Tired of the Hate

Is it me or are we already done with the season of love and peace? The first two things I read online this morning have upset my delicate sensibilities, Dear Reader. First, a tweet from @JoeMyGod about a group of people who are boycotting the Rose Parade because a wedding float will feature a gay couple. The second, the comments section following an article on komonews.com about the Catholic school vice principal fired for his same sex marriage.
I clicked through to the Facebook link on the Rose Parade—evidently a gay couple won the Dreams Come True contest and the prize is getting married on the giant cake-shaped float in the venerated parade. More details can be found here. I found a page filled with hateful, ignorant comments about how witnessing two men getting married would irreparably harm children. I have to say I was stunned. I mean, yes, I know that not everyone is thrilled with same sex marriage, but I have been living in a bit of a bubble, I guess. The hate and fear and ignorance, the vitriol and anger shocked me. I posted a comment on the page, just a few words letting them know that I was sure Jesus would be so proud of their hate and bile. I think we all need to visit the site and show them that hate won’t win.
That small act made me feel a tiny bit better but for a moment I was beset by anxiety and dread, that feeling of futility that I often get spread across my chest. I then realized that my FB picture is of The Little Woman and me holding our marriage license and I had to smile. I fought back my urge to delete my comment, to not make waves.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled myself in front of the Pin Stripe Bowl, picked up my laptop and logged on to www.komonews.com to catch up on local news. My eyes caught the headline announcing that the vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School was fired and had not resigned as the church said last week. I clicked. Call me a sucker for the obvious. The article confirmed what I’d already suspected—Mark Zmuda had been forced out for marrying his male partner. The article was benign enough, but the comments section . . . why oh why did I feel the need to read the comments? More hate and ignorance.
I understand that Mr. Zmuda worked at a Catholic school and that his being gay flies in the face of some Catholic teachings, but the hypocrisy is killing me. How many Catholic school teachers live “in sin” with their heterosexual lovers? How many Catholic school teachers use birth control? How many Catholic school teachers have had abortions? How many of these teachers have been forced out of their jobs? And lets not forget the hundreds or thousands of priests who continued in their positions in spite of having sexually molested thousands of children. Mr. Zmuda’s being gay has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on his ability to do his job, to teach math. Mr. Zmuda did nothing wrong, he committed no crime. He simply let down his guard and maybe forgot that he worked for a homophobic organization. I can understand his mistake—lots of people who work for the church are decent folks. But the organization itself is not so benign (see my earlier blog here)
Let’s not forget that the Catholic church operates without paying any taxes. It does not pay into unemployment insurance, it does not pay any income tax. As an institution, it collects gazillions of dollars and not one cent of it (except what its employees pay in income tax) goes into the public coffers. Hundreds of non-Catholics and non-believers work for the church, and I’m guessing lots of those workers belong to the LGBTQ community. It seems to me, and call me crazy, that an institution that doesn’t pay taxes should have no right whatsoever to contradict the laws of the land. Same sex marriage is legal. Don’t like it? Tough shit.

We’ve (and by we I mean all LGBQT people) have lived too long in fear of god’s wrath, in fear of other people’s judgment, in fear that we will lose not just our jobs but our very lives. We’ve stood by and watched as heterosexuals celebrated their love in some of the gaudiest and most offensive ways imaginable. We have been marginalized by religious institutions, shunned by those that claim a loving Jesus and god as their masters. It’s a bit hyperbolic that these people believe a single float in the Rose Parade or the same sex marriage of a Catholic math teacher signal the end of civilization, don’t you think? On the other hand, maybe we need an end to this sort of civilization—maybe the end of civilization as we know it is not a bad thing at all.

