Safety Labs and new ways of being

You know that feeling in the air when something’s on the verge of change? And it’s not just the possibility of change, or hoping for it but actually knowing without a doubt that our lives will be different, and that you took part in moving things forward. It’s kind of like the air is sizzling, like something’s cooking and the aroma of it is rising as you hear it sizzle and watch it transform, knowing it’s only a matter of time before what was raw becomes something you can taste, something that will fill your mouth with goodness and nourish your body so you’ll never be the same.

That’s what I’m feeling after helping facilitate a Safety Lab the other night with Community United Against Violence (CUAV). We were lucky enough to be able to invite members of the Brown Boi Project while they were the in middle of their leadership retreat, so we were working in a beautiful space with wonderful energy and powerful folks of all colors and genders and sexualities, from all around the country and some from all over the world. We were able to come as ourselves, to bring all of who we are and all of what we’re struggling with, and by the end of the night we had hope that our struggles would soon give way to liberation.

But before I get too much into it, to answer some questions you may have:

Who is CUAV? CUAV is an amazing organization that began in 1979 as the nation’s first anti-violence LGBTQ organization. They began in response to the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, to mobilize queer and trans communities to prevent, respond to and heal from violence. Today, CUAV helps address violence in its many forms through resources like a 24-hour safety line and events like Safety Labs.

As far as my personal relationship with the organization, I am hopelessly and madly in love with CUAV. I’ve been a member for about a year and a half, and in that time I’ve had them to thank for everything from sending me to this year’s U.S. Social Forum in Detroit to providing space for me to lead my first writing workshop during Safetyfest to helping me feel empowered in my own healing process and struggles with violence. The incredible thing about CUAV is how they highlight and build upon the power we already have within our communities, emphasizing that we don’t need to rely on police or other oppressive forces to create safety in our own world.

What is a Safety Lab? It’s pretty much what it sounds like — a place to explore, practice and imagine new ways of creating and envisioning safety in our communities. The specifics of each Safety Lab have varied, as in other labs it’s a space for experimentation, and it finds its form when those who participate determine what they want to bring.

What is the Brown Boi Project? From their mission statement: “The Brown Boi Project is a community of masculine of center womyn, men, two-spirit people, transmen, and our allies committed to transforming our privilege of masculinity, gender, and race into tools for achieving Racial and Gender Justice.” I wasn’t familiar with the Brown Boi Project before this Safety Lab, and I’m so glad for the opportunity to connect with them. They were only a couple of days into their leadership retreat, and already it was clear how much they’ve been growing and learning and building a community that meant something special to each one of them.

So back to the Safety Lab: I’ve been finding myself in this constant effort to shift what are ordinarily abstract, intangible ideas (such as justice) into something we can all touch and see and feel. The Safety Lab is a place where that happened. We wrote in permanent, unerasable ink about the violence we’re living with, and the new vision of safety that we’re moving toward. We showed in our bodies what our pain looks like, felt it in ourselves and in each other. We moved, physically, toward our new world, all the while saying out loud what we feel, what we desire, what we demand and how we create this new world. We changed the shape of our bodies and felt change within ourselves, watched as others transformed and lent a helping hand when others needed support. We were all coming from different places, with different struggles and different stories, but we were able to unite and support each other in working toward common goals. I’m so thankful for everyone who participated.

This is the change I’d like to see in the world. Not just relying on laws or criminal justice, not just waiting to be acknowledged or supported by oppressive powers that simply don’t care. Not feeling disempowered or helpless because we’ve been pushed down and silenced. But simply reminding ourselves that we already have the capacity to create the world we want to live in. It’s our vision, it’s our choice, and it’s our right to live in a world where we don’t have to worry about feeling unsafe or like our needs aren’t being met.

We’re already moving forward, and nothing can stop us from getting to where we want to be.

Published in: on August 21, 2010 at 9:51 AM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

The madness of me as a poet

I’ve been writing like a mad woman. Meaning both that I’m writing a lot, and that I’m writing things only a mad woman would. Pieces that assume that my characters are real people, and I’m bound to run into them one day, for instance. Pieces that read like creative non-fiction, but account for events that never happened.

And lots of poetry.

I know I’m going mad when I’m writing lots and lots of poetry.

Here’s something raw, from this morning.

_________________________________________________________________

i didn’t expect to have such a hard time finding a place to write today

i go into a café i’ve never visited before,
approach the sour faced man behind the counter,
who eyes the latptop i’m carrying.
you’re a writer, he says with a sneer.
yes! i chirp. how did you know?
he sweeps his arm across all of the heads
bent over computer screens.
you’re all writers, he says.
yes, i say, wanting to show him my writer’s charm,
we come in bunches, like grapes.
don’t you use your metaphors on me!
he shouts,
and his head is a round, red dodgeball.
i duck to avoid it.

i find another café and i think it’s fate:
in the window there’s a sign that says

vacant position: seeking writer
to sit in the corner, looking profound.

i’m settling into the corner when an employee walks up to me.
what are you doing? he asks.
i point to the sign. trying out for the part.
the position has been filled,
he says,
and when i try to ask to stay anyway,
he says louder, the position has been filled!
the other employees nod as he escorts me to the door,
even though i’m pretty sure the old white man who comes in
is there for the same reason, and they let him stay.

at the park
i take a seat in the green,
start to unload my writing tools when i hear,
Oh. a woman pushing a stroller has stopped beside me.
my dog was going to pee here, she says,
and both she and the dog are looking down at me
over long, thin noses, waiting.
even the baby is fussing from the stroller,
aware early on that i don’t belong.
i leave the dog’s toilet and
i wander for a while,
trying to find another seat in the green,
but sure i’d choose wrong.

i end up back home,
where the only person to fill the position
of thoughtful writer
is me.
i’d be anywhere else if else if i could,
but here will always work just as well.

Published in: on August 19, 2010 at 9:46 AM  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

The silence won’t save us

I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.
-Audre Lorde

Okay, so the truth is I totally wimped out in that last post. I felt so exposed approaching the topic of sex on such a public forum. Not that I’d never done it before, that type of writing or sharing that type of writing, but the feeling of vulnerability definitely taught me something about how I don’t feel quite in control here, not knowing who’s reading and all. I wanted to write more, but something held me back.

So there’s nothing wrong with feeling out how much I want to share here. Still, I feel like I missed an opportunity to speak to what was really on my mind, about sexual abuse and survivors and how speaking up about these things without shame or fear can be an important part of the healing process.

Silence, I’ll admit, is one of my favorite things. I’ve probably written a dozen poems about my love of silence, so trying to write one criticizing silence as something that won’t save us, or at least distinguishing appreciating silence from being forcibly speechless, has been a challenge.

So here’s one I found, a strong, chilling poem from someone who can say it better than I can

__________________________________________________________________________

A MOMENT OF SILENCE, BEFORE I START THIS POEM

Before I start this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon last September 11th.
I would also like to ask you
To offer up a moment of silence
For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned,
disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,
For the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.

And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the
hands of U.S.-backed Israeli
forces over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,
mostly children, who have died of
malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S.
embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,
Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.
Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of
concrete, steel, earth and skin
And the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam – a people,
not a war – for those who
know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their
relatives’ bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of
a secret war … ssssshhhhh….
Say nothing … we don’t want them to learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have
piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.
An hour of silence for El Salvador …
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua …
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos …
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found
their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could
poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of
sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west…

100 years of silence…
For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half
of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand
Creek,
Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the
refrigerator of our consciousness …

So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be. Not like it always has
been.

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:
This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.
This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa,
1977.
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison,
New York, 1971.
This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and
Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the
Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all…Don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing…For our dead.

EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002.

A MOMENT OF SILENCE, BEFORE I START THIS POEM

Before I start this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon last September 11th.
I would also like to ask you
To offer up a moment of silence
For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned,
disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,
For the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.
And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the
hands of U.S.-backed Israeli
forces over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,
mostly children, who have died of
malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S.
embargo against the country.
Before I begin this poem,
Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.
Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of
concrete, steel, earth and skin
And the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam – a people,
not a war – for those who
know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their
relatives’ bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of
a secret war … ssssshhhhh….
Say nothing … we don’t want them to learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have
piled up and slipped off our tongues.
Before I begin this poem.
An hour of silence for El Salvador …
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua …
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos …
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found
their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could
poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of
sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west…
100 years of silence…
For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half
of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand
Creek,
Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the
refrigerator of our consciousness …
So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.
Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be. Not like it always has
been.
Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.
This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:
This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.
This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa,
1977.
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison,
New York, 1971.
This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and
Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.
And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.
If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.
If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the
Penthouses and the Playboys.
If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.
You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all…Don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing…For our dead.
EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002.A MOMENT OF SILENCE, BEFORE I START THIS POEM

Before I start this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me

In a moment of silence

In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the

Pentagon last September 11th.

I would also like to ask you

To offer up a moment of silence

For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned,

disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,

For the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.

And if I could just add one more thing…

A full day of silence

For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the

hands of U.S.-backed Israeli

forces over decades of occupation.

Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,

mostly children, who have died of

malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S.

embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,

Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,

Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.

Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,

Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of

concrete, steel, earth and skin

And the survivors went on as if alive.

A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam – a people,

not a war – for those who

know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their

relatives’ bones buried in it, their babies born of it.

A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of

a secret war … ssssshhhhh….

Say nothing … we don’t want them to learn that they are dead.

Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,

Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have

piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.

An hour of silence for El Salvador …

An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua …

Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos …

None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.

45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas

25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found

their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could

poke into the sky.

There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.

And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of

sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west…

100 years of silence…

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half

of right here,

Whose land and lives were stolen,

In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand

Creek,

Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.

Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the

refrigerator of our consciousness …

So you want a moment of silence?

And we are all left speechless

Our tongues snatched from our mouths

Our eyes stapled shut

A moment of silence

And the poets have all been laid to rest

The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,

You want a moment of silence

You mourn now as if the world will never be the same

And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be. Not like it always has

been.

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.

This is a 9/10 poem,

It is a 9/9 poem,

A 9/8 poem,

A 9/7 poem

This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.

And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:

This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.

This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa,

1977.

This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison,

New York, 1971.

This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.

This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes

This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told

The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks

The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and

Newsweek ignored.

This is a poem for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?

We could give you lifetimes of empty:

The unmarked graves

The lost languages

The uprooted trees and histories

The dead stares on the faces of nameless children

Before I start this poem we could be silent forever

Or just long enough to hunger,

For the dust to bury us

And you would still ask us

For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence

Then stop the oil pumps

Turn off the engines and the televisions

Sink the cruise ships

Crash the stock markets

Unplug the marquee lights,

Delete the instant messages,

Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window

of Taco Bell,

And pay the workers for wages lost.

Tear down the liquor stores,

The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the

Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,

Then take it

On Super Bowl Sunday,

The Fourth of July

During Dayton’s 13 hour sale

Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful

people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence

Then take it NOW,

Before this poem begins.

Here, in the echo of my voice,

In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,

In the space between bodies in embrace,

Here is your silence.

Take it.

But take it all…Don’t cut in line.

Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,

Tonight we will keep right on singing…For our dead.

EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002.

Published in: on August 17, 2010 at 10:17 AM  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

This is a blog post about sex.

Warning: this post includes discussion of sex and sexual abuse. Just so ya know.

Brainstorming for the blog this morning, I came across a whole lot of “shoulds.” Should I continue to discuss marriage equality? Should I commit to total honesty on the blog? Should I blog at all, when I’m not feeling particularly inspired?

It’s clear that my creativity has been stifled lately, as I haven’t been blogging much. I think part of why I’ve been stifled is that I’ve been drowning in a sea of pesky shoulds, trying to figure out what I’m “supposed” to be writing, instead of just writing.

I surprised myself when I stumbled upon this one: should I keep my blog as a sex-free zone?

Wait. What?

I’ve discussed sexuality, of course, mostly in the context of sexual orientation. I briefly mentioned erotica when I judged another me for writing it. But I wouldn’t really criticize anybody for writing about sex. Erotic writing can be beautiful, can be healing, can be one of the best ways for survivors of sexual violence, as well as other folks, to reclaim their power and feel whole.

So why should this blog be sex-free? If I use erotic writing to free myself, why would I then continue to keep myself trapped by hiding it? Why should I be ashamed of something I’ve spent years reclaiming as my own?

In short: fuck censorship.

This is a blog post about sex. And there may be more to come.

__________________________________________________________________________________

waiting

for your skin to touch mine

wondering

if we’ll ever meet again

when all at once

you reach me

reach through me

reach into me

so what I thought was my skin

is molten lava,

too hot to touch

but too warm to resist

and when I fall into you

I melt,

dripping down your body

slow and sweet

as warm honey.

Published in: on August 12, 2010 at 12:35 PM  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,

Some hopes for marriage equality

I’ve already shared some of my general thoughts on the marriage equality movement, but now with the overturning of Prop. 8 and the possibility of my home state of California allowing gay marriage, I find myself thinking about what I hope for the future of marriage.

My feelings about the news were conflicted. On one hand, I’m ecstatic that the court chose the side of equality, taking steps to ensure that same sex couples who hope to commit to each other in marriage can enjoy the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples who do the same. I’m not even going to bother trying to put in my own words what Judge Walker so eloquently explained about how gay couples who deserve to marry deserve equal rights — to me it’s just common sense.

