Friday, November 30, 2007

miles to go before we sleep

went to the AIDS quilt opening ceremony last night at the holiday inn. i had the honor of participating in the reading of the names, and as always, this event utterly overwhelmed me. panel after panel after panel...after panel. i saw this once in DC, the quilt in its entirety, our own version of the vietnam wall, our own fallen men and women, our own beloved victims of a ravaging and devastating and ridiculously cruel war.

the entire night was a whirlwind...no...a hurricane...of emotion. the gay men's chorus sang and it was haunting and beautiful, their voices the backdrop of music as people quietly shifted from panel to panel, somber, respectful, honoring the bits and pieces of fabric filled with grief and loss, with memories, with celebrations of life and love, fabric that is a sad yet necessary part of our culture, the remembering of names, of lives, of brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and lovers and friends.

at one point i felt so completely overwhelmed by sadness that i had to walk away, go outside in the cold and smoke a cigarette and just...cry. i leaned against the wall and could not contain it, the rushing of anger and of sadness, of the faces and voices and echoes of too many friends, too many beautiful souls who left this world far too soon. jay. ron. alex. russell. calvin. and on and on and on. i miss them. so much.

when i finally felt composed enough to go back inside, i walked into the lobby and there sat corey, waiting for me. i just wanted to be sure you were okay. i sat down next to her, empty of words, unable to explain the emotions and thoughts and feelings that were filling up inside me. of course, i didn't need to, she understood and felt it too and so we just sat there, quietly, acknowledging in our silence the profoundness of those pieces of fabric, the lives they represent, the friends no longer with us, the mountain of work left to do.

and all the miles yet to go before we sleep.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

today is brought to you by the letter A

back in another life, everyone i knew aside from my family called me Darlena. it was a name given to me by a little boy i loved as wide as the sky, and somehow, it just stuck with me, for more than 10 years. life took some twists and turns as it always does, and Darlena, along with many of the wonderful people who used to call me that, disappeared. gone far enough away and hidden deep enough inside me that i'd almost forgotten the name existed at all. i suppose it has always been a part of me, like the people and the memories and the moments of that time in my life. haunting me just a little. hell, maybe even more than a little. but i was certain all of that had gone forever to the place that only the heart can see, and that the mind simply cannot bear to think about at all.

now a few more lovely twists and turns, and suddenly, it's back. and with it, some of the most extraordinarily beautiful people i've ever known. i had forgotten how that name sounded, how it felt to hear it. and mostly i'd forgotten about how much i loved and missed the three wonderful souls i've reconnected with. it's a gift, having them back in my life.

yesterday, i found sitting in my inbox an email from one of these friends, subject line, DarlenA. she sent me a poem, and then wrote, simply, Today, Darlena, say your name......clearly.....

life is so full of surprises.


The Key to Everything
May Swenson

Is there anything I can do
or has everything been done
or do
you prefer someone else to do
it or don't
you trust me to do
it right or is it hopeless and no one can do
a thing or do
you suppose I don't
really want to do
it and am just saying that or don't
you hear me at all or what?

You're
waiting for
the right person the doctor or
the nurse the father or
the mother or
the person with the name you keep
mumbling in your sleep
that no one ever heard of there's no one
named that really
except yourself maybe

If I knew what your name was I'd
prove it's your
own name spelled backwards or
twisted in some way the one you
keep mumbling but you
won't tell me your
name or
don't you know it
yourself that's it
of course you've
forgotten or
never quite knew it or
weren't willing to believe it

Then there is something I
can do I
can find your name for you
that's the key to everything once you'd
repeat it clearly you'd
come awake you'd
get up and walk knowing where you're
going

where you
came from...



Saturday, November 24, 2007

this is your life

"It was a shock, of course. It always is, to meet people after long years...We stood looking at each other. The eyes that peered anxiously at me were--simply Antonia's eyes. I had seen no others like them since I looked into them last, though I had looked at so many thousands of faces." Willa Cather, My Antonia

another reunion today.