Indulging in Nostalgia

The tightness in my chest begins
A pang that travels from my solar plexus
Up my right shoulder
Not over my heart, oddly
It is the pang of loneliness
The pang of invisibility
And it radiates through me while
Tears stream down my face
The tightness in my chest begins
A pang of recognition from my solar plexus
To my groin
Not over my heart, oddly
The pang of knowing
And it radiates through me until
You reach to touch my face
The tightness in my chest begins
To soften
Life is full of dichotomies. We spend our days working our way through them, balancing our lives as we step across the divides that open up in our days. Sometimes there are great chasms—like this week: Utah legalized same sex marriage while a Catholic in Washington State (where same sex marriage has been legal for a year) lost his job for marrying his male partner. Since the push for legalizing same sex marriage began in earnest, I’ve been wrestling with my own complicated feelings around the issue, my own internal dichotomy, a push/pull between recognition and—I don’t know quite what to call it: Privacy? Subversion? Neither word quite works though the two together come close. Maybe what I’m experiencing is the tug between then and now. What used to be and what is. A yearning for the elusive and imagined good old days? The good old days were never as good as we remember them. But, Dear Reader, let me see if I can make myself clear. Indulge me while I indulge in a little nostalgia. Tis the season and all that, right?
A few weeks ago, my massage therapist and I were talking about singing, because my solar plexus is all jammed up. She recommended that I sing loudly to loosen things—I laughed and said I do not sing and she said she didn’t either except lullabies to her babies.  I too sang my children lullabies—we sang anyway, testaments to our mother-love.  This was a tangential and unremarkable enough discussion until she sent me a link to one of the songs she used to sing to her children. I read the lyrics first and something old and familiar tugged in me. I know this song, I thought, and when I clicked the link to a youtube video and heard it, a rush of aged memories washed over me. Memories from way before I had children, memories long dormant. I DID know this song—Cris Williamson singing Like a Ship in the Harbor. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. It’s a pang, a tingling, an edge of my seat excitement. It is me all those years ago wondering “how did I miss all of this until now?” It is uncertainty and knowing entwined. It’s a feeling that 22 year old me knew well, a feeling full of angst and heartache, joy and discovery, the thrill of having a secret, the excitement of walking that fine line between discovery and being discovered, when I knew things about myself that no one else did.
I remember the first Cris Williamson concert I attended. I was in graduate school, just a baby lesbian, still all pink and new in my skin, and as we all streamed into the college’s performing arts center, I felt the scales fall from my eyes (I had also just recently left fundamentalist christianity, so the biblical reference works quite nicely here) and I finally saw, really saw, that I was not alone. And as I began this journey, out of one life and into another, the music carried me. I lived in a small apartment with two women from my church group while I was exploring my sexuality, discovering the deeply hidden real me, and I played these albums loudly and repeatedly over and over. I played Cris Williamson’s The Changer and The Changed, and I sang along, rising up and spilling over, it’s an endless waterfall. Rising up and spilling over, over all.
I listened for hours and hours as I embraced my sexuality, euphoric after years of wrestling down the demons of homosexuality. Cris and Tret Fure, Meg Christian. These women and their songs initiated me into a world I had not known existed, a subversive and secret world where women loved and sang and wrote about loving each other. A world that no one could know about just by listening. They had to know before they listened.
And I think that is what I miss. Being on that other side of Out, the subversive side, the secret club side. Kate Clinton used to do a bit about being a Stealth Lesbian, flying low under the radar of the patriarchy. Those were the days, as she said so succinctly, that we wouldn’t say the word lesbian even as our mouths were full of one. I miss the excitement of that secret.
Don’t think I’m romanticizing ignorance and fear. I’m not. I don’t want to return to a world where bigots like that A&E entertainer who shall not be named here can spew his hatred and bile without repercussions. I don’t want to live in a world where I have to pretend I am single and living with my roommate or in a world where my children have to be silent about having two moms. We still, to some extent, live enough in that world even now. I still watch my pronoun usage. I still fear being judged. I am happy that I could marry The Little Woman. I am glad I we have all the protections under the law that straight folks have. I am thankful these changes have occurred in my lifetime.
Still. I am aware that nostalgia may be clouding my vision, but there was a camaraderie back then, a sense of we-ness, an us vs. them mentality that wasn’t completely unhealthy, a quiet knowing that I was getting away with something that wasn’t hurting anyone else. And it is not lost on me either, that the jamming up of my solar plexus, this tightening of my diaphragm, might have something to do with all of those years of holding my true self in. After all, flying stealth requires keeping secrets, holding my emotions in check, and, more often than not, holding my breath.
Maybe being out in the fresh and open air is good for me after all and perhaps this is just a very long adjustment period, not unlike coming down from the dangerous peaks in the Himalayas or up from the depths of the ocean. While the world is spectacular from great depths and tremendous heights, we cannot live there. Sometimes though, we long to breathe again in that thin, rarified air.

