Category Archives: Gay & Lesbian

Leaving the center empty for God

 

downloadI’m still reading Maggie Nelson’s memoir The Argonauts. This story about Nelson’s relationship with her “fluidly gendered partner” Harry takes a look at the hot button topics of sexuality, gender and what it means to be a family.

It’s been taking me longer than usual to get through this slim book of less than 150 pages. It’s a heavy read, packed with thoughts and insights that seem best suited for slow, meditative pondering.

In the pages I read last night, Nelson writes about a lecture she attended given by poet and professor Anne Carson in which Carson spoke about the concept of leaving a space empty so God can rush in.

imagesNelson said she had heard about this concept from a boyfriend who was into bonsai. In bonsai, people often plant a tree off-center in the pot to allow space for the divine.

“But that night Carson made the concept literary,” Nelson writes. “I went home fastened to the concept of leaving the center empty for God. It was like stumbling into a tarot reading or AA meeting and hearing the one thing that will keep you going, in heart or art, for years.”

That’s what I’m thinking about these days. Leaving the center empty for God in my writing and in my life.

The Argonauts is a terrific read. Dense and intense but worth the effort.

P.S. I’ve been sleeping better.

I find that when I’m focused on social media and the news, I have a bad day,” I told W yesterday at dinner.

“And when I stay away from social media and the news, I have a better day,” I told her.

“Then stay away from social media and the news,” she said like a Sapphic sage.

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Night, night, you big butch.

That’s been helping, plus W has been rubbing my face with lavender butter before bedtime. She rubs the thick cream on her hands and then smooths it on my forehead, my temples, the back of my neck and a little under my nose.

It smooths over the jagged edges of the day. I have been sleeping like a baby these days.

Plus, it makes me feel like I’m being taken care of, which is a nice feeling right before bed.

We just ordered a new batch of butter. Check out Renaissance Lavender on etsy if you are in need of a magic sleeping potion.

Compassion dammit

I can’t sleep at night. I’m up worrying about what’s happening in my country. I keep reading tweets in my feed until there are no more new ones. Then I refresh the top news stories. I switch back and forth between Twitter and the news until there is nothing new to see and it’s as safe as it’s going to be to go to sleep.

I had my writer’s group today and we wrote to the prompt of “hope.”

“I hope the world doesn’t end tonight when I close my eyes and pull up the covers,” I wrote.

Everyone laughed a big, loud nervous laugh as if to say, ha! isn’t that funny because I’m waiting for the world to end, too. Like minds and all.

I’ve been trying to work on a bunch of stories. I start them but am having trouble finishing. I’m having trouble focusing.

These things come easier: stressing, blaming, feeling angry.

I try to remember that everything can be boiled down to two things–love and fear.

And if someone is acting out of fear, we should treat that person with compassion. Even though I want to throw a bucket of fire ants on them. Or make them watch Ishtar ten times in a row.

But I’m not there yet. I’m back at hey, get on your knees and apologize for what you’ve done. And, we told you so (while blowing a big, fat raspberry).

Right now, I need to unplug for longer periods of time. And be kind to myself so that I can be kind to others. Don’t forget to strap the kindness mask to yourself before assisting others. It’s a saying, people.

I wore my new Superman socks today and they gave me the courage to get through the day.

I treated myself to a pizza for dinner, but the cats knocked it on the floor before I could finish it. Because they are assholes and obviously part of whatever alt-right, fascist conspiracy is going on right now.

I had lunch with my writer friends.

There were donuts at writing group today.

Tomorrow is a new day. I have more Superman socks (it was a three-pack). After Thursday, all bets are off.

What I’m trying to say is that you’re not the only one feeling nervous or anxious or stressed.

Don some superhero gear, drink your favorite beverage, order takeout (unless you have asshole cats). Get together with friends. Read a good book at night. Howl at the moon. Take hot showers until your skin turns pink. Whatever you’ve got to do to get you through. Beer, too. And flannel sheets and dirty haikus.

And then compassion, folks. So much compassion you need extra napkins.

Until then, I’ll be here on my ipad typing more words.

No apologies

img_0962Tired of feeling unworthy

I ate an entire carton of blackberries

$3.99 a pop

In the middle of today

With no apologies

To you

Or anyone

Not even the President

 

I didn’t care that the fruit stained my fingertips purple

Marking me like a thief

As I plucked each piece from the plastic box and

Plopped it in my mouth

* * *

What are you unapologetic for today? 

A funny thing happened on the way to the march

W and I drove to Baltimore today. We are staying in Baltimore tonight and leaving for Washington, D.C., super early.

After we walked around the city for a bit, we went out to dinner at a nice Italian place.

The waiter spotted the safety pin on W’s shirt and started up a conversation.

W tells him we are going to the march tomorrow.

Before we know it, he is telling us about his partner of 25 years and how today’s inauguration has left him heartbroken.

“Us, too,” we say.

As he waits on us, he occasionally sits down and asks us questions and shares bits of his life with us.

“Tell him your analogy,” W says.

“She works with cancer patients,” I say. “Donald Trump becoming President reminds me of these stories she tells about people having these weird accidents and breaking an arm or a leg. When they get a scan, the doctors find a tumor. The broken arm or leg ends up being a blessing in disguise because it’s revealed the cancer. It’s brought all of the problems to the surface so they can be cured.”

“That’s one way of seeing the good in things,” he says.

“If it wasn’t for all of the bad stuff going on, we wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” W says.

The three of us nod our heads.

As the waiter brings us our meals, he slips us an extra carafe of Chianti and then another.

My wine glass is full as I eat my eggplant parmesan. And as I wipe up every last bit of sauce with bread.

“Maybe all of this Trump stuff isn’t so bad after all,” I say to W as I drink my wine.

“Maybe Trump was right,” I add. “It’s day one and he’s already made America great.”

I salute her with my glass of wine. My full glass of free wine. Free wine scores huge points in my world. Bigly huge.

“I wonder if we’ll have free wine every night for the next four years?” I ponder out loud.

At this point, I am pretty buzzed.

And then the wine is gone.

And we pay our bill.

The waiter hands us a brown paper bag containing a hunk of tiramisu and a cannoli. Free Italian desserts. As if the night couldn’t get any better.

We say our goodbyes. W hugs the waiter because she’s a hugger and gives him her safety pin. I wave like the queen of some foreign country because I am weird and aloof.

And as we walk out of the restaurant, I think that we’ll be okay. No, I know in my heart that we’ll be okay.

We aren’t alone. We have each other. 

And now we have a reason to reach out to each other, talk to each other, comfort each other.

Plus, free wine and dessert.

What to bring to a march

A pocket-sized notebook and pen to chronicle the day’s events.

Dr. Martens

These boots are made for marching.

My brown Dr. Martens eight-eyelet lace-up boots. Sneakers would be a bit more comfortable, but years from now I want to be able to point to my feet and say “these are the boots I wore to the march.”

Soft, warm socks.

My outside voice.

My wife. “Remember when,” we’ll say all those years from now when we are slower but wiser and counting our shared adventures on our crooked fingers and toes.

One clenched fist to raise in the air.

Men's underwear

Protest (under)pants

Clean underwear. Aren’t we always supposed to be wearing clean underwear when risk is involved? Just in case. Because what if and what would your mother say? But I wear men’s boxer briefs, which will only embarrass her. I’ll wear clean underwear anyway! Because hygiene. And as a symbol of my individuality! Statement underwear! Protest underwear! No one can make me wear women’s panties! Underwear knows no gender! Power to the boxer brief, people.

Jeans.

A T-shirt emblazoned with an appropriate message.

Cash.

An endless supply of head nods for the other butches in attendance.

iPhone to take pictures.

A copy of my big butch memoir in case I run into Leia Delaria, the world’s most famous butch.

Wonder Woman

Thanks to Wonder Women everywhere!

Thoughts of those whose deeds and words and music have gotten me to where I stand tall and proud today … Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Wonder Woman, Anne Lamott, Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, Ivan Coyote …

Anger, frustration.

Hope.

Possibility.

Pride.

* * *

Did I forget anything? What are you bringing?

March on

x5tli34r_400x400W and I are making plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington next Saturday.

On Friday, we are driving from Philadelphia to Baltimore and staying overnight.

We will be heading to D.C. early Saturday morning.

We are coordinating with friends and looking into parking and keeping an eye on the weather.

A few weeks ago when I mentioned the march to some friends, they told me to be careful. “There will be protesters,” someone cautioned in a heavy, serious voice. It was as if they were telling me about something I hadn’t considered like the Beltway getting backed up as early as 3:00.

It was at that moment that I realized that most people have not had to deal with a someone shouting into a megaphone and waiving a sign in their faces and telling them they are going to hell.

Note: If you are gay, this is something that happens to you on a regular basis when you gather with other gay people. Even in 2017.

“I’m a lesbian,” I said. “I’m used to it.”

* * *

Are you going to the Women’s March on Washington? Have you ever been to a march? Have you ever experienced protesters?

 

Book launch!

leavingnormalNew year.

New book.

New look. (Seriously, how cool is that cover?)

Today’s the big day, folks. The second edition of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender has launched with my new publisher, Regal Crest.

The book has added content. Count ’em, nine new chapters.

And while I’m bragging, the first edition was a Golden Crown Literary Society award finalist in the category of creative nonfiction.

A big thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way by liking my posts and reminding me that I have a voice and that my words are important. You guys have always made me feel like a big butch rock star.

If you bought a copy of Leaving Normal last time around, thanks! Consider picking up a second copy for the added content or donating to your local high school or LGBT group.

A bunch of you have been patiently waiting for the second edition. You can order a print copy or e-book through most online book vendors. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon and Bella Books.

If you’d like a signed copy and maybe some free butch swag, you can send $16.00 via PayPal to rae.r.theodore@gmail.com. The book costs $12.95, plus $3 for shipping.

Also, reviews are so important. They help with visibility on sites like Amazon. If you’ve read the book, please consider writing a short, honest review. It will only take you a minute or two and this butch will be very grateful.

What to buy a butch

W is easy peasy to buy for. She likes things that sparkle (silver jewelry), things that smell good (handmade soaps) and things that taste good (salted caramel chocolates and Cheerwine cherry soda). Plus, purple things and pretty things and spiritual things and soft things. Also, scarves and bags and really good socks. See what I mean?

She thinks I’m hard to buy for. I tell her that I’m not. Butches are easy. Hey, not like that. But you know what I mean. If you’re struggling to find something to buy your masculine-of-center girl for the holidays, read this handy-dandy list:

Handy-dandy list

imagesCheck out the wristbands and cuffs at Lucky Dog Leather. W bought me wide black and brown leather cuffs on one of our first Christmases together. I loved them. I still do. They are cool and stylish and need I say very, very butch.

Is your girl a sporty butch? Get her tickets to a game. Or a jersey or other team gear. We can never have too much. I tend to like the old-timey vintage stuff. Make sure you know her favorite teams and players.

downloadIf she’s a reader, get her a copy of Ivan Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide. If you want to see a butch cry, watch her read this book. Really, any of Coyote’s books are great, but this is their latest. And do I dare say best?

I have to give a shout out to My Booket List, which was created by a friend of mine. Your book loving butch can record all of those books she wants to read in this cool little journal.

If she’s a writer, try a Moleskine notebook and a silver astronaut pen (you can pick up both at Staples). I’ve always got these hiding out in my pockets. Just in case.

If she’s into comics, there’s tons of cool Wonder Woman stuff out this year. Pick her up a copy of Jill Lepore’s Wonder Woman, which details the history of the Amazonian Princess. Wonder Woman’s story follows the rise of feminism in this country. It’s a fascinating read.

Beer her. If she’s a beer fan or fanatic, pick out some new craft brews for her to try. The staff at most beer shops are knowledgeable and can steer you in the right direction. Create a custom six-pack just for her. Nothing says I love you like beer.

download-1Buy her a new necktie or bowtie. One that matches her eyes or your new dress. One in her favorite color. One that you think she’d look particularly handsome in. We love it when our ladies buy us ties. It makes us feel special and sexy.

Make it personal. There are tons of sites that let you create personal merchandise. Think mugs and tees and hats. How about a T-shirt that says “World’s Best Butch” or a mug that just says HANDSOME? I’ve had good luck with Zazzle and Shutterfly.