On the other hand, I have to stop to wonder, what are we fighting for? The right to be miserable in marriage, and to join the ranks of the frequently divorced? Our little piece of a historically oppressive institution? The chance to show people from outside of our communities that we’re “just like them”? It’s not as if this changes anything for relationships between LGBT people. Queer folks have been loving each other and committing to one another for centuries, and it’s not as if we need the validation of traditional marriage to make us feel like we have the right to love each other.

Unless it does change something. Maybe if I try not to be so cynical I can hope that, rather than queer folks adjusting their lives and perspectives to support traditional marriage, the result of such acts as overturning Proposition 8 will be the queering of marriage.

Some hopes for the future of marriage:

  • Perhaps the obvious: more acceptance of queer folks and their families. Moving past outdated attitudes and religious interpretations that characterize people in same-sex partnerships as “living in sin” and being incapable of sustaining stable, loving relationships or raising healthy children. Hopefully we can reach a day when nobody would think twice when a bride-to-be announces her engagement to a fellow bride.
  • A shift in our understanding of gender and gender roles. In his ruling, Judge Walker pointed out that it’s not a change in marriage that allows for same-sex couples to marry but a change in an understanding of gender. Perhaps if society no longer expects for marriage to only occur between a man and a woman, then we will no longer adhere to traditional ideas about the role of the husband and the wife in a partnership. With many traditions left over from the days when marriage made a woman the property of her husband, we can only benefit from moving on from our ideas of binary gender and male and female roles.
  • A recognition of the role of marriage in race and immigration movements. Unjust immigration policies have torn apart queer partners and their families, and perhaps working to dismantle these policies on a federal level can lead to much-needed solidarity between racial equality movements, immigration movements, gender equality groups and queer rights groups, and others who realize how these issues affect us on all levels.
  • Related to the above point, increased dialogue and community building among communities of color and communities of faith. Hopefully, an elimination of language and attitudes that frame being a person of color or a person of faith as separate from being a queer person. Recognition that there are some people whose identities intersect these areas, and that there is room in these communities for acceptance of queer folks.
  • I also hope that this whole struggle for marriage rights will shed light on the imperfection of the institution of marriage. I hope we can see that marriage isn’t for everyone and it shouldn’t be imposed on everyone, to realize that many of the rights and benefits tied to marriage should be available to everyone, even if they don’t choose to express their love in the form of a traditional marriage.

Well, I could go on for days about how I’d like to see marriage change, but this is a start. Hopefully, the marriage equality movement won’t stop at winning the rights to marry, but will continue to address the social issues related to the struggle and create a picture that truly reflects equality for all people.

Photo from the Huffington Post slideshow

Published in: on August 7, 2010 at 12:49 PM  Leave a Comment  
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The road of rejection

Let me begin by recognizing the historic ruling against California’s Proposition 8. A judge overturned the ban against same-sex marriage, and though we’ll have to wait through a long appeals process to find out if this actually changes anything, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Now, of course, I feel all this pressure to blog about it, but I’m gonna go ahead and take the pressure off and selfishly blog about myself in the midst of social change. I’m definitely happy about the decision, but for my thoughts about the marriage movement as the central focus of the struggle for LGBT rights and the idea that marriage rights mean “equality for all people,” please click here. I’ll have a response later, when I’ve gathered my conflicted feelings into coherent thoughts.

On to the selfishness:

Continuing what’s becoming a series on how to begin failing as a writer, so you can someday find success (yeah, I’ll let you know if I get around to that “success” part): Earlier this week, I got a rejection letter that came with a personal note. For something I’d written, that is, not some kind of dating rejection or a rejection of my being, or I might be feeling a little more discouraged.

Anyway, what began with a disappointing “We’re sorry that your submission was not accepted…” ended up sort of lifting my spirits by adding that they really enjoyed my story, and they hope I find a home for it somewhere because it just wasn’t the right “fit” for them at this time.

That’s the best I can ask for, right? Well, I suppose the best I could ask for would be to actually be accepted, but the eternal optimist in me (ha) says that the majority of what I submit at first won’t be accepted, so a rejection letter that comes with a personal note is the next best thing. I’m sure they get bombarded with submissions, and I’ve always heard that if someone takes the time out to recognize what they like about your work while they’re rejecting it, that’s a pretty good sign. Perhaps these particular editors write personal notes to everyone, but if you happen to know this, I’d advise against bursting my bubble. I’m gonna go ahead and revel in my rejection.

I’m sure this is just the beginning, and if I work hard I should soon have a pile of rejection letters to welcome the next acceptance one. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high — it doesn’t help that the first piece of fiction I submitted to a magazine was accepted and given an award, but I certainly can’t expect that every time. So I prepare my work for submission while expecting rejection, which might seem like a hopeless way to go about doing things. But I don’t see the wall of rejection as an unbreakable one. I’ll hold on to the little glimmers of hope: Oh hey, they liked my story. Oh hey, they used my name instead of just writing “Dear Reject.” Oh hey, they didn’t advise me to keep my day job. The little things.