Sacred Sacrament My Ass

Yesterday Mark Zmuda the vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School was fired for marrying his male partner (you can read about it here), joining dozens of other Catholic employees across the country who have been similarly fired or forced to resign for making their love official. This news, while not surprising or even unexpected in light of the luddite misogynist (who shall remain unnamed here) leading the Seattle Archdiocese, kind of broke my heart. I know that the parents who send their children to this school are not, for the most part, bigots or homophobes. For eight years I worked (as a mostly out lesbian) for a Catholic elementary school that fed directly into ECHS. I loved that job—I loved the people, the families, the community. I wasn’t crazy about the Church as an institution, but hands down it was the best job I’ve had in my career. This in spite of our differences on topics such as birth control, abortion, LGBQT issues, women’s place in the church, and pedophiles. I was able to separate the institution at large from the community in which I worked.
The job was so good, in fact, that when a change in administration occurred and I learned my boss would be leaving, I looked within the archdiocese for another position. Five years ago I was offered a job at Eastside by an administration that was quite familiar with my lesbian status. (Ultimately, I declined the job offer for reasons completely unrelated). It doesn’t take much to connect the dots between my wedding this past weekend and the “there but for the grace of the universe, go I” feeling that swam uncomfortably in me yesterday afternoon and into the evening. I even woke up feeling nauseated by the whole thing this morning.
So what gives? Why this guy? Why now when the Catholic Church seems to be crawling out of its hole and into the 21st century with Pope Francis? As my good friend and former boss pointed out yesterday, it doesn’t matter what is happening in Rome. The henchmen installed by Pope Benedict are still in control. The church isn’t going to turn on a dime, if indeed it will turn at all. Good people are still going to lose their jobs because some Catholics are still wedded to doctrines like The Baltimore Catechisminstead of the gospels. They’ve forgotten all about being true Christians, ignoring Christ’s own words about love and compassion. Here are a few bible verses I remember from my church going youth:
Matthew 7:1—Judge not, lest you be judged.
Matthew 7:5— You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye
Luke 6:31—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
1 Corinthians 13:13— And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The church owes its very existence to the gospels, but because of its status as religious institution, it (and by extension its schools) is not compelled to pay into programs that other employers are required by law to pay into: unemployment, COBRA, OSHA. So, Mr. Zmuda who was fired for participating in one of the Catholic Church’s seven sacraments, Marriage, will not be receiving an unemployment check next week. He will not be offered to continue his healthcare insurance through COBRA. He has no safety net.
Since leaving the employ of the Catholics, I’ve become a much more strident non-believer. My atheism springs from an inability to reconcile the hypocrisy of the church, and not just the Catholic Church, but most churches. The whole do as I say, not as I do sort of theology has poisoned organized religion. The gospels urge care for the sick and the poor, and the Catholics even have a social teaching to that effect, but the church continues to flaunt its wealth while vast majority of its members live in abject poverty. When I worked for the Catholic elementary school not only did none of the employees qualify for COBRA or unemployment, but healthcare did not include birth control. Even women in menopause who needed to go on the pill for reasons unrelated to contraception had to get notes from their doctors stating as much.
For an institution that holds the Holy Mother in such lofty regard, it treats the rest of the world’s women with utter contempt, from the nuns to third world women to women who want to enter the priesthood. But, I guess that makes sense given that the Holy Mother is such a bundle of nonsense: virgin mother. Right. Inseminated by God. Right. No earthly woman could ever achieve what this mythical creature did.
And don’t even get me started on the pedophile issue. To articulate my thoughts on that issue will require an entire series of blogs.
What I am trying to say is that I am sad and furious. Sad because good people are being fooled into complacency, people like Mr. Zmuda who felt safe enough in his role at Eastside Catholic High School to come out to his coworkers about his marriage. People like me who thought I could be an exception if I just behaved myself and kept my mouth shut. Furious because we continue to let our rules and laws and lives be dictated by an ancient and cruel institution that clearly has no regard for real human life. How long will we allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency by those who will try to tell us “it’s not the people, it’s the institution.” The people are the institution, dammit. We need to stop fooling ourselves.

