Sunday, February 27, 2011

His High School Must Be Different From My High School...Or Maybe Not...

A few years ago, many years after I graduated from my small-town high school, I followed a big controversy involving my alma mater.  Apparently, horror upon horrors, a lesbian couple was photographed and placed on the "couples page" in the school's yearbook.  Oh. my. gawd.  You would have thought, by the reaction of parents and community members, that the high school yearbook had published pictures of fully nude, young lesbians swathed in rainbow flags while burning the Bible.  Instead, what was pictured, was a lesbian couple holding hands.  *gasp*  An emergency school board meeting was called where parents, students and community members expressed their outrage and threatened to protest and sue the school district for amounts ridiculous enough to make you roll your eyes back in your head.  The school district was forced to print new yearbooks (no, I'm not kidding) and from then on, all yearbook publications were to be fully approved by not only the yearbook teaching staff (who saw no problem with including the girls to begin with), but also by the school board itself.  The "safety" of our children, of course, trumps any duty we may have to support freedom of speech.  (Did you gag yet?)

In another high school, within the past few weeks, a student expressed his right to free speech.  The title of this young man's editorial, "Homosexual teens alienated by current societal trends", is misleading as far as what you may think the article includes or discusses.  Young Mr. Johnson feels that homosexual relationships "just are not normal".  Okay, cool.  I've heard worse.  Then Mr. Johnson goes on to proclaim that same-sex dating should not be allowed because (wait for it) there is legislation preventing same-sex marriage in our country.  I find his logic clever in a way.  He's clearly spent lots of time thinking about the gays and our lives.

Then Mr. Johnson pulls out the Bible verses...because really, that's the true way to justify your homophobia and prejudice.  Ain't no way to validate your views like a Bible verse.  He writes (in regards to his, and others, opposition to same sex relationships):

"Also, less commonly cited, is the death penalty called for in another Bible verse, Leviticus 20:13, “If a man also lie with man, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” These are the most common arguments against homosexual marriage and/or dating."

He wraps his editorial up by calling same-sex relationships a "social disruption". 

Wait, did he call for my death?  *shrug*

Do you think he would have been allowed to call for the death of African Americans?  Or would that have been going too far?

I'm being dramatic, for no reason but to allow myself to really process what this KID has said.  Does free speech include the right of a person to imply that an entire group should be put to death?  (I'm not asking for you, I'm asking for me)  Is there a difference between publishing a picture of a lesbian couple holding hands and a young man using Bible verses to call for the death of homosexuals? 

I'd like to say, "Yes!  There's a difference!"  How dare this kid be allowed to write what he did, in a high school where surely some of the students are struggling with their sexual orientation!

But, I can't say that.  He has a right to express his beliefs and views.  And I believe that it is very important that we, as a progressive society, hear and become fully aware of exactly what types of people and views we are working against. 

I find his opinions predictable, simplistic (always gotta quoth the Lord) and yes, disgusting.  I'm not so sure his opinions would have stood had he railed against black people, women, Jews, Mormons, the disabled, etc. etc. etc......  What I find more disturbing is that someone shaped his opinions.  His parents?  Have they sat around the table discussing the fact that "teh gays should die, die, die"?  

He writes a well-researched editorial.  He supports his views with well-documented sources.  (heh)  Hey, maybe he has a future in this.  He's already garnered this much attention.  Maybe I'll recommend him to Newsmax or Fox News. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Show Your Pride!

I read several LGBTQ blog sites daily.  It's a great way to keep up on the news and happenings in and surrounding the LGBTQ community.  Also, it's a great way to explore the diversity of people and opinions within our rainbow walls.  We don't all agree.  (duh)  We don't all always see eye to eye.  (duh)  And we're not all cut from the same rainbow cloth.  (duh)  I oftentimes have very strong reactions to some of the opinions and blogs that I read. 

