We are Orlando

My heart has been pretty heavy since the news hit about yet another massacre in the States. I have been quiet and reflective; not sure I was going to say much of anything publicly. After all, I did not know any of the victims and we all already know that it’s a horrible tragedy.

However, I reconsidered that because there is no part of my life that isn’t touched by this. I live in the bay area of California, where Harvey Milk served when he became the first openly gay politician before he himself was massacred. There has never been a single time in my life that I have not had at least one gay friend.  At various points throughout the last couple of decades, I have worked at nightclubs – both gay and straight. My sometimes boss was (is) a flamboyant and wonderful gay man. Last year I took my six-year-old faery goddaughter to the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco right after gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court so she could witness a happy moment in history. A little over a month ago I attended a lesbian wedding. Last week I spent time talking to a friend about whether or not she wanted to explore a same-sex relationship. And last night my heart broke as I held up a candle, raised my voice in song and marched with thousands of others through the streets of San Francisco.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Bernie vs. Thatcher — Choosing the Green – Roghnú Glas

Well, you learn something new every day. Yesterday I attended a Bernie Sanders rally in Oakland, CA which was the very last place I thought I’d learn a new tidbit of Irish history but I was mistaken. One of the speakers had just returned from the North of Ireland. He butchered the pronunciation of Sinn […]

via Bernie vs. Thatcher — Choosing the Green – Roghnú Glas

Black Lives Matter

When I was a little girl my best friend was a boy named Clarence. We played together every day and I still remember the smoky, warm cadence of his mother’s voice as she read to us. I  also remember being told that my friendship with Clarence was going to change once we started school because he was black and I was white. I doubt either one of us would have noticed that fact for years if not for that conversation, as it was simply not something we recognized. As children, we were colorblind. I will never forget the confusion and anger I felt, not understanding why anything had to change at all. I remember the defiance I felt – feeling sure that Clarence and I would be best friends until we grew up and got married. I was 4. I was too young for anyone to steal my naivety and I was angry that anyone doubted our love. In retrospect, it was probably the first moment in my life that truly shaped who I have become.

Continue reading

Remember

It’s been 3 years since the first time I stood at Ground Zero. I remember the emotional toll it took on me and how it felt to be there but not much about the area itself. I had known I would sob. I knew I would mourn E. there. I was not prepared for my initial outburst of tears to have less to do with him and more to do with the sheer overwhelming feeling of heartbreak for every person who lost their lives there and for those who they left behind.

This year I stood there again and was totally bewildered and offended as tourists posed for pictures at the new site. I moved them back from the fountain rails in the new gardens to find the name I was looking for. I walked through the monstrosity that is the “museum” which sells “Never Forget” trinkets like thieves in the temple. I was angry and upset at the world where these things can happen and horrified that such a beautiful place was one that marked such an awful tragedy. This time, my emotions were hot and angry and I wasn’t sure what would happen when I found his name.

Continue reading

Suffer the Children

(TRIGGER WARNING – CHILD ABUSE – PEDOPHILIA – RAPE)

This morning was a very disillusioning one full of debate and controversy. It began with the sickening news of one of my literary inspirations being a real life monster. It has transformed into a conversation about whether or not people can separate the person from the art – and whether or not we should. It is an interesting argument and I believe being able to do so indicates a useful yet troubling skill borne of personal detachment, distance, and denial. Many disagree with me and say that the art in the world should stand on its own merit – regardless of the personality of its creator. In many instances I agree but I draw the line at child abuse. That is a hard line for me – and knowing that one of my idols was busy destroying her female child while she created a world of feminist heroines is truly horrifying to me.

Normally, I pay no attention to celebrity news because I too am detached and I don’t know any of those people nor do I really care about what they do. I make no judgements on how they live or how they die, unless they hurt someone along the way. Even then, I tend to be lenient because it doesn’t affect me personally – until it comes to children. I have no kids of my own by choice – but I do love the many I have in my life – and I cannot tolerate cruelty or abuse toward someone who cannot defend themselves. When Michael Jackson died, I think I was the only person on earth who refused to listen to his music or celebrate his life. When Roman Polanski’s victim recommended that the charges on her behalf were dismissed, I applauded her decision simply because it was hers to make but have still never seen one of his movies, nor will I ever watch a Woody Allen film. Bill Cosby, James Brown, Ike Turner, Chris Brown, Rick James – they were predators and abusers of women and family if even half of the alleged charges against them are to be believed and so was Hemingway. Millions of pieces of art, literature, comedy, and music would never be heard or seen if we judged it all by the disturbed people who have created it. Where then is the line drawn? When do we see the art as an extension of the drunken or cruel person who makes it and refuse to support it?

For me, it’s all about the children. I realize that it’s a shade of grey that makes me uncomfortable, in that one type of abuse shouldn’t be worse than another. All of it is deplorable. I just can’t get past the person who would prey on kids. It’s why I don’t read Ginsberg, despite what I hear is amazing poetry. It is why hearing the news of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s horrendous personal life is so upsetting to me. Her books were my first glimpse into feminism and how strong and beautiful the female identity could be. It shaped my personality, my preferred fiction genre, and my own writing. I was looking forward to sharing it with the young girls in my life as soon as they were old enough to understand. I am heartbroken that now I do not feel I can do that – and to have such an emotional reaction to such news is bewildering.

After all, I have already read everything I was going to read by her. The books are already purchased – I cannot undo it. The argument some posit about the fact that no proceeds can go to her anyway, as she is dead, makes some sense…and that not sharing a book that influenced so many women in the world could be considered a waste. I get that. I also feel that knowing what little I do about her alleged abuse has turned my stomach all morning and I can’t in good conscience use that book to help shape little girls’ destinies, not with hearing about what she did to her own little girl. I don’t think I can ever pick it up again, for that matter – though the urge to look for clues to her behavior in her fiction is strong. Hindsight is always 20/20.

The good news is that many of her co-authors or writers who wrote stories based on hers are now donating a large portion of their sales to things like RAINN or child abuse centers. That’s wonderful – and who knows, maybe I’ll read some of those. But the haunting work of her daughter, Moria Greyland, in music and verse is enough to make me weep, particularly her poem “Mother’s Hands”.  To support anything that has even a tiny connection to her mother, including sharing her very influential and inspiring book, after reading that piece is something I am not capable of.

Maybe I’m too sensitive. Maybe we should separate all the art from the artist and accept the darkness as something that does not effect the consumer. It’d certainly be easier. But how can we support the person financially or creatively while their victims plead for acknowledgement and help? How can we say that a book, movie or song is greater than the suffering that the creator inflicted on another human? How do we put Woody Allen’s genius in front of his daughter? I don’t think we can, without losing a little of ourselves. But, as I said, maybe I’m too sensitive. You decide.

(Scroll through the article to see the poetry)

http://deirdre.net/marion-zimmer-bradley-its-worse-than-i-knew/

YesAllWomen

For the last week or so, the very amazing women in my life have been making lists and telling stories about being victimized. As humans we have always bonded over trauma, no matter what our gender is. These stories have broken my heart and made me admire and love the tellers even more fiercely, especially their ability to stay open and vulnerable despite the violence in their lives. Mine is nothing compared to many and when I can be grateful for that, there’s a very serious problem. I was going to skip out on the conversation except that an amazing woman asked us to keep them coming, so that she might be able to post hers someday. So here is mine.

*At age 6 when I had short hair and glasses, a young boy asked me if I was a boy or a girl. He bullied me into showing him when he didn’t believe my answer and then held me down and pulled my hair while telling me that I was the ugliest girl in the world.

*At age 8 my friend’s father started snapping my bathing suit, spanking me and grabbing at me under the water every time we went swimming. We went swimming every day, mostly at his insistence.25 years later, she called to ask if he had been molesting me all the years that he had been attacking her.

*At age 11, I was one of the first girls to wear a bra. Almost every boy in the class had to try to snap it or unhook it every day for the rest of the school year, laughing at my embarrassment and discomfort. Teachers and parents had a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude or a ‘they’re just curious’ excuse when I complained.

*At age 17, I was told that if I wanted to stay where I was living, I had to sleep with the guy who paid rent.

*At age 18, two male friends came to visit from out of town. One molested and mentally abused me, trying to force me to sleep with them both. The other looked at my torn clothes and my tears and only asked why I still wouldn’t sleep with him.

*At age 19 on the first day of a new job, my supervisor stood pressed against my back, grinding into me with his arms around me to show me how the job was done. When I complained to the boss he was called into the office where they proceeded to talk about my mouth for the 10 minutes I listened in before walking out, never to return.

This list could go on and on for every single year if I truly wanted to rehash all the trauma in my life. Instead I’m going to jump right back into the present.

*Every single day at least 3 people (friends and strangers, male and female) mention the size of my breasts and at least one tries to grab or poke them. Every. Single. Day.

*2 weeks ago I danced with a guy who told me I was beautiful when I really needed to hear it. When he got more aggressive and started picking me up, spinning me around and pinning my arms, I protested. He tried to kiss me instead of apologizing. I quit dancing.

*1 week ago I watched an acquaintance get pushy with a friend and many of us helped facilitate her retreat. When his attention turned to me I said no more than 6 times and smacked his hands away repeatedly before getting angry and violent, shoving him off his seat next to me and moving away. When I complained about his behavior to some of the best people I know, their response was that he gets that way when he’s been drinking and his behavior was not anyone else’s problem.

*For the last 3 weeks I have documented constant public threats against one of the best women I know from her ex. This continues every day while we lose sleep from too many miles away.

*In the last 6 months I have listened to men I know who are normally fair minded and sensitive say horrible things. One labeled a recent love a whore as soon as she did not choose him when they were BOTH seeing other people. Another one of my oldest friends JUST asked when younger women started dressing like whores. A third only posts passive aggressive quotes about women’s behaviors or half naked pictures of women on his news feed, all day every day. There have been no less than 4 “you hit like a girl” type demeaning jokes in the last 24 hours that have reached my ears.

PLEASE realize that these stories are everyone’s problems. #YesAllWomen doesn’t exist to bash men, nor does it exist to shove an agenda down anyone’s throat. It is to show you that even the strongest and even-keeled women you know are or have been victims, whether they look like one or not. Sure, not all men display these tendencies – but to hijack the vital conversation or to complain about all the lectures is detrimental to what could be a very big enlightening lesson. In every recent case, it has been MY job to leave the dangerous situations – when it should be that they never happen in the first place. Accept that it happens – that sometimes even the most considerate men have tendencies to lash out at women, just because it is totally ingrained in how we all grow up. Admit that your sons may pick up some of these behaviors – and try to mitigate that osmosis with better teachings and respect. When they start throwing things down girls’ tops or snapping straps, don’t laugh or roll your eyes, and instead show them why it is wrong. Stop being defensive and learn from the women in your life. Then stand up for and with them.  Make the world a better place instead of an angrier one. We beg you.