...and i don't know how to write about it yet...

except that...there is the scent of rain. everywhere.

Friday, November 23, 2007

listening to



...but as the scenery grows, I see in different lights
the shades and shadows undulate in my perception
My feelings swell and stretch; I see from greater heights...



Thursday, November 22, 2007

sister

happy birthday, my sweet little sister.



"To the outside world we all grow old. But not to sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time." ~Clara Ortega



one year

up early to make the trip to shapleigh for what i'm certain will be a fabulous day.

what a difference a year makes. it's impossible not to think of this day one year ago, when i was inside a completely different life...emotionally, spiritually, physically. my world was upside down. i felt disoriented and lost, and i thought i am hanging on by a thread. (oh the drama.) it's almost surreal, thinking back to what feels like now a million years ago. another lifetime, indeed. and the person i was then...well. perhaps the inner core is still there, but the truth is, i can hardly recognize her at all now. it's amazing, that transformation that comes when you allow yourself a little bit of self-love. there have been a few missteps along the way this year, i can't deny that. but my eyes are wide open now and mostly what i have found is that when you can find that delicate balance between head and heart, when you stay connected to the present moment, it is just truly a lovely ride. my oh my and i am enjoying every bit of it.

as a little thanksgiving gift to myself, i think i will spend some of my morning re-reading the slant, which i began writing in almost a year ago. it will certainly give me a million things to be grateful for on a day designated for acknowledging such things out loud. start at the beginning and read every post. there are glimpses of my journey hiding in these spaces and i want to visit them again, i want to celebrate every step that's recorded, remembered, written about and dreamed of. there are people in these spaces too, intensely beautiful people who have made the road easier, more fulfilling. the connections and the friendships and the tears and the laughter and the love and the lust and all of the adventures. all of it...such a gift...wrapped with rainbows and sprinkled in starlight...

the life all around me in this past year has been so colorful, so musical, so...delicious.

and then there is the sweet, sweet whispered promise of all that awaits me, of surprises that are just around the corner.

i can hardly wait.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

random acts of queerness: the sequel

happy turkey day tomorrow, one and all.

get some rest and recharge your queer batteries, because next week there are lots of great events you simply must be at:

if you're in the greater Bangor area, attend the Adoption Forum on Tuesday, November 27th, 6:00 pm at the Hammond Street Congregational Church in Bangor. I'm bringing the Big Guns with me: Mary Bonauto & EQME's own Betsy Smith. They'll tell you everything you need to know about adoption as it relates to the Maine Law Court's fabulous ruling in August.

beginning on Thursday and continuing throughout the weekend are some amazing World AIDS Day events in Portland. Panels of the AIDS quilt will be on display at the Holiday Inn By The Bay (click here for a complete list of events.) I'll be there in memory of Ron and Alex and Jay and the many, many other beautiful friends that I've had to say goodbye to. We need to honor their lives and we need to continue to keep this battle in the forefront.


and finally, you just GOTTA be at the Lesbian Radio All Star Revue on Saturday, December 1st, at the St. Lawrence on Munjoy Hill, 8:00 pm (details here). It's a fundraiser for Lesbian Radio (every Thursday, WMPG, 1:30-3:00 and you can stream it HERE) which has become a superb show thanks to the efforts of The Most Incredible Virginia Throckmorton, who happens to be one of my favorite women in the world and beyond. And yours truly will be co-emceeing with the gorgeous and very funny Jill Barkley, another of my favorite women in the universe. I mean shit, I'm wearing a tux. And she had, at last count, five evening gowns at the cleaners. The stage will be filled with talented lesbians all night long...and it doesn't get any better than that. It should be a complete and total blast. You just simply cannot miss it.

OH! and the deliciously fabulous and wonderfully lesbianated North Star Music Cafe will be hosting an after-party that night, as soon as the curtain closes, with the proceeds at the door going to Lesbian Radio.

