Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wife To Be...

I used to despise the word "wife".  Not only did I never think I'd be one, but the word itself conjured up images of servitude and patriarchy.  The word "wife" made my feminist bones quake. 

I used to tell people that the word "wife" sounded like a venereal disease. 

"Oh, I have a bad case of wife"...

The word sounded harsh to me.  You almost have to spit it to say it.  "Wwwwiiiiiifffffe."

I had many a conversation with other gays and lesbians.  Nothing encensed me more than a gay or lesbian calling their partner husband or wife.  I'd ask them why they'd use spousal/marital vocabulary when everyone knows gays and lesbians can't get married.  Even if they were lucky enough to marry in a state where same-sex marriage was legal, our federal government doesn't recognize such marriages.  Why would we adopt heterosexual terminology for our unions when we are refused equal rights?

I used to believe "partner" was a more respectful and acceptable term for our relationships.  What better word for your lover, for the person you depend on for everything, for the one who captures your heart, for the one who you share your life with, for the one you build a family with...than partner?  Partner sounded better to me than "wife". 

Even after UncleR and I were engaged, we had conversations about this.  What should we call each other after we marry?  (Partners, of course.)  What will we have our officiant pronounce us at the end of our vows?  (Legally married!) 

We even asked other same-sex couples their opinions.  They varied as well, however, the overwhelming trend seems to be the use of old standards, husband or wife. 

Then Ed came into our lives.  Ed is our gay priest/wedding officiant.

The first time I spoke to him by phone, this topic came up.  When I asked if we could customize our own ceremony and vows in order to use terminology both familiar and appropriate to us, he gave his opinion.  He said, "I feel the terms husband or wife are the most respectful terms you can use because that is what you will be.  To me, partner is less respectful.  But the words you use are up to you."

He said it in a nonjudgmental way.  He said it matter-of-fact.  And nothing else was said.

After the phone call, I told UncleR what Ed had said.  Our ensuing conversations were less deeply personal and meaningful, and more, "DUH!"

And here we are today.

We are 2 1/2 months away from our ceremony.  Although we haven't finalized our vows, once we are married, we will be wives.  I'm sending a big thank you to Ed, who with his matter-of-fact opinion, has changed my world and my entire thought process.

UncleR will be my wife.  Ed is right.  The most respectful term for what and who she will be to me, is "wife".  We have chosen to marry.  Our marriage WILL result in a legal union.  We have chosen to enter into a union while fully aware of the fact that our federal government will not recognize our marriage as either legal or valid. 

And yet, we have decided it is fundamentally important to our relationship to marry.  It is so important that we will travel across the country to exchange vows in one of the only locations where it is legal for us to do so.

Yes, we are sending a message to all of those that say we can't, that yes, indeed, we can marry.  But, it's not about them.  It's about us.  It's about our relationship.  It's about our want to marry.

"Wife" no longer conjures up those negative images.  Instead, I think only of UncleR.  I think of how much I love her.  And I think about Ed, and how right he was.  I have realized that "wife" is a deeply personal term, individually tied to each and every person who is a "wife". 

When we exchange vows in a few short months, I'm thinking maybe we should be declared "legally wedded wives".  How does that sound?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Labels Are For Jars, Not People...

***This blog is going to be filled with metaphorical, idiomatic language that probably will make sense to no one but me.  For this, I apologize, and I hope I can wrap this blog up into a nice, neat bow at the end.  *grin*

I used to carry the following picture as an avatar at a message board I frequented:

My tag line under my avatar said:  "Hates boxes..."  As in, don't put me in a box...don't shove your "labels" at (the figurative you) don't get to define me.  Only I get to do that.

In my work, I deal with labels constantly and for every child I see.  "Child A has a language disorder".  "Child B is Mentally Retarded".  (ugh)  "Child B has Autism". 

Label, label, label, label.

We all do it in our every day lives as well.

"Joe is a gay man".  "Jen is a lesbian".  "Sue is a Christian".  "Reverend Falwell is a bigot". 

Labels define, yes.  But, a label can also be used to segregate, demean, or in some cases, labels give permission for people to be discriminated against. 

