call myself a published writer.  I would like that very much.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holiday!

"May love and laughter light your days and warm your home. May good and faithful friends be yours wherever you may roam. May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures. May all life's passing seasons bring the best to you and yours." - Irish Holiday Blessing

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Becoming Whole

The Universe has ways of getting its point across.  I’ve been battling with myself over the direction I’ve taken with my life and finances lately and have continuously received message after message just like this from the Universe.  Don’t be perfect, be whole. 

Since I’m not working at the moment I took the afternoon ‘off’ in an attempt to just rest and ended up watching both the Ellen and the Oprah show.  Yes.  Daytime television.  It sort of reminded me of being home with my Mom during my last visit.  She watches a lot of those programs during the day since she’s been recovering from one surgery after the other. 

Oprah’s guest today was Jane Fonda.  I sort of half-heartedly watched as I knitted the scarf I’m working on to donate to the Handmade Especially For You project.  Yes. I knit.  It’s very meditative.  I feel productive while I’m meditating.  Yes.  That’s not the point of meditation but it works for me. 

Ms. Fonda was talking about her life in it’s “3rd Act” and how she’s finally learned that life isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being whole.  Don’t be perfect, be whole.  Then Oprah said something along the lines of wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone actually heard you and shifted from the get, get, get, more, more, more as an idea of success in life and just focused on becoming whole and in so doing became successful?

In this society, in this world, being whole takes so much courage.  Courage and determination.  Determination to live outside of the lines and to create a life that makes you happy, which in turn makes those who are around you happy.  I know these things to be true for myself and I continue to fight through the conditioning of get more, make more in order to be more.  It takes a lot of strength and courage and a hell of a lot of support from those around you. 

Encouraging words go a long way in this journey.   I’ve received so many and for that I am so grateful.  Just the other day my birthmother, who is an amazing minister and who began writing a book a few months ago, told me over the phone that I inspire her.  This blog and my writing inspires her to just get it all out.  To be open and honest with the world about who she is.  Needless to say, I was deeply touched.  That was so unexpected to hear.  She’s inspired me so very often in my life.  I never thought it would ever be the other way around. 

Little messages like this from those around me, from the Universe, keep me on this path.  They keep me honest with myself and in turn I am honest with the world about who I am in hopes that it will inspire others to be true to themselves, to be whole.  Listen to those messages.  They are sometimes hard to hear but they are there. 

Don’t be perfect, be whole.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Butch Lab

The wonderfully talented writer Sinclair Sexsmith has begun another amazing project of which I have contributed to with my post about Butch identity.  The project is called Butch Lab and it's filled with all things Butch.  The mission statement of the project explains it all:
The mission of the Butch Lab Project is to promote a greater understanding of masculine of center gender identities, expressions, and presentations, through encouraging: 1. visibility, because we feel alone; 2. solidarity, because there are many of us out there, but we don’t always communicate with each other; and 3. an elevation of the discussion, because we have a long history and lineage to explore and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
I am honored to be included amongst this awesome group of writers and share the first symposium post with you here.  Please take some time to visit these other wonderful sites and read the words of these amazing writers.


The Butch Lab Symposium is meant to be a cross between a blog carnival and a link round-up, where whoever wants to chimes in on a particular topic around butch identity and we all have a conversation.

I strongly urge all the folks who participated in this to: a) re-post this roundup, in whole or part (I can provide the HTML if you’d like, contact me); and b) to comment on as many of the contributions as you can. Seriously, challenge yourself to read every single one and comment. Think about what is different or the same from your definition. Make note of a line that made you go “hmmmm,” or “yeah, that!” and tell them.

So, because this was the first Symposium, I figured we should start out with the basics. To get all of us on the same page, to come up with a common language and definition and structure for talking about this stuff. I’d really like to continue elevating the discussion around butch identity through this project, and this is part of that, to really dig our hands into the deep stuff and see what we come up with.

So the first topic was: What is butch? How do you define butch? What do you love about it? What does it mean to you?

Thirteen bloggers wrote in, four of them not butch identified but are interested in this work.