When Words Fail Me: My Writing, My Wedding

Sometimes the pressure to write builds up inside of me and it is so huge that I feel like I am going to explode. Someday The Little Woman may come home to find bits of me all over the house, word bits, words that built up and couldn’t find their way out of me. There will be a preponderance of prepositions and a truckload of nouns, verb carnage all over the kitchen, and gerunds on the ground (hey, that rhymed!). Adverbs and those nasty words that end in –ly will litter the walls, pronouns and random punctuation marks will be sprayed around.
Too often, these words don’t find an outlet. Instead I spin and dither. I find other ways to expend the energy inside, activities that seem less arduous than sitting down and grinding out sentences. This week, for example, I’ve set up the art table and started making things: prayer flags with my own twist and boxes to put the prayer flags in. I love making these boxes—I’ve been making books (books is a broad term, in book making, just about any form of art with words) for a number of years, and now for every book I make, I create a box in which to stow it. The timing is good, for making things. I can justify my projects as Christmas presents. These projects are my safety valve, the overflow, where the dangerous steam can spill without harming anything. Still, it is not writing.
And it’s not like I don’t have things to write about. I got married this weekend. I feel like I should be writing something about that.  We had a small and lovely ceremony with our daughters and good friends in attendance. My longtime friend Laura officiated, my friend and writing buddy Jolene took pictures (she’s good, check out her page). Our vows reflected the tenure of our relationship, sturdy vows, hard won truths reflecting our accrued wisdom. Mature vows from which the dewy innocence has been shaken, vows with wonder and tenderness and love.
TLW (aka SugarMama) and I have  been together for more than thirteen years. We had a silly ceremony ten years ago, and became registered domestic partners about five years ago. None of that was enough in the end however, for me to retain my health insurance benefits with her company. I proposed to her last Christmas not long after Washington State enacted its same sex marriage law. And yes, we gays fought to get married so we could have benefits, but I felt a little irritated rushing our ceremony in to beat a deadline. We were caught between her company’s end of the year deadline and the one that comes in June of next year that says the state will roll our domestic partnership into a marriage if we don’t act first.
(Yes, we had a year to make plans and do the deed. We need not have rushed, but all excuses and reasons aside, that is what happened, so don’t judge me, Dear Reader, just read on, quietly and without comment).
Family: Anna, Nancy, Pam, Taylor
I’ve run out of words. So here are some photos instead and a copy of the poem I wrote for my wife (wow, my WIFE! There’s something I didn’t think I’d ever be saying in this lifetime, forever ending the dilemma of what to call her: significant other, TLW (always), partner, girl friend, spouse, better half, my uhm friend special friend, the boss, etc).
Our rings–mine is the sapphire.
Shout out to Jolene Hanson, photographer
Nancy, You are my anchor

The harbor in the sea

The home from which I can journey
The door that will always be open
I rise and when I fall
You lift me up
Our bodies entwine
Rising up from our bellies
I’ve held my breath all these years
And now with you
I can exhale
I offer you myself
A safe harbor in the sea
A home with heart and fire
A door that is always open
When you rise I will cheer
Hitched! At last.
And if you fall, I lift you up
Our bodies entwine and
Rise up from our bellies
We breathe in as one
And now that we are home together
I can exhale
The circle of this ring continues forever,

As does my love for you.    


My Distractions: