Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lesbians, Women and Equality

As the endless struggle for equal pay has illustrated, women we have a long journey ahead of us before we can see any semblance of equality. After much struggle, women are now citizens of the USA who can vote and try for almost any job as long as it is not too high profile like being president or hosting a late night talk show. But we are still limited by sexism which defines us by gender, appearance, social agility and acceptability to those males in power.  

Just yesterday I was searching the database NewPages for anthology and literary journal submission venues.The first “feminist” one I found had just run a special issue that contained the voices of male writers expounding on the subject of women. The second one was soliciting for an upcoming issue on women’s relationships to “the men in our lives.” Seriously?

Let me make this clear: women are not to blame for sexism. Having said that, it is also imperative that we stop being collaborators! As Judy Grahn said in her poem, A Woman is Talking to Death, “We do each other in, that’s a fact!” Lesbians can be guilty of this just like our bib-dyke sisters, but since we have so much less power in society it hardly matters.

And there is the crux of the problem. When it comes to the big picture, our existence, our struggles are most often not even footnotes. The female equivalent of the male gay civil rights spokesperson doesn’t really exist. Harvey Milk, Tennessee Williams, Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Tony Kushner, all these are names that come to mind historically when thinking about notable LGBTs. I know that Audre Lorde, Gertrude Stein and Adrienne Rich are notable lesbians, but as far as name recognition they are undoubtedly second tier.

The “problem” of the unapologetic lesbian is being dealt with inside the LGBT community where the word “queer” is now touted as a substitute for “lesbian” because it is more “inclusive.” I’m all for inclusion, but I also have to post the question, what exactly is being lost?

As that old movie “Tootsie” posited and the transgender MTF movement seems to express: men believe that they are better at absolutely everything and that includes being women! The truth is that yes, a less oppressed person has more distance from an issue and that makes both your self-image and everything you undertake, less fraught and therefore a bit easier.  

And, for many of us bio-broads, “being a woman” is not a set of feelings or behaviors. It is just a genetic fact, an anatomical category!

I respect transgender women. But they are raised with the privilege of growing up and being treated as males. Due to class issues, I am used to working alongside people of greater privilege. I don’t hate them. I just think that we all must acknowledge these differences and, as class warriors, fight the tendency to relinquish our power to those with greater access to theirs.

Women have come a great distance since acquiring the vote in 1920. Lesbians have made huge strides since Stonewall. But genuine equality is still a distant dream and ignoring this fact will not make it go away.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Consciousness, Drugs and Dying

Whether any trace of our human essence survives during and after dying process is, for science, uncharted territory. In some documented instances, the essence of consciousness continues on without the biological support of a living body. Severe physical damage throws the body into shock, so it seems logical that the same thing could happen to the conscious mind, triggering a physical reaction that causes it to take refuge elsewhere.

My partner, Deborah had an out-of body experience as a student in college. In her case, she woke up in her own bed, in the middle of the night with a stranger on top of her trying to strangle her. What happens next she describes as a scream so powerful it emanated from her mouth as a filament of light that went straight up to the ceiling of the room. That light contained the essence of her consciousness. From the ceiling of her bedroom, she watched the attack on her physical being with a sense of peace and detachment that would not have been possible had she remained present in her besieged body.

Deborah was not murdered and returned to her body at a point when she was able to communicate with and escape her attacker. In true instances of near-death experience, when the body is badly wounded or killed, some essence is perceived to proceed onward to a dimension most describe as one of boundless peace and connectedness.

Now I tend to believe that religion is not only the opiate of the people but the scourge of humankind. Still, I try keep an open mind especially when it comes to science, biology and physics. I don’t pretend to comprehend of the universe, but since all these people worldwide have had oddly similar experiences, that there might be something to this that science does not yet understand.

In the surgical profession, there have been numerous reports of people who have flat-lined on the operating table yet were able to recall conversations, music and exactly what transpired during the period when they were technically dead.

I have to admit a large part of the reason I remain open to the existence of other dimensions is the fact that I did a lot of hallucinogenic drugs as a young person. While tripping on various psychedelics, I witnessed the universe broken down to a molecular level where mathematical pattern and incredible geometric design prevailed.

In that vein, I just read an article, Five Amazing Things ScientistsHave Discovered About Psychedelics , posted a few days ago on Alternet. This piece notes that besides helping the dying let go of their fear of death, psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin actually suppress certain parts of our brains. It is this more limited capacity that opens up our brains to new information, not the other way around. It’s as though the filter breaks causing incredible hallucinogenic sensations to rush in.

Possibly, this is the state that autistic people and, assuredly cats, inhabit their entire lives.  The filter ruptures, the world rushes in. The mind continues without the body. The universe breaks down into connection and light.

It all sounds remarkably similar to brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s electrifying Ted Talk, “My Stroke of Insight,” in which she recreates her amazing sensory journey, conveying the intensity, beauty and transcendent serenity she experienced when a stroke shut down her brain functions one by one.

No one really knows happens when we die. A dying brain could produce many experiences, but can a dead one? These questions remain unanswered. By the time we are sure, it seems we are no longer able to pass on this information. We know only that the trajectory leading out of this life is one that each of us must follow. Rest assured, if I get there before you, and I can, I will send you a sign!