Ulla writes on Boxer Shorts & Bras:
I am a butch woman, a butch lesbian, a butch dyke – so my interpretation of butch stems directly from that. Beyond that though, butch is an adjective I use to describe the way I look, the way I walk. For me it’s about style, not gender. It’s the hipster jeans, the sneakers, the wallet chain, the watch, the heavy silver rings, the fact that I wear men’s clothing but refuse to accept masculinity and femininity as my gender labels. It’s my reclaiming of stuff that society says is just for boys and men. It’s liberation. It’s boxer shorts and bras.
Kyle at Butchtastic:
I love the word butch, it looks and feels exactly the way it should: tough, masculine, a little hard. For me, ‘butch’ evokes images of blue jeans and leather jackets, sturdy footwear and strong hands. ’Butch’ is strong, handsome, capable, ready to help, there to back up a friend or a stranger in need. And while I realize it’s not true for all who embrace the term, for me, butch is all the great things about being a woman, wrapped in the great things about being a man.
Holden from Packing Vocals:
I love taking what I perceive to be the best bits of masculinity and putting them into practice, such as chivalry and courteousness. I love opening doors, carrying bags, being called a gent and generally attempting to display as many ‘old fashioned’ good manners as possible. I also love the clothes and accessories, suits, ties, cufflinks, waistcoats etc. It’s all of that which makes the blood in my veins run thicker and stronger.
Roxy at Uncommon Curiosity writes about butch from the perspective of loving someone butch:
Butch is that red-and-white, candy-striped, aftershave-and-razor hair cut, the hand you wish you dared reach out to feel those strong, ripped shoulders, that neck that slides up, close-cropped, under the fabric, like she was born with that cap on, like they were made for each other, lookin out at the world like it’s one big fight or maybe just last night’s lay. The way she shines those boots that have known the ground, walked miles outside this town, out of her house and never looking back, marching and dancing with her girl, but always easy, hips that were built to press up close when her girl sways and leans her head back, stretching out her neck, long and graceful, inviting her inside.
G at Can I Help You Sir:
Being a butch is complex, and I dig it. When I think about what I love about being a butch, it’s easy to think tactically – “What things do I do that make me a butch?” I shave my face and wear my ball cap backward when I watch sports and love manual labor and open doors for my date, but anyone can do that. I went a step further and thought, “How do those things make me feel?” (Ew, feelings!) I can tell you this: I know what my life felt like before and after I came out as a butch, and the difference in my comfort level is astounding.
Victoria Oldham wrote at The Musings of a Lesbian Writer:
I am a femme. To me, butch is the other half of my equation. … There’s a swagger, a sureness, a sense of yeah, that’s who I am, so what? to her walk. A sense of comfort in her own body, of knowing who she is and what she wants out of life. A defiance of pronouns. An ability to take up space like a man, without every having to be one. She is in-between and everything, all at once.
EST from A Lesbian Christian writes:
Though it might be how others identify butch individuals, for me butch has very little to do with clothes and hair. Butch is an attitude. I think above all Butch means embracing your protective instincts. Holding a door open for a woman…or a man. Standing up for others who can’t stand up for themselves. Butch means not being afraid to get dirty especially when others are involved.
Wendi at A Stranger in This Place:
No matter how much I am against putting myself in a box by claiming the title of ‘butch’, I have learned to be much more ok with it after attending the conference and talking to others about the term and what it means to them. You see, the thing about words and titles is that you can mold and define them for yourself. … I am just me. A boots, jeans and t-shirt wearing, motorcycle riding, butch lesbian with a buzz cut. I like to think of myself as mostly a guy but I’m not. I’m a woman.
Jenni from writes:
Having grown up as a gender non-conforming child, and navigating life as a gender-trans adult, my butch identity has been a way of naming myself and proclaiming who I am — so that I might embrace these qualities and think of myself as a hero instead of an awkward, self-conscious mistake of nature.
Ali at Made of Words doesn’t identify as butch, but chimes in:
I think you’re butch if you feel butch. I don’t think you need to claim the title every day. I think short hair my be a visual clue, but long hair doesn’t exclude you. I think gender identity and butch can be completely separated from each other, that it’s just an adjective for power, pants-wearing, and planning really great dates. For being swanky and taking care of yourself and being unafraid to get dirty. For occasionally getting “Sir” on the street, either accidentally or intentionally.
Jolie writes at This Side of Changed:
Butch is an adjective. Butch is a noun. Butch is a compliment, an acknowledgement, a performance, an attitude. Butch is an insult, an attack, an assault. It’s flattering and pejorative and honest and undeniable. Butch is a body born female and worn male. Butch is a title. One that must be first accepted, then adopted, and finally fulfilled. … Butch is the strength to grow up female and then choose for yourself – it is the strength to walk out the door every single day looking like everything you shouldn’t and making it work.
Lesbian Dad (Polly) writes over at Lesbian Dad:
Whether or not “butch” is the first term I find myself using to describe my gender, it is an umbrella I find shelter under. At the Butch Voices conference my breath was taken away: a room after room, hallway after hallway of people like me. I’ve got years of familiarity at being called “sir” (“six of one, half dozen of the other,” I usually reply, with a smile and a hop of the eyebrows); I am resigned to forever fluster/ disorient/ alarm women in public restrooms (at forty some-odd, I still avert my gaze and head for stall or sink, in mute attempt to convey I’m “just here to pee, ma’am; just here to pee”). Yet being surrounded by so many mannish women showed me how inured I am to aloneness in public.
Sinclair (um that would be me) over on Sugarbutch Chronicles:
So here’s what butch is, for me: Permission. Permission to be myself, that little solid stardust shiny nugget I feel somewhere in my core, like a diamond lodged between L5 and L4 of the lumbar spine vertebrae. Permission to wear what I like, to love who I desire, to play how I crave, to decorate and adorn my body how I choose. To experience all the things this world has to offer, without guilt or obligation, but with curiosity and an open heart and experimental hands. Permission to be right where I’m at, regardless of whether that’s where I was yesterday. Permission to explore and seek pleasure, to connect and create friction, to question and make change. Permission to be exactly who I am, doing exactly what I’m doing, to have bright burning faith that everything I do works toward the greatest liberation for everyone, as much as possible, all the time, in all ways.
Here’s a list of all the posts by link, if you’d like to copy & paste it onto your own blog.

Symposium #1: What is Butch? on Butch Lab:
The next Symposium topic will be announced soon.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Today is my birthday.  A day where I look back on my life and do a bit of a self-assessment.  I’m in my 40’s and I think to myself, “Is this where I thought I’d be in my 40’s?”  Honestly, I don’t think I really ever thought about being in my 40’s but today, and the last few days, I find myself in a space where I’m feeling a bit unsure of myself and of my abilities.  I hate to say it but there have been more than a few times when I’ve stopped and thought to myself, “Wendi, what in the hell are you doing? You gave up a decent paying job and having all of your bills paid for this life of uncertainty.  That’s not very responsible of you.  What the hell?”   

