Tag Archives: Homosexuality

Bamboozled

Bamboozle: (v) – To trick or deceive (someone)
1. To deceive by underhanded methods. (dupe, hoodwink)
2. To confuse, frustrate or throw off completely.

Banana Bamboozle: (n)
1. A ridiculously alcoholic party beverage sure to make you spew yellow before the end of the night.
2. An absolutely entertaining new novel by Becky Clark & Ted Hardwick

 

banana bamboozle

Get ready to be bamboozled.

Banana Bamboozle: A Dunne Diehl Novel (How punderful is that!) was my first read after months of nothing but teen pregnancy books. It was a welcome and much-needed vacation from serious, issues based, contemporary YA.

I hate calling it a perfect beach read, because for some reason many people take those books less seriously. That said, summer is right around the corner which means trips to the pool, the beach and hopefully some other more exotic and exciting locations requiring planes, trains and maybe even a boat or two.

This is a perfect book to bring along, wherever your summer adventure takes you.

Since I read SO MUCH young adult, I should probably mention right from the start that this book is not a YA novel. It’s *gasp* for grownups! (Not that teens wouldn’t like it, back in my day teens read all sorts of adult books…)

Last disclaimer – I encourage you all to listen to this song from the great Colorado band Cabaret Diosa while reading this review, it helps set the mood.

Banana Bamboozle begins at a neighborhood party, a party in which a particularly alcoholic, fake tropical beverage is being served.

Banana Bamboozle

Bottoms up!

Our leading lady, Cassidy, is there with the leading man, note – not her leading man, which was VERY refreshing, Dan. They’re gossiping about their fellow guests when Cassidy recognizes one of the guests as her teenaged niece. When she points the girl out to Dan he revokes her bar privileges, reminding her that her niece died as an infant in a tragic house fire 14 years ago.

Cassidy isn’t known for making the best, most rational decisions, but she is stubborn – like a raccoon with something shiny in its paw. She won’t let go of this fairy tale, even if it kills her – and her sister, who is only just beginning to recover from the loss of her child.

Dan knows he needs to get Cassidy to stop prying into this girl’s life, for all their sakes, but at the moment he has more urgent fish to fry. He’s been accused of stealing money from his favorite restaurant. He didn’t do it, but one of his limo drivers might have. It’s up to him to find out which one before Officer By The Book tosses him in jail.

Banana Bamboozle is a fast paced romp through small town life with a bit of Hollywood’s seedy underbelly thrown in for good measure.

Banana Daquiri

Keep drinking

The plot is tight and keeps you turning pages so fast you barely realize how well the other elements are woven in.

This books shines a gentle light on issues such as – what happens to kids who come out as gay to their parents and peers in places where homosexuality is still severely frowned on. It takes a look at how kids end up living on the streets, and things people can do to help them become functioning adults.

It also takes a probing look at aging in youth obsessed America. And being slightly overweight (and addicted to miniature candy bars) in a society that worships thinness.

These social issues aren’t shoved in your face, they are simply part and parcel as Cassidy and Dan live their lives on the pages.

As the stress from her search for the truth becomes too much for her, Cassidy reaches time and time again for her Earthquake Kit – an emergency stash of candies and chocolate – mostly chocolates. And each time she’s hit with a pang of guilt large enough to make her grab at least one extra. Food is both Cassidy’s comfort and curse. Her relationship with it colors her every interaction.

“So, you’re in town on business? Are you buying the gym?”
Blaze laughed. “No, but I do get some time off. And eating out three meals a day takes a toll. That’s why I’m here.” He patted his flat belly. Cassidy thought maybe she should start eating out more than she already did. Clearly it helped get rid of belly fat.

There were a couple of places where I really identified with Cassidy – her need to dress for a dinner date for example, but not in the way you think:

“This is where you drink. You eat at Dollar Bills. Or Natalie’s bakery. Or the yogurt place. Or El Pepino Picante, if you like Mexican.”
“Love Mexican. How ’bout you?”
Cassidy nodded. “But I haven’t been there in a while. I’m trying to keep my clothes on a salsa-free diet.”
“Aw, c’mon. Let’s blow this popsicle stand and get some enchiladas.”
Cassidy looked down at her white blouse. “Sorry. Not dressed for it.”