My "lesbian label" allows my country to deny me equal rights. 

The (personal) negative connotations associated with labels allow otherwise harmless words to be turned into weapons.  (Think of how the term "gay" is used to bully amongst children)

I'll step off my personal soapbox now and tell a short story...

Yesterday, I made fish tacos for dinner.  I love fish tacos.  I was so excited to make them for my family.  When I went grocery shopping on Monday, I selected a nice bunch of cilantro for yesterday's taco recipe.  The cilantro was to be used in several aspects of the dish.

I came home from work, slipped into my cooking pants (a pair of pink flamingo printed shorts...don't hate...), and got to cooking!  I first made a tequila lime aioli.  Sounds yummy, no?  I chopped my fresh cilantro and threw it into the aioli.  I dipped my finger in the aioli and didn't taste quite right.  But, the recipe called for the aioli to sit for an hour, so I stuck it in the fridge and moved on.

I marinated my tilapia.  (no cilantro there...but there was tequila...holla!)  And then I made fresh pico de gallo.  I chopped up more fresh cilantro and threw it in!  I grabbed a spoon of pico to taste...and *gag*.  It tasted disgusting.  Sort of like soapy shit. 

I glanced at the "cilantro", and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small, white label wrapped around the stems of the greens.  It said "fresh parsley".  Como se what?  Parsley?  I didn't get parsley.  The parsley was on the top shelf of the produce section.  The cilantro was all the way at the bottom.  My cilantro was incorrectly labeled. 

I pouted.  It was a struggle to contain myself.  Who's watched the movie "Julie and Julia"?  In the movie, "Julie" is having difficulty making one of Julia Child's recipes.  She throws a bit of a temper tantrum, throwing herself on the floor, collapsing in a heap of tears.  I had visions of myself on my kitchen floor kicking and screaming.  I was so excited for this meal...and I'd been craving it for days. 

I emerged from the kitchen and went straight to UncleR.  "Babe, the cilantro was labeled wrong.  I got parsley".  It took all of my energy not to scream and cry.  I had no fresh cilantro...and not only was it supposed to be in the pico de gallo and aioli, but it was in a cabbage mixture I had yet to make.  And worse yet, the componenets that I had made with the parsley tasted horrible.

I remade the portions of the dish that I had made incorrectly with...wait for it...dried cilantro.  The fish tacos were a bust.  Without this one component of the dish, everything tasted disgusting. 

At the end of the meal, UncleR looked at me and said:  "The fish was really good."  And then she smiled meekly.  I love her.

The kid gave the following review when asked how he liked the fish tacos:  "Ummmm, they weren't good."  *sigh*

I'm figuring that the parsley was placed in the wrong was labeled wrong...all was with the cilantro when it shouldn't have been.

What's the lesson here?

Be careful when labeling things (people) and beware of tossing something in the wrong'll make your fish tacos taste like soapy shit.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

There's No Such Thing As A Gay Lifestyle...

A few weeks ago, I watched an interesting documentary.  In "Pray the Gay Away", reporter Lisa Ling examines the lives of gay Christians.  She poses the question: "Is it possible to be gay AND Christian?"  She also brings watchers closer into the inner workings of certain "ex-gay ministries", including Exodus International, one of the most well-known of these hate groups disguised as a religious organization.

I'm not going to discuss the documentary itself.  If you would like to watch, I gave the link to the episode above.  Instead, I'm going to focus specifically on one major issue I had with Lisa Ling's documentary...

"Gay lifestyle"...

She said it several times.  Over and over and over again. 

The first time I heard her use the term, I did a double take.  I looked from the TV to my lovely partner sitting next to me and back again.  I posed the question to nobody and everyone in the room at the time, "Did she just say gay lifestyle?"  And then she said it again.

After the hour-long documentary had concluded, Lisa Ling participated in a live, question and answer talk-type show where she interviewed several participants from the doc and took questions from the at-home audience.  I jokingly said to UncleR, "I should call in and ask why she continually used the term 'gay lifestyle'."  Turns out, someone asked for me.  A listener tweeted in wondering the same thing.  Lisa Ling's response?  She was attempting to relate to the ex-gay activists by speaking their lingo.  I wonder if she would have thrown around the n-word to make a group of KKK members more "comfy"? 

