Monday, June 13, 2016

The Grey in the "Grey Area"

I didn't know it, but I've been wanting to write this for a long time. I certainly never quite had the words before. However, as tragedy has struck so close to home for me, I felt sadness on a level I haven't let myself feel in a long time. 

The Orlando attack was personal for me. I didn't know how personal something like that could be for me. But, all I could picture were the faces of all my LGBT friends. And it finally dawned on me- it was MY community. I generally present more "femme" though I go back and forth. I'm in a committed hetero relationship. But, I am bisexual. Perhaps, pansexual is the better term. I suck at keeping up with all these new terms. At any rate, there's no clear line for some of us, and we fall in this grey area of what the LGBTQIAS acronym stands for.

Beyond that, well, it gets complicated. Most people don't understand that one day I can feel one way and another day I can feel the opposite. I tried to Konmari my clothes and it was grueling. "I know I love these board shorts, but I don't feel the love like I'm supposed to... at least not today." Trying to explain that to anyone outside of the community is near impossible. I've been met with blank stares or just, "I accept you as you are." But, I've come to realize that "as you are" may mean only on femme days. Or in my masculine days. 

I don't care about pronouns for myself. For others, I still fumble around like a child first learning their letters and constantly mixes up the letters d and b. 

So, I've never really felt like I belonged in the community. I didn't feel a drive to fight for my rights because even on my gender non-conforming days, no one really gives me hell. I get the "Tomboy" label a lot, but that's usually the end of it. Today was different. 

Today, however, I was faced with the reality that the ONE club in my area IS my safe zone to be that grey area and to not answer to anyone. Even though I may not feel like I have an answer to what I am, I know I can go there and just be me. 

When the news struck, I felt fear. Fear that something so beloved, was now tainted. Fear that if I went there, I might end up a headline and my son without a mother. I was afraid to lose other friends to hate crimes. 

Let me explain this grey area more. The grey area is where you aren't exactly one of the clearly defined labels. I'm not transgendered, though I've been told I am. I am not a lesbian, though someone would think that simply because I would date a female. I am not really any of those things, but a blend. Now, here is the grey within the grey, some days, I am NONE of those things, and I feel like a straight hetero white girl. This has been going on for so long, I can no longer accept it when people give me the "it's just a phase" look. No, it's not. I dress how I feel. 

So, in general, I've stayed at arms length from the community, supporting from the sidelines as I've watched wonderful people transition and obtain their personal gender confirming freedoms. But, no more. I have a place in that community, it is mine and I belong there. The idea that I would fear going to a gay establishment for being who I am is not what I want. It took me a lot to go to the vigil tonight. But, for once, I went to not be support for others, but because I needed to be surrounded by support. I am different, and while I may look like an ally on the outside, I am not. I am on the inside of the group of people who struggle with being honest to gender identity and sexual identities. To accepting who they are. If you want a label, well, I don't have one. I am the grey within the grey. But, I know one thing, I refuse to let the fear control me. I wept for that today, as I wept for those lost. For the SANCTUARY someone tried to destroy. For the friends already taken. I wept for myself, knowing that I had been no different than anyone else in their struggles to find out who they really are. The LGBT community, well, they are my people and I don't think I ever really had that clarity until I felt someone's hatred try to take it away. 

I can't be silent. I risk a lot, as we all do, when we start coming out of the closet. Please, realize there are those of us who don't even fit in the boxes of LGBTQIAS acronyms. We are the grey area within the grey area. And today, after so many years, I realized this. And it hit so hard, I felt dehabilitated. How could I have not known? It was when my sanctuary was attacked that I realized that a gay bar could even be a sanctuary. That it was my sanctuary. I am not a box, but I still belong. 

Much love and light. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Review of Sorts: Counterfeit (Band)

I'm not sure what to tell the world anymore. I've been drowning my world in music. So much music. I listened to Counterfeit's Letter to the Lost, and I was a bit blown away. I'm a bit biased because I like their frontman's public persona (Jamie Bower), so I was thinking I was being a bit more forgiving of the continuity in the music and lyrics. But, I did like it, so I listened again. Of course, with a friend in mind, two actually. Then, I listened again, and it made sense. A lot made sense.

