Posted in Uncategorized

Come at Me, Bro

The anger is closer, more accessible, than the reason for it or the details. I didn’t know anyone at Club Q. I’m learning the names slowly as the news quietly updates. It bothers me that the only updates I’m seeing are from Huff Post Queer Voices, and sites that lie inaccessible behind paywalls. 

Have we all become numb?

I felt it yesterday; I don’t know if it was the day, the news, or the season, but “numb” is a good descriptor for most of my Sunday. The way my bestie said it summed it up perfectly: “there’s so much to feel and so little space to feel it.” And so, blankness becomes survival. 

Today I woke up anxious and angry. Little things are frustrating; not the stomp-your-foot flavor of frustrating, but the take-a-match-to-it kind. It took me a while to realize why, to remember. It took until afternoon again for anything to cross my Facebook path. 

And this attack happened mere minutes before Trans Day of Remembrance. An annual day of mourning and remembering, scheduled and on a whole lot of calendars, because we know we are going to lose more of our community to violence and hatred. Not long before they died, my wife wondered if they’d make that list one day.

Today, I’m not numb; I am angry, and I am tired. 

I’m not even supposed to be writing this. I had a funny post planned, a nice short one with typos and mistakes I’ve made using talk-to-text, because it’s National Novel Writing Month. I’m about 6000 words off of my goal with just ten days to go. 

I couldn’t post that after I saw the news. And I couldn’t sit silently; not for long, at least.

There’s a tweet going around that says “If you can’t wrap your head around a bar or a club as a sanctuary, you’ve probably never been afraid to hold someone’s hand in public.” And that hit me, hard.

I’ve never seen myself as a victim; not when I was in an abusive relationship, not when I’ve been actively discriminated against. No matter what has happened to me, no matter the dizzying amount of anxiety I have, I still consider myself a fighter. 

Because yeah, I’ve been worried about what it would mean to hold my wife’s hand in public. I’ve felt my protective instincts go up when I am with another woman in public. I’ve taken stickers that I’m proud as hell to display down off my car in order to be safer travelling. I’ve used the buddy system in out-of-state gas stations, leaving the dog in the (running) car, so that my partner would be safer – or have a witness, if they weren’t.

I’ve felt the stares, directed at me, directed at my wife, and before that, other partners. I realize that not everyone knows what it’s like to feel that hot punch of hate, to feel unwelcome because of who you are and who you love. Not everyone knows what it’s like when conversation stops when you walk in, and you know what that silence means.

When Hawthorne and I were first married, there were states where we would half-jokingly say “Oh, guess we’re not married! Ok, see ya!” When we were first talking about having kids, we had to look into the legality of names on a birth certificate before we even felt safe trying. When I was preeclamptic and Lucy’s arrival was imminent, we elected to go to the in-state hospital, which was twice as far away as the out-of-state one, just to protect those rights.

We were denied wedding services by vendors because we were not a union of a man and a woman. We were not-so-subtly called out during our niece’s dedication ceremony; not by name, but it sure was uncomfortable when the message of the sermon was that Jesus can even forgive homosexuals, those that are sexually impure. 

I have been present for a couple fights at bars and clubs, and during my time on the ambulance, responded to plenty. Only two were at known queer establishments, where intolerant people went to make a point – or whatever reason they gave. Still I have felt safer in bars and clubs than I have in most churches I’ve been to. And no, I don’t expect everyone to understand that. What I want people to understand is, my experience is just as true and valid as yours.

These days, I’d love to get a night off and find a gay bar in a major metropolitan city, have a couple drinks, dance, and Uber home. However I’m increasingly afraid of doing so; I’ve got a kid I want to come home to more than I want to unwind at a bar; and truly, Starbucks is no safer from assholes with guns than a bar.

Historically, bars have been safe gathering places for people who existed outside the confines of man-and-woman, binary, and proper. They have been burned down, smoked out, condemned, and shot up. They are flagships of survival. They’ve given their bricks and mortar just as we have shed our tears and blood for our right to exist in this world.

