Saturday, February 12, 2011

Glee and it's message on Bullying

Don't read this post if you are a few episodes behind on Glee because there are massive spoilers.

There, you have been warned...if this post ruins the plot for you because you haven't seen the episodes yet, that is your own fault.

The recent story arc on Glee has dealt heavily with gay-bashing in schools, a timely topic and one that, frankly, we were all expecting given the recent number of suicides in the gay community. Glee writers are not above using their show as a pulpit and I honestly don't have a problem with that, especially when they are using that pulpit to teach that bullying is wrong...something the show has kind of been lax on sense the beginning.

I mean, think about it, the members of New Directions are verbally and physically abused, slushies are thrown in their faces and never does one teacher or the principal try to stop it. It's treated as if it's just part of high school life and Glee members should expect it, since they are at the bottom of the heap.
That should not be how the show treats the topic and it makes it look like bullying of unpopular kids should simply be a matter of course and that teachers should not reprimand students who do it. Glee club members regularly have clothing ruined and have to wash slushy out of their hair and eyes and has even one member of the football or hockey team been given a detention in one and a half seasons of the show?

That's why this story arc was needed, but maybe too little too late in several ways.

I recently had an argument with my mother about whether or not gay teens should have "special" counseling services, like the Trevor Project, available for them or not. She thinks not because it makes their problems seem more important than the issues of other bullied kids. I disagree, I vehemently disagree and I believe that gay teens DO need different and specialized counseling because they are dealing with a specialized problem...I think the number of kids committing suicide because of homophobia speaks to that. How many kids have committed suicide because they were called "four-eyes" after all?

Of course, while considering this argument and the recent story arc I found an article online asking if Glee had 'missed the point' in their episode and not in the way I thought they missed the point.

The author of the article wasn't wondering why they hadn't dealt more with typical day to day bullying in the show...he was wondering why they had let the homophobic football jock Karofsky off so easily...

First of all, I don't think this arc is anywhere close to over and I don't think they let him off easily.

For those of you that have forgotten, Karofsky is the jock that slammed Kurt into lockers and threatened to kill him if he told anyone that Karofsky kissed him in the locker room. Karofsky is the typical jock closet case, confused by his feelings toward the same sex he chooses to gay bash and use vitriolic anger to hide what he is really feeling.

Kurt was so afraid for his life that he left New Directions behind and transferred to a private school, Dalton Academy, but if you are caught up on the episodes you know that already.

Karofsky, while he wasn't punished nearly enough by the school board (and really, what were we expecting, the show is set in a small Ohio town), but he has been expelled for a short time and there has been various amounts of shouting and threats made by the members of New Directions toward him.
Letting him off easy? What, would they have preferred Karofsky was beaten to a bloody pulp for what he did? That would make New Directions no better than he is.

In the Superbowl episode the football team was forced to become part of the Glee club so that they could learn to work together. It was successful in that the football team and Glee club put on an amazing mash up of Thriller and Heads Will Roll (by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). It will be a favorite of mine for this season. Also the football team won the Championship. Mr. Schuester, the Glee director, told Karofsky that he was really very good at Glee and if her put his energy into that instead of bullying he could be great and Finn told Karofsky that if he wanted to join the Glee club he would have to apologize to Kurt.
Karofsky basically told Finn to shove his invitation to join Glee club where the sun don't shine and he's back to being the angry bully.

I didn't see them letting Karofsky off the hook too easily, I saw Glee club (or at least a couple of them) reaching out to a troubled kid who needs to be a part of a group that will understand him and show him respect. He needs friends who will support him and not turn on him for being who he is.

I don't think that Karofsky being closeted makes his bullying justified, but what the author of that article fails to realize is that it does give a solution to how to stop him from bullying and it shows that we have to be willing to forgive people that have done terrible things to us, because sometimes being the bigger person can save more than just yourself.

In conclusion, I feel this story arc has been good and has been enlightening for many people watching it (clearly not all though...), but I think Glee in general is treating gay-bashing as something to speak out against...while they are treating slushies to the face and name-calling as comedic relief.

Glee...you still have some work to do, but I commend you for trying.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It Gets Better

For weeks now I've planned to make a video for the It Gets Better project, but there is a reason I'm a writer and not an actor and that reason is I suck on camera. I really really do. It's even worse than my semester long foray into debate club, which I might mention ended about the time I puked after my first real debate in competition.* My attempts at videos have all been filled with a ridiculous number of "hmm" "Ah" and "umm"s and I couldn't do that to all of you, I just couldn't.

Besides, who is going to believe "it gets better" coming out of the mouth of some girl stuttering nervously like she's being made to record the video at gun-point...I certainly wouldn't.

So instead I'll tell you my story the way I tell stories best, through writing. Maybe one day I'll record a video for you guys, but for now...text is all you are getting. I'm far more confident that way.

I already wrote about coming out in an earlier post and I wrote about how I realized I was gay. I don't want this blog to turn into a page about me and my life, but I think it's important for my readers to know where I am coming from and I don't know if that will make me more or less credible as a writer, but I'm willing to bet you will respect me more when you know my background.

I grew up in Arkansas where my family transitioned from being Methodists to being Baptists when I was 8 or so. I know...I went from a fairly liberal type of church as a kid and into a conservative 'fire and brimstone' setting before I came out, even to myself, bad timing right?
We flipped and flopped from one church to another until we finally settled at Immanuel Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The time period around my realization of my sexuality is a little fuzzy for me, so I can't remember if we were at that church or if we had transitioned to First Baptist (in the same town) when I realized, but I feel fairly certain that we had already moved. I had already lost my faith, due in large part to the growing insanity of the church politics around me. My father was a deacon, my mother was on the pastor search committee when the church sought for a new pastor at one point. Let's just say that I was not impressed with the church politics, nor was I impressed with the pastor they found.

But that has little to do with the story I want to tell. (Wow, I feel like Arlo Guthrie spending 5 minutes discussing going to jail before talking about Alice and her restaurant now.)**

The point I'm trying to make is that my family, and the town and people around me, were very conservative. I lived in the buckle of the Bible belt. The place that has a church on every corner (and a liquor store right next to it.)

I've said before that I was never particularly ashamed of being gay. I didn't jump around shouting it and I didn't come out to parents until I was 20, but my friends knew and a very few teachers. My art teacher in 9th grade, Mr. Waack, my English teacher in 9th grade, Mrs. Bonar, probably my German teacher in 10th grade, Frau Herr (I think that's right and yes, we joked about her name all the time), they knew because I trusted them and I needed to have someone on my side on occasion.

I came out exactly midway through 9th grade, just as I was transitioning back into public school after a year and a half of home schooling and things were not so bad at that time. I had friends, a couple of whom were gay or bi-sexual and the rest were very accepting and supporting. I remember being called a dyke sometime in 9th grade and one of my female friends kneed the guy in the groin. In 10th grade there were more gay girls and guys, especially sense I hung out with the theater crowd a lot.*** Ironic, since I can't act right? We had a lot of fun challenging the status quo and we tried to get a gay-straight alliance started at our school, but I don't think it was very successful. I sat on girl's laps at lunch and got reprimanded for not being more "lady-like" when we played tag at lunch or wrestled in the courtyard before school.

Things didn't get bad really until half-way through 10th grade**** when my parents moved our family to Alma, Arkansas and I switched to high school in the middle of redneck-ville. *cue banjos*

Okay, it wasn't that bad, but it was a small town with all the small town, Bible belt mentalities that entailed. I wasn't too worried though, I had never been the most popular kid, but I never had trouble making a few good friends and I figured "hey, even without friends at this new school I have all my old friends, things will be fine."

I was wrong, wrong, wrong...so many types of wrong.

See, I was naive. I had gotten away with being open with my friends about my sexuality and I forgot that the people who were my new "friends" at Alma weren't as loyal as my other friends. And my old friends kind of...forgot about me. I've forgiven them since then for that, but it hurt at the time.

I can't remember the exact date, but it was less than 2 weeks after I started going to the school that we had a field trip to University of Arkansas: Fort Smith to talk about college planning. After the trip we were taken back to Alma and told to wait in the cafeteria until the bell rang and we could go back to class. We all sat around and talked, but I was the new kids...no one to talk to. A girl who had chatted with me on the tour came and sat down and we started talking. We had a lot in common and I thought I was making a friend, didn't realize I was talking to biggest loudmouth and gossip at the school who was just looking for new fodder for the rumor mill.

In fairly short order she made me feel comfortable and I spilled a lot of secrets. Told her I was agnostic, told her I was bi-sexual, basically told her everything I wanted to keep secret...all because she said our conversation was "just between friends" and I thought I could believe her.

I know that was a Friday, because when I came to school on Monday...everything had changed.

It wasn't violent, I wasn't slammed into lockers or beat up behind the gym. Girls are mostly exempt from that, regardless of sexual orientation I think. If a guy hit a girl he would be in serious shit, even if she was an "abomination" and girls have a far more insidious way of tormenting other girls.

I was an outcast and I was verbally abused. I was called a dyke, told I was going to hell and accosted in class. My grades went down and teachers refused to notice how I was treated or intervene as they should have. A couple of people were still nice to me, my AP history teacher for one, who knew I was smart and that was all she cared about. There was a girl in my math class who was an extremely closeted wiccan and bi-sexual who was nice to me, but not enough to draw attention to our friendship. I didn't have friends, I had people that tolerated conversations with me in class. I had been eating lunch with a group of girls who now made a point of bringing Bibles to lunch and praying and asking me to go to church...so I stopped eating lunch. I would grab a granola bar and hide in the library for lunch.

I was having a particularly hard time one day when I discovered cutting. It gave me power over my life in some small way and I thought that was the only way to get it. I stopped eating almost entirely at lunch and would, instead, disappear into the bathroom and cut at lunch. Covering the bandages with a shirt cuff or watch band when the bell rang I would go to class and no one ever seemed to notice. Once my friend in math class asked about the bandage I had on and I told her my cat scratched me, I could tell she knew I was lying, but she never asked again and oh how I wish she had.

For months it was like that and at some point I lost all hope of anything ever getting better. I just knew it couldn't and I knew I COULD NOT go through 2 more years at that school.

My mother was late to pick me up from school one day, the day we had family portraits scheduled and I had a full and total breakdown in the parking lot across from the school. I curled up against a tree and cried for over an hour. I fully believed that my family didn't want me and they had decided to get the family portrait without me. It was a ridiculous idea and I know that now, but at that point in my life with all this depression weighing me down and a stressful job as well...I was just tired. My mom did show up eventually, I don't remember why she was late, but we made it to our portrait appointment even after taking me home to change and wash my face. I have a copy of the photo and my eyes are still red in it...

At that point I was just...done.

And I know this is supposed to be about it getting better, but you have to see the bottom before things can start looking up.

I remember there was a day when I wasn't working and wasn't in school, but I had the house to myself, I can't remember for the life of me why, but I was at the end of the rope. That is what I remember most clearly about that day. I also remember that I sat down in my bathroom and swallowed half a bottle of pain killers and just hoped it would end.

I can't explain why, but my stomach was smarter than I was. I ended up puking for about half an hour, purging myself of the thing that could have killed me. I crawled into my bed and ended up not going to work or school the next day because my mother thought I had a stomach virus and I let her believe it.

I knew I couldn't do that again and I was depressed still, but I'm a stubborn bitch when I want to be and I wanted to prove that I was better than all those ass-holes at my school so I was going to fucking survive!

It wasn't too many months later that my mother said that our family was moving to Arizona. There were not enough jobs in Arkansas and our family was broke as hell. So we packed up and moved that summer and I switched schools.

And it did get better, even though I thought it couldn't.

I mean, I'm bi-polar and depressed so I've had bad times, but never as bad as when I lived in Alma or even Fort Smith.

But I have great friends, friends who accepted my sexuality as a matter of course and two schools (junior year and then senior year where different schools) where I was fairly open about liking girls and I don't think anyone ever judged me for it even once. It was a very weird feeling for me.

(I might mention that my principal in 12th grade was bat-shit insane and made racist and homophobic comments at the drop of a hat, as well as being an affront to grammar, literature, history and word usage even on the best of days. We mostly just made fun of him behind his back though and that made it okay since I and my friends, and a couple of teachers, banded together so none of us were too stressed by the PHP*****)

Not only did I have that, but there was just this feeling of freedom when I moved. I mean, I didn't exactly have a thriving dating life, but I felt like I could because I wouldn't afraid of being beaten up by some homophobe in a dark alley-way because they saw me kiss my girlfriend.

And now...now I have a job, I'm trying to publish a book (with about the amount of success you would expect) and I have a great apartment in a great part of town. I'm independent, I'm out to my parents (who are just ignoring it, but not angry or anything) and things are looking up!

Just keep this in mind, I would have lost a lot if I hadn't thrown up those pills. I would have lost the chance to prove people wrong, to prove to them that there is NOTHING wrong with being gay, prove that I'm a good person, prove that I can be successful and to prove that I can fall in love.

Don't give them a chance to be right. Them being the ubiquitous 'them' that tell us we are wrong, we are going to hell, we aren't capable of real love. You die and you let them win and that's one thing that you just can't do. You have to fight because that's what it takes to survive, but remember...you are not alone. I've been where you are and, one day, you'll be where I am...or where Neil Patrick Harris is or Anthony Rapp or any of the countless gay and lesbian actors, writers, singers, and politicians are.

And even if you only get to where I am, a writer with no name and a very unfrequented blog...well you'll be fabulous then too, because you won and it doesn't matter if you are famous or skilled at anything, because you will find love and that makes everything better.

Hope is alive and it never dies, even if it hibernates for a while sometimes.

*Admittedly I was also competing regardless of the fact that I clearly had to flu, but still...puking, not good.
**Okay, if no one gets that joke I'll feel old on top of rambling.
***Look, I know I'm enforcing a stereotype, but most gay people in Arkansas are a walking stereotype okay? At least I never got into the habit of dressing like a lumberjack or cutting my hair like a boy.
****Might point out that I lost my best friend in 10th grade as well. I was going through a lot and she was freakin' insane and I couldn't deal with her shit as well as mine, but losing her was hard as hell for me. We had been together since kindergarten.
*****PHP = Pointy Haired Principal...y'know like the boss in Dilbert? Tell me you got that one.

Barbara Bush supports gay marriage...this is becoming a trend.

George W. Bush's daughter has come out in support of gay marriage, with this comes the realization that this issue is not so much an issue of what party you support, but what generation you are from. You have no idea how good that makes me feel. Perhaps people will start to realize that I am not, in fact, shooting myself in the foot when it comes to my rights just because I don't vote a straight democratic ticket.

Laura Bush supports it as well which is just another shocker to me. That doesn't even have to do with her generation.

Cindy McCain and her daughter Meghan are in a similar mother-daughter support of gay marriage in direct opposition of John McCain's views on the subject.

And we all no that Dick Cheney's daughter is an out and proud lesbian and has two children with her partner Heather Poe.

I swear, this is becoming an epidemic...or a trend, trend sounds less deadly.
Though, when you think about it, this trend could be deadly for the religious right.
One can only hope...

As for what this means for gay rights in the future...well, no one should be to worried. Laura Bush said in her interview that it's coming, it's only a matter of time. DADT was repealed and there is a start, slowly, but surely we are winning this race.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I find this incredibly romantic

Mostly because swans mate for life. I mean, hell, they have a 6% divorce rate in this particular species. They are doing better than the USA.

I've always been fascinated by homosexual tendencies in animals because they simply prove that, yes, homosexuality is natural. I highly doubt Black Swans males are getting together because of the evil influences of Will and Grace.

An estimated one-quarter of all black swans pairings are homosexual and they steal nests, or form temporary threesomes with females to obtain eggs, driving away the female after she lays the eggs. More of their cygnets survive to adulthood than those of different-sex pairs, possibly due to their superior ability to defend large portions of land. The same reasoning has been applied to male flamingo pairs raising chicks.
The entire article on Wikipedia that I took that from is quite fascinating, but it was the swans that caught my attentions. Swans, as I said, generally mate for life and what is more romantic than that?

No long opinion piece today, just swans...gay swans. I want to meet a woman I could be with for life...gah, I'm getting hopelessly romantic again.

Monday, February 07, 2011

American Islamophobia



Watch that video before reading this.
..
..
..
..
Seriously, you watched it right?

Now you know where I stand on this issue, if I haven't made it clear before.

Islamophobia? Really?
I'm trying desperately to find a way to rationalize how extreme left liberals in the USA can talk out of one side of their mouth and bash Christianity and then, almost simultaneously, talk from the other side about religious rights for Islam and how we have to respect their cultural, which I find morally bankrupt if not downright evil, because it's "part of their religion".

As Pat Condell says, there is nothing irrational about my fear of Islam. I'm female and gay and really, with those two things against me, I would be as good as dead in an Islamic society.

Now, I feel I must point out that I DON'T HATE MUSLIMS! As he says at the end of the video, "Try as they might, they just can't persuade Americans to hate Muslims."
I don't have a problem with the average American Muslim, their religion is there business and as long as they are not abusing their family (y'know, their wives and daughters) or trying to impose their religion or backwards laws onto us then I have absolutely no beef with them whatsoever.

I've been told that I'm a racist for pointing out the evils of Islam to people who, for some reason, still believe that Islam is, at it's core, a religion of peace.
I'm sure Islam can be practiced peacefully, just as Christianity CAN be practiced as a peaceful, loving and non-homophobic and non-bigoted organization. In fact there are Muslims and Christians that do practice their religion that way. It's the fact that there are groups, especially the groups in charge (The Pope, the Imams, etc.) who do not practice it that way and lead large swaths of followers, like Lemmings over a cliff, into their hate-based initiatives.*
The problem is that, to do this with either religion, requires you to basically ignore the entire history of the religion, not to mention a good portion of the religious texts associated with them.

And the FBI does back me up here. Americans just do not persecute Muslims, at least not to the extent that The Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) would like to have us believe especially after just launching an entire department to combat "Islamophobia".

Give me some proof that I'm wrong about Islam, give me some proof that if we allow Islam to have it's way that more stories like this one won't become the norm for 14 year old girls who are raped. Give me proof that Islamic countries don't want to impose Shariah law.
Give me that proof and I'll say I was wrong, I'll welcome Islam with open arms.

But until you do, remember that I'm not racist. I just have a rational fear of a religion that would flog me to death for being raped, that would kill me because I'm a lesbian. That's not a phobia, that's just common sense.


*See what I did there? Faith-based initiatives, hate-based initiatives, hahahaha...oh boy, I think I'm so clever.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

When did you know you were gay?

Yeah, and how do you know if don't try gay sex at least once?
I get asked this question a lot by people, I suppose it's just part of human nature to want to know, but I always kind of want to ask "When did you know you were straight?" right back to them.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that this is usually coming from people who are straight and grew up around straight family and straight friends and so it was a "given" that they would be attracted to the opposite sex. I suppose that question I want to ask would only be comparable if asked to a heterosexual man or woman who was raised by gay parents, had gay siblings and gay friends.

Anyway, I always tell them basically the same thing.

I knew I was bi-sexual when I was 15 or so. I know it was 9th grade at Christmas. I had a party and I had several friends over and they ALL ended up staying the night, even the guys. Anyway, at some point in the night a friend directed my attention to one of the guys and one of the girls (names with-held to protect their innocence...or non-innocence, whatever) who were kissing on the couch. It was in that moment that my whole worldview was shaken.
I was 15 and thinking guys were "icky" wasn't completely unusual (I was always a bit of a late bloomer anyway), but when I saw them kissing and I found myself jealous of the guy instead of the girl it was a shock.

Being the OCD and extremely research oriented person that I am, I got up the next day and after my friends had all left for their houses I logged on to the internet and, while my parents were at work, I logged on to some forum for questioned teens (I don't remember which one now) and detailed what I had seen and thought and that I was wondering if I was bi-sexual. I got acceptance and many people saying that it was entirely possible. I was okay with it, unlike some GLBT youth I've known through the years. Most of that self-hate had a lot to with religion and I was uniquely blessed (ironic choice of word, I know) in that I had left religion at least 6 months before and though I had issues with depression for other reasons I didn't believe that I was an "abomination" like the Baptist church-goers I was grew up with would have liked me to believe.

I did end up dating that girl from the Christmas party for a little while...well at least as much as two 9th grade girls can "date". We remain friends to this day though we live several states apart.

I won't say it was easy, but I never hated being gay (or bi)...I just hated the fact that so many people would (and frequently did) hate me for it.

It wasn't until I was 17 that I realized I was a full-out lesbian (and even then I backslid a few times). I dated a guy in my junior year of high school who was my friend and a really great guy. We were on again and off again for a bit and then we dated for 3 months and there was absolutely NO spark. I realized this was not his fault or my fault...it just wasn't going to happen.
I felt bad for dating him and (at times) stringing him along, but really...relationships are always a bit like Schrodinger's cat, even when you aren't struggling with your sexual orientation. You never know if the spark is dead or alive and until you open the box the spark is, theoretically, both. Unfortunately, the spark was very very dead when I opened that particular box.

Anyway, I had a few moments of backsliding, an attempted one night stand that was a failure in so many ways...many of them mentally scarring and not in the funny way. Luckily I've managed to put that behind me and I won't talk about it again here.

I'm not all that good at relationships and when I was 19 I took my failure with a relationship with a woman as a sign that I should give guys a chance again. I dated a very very good friend and I really wanted it work. I did (and still do) love him very much and I knew it would make my life so much easier, make my relationship with my family so much easier, make it easier to have the child I've always wanted...so many things would be easier and so I took a chance and it was the wrong thing to do.
For a while I thought I had lost him as a friend because of breaking up with him. I felt like I had, unintentionally, strung him along and hurt him. Luckily I did get him back as a friend, something I'm very thankful for.

Anyway, at least now if I ever have someone say "you can't know you don't like guys if you never try it" I can tell them that I have and it does not work for me. Guys can be friends, I do have  great and very close friendships with my male friends and as for sex, well I can have a physiological response like anyone else. That doesn't mean that those two things can come together and make a romantic relationship.

Now I know I'm gay, completely and utterly queer and I like being that way. Being normal is over-rated anyway. I even came out to my parents on New Year's Eve in 2010. Something I wrote a post about already.

Of course that doesn't mean that I understand women any better...it's a cruel twist of fate that I can be a lesbian and yet I understand men more. Life is obnoxious that way.