The other day, I stumbled upon a blog titled, "Why We Should Cancel Pride Celebrations".  Feel free to read the blog, but I'll try to sum up the author's opinion in a few short sentences.  Essentially, this blogster feels that we have a duty as members of the LGBTQ community to funnel our money, time and pride away from these unnecessary pride celebrations, and instead we should be refocusing our time and finances towards programs specifically targeting LGBTQ youth.  He states that these outward demonstrations of pride do nothing to help the youth in our community that are targets of bullying or are dealing with difficult home lives or even homelessness. 

While I can't argue against his emotion and the specific point he's trying to make, I disagree with his premise overall.

Pride celebrations are more than campy celebrations with fabulously dressed, rainbow masses.  Pride celebrations are a show of solidarity amongst our varied group of individuals.  It's a way for us to come together and, even if for only a short moment, shift our focus away from living in what remains a heterosexually privileged world.  We can celebrate ourselves, our diversity and show pride with no reservation.  We have permission to yell and scream our frustrations over the inequalities that exist for our community.  And we have permission to be ourselves in a supportive environment without fear of being judged as godless abominations worthy of stoning.  Strength in numbers, strength in conviction, strength in pride...

On the contrary, I believe we'd be doing a great disservice to the tortured and overlooked LGBTQ youth in our world by cancelling pride celebrations.  Money and programs are important, and recently, there has been an increased focus on the youth in our community, with multiple programs FINALLY beginning to focus their efforts on this oft forgotten group.  But with supportive programs, visibility is extremely important.  Not only for the struggling youth who may look at a group of pride celebrators and think:  "OMG!  Someone like me!  Someone who understands!"...but also for the other LGBTQ community members who may find strength, acceptance and support for the first time in their lives. 

Visibility is also important outside of our community.  We need to share/scream our message about the need for equality.  We need to show the ignorant bigots that their wish for us to disappear or remain silent will never be granted.  And we need to show the not-so-ignorant folks that are on the fence in regards to our community that we are just like them...that we have families, jobs, and lives AND above all else, we deserve to live our lives sharing in all of the rights that they are given automatically as straight individuals and/or couples. 

Without visibility, there will be no opportunity for progress or growth or movement towards equality in this world.  Closeting ourselves while funneling money to youth programs won't change the world.  In fact, it may encourage "them" to forget that we're here, to forget our message, and to forget that an extreme level of inequality exists for the LGBTQ community.

Although I see the point of the blogster that is rallying against pride celebrations, I disagree with his premise.  The truth is, we should do both.  We should increase our focus on the youth of our community, at the same time we come together and show our pride amongst each other and to the world.  We cannot grow as a community and as a society in general if we force ourselves back into some self-imposed closet.  We need to be visible (so they don't forget) and we need to support each other from within. a personal aside...after UncleR and I get married in a few short months, we'll be celebrating with 200,000 other folks at one of the largest pride celebrations in our country.  I'm firmly convinced that they'll all be celebrating for us.

My rainbow shoes are ready to march. 

Maybe a young girl will see UncleR and I marching with our "Just Married" shirts and she'll know that she's not alone in her want for a family or marriage.  She'll know there's someone out there just like her.  And she'll know that we're fighting for her. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

"I Knew It!"

That's what my "boss"/supervisor said when I came out to her the other day.

No, I'm not out at work (well, until last Friday).  But, I'm not "in" either.

When J and I moved to set up our family in Texas with UncleR and Big C, it was a move "up" in regards to my new relationship status, my new family status, and my new level of happiness.  BUT, it was definitely a lateral move in terms of living in an area that is open and accepting of the LGBTQ community.  In other words, I moved from a small, religiously conservative town that lacked support for gays TO a small, religiously conservative town that lacks support for gays. 

I also work for a school a small, religiously conservative town that lacks support for gays.  My work environment is not conducive to me being "out".  The stories that we all hear where members of the LGBTQ community are terminated from public schools after exposing (or not) their sexual orientation are enough to ensure my selectiveness in revealing my personal details.  In fact, at my last school district, I took over the position for a woman who I was told, in no uncertain terms, was fired after the principal found out she was a lesbian.  Of course, that's not what they told her. 