It’s a long running joke in my house that I can’t eat (or cook) most of my favorite foods without wearing them by the end of the meal. I should own stock in Shout Stain Remover.

Cassidy also offers one of the best rebuffs to a sexual advance I’ve heard in a while. It works because I think it would make anyone who heard it giggle.

“Stop it. You’ll make me untidy.”
“Untidy?” Axel chuckled and stepped away.
“Yeah. I heard it on PBS. Just trying to class up the joint.”

While I identified with a lot of Cassidy’s, erm, neuroses, I truly loved Dan.

Dan is a busy man, he and Cassidy run the local newspaper together. He also has a limo service that he runs and spends a lot of time volunteering at or running The Center for street kids. He’s a thoughtful, compassionate man with a seemingly infinite capacity for kindness. With one glaring exception. Mrs Edison.

“Why are you going to Mrs Edison’s party if you hate her so much?”
“She hated me first.”
“Not true, I bet there were lots of people who hated you before Mrs Edison did.” Cassidy linked an arm through Dan’s while they walked.
“Droll, very droll.” Dan unpeeled her arm from his.

banana bamboozle

One more for the road

Dan also loves interjecting his “fun facts” into conversations. As Cassidy’s sister asks, “Really fun, or just ‘Dan fun’?” But Dan’s desire to share his vast knowledge of random trivia with the world is part of his charm, his way of showing that he’s connected to the world.

What I enjoyed most in this book was the quick wit and snarky humor – not to mention the delicious puns. Like Cassidy’s “sex-husband” – Her ex, who she still uses regularly for sex.

Or the moment Cassidy wakes up after her night of guzzling banana bamboozles only to discover she is completely unprepared for the hangover: “Damnit! Who forgot to buy aspirin?” she yelled. “Where are my adults?” I loved this idea of a middle-aged woman shouting for her adults. I think we all have those moments where we just want someone more responsible than us to hand us some aspirin and a remote control. (Though in my day hangovers were cured with a 5am wakeup, two aspirin and a day of hard labor. That was supposed to teach me not to party so hard…)

banana bamboozle

Bananas and booze – breakfast of champions!

The introduction of characters let us get to know them quickly, and again, with humor and wit. – “I know,” Aunt Lu explained. “That’s why I’m asking Dan to be your co-owner. He’s smart He’s got skillz.”
She actually heard her aunt put the ‘z’ on the end. Lu was 82 years old and 43 percent thug. She never missed an opportunity to confront people who mistreated children or animals – often employing punctuating finger jabs; she demanded immediate and heartfelt apologies from anyone who called her “Hon”; and she sported a mysterious ankle tattoo of a scorpion that she refused to explain.

It’s hard to get to know a character in just a sentence or two, but Becky and Ted manage to pull it off: Ramses’ tobacco fortified voice resonated like the low notes on a cello. I love that phrase – tobacco fortified voice. I suspect we all have a crotchety elder in our lives who fits that description. They usually also have tobacco and weather fortified leathery skin and an emotional hide that would intimidate a rhino.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, humorous romp through these modern days, with just enough mystery to keep the pages turning – Banana Bamboozle is a good pick. It’s the perfect airplane, long train journey, lounge around the pool (or beach) book. The best part – it even tells you how to make yourself a thermos of Banana Bamboozle, the drink that starts it all!

banana bamboozle shooters

Banana Bamboozle for a party

This is rumored to be the first in a series. Here’s hoping we get a new drink recipe with each installment…

 

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Intersections of Inclusion

So, you might be looking at the title and thinking, “Huh?”

But those two words are HUGE buzz words in my communities right now.

Intersectionality – the realization that my cause is your cause and that all causes feed into each other if we are talking of social justice, economic justice, legal justice…

Inclusivity – making sure that when we speak, organize and act, we are including as many people as we can in our process. (Whether they join is up to them, but we want to try to not deliberately exclude them from the conversation or action.)

But buzz words are just buzz words – until they aren’t. Until you actually see them in action.

This past weekend I attended Catalyst Con West.

It’s a pretty big conference centered around sparking conversations about sex.

It catered to a diverse crowd of sex positive speakers, educators, writers and advocates from Tenured PhD. professors to sex workers to dabblers and everyone in between.