Good gawd it's gonna be a great week.

creating change

Sitting in my inbox are plane and hotel reservations for Creating Change, the largest LGBT conference in the country, sponsored by the Task Force. Sweet. It's their 20th, so it should be amazing. I have ranted before about the OTHER national organization, but I have a special place in my heart for The Task Force. I wouldn't be doing this work if it weren't for them because they funded my job for the first two years. And they took a HUGE chance on me, considering I had zero experience when I was offered the position at EqualityMaine. Most of what I know about organizing I learned from them.

It's going to be great...2000 queer and allied activists. And it's in Detroit this year. So J can give me a list of queer hotspots to visit while I'm there.

Should be a Gay Old Time, for sure.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

dad

just called my dad to wish him a happy birthday.

there were days this past year when i wasn't sure i would get to do that, ever again. but the stars are smiling on him, and so they smile on all of us.

every time i meditate, i end it with this little tiny prayer, a traditional Buddhist prayer for healing:

Just as the soft rains fill the streams,
pour into the rivers, and join together in the oceans,
so may the power of every moment of your goodness
flow forth to awaken and heal all beings--
those here now, those gone before, those yet to come.

i say it for my dad.

happy birthday pops.

Monday, November 19, 2007

my boys

it's no secret that i have some sleeping issues. i've discussed it more than once on the slant (see what falls away). last night i slept hard for the first time in weeks and when my internal alarm clock went off, as it always does, at 4:30 am, i simply covered my head, rolled over, and fell back into slumber.

for about 5 minutes.

just as i am about to drift into dreamland where i'm hoping to find nicole kidman waiting for me on a sandy beach with a pina colada in one hand and her bathing suit top in the other, i hear this weird sound...kinda like crumpling (is that a word?) plastic. or swishing. repetitive swishing. so i rub my eyes, throw on a robe, turn on the lamp. and there's my boy oscar, walking three-legged with his head and left hind leg caught in the handle of a hannaford plastic bag. and willie following him around the room. every time oscar moves, the plastic swishes and willie jumps on top of him, thinking it's a game. oscar looks agitated and even a little panicked that this plastic bag is a permanent fixture. and he's looking at me like "fix this goddamn thing before i go bat shit crazy". willie looks...amused. like he's enjoying his brother's new and challenging lot in life. and gives me the look that says "can we just leave him like this for the day? please??"

this is how my day has started.

happy monday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

ps

dear marion,

the food was not half bad.

;)

Friday, November 16, 2007

in my head

the music in my head this morning.
gotta love the 80's and all that bad ass big hair.

good gawd.


lost and found

twice in one week i am finding friends i thought were lost forever. life is spinning and twisting and turning and for whatever reason the lines of my past are crossing paths with my present. it is most astonishing.

i'm not even sure what any of it means, except maybe this: some connections are just too profound and powerful to disappear.




Thursday, November 15, 2007

lucky night

last weekend i went to a lesbian shin-dig with k & j. i'll be honest...i wasn't sure i was up for it. it's strange how i am completely at ease speaking in a room of 400 or 500 people, or how i can "network" like nobody's business at a political event. yet throw me into a social situation like the one we were heading to saturday night and i get all nervous and a little shy and then get smacked with an overwhelming sense of impending doom. ha. maybe it comes from all those high school dances when i felt a bit like a wallflower...not wanting to dance with the boys but aching to wrap my arms around the girls. i dunno. we'll explore that some other time, yes indeed.

i ended up having a great time of course, as i always do when i'm with mchottie and the matriarch. my girls were just tearing up the floor like nobody's business (kimm even did some fabulous break dancing just to show off...and don't worry buddy, i won't mention that you may have blown your knee out in the process...oops, i just did mention it, didn't i?) bottom line: you just can't spend time with those two women and not have a sore belly the next day from laughing so hard the night before. they're somethin'.

the absolute and ultimate highlight of the evening was bumping into my long lost friend marion, who i'd not seen in...hmmm...more than a decade i think. i was just standing in line for a cocktail and there she was, inches away from me, stepping out of the past and into my world again. it was a brilliant, wonderful, amazing surprise.