Make her something. We like it when you use your hands. Get crafty and make her a Sharpie mug (look for instructions on the Internet) or knit her a scarf. Bake her favorite cake or pie or whip up a batch of your famous tomato sauce.

download-2Socks. A good pair makes us feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, too. You can buy those butch socks here.

How about a fun pair of fleece PJ pants? Find a design that matches her passion. Star Wars, Harry Potter, beer, football … You name it, they make it. Or a fleece blanket.

Flannel. Need I say more?

Oh, and you. You know that’s all she really wants, right?

* * *

What do you like to gift your butch? If you’re a butch, what do you like to get?

 

Boots

img_0139I buy my first pair of Dr. Marten’s before I come out. Before I know I’m a lesbian.

I buy them at a teen-oriented store in the mall that I’m too old to be shopping at.

Brown boots. Seven eyelet lace-ups. With the yellow stitching at the bottom, circling like the moons of Jupiter.

In many ways, my coming out is fluid. A smooth continuation of who I am. An ocean wave that sweeps over me and keeps going.

After I come out, the boots seem to have purpose. I stand taller in them. I stomp harder in them, the AirWair rubber soles bouncing off the pavement like basketballs.

I wear them on dates.

I wear them to piss my mother off.

I wear them when I’m angry.

I wear them when I’m not.

I wear them as a calling card. Rae Theodore, Lesbian, they say with each step.

Friends of mine are planning on attending the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration. It’s not a protest against Trump or the election results but a march to shed light on women’s issues, including sexual assault and workplace discrimination. You can read more about it here.

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I ask W if she wants to go.

“You want to change the world with me?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say.

I look at the route of the march. Two miles from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House.

I need to break in my boots before January.

* * *

Do you have something you wear that makes you feel powerful?

Politics and parents

My parents came by yesterday to pick up my son for a few hours.

They were supposed to be at the house at 4:00.

I was downstairs working in my pjs. I hadn’t bothered to shower. Because what was the point after Tuesday night.

A few minutes before 4:00, I had planned on going upstairs. Hiding in my bedroom.

“Tell your grandparents I have a headache,” I was going to have my son tell them.

I should mention they are Republicans. I assume they voted for Donald Trump.

I didn’t want to see them gloat. I didn’t want to talk about the election.

A few minutes after 3:00, I heard a knock on the door and then my mother’s voice.

Shit.

My mom and dad came into the house. Sat down in the living room while they waited for my son.

We made small talk. We are experts at small talk. The smaller the better. We have advanced degrees in small talk. Olympic medals in small talk. My middle name is Small Talk. We talked about watch batteries and apple crisp. I told you we have the small talk thing down.

“How late did you stay up last night?” my mother asked, dipping a toe into that territory.

I said my community is heart broken over the election results.

“I’m sure they are,” my mother said.

Her response seemed genuine.

I said I’m afraid of losing the civil rights  my community has worked so hard to obtain over the past few years.

imagesQ8TUA5UX.jpg“That won’t happen,” my father said in that fatherly Ward Cleaver way. In that serious voice with that serious tone. That voice that said there is no monster under the bed. That voice that explained that the noise coming from outside isn’t a bad guy but something blowing in the wind.

For the record, my parents weren’t smug. They didn’t gloat.

But right now, I can’t separate politics from what I’m feeling inside.

As I sit here and write this, there are tears in my eyes. (I know, I know, no one wants to see a butch cry.) I feel an emptiness in my chest. There’s a gaping hole inside me.

It’s that feeling of not being good enough.

imageshchwj0s6It’s that black sheep feeling.

Feeling like a second-class citizen.

Unimportant.

Flawed.

Wrong.

Bad.

I remind myself that I’m almost 50 years old. Grow up already. But I’m forever searching for that pat on the head. These two words: “good girl.”

I don’t think that hole inside will ever go away. It’s been almost half a century.

imagesZBKZUV9O.jpgSometimes I don’t notice it. I fill it with other things like friends or work or my writing until it is stuffed full like a Hefty Flex bag.

But when I am still and quiet, I can feel the hollowness. The void. And I wait for my body to collapse around that empty space.

It never has. I am stronger than that. Made of steel and wire. Cinder blocks and rebar.

I wish I didn’t have to be.