After that initial ‘what the hell’, beating myself over the head sort of self-talk happens I begin to remember how incredibly un-happy I was in that job.  No amount of money in the world could make that ok for me anymore.  Ok, maybe if enough money were involved to pay off all of my debt and work the job for a year at minimum, then maybe it would be ok.  But, that’s not the case at all.  I was staring down the barrel of a lifetime of misery and self-sabotage.  I just couldn’t do it any longer.  I’m not going to do it again.

Yes, at this moment in time I am struggling financially and my bills have fallen behind but the reality of it for me is that those things are minimal when you consider the big picture of life.  I’m broke but I can honestly say I am happy. 

Learning to put this kind of trust in the Universe has been a struggle, to say the least, but at this point I know that this is simply a transitional period for me.  It’s temporary.  It won’t always be this way.  I am rich in so many ways (love, joy, happiness, art, friendships, family, compassion, health and laughter) and the financial richness will eventually follow.  Somehow, I know this is true.  It’s just a matter of time.  How much time?  I don’t have the answer to that question but that’s ok. 

Until then I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other, take more photographs, write more stories and spend as much time with my amazing circle of friends and family as I possibly can.  I’ll keep doing those things even after the financial richness has followed.  This is what life is about.  This is living.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Holiday Blues

This year, the holidays bring with them a tremendous sense of sadness and overwhelm.  I find myself completely repelled by anything associated with the holidays.  Christmas music, lights, decorations, and trees everywhere I go.  All of it stirs up feelings of anger, irritation, frustration and sadness.  I can’t quite put my finger on the ‘why’, either.  It seems to be a number of things.

The energy of people and the world this time of year is incredibly chaotic.  The only shopping I’ve done, and will be able to do this year, is grocery shopping.  Even that can get really crazy.

I was just in a Fred Meyer this past weekend with my son and everyone around me was completely oblivious to not only me and my son but to everyone else in the store.  They stood in the middle of the isle during a busy time and read a label or stared at the shelves trying to make a decision while their carts sat directly in the middle of the walkway.  The place where I needed to go to move down the isle and get other things.  Every time I said ‘Excuse me’ in the politest tone I could muster (with a smile of course) they seemed annoyed that I needed them to move their cart so that I could get out of their way and do my thing.

Memories of past holidays are heavy on my thoughts this year, as well.  December 13th marks the 13th anniversary of my Dad’s passing.  While he wasn’t my biological Father, he was one of the most important Father figures in my life and I still miss him.  He taught me how to work on cars and so many other things about life and love.  When he passed he was a long haul truck driver trainer.  He and his trainee were in Arizona when he started one of his coughing fits and had a massive heart attack in the sleeper of the truck.

I remember my phone ringing in the middle of the night.  My phone didn’t ring that often and considering it was the middle of the night, I knew something had to be wrong.  Mom was on the other end and all I could hear was her sobbing. 

The family was notified and arrangements were made.  One of the arrangements was a viewing before cremation.  The date of the viewing happened to fall on my birthday, December 18th.  Needless to say, that was incredibly difficult for me to deal with.

Other memories of the holidays include family drunkenness and fights, the stress of having enough, or not enough, money to purchase a gift for everyone, and lots of travel to make sure and see everyone I possibly could.  Plus, the fact that my birthday is seven days before Christmas doesn’t help matters any.

I am doing what I can to keep my spirits up through the month.  Lots of doggie time with the dogs at the Oregon Humane Society where I am a volunteer dog walker and lots of doggie time with the dogs of some of my friends as I pet and house sit through the month.  Dogs always help lift my spirits.  They love you all year long and could really care less that it’s Christmas.  I’m also getting in some good friend time and spending a lot of time reading. 

I think next year I’ll rent a cabin on Mt. Hood for the entire month of December and disappear for the month.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Letter To Your Mother

This was sent to me by one of my dear friends, chosen family and one of the Mothers of my Goddaughter before I made my trip to California.  Seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes is sometimes good for the soul.  I’ve read it and re-read it several times to remind myself that I am a good person.  This letter touched me so deeply and I am forever grateful for the connection that we have in this life.

Learning to love myself is going to be a continuous process, I know.  But, I’d like to get a good foundation going in the next year.

Who She Is

Your daughter is my friend. I know you don’t get to spend a lot of time with her so I thought I might share some thoughts with you. Your daughter is one of the bravest people I know. She has lived past an adolescence and early adulthood spent as the victim of people and circumstances she didn’t have any control over. She not only lived past it but she has really LIVED.

She is brave. She has moved herself and her family from place to place in pursuit of more beautiful environments and people and finally found a true ’home’ in the community of Portland. This year she brazenly decided to get real about her life and follow her bliss. She quit a good but energy sucking job to explore the idea of becoming more fully herself. How many of us can say that we didn’t just follow the path of least resistance? How many of us make decisions based on what’s best for us and not continue the cycle of trying to keep up and be like everyone else?

She is so intelligent. She is not only a traditionally educated person she is emotionally and spiritually intelligent. Getting through college took her ten years! That’s an amazing amount of determination. She has made a lifetime study of religion and spirituality. She left behind the judgment and restriction of some religions and opted to become a student of those paths that uplift people and bring humanity together.