I wasn't the only one upset by Ling's use of the archaic phrase.  The gay blogosphere blew up with harsh critiques of her documentary...not only for her use of the term I'm discussing here, but for her very "soft" look at hate-filled, ex-gay ministries.

Lisa, if you're reading this, and to anyone else who may be wondering...

There's no such thing as a "gay lifestyle".

I'm a lesbian.  Calling the life I lead a "gay lifestyle" only serves to differentiate me from others and further perpetuates that I, and my family, are different, wrong, an abomination...etc., etc., etc....

We need no other terminology to separate us from the heterosexual masses.  And nothing chaps my hide more than hearing other gays and lesbians using the term "lifestyle" when referring to their own life and/or sexual orientation.  We spend enough time fighting those that fear us as "different" to play right into their hands by separating ourselves into a different and unique "lifestyle".

I'll put any and all questions regarding my "lifestyle" to bed, here and now.

I wake up in the morning at 5:30 AM.
I wake up my 14-year-old son.
I shower and dress, putting my pants on one leg at a time.  (I did once try two legs at a time and ended in a faceplant on the carpet) 
I send the child off to school. 
I drive 45 minutes to my place of employment.
My work day begins at 8 AM.
I work.
My work day ends at 4 PM.
I drive 45 minutes home.
I kiss my partner hello.
We discuss our day.
One of us makes dinner.
We watch TV and help the child with his homework. 
We send the child to bed.
We watch more TV and relax, enjoying each other's company.
We go to bed.
Rinse, wash, repeat...

Sometimes, we go really crazy and we sleep past 7 on the weekends.  And when we're really looking for a good time, we spend all weekend cleaning and doing chores around the house.

There's no such thing as a "gay lifestyle".  I'm a lesbian, not a vegetarian. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I consider myself to be politically active and involved, for a multitude of reasons.  It's important to me to educate myself on the laws and decisions that affect me and my family personally.  I also consider it doubly important for those in the LGBTQ community to educate themselves.  A politically ignorant lesbian/gay is like a fish out of water (to me).  Why would we leave ourselves incapable of discussing the importance of political progressiveness (read: the law) in regards to our lives and community needs?  (*insert big, grand shrug here*)

Along with my political involvement, I became involved in online political discussions/discussion boards over the last 5 years or so.  The online world of politics can be as nasty (if not nastier) as the one that plays out on our televisions and in our government on a daily basis. 

I'll be honest though and say that I love a good political discussion (especially online).  I crave the back and forth, not only because I often come away from these situations having learned a thing or two, but because I relish the opportunity to educate others in regards to the lives of gays and lesbians.  And furthermore, I hold hope that my words may challenge the ignorance we encounter so often in the LGBTQ community and that someone, anyone, even if it's only one, will learn something new and will leave questioning their previous beliefs on equal rights for gays and lesbians.

A few years ago I met "M".  "M" was a member of a message board I frequented.  He loved political discussions as much as I, and he especially loved to get in the "ring" with me.  He would often send me messages after we had verbally sparred thanking me for the discussion and saying that he appreciated the fact that I "made him think".  The one thing M never did was change his mind.  He once said he liked political discussions just because he liked to debate, and that he at times argued positions opposite to his personal beliefs simply to challenge himself.  Frankly, I found him to be a bit of a freak (because who would argue just to argue) and frequently became frustrated by his personal views and opinions.

M could always be found participating in the discussions about same sex marriage.  I'll allow M to tell you his views on same sex marriage:

"Jen, you have equal rights.  You, just like any other woman, can marry any man you want.  No woman can marry a woman.  You're not asking for equal rights.  You're asking for special rights."

I (usually) resisted calling him an ignorant ass, and instead discussed the legal arguments for same sex marriage, including the rights we are denied as gays and lesbians that heterosexual couples are automatically afforded by our federal government once they marry.  M's position never changed.  And conversely, neither did mine.

I should add that UncleR participated in many of the discussions with M as well.  UncleR was on the receiving end of many of M's opinions...and they were always the same as I listed above.   

