13 June 2017

We are still here....

I debated fiercely with myself as to whether or not I should post about the anniversary of the tragedy that occurred a year ago yesterday at Orlando's Pulse nightclub.

But I have to.

Though I'm currently living in the panhandle of Florida, a year ago I was living in Orlando not too far from where the nightclub was located. Not near enough to hear what happened (or even the sirens as emergency personnel arrived on scene), but close enough to say, "Shit."

But more than that, it was my community.

I'm a lesbian, and while I have been lucky to not experience violence in my own life as a result of my sexual identity, when something like this happens anywhere in the world, we all feel it. Our hearts ache. We all cry.

We cry because we know it could have so, so easily have been us in the wrong place at the wrong time. We cry because in a tight-knit community like that, if you didn't lose someone, you know someone who lost someone. We cry because it is senseless violence. We cry because our government tells us we should be past this.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court told me that I am equal. That my marriage is equal.

In June 2016, a gunman told me that things don't change that quickly.

I still cry when I think about what happened. And in the weeks and months immediately following that day, when the entire city, state, nation, world was painted in rainbow pulses and we mourned together, I was reluctant to leave my home. I walked with greater awareness of my surroundings. I worried about what the future might bring for my family.

You can't help but think those things when it's your community.

And yet in these moments of memory and continued grief, I'm acutely aware of my privilege. I am a white, cis female who identifies as lesbian. I'm on the feminine end of the spectrum and can easily pass as straight. I don't raise eyebrows when I go into the women's room in a public place. I don't have to be afraid like so many of my brothers and sisters do.

But I am also aware that we are one community. When any of us is hurting, we are all hurting. It was out of this sense of community that we professed


We are one community. We are one pulse. We are one voice.

So the loudest of us (those with privilege, like me) must use that volume to give voice to those who don't have voices of their own. Or who are not in a position to use their voices. Or who need someone to hold their hands and say

You can pee next to me.

because society isn't quite where it should be yet.

23 May 2017

A Review of Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas

Purchase a copy
I have been taking time and space for self-care when I can lately. It's been hard because work has been busy, but I'm moving into the lull now, so I'll have more time to do what I need to do.

One of the important things I've been doing is giving voice to experiences I've had, accepting some hard truths about those experiences, and moving forward in healing.

That's why I decided to take the advice given to me from multiple people and read Shannon Thomas's Healing from Hidden Abuse.

The book is written by a licensed counselor who specializes in helping people heal from psychological abuse. In addition, she is a survivor herself, giving her perspective that not all therapists do. She speaks with authority not only because of her education and career, but because of her personal experiences, as well.

It's structured well. The book begins by explaining what psychological abuse is (and how it differs from other forms of abuse), common characteristics of psychological abusers, and how to recognize this type of abuse in different parts of your life. The second portion of the book goes through six phases of recovery from psychological abuse, explaining what the phases are and how survivors (survivors, not victims) can incorporate these phases of healing into their own lives regardless of who is abusing them. At the back of the book are workbook/journal/reflection pages that the reader can use to apply what is learned from the book to their own situations.

This book was valuable to me. It gave me a foundation of education on an important topic in my life and is providing me with terminology and education I can use to speak my truth about what has happened to me throughout my life.

Most importantly, the book has shown me that I'm not alone in what I've experienced.

And I'm not crazy.

And I didn't do anything wrong.

And if that had been all I'd gotten from the book, it would have been worth the read. It gave me much more than that. I have more reading to do on this topic as I heal and recover. but this was an excellent start.

15 May 2017

In which I am out to my grandmother....

I've been living out for almost five and a half years.

I came out first to my immediate family, including my ex-husband, which led to our divorce. I came out to my close friends.

But I didn't come out to my grandmother.

Part of the reason for this was a request by my father that I shouldn't have honored. But that was only part of it. I was also afraid to come out to her.

My grandmother and I were once very close. When I was in high school and through part of college, I lived with my dad and my brother; my mom had primary custody of my other brother and my sister. It was a hard period of my life, and I wouldn't have gotten through it without my grandmother's love and support. She was an oasis in the windswept desert of my life. I respect her and her role in my life. I was afraid that if I came out to her, the one person whose opinion I respected more than just about anything in my life would turn her back on me. That I would lose her.

So I didn't tell her.

I didn't see her often when I was living in the same state, and then I moved four states away back to Florida and our relationship faded somewhat. We both kept in touch, but it wasn't like it was before.

And I didn't tell her.

When I started dating Bo, my relationship with my dad became very strained. As that relationship faded, it was easy to not tell Grammy because I didn't see her and didn't really talk to her. By this time, everyone else in the family knew, so I assumed she did, too. And it just was what it was.

My grandmother recently went through cancer. It was bad for a while. She's finished her treatments and is doing better now. I called her before her last surgery, and we reconnected a bit. I've talked to her a couple of times since then, and she's sounded better each time.

The last time I spoke with her, she told me she wanted me to bring the kids to visit. She's only seen them once since I moved back to Florida. And though it may sound a bit dark, I don't know how much longer she'll be around. She needs to see her great-grandchildren. At least once more. And I can't take that trip without my wife. I won't pretend that I'm not remarried or that the kids don't have two moms. I have to live authentically for myself, for my kids, for my wife.

So I wrote my grandmother a letter and came out to her. I told her that I'm married and that I'm happy.

And I waited.

I was sure that if I got any response at all, it would be a heartbreaking letter disowning me, damning me to hell. I was sure I'd lose her.

I didn't.

She sent me a birthday note that said:
You are still my granddaughter and I still love you. I have to trust that you are happy. Don't leave God out of your life.
That in itself was enough for me. She didn't hate me. She didn't disown me. She accepts that, no matter what she thinks or feels about homosexuality, I am happy.

But was was so much more poignant for me was that the envelope was addressed to my married name.

October 2015
Photo by A. Harris Photography
She made the conscious choice to write the married last name of her lesbian granddaughter on the envelope.

She didn't have to. She could have written my previously-married name or my maiden name or have left a last name off entirely. But she didn't. She wrote my name.

She validated my wife's role in my life and validated a marriage she may not believe should even be legal.

I was so afraid of how she would react when I came out to her. And I know that it's likely she isn't a-ok about it. I know it's likely she may never be "okay" about it. It may always be a source of tension between us.

But she accepts it.

And that's enough for me.

12 April 2017

Managing anxiety in the current political climate

The news is scary.

And the more days that pass, the scarier it seems to get.

People in power are making decisions that have serious and long-lasting implications, and they don't seem to realize or care about those implications. Their sights are set elsewhere.

For someone like me who struggles with anxiety, the political climate can be even more scary. There are measures being enacted that have a direct and significant impact on millions of Americans and people all over the world. There are people in this country who are dying because of measures being passed and actions being allowed in this country.

We live in a country that claims vehemently to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but because of how the people in charge are behaving, the people who are brave are not free. The people who are free are not brave. And the people who are benefiting from anything and everything that's happened since January are perfectly willing to turn blind eyes to all the pain and heartache they're causing.

They aren't impacted because they pass measures that protect themselves, not the American people.

So for people who have anxiety -- like me -- it's hard to be a social justice warrior. It's hard to look at everything that's happening and not feel it. But neither can you just ignore what's happening. Once you see social justice issues and what's actually happening in this world, you can't not see it anymore.

So what do you do?

Remember that self-care is health care.

Taking care of your mental health needs are essential. Engaging in today's politics is emotionally and mentally taxing. For someone with anxiety, it can be even more difficult. You have to remember that this fight is a long-term fight, and it won't be over in a few days or weeks (or months). Very probably, we will be fighting for the next four years. If you don't take care of yourself through this process, in whatever capacity that means, you can't resist. You can't engage. You can't fight. Self-care is health care.

Fight from where you are.

Every person has different talents and skills. Some people are organizers, some are marchers/protesters, some are talkers, some are writers. Due to my anxiety, I'm probably not going to organize a march in my community. I probably won't give a speech at a rally. But I can blog and share articles on Facebook and tweet and engage in digital conversations. So to keep my anxiety from keeping me from resisting, I have to do what I do best: engage online. If I try to do something that's outside my talents and skills, I'll be much more likely to be highly anxious, and may not be able to keep fighting. So it's important to fight from where you are so you can keep fighting.

Know that you are not alone in this fight.

Sometimes it can be easy to look at everything that's happening and think it's too much to do. "I'm just one person. What impact can I have?" Of course, there are many, many stories about individuals who fought to change the world and were successful. But you have to remember that even those individual people who have made such significant changes didn't do it entirely alone. They started the process, but they relied on lots of others who also helped them accomplish their goals. An individual may have started the conversation, but others amplified the voice. Others marched alongside the individual. You don't have to do it on your own. All you have to do is what you can do. Let others pick up slack, let others support you, let others help carry the weight. You are not alone.

There's a lot to cause anxiety in society these days. And it can be hard to fight for what's right when you're trying to stand against your own anxiety. Don't let the anxiety win. Take care of yourself so you can keep fighting the good fight.

And I'll be here to fight with you every step of the way.

15 February 2017

Explaining politics to kids

We voted!
(November 2016)
Our kids are homeschooled, and I used Election Day as an opportunity to introduce the kids to American politics.

On Election Day they went with me to the polls and I explained why it's important for people to vote and who is permitted to vote.* Wyatt informed me that even though their dad's dog Suros should be able to vote because he's an American husky, he can't vote because he's not old enough.

One of the volunteers was kind enough to give the kids their own voting stickers, which made them feel involved.

That night, we watched the returns. Wyatt was really excited as results came in. He kept track of where the candidates were and how many points they needed to win. Eventually, he went to bed, but I promised to tell him the next morning who won.

After we left the polls the kids asked me who I voted for, and I told them I voted for Clinton. When Wyatt asked me why, I told him.

I explained that it's important that the president represent the people and make decisions that protect the health and safety of everyone who lives in the United States. That's why people get to vote for president. So that whoever is elected president is elected because that's who most of the people in the country want to lead and represent them.**

But I explained that the reason I didn't vote for Trump is that when he talked about what he wanted to do as president, he wants to do things that will hurt people instead of protecting them. I explained that a lot of people who worked with him on the campaign think that Bo and I shouldn't be married. And I explained that there are a lot of people who want to come to the United States because it's safer for them, but he doesn't want them to be allowed to be here.

To which Wyatt said, "That's silly. America is supposed to let everyone in."

Yes, my dear. That's exactly right.

When I explained to Wyatt and Lilly that Trump won the election, they were disappointed in their don't-quite-understand-it way. They knew I voted for Clinton, so they wanted her to win. And they know that I don't like the outcome. They know I'm worried about what the new administration is going to do.

So I reminded them of the importance of voting. I told them that when they're old enough it's important to vote so their voices are heard, and so they can be sure that whoever is in charge -- at whatever level -- is working to protect people. And I told them that if the people in charge aren't doing their jobs, it's important for them to speak up about it and make changes. That it's their right and duty as Americans to be active in their government.

They get it.

They're five and seven years old.

*I kept it simple: Americans of at least 18 years old.
**Again. Keeping it simple, y'all.

31 January 2017

Check your privilege. Then use it.

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with a friend of mine about politics for her podcast on SpareMin.* Before our talk, Abi told me she didn't really have an agenda for the conversation. She was really leaving it open to anything having to do with politics or my post-election life.

Image source
That's a really broad topic.

As the conversation progressed, we talked about how to make a difference from where you are and what it means to be an ally. And that's what I want to address here today.

There are people I know who claim to be allies in this fight. They share memes on Facebook and make rainbow profile pictures and talk about how they're advocates for LGBTQ rights and want to fight for people like me, for families like mine.

But so much of the time, these people are allies because they want people to see them being allies. They want people to know they're allies. It becomes much less about advocacy and ally-ship, and much more about the appearance of advocacy and ally-ship.

There are people who come from a place of privilege (white cishet folks, for example) who are protesting and talking about protests the way tourists talk about cities. They want others to see them as allies and they want the experience of being known as allies.

That's not what people need.

As a lesbian, I am a minority, and under the Trump administration, my rights are under threat. My safety is under threat. While I once walked down the street with my wife and children worried that I might get side eye, now I fear that someone will physically put their hands on my wife or on me. Or even worse, on the kids. There have been moments since the election that I literally fear for my long-term safety in this country. Because the election of Donald Trump normalized and legitimized hatred and bigotry in this country.

And there are people I know who claim that they understand that fear when they don't. There are people I know who say they know how I feel. That they have experienced the same kind of hatred I have experienced. That they are in fear, as well.

But they aren't.

How can they be?

The vast majority of cishet folks have no idea what it's like to be hated because of who they are and who they love. They have no idea what it's like to be questioned when they say they are attracted to someone. To be asked, "Are you sure?" or "How do you know?" or to be told that your soul will burn for all of eternity because of your genetics. By people who are supposed to love you.

But everything happening in this country lately is changing people, and making them think that because they disagree with this or that policy, they're the same as the people whose lives are in danger because of those policies.

They're tourists. Not allies.

Here's the thing. Unless you actually experience the issue addressed, you can't claim to know what it's like.

You may have similar (but different) experiences. For example, I have experienced hatred because I am gay. This is similar (but very different) from the experiences of people of color who experience hatred because of their ethnicities or skin colors. But because I am white, I cannot know what it means to be a person of color in this country and in this social climate. I can empathize. I can be angry and react. But I can't know.

That's why it is so important for allies to understand how to be allies.

As a white woman, the most important thing I can do to be an ally for others is to share their stories. I have privilege as a white woman that others do not have. And instead of trying to stand on my sexuality as a way to say "I know how you feel," it's so much more important for me to use my privilege to extend their voices. To give them a voice where they do not have one. To share their stories so they are heard.

So often, when I want to be an ally on Facebook or Twitter, the best and most important thing I can do is share articles and tweets and status updates from people who are actually experiencing the issue.

If I want to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, how can I possible speak about race in this country with any kind of credibility or authority? But what I can do is to amplify the voices of people who do have authority and credibility. I can use my privilege as a white woman to give voice to women, men, and children who are overlooked and ignored.

People listen to me because I'm white. So why wouldn't I use that privilege for good?

The same is true for people who want to be LGBTQ allies.

It's not about rainbows on Facebook or sharing memes or going to parades and throwing glitter. Because all that is show. It doesn't change anything in this country, and it doesn't mean you understand what it means to be gay in today's society.

You can't pretend you don't have privilege. So don't. Instead, use it for good. Lift up the voices of others with your volume. Amplify their voices so theirs stories can be heard.

Use the power you are granted because of who you are to share what others need to get the rights they deserve.

Check your privilege.

Then use it.

*For more important conversations on SpareMin, check out Abi's profile.

16 January 2017

Should we be scared?

One of the things that has been concerning to me since the election (really, since the campaign, but before Election Day, there was still hope....) is that I am a gay woman married to a gay woman and we have two children.*

And I live in a very red area of the nation.

Image source
Immediately following the election, there were so, so, so many reports of violence against so many people following the election, and the queer community is among those who have been targeted. Despite Trump's efforts to bridge the gap between his campaign and the queer community with a half-hearted wave of a rainbow flag on a stage, he's not exactly a friend to those who identify as anything other than cis and straight (and white and male, but that's for another post).

And people's overt reactions to the queer community following the election are a pretty damning statement of what it means to live in "Trump's America."

Because here's the thing. It doesn't matter whether Trump does what he said he would do during his campaign (though evidence is mounting that he will). Because the fact that he built his campaign on the promises he did means that he collected a gaggle of like-minded followers who are reveling in the fact that "they won" and are strutting their pride on the streets all over this country.

No matter what happens in the Oval Office or in Congress or in the Supreme Court, the fact remains that there are millions of people who voted for this man because of his campaign. They wanted him to win.

So what does that mean for my family? For me?

I am out. I have been for about five years. My wife is out. I don't shy away from the word "gay" around our kids and we explain that it doesn't matter if you love someone who identifies as male or female or who is androgynous (or any other variation of gender).

But there are people around us who are getting more bold about disagreeing with a "lifestyle" like mine. Or the fact that there are immigrants who live in this country. Or that not everyone is a Christian. Vocally. About taking action (even violently) to protest what they believe to be wrong.

And people are getting hurt.

And the government is not stepping in as it should. In fact, quite the opposite in some cases, like in Ohio.

That makes me afraid. The people who are supposed to be protecting Americans and American residents are taking legislative action to instead discriminate against Americans and, in fact, take actions leading to grave harm.

Did you know that the Affordable Care Act is in the process of being repealed? (My wife and I currently have health insurance through the marketplace, and we both have pre-existing conditions. She is a cancer survivor, and I have fibromyalgia.)

With everything going on in this country in the last couple of months, with all of the hirings and firings, with all of the legislative changes and bold violent acts of hate, I can't help but worry for the safety of my family and myself.

We are on the outside in "Trump's America." We don't fit into the narrow mold he has created for what America looks like.

And I shudder to think what is going to happen in the future as he, his administration, and the people who voted for him begin working toward creating that America.

Trump talked about "draining the swamp."

But what he didn't tell you was that before he did, he'd be populating it with alligators.

So all I can do is protect my family. And I will fight every day from where I am (this blog, social media, among my family and friends) to let anyone and everyone know that

this is not okay.

Trump's words and actions are not okay. The election was not okay. The actions of the American people under Trump's name are not okay. And it is my right and duty as an American citizen to fight for my rights.

I may be scared. But I will never stop.

*Puck and Tink are from my first marriage (to a man), but Bo and I raise the kids when we have timesharing (Florida's term for visitation) with them, and she is their mom as much as I am.

05 January 2017

This is only the beginning.

I am fearful this month.

There's a big part of me that's excited about a new year, seeing 2017 as a fresh start and the next step on my path to achieving my goals and dreams. I'm making big, positive changes in my life to get healthier and to be able to do what I really want to do.* We're four days in, and I've made good choices, I've held myself accountable, and I'm more motivated than I've ever been to do what I need to for myself and for my family.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
And then I look at my Facebook feed, and I see the appointments Trump is making and the legislation being passed and repealed in various states. (Of course, legislation isn't happening only at the state level.)

And I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because here's the thing.

We (meaning Americans and others) have been fighting for a long time to try and achieve equality. For white cishet** men, the fight began in the 1700s and was achieved by....1776? Everyone else is still fighting.

Let's think about that for a minute.

For hundreds of years (and longer), anyone who is not a white, cishet man has struggled and fought and been beaten down and continued to fight for the meager measures of equality that have been granted. Paltry concessions.

And those successes have come with white cishet men as allies in the government and in the streets.

In the aftermath of the election, there are scores of people who have been emboldened to act on their hatred, bigotry, and ignorance.*** The people who want legislation to work backwards are no longer held at bay by a measured hand in the government and the expectation of politeness. The president-elect has changed all that.

I've heard people say that we should wait and see what the incoming president does. (Even if that were a valid point, I think he has already shown who he really is.) That doesn't matter. Because the fact that he got elected on the platform he ran means that there are people who agree with that thinking. They voted for him because they wanted a president who believed those things and would act on them.

They wanted a president who is blatantly and violently against women.

They wanted a president who doesn't care about the health and safety of minorities.

They wanted a president who would mirror actions by a man who rose to power and led directly to the death of millions of innocent people. (You know who I'm talking about.)

That means that all of the people who think that way and want those things believe that the election of this president is a blank check to do whatever they want to whomever they want because, after all, the president-elect has their backs.

That's where we are.

So it doesn't matter if the president-elect keeps his campaign promises or not. Because he has told the American people that it's okay to behave the way he does. And even now, when he has been elected and must have some idea of what is expected of him, he continues to say and do things that undermine all the work the government leaders before him and the American people have accomplished.

He won't do what he should do in order to show that he's serious about this role that he's taken on.

He doesn't care.

This is a game to him. Because he's bored. It's something to do instead of Celebrity Apprentice.

This man is literally holding people's lives in his hands and is more concerned with the way he's portrayed on SNL than what the American people need in order to feel safe.

Inauguration Day is January 20, 2017. But just because that man is sworn in on that day does not mean we have lost.

January 20, 2017 is only the beginning.

It is our right as Americans to stand against what is happening right now.
[...W]henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
We are not safe.

We are not happy.

We will not stand by and allow it to continue.

And I will fight every day. In every way I can.

I will stand on the right side of history. I will fight. I will not give up. It's not over.

It's never over.

*I really want to be a full-time fiction writer.

**cis (born and identify as male) het(erosexual)

***When I say ignorance, I am referring to a lack of education and unwillingness to learn rather than as an insult.

19 December 2016

Prioritizing fiction in 2017

I spent a lot of time on my WIP in 2016, and I made good progress.

But it was also a chaotic year full of obstacles and schedule changes and lots of medical appointments for Tink and Puck. So there were many times that my fiction writing was pushed back and de-prioritized.

In 2017, I am going to continue to make time to write fiction. And, more importantly, I'm going to prioritize my fiction more than I did in 2016.

I've read a lot of articles and listened to TED Talks and podcasts about time management and achieving goals. And one point that comes up again and again is that achieving your goals is not about rearranging your life or quitting your job (though sometimes it is about that). It's about prioritizing your life so that the things you want to accomplish are at the top of your list.

When it comes down to it, we make time for the things we have to make time for. You may think you don't have an extra few hours in your schedule this week, but what a pipe burst in your home? What if your child were ill?

We make time for the things we have to make time for.

So if you prioritize fiction-writing or writing music or starting your business, you'll have the time you need to make it happen.

Yes, that means that things that are less of a priority may have to fall away. But it comes down to priorities. Is it more important to write another chapter in your book or watch the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars?

You only have so many hours in the day. So you have to decide what you do with those hours. I'm going to write fiction with them. (And some other stuff, of course.)

What are you going to do in 2017?

What are you going to do today?

10 October 2016

I'm out for those who can't be

I haven't been blogging lately (obviously). I haven't been doing much of anything.

The end of September and beginning of October was difficult for me. Because depression lies. Even though I had an editorial calendar to help prompt me to blog when I didn't want to, I just couldn't get myself in front of the computer. Because depression lies.

But I'm coming out of a dark personal storm, which coincides with coming out on the other side of Hurricane Matthew* and on National Coming Out Day.

Oh, yeah. And we're moving at the end of the month. So that's fun.

I try to write about National Coming Out Day each year for a lot of reasons. Yes, I've been out for a while, but it's important for me to keeping coming out because there are a lot of people who can't. They might lose their jobs. Or their homes. Or their lives.

This blog is a safe space.
Yes, our nation has marriage equality. Yes, there have been improvements in anti-discrimination and efforts to improve equality for queer** folks.

But it is still dangerous to be queer in a lot of places. And even in places you'd think it would be safe, like Orlando, being queer can be dangerous.

It doesn't surprise me that there are people who are fearful of being out. Truly.

Because they can't, I will. I will be out and an advocate. I will be vocal about fighting for equality and protection for others (including myself). I will give voice to the voiceless and let them know that there are people fighting their corner, even when they can't.

I'm an out lesbian.

Happy National Coming Out Day.

*We live in central Florida, so we did get hit with some of the weather; we were safe and didn't have any damage.
**My use of the term "queer" is intended to encompass all LGBTQIA orientations.