we shared a few laughs about the "old days", not missing a beat even after a much too long absence from each other's lives. and i am still smiling today and feeling so lucky that our paths have finally crossed again. life's been so good to me lately, and reconnecting with this particular person is a gift. gotta feel good about that.

so 'larry', in honor of all the damn fun we used to have, and in hopes of more good times ahead, i'm posting a little you-tube ditty for you. every time i hear this song i think about a certain bull dyke cook at winchesters who played this cassette 800 times a day. and then we would go to rochester street and play it 800 times more. ha. why we never tired of it i'll never know.

it is so incredibly good to have you back in my life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

#99

my 99th post of the year.
woo hoo!

it occurs to me that i promised at least some photos and a bit of video regarding my adventure on The Precipice with Kimm and Jen.



we're scaling this bad ass cliff...








the first of several signs along the hike, most of which say "people have died on this trail". um, yeah.



and some climbing shots. what the camera fails to capture is that most of this hike is completely exposed and you are quite literally climbing straight up. it's a seriously vertical climb. one wrong move and you're gonna visit that big dyke eternal party in the sky.






here's a little video compliments of the matriarch:



mchottie:



and kimm (please note that her hair is perfect even during a steep climb):



a few more climbing shots:







a shot from the top:



koko, mchottie, and the matriarch:



koko and mchottie beginning the far less challenging descent:



and a last look before heading home:




Sunday, November 11, 2007

funny

it's raining leaves outside and oscar sits on the edge of the couch, looking out the window, head darting everywhere trying to follow them, his tail thrashing around and around and reminding me of the cowardly lion in wizard of oz.

i'm pretty sure he thinks it's the end of the world.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

koko's greatest hits revisited

getting ready to go with k & j to a big invitation-only lesbian party. wooo hoo! dykes, dykes everywhere!

just heard this priceless 80's tune by fine young cannibals on the radio.
makes me wanna tease the shit out of my hair and wear big hoop earrings.

okay.
maybe not.

unify

I was thinking last night about a conversation I had with a friend back in April. We were having dinner together at a restaurant in Westbrook, and she began talking, with great animation and passion (not at all unusual for her) about the nearly invisible amount of public support the queer community displayed for trans issues. She said that our failure to recognize and address--intentional or not-- the challenges that the trans community faces was sending them a horrible message: you are ignored, you are marginalized, and you just don't fit it into our plan for equality. And that until we faced those issues head on and publicly, we would never, ever, be a truly united L,G,B and T community. She was frustrated that our strategy for equality seemed to center on "assimilation": the HRC-like presentation of gay people looking, acting, and sounding just like straight people, and she worried that this effectively eliminated a huge segment of our community by making them invisible. She did not mince words--she never does--and by the end of the conversation I felt exhausted, frustrated...and aware. Acutely aware.

I've never forgotten that dinner. It was a necessary education for me from someone who trusted me enough to know that she could be highly critical of the work I was tightly wrapped up in and that I could hear it without feeling attacked or defensive, or taking it too personally. And I am so thankful she did, because it has changed the way I look at our community, at our issues, at the way I do my job as an advocate. Her words are always there, in my head, challenging me to be better and more aware of the work I do. I am paying more attention to the way my organization handles trans issues, and I am watching other state and national organizations more closely, trying to find clues or signs that we are moving forward as a whole community and working to address the issues and challenges of every single person that falls under our diverse umbrella.

My first notion that we are moving in the right direction came in the last months with this whole ENDA fiasco. I won't go into the details (you can just google ENDA and find every bit of information you could ever need and then some.) The long and short of it is that HRC and The Powerful Pols of DC decided a few months ago that removing the gender identity/expression protections in ENDA was the only chance it had for passage. They tried to do it quietly, in a brief statement to the press. Maybe they figured we would be silent about it and just blindly trust that they knew best. Maybe they figured that we would greedily gobble up any crumbs of protections we would could get, even at the expense of the "less assimilated" segments of our community.

Turns out they were wrong.

Abraham Lincoln said that "to sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men." I'm happy to say we were not silent. Our protest was deafening.

