Monday, June 27, 2011

Pride, Assimilation and History

I did a lot of parading, marching and observing this past weekend commemorating 41 years of open gay and lesbian pride. I attended the rally prior to the Dyke March as well as the Pride Parade here in San Francisco, as much out of habit as committment. The events were huge. Gone are the days when heterosexuals feel shame and fear that they may be mistaken for queer at events like these.

An article on by, what I assume is a young lesbian, (she refers to herself as a "girl" which, in my generation meant a female child under 12), who believes that "pride" is only applicable in situations where a person actually accomplishes something. After reading it I'm sure that I am very proud to be queer. It's true, I didn't choose it. But I have chosen to be open about it since I was 18 and 42 years of braving the winds of hatred and oppression is something to be proud of. So much has accomplished so much in my lifetime.The victory of same-sex marriage in NY signals that we are well on the road to full civil rights and societal acceptance.It makes me wonder if we will see the total of assimilation of queers into the social fabric.

Another minority community of which I am a member has assimilated considerably in my lifetime. At some point in the future, full-blooded Jews, like myself, will be very rare, almost non-existent. The religion will thrive, of course, but what of our angst-ridden, self-deprecating, humorous and intellectually overactive culture? It is already disappearing.

Will the Nelly Queen and the Stone Butch go the way of the Yiddish language? The toll of oppression and discrimination is overwhelmingly negative. But there are also positive aspects to outsider identity. Pinky rings, code words, belonging to a special club, these are the obvious ones. But viewing oneself as part of a larger whole, a strong community that has proven its mettle in the face of adversity can be something precious, yet somewhat inexplicable to folks who have never experienced it.

Queer folks still have a long way to go before we have to worry about this issue. Will anyone gay, lesbian, straight, trans or gender indeterminate have the right to a secure job in the future? A place to live? Enough to eat? I think the problems of the upcoming not-so-brave new world will defy simplistic and self-limiting labels.

Buddhism, a philosophy I respect greatly, stresses that we are all one and need to let go of our stories, our attachment to the trappings of the past that separate us from our universal humanity. I can see the rationale of this approach but also feel that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." In that spirit I am compelled to tell my story as well as listen to yours. With pride.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bending Under the Weight...

A Heavy Burden
Ok, so here's a rundown of news that running us down. The Walmart gender discrimination lawsuit got thrown out by the US Supremes, setting a dangerous precedent for future class action lawsuits that deal with all forms of discrimination.

A 59 year old North Carolina guy robbed a bank, demanding only one dollar because he decided that prison would be the best place to get free health care to have a painful tumor in his chest treated. But because he didn't take much or have a weapon, he might not get the full three years of care that he was counting on.

New York State will vote on same-sex marriage tomorrow and Obama, who will be doing a fundraiser for LGBT folks. The ticket prices for this donation event range from $1,250 to $35,8000. Will he have any words of wisdom, even though his opinion is still "evolving" on the question of full civil rights for queer folks.

Housing prices are dropping, temperatures are rising, storms are brewing, collective bargaining rights are being legislated out of existence, the public sector salaries, benefits and pensions are being raided and drained and we now have a class of permanently unemployed and unemployable ex-workers. Income inequality is becoming an impassable abyss and the U.S. infrastructure is decaying.

The US postal service has stopped paying into retirement for its employees and will no longer have mail delivery on Saturdays. Postal collection boxes have all but disappeared from street corners.

I attended a reading at a local newly opened bookstore. Amazingly, they didn't have any restrooms for the use of those attending. This is the first time I've ever come across an issue like this at a public place in the United States. Even in places like Mexico and Turkey public facilities exist although they might not be all that clean.

Just coming out of the BART station to work this morning all the escalators were out of service and have been all week. I have no idea how disabled patrons are getting to street level.

In the vain hope of finding some solution to these problems, my partner and I went to a meeting. We were quickly identified as an enemy element because, along with a few other group members, we were pushing for more concrete, activist solutions, instead of just their standard "house parties." The presenter informed us that to have any kind of a mass mobilization she would have to get permits and insurance very far in advance. I'm old enough to remember organizing situations where LGBT rights were being rescinded state by state and we just showed up and marched. Well mentioning the memory of another type of organizing got us both labeled troublemakers and not "real" Americans. To the moveon leadership."real" Americans don't live in Berkeley and have political sympathies with the "family values" bunch. Nightmares in the face of their attempt to "save the American dream," they even removed our names from their email list.

It's enough to make a sane person throw in the towel.  Americans are depressed, despondent completely resigned to the doom and destruction that awaits us. And our mainstream political parties and organized groups are not helping us out of our deepening rut. Zapata said, "It's better to live on your feet than die on your knees!" I guess that until we can stand up, we'll just keep crawling along.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lesbian Bloggers vs Male Impostors

Will Submit DNA
Upon Request
In the bizarre irony that can only be real life non-fiction, a rash of heterosexual, male bloggers who are passing as lesbians, has materialized in cyberspace of late, casting doubt on genuine lesbian bloggers like, er, yours truly.

The blog, "Gay Girl in Damascus," supposed written by a Syrian lesbian, was exposed to be a fake when its creator, Tom McMaster a 40 year old white, male heterosexual, went too far and had his avatar undergo a political kidnapping so he could take a vacation in Istanbul free from the need to post.

To add insult to injury, LezGetReal an informative news blog turns out to be the creation of Bill Graber a 58 year old white, heterosexual male from Dayton Ohio, who under the fake identity of Paula Brooks, edited the site that claims to be, "A Gay Girl's View of the World." It's funny, I just assumed that the patronizing nature of that slogan represented a generational divide, not an impostor situation. You know how those young dykes don't seem to mind the use of words like: girl, lady and Mam, the way us old-school feminists do. God, Rachel Maddow uses them regularly!

A couple of other guys have been unmasked as well but the big question that remains, particularly for us actual lesbian bloggers is why?

We all know that the guys are kind of titillated by the whole lesbian thing but that doesn't explain it. And due to male, white, heterosexual privilege, most of them believe that they can do anything better than those of us who suffer under the weight of some kind of oppression. Oddly enough, that encompasses the belief that they can be better women than biological females. See the abominable movie "Tootsie," again if you don't believe that's true.

But posing as an online lesbian? I can only deduce that these boys have come to think that perhaps women do have something they covet, especially if they don't have to deal with the discrimination part of the equation. And lesbians occupy a market niche that still has more room than other niches, due, in part, to REAL oppression. Yes, we dykes, especially of my generation, are not as skilled at promoting ourselves and doing concrete, constructive things in the real world because we were raised to be women and to despise ourselves on many levels. It is a lot to overcome, so in the gap period when some of us struggle toward competence and self-acceptance, opportunist males see another opening in which to thrust their aspirations.

One other thing that, I bet, plays a role, is that lesbians don't have relationships with men. So, while they're posing as that queer gal, other women might begin corresponding with them. McMaster did have a romantic email relationship with a woman sympathetic to his character's plight. And being lesbian women eliminates the whole specter of male sexual activities of which they want no part. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Alas, We're Not in Athens...

Recent Protest in Athens
According to witnesses, more than 40,000 people mobilized in Athens to protest austerity measures that raise taxes, cut salaries, slashed pensions and put health benefits out of reach. Their current unemployment rate is over 16%. Police hid behind steel barricades and used tear gas to try and disperse the angry citizenry.

Here, judges were at work on both sides of the struggle. Justice James Ware struck down the ridiculous and fallacious notion that he should have recused himself from the proposition 8 decision due solely  to the fact he is a gay man in a long-term relationship. Ware is an African-American who immediately recognized the civil rights implications of this type of "reasoning."

However, in Wisconsin the state Supreme Court ruled that Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority by throwing out the late night, Republicans only vote for governor Scott Walker's bill stripping workers of collective bargaining rights. As it now stands public workers, except for police and firefighters, will undergo pay cuts that average about 8% of their salaries. The unions are putting together a lawsuit based on the fact that the bill illegally discriminates between classes of employees for the soul purpose of political payback.

This war against workers is not only destructive to working people but to the entire American economy. Robert Reich's article "Why the Republican War on Workers Undermines the American Economy," lays it all out there. Keep up the good work R.R.!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

She Came in Through the Bathroom Window...

Yes, it was a she and she really did what the song says. My house was burglarized last week by two teenaged girls. The local police have them in custody now and they are singing up a storm. While I was at work, in broad daylight, one of them kept watch on my front porch while the other one removed a screen, opened a window and propelled herself inside through an opening 18" by 19." Nothing that an average-sized man could accomplish.

Once inside she rummaged through my bedroom drawers looking for jewelry. Perhaps this was after she was in the living room and saw my old-fashioned box television that requires a signal decoder to operate and my 2002 Dell computer tower. At that point she probably wished she'd spent her time hauling her ass elsewhere, but to make the best of a bad situation she rummaged through the bedrooms.

I could tell she knew her jewelry because she left most of my low-budget silver rings and earrings (except for a few she must have fancied) and went straight for the gold. Unfortunately for me, the only gold jewelry I have was my mother's. I kept it separately in what I thought was a good hiding place but, obviously I was mistaken.

My mother had a different philosophy on purchasing things than I do. She believed it was more meaningful to have a few very nice items than a whole pile of inexpensive, colorful ones. Our jewelry reflects very different theories of acquisition.

So my robber girls went off with the good stuff. The cops in my home city have been fabulous throughout this entire ordeal. They dusted for prints, kept me informed of everything and one of them even went out to the bushes near a park at 1 AM to retrieve some of my belongings.

As a young person I hated cops. They represented the enemy. In high school, I was a druggie and a shoplifter, ( I never would have broken into a house), so I avoided encounters with them. In college I was a political activist so I fought them, and later, as an out lesbian, who was perceived as an outlaw by the powers that be, the animosity continued.

But, of late, since the series of pension attacks on public sector workers, I have found myself regarding them more like brothers and sisters who hold very difficult, life threatening jobs. In the Wisconsin uprisings cops and firefighters were on the front lines, even though Scott Walker tried to separate them and their issues off; a blatant divide and conquer strategy.

One officer told me that the girl who was in my house lives with her grandmother a few streets away. This extra information serves to make me less afraid when I am at home alone. Perhaps, it also makes me a bit more understanding. Is it karma, are my chickens finally coming home to roost? If so, I hope my debt is now cleared and they can lay the rest of their eggs elsewhere. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Photogenic Phallus?

Towering Tufas in Turkey
The penis is a very high-maintenance organ. I don't have empirical data on this, as a lesbian-type female person, this is only what I can deduce from the ongoing series of male politicians whose members seem to require extraordinary measures of care.

Yes, sagas of the philandering phallus are legend, Weiner's weiner being only the most recent chapter in a never-ending story that embraces Arnold Schwarzenegger and his love children, John Edwards with one more of the same who kept the affair closeted for as long as possible due to donations from a salty, old matron who is an heiress to the Carnegie-Mellon fortune.

I could recite an nearly endless laundry list of pay to play prostitution scandal boys and the cadre of closeted gay right -wing pundits who preach hatred by day of the hanky-panky they seek in bathroom stall and online.

The most egregious schlong-wrong of late, is the attempted rape of a hotel maid by former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn. When the consent factor is eliminated and someone assumes that women are a perk that comes with a $3,000 a night hotel suite, this particular obscenity rises to the category of a felony.

Perhaps male equipment should come with a limited warranty and an instruction manual. But no matter how much use and abuse these overused appendages undergo, they still grab center stage. Comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are forever making references to their schmeckels and scrota as if this conglomeration of turkey jerky makes the world go round. And the real problem is that, way too often, it does making the high profile world of politics and entertainment look more like one huge frat house.

So what does it all mean? They say if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Maybe us gals should take the hint, name our breasts and start photographing that velvet kitty! I don't think this will happen on a large scale for quite a while, if ever. The relationship of men to their genitals must be a totally different animal. The whole thing makes makes me glad I'm a dyke and really don't really have to worry about my body parts setting off on their own and making decisions without me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Euthanasia: When Enough is Enough

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the man who brought the issue of assisted suicide to the forefront of the American cultural dialogue, is dead at 83. Although there may be some questions around certain specific patients, the right to die, when there are no viable medical options left, should be cherished and preserved by all people who place value on ending unnecessary suffering. Euthanasia is legal today only in the states of Oregon and Washington.