At first, there was too much fluctuation of emotion in the song and melodic rhythms that my mind couldn't grasp... because I've been trained to follow this certain rhythm of the world. Oh, man, did that make me sad- the realization that I've been stacked up to follow a certain march. It made me think of the military and how they march to a regimented beat. They have been marching for as long as there have been armies to march. Somewhere along the way, I fell into step. As an artist, that's just sad.

But, I've never really understood the uniformed marching. When I was a server, I used to be able to speak Spanish to a guy in the kitchen who spoke Italian, and we could understand each other (English was both of our first languages, but still, it was fun). We understood a lot of things, but there were a great many things that didn't make sense. They were different languages. And in hearing, Letter to the Lost, I feel like it was broken, perfected, clear, and distorted. The fact that it was all these things was great, sure.... but the fact that I understood them, well it was like hearing my own language spoken to me again. 

So, I went to find their other music, lo and behold they had an EP releasing in days. Go figure. So, I thought I'd give it a listen when it came out. Suddenly, I'm listening to their lyrics, picking it apart -  I'm a writer, it's par for the course. In truth, it kind of makes me laugh. This is supposed to be their really raw work, and it's applicable... at least to my life. It's funny how that works, something real and personal becomes the anthem of many. For once, in quite a while, I'm looking forward to hearing more from a band. 

Thanks Music for tearing me out of line, away from the steady march so that I could finally hear someone speak my own language again. 

Also- The song itself, Letter to the Lost, was pretty much verbal vomit of what a survivor goes through set to music that matches emotionally the struggles of said survivors. I guess it says something that I liked it, (nay, loved it) but what it is that is says... well I just don't put that much stock into what my tastes say about me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How Much Time Do Writers Waste?

We all have many hats we wear. It's par for the course of being human. With technology ever expanding, it seems that instead of helping us reduce the numbers of roles we have, instead we are increasing our responsiblities. 

As an added bonus, technology has opened up a whole other set of distractions. Games. Access to rag mags. "Information." 

Take for example and I can't tell you how many times I find myself on one of those sites and ask myself, "Why? Just whhhhyyy?!?" 

I'm not bored. I certainly would never sign up for something to distract me from my life. I may want to get away sometimes, but that seems to be happening more and more. Is my life so difficult that I can't handle it? Or perhaps it is too mundane. Either way, the answers to solve these questions do not come in the form of the "Next" button or in just one more episode. 

Disengaging is the problem, so therefore engaging would be the solution. My challenge to you is to merely start paying attention to the media you consume. When we read an interesting article, ask yourself this: "Is this going to contribute to the goals in my life?" 

For my writers and artists: 
Is this really research? 
Is this really information I need? 
Am I calling this inspiration so I won't feel guilty for indulging? 

Wake up folks. It's not that we aren't moving forward, it's that we are not moving in the right directions. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Birthday Wishes to Sean... Wherever You Are

Dear Sean,

Today everyone is writing on your FB wishing you a happy birthday and missing you. I wanted to do it, too. I've actually been composing this letter in my head for years now. It always felt so cheap to do it on Facebook cause we didn't FB with each other that much (if it was MySpace that'd be a different story). I wondered how it would be perceived. So, I'll do it here, on my blog (I'm sure you'd be thrilled) which is something I did, even on Myspace.

My birthday was six days ago, and every year I get sad around this time. And every single year I can't figure out why I'm sad... that is, until I remember your birthday follows so closely behind mine. I don't really mourn you on the day you died. I mourn the fact that you aren't here on your birthday. Maybe that's weird. I can't tell you how many times I think about you and can almost hear your voice in my head with your response. You'd say, "It's cause it's my birthday, bitch! ...just kidding, I love you. What are you gonna get me?"

I went through your pictures on FB a few days ago, the ones everyone had posted of you. It makes me a bit angry because I know most of those pictures are mine. I took those pictures downtown, that was my scooter (scoot, scoot!), and your love affair with Ramsley (which we came up with together). Those "photo shoots" were just a way for you to see how handsome you were. I won't forget how you had such low self esteem and the way you handled it. ...speaking of which, it bothers me that people don't ever seem to talk about the reality of you. Maybe it's what happens after you are gone or maybe it's just that people don't want to admit it. I'm sure a great portion of it is that they really just didn't know. You hid it so well with that smile... unless you were drunk... then it was trouble. Then, you needed help.

Maybe that's what it really was. I would never quantify who you were in "loving life" or "living life to the fullest" which has pretty much become your legacy. I would say that you made people have a place to belong. You forced people to own up to the truth about themselves, which you saw, and you magnified. But, you were always so blatant about it. If you thought something was gross, it just was. If something was fabulous (like you, of course) then it was. And it was that way for everyone around you. In that space, you made a home wherever you went.

But, you were sad, too. Behind closed doors and when the partying had stopped, you got sad. But, you shrugged that off, too. "Whatever." My therapist once told me it was important to feel pain, to experience it, because that was part of the process of healing. You had that figured out years before I did. You had a c'est la vie attitude, and when something wasn't going your way, you either threw a fit or moved on to something else. Usually both and in that order.

I'm simultaneously angry and sad that you're not here. I get angry because when I hear certain people talk about you, I want to scream at them that they have no right because you hated them or they were jerks or lied etc. Then, I think that some people may feel that way about me. But, like you would say, whatever, they didn't know.

I owe you a thanks, too. I know we understood each other. God, we were so much alike. I'm sure you'd tell me not to be stupid, but it is weird you were over at my house a few days before you died and making plans to watch The Pursuit of Happyness with me. I kept the cigars we smoked together for a long time. As well as the beers. At some point, I decided I needed to let go. I needed to not cling to momentos that only caused me a crippling nostalgia every time I looked at them. No, Sean, that doesn't mean I don't love you anymore. Trust me, I've cried plenty. You ruined Mr. Jones for me. That was my favorite song before I met you. As well as You Can't Hurry Love, the Dixie Chix version.

If you look down on us now and it seems we may have forgotten you, you're wrong. If we look happy it's cause we are working hard to have a life despite the pain. We learned that from you. I do miss you. Like I said, it's always worse around this time of year. It's not that I think your death didn't matter, it's the lack of your life that reminds me and your life was always celebrated the most this time of year.

Happy Birthday.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fifty Shades of PTSD

" a nutshell, folks. If 50 Shades was sexy to you, I kind of have to question your past."

I've read a TON of posts about the Fifty Shades of Grey situation. Yes, it's a situation. I honestly was not on either side of the line. It's fiction. Yes, fiction influences... etc. but, when I informed my husband of the newest wildfire buzz going on in my literary world he scoffed. His response was, "What about Dexter?" 

Yes, what about Dexter? Or what about all the vampire novels? Or any NUMBER of horror shows that we can't seem to tear ourselves away from? We idolize all kinds of villains. I'm not saying this is right, but I do believe it's a matter of choice. 

Now, about that quote that led off the blog. I'll take a moment to try to calm down. Nah, there's no point. I have nothing against the person who said it, but I feel like some tutelage is necessary. So here goes:

Yeah, you probably might question my past. It's none of your business though. But, I'll open up that door for you just a little so that you might get a glimpse of why that upsets me. I'll try to be quick and not go off on too many tangents. My past is sordid. I was abused as a kid. It took me a long time to realize that it was abuse and an even longer time to stop comparing my abuse to others'. Well, I wasn't raped as a child. It wasn't violent. My therapist talked me out of all my excuses for realizing what had really happened. There's something else they don't tell you about early childhood abuse... it can linger. 

It can linger in ways you don't even hear about. It's called PTSD. There are images and flickers and reminders of things that make me absolutely afraid to move. I'll tell you the other thing about childhood sexual abuse that you probably do know... just not in the way you think. See, most people who become abusers have a history of being abused. Now, chew on that for a moment. I have been stigmatized in that people believe I will be an abuser simply because I was abused. I would never.  

But, it doesn't mean my abuse didn't affect my sexual appetites. Now, my sexual appetites are none of your business. They simply aren't. And the fact that they would even be questioned makes me cringe and want to go hide under a rock because I feel guilty. It reminds me how I was shaped -programmed- sexually as a child. But, I logically know I have nothing to be ashamed of. So what if I find the character appealing? 