For every person who exists outside the boundaries of the binary, for every person who loves someone they’ve been told by someone – person, organization, religion, or society – for each of you, I am angry, and I am with you.

For every person who has had their life taken by these senseless acts of violence, especially in places when you were supposed to be safe, I am remembering, and I am with you.

For every person who has been harmed, abandoned, assaulted, evicted, disowned, denied your human and civil rights, I am hurting, and I am with you.

For every person who has shed their blood and their tears just to fucking exist, every person who has fought – with cops, with protesters, with religious figures and politicians – I am thanking you, and I am with you.

For every person who has been afraid to hold someone’s hand in public, piss in a public restroom, cut or grow their hair, wear a dress or pants, have stickers on their car, travel to specific places, go out by themselves to get gas, I am raising my hand in sorrow and solidarity, and I am with you.

I’m no victim, and neither am I invincible. I’m fully aware that being a woman, and being queer, make me a target for certain bigots. I’m something to abhor, to castigate and disparage. I’m something to dispose of, teach a lesson to; someone who doesn’t match their idea of what a woman should be, and as such, deserving of scorn and derision. And as I am all of those things, I am something to be feared.

So go ahead, fear me. If you see me as a target, be damn sure that I know it, and your hateful opinion does not change me. You have come for us, and we are still here, and we will continue to be.

I am angry: for me, for my daughter, my friends and family and community. And hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned.

Posted in Beliefs and Practices

Dia de los Angelitos

We kept the celebration small this year. The kitchen table was pulled out, the basket of condiments banished to the pantry for tonight. There were 6 place settings crowded around the square table. I pulled the three chairs I owned in around in and added the stepstool; the kiddo would get a kick out of that. Lucy had her high chair, and I was happy to stand. Truth be told I was too excited to sit. 

We set the table together, with silverware clattering on plates, as “Lucy Danger” and “gentle” don’t always go together. The sun had set already, and the sky was vaguely purple with the cloud cover and light pollution from the city refracted inside it. I fiddled with the vases of bright orange carnations, and bit my lip as I worried that they were not marigolds.

Suddenly, there was a rush of warmth and the voices of our beloved guests poured into the room. Lucy was startled and ran to grab my leg a moment, but found herself swept up in hugs.

Oh, but they looked wonderful. They’d all dressed up for the occasion. Stan, in his suit from the church picture that his wife had taken, shit, must be ten years ago now; Clark, a fresh flannel button down and pressed slacks, with his hat and walking stick and sunglasses. Hawthorne, dapper as could be in a lavender button down, jeans, vest, bow tie, and pocket chain. And Oscar, my sweet boy, in a checkered Oxford shirt and suspenders on his jeans.

He’s gotten so tall, a full head taller than his sister, who was looking at him with wide eyes from her perch up on Clark’s shoulders. He’d be four now; he sure seemed like it. Lucy kicked her legs and demanded “down, down please!” Clark lifted her off his shoulders and put her down, and I watched my children, my babies, run into the other room to play. Their grandfather went with them, a smile on his face that I could tell reached his eyes, even with the sunglasses.

I turned from hugging Stan, who followed in to watch his grandkids play, and found myself back in my spot, head under Hawthorne’s chin, their arms wrapped right around me. We fit perfectly together there, and always had. I breathed them in; sandalwood and calendula, and the smell of their skin that I remembered so well. I wanted to pause time, to feel those arms hold me like no one else could, to lay my head on their chest where it fit so naturally. The bossa nova station I had playing on my computer slid toward something slower, wrapping around us as if we needed help holding on to each other. We swayed in place a moment, then Hawthorne tugged my hand. I spun away and back in, laughing into their eyes. We danced in the kitchen like we had so many times before. 

The kids ran in, demanding food, followed by the men. Hawthorne gave me a last squeeze and let go, reaching to pick up Lucy as I turned to the stove. 

“Hey, baby. Remember me?” 