This is an issue that has shaped my life. My parents had an agreement, dating back to the early days of their marriage, that if one of them became terminally ill, the other would help them leave this life. In 1973, when my mother was 48 years old, she was diagnosed with metastatic ovarian cancer. Her doctor said it was the worse case he had ever witnessed with diseased cells all over her internal organs. Since they couldn't remove the massive malignancy, they sewed her back up and started her on a massive dose regimen of chemotherapy on the off-chance that it might work. Chemotherapy was quite primitive in those days and she became very ill. Now, she was in constant pain, vomiting all the time and her face was so gaunt that is was readily apparent that she was wasting away. A month had passed since her futile surgery and the painkillers were no longer working. We all knew that it was time.

Fortunately, my mother had been a chronic insomniac so she had lots of pills and prescriptions in her name. Nembutal and Seconal are opiates and the strongest of her arsenal. I counted out pills for her. My father and a close family friend I'll call Danny were at her bedside helping by putting pinpricks in each pill so it would work faster. She was still well enough to swallow, and swallow she did until every pill was gone. After she fell unconscious my father and Danny left the hospital.

That night, something terrible happened. Somehow, probably by intuitive logic, the nurses and doctors figured out what was happening. They took my mother and pumped her stomach. The next morning she telephoned us from her bed in a barely audible, anguished voice that sounded like it was coming straight from the grave. All she could say over and over again was, "I'm still here!"

At this point, the hospital administration was threatening to charge my father with murder. What saved him from this further ordeal was the fact that the prescriptions were in my mother's name and she was still alert enough to take them. Also, the fact that she spent that night alone was key.

My mother died three days later. Although the pills didn't finished her off, they weakened her system significantly, hastening her demise. We were all extremely relieved that she was free of pain and that we would no longer have to witness her suffering.

Years later, Dr. Jack Kevorkian came upon the scene providing the service that we had so desperately needed. It's not an ideal solution but, given that our lives are finite, it's an insurance policy of sorts, the best we can hope for under the most dire of circumstances. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Fickle Finger of Fate

A Healthy
Growing up my younger sister was a bit like my child. I was only five when she was born and a five-year old mom is at a real parenting disadvantage. We were often left to our own devices. Sometimes that involved sitting outside of some bar in the car entertaining each other while Mom and Dad were inside getting sloshed. Other times it just involved fending for ourselves in the world. Even in their absence, there was always food in the refrigerator, soda pop in the cupboard and tons of alcohol in the cabinets.

The summer when Lori was five she was trying to split a popsicle in two with a very sharp knife. When she cut through skin instead of ice, the blood was everywhere. I could see the bones of her finger which, fortunately, were still joined. I knew to put pressure on the wound and tie it with a dish towel until the bleeding was under control. Lori had finally stopped crying by the time I bandaged it with gauze and tape from the medicine cabinet. The skin grew together and her finger healed. Our parents never noticed a thing.

One day on our weekends with our grandparents, our grandma noticed the slightly bloated, immobile appendage and inquired about it. We told her of the accident and how we fixed it. She asked my sister to move her finger (which was an index finger) and she could not. It just hung there on her hand. She had accepted her new reality of a motionless finger without question, as children do.

My grandma told our mother about the finger and soon after a doctor examined it. He scheduled and performed a surgical procedure to tie the tendons back together. While it was healing there was a wire in her finger with a button at the end of it, holding it straight and in place.

Well, my sister's finger healed, the tendons grew back together and after the wire and button were removed it worked again, she could bend it and stretch it out, the way she used to. Which illustrates the nearly boundless capacity for healing and profound resilience of the human body.

The human psyche has this capacity as well. I seem to be spending much of my sixtieth year coming to terms with my experiences and my life. It's not a question of dwelling on the negative. To me it means acceptance, catharsis, making peace with my story and then moving on to the later chapters of my life.