It was a hugely diverse crowd both in natural-born characteristics and in lifestyle choices. And all were implicitly welcomed on equal terms and equal footing.

For three amazing days, we were all just… people.

hugging shakers

Hugs all around.

It was one of the rare times that I felt like I was really participating in the mythical melting pot of America.

There were people of all races and ethnicities.

People of diverse ability levels from people with severe physical disabilities, mental disabilities, almost imperceptible disabilities.

There were people of all genders. And I say all rather than both because as I’ve stated before, gender is NOT a binary. There are many shades of gender.

There were people of all sexes. (see above, sex is also NOT a binary.)

There were people of many different sexualities, asexual, bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, and other shades that don’t come with easy labels.

There were people of all different body types from skeletal to extra voluptuous.

There were people from all different levels of socio-economic background.

People with all different levels of education from PhD to nothing beyond elementary school.

I heard at least 6 different languages being spoken.

I met people from at least 5 different faiths.

I spoke with people from every political party in the USA, and Canada.

This was the America that I envision in my dreams.

equality for all

No freedom ’till we’re equal.

This is the America I want to work toward, fight for and see delivered.

An America where people from diverse backgrounds, lives and belief systems can come together and get along.

Did we all agree on everything – ABSOLUTELY NOT.

But were we able to be civil, respectful and kind?

YES.

We were able to talk, to laugh, to joke, to look for and find the commonalities and connect as people, as individuals and as pieces of a larger group – a human group. We were able to find common ground and move forward from there.

And because of that, we were truly able to reach across whatever aisles society had put between us. We were able to open our hearts and minds and listen to the other sides. We were able to learn, to bend, to come together.

In the end, we were able to walk away with the understanding that at our core – we all want the same things.

We all want to love and be loved. We all want to live in fearless freedom – freedom to be ourselves without hurting others and without being harmed in return. We all want to be accepted as we are.

love and be loved

Love is all we need.

I had begun to think this was a utopian pipe dream. I had begun to fall victim to the idea that in attempting to raise everyone up, we are really just sinking to the level of the “lowest common denominator.” As if there is such a thing. As if there are really people with no worth or value.

But this past weekend, I saw the truth. I lived it.

When we make everyone equal, when we accept everyone as human with the same rights, responsibilities and privileges as ourselves – we all rise together and create something that is so much stronger, better and more powerful than we could ever be alone.

Intersectionality.

Inclusion.

These are just fancy words for equality.

For justice.

For the freedom to be ourselves.

Loud and proud.

goodbye closet

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could ALL come out of our closets!?!

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Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant, Things that work

Openly Straight

First – I want to offer a sincere thanks to the people who stopped by and liked yesterday’s Banned Books post.

Whenever I can, I try to click on at least one suggested post from the people who like or follow me. This round was… wow.

Some of the blog posts that I was led to based on yesterday’s “likes” took me to places that reminded me that while some people would love nothing more than the same passive acceptance for themselves that most straight, white, cis people take for granted, others are in need of a more active support as they live their lives out loud. The truth is that people are individuals and we all need different things from each other.

From the lesbian who is sick of the “never-ending revolving closet door” – this having to come out over and over, to the man who is chronicling his own sexual discovery process as a gay man and shared the awkwardness of his first encounter, to the woman struggling to come out and live life as the woman she was born to be – these people are all looking and asking for different levels of support, understanding, respect and love.

Ultimately, all of these posts brought me back to  Bill Konigsberg‘s book Openly Straight.

It asks the questions many of these people seem to be asking – How out do you have to be? Can you really connect with people if you hide the part about who you love, or who you look like inside? Why does it even matter? Should it? And, if you’re not out – how do you reach the people you’re into, and who might be into you?

Here’s the basic premise – Rafe is an out gay boy living in Boulder, CO – a safe, open community where coming out wasn’t such a huge deal. As Rafe says, “there we were, a school with gays and straights, and no one died in the process.”