Lucy  nodded. “You Papa,” she said, pointing. My eyes stung, and I closed them against the wave of emotion. She was always to ask to look at pictures, and didn’t always recognize Hawthorne. “That my Mama,” she continued, the same way she told her friends at school every time I came to pick her up. “Who that?” 

“That’s your brother Oscar,” Hawthorne told her. 

She gasped. “My picture!” She strained to get away, and since neither of us knew what she was talking about, they set her down. She ran into her room. “Mama, my picture!”

We all followed her in, Oscar pushing through legs to get to the front to see. Hawthorne gripped my shoulder and tears filled my eyes.

She was pointing to a painting given to us by our beautiful and talented friends when we had been pregnant with Lucy. A branch of a birch tree against a truly Oscar blue sky – she had color matched it to pictures we posted of our Oscar sky. On the branch was a birds nest made of twigs. Inside the nest was a gold crown, and half of a perfect egg. Well, when it had been given to us, it was the shell of the egg, glued on like the twigs and the crown; the shell had been broken during the move. Lucy asked about it often, asked why it was broken. I always told her it was because she had hatched, and the crown was for her brother Oscar. He left it here when he went to the stars, I would tell her. 

Lucy climbed up on her bed, turned and gestured to Oscar. “C’mere,” she told him. “My picture. My egg broken, I hatch. You has a crown! My picture!”

Stan clapped his hand on my other shoulder. “Ya done good, kid,” he said as he turned and walked out. He wasn’t much one for displays of emotion, his own or that of others’. Clark echoed the sentiment and action. “Well done,” he nodded, before stepping out. The kids began chattering about the books on Lucy’s shelf, and we watched our babies play. 

The timer beeped, and I ran back to the kitchen. It wasn’t a traditional dinner in any sense of the word. We had chicken nachos with Chiavetta’s, shepherd’s pie, shrimp cocktail, cereal with milk, and ice cream. We sat and ate the smorgasbord happily, passing things around the packed little table, then one of the grandfathers would turn easily in their chair to place the dish on the counter. Oscar got a kick out of sitting on the top of the backwards stepstool. Wine flowed and beer foamed, raised in toast, and enjoyed without any negative anticipation. All were well here. 

After dinner was finished, I pulled out a cake I had hidden in my bedroom, away from little fingers, frosted with bright orange flowers. I lit the candle and brought it out carefully. Hawthorne, Clark, and Stan joined in singing Happy Birthday to Lucy, and she clapped along in her Papa’s lap. Between us all, we managed to eat half the cake, and polish off a tub of ice cream with it.

Despite the sugar rush, Lucy and Oscar were both beginning to droop after the meal. We moved to the living room, where there was just enough space to have Stan and Clark each take a comfy seat in a high-backed chair known for cradling its occupants. Hawthorne and I snuggled up on the couch with the kids. I took our son into my lap, and Hawthorne held our daughter. We sat and talked, sharing family stories we never had a chance to, as well as old favorites. I caught them up on the highlights of the year. They had felt some disturbance through the veil, more of the unpleasant things that I tried to lighten in the retelling. I didn’t want to dwell on the hardships and illnesses, the tears and sleepless nights. I wanted this bright, golden memory. 

We continued to talk as the candles burned low, and the grandfathers each drifted off to sleep. I held Hawthorne’s hand over the back of the couch, surrounding our sleeping babies. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open any longer, but I didn’t want to let go. Hawthorne laughed and my head came up; I’d fallen asleep and kept talking, nonsensical ramblings. I shrugged and smiled. It’s not like it was the first time that had happened. I laid my head in their hand as they murmured to me, all the little things we used to say in bed together, before they rolled over and I’d curl around them to finally fall asleep. A tear slipped from my eye – I knew they would be gone when I awoke, my lap back to being space for only Lucy, my couch and house otherwise empty. The dog would wander around, confused as to where her family went. I didn’t know how Lucy would respond. Another tear fell, and Hawthorne wiped it away with their thumb. 

The last thing I heard was them telling me they loved me, with the weight of Oscar back in my arms, before the candles faded out and I drifted off to sleep.

I hadn’t needed the marigolds after all.