She is an artist. She writes poetry and bravely opens her computer and notepads and writes stories that illustrate her truth. I have read many of these things and many times I have felt that she was so amazing to have that kind of insight about herself and the world around her. She takes the most wonderful pictures. They are mostly of landscapes and objects. Her pictures can make you love and appreciate the things you see everyday. She recently took a picture of a local bridge that made me rethink what is beautiful.

She is an athlete. You will remember in her childhood she was a competitive swimmer. She has been on countless softball teams, and even managed some. A couple of years ago she became one of the first female professional football players in the world. You should have seen her struggle. She fought to learn the game, to commit some of it to muscle memory, to get her body to react quickly, to train until exhaustion to be someone her team could count on. You would have been so proud to have seen her in her uniform, all pads and cleats and that huge helmet! She looked scary and brave but I know inside she was that bashful little girl you raised, trying to muster the toughness and grit she would need for game day.

She is one of the MOST LOVING people I have ever known. I had the privilege of being her partner for several years. During that time she taught me so much about resilience and trust. She impacted me so deeply that she changed me forever and I am in turn a more loving person today. Even after our relationship ended we remained family in the best sense of the word. In 2008 I became a mother to a tiny baby girl. I honored Wendi by asking her to be the Godmother. Papers are being written right now to assure that if anything ever happened to my partner and me that Wendi will have sole custody. As you can imagine, this is a critical decision in my life. I have family. I have friends. I have no one else in the world that I trust more that your daughter.

I know that you may deserve much of the credit for the woman that your daughter is today. I know you may wonder if she has turned out well. I thought you might want to know that she has done well and that you can be proud to be her mother, just as I am proud to call her family.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Today And Every Day

I woke up this morning with thoughts of writing a post about the things I’m grateful for in my life since today is Thanksgiving.  But, to be honest, I am grateful for so many things every day of my life.  Not just today.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working a temporary/seasonal warehouse job at an educational toy company during the day and doing my best to get my writing in during the evening.  The winter months don’t leave much room for my photography since it begins to get dark around here by about 4:30 so I’ve been focusing more on writing these days.  I’m currently working on a BDSM erotica piece and hope to have it accepted into an anthology that Sinclair Sexsmith is working on. 

My days have been busy, to say the least.  Between working, writing, going to the gym and spending time with my friends and family, my days are pretty booked.  There hasn’t been a lot of down time nor has there been a lot of money.  With this seasonal job, I’m attempting to get caught up on a few bills that have fallen behind.  Normally I would be stressed out and frustrated about the money situation, but I realized the other day how very calm I am about it all.  It’s not what’s important to the big picture of life.  This way of thinking is completely opposite of the way I used to think about it.

I am broke and a “starving artist” but I am also incredibly happy.  I am so much more happier than I have ever been.  I know that it’s because I’m living authentically.  I’m allowing myself to be, well, me.  My confidence and self-esteem have directly benefited from this, as well.  For this, I couldn’t be more thankful.

Over the past few months, I’ve learned what my priorities are in my life and I now base all of my decisions around them.  The few material things I won’t do without are my camera, laptop, guitar, motorcycle, car, journal, cell phone and gym membership. 

My friends and family are also so very important.  All of you are incredibly special to me.  No matter what’s happened in our lives or during our time together, you all have a very special place in my heart and I am eternally grateful for the time I get to, or have, shared with you.  Your support of me and my crazy endeavors means everything to me and blesses me in so many ways.  You are all so amazing and such a blessing to this world. 

Today and everyday I am grateful for all of you and every aspect of my life. 

I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Am

I am the child confused by the world.
The one who learned to disappear.

I am the daughter who never quite knew her place within the family.
The perfect child who just wanted to make everyone happy.

I am the Mother who grew up with her son.
The one who always found a way.

I am the writer struggling to find her voice.
The one who kept it hidden inside journal after journal.

I am the photographer who feels like a tourist.
The one searching to find her confidence in the composition.

I am the butch on the street.
The one that makes you wonder, “Is that a man or a woman?”

I am the dyke on the bike.
The one moving fluidly between genders.

I am everyone’s brother and no one’s lover.
A solitary being with a simple desire to love and be loved.

I am unlocking the doors.
Dismantling the walls.

I am learning to love myself.
Living out loud.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sinclair Sexsmith's Symposium on Butch Identity

Photo by Del Rapier

So, I’m a wee bit late with posting this but wanted to get it up anyway.  (Please refrain from the ‘get it up' jokes. Wait. On second thought, go right ahead. Heh.)

Towards the end of last month the incredibly talented writer, Sinclair Sexsmith, posted on her blog that she was beginning another project that was yet to be named but needed other writers help with it.  She started a symposium with a writing prompt and the following is my contribution.

What is butch? How do you define butch? What do you love about it? What does it mean to you?

Last month I attended the Butch Voices Conference here in Portland and learned that the term ‘butch’ can be defined in so many ways.  For me, it’s simply a more masculine centered in identity. 

No matter how much I am against putting myself in a box by claiming the title of ‘butch’, I have learned to be much more ok with it after attending the conference and talking to others about the term and what it means to them.  You see, the thing about words and titles is that you can mold and define them for yourself. 

I am just me.  A boots, jeans and t-shirt wearing, motorcycle riding, butch lesbian with a buzz cut.  I like to think of myself as mostly a guy but I’m not.  I’m a woman.  I like things that are stereotypically things that guys like and I present as masculine but that’s only a small part of who I am.  I am a complicated being filled with thoughts and feelings and likes and dislikes with a little bit of mystery locked in there. 