However, while coming out was not a huge deal, being out comes with its own pitfalls. Now Rafe is The Gay Guy. Along with “you-know-Caleb” because all gay people know each other, amiright? Rafe gets tired of his gayness being the first thing people know about him. He gets tired of living the label, and wants to try just being a person. He wants to get rid of the barriers that he sees between himself and the straight guys at school, who tolerate him, but still don’t want to share shower time with him… His plan, to go to a private all boy’s school on the other side of the country and NOT announce his sexuality. He swears he’s not going back in the closet, he’s just “standing in the doorway.” He’s not lying, he’s just… not telling.

Those who know me, know I read with a packet of sticky notes in my hand to mark great passages. Bill’s book looks like it lost a battle with a paper porcupine.

bill konigsberg

Rainbow Paper Porcupine.

I responded to this book on a couple of levels – First as a person who went to high school. (I know, right!?!) I could so relate to Rafe and his desire to shed his skin like a snake, to have a chance to try on another piece of himself and live in that skin. The teen years are so much about exploration and discovery, but we’re always held back by the person we were, by the perceptions of the people around us based on last year’s self – or yesterday’s self. We make a choice and it pushes us down a road we didn’t even see at the time, and it can be hard to back pedal, to undo the choice and get back on track.

We end up losing ourselves in other people’s ideas of who we are. The idea of being able to start over, to wipe the slate clean is so appealing at that age.

“Hey, did you know I was gay?” I asked.
“Shut up!” she said. “Really, I had no idea, since it’s not like the only thing people talk to you about.”
“I know, right?” I said. “I am so fucking tired of being seen as ‘the gay kid’.”
“I mean, no offense, Shay Shay. But it’s not exactly a cosmic mystery how that happened. I mean it’s not like you told the world, and visited other schools to talk about it. It’s not like your mom is the president of PFLAG Boulder. How rude of people to make a big deal out of you being gay.”

Second, I related as a person who never quite fit in, who lives ever so slightly outside the lines and wishes we could just get past the labels and little boxes already. I went to high school in a very small, very conservative Colorado mountain town. While I could “pass” for “normal”, it was exhausting. When I was socially crucified in 9th grade for being myself I found my people – the misfits.

When Rafe steps outside his label, he’s allowed to explore the various groups, but he finds that too is exhausting, you’re always on a tightrope – can you acknowledge those friends while standing with these friends? Are they really friends if you can’t be your whole self around them?

So on those two levels I responded, and identified just as a person. I hate saying Openly Straight tells a universal story because there isn’t such a thing, but it comes damn close. I think there are pieces of Rafe that almost anyone can identify with. The question he grapples with – how “out” do you need to be to be yourself – doesn’t just apply to sexuality, it applies to so many facets of ourselves. We all protect parts of ourselves and curate the image the rest of the world sees. And yet, we also all desire to be seen and loved as we are.

“Oh, I’m so glad. You love a boy,” my mom said. “You’re still our Rafe, underneath this hideous straight disguise…”
“It’s not a disguise,” I yelled, surprising even myself. “I know you don’t get this, but there’s a part of me that this truly is, okay? I know, I’m gay. I’m your gay son. But could you just give me a fucking break for two minutes so I can be just me too? God.” I pounded the seat next to me.

Last, I responded to this book as a mom, an educator, an ally – an outsider to this specific struggle – looking in. And THAT was a revelation.

I take my heterosexuality for granted, as does just about everyone around me. That said, not every guy I smile at thinks I’m hitting on him. I can strike up a conversation with a dude and not have him feel the need to tell me he’s married, got a girlfriend or not interested. We’re used to each other’s heterosexuality and we understand that there are billions of us and clearly we are not all trying to get in each other’s pants all the time. Seeing Rafe’s struggle to just be one of the guys really drove home for me how different it can be for homosexuals, and how ridiculous it is that heterosexuals saddle them with our crap baggage and insecurities.

He looked me in the eye. His eyes were translucent blue. He looked kind. I didn’t want to look away. I realized that not being the gay kid here allowed me more access. I wasn’t supposed to hold eye contact with jocks back in Boulder. It was understood: They accepted me, and I didn’t freak them out with eye contact. Here, no such contract had been made.

The access he’s talking about here is just friendship. As the out gay kid, can you still hug a fellow teammate after a good game or give them the standard congratulatory ass-pat for scoring a good goal? How can you be one of the guys when doing the things guys do makes them question your motives?