When I read that my past should be questioned because I like something? Are you kidding me? Yeah, thank you, I'm having to remind myself that my past is not my fault and that it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's certainly not for anyone else to judge. You can't preach sexual freedom and then judge the freedoms they take. 

As for Christian (and as I said in my original review of the series), I think he has PTSD. I told my husband I would never knowingly wish my issues on another human being. I actually advised my neighbor against having anything to do with someone who had PTSD that refused to get help. It's a no-win situation. It's because I know what the disorder does. It's not pretty. But, that doesn't mean Christian Grey's don't exist. I don't think Christian Grey is a villain. I think he is a hurt man who eventually finds some form of redemption. That's all I can hope for myself... some form of redemption. So while you bash him, it feels like you are bashing me and all those who are like me. Now you know. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Not All People Heal Like You

I've started this particular blog post several times. I've wondered what it'd do to my career or what it would do to my personal life. However, I just read a blog that made me so angry. I will not call out names, I don't much care to start web drama; plus, I respect the person who wrote it. I just disagree. Sort of.

Her rant was about how "awareness" campaigns where people attempt to garnish attention for causes are stupid and that apparently we already know about them plenty. She said that people posting about how hard it is to [insert dealing with a specific diagnosis here] are not heroes. Well... I beg to differ. Hardly enough people know about my kind of disorder or all the things that people with different disorders suffer. Also, I think the attitude of her kind of post is what makes me so afraid to say what I've always wanted to say.

The "Post" I've Been Afraid to Post
I was raised by a very strong mother, controlling, but strong. She surrounded herself with strong women. These women were so strong it seemed they were more like steel, cut with edges that you didn't want to come too close to for fear of being sliced in two. I was pinballed around by these women, never quite getting a hang of their language, but adapting their mannerisms with near perfection. I was taught to own up and take responsibility of all my actions. To my detriment, at first I didn't take responsibility. Then finally, also to my own detriment, I did.

I was "rebellious" and "bossy."
I had "an attitude."
I was manic depressive, I was borderline personality disorder, I was "difficult."
I was labeled.
I was none of these things.

After years of being told how I was not forming the way I should, how I was failing as an adult (18 is a fully prepared for the world adult, right?), I started to chastise myself for my "rebellious" ways. I thought that the way to "fix" me was by owning up to every mistake I ever made. I took everything I did and tore it apart looking for a way to do better, to be better, to be more acceptable. Acceptable was just something I never really achieved, and now I was seeking it with a vengeance.

But, in taking responsibility for all the things I did wrong, I also started taking responsibility for things that were not my fault. Things like being abused as a child. I literally had an adult tell me when I was a child of 9 that I "should have known better." The abuse was not my fault. Also, my mother's controlling nature, which is entirely contradictory to a person with PTSD's issues, was not my fault.

Did I forget to mention I have PTSD?

And herein lies the rub. I am still met with these strong people (like the one who posted the blog that got me to writing this) who say I have to take responsibility for my actions. They're the people who say "the past is the past," "I was abused, but you don't see me [insert some socially unacceptable behavior]", or "I have [insert another issue/disorder] but you don't see me using it as an excuse."

All I really want to do is say, "Congratu-fucking-lations! Aren't you just amazing? No, really, good for you." Seriously, whatever works for them is great, but please for the love of all things holy, not all people heal like you. 

The world is so full of people lacking compassion, and in all honesty, I'm pretty sure that no amount of therapy will completely heal the hurts I've faced. Because of this, I am openly admitting that I want what some people label "special treatment" for my disorder... I call it grace.
IS THAT SO TERRIBLE? How does that make me a lesser person because I admit that there are areas where I need more grace because I haven't figured out how to navigate that without somehow screwing it up?

I don't want to wear the label "I have PTSD" on my forehead, but on the same hand, I think it'd probably be awfully helpful when trying to explain to someone why it takes a lot of work on my part to ride in the passenger seat with pretty much anyone other than my significant other (who I've been with for 8 years). I usually refuse. Or how about how I don't pick up on social cues or fit in with normal society because I have a habit of saying things that make others uncomfortable? Or how about how paranoid I get after I see someone because I don't know if I did something wrong?