I love the idea that, as a butch woman who often is mistaken for a man, I can travel between genders almost fluidly.  I can bind and pack and still feel like a woman.  An incredibly empowered and strong woman. 

Being butch means I challenge gender stereotypes on a daily basis simply by existing in this world. I’ve grown comfortable and almost proud of the fact that I am called “Sir” on a daily basis.  On the outside I may look like a man, but under these boots, jeans and t-shirt, I am all woman.  Comfortable and confident in these clothes and in this skin.  I am me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Evolution Of A Butch

Well, to be more specific, the evolution of my butchness.  Which, I guess is really just the evolution of me, but it could be defined as such. 

I was talking to one of my ex-girlfriends the other day (we’re like family now – I know, how lesbian of us) about when we first met while at a volunteer team building meeting at the San Diego Gay & Lesbian Center.  The conversation got me thinking about the evolution of me.  Specifically, how I dress and present today.

Before I came out I was doing the single Mom thing with my son, who was still in elementary school, and a part of a very straight community of parents in a fairly middle class town in Southern California.  I was working full-time and going to school part-time so I didn’t really have a lot of time to date.  Truth be told, I didn’t have anyone asking me out either so it made things simple.  I tried to be more feminine but I think I just looked ridiculous so I spent all of my time working, studying and taking care of my son.  I did this for 7 years before coming out. 

By the time I came out I finally felt like I could be myself and dress in jeans and t-shirts without a second thought.  I was still a bit reluctant to ‘look like a guy’ at this point, though.  

But, still, my evolution as a butch began.  While dating my first girlfriend (if you could really call it dating) I had long hair and big glasses.  (Please don’t try to picture me in long hair.  It really isn’t pretty.)

By the time I started volunteering at the Center my hair was cut shorter but I still had big glasses.  When I began dating my second girlfriend she took me to get new, smaller glasses and I got my hair cut even shorter.  

This is when things really started to change for me. 

After moving to Southern Oregon, flannel became a part of my wardrobe.  Flannel, boots, jeans and t-shirts.  Again, how very lesbian of me.  The only thing I was missing was the granola.  Wait.  No.  I had granola, too.  The point is, I had never felt so comfortable in my life. 

A move to Portland and a couple of girlfriends later I’m introduced to the comfort of wearing boxer briefs and I’m hooked.  (I will keep that story to myself, thank you very much.)  After leaving her house that morning I went straight to Fred Meyers and picked up a couple of packs of them then went straight home and threw out the girly underwear.

At some point during all of this, I got my first clipper shave on my head and ever since then, it’s the only haircut I’ll get or give myself.  I’m tellin’ ya, when a cute girl walks up to you and starts rubbing your head because it’s cut so short, you know you’ve got a good cut.  It’s the quickest way to quiet me down and turn me to mush. 

So, here I sit today in my jeans, t-shirts  (two because it’s cold), boxer briefs and boots.  A fully evolved butch.  (Well, as far as dressing and presenting goes.)  The only time I head to the women’s department when I’m shopping is to pick up a sports bra.  It’s totally me and feels incredibly comfortable. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Relationship With Public Restrooms

On my recent road trip on my own I started thinking about public restrooms and my, shall we say, relationship with them.  For those of you who don’t know or realize yet, I present as a man and am often (read as ‘daily’) mistaken for a man.  I have to admit that it has it’s perks but there are certain situations where it’s not really all that great, to put it lightly.

When I walk into a women’s restroom I am often greeted by my fellow restroom users with looks of fear and shock.  Honestly, I can understand their fear of a man walking into a women’s restroom because, you know, you hear stories.  Bad stories.  But, really.  Do I look like a threat?  All 5’7” and 170 pounds of me?  All I’m there to do is my business and leave.  I don’t even want to make eye contact with you.  I’m on a mission, dammit. 

My best story about public restrooms came from a road trip I took with my family seven or eight years ago.  I had to go really bad and had no other option than to stop at a truck stop and use the facilities.  We were in a pretty conservative part of Oregon so I knew there may be trouble but I did my best to stick out my breasts and suck in my gut so they were even more ‘out there’ and noticeable and walked in like I belonged there, which of course I did.  At any rate, this woman was in there with her 9 or 10 year-old daughter and immediately looked at my short hair and baseball cap and right past my breasts.  Then she yells at me, “You’re in the wrong restroom!”  

With a sigh of ‘oh lord, here we go’ I responded politely with, “No Ma’am, I’m not.”  Even with my voice she still thought I was a man and continued with her insistence that I was in the wrong restroom.  Luckily, my partner at the time was in there with me and she looked at the woman and said, “She is in the right restroom. She is a woman. Do you not see her breasts?” With that she pointed to my chest.  The woman shot her an angry and frustrated look then grabbed her daughter by the wrist and quickly left the restroom. 

All I wanted to do was pee! 

Ever since then I’ve had this fear that something like that would happen again so I started thinking about places where I could stop on road trips that had one of those one person restrooms.  Although I’m not a fan of their coffee nor their business practices, Starbucks is great for this.  They all seem to have those one stalled restrooms and no one says anything to you for walking in, using the restroom and walking out.  You don’t even have to buy anything.  So, I started looking for those along the way when I really needed to make a pit stop. 