This book also explores the differences between tolerance and acceptance, and finds them both lacking.

“Actually, tolerance and acceptance are different. To tolerate seems to mean that there is something negative to tolerate, doesn’t it? Acceptance though, what’s that?”
I thought about that…
I mean, if you accept something, you take it for what it is. Tolerance is different. Less. So is acceptance at the top of the pyramid? Is that what everyone wants in the best of all possible worlds? Acceptance? I rolled the idea around in my head. It didn’t feel right, somehow.
No one was saying anything.
“Acceptance also has a bit of a negative to it, doesn’t it?” I finally said.
Scarborough looked over at me. “Yes! Tell me more about that.”
My face reddened. I knew everyone was looking at me. I didn’t want to stand out in this conversation, but I did have something to add. I took a shot.
“Well, if you need to accept something, that means it’s not like it should be, right? Like you accept something as it is.”
“No,” someone said, from the back. “You get accepted into college. It doesn’t mean you aren’t as you should be. That’s stupid.”
“Not stupid,” Scarborough said. “Stay with me here. That’s a slightly different form of the word. And yet, colleges accept students who are otherwise rejected. Acceptance is an affirmation that you’re good enough.”
… “It’s hard to be different,” Scarborough said. “And perhaps the best answer is not to tolerate differences, not even to accept them. But to celebrate them. Maybe then those who are different would feel more loved, and less, well, tolerated.”

In the end, that was the message that resonated the most. Throughout the book, Bill Konigsberg does a good job of weaving in a host of characters that all have their individual quirks – as we all do – and showing how we are all different. We all have lines that we live outside of. In the end, those are the things that make us unique, special, valuable.

Perhaps it’s time we started celebrating them, rather than accepting or tolerating them. Perhaps it’s time we stopped trying so hard to make everyone color inside the same lines. Perhaps it’s time we started celebrating the new lines being drawn, and the new doors they open for all of us.

celebrate unreasonable man

Perhaps it’s time to stop being so reasonable.

Disclaimer – I met Bill this past weekend and had the honor of moderating for his presentation at the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference. I have since contracted quite the writer’s crush. The book truly is phenomenal. Every time I tried reading it in private I would end up laughing so loud that anyone within hearing would be forced to come ask what was so funny. It’s one of those books that I will be compulsively buying just to make sure I have adequate stock to loan out.

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Your Banned Book Week Reading List

It’s been ages since I talked books in this space, but since it’s banned books week – and I just got home from a writer’s conference where I spent most of the weekend talking books, I realized it was time. Past time, really.

I am a firm believer that teens need access to books with responsible, respectful and truthful information about sex. If you can weave that into a fictional novel without getting on your moral high horse or going preachy – you win!

Teens are struggling with these issues, of sex, sexuality, sexualization – and they don’t have the words and the language to talk about it, because the adults in their life, by and large, are not giving it to them. They find substitute sources of information. Some of them are wonderful and reliable like Scarleteen, Planned Parenthood, and local teen health clinics. Others, less so. They turn to older friends or cousins, they learn through online porn. Some of it hits the mark, and some of it is dangerously off base.

They have questions – and they need answers.

Books can be an amazing, wonderful source of information. Building great characters that teens can identify with can give them more than information – it can give them a role model, it can offer them real life examples of ways to handle tricky situations, it can remind them of the most important thing I think teens need to hear – That they are not alone. They are not the only ones struggling with these issues, grappling with these choices, trying to find a clear path through the mess of hormones, pressures and desires.

Most of the books I talk about in my Sex in YA workshop have been challenged or banned because they “promote teen sex.”

What I have learned in handing these books out to the teens in my life is that they do just the opposite. They have given these teens new ways to think and to talk about the choices before them. New language to deal with the pressures they feel all around them. New options when it comes to juggling their desires.

When I gave a close teenager a copy of Judy Blume’s Forever… I wasn’t sure what she would take from it. I took her out to dinner when she finished the book and asked her what she thought.

“I was really shocked!” She said.

My first thought was, “Oh, no. I messed up.” But I bit my tongue and asked what had shocked her.

“I was surprised by how many times the girl said no. And her boyfriend didn’t leave her. I thought if you wanted to keep your boyfriend, you had to say yes.”