And then...

A few months ago, I received a message from M, simply titled "Evolvement".

In part, it read:

"I have decided that the next time it comes before the voters, I'll be voting in favor of your side.

Two things have made me come to that decision, the first is my conversations with the two of you, and the second was my soul searching on me getting married again. I've struck out two times in the past, and I wasn't sure if I would or should ever give it another try. In my discussions with myself about it, I realized a lot of the truth in what you have been telling me.

Anyway, two weeks ago, I asked ***** to marry me in front the the castle at Disneyland. Today we confirmed the date and we are going to get married on *******.

I hope that in the not too distant future you can enjoy the same opportunities I am afforded."

M says he evolved.  I don't know if that's true.  Here's what I do know...

His "real life" bumped into his virtual life.  And he couldn't reconcile the two.  He calls it "evolvement".  I believe he was able to identify with the want and need that same sex couples have to marry.  All of my factual and legal arguments made no difference to M.  What made a difference was his personal experiences and the fact that he fell in love. 

It is our duty, it is MY duty, as gays and lesbians, to continue to make our fight for equality vocal.  Although at times the fight seems endless and the task insurmountable, each and every changed mind, each and every "evolved" individual, is one step closer to the ultimate goal of equality.

One person down...millions more to go...

Friday, March 11, 2011

I'm Normal...

For those of you reading that don't "know" me personally or for those of you that don't know, in real life, I haven't yet hit the lotto and I am forced to work for a living.  My chosen profession is Speech Pathology and I work for a local school district. 

Yesterday, one of my 2nd grade students, "G", "graduated" from speech.  This means she has progressed in speech class to the point that she is now exhibiting age appropriage speech skills and she no longer needs me teachin' her how to speak good...I mean well.  (that was a lame attempt at a bad speech therapy joke)  "G" is a cool kid.  Her favorite color is black.  She's all tomboy.  She wears black tutus almost every day with multi-colored, mismatched socks.  She has a parrot.  And she has an older brother that is severely autistic, and as such, her home life can be difficult. 

When G came into speech yesterday for the last time, she looked right at me and said, in her sassy 7-year-old voice:

"Miss Jen, I just want you to know I'm very upset."

When I asked why, she said, "I think you know.  I'm graduating from speech."

I congratulated her mightily and professed that graduation from speech is, indeed, a grandly exciting thing.  But, G didn't think so.  And she began to cry.  And my heart broke.  In the midst of my telling her how proud she should be of herself and how much I would miss her presence in my classroom, G looked at me with tears in her eyes and said:  "I'm just so happy.  I'm normal."

I bristled.  And my heart broke at the same time.  Normal?  NORMAL???

Of course, I assured G that speech issues, of many types, were "normal".  And I reinforced the fact that she should be incredibly proud of herself.  I told her I'd see her again...during an end-of-year ice cream speech party.  G dried her tears and we played one last game of Candyland before she went on her way. 

I was left wondering who taught this 7-year-old child the word, "normal".  Was it her parents?  Had she heard them referring to her older, autistic brother as "not normal"?  When her mother told her she was being dismissed from speech, did she tell G that she was now "normal"? 

I thought about G and her statement all day yesterday.  I thought about why her statement could possibly affect me to the degree that it did, and why it left me thinking about the word she used and what it meant to me.

What is normal?  Who is normal? 

I'm normal.  Yet every day of my life I'm told that because I'm a lesbian I am "abnormal" or an abomination.

My family is normal.  Yet every day of our lives we are told that we aren't a "real" family because the foundation of our famiy is built upon the love between two women. 

My love is normal.  Yet every day of my life I'm treated as a second-class citizen in my own country, and I am denied equal marriage rights.  When I marry the woman of my dreams in three short months, our government will not recognize our union as legal or valid.

My life is normal.  I wake up every morning, go to work, and come home to my family.  We take turns making dinner and cleaning the house.  And yet every day of our lives we live with the realization that our home, our family, is viewed as something that should be feared or dismantled.

I'm normal.  We are normal.  My family is no different than any other family. 

And yet, in many ways, we are exceptional...because we battle for everything we seek, whether that be equal marriage rights, equal protection under the law, or simply living a peaceful existence away from bigoted and homophobic eyes.  So, maybe we're not "normal".  We're exceptional.  We're the exception...within the confines of our own country.  But, in our exceptional way, we seek normalcy.

Someday, I hope to look across the table at my soon-to-be-wife and say, just like G, "I'm just so happy.  I'm normal."

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Got Called A Carpet Muncher At Disney World...

Last night we had more required family TV viewing.  This time, UncleR and I sat down with J and we all watched "My Kids Would Never...Bully", a Dateline NBC special.  Dateline used hidden cameras to capture the response that kids have to other kids being bullied when they believe no adults are watching. 

I can sum up the bullying styles of the kids on the show (and kids in general) in a few sentences:  Girls tended to target other girls' looks and weight, focusing on their physical appearance and/or characteristics.  Boys tended to target other boys' sexuality.  The boys steered clear of calling other boys "fat" or "ugly" and instead often used words such as "faggot" or "gay" to bully, whether the boy was gay or not.

We turned to J during the show and asked if he observed many kids being bullied at school.  His response was "No."  But when we asked if he specifically heard boys calling other boys "fag", "faggot", or "gay", his response was, "Yea.  All of the time."  When we questioned why J didn't initially reveal these instances of bullying after he was asked if he observed others being bullied at school, he responded by saying that he didn't realize that this type of behavior was bullying because it happens so often. 

I'll say this...J has had years of bully-prevention training...both in school and at home.  J has been bullied himself.  He knows that the words he hears at school are unacceptable.  And we've had conversations before about how people use words such as "gay" or "lesbian" in derogatory ways.  We went on to discuss these specific terms being used to bully others, and how we all should respond to bullies.  I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, we expect J to steer clear of the behavior he observes and instead, we hope that he speaks up for those who are bullied...something all parents hope from their children. 

In order to personalize our anti-bullying message to J, we recounted a situation which we had encountered only last year during a family trip to Disney.  That's right, Disney World...the "happiest place on earth"...

UncleR, J, Big C and myself were exiting through the rear doors of our Disney World resort.  It was our last day before we flew home, and we were ending a magical (heh) week of theme parks, food and fireworks.  As we were exiting through the doors, a couple (man and woman) were walking across the length of the doors in front of us.  All of us "collided" at the doors.  Oops!  A simple "excuse us" would have been appropriate, but no one was attempting to shove anyone out of the way.

Instead, what followed was like something out of junior high school. 

The woman and her tiny hubby (and I'm calling him tiny, not because he was pint-sized (although he was), but because he was a tiny, tiny man in regards to his ignorance) became enraged over our "run-in" at the doors.  The run-in was nobody's fault, not ours, nor theirs.  But, the Mrs. took it upon herself to come to the rescue of her hubby.  She screeched at UncleR:  "YOU ALMOST RAN OVER MY HUSBAND!  WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING!!!!"

At first, UncleR and I had the same reaction.  Sort of a "What the fuck?!?" moment.  But the woman continued...

"WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING!  YOU ALMOST RAN OVER MY HUSBAND!"  Mini-Hubby stood behind her and said nothing.

UncleR sort of rolled her eyes and said something to the effect of:  "Hey, we're just trying to get out of the doors.  We didn't mean to run into you."  But the screecher continued.  "WELL WATCH OUT!"

It was annoying.  We weren't matching their level of anger, but we were annoyed at the freaky, over-protective wife going crazy while sheltering her apparently helpless hubby.  So, as we scooted around them, I believe UncleR said, very quietly, under her breath, "Hey.  We're sorry.  We're just trying to leave.  Have a nice fuckin' day."

And that's when Mr. Ignorant chose to speak up.  He chased us out of the doors of the hotel and began screeching in the same tenor as his wife: 


And as we walked away, he continued to follow us.  And now and only now, I got pissed.  Not an "I'm going to get physical" sort of angry, but an "I've had enough" anger. 

I vaguely remember UncleR telling teeny hubby to quit following us and to leave her alone.  She said no more than that.  But I had had enough.