We said "no thanks" to the crumbs. We formed a coalition of over 350 state and national LGBT organizations called United ENDA and said "it's an all-inclusive ENDA or we don't want an ENDA at all. " (I must give a shout out to the Equality Federation of which EQME is a member, and to my friends at The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, both organizations taking gigantic roles in spearheading this amazing effort. )We worked together and generated more than 15,000 phone calls to Washington, thousands more emails, all saying the same thing: we will not let you leave any of us behind. I am pretty sure that HRC and Washington underestimated the vigor and passion with which the grassroots state organizations would fight to keep the trans protections in ENDA. I think they were surprised that we would "break rank" and go up against the most powerful LGBT organization in the country. I think maybe we even surprised ourselves a little bit. We were standing up, standing together, maybe for the first time ever. And we were louder and more powerful than we ever imagined we could be. It was a little like being unable to speak your entire life, and then suddenly, one day you open your mouth and music comes pouring out. We found our voice. And it was beautiful.

In the end, we lost the battle and the shitty version of ENDA prevailed and passed in the House. Goliath 1, David 0. It was heart-wrenching for me to see political expediency win at the cost of principle. I could spend an entirely different post ranting about what I see as the utter hypocrisy of HRC and their overt abandonment of the trans community. It disgusts me, and it's unforgiveable. But I'm not gonna go there, not today at least.

Yeah. We lost that battle, but the thing is, I am pretty sure we gained something in return that will pay off in extraordinary dividends very, very soon. I think we found our true identity as a community. I think we came to understand that there are some who believe that political expediency and forward-motion have no price tag and that those people are extremely powerful. But that doesn't mean they're right and it doesn't mean we should be silent. We need to shout out how wrong they are at the top our lungs because if you're loud enough people can't help but listen. It turns out that when we do protest, we have some nifty power of our own. And that we don't have to and in fact should never sit quietly and settle for incremental steps if it means leaving some of us behind.

We've never really been tested like this before. We've never had to look the ugliness of divide and conquer politics so directly in the face. A carrot was dangled in front of us: we can finally pass a bill we've been fighting over for more than 30 years, and we'll only have to leave out a tiny segment of our community to do it. Don't worry, we'll come back for them soon. We LOVE them, you know that, but sometimes they just make it so hard for us! But really, we won't forget about them. We can take this boat down the river, but we need to toss a part of the community overboard. 'Cause the only way this boat doesn't sink is if we remove some of the weight, and the "T" in LGBT is just too heavy and hard and they are just going to have to jump off for now and wait for us to come back and get them later on.

The grassroots backbone of our political advocacy work is the state organization that every day goes to work on the ground. Alone, that organization is a small tiny voice that has little if any impact on national issues. But when we saw that carrot, and we understood the cost, those state organizations quickly started talking to one another. And suddenly we realized we might have some power if we united as one voice and said "Fuck you. We go together, or we don't want to go at all." We stood up to the all-and-powerful Oz known as HRC and said "we aren't afraid to go up against your money and your insider politics and your patronizing we-know-what's-best-for-you attitude. And we may not win, but we are gonna go down kicking and screaming." It feels like we "grew up" during this controversy and that we finally found our voice as a united queer community.

And maybe we didn't get what we fought for this time, but we didn't compromise our integrity. I'm hoping that someday we will look back on this profound moment in our history and know that we did the right thing, that we stood together. We will look back on this moment as a turning point in our identity, in our shared goals, and in our vision as one solid and unified community. What I hope for most is that we have begun the process in earnest of recognizing our transgender brothers and sisters as an important and necessary part of who we are. It should have never taken this long.

I've never been prouder to be an activist, and I am most especially proud of the way EqualityMaine has stood firm in our position through all of it. Our executive director wrote a beautiful and articulate message to our members about how the moral yardstick of a civil rights movement is measured against the way we treat the most vulnerable people in our community. She did not budge from our stance that we would not support an ENDA bill that left trans protections out, and in that message she took HRC to task. It was a courageous thing for a tiny little LGBT organization in Maine to do, and I was so proud of her for doing it. And since then, she's had to deal with some fairly harsh criticism by some of our members who felt that "incremental steps" were better than no steps at all. But she hasn't wavered and I know we are a better organization because of it.