And then I relaxed. This girl had just learned the lesson I think we want all teens to learn – that sex doesn’t equal love, and love doesn’t mean you have to have sex. That a person who won’t take no for an answer, doesn’t deserve your yes.

So, for those of you with teens in your life – or those of you struggling to find your own sexual voice and power – here are a few books to help light the way.

sex curious

Just a few books for the curious teen

Sex positive books that emphasize respect, responsibility and consent.

Forever… by Judy Blume (Judy wrote this book for her daughter who asked for a book where two nice kids have sex without either of them having to die. No lives ruined, responsible sex.)

Another book along these lines is Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky. This one also explores the orgasm gap and the weird myths we have created about the female orgasm being difficult, messy, and not a requirement of sex.

Before I die by Jenny Downham is a sweet, touching, wonderful sex positive book about a girl who is dying, and her bucket list. It covers both sex and love – and the consequences of both! (But not in a shame and fear based way.)

Books that explore homosexuality –

Rainbow Boysby Alex Sanchez This one book explores a jock boy with a girlfriend, who can’t stop thinking about guys when he’s having sex with her. A shy, quiet boy who is gay, but not out. And one boy who is out – and fabulous. It explores homophobia, fear of rejection, taking risks because of that fear, the need for support, responsible sex, fear of HIV/AIDS, etc. Very sweet book. There are more in the series, but I have not read them yet.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg – Only half way through this book, but I still can’t recommend it enough. I love the premise, and the delivery so far.

An out gay boy in Boulder gets tired of being the gay boy, he gets tired of that being the thing everyone knows about him first. So he sets off to a private school in another state to try to love label free. Not exactly back in the closet, more just standing in the doorway. Or so he thinks. This book explores the desire to live label free, to be more than the box the world puts you in. It feels like it is also about to explore what happens when you deny your label, and the piece of yourself that it reflects.

She Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters – A young lesbian is dumped by her girlfriend and then thrown out of the house by her homophobic father. She is forced to live with her stripper/prostitute mother. Explores sexuality, acceptance and other issues around female sexuality in general and lesbian sexuality in particular.

Books that opened new doors of understanding for me.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger – This book follows a person transitioning from girl to boy and explores the issues around being a transgendered youth.

(This book really helped me, as a ciwoman, understand and sympathize with trans* people. Prior to this, I didn’t care if someone transitioned, but I didn’t understand the desire or need to do so. I also didn’t really understand what a big deal it was and how much support people needed. I believe a lot of cispeople don’t get it – this book helped me, a lot. Perhaps it can help others too.)

Luna by Julie Anne Peters is another book about trans youth. In this book a person born male transitions to female. It delves into the differences between homosexuality and being transgender. It talks about transphobia, homophobia and the risks of being yourself, when you don’t fit neatly into a preformed box.

I cover lots of other books in my course, but many of the others go into the darker sides of sex – rape, slut shaming, consequences. For this post, I wanted to challenge everyone to look at teenagers having consensual sex and not freak out. Think about them being safe, responsible, communicative. Think of them exploring, learning, trusting and growing. Think about the pressure they feel – both internally and externally to walk these weird lines of being sexy and attractive but not sexually active. To be smart, get good grades, be active in extracurriculars, be popular. The media tells them being sexy, and sexual, will get them popularity, power, love. But we dangle that carrot and tell them it’s off-limits.

It’s confusing at best, tortuous at worst.

And why? Because WE, the adults, are afraid. Of what, I’m not sure – yes there can be negative consequences to sex – but if we talk about, if we teach them about it, if we give them safe spaces to explore and learn and guidance along the way to encourage healthy communication, boundaries, respect – we can mitigate most of those. We can help them build a safety net and make smarter choices.

And – we can give them access to books – books that let them know they’re not alone. Books that assure them, that it gets better. Books that gave them tools to start making it better, for themselves and their friends, one day at a time.

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Gay Penguins

I know, there were 9 other books awarded the Scarlet B for most challenged books of 2010, but I really just can’t get over the gay penguins.

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson was challenged for having homosexuality, a (non) religious viewpoint, and being unsuited to the age group.