I turned around to Mr. Ignorant, as he continued to hurl gay slurs and told him very simply to "Stop and go back inside."  I said it several times, while I guided my family away from the hotel.  I faced him directly, while walking backwards, and repeatedly told him to return himself and his wife to the confines of the hotel. 

And then it was over.  Mrs. Pterodactyl dragged Mini-Hubby into the hotel.  We were shocked and angry.  But more shocked than anything. 

The best part of the whole ordeal was as we continued to walk away from the hotel, a bystander (and there were many people watching) muttered to us under his breath, "He sure was short!"  It was his way of letting us know that he was on "our side"...and UncleR and I laughed...hard. 

So yesterday, as we recounted this incident from last year to J, we talked to him in depth about Mini-Hubby's use of gay slurs. 

Why are "gay" or "lesbian" and all of their verbal equivalents used as derogatory terms?  Why do we allow what or whom we are to be used as weapons against us?  We've taught our children that it is acceptable to use these words as weapons.  And worse, children see these words as weapons and feel the impact of these words when they're used to express cruelty.  No one need remind us about the countless suicides amongst gay youths after they're tormented by others over their sexuality. 

What we told J yesterday and throughout all of our past conversations, is that "gay" is not a derogatory term unless you make it so.  It is his duty, as well as our responsibility as a society, to teach our children not to bully, and specifically, that it is unacceptable to use a person's sexuality as a weapon. 

As I think back to Mini-Hubby and his wife, I wonder why a grown man used "lesbian" as a pejorative.  Did he think we weren't aware that we are gay?  Who did he think he was offending by calling us "carpet munchers"?  Certainly not this dyke. 

***The use of the term "Mini-Hubby is not meant to reference anyone's size.  Instead, it refers to the size of the ignorant mind within the adult male who hurled slurs at us at Disney World.  Apparently, the happiest place on earth wasn't happy for him.***

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thurgood Marshall...

Yesterday we had required family TV viewing.  We all gathered around the TV to watch "Thurgood", in which Lawrence Fishburne dutifully and magically gives credence to the life and stories of Thurgood Marshall.  "Thurgood" recounts Marshall's journey as a lawyer, Supreme Court Justice, and champion of civil rights.  And Fishburne shines in his performance as Thurgood Marshall, doing great justice to the life and times of the raconteur.  It was amazing, inspiring, and in an educational world that oft forgets its' history, it was important that we engage J, so that he may also learn about the civil rights battles fought not so long ago in this country, and even more so, how those battles relate to the ones we fight today.

I found myself moved to tears several times during the performance by Fishburne.  Although, it was impossible for me to see Lawrence Fishburne as Thurgood Marshall.  Instead, it was if I watched Thurgood Marshall himself recount his battle for equal rights.  I watched Thurgood Marshall recount the day the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, where the "separate but equal" myth that had held segregation as the law of the land was laid to rest.  I watched Thurgood Marshall discuss the merits of the 14th Amendment of our United States Constitution.  And I listened to Thurgood Marshall as he championed human decency and equality above all else.  He held true to his faith in the law, and in the laws of our land.

Marshall once said:  "In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute." 

How is it then, that I fail to see the humanity in many of my fellow human beings?  How is it then, that those same beings fail to recognize the humanity in me?  In my family? 

It was impossible (for me) to separate the civil rights battle we fight today for marriage equality and the battles fought by Mr. Thurgood Marshall while I watched the portrayal on the screen of my TV yesterday.  It was impossible to listen to the reading of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution...

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

...and not wonder why I am denied equal rights AND equal protection under the law as a citizen of this country.  It was impossible to think of my (and my family's) status as anything but "separate and UNequal", as we are continually denied the same rights that others are granted because they can check the "heterosexual" box on a marriage application.

Separate is never equal.  There is no equality in inequality.  And there is no humanity in denying equal rights to gays and lesbians in this country. 

Apparently, there are those of us that haven't learned all of the lessons that the great champions of civil rights, including but not limited to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, have tried to teach us.  How sad is it that a great segment of our population seems to be learning on a curve?