Some might say it's not the PTSD. I'll tell you what is then: the anxiety, the nervousness, the paranoia. These things all make me react a specific way. I have a tendency to want to control situations. Remember the "rebellious" child from above? That was me trying to take control of my situation because I had been robbed of control and was desperately seeking it back. I still seek it. I'm controlling because I am seeking safety. I highly doubt everyone knows about that. I don't think it hurts to continue awareness campaigns. Hell, if more people were aware of PTSD, especially the fact that it doesn't just come from battle situations, then my life would be easier. I wouldn't be so embarrassed by it. I wouldn't feel like I was having to explain my issues so much.
Maybe, I'd feel like -- for once -- it was okay to heal in my time, not in theirs.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


An Amtrak residency sounds great. Amazing, in fact. I've been drooling since I read about it. So, tonight, I went to put in my official application. But, since I read a pretty amazing blog Writer Beware, I've learned to pay much closer attention to terms and agreements.

See, part of the Amtrak application asks for a sample submission of your writing. Of course, I figured I'd just submit the first chapter of my book. It's strong writing, and it sure does pull you in. Trust me, ask my beta readers... or don't cause I won't tell you who they are, but they are writing professionals, so take that for what it's worth. (Update: I say all this about my book to point out that they could have legally taken something very precious from me and potentially valuable.) In any case, I started reading the rules, and this bit right here really didn't sit right with me.
"Applicant understands and agrees that Sponsor has wide access to ideas, stories and other literary, artistic and creative materials submitted to it from outside sources or developed by its own employees and agents (together, “Sponsor Creative”); and, such Sponsor Creative may be competitive with, similar to (or even identical to) the writing sample/answers to questions created and submitted by Applicants; and, Sponsor shall have no liability to Applicant or any third party in respect to or in connection with the development, use, sale and/or commercial exploitation of all or any portion of Sponsor Creative by Sponsor and/or its designees and licensees, all of which liability, if any, Applicant hereby expressly and irrevocably waives, releases and discharges. 
6.   Grant of RightsIn submitting an Application, Applicant hereby grants Sponsor the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy Applicant’s Application, in whole or in part, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing, and to sublicense such rights to any third parties. In addition, Applicant hereby represents that he/she has obtained the necessary rights from any persons identified in the Application (if any persons are minors, then the written consent of and grant from the minor’s parent or legal guardian); and, Applicant grants Sponsor the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy the name, image, and/or likeness of Applicant and the names of any such persons identified in the Application for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing. For the avoidance of doubt, one’s Application will NOT be kept confidential (and, for this reason, it is recommended that the writing sample and answers to questions not contain any personally identifiable information – e.g., name or e-mail address – of Applicant.) Upon Sponsor's request and without compensation, Applicant agrees to sign any additional documentation that Sponsor may require so as to effect, perfect or record the preceding grant of rights and/or to furnish Sponsor with written proof that he/she has secured any and all necessary third party consents relative to the Application."
From what I understand, if I had submitted the first chapter of my book, it would officially be theirs and they could sell it to whoever they wanted to be "developed" however they saw fit. And guess what, they wouldn't have to pay me a dime. They are only taking 24 writers this month, and even though in the application page they say that "A passion for writing and an aspiration for travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection" if you go the the Official Terms, you'll find out that to be the "ideal candidate" you will have to have "extensive social media connections." Yeah, I'd love to see their definition of extensive. I wonder if they check Klout scores (I hope you can tell I'm being sarcastic.) Psht. I was so excited about this. However, this is bogus. Most of the writers who would really benefit from this because they need a change of scenery or maybe a break from the kids or whatever are not going to get it. Not unless they are doing just fantastically on their own with social media, and in that case, I question whether they really need it.

Amtrak is underhandedly taking people's rights to their work. Why not fork over the money for what they've written? This whole program made me so excited until I read these Official Terms.

Oh, and be prepared to be handed a 1099 tax form because they've informed you your gift will be reported to the IRS. So, make sure all you winners remember to file and pay that. (Granted, this is expected, but it's nice to remind us of it after they say they're taking all their applicants rights to their work.)

Anyone else have a problem with this?