In this era where children are being bullied, literally to death, for being or “acting” gay, it seems to me that what we need are MORE books that talk about homosexuality from a non-religious viewpoint. And because gay couples are able to adopt children in many states, lesbian couples are able to use in vitro fertilization to have their own children and even in states where adoption by gay parents is illegal they are allowed to foster parent – it seems that birth would be an appropriate age to start talking about it.

When I was in high school – way back in the early ’90s – I had to do a project for Social Studies. It was a partner project and we had to pick a social issue and present on it. At the time I was living in hicksville nowhere Colorado. My mom subscribed to NewsWeek and I read them whenever the cover had something interesting on it. Well, they had just featured a major US scientific study that proved that homosexuality was genetic. There was indisputable proof (supposedly for the first time) that people did not CHOOSE to be gay, they were born that way. They cited the study and evidence of homosexuality in nature including known cases of homosexuality in the animal kingdom, like these two male penguins at a zoo who came together to raise a chick.

So, that’s what I chose for my topic. My partner and I made a video report news cast style and presented all our evidence to the class. Then the floor was opened for debate. Every single person in the class was against our findings. Including my work partner who jumped ship the very second the tape ended. In a public school, the teacher himself brought out the bible texts to tell me that I was an abomination for defending homosexuality. I was told I was going to hell and that God hated me.

After that I was known as the school lesbian. (I wasn’t one, but it probably didn’t help that I took my best female friend to prom as my date.)

I had cool parents who knew what was going on and helped remind me not to take it too seriously. It also helped that we had come to hicksville nowhere from a very liberal hippy town and so I knew that I could get out. In fact my belief was so strong that I graduated High School in only three years, including one semester as a foreign exchange student.

Not everyone has those options, or that support. Often gay kids in these hicksville towns are also repressed and bullied by their parents, and not just one teacher, but all of them. They aren’t encouraged to get out, they are just told to “straighten up”.

At this point I think that most people with gay parents probably live in fairly accepting areas. However that doesn’t mean that everyone at those schools is accepting. Then there’s the fact that those gay parents might have family in not so accepting towns. So limiting these books and discussions to “gay towns like San Francisco” doesn’t work because there’s a good chance that the children of gay parents will have to go visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and old friends in bigotville on occasion, and wouldn’t it be nice if they could do that without the neighbors telling them that they, or their parents, are going to burn in hell because of the way they were born.

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but organized religion is actually dying. It doesn’t seem that way, because the die-hard believers shout the loudest. Poll after poll, census after census shows that agnosticism and atheism are on the rise. This should be a red flag for the religious right (and left). Their old testament rhetoric might make their base happy, but it’s a dying base. If they want bodies in the churches it’s time to open up the doors a little wider.

If your god is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and omnibenevolent (all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present and all-loving), and if he has a plan for the universe that we all fit into – wouldn’t you think that He has a plan for the gays. Wouldn’t you think that he created them that way for a reason? And so by hating on them aren’t you, in fact, hating your creator, questioning his plan, denying his vision?

Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

There’s more, lots more, where those came from – you know, the Bible. That book that’s always (mis) quoted to promote hate and bigotry.

Whether you believe in God, or not, it is at this point undeniable that homosexuality is natural. These people aren’t choosing a life of ridicule and oppression, they are just trying to live the life they were given, find love, raise families, and enjoy what time they have the same as you and me.

If a kids book about gay penguins can help even one child see that their classmate is part of a loving family even with two dads, or two moms – or if it can help one kid who has gay parents to feel good and natural about that, then it’s a book that should be in every classroom, and every library.

We have book after book showing “traditional” families, no one claims those are age-inappropriate. Why is it so taboo to show another way? It’s not propoganda, it’s just life.

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Filed under Books, Kids, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

FCKH8!

I think you all know how I feel about gay marriage.  I’m all for it.  I’m happily married and I think everyone else should be too.

Marriage is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I live life fast and hard, rushing head first from one adventure or risk to the next rarely slowing down to look before I leap.  Or at least, I used to.

Then I found my husband.  He helps balance me.  He helps slow me down, remind me to breathe, to look before I leap – at least sometimes, before the REALLY BIG leaps.