All this to say, I've been extremely careful about revealing my personal details at my place of employment.  But, I'm not closeted.  Instead, I exist in a sort of self-imposed status of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".  No one's asked, so I don't tell.  I speak about my family often at work.  I refuse to lie and haven't lied about my family life or love life.  Instead, I limit the amount of personal information I share with work colleagues.  Period.  No one's asked either.

I assume that "they" have assumed I'm straight.  Probably because they know I have a child...the societal assumption being that all people that have children are, obviously, heterosexual.  This fact pisses me off.  What if I wanted to put up family pictures on my office desk?  What if I wanted to refer to my "partner"?  Essentially, I've then TOLD on myself.  So, no family photos.  And no revealing discussions about my personal life.  I just steer clear.  Which also breaks my heart.  This is the happiest time of my life...I'm fulfilled in ways I cannot explain.  I'm getting married for Christ's sake.  And I haven't shared this with any of my work colleagues.

Until Friday.

In the midst of a very serious discussion with my supervisor, I "told".  It was the right time.  It happened naturally.  And I felt comfortable enough and (sad to say this) SAFE enough to come out of my self-imposed closet.  And her immediate response was:  "I knew it!"  I laughed, she laughed, and she congratulated me with tears in her eyes for my impending marriage. 

Later Friday night, after I'd been home for several hours, my supervisor texted me.  She thanked me for trusting her enough to share my life with her.  She said she was "proud" to call me her friend.  This time, I was the one with tears in my eyes.

UncleR and I have had several conversations about my angst over working in an environment where it truly is not "safe" for me to be completely out.  I feel, as does she, that we have a duty as gays and lesbians to show those around us that we're just like and through being out...we need to show the closed-minded ignorant masses that we work, we have families, we put one pant leg on at a time, just like they do. 

What possible consequences are worth hiding your true self/life?  Is the possibility of discrimination or even termination WORTH (essentially) lying by omission? 

Nah.  It ain't worth it. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Mormons Won't Leave Me Alone...

I was at work yesterday and got a text from UncleR at home.  It said:

"I just had a nice conversation with two Mormon Missionaries.  They came to visit."

I think my response went something like this:

"Jeezus EFFING Christ.  Are you serious?  AGAIN?????"

For full disclosure, I need to say that I used to be Mormon.  In another life, in another time, in another clueless frame of mind, I joined the Mormon church.  I was young, stupid, and overwhelmed by the fact that I was a teenager raising a disabled child.  I needed something to rely on...with some form of consistency that my life wasn't providing me.  Of course, I did the obvious/logical thing and baptized myself as a "Latter Day Saint". 

I remember the day I left the church.  It's burned into my head.  We were at a church picnic and I was sitting with J (who was 2 or 3 at the time) and a friend and her two children.  My friend, we'll call her "Billy", was hoping to take the same path I had taken into the church.  She wanted to be baptized as well.  There was one problem.  Billy was bisexual...and proud.  In the full view and within hearing distance of dozens of church members, I watched the leadership of the church approach Billy.  Billy, it seemed, needed to go to an ex-gay treatment center before she could take any further church lessons.  Now, the church didn't call the "program" they were selling an "ex-gay treatment center"...but it was understood when they told her she would have to cure herself of and denounce her "homosexual nature".  Billy was speechless, and so was I.  I grabbed J and Billy by the hand, she grabbed her two kids, and we left.  I never went back.  I don't know if she did because I never spoke with her again after I dropped her off at home. 

So, imagine my surprise, when time after time, these caring church members continue to haunt my doorway.

A few weeks after moving to Texas to build a home with UncleR, two LDS church members came and knocked on my door...after dark.  First of all, don't ever walk up on the porch of a country home in the dark...unannounced.  It ain't safe...uhhhh, for you.  Apparently, someone in my previous life had revealed to the Mormon church that I had relocated (I'm sure out of concern for my soul).  The damn Mormons found me.  I politely told them that they should never darken my doorstep again.  Okay, I may have said "Don't ever come back here.  I don't want you here.  I don't support you or what you do.  CULT!!!"  And then I slammed the door.  (not really)

So, imagine my surprise when I get the text yesterday that two Mormon boys had taken it upon themselves to come calling.  I asked UncleR what they discussed. 

"Well, they asked if you were home.  Then they called you "Jessica"."  She began to laugh.  The two Mormon boys want to save my soul, but they don't know my name.

"Then, they asked if I was your mother!"  *insert huge, side-stitch inducing guffaws here*

"No shit babe!" I said.  "What did you tell them?"

"I told them I was your fiance."

We collapsed in more loud laughter and snorts.

"What did they do or say?"

"They just nodded and smiled.  Nodded and smiled."


Apparently, UncleR told them I wasn't going to be happy that they came...that I didn't want them there nor would I want to speak with them.  They did offer to come back and help care for our 10-acre yard. 

Maybe next time I'll just tell them I'm an atheist and they'll stop coming.  Apparently, lesbian isn't scary enough.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Justin Bieber Has A Very Important Opinion! (AKA: Justin Bieber Has A Fever)

Apparently, underneath Justin Bieber's helmet hair resides an independent, thinking mind.  I was once 16, and I had an opinion too.  I was independent-minded enough to choose to keep my baby since I was pregnant at that age.  Yup, within this person (me) lies a (former?) teenage statistic.  Booyah. 

It's being reported that "The Biebs" (or however the fuck you spell that) revealed some of himself to all of his pre/teenage fans in an inverview with Rolling Stone.  He even got the cover.  Curiously, his helmet hair was absent from his cover shot...instead being replaced with a messy, spiky jumble...which I'm assuming is supposed to give cred to his new, more mature, bad boy thang.  He has to appeal to the girlies, yo.

Well Bieber fever-ites, your idol believes homosexuality is a choice and that abortion is wrong, even in cases of rape. 

We can argue whether homosexuality is a choice till the fabulous, rainbow cows come home.  In the end, it doesn't matter if you believe a person chooses or doesn't choose their sexual orientation...if they choose to love someone of the same sex or they're born that way (shout out to Lady GaGa).  All that (really) matters is that you support equality for ALL.

But when the message that you send to females is that aborting a fetus as a result of rape (or incest, or molestation) is are entering very dangerous territory. 

I belieb, excuse me, believe Justin Bieber's sentiments were that while it's "really sad" that a woman would become pregnant after a rape, he beliebs "everything happens for a reason". 

Yes, Justin.  It's "really sad".

It's sad that your focus, in your very young, inexperienced mind, is on that of an unborn fetus rather than the female that is raped.  It's sad that girls everywhere will get the message that rape and its' resulting consequences are things that "happen for a reason".  It's sad that girls worldwide worship the ground you walk upon and that you have made this COLOSSAL mistake. 

Oh, but good thing Bieber.  While you argued against abortion and implied that rape "happens for a reason" didn't denounce teen sex.  Cause, according to you, you "should just wait for the person you're in love with".  Werd, Justin.  Werd.  Teenagers fall in love every 60 seconds.  And I should know.  I have a 14 1/2 year old son that reminds me of that fact every time I look at him. 

I'm glad my kid doesn't have Bieber fever.  I'd hate to have to pry a Bieber CD from his hands against his will.  In fact, every time he tells me he doesn't like Justin Bieber, I'm going to high-five him and say, "That's my boy!  The one with GREAT taste in music!"

****I should add a disclaimer to this blog.  It may sound like I'm angry at Justin Bieber.  I'm really not.  He's 16.  His limited world view and young age have shaped his opinions.  But, the kid has followers.  Young kids who are hearing his messages and absorbing them like they're gospel.  And as a parent, I take great issue with the messages that our children are hearing and those that shape their persons.  Whether his opinions are based on age and lack of experience or not, THIS particular message is a dangerous one.  Peace out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day Really IS About The Right To Marry...

Have you ever read about the history of Valentine's Day?  Who is Saint Valentine?

Saint Valentine was a priest during the third century in Rome.  Rome's ruler, Emperor Claudius II, decided that single men made better soldiers than married men (so the men didn't have anyone to worry about back at home and could instead devote all of their energies to "the cause").  Therefore, Claudius outlawed all marriages.  Saint Valentine felt this was unjust and chose to continue to marry couples that loved each secret.  When Saint Valentine's actions were discovered, he was sentenced to death for defying the law of the land.

Some tales go further, and they state that Saint Valentine sent the first Valentine himself.  While he was imprisoned for disobeying the Emperor, he fell in love with the jailor's daughter.  Before his death, he sent her a letter professing his undying love, and he signed it "Your Valentine."  He was a martyr...a martyr in love...

St. Valentine's Day began over the fight for the right to marry.  A fight we're still fighting today. 

Happy Valentine's Day y'all.  Tomorrow, I'll celebrate with my future we're in the middle of our own journey and the fight for our right to marry...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Want To Be A Mrs. Too!

This week, I read THIS article about a same-sex couple from South Dakota. 

Here's the gist of the article:  Amy and Ashley live in South Dakota.  However, South Dakota doesn't permit same-sex marriages.  So, Amy and Ashley got married in Iowa.  Amy took Ashley's last name after their marriage.  Amy changed her name with social security, and even changed her name with her credit card companies.  However, when it came time to change her name with the state of South Dakota, she encountered a problem.  Amy presented her LEGAL marriage certificate, issued by the state of Iowa, at the DMV in her hometown.  They refused to acknowledge the marriage between Amy and Ashley because South Dakota does not recognize same-sex marriage.  Therefore, they wouldn't permit Amy to change her name on her driver's license and denied her a new license. 

Here's the thing.  If Amy and Ashley had been a heterosexual couple, the marriage certificate would have been enough for the name change with the state...with NO OTHER requirements.  Instead, if Amy would like to change her name on her driver's license, she must petition the courts and pay to have her name legally changed by the state of South Dakota...a cost that can be quite high, and one that comes absolutely free to heterosexual couples. 

UncleR and I are in the same situation.  We will be married in June and our state does not recognize same-sex unions.  I have made the very personal decision to take her name.  I will be Mrs. UncleR.  Once we return home, I will have to petition the courts to legally change my name...knowing that had we been a heterosexual couple, that this would be granted without the necessity of the legal system, and would be absolutely free.  Instead, I will dole out the approximately $500 to change my name.

We've had many discussions about this name change.  We had another one this morning.  And here's where we are...

We are choosing to legally marry, although our union will not be recognized by the state we live in.  Not all same-sex couples are lucky enough to have this opportunity.  Marriage is a right almost exclusively given to heterosexuals.  Not only will my name change be a symbol to us that we have made this commitment, but it will be a symbol to others. 

We are, in essence, saying (to others/the moral majority)..."Hey, we're doing this too.  We have a right to love each other and have our union legally recognized...just like you!"

To us, we're saying..."We are love, in life, and in name."

I've decided I want to be a Mrs. too.  But, in the back of my mind, I think about the fact that I shouldn't have to jump through hoops to be a Mrs.  I'm not asking for special consideration or for special rights.  I'm just asking for equality.


The future Mrs. UncleR

Saturday, February 5, 2011

And The Winner Is...

Tonight was our lasagna bake-off.  UncleR and I went head to head. 

I waltzed around this morning puffing my chest out and muttering things in her direction, like:  "I'm takin' you doooowwwwn".  And..."You'll be sorry you ever took my challenge!"

UncleR's lemon chicken lasagna.

Jen's Italian-style lasagna.

Mine was clearly prettier.  Clearly.  Baked to perfection and bubbling away. 

And then came the taste test.

Here's what I remember...I put a bite of UncleR's lemony goodness into my mouth and my eyes rolled back in my head in ecstasy.  I had the uncontrollable urge to slap my mama, her lasagna was so good.  Phrases such as:  "You dirty girl!"  and "Daaaaamn baby.  This shit is delicious!" came tumbling out of my mouth in my food-induced climax. 

I hurriedly finished my lasagna and saved hers for last on my plate.  I told her it was because I was saving the best for last.  And I meant it.

When it was time, I handed in my vote.  I couldn't vote for myself.

UncleR handed in her vote.  She voted for herself.

J came out of Big C's room where they had been eating together.  I asked him which lasagna he liked the best.  He replied:  "My mom's".  His answer was sweet, but I knew he had to be lying and must have been voting for me due to some sense of loyalty.  I told him he needed to be honest.  Told him he could vote for UncleR's if that was his fav.  But, he insisted, that sweet, sweet, boy o' mine...that he liked mine the best.

I only had hope for a tie.  And Big C's vote was up next.  He agreed with UncleR and I. 

And so, by a vote of 3-1, UncleR takes this year's lasagna throwdown.  And you deserve it baby.  Just remember who makes your pizza and baby back ribs. 

Oh, and as I cleaned the kitchen tonight, I may or may not have licked the bottom of the pan that the lemony goodness was made in.  You'll never know.  I left no evidence.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Freshly Fallen Snow...

Today is our 6-month a family.  Six months ago today, J and I moved here. 

Frankly, I was expecting it to be more difficult.  I was expecting that I would have huge adjustments to sharing both my life and home with a partner.  I was expecting that I would have some difficulty with sharing parenting parenting has been a solo sport for 14 years.  Instead, this has been an incredibly easy transition.  Less of a transition, really...and more of "just the way it's supposed to be".  It's been smooth, easy and comfortable.

I was expecting a huge amount of difficulty with J.  After all, J has spent his entire life being sheltered from my adult business.  I raised him by myself, without the assistance of a partner or co-parent, and purposefully chose to steer him away from those that I dated or shared my time with.  So, when this change in our lives occurred, and we moved from the only home he had ever known and into a familial environment where I would be sharing OUR lives with someone and I would be asking a person to enter our lives as a partner/co-parent...I expected, I don't know...something.

I won't say there's been nothing.  There have been moments where J has struggled to get his feet underneath him.  Making new friends, forming a family...all in an entirely new environment...hasn't always been a flawless exercise.  But, it's still been much easier than I thought. 

Soooo, happy 6-month anniversary to the Jen/UncleR family. 

This week has been a strange one, though.  A weather system moved through our part of the country.  (a strange occurrence for this area)  Due to the ice and snow, I've been off of work since Monday.  And J has been home from school for 3 of the last 4 days with us. 

This morning, we awoke to this:

A beautiful, freshly fallen snow. 

Outside, the world has stopped.  We've been "forced" to spend this time as a family.  It's quiet outside and warm and comfy inside. 

Rather than work woes, this week has been spent doing other things.  We've been enjoying each other's company.  We've been enjoying good food.  And we've been enjoying some wedding planning.

While the world is quiet, I have been busy inside the house with my family...loving every second of this life. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Iowa?

Today, the Iowa House voted 63-37 to approve Joint Resolution 6.  Joint Resolution 6 calls for a constitutional amendment to recognize only marriages between a man and woman.  Joint Resolution 6 would prevent both same-sex unions and civil partnerships in the state. 

Iowa is one of the few states in our nation where same-sex couples can marry legally. 

Joint Resolution 6 will remove the equal rights that have been afforded to same-sex couples in Iowa since April of 2009.

The following video contains a speech by 19-year-old Zach Wahls.  Zach and his two moms live in Iowa.  Zach spoke for equality...and for his family.  I just thought I'd share.