The funny thing is, on this last road trip my hair wasn’t as short as it normally is so I didn’t really have any issues and had to stop a couple of times at rest areas.  The issues I had were mostly in my head.  But, still. 

I have to wonder.  When will the gender stereotypes be broken.  Are there not enough short haired, t-shirt and jean wearing women out there to realize that just because you have short hair and wear jeans and t-shirts it does not mean that you are a man? 

I realize that I have a choice to dress in a more feminine manner but, I’ve got to be honest with you, you really don’t want to see that.  I look like a guy in drag, which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.  I just isn’t me.  At all.  It’s actually kind of scary. 

I guess until everyone can finally get over this gender stereotyping, I’ll just keep freaking them out by using the women’s restroom.  But, really.  Ya’ll need to get over it.  I’m just there to pee!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Been Great But.....

Being home has been both good and bad. I’m worn out from care-taking and cleaning up. I feel for my Mom who is still in pain. She just can’t get comfortable. That useless feeling that comes from not being able to take the pain away for her is difficult to deal with.

I haven’t been able to sleep much so today has been a difficult day for me, mentally.  When I get this worn out I have a much more difficult time dealing with emotions. With the elections came a few political conversations where I felt myself shutting down. Add a few comments here and there and suddenly I feel like a teenager again.  Not completely, but enough to make an impact. 

When I first got here I felt stronger mentally and emotionally.  I still feel strong but after spending the last week without much of the quiet, reflective time I usually have I’m feeling really weak and lost.  I haven’t been writing or meditating.  Haven’t taken a lot of pictures or spent much time alone. It’s become very clear to me that I need these things in my life in order to stay balanced and focused. This lost feeling is uncomfortable for me.

I also haven’t worked out much since I’ve been here, although being a caretaker is pretty physical.  Going to the gym and making my body stronger brings me peace and confidence. It eliminates the pent up frustration and makes things much more easier to deal with.

I also miss my guitar. I haven’t picked it up in a couple of weeks and I’m jonesing for it.

Tonight is my last night here at home. Tomorrow morning I’ll start the drive back to Oregon and will be home on Friday.  I already plan on hitting the gym Friday night and am really looking forward to the quite, reflective time on the drive home.

It’s been good to be home and Mom is healing nicely.  I’m happy that my schedule allowed me to come down and help her.  I’m really ready to get home though. My home.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Coming Home

As I type this I am sitting in the backyard of my parent's house. My Mom is resting comfortably and recovering nicely from the surgery on her shoulder. I didn't sleep much last night due to the fact that I was in caretaker mode. I'm a pretty light sleeper as it is but when I'm looking after someone I maybe sleep an hour or so through the night. Needless to say, between the drive down, the lack of sleep and the stress, I'm pretty wiped out.

Laying in bed last night I got to thinking about the time I spent in this house. I've always been a bit envious of those whose family still resides in the house in which they grew up and whose family is still intact, for lack of better words. (Remember, my brain is functioning on a very low level at this point.) They have so many stories to share and a place that they've always called home. I hadn't ever realized that I have that, as well. Sure, I moved around a lot growing up (9 elementary schools, 1 junior high and 3 high schools, to give you an idea) but once my Mom married my step-Dad she stayed put and even though this place never really felt like my home while I was here, it turns out that it is. It has been for the last 24 years.

The room in the front of the house, the one that used to be mine, was the room where I figured out how to deal with my increasing feelings of loneliness. I was a loner my senior year in high school. It was the third high school I had attended and since most of the kids there came from affluent families and spent most of their lives growing up in that school district, there turned out to be many 'clicks'. Clicks that I would never be a part of.

Needless to say, I spent hours in my room with my headphones on listening to music and drawing or writing. The world that I created in my head was perfect and in that world I was as cool as Elvis Presley, John Schneider or any other 80's 'hunk'.

Sitting there at my corner desk with my headphones blasting rock'n'roll or country music, I made plans to buy an old Chevy Luv truck and cherry it out, complete with etched glass and chrome rims. She was going to be painteda metallic Midnight Blue, too. I spent hours looking through truck magazines. She'd be lowered in the front and raised in the back with sweet, fat racing tires on the back. Never mind the fact that their engines were wee and racing was not their strong point. She was still going to turn heads.

These were my days while I lived here. Get up, go to school, go to softball practice then go home, close my bedroom door on the real world and climb back into mine. It was all about coping and finding my way. The world and my future held so many possibilities. I knew I could do anything. I also knew I would have to do it on my own. This place, my childhood and my high school days gave me my strength to get through the rest of it.

My parents may not have been the best parents but they did the best they could with what they had. While there were things that I wish I hadn't ever had to fight through, I am glad that I did. Every single one of those things have made me who I am today. A strong, caring, loving, loyal, compassionate and passionate person with a good heart and a playful spirit.

That's pretty fucking rad, if you ask me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welcome To Singledom. Population: Me

The subject of being single has been haunting me these past few weeks.  While I am incredibly happy for those around me who have found someone to love and to be loved by, the constant reminders that I am currently a citizen of Singledom is sometimes excruciatingly painful.  My hearts need to love and be loved is sometimes overwhelming.  Specially during this season when the leaves begin to change and the temperature begins to drop, which makes for really nice cuddling in front of a movie weather. 

I spent this morning reading through some of my old journals and after a bit of contemplation on the patterns I noticed within my past relationships, I have once again come to realize that I really need to work on loving myself.  I’ve made this realization several times within the last few years but, to be honest, haven’t really done the work.  There have been times where I’ve put forth a good effort but I have yet to completely follow through until it stuck. 

What made this realization rip through my chest and smack me in the heart was an entry I made on January 18, 2005.  It goes something like this: Am I not raw enough? Not passionate enough? Not hot? Not sexual? Why does it always seem to come to “I love you. You’re so sweet, so tender, so generous, BUT I NEED MORE.”? 

The funny thing is, when I think about each and every relationship I’ve been in since then and the way in which they ended, I could have made this entry after every one of them.  The answer to the question is, yes, they do need more.  More of me.  Loving them so intensely and unconditionally is only part of it.  I would venture to say that it’s only half of it and ask myself what it is I’m giving them to love.  Am I only giving someone my love, the things I do for them and the way I treat them to love?  That’s not giving of myself.  There’s a person in this body and these actions.  Who is that person? 

The pain of losing relationships and fighting through the storms of my life has closed me off.  The titanium, concrete and brick wall that surrounds my heart has become incredibly thick.  It’s time to start dismantling it and directing that love that I so freely give to others towards myself.  I can do this without diminishing the love I continue to give to them. 

Imagine what could be possible if I started loving myself as much as I’ve loved them.  I have journals filled with letters to the women I have loved through the years.  Letters I wrote while we were together and letters that I wrote after we broke up.  What if I started writing love letters to myself? 

With all of you as my witness, I hereby make this my declaration to love myself.  To make this trip home with the intent of remembering who I am and where I come from.  To be and remain proud of who I have become and to not allow anyone to make me feel less than.  I am stepping off, once again, onto the path of self-love and discovery.  This time, I’m sticking with it to see where it takes me. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Your Judgments Do Not Define Me

Last week my step-Father called to tell me that my Mother took a bad fall while in their back yard.  She recently had surgery on her right shoulder and, thankfully, didn’t fall on that shoulder.  Unfortunately, she fell on her left shoulder and there may be some fractures.  She also fell pretty hard on her head.  Needless to say, she’s in quite a bit of pain and isn’t able to do much.  Her left knee was recently replaced and there seems to be some speculation that it may not be working properly so she’s falling a lot. 

I spoke to her during the call and she sounded so defeated and ready to give up.  Being the person that I am I immediately offered to come down and help.  She tried to tell me that she’ll be ok and that there really wasn’t anything that I could do.  (There’s no doubt where I get my independence from.)  Then she said that the house was a mess.  To give you perspective on my Mother’s thinking, having a messy house means visitors may not want to come and, also, she would feel bad having someone there when the house is such a mess.  This was the hidden message in her statement so I told her to let me come down and clean up the house for her.  She immediately started to cry.  At that point, I knew that I needed to go.  

A few calls later I am set to make the 16 hour drive in one day either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.  It seems crazy but it’s cheaper than flying at this point and it’s a drive I’ve done many times since moving to Oregon in 2000.  Plus, the idea of having my car with me brings a sense of freedom.  I can escape quickly, if absolutely needed. 

Now, you would think that this would not really be a big deal, aside from the fact that my Mother is in this physical state, and that I should be completely focused on helping her in her time of need.  I mean, she is my Mother.  (To clarify, she is my adoptive Mother.)  But, the fact of the matter is that it is a big deal.  It's a really big deal.

The thing is, I am beyond stressed out and really concerned about the possibility of this trip setting me back mentally and emotionally during this time of major transition in my life. 

In general, the judgments that people place upon me I see as just that.  Judgments that belong to someone else and that are not what make me or break me.  But, the judgments that are placed upon me by my family shoot through my chest and penetrate my heart and soul.  In an instant I am transported back to that little girl who just wanted to be the perfect child and make everyone happy.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve never lived up to their expectations.  This part of my family is where I got the idea that I was to grow up to become someone who made a lot of money while sacrificing any sort of happiness or love.  Become a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant.  Anything that made money because how much I made would determine how successful I was and how worthy I was.  After all of that, I was to be married to a man and have two kids.  The ‘American Dream’, right?

Being a tattooed, lesbian who looked like a guy was not what my family had planned for me.  It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ of a person I am inside.  All that matters is what is seen on the outside.  Before you get to know me. 

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about let me explain the reaction that my tattoos invoke.  Since the last time I’ve been home I’ve gotten two more tattoos.  When my Mother discovered my first tattoo she looked disappointed then proceeded to tell me that she was just talking to one of her friends about me and told her how I was such a good daughter because I never got mixed up in drugs or alcohol and never had any tattoos.  I was instantly judged as something bad because of my tattoo.  Then she tried to explain that she already worries about the way people judge me for looking the way I do and now they’ll judge me even more for being tattooed.  I tried to explain to her that their judgment was none of my concern but she just wasn’t getting it.  In that instant I felt like a little girl again being chastised for the way I thought and acted.  Immediately I shut down and tucked away any feelings that were bubbling to the surface. 

I spent a lot of time journaling while growing up.  It was the only way for me to get things out.  Before long that was the only place where I felt safe to ‘talk’ about the things I was thinking.  It was a place where I wouldn’t be judged. 

At some point I became fearful that someone would find my journals so I got rid of them and kept things in my head which eventually made me crazy.  It’s taken a lot of time to come out of that space and start to sort through the crazy and I feel like I’ve done a fairly good job of it so far.  It’s just that each time I go home I fall back a bit into that crazy space where I can’t do anything right and am completely unworthy of anything. 

While thinking about all of this as well as other stressors that I am allowing to effect my everyday life at the moment, I felt incredibly close to completely losing it yesterday.  My stomach was in knots and the tears were on the brink of falling.  Honestly, I kind of wanted to hit something.  Ok, no.  I wanted to hit something.  This is where football used come in handy.

I need to go take care of my Mother but I cannot allow this trip home to set me back.  Specially right now during this major transition of my life and while stepping into my power to take control of my life. 

Dammit.  I am not that child anymore.  I am 40 years old.  I am an adult with my own life, capable of making my own decisions and I am a good person.  I am not that little girl who can be controlled by her family.  Their disappointment in me is not my baggage to handle.  It belongs to them.  I am not living this life for them or anyone else. 

My choices and my life are mine and mine alone. 

"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself."
~Harvey Fierstein

Friday, October 22, 2010

Grief & Trust: An E Ticket Ride Through My Thoughts

My mind goes back and forth between peace and turmoil this evening. Questions constantly arising about my thoughts and why I’m thinking them and where they are coming from.  I’m working through a lot of feelings, emotions and grief.  The loss of significant relationships take time to grieve. I have to continue to remind myself that there isn’t a set time limit on grieving.  It will come and go for as long as it needs to and when it’s here I need to bring my Zen Buddhism philosophies into practice and sit with it.

Feeling emotions is fairly new to me, considering I’ve been in this existence for the past 40 years and learned at a very early age to turn them off or tuck them away.  Now that I’m feeling them I’ve been trying to figure out how to balance them.  Just how long do I sit with them and am I allowing them to consume too much of my time?  Am I living in the past by dwelling on them for too long?  Am I dwelling on them or just feeling them?  Trusting in this process is difficult.  Are these feelings coming from something that was fabricated in my mind by creating a story from things that may or may not be happening outside of my realm of control? 

Stick to the facts.  Yes, this happened and this happened but it may not have been a consequence of this or that.  There are so many other explanations of what might be happening.  My instincts tell me something completely different but are those really my instincts or is that coming from the stories in my head? 

Am I obsessing?  Why does my heart feel the need and constant want to love someone?  When I finally find a peace with everything and the grieving ends, has it really ended or have I simply hidden away all of those emotions?  Will they return only to be worked through again and again and again? 

Do you see the chaos in this?  This process of working through all of these thoughts and questions help me define and learn from the emotions that I feel.  At least I hope it does.   It also feels like it’s making me a little crazy.

But, there has to come a point where I completely let go. Not only for my sake but for the sake of those involved.  No one wants to hear it anymore, including myself!  Move on into the future and be happy with the present.  See the past for what it was, appreciate it and cherish it but also stop living in it and holding on to hope that someday it may return. 

How much is lost in the present if I’m living in the past and holding out hope for something that may never come? 

So much is lost.  It’s time to kiss the past goodbye, send it love and wish it well.  If it does come back, I will love and appreciate it in the present.

I’ve fallen out of my habit of meditating again and need to start again with it.  It seems as though I lose focus every time I let that practice go.  Focus on staying present.  No matter what I’m doing.  It’s time to let go of the past and be in the present.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We Are Here

This evening I attended a community forum at The Q Center for the youth in our community.  It was about us, as a community, listening to them.  Listening to their stories and their ideas on how to make the world a better place for those coming up behind them.  The community packed the Q Center to capacity tonight.  It was an awesome sight. 

There were seven youth on the panel and each answered three questions.  I’m going to do my best to remember them.

(1) What has been hard for you?
(2) What has helped you the most?
(3) What would help you more? (Think outside of the obstacles.)

These aren’t word for word but they are the basic premise of what was asked in this forum.  The idea of the evening was to listen to these youth and use what they tell us as a jumping off point to brainstorm ideas of how to better help them. 

It was pretty clear that the majority of these youth struggled to find an ally or a mentor while growing up.  A few of them were seeing counselors who they didn’t feel comfortable completely opening up to so finding just one person who would stand on their side and create a safe space for them was very difficult. 

I heard a lot of them ask more teachers to sponsor GSA’s in the schools.  While, I believe, every public high school in Portland has a GSA the outlying areas do not.  The suburbs of Portland like Gresham, Troutdale, Beaverton, Hillsboro and many other communities surrounding us.  The youth need more teachers and school administrators in these areas to come forward as allies.  The problem that arises for many of these teachers and school administrators is that for them, becoming an ally could jeopardize their careers. 

In reality, it’s a much bigger issue then what we are looking at here.  The basic fight is against homophobia.  If we can’t, as a society, become more loving and accepting of everyone these issues will never go away.  While there have been so many strides made in our movement for equality already, we have so much more to do. 

To start, we as the adult Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (GLBTQ) community need to step in somehow and start mentoring our youth.  They are the future of our community and of this world.  We also need more visibility outside of our community so that we can reach the youth who are struggling to find their allies. 

Mentoring was also talked about at the Butch Voices Conference here in Portland and it’s an excellent idea.  Something along the lines of Big Brothers and Sisters for queer youth.  If we could start something like that based out of the Q Center to mentor the youth in the SMYRC program and Outside In, imagine the changes that it could make for our youth and the future of our community.  Imagine the lives it may save.

The stories behind I Was That Kid and the It Gets Better Project show that these issues have been with us for generations.  It’s really a human issue.  When will we move past this?  When do we start respecting each other, stop casting judgment upon each other and start loving one another?