We’ve got two awesome kids. We can both take them to see a doctor, pick them up from school without a note, visit them in a hospital should they ever end up there.  My insurance from work covers my husband, no questions asked.  When we bought our house there was no question that it was in both our names, even though the banks wouldn’t accept his self-employed income to qualify.  If we ever divorce he’ll automatically get shared custody of our kids and they’ll always be able to see him.  Neither one of us will be able to keep them from the other on the grounds that “They’re mine, we were never legally married, blah blah blah.”

I’ve been ranting about this for a while now.  But this morning my husband’s cousin shared this with us and it says it so much better than all my attempts that I had to share it with you.

So, FCKH8.  Get the shirt, and share the gayness!

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Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

It Gets Better

A million kudos to Dan Savage for his new movement, “It Gets Better“.

Gay teens, and preteens, are starting to come out of the closet more and more, earlier and earlier.  Unfortunately they are coming out to a world that is still highly bigoted against them.  Sure, there are pockets of sanity, pockets of tolerance, but there are also very large swaths of territory that are, for all intents and purposes, owned and operated by anti-gay bigots.

Never mind the science that shows us that homosexuality is NOT A CHOICE.  Never mind the science that shows us that homosexuality IS COMPLETELY NORMAL.  Never mind the science that shows us EVIDENCE OF HOMOSEXUALITY ACROSS ALL SPECIES.  These bigots will use any shred of fear-mongering, hate generating, mistranslated and poorly interpreted “holy” scripture to support their own bigotry against other human beings.

The result has been gay and lesbian teens being bullied, literally to death.  And not just by mis-guided and mis-educated kids.  They are systematically bullied by teachers, administrators, their own families into believing that they were born wrong, broken, evil.

I don’t qualify to post a video to Dan’s YouTube channel.  I’m not gay, no one that I know of in my family is gay (though we have suspicions about my grandmother – she spent an awful lot of time in Florida hotel rooms with her girlfriends after her husband died…) so I’ll say my piece here.

Dan’s right.  It gets better.  Get through high school.  Dan won’t support this message, but run away if you have to, if it’s between suicidal despair or just getting out – JUST GET OUT.  I know, easier said than done, right?

I went to high school in a little hick town in Western Colorado.  I have never shaved my legs.  I was a tomboy. I took a girl to my prom because I wasn’t interested in losing my virginity that night.  The girls all thought I was a horrible slut because I spent more time with their boyfriends than they did (so I must have been sleeping with them, right?), the guys all thought I was a lesbian because… I wasn’t sleeping with them.

When I hit my sophomore year of high school I thought I was going to go insane.  So I did – a little bit.  I applied to be a foreign exchange student.  I spent a semester in Scotland learning to drink whiskey, taking courses in comparative religion and classics (Ancient Greece and Rome, NOT Mark Twain and Charles Dickens!)

When I got back to small town USA I knew I had to get out.  I spent the next semester cramming in all my college prep courses.  I started applying to colleges and universities.  We didn’t have a lot of money so I knew I had to go somewhere cheap, or get a really good scholarship.  As a middle class white chick who was about to drop out of high school and get her GED – I didn’t have a lot of hope for a scholarship.

I wrote my entrance essay about why I was dropping out of high school.  How they should see it as a positive, a sign of intelligence and ambition.  I was too smart, too talented, and too mature for high school.  I needed more.

It worked.  I was accepted to three universities and offered a scholarship at one of them – pending my GED scores.  I completed that semester of my Jr. year and took the GED.  I scored 100%.  Two months later I was moving into an academic dorm at a liberal arts college in a liberal arts town.  I got a part-time job to help pay for my courses, doubled up on credits and graduated with a double major three years later – debt free!

In college no one cared that I didn’t shave my legs.  No one cared that I was a tomboy (once I got out of the dorms anyway – I swear dorm life is like highschool on crack, or meth, or… something edgy and bad.  But you can escape – I made friends who lived off campus and would cook for them if they would buy the food and give me a place to be for a few hours.  You’d be amazed how far the ability to make spaghetti will get you in college!)

The point is, I was free.  I could just be me and do my thing, and find my people.

It got better.

And it keeps getting better.  Do what you have to do.  But get through high school.  After that, you’ll be OK. You’ll be better than OK.  You’ll be great.

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Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant