Today this blog is not about me. Today, I share a simple plea for support of a beautiful family, and my friends, who now find themselves facing the biggest challenge of their lives. Thank you.
Tomorrow is important. Everyone I know is posting political opinions (one way or the other). We are all waiting in anticipation for the imaginary voting bell to ring…and we’re off. Most of us voted early. I am a fairly impatient person, and I despise lines. Republicans are right. If they want to win, taking away early voting is one way to possibly stop people like me from getting to the polls, but not this time.
Tomorrow is important because there is the possibility that progress can be undone, that “all the us’s” (Harvey Milk speech) will go back to being the outcasts, the marginalized, and the…well, squashed minorities. Sometimes I cannot believe that we (LGBTQ people) are closer to equality than I had imagined we could be just four years ago. We no longer have Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and my friends in the armed forces don’t have to hide anymore. Can you believe it? I have had more than a couple of friends who have been discharged, or worse, had to hide a part of themselves for their entire lives. Not anymore.
LGBTQ people now have hospital visitation rights. It seems like such a small thing, but it isn’t. It’s huge. In my early twenties, my then partner was rushed to the emergency room. I couldn’t do anything. Her mother lived out of town, and was shocked when I told her they wouldn’t allow me to see my partner without her there. I was no one. I waited in the lobby all night, until her mother arrived and gave the doctor permission for me to be there. It was one of the most painful experiences I have ever known. I even had a nurse spew hateful words at me. I didn’t want to be kicked out, so I remained quiet.
Earlier this year, the President of The United States of America stated that he believed that “I” deserved the right to be married. There was a collective cheer from me and my friends I was with, and I couldn’t help but cry. I can’t explain the feeling, but I’ll try. When I was a teenager, like many, I hid. I didn’t date. I didn’t care to date. I met a woman and I fell in love. I hated myself for it. When we broke up, I dated a lot of men…too many. I was pretending that I was straight, overcompensating for the struggle I was going through.
Thankfully, my struggle didn’t last long. I found a community of gay men and lesbians who not only didn’t care that I was gay, but welcomed me into their world, their families, their homes. I knew I would be ok. The outside world was scary, starting with my own family (excluding my supportive mother and a couple of cousins). I knew life would be more difficult for me, for all of us. I remember hearing over and over that my “lifestyle” was a choice. My answer was always the same. Who in their right mind would choose to be a societal outcast? I had once been a servant team leader in my church. According to my old church “friends” (granted, not all of them) I was going to hell. I was the worst kind of sinner.
So when President Obama voiced his support for same-sex marriage, it meant that he was acknowledging my full personhood. I know I’m a full person, who deserves the same dignity and rights that heterosexual people enjoy. But finally, if in word only, the most powerful leader in the world, said “I” deserve the opportunity to pursue happiness in love and life.
I will never forget that.
But I am not “just” a lesbian. I am a Chicana, a woman of color. I am a brown woman. The brown part…I am a U. S. citizen, as is my mother, and her mother before her, but I remember the border town fear of the Border Patrol. I remember hearing the word “migra” and knowing that there was some reason I should fear them. As I grew into myself, I changed that fear into activism. I believe in the Dream Act. I loathe SB 1070. I have protested, marched, written letters, and organized. Others who are brown like me, but have no documents, deserve the right to pursue their dreams and live without fear.
The woman. I was not around when Roe v. Wade was decided, but I have reaped the benefits. I have had the right to choose, and as a lesbian, you might think that it doesn’t mean much to me. It does. It means that I am the master of my own body, and that I have the power to decide when and if I want to start a family. Granted, starting a family is more complicated now that I have stopped trying to prove that I am straight…cause I’m not. And women’s healthcare and choices are so much more than pregnancy and termination. I am the ONLY one who should have dominion over my body, period.
All of this means that tomorrow is indeed very important. If Romney wins, he has vowed to stand with right-wing-fundamentalist-anti-woman-anti-comprehensive immigration reform types. This means that the day after tomorrow could bring the reality of a drastically different future, at least in the short-term. History moves forward, and backlash is inevitable, but I am banking on the progressive momentum of this country’s people to keep the wheels moving in the right direction, towards equality and fairness.
The day after tomorrow I will be able to have lunch with my Republican friends again. I’ve been avoiding them pre-election. Come to think of it, I’m sure we are avoiding each other. The day after tomorrow, I will unhide them from my Facebook feed. I hope, that after Obama wins, they will unhide me also, and perhaps we will still consider each other friends.
Today is November 1st. Halloween parties have ceased and I only have gummy bears left in my candy jar. We had our students color decorated skeleton masks and dedicate them to someone they have loved and lost. It may seem morbid to some, but to me, and many of my culture, November 1st is a day to celebrate the lives of those who have passed.
My mother and I make a traditional altar every year. It has pictures of family members who we have lost, along with their favorite foods, and drinks, and trinkets. Sadly, we have added one more picture this year. After the altar is finished, all there is left to do is remember.
My Grandma was one of 11 children. She was born in Terlingua, Texas in 1915. She only finished up to the 6th grade, but she was the wisest woman I have ever known. She had 6 children, one of whom died at the age of 3. My brother is named after him. My grandfather was a hard worker, but an alcoholic. My grandmother left him, but wanted to be buried next to him when she died. She was. She knew English, but refused to speak it. She was a cook at an Italian restaurant in El Paso, Texas. I always remember her hating pizza and spaghetti. She paid $12,000 for her small two-bedroom house. I remember her always telling me how important it was that I finish school. She warned that without it, I would be “dumb” like her. We both knew she wasn’t.
She taught me to sing by loving singing herself, and if I close my eyes I can hear her deep melodic voice.
“Tengo una muneca vestida de azul, con sus medias blancas y sombrero azul.”
I still remember all the coros she sang to me, and sometimes I sing them out loud to myself…and she is with me.
In my early twenties I took my then partner home for the holidays. I was the defiant niece who refused to hide in the closet or behind closed doors. I never told my grandmother, but during that visit, she called my female partner my “husband,” in front of all of my family. I never heard a negative thing about my being gay from anyone in my family again.
My Uncle Ray lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for all of the time that I knew him. He was the only man in my life of any consequence. I didn’t really know my father until I was 18. (a story for another day) My mother and I spent as much time with him as we could. We both adored him. We lived with him when I was very young, and then moved back to El Paso at some point that I don’t remember. Even in El Paso, so far away, my mother would curb bad behavior by telling me she was going to tell Uncle Ray. The behavior stopped.
Uncle Ray was a Vietnam Vet, and we always knew there were things we couldn’t talk to him about. Sometimes he would fall silent, and we knew he was somewhere else. Other times I remember hearing him sob from behind his bedroom door. He wasn’t a mean man, but he rubbed and pinched my cheeks red when I told him I wanted to wear makeup. I didn’t ask again.
We went to the beach a lot. That was our favorite place. One time he was stung by a man o’ war. We were scared. Another time a drunk man in a truck almost ran over me and my cousin while we were making sand castles. He pulled the man out of his truck. I didn’t see what happened next.
He didn’t like tv, but he loved his guitar, and so after dinner we would gather in his small livingroom and he would hand us instruments. My favorite was a percussion instrument that had rows of silver beads you would turn with you palm. To this day I have no idea what it is called.
My mom would sit in the most coveted place in the room, by his side. He would begin to strum Neil Young, and I would wait in anticipation of my mother’s amazing voice.
My Aunt Julie lived in Philadelphia. She passed away this summer. She had a beautiful family of a husband and three boys, one of whom is gay. According to stories I’ve heard throughout the years, she never liked school. My grandmother would drag her there by her braids. She was a stubborn woman. It runs in the family.
I didn’t get to spend enough time with her, but this Spring I was sent to D.C. for work and I was able to drive up and see her. I am so grateful for that now.
Today is a day to remember, but it is also a day for the living to celebrate life.
It’s a time for us to be grateful for all the beauty and wisdom that has been passed on to us.
I remember, and I am most certainly filled with gratitude. Thank you.
Somewhere along the way, I developed a couple of healthy coping mechanisms to accompany my very unhealthy ones; one of which is painting. Around the age of 19, I realized that I could draw a face and body that amounted to more than just a stick figure. I had recently moved to California, and didn’t have many friends. I lived about a five-minute drive from the water, and so I would take a journal and pencil and draw the faces of my friends from back home. I missed them. I soon bought some paints and canvas and trusted that my hands wouldn’t fail me.
Ever since, I have used painting as a release. It’s a gradual release after all. It takes time to imagine the image, pick the colors, project the pain from inside of me onto the canvass. Afterward, I have a visual timeline of my trials. It allows me to look back; see how far I’ve come. I’ve painted happier things for others; joined an art show here and there, but my painting has really been for me.
Here are a few.
This is called Ten Cuidado Con Mi Corazon. (Be careful with my heart)
I never gave this one a name. This is a self-portrait. I am obviously angry and sad, and I remember wishing that memories were flammable.
This one is called Gravity. The words on the side are the lyrics from the Sara Bareilles song.
This is Inside Out.The textured pieces on the right of the painting are dried flower petals.
This wasn’t actually painted during trying times…well fully. It began as a gift for my ex. She was moving into a new house, and wanted art for her walls. She returned it to me after we broke up last year. In hindsight, it may not have been the best idea to paint us as calaveras…
This is called Rebirth. I painted it in the last year as a reminder of the journey back to sanity that I have made since my ex and I broke up. I purposely made her pink (some would say bruised) and weak, because in my head, that’s how one begins.
Below is my most recent work. It is unfinished. I look at it every day and think maybe one day it will be finished. It’s called Lady In Waiting.
It’s never easy to look at one’s flaws, mistakes, and wish-I-could-do-over’s.
The sting of “Why did I do that” causes anxiety and depression, at least for me.
Often times, throughout the past year, my dreams have rummaged through hurts and insecurities and madness without my conscious permission; left me worn and confused, and wanting to correct mistakes, yours and mine.
I remind myself that your mistakes are your own.
Many times I have reminded myself that I have only ever had the power to correct mine, to climb out of the strange depths of “love” induced madness healthier and happier, with a greater sense of joy.
I have long since forgiven you. I only recently have forgiven myself.
I hear you are healthy, happy, and dating.
One year later, it doesn’t sting quite as much, the dating part I mean.
I would be lying if I said the thought of you enjoying close intimate moments with someone else doesn’t prick just a bit…
I have never been good at letting go. We talked about that, you and I. You knew this.
I have many times pouted and cried to close friends, “This is different.”
There was the rush of instant chemistry, blush of vulnerability, and a vision and immature reach into a future of forever.
There were signs you were not for me…the disapproval of friends who have known me for years, the secrecy of a love I wanted to shout about…the recognition that I could not, no matter how hard I tried, understand you. And no, you never understood me either.
I sat one day, and listed all of my mistakes and ridiculous behaviors. I had to own them, one by one, no excuses.
This isn’t to say that I think myself a horrible person, or less worthy of love, trust, and happiness.
It was instead a necessary part of healing, a part of letting go.
My very best friend and I had a brief discussion about all that has happened in the past year. She marvelled at the fact that, still, a year later, I twitch uncomfortably at the mention of your name. She came to the same conclusion I had come to long ago. I was really in love with you…
It WAS different. I can say without a doubt that you are a part of a short list of great loves (2). It was a great love, if but brief and chaotic. It was a great love, for all the painful lessons.
It was a great love, that I many times tried to forget by consuming every bit of alcohol within my reach. It was a great love that I remembered even on hazy, panicked, regretful hangover mornings.
It was a great love, that I now carry with me voluntarily.
It was a great love, and perhaps you would disagree.
But then, that would fit perfectly into the story of you and I, wouldn’t it?
Sitting here with my ADHD friend who talks 90 miles an hour and skips from one subject to another. As I type, she has gone through Tony Robbins, then to her “friend with benefits” who she no longer likes, (yeah right) and then to the low down on who is sleeping with who…to, I think I’m gonna lose 50 lbs. and run a marathon. Oh dear god. She talks like my brain thinks, but tonight I can’t do anything but nod and smile. I half ignore her as my thoughts drift off to “will I ever have a date again?”… Then to, “I miss my ex”, back to, “maybe I should try dating”. She asks me what i think. I have no idea where I began ignoring her. All I say is “drama”, and she nods in agreement. One word sums it all up. But hey, it isn’t my drama, and that makes this lesbo happy.