I know we still have a long way to go. I know there is a lot of healing that has to happen, a lot bridges to cross, a lot of education and work to do. We will stumble along the way, we'll make mistakes. Let's be honest, the LGBT community is like a family: when we're under attack, we tend to forget our differences and we act like the brothers and sisters that we are, and then when things are swell we go back to being dysfunctional as hell. But for the first time as an LGBT activist I feel like I'm fighting for everyone in our community. And it feels good and it feels right. I feel like I can look my friend in the eyes now and tell her that we are changing, slowly but surely, into the community she dreams of.

And that means a lot to me.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

koko's addiction

one more hoops and yoyo video.

makes me think of:

1. sunday brunches after tearing it up on saturday night.
2. more than one morning waking up in "my room" on reg roc road.

goddamn funny.

happy birthday mchottie

hoops and yoyo rock.
love you sister friend.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

snapshot

outside the wind howls, the rain spins sideways in tiny tornadoes, neighborhood chimes singing, ringing (i hear you betty), every house glowing orange from the inside, no cars, no people, nothing at all on the street except the massive pounding force of the rain and the wind.

my windows are shaking.

outside it is cold to the bone.


i spent part of the afternoon working, then visiting a very sick friend who is brave and undaunted and so incredibly strong and who fights on and on and on, refusing to give in, she is a beautiful warrior who makes me so fucking proud to be a woman. on my way back home, drained from emotion, I took a detour, higgins beach, i needed to stand in front of the violent ocean i needed to feel the sting of the rain i needed to smell the salt in the air and to listen to the waves crashing and pushing so hard, so powerful, so...completely...present.

i needed to feel...life.

arrived home late, drenched, cats hungry and restless. put on an old ragged wool sweater of my dads and my best loved pair of flannel pajama bottoms, tucked my feet inside thick wool socks, fed the cats, and started a pot of vegetable soup, letting it simmer, letting the smell fill the room, making the kitchen feel warm and alive and reminding me of shapleigh. safe.

lit a fire, pulled the chair close to it, and here i sit, curled up, the faint hint of my dad on the sweater mixing with soup and fire and incense, a parade of smells, of memories that were, of days that are, and anticipation of what's to be.

here i sit, a glass of red wine warming my blood, cats sprawled on the floor by my feet, billie holiday whispering in the background, i am alone but i don't feel it, there are echoes, haunting but comforting, betty and alex and gracie and the beautiful friends I am blessed with now and my amazing, wonderful family . all of them my jewels. all of them my angels. it is just such a gift, to love and be loved.

let me always be aware of how truly lucky i am.




storm brewin'

The remnants of Hurricane Noel will make a guest appearance today in the Pine Tree State. I'm excited. I am a crazy weather freak. Mother Nature is one passionate Bad Ass and I love it when she gets sassy (my kinda woman, and that's a true story.) And it looks like she's going to do a little dance and make a little love on the East Coast. Love it love it love it.

And I love that it's Hurricane Noel, because it reminds me so much of my sweet angel Alex (see One More For Alex). Back in the good old days, and after 4 or 5 six ounce tumblers of Glenlivet, Alex would bring out his camel hair coat (he would always say this was the famous stolen coat of Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye...GOD I miss that boy!). Then he would put on a Noel Coward record and do THE most amazing and hysterically funny drag-queen-lip-sync-rendition of Mad Dogs and Englishman. It was...fabulous.

You can't appreciate how much talent it requires to pull off such a feat (particularly if you're a little tanked on scotch) unless you've heard the song.

So..in honor of Mother Nature, Hurricane Noel, and My Most Beautiful and Beloved Alex, here's Noel Coward, making history on CBS in 1955. Oh, and you can click here for the lyrics, just in case you can't keep up. :>