And I’ll build my wall of rejection, made of flimsy pieces of paper and not-quite-right fits and comic sans (at least, I believe all rejection letters should be written in comic sans, that way I can giggle a little and not feel so bad about them). I’ll build it knowing how easily it can be knocked down. Knowing that someday, I’ll get a letter saying that the editors enjoyed my work and found it to be a perfect fit. Knowing that no rejection letter, no matter how impersonal or discouraging, could stop me from writing or getting my writing out into the world. This blog itself is a reclamation of personal power over my work, as I put work out there regardless of whether anyone wants to publish it (and find that some people want to read it). Even the act of getting up each morning to write, knowing that most of what I write will never be seen, is an act that declares that my writing means something to me, even if someone else chooses to reject it.

So, even while I’m failing to get my work published, I’m determined to define success in my own terms. And I’m considering myself a damn successful failure.

And now, some fiction to help heal my wounds.

__________________________________________________________________________________

They never called her anything but “the intern.” During the fall reading period, it was her job to brew their tea (three different pots of three different varieties). There were no coffee drinkers. If they had a guest editor who drank coffee, it was her job to get that, too.

It was the end of the reading period, and they’d given her a pile of letters for the rejects (they never called them anything but “the rejects”). Now their job was done, and she was alone in the office, addressing rejection letters to make sure nobody received one that began “Dear Reject,” as that was how they were formatted. She wasn’t supposed to write anything personal, though she knew each of their stories quite well, having familiarized herself with them so that she could understand the context of the comments made when she took notes during their meetings. They couldn’t be bothered to take notes themselves. The rejects weren’t worth removing their hands from their warm teacups.

But before she sealed the first letter, she hesitated. She recognized the name, Rupert Singer, and remembered his story, the one about the boy and his rabbit. Cliché, they’d called it. They hated that it ended with a sunset.

She took a pen and wrote by hand, bright blue ink sticking out like a moving flag against the black and white printed paper.

“Loved the images in this story,” she wrote. “The last one of them hopping into the sunset will stay with me forever.”

She looked at the stack of papers beside her. It would take all night for her to do this for each one. They wouldn’t pay her for that.

But it would be worth it to someone, she told herself as she picked up the next sheet.

Published in: on August 5, 2010 at 11:24 AM  Comments (2)  
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Pep talks and perfectionism

Well, August is here. It crept in all slow and stealthy, like the fog over the Richmond District. This would be about the time when I’m worrying that I’ve wasted the summer as the beginning of a new school year approaches, but there will be no school for me this fall. It’s kind of strange. I’ve been a student nearly my entire life and I still feel like a student, so I guess August without school will remind me that I’m not right now. I’ll have to figure out another meaning that August can have for me, besides scrambling to have last-minute adventures and finish some leisurely reading before the school year. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Yep, it’s August, and according to San Francisco weather, summer has yet to begin.

Anyway, I mentioned that I’ve been working on pieces to submit. I’ve only recently, and very tentatively, begun the process of submitting my work to places like literary magazines and readings.

I find that I have different relationships with different pieces that I’m working on. Some will sit quietly, waiting for me to return to them, even if I never do. Others call out to me, demanding attention, usually at inconvenient times like when I’m traveling between places or trying to sleep. They usually have the best intentions in mind, I think, like reminding me of looming deadlines or keeping me committed when I’m feeling discouraged, but sometimes they’re just being obnoxious. Here’s a conversation I’ve been having recently with a newly “finished” piece:

Finished Piece: Okay, what’s the problem?

Me: What do you mean?

FP: I finally get you to come back and work on me, and now you’ve been sighing and shaking your head at me for the past hour.

Me: Yeah, I know. Okay. The truth is, I know we’ve spent a lot of time together, but I’ve decided that you suck.

FP: Well, if I suck, you suck. Besides, I’m the best you’ve got, and I’m not getting any better.

Me: Forget this. I don’t have to settle for you.

FP: Yeah? What are you gonna do, abandon me to go write the next great queer girl novel?

Me: Maybe I will.

FP: Ha. I’ll believe that when I see it. And I’ll be here waiting when that falls through.

Me: Not if I get rid of you.

FP: Tell me again what’s so wrong with me?

Me: Your dialogue’s all wrong. You’re way too sentimental, and I don’t know what I was thinking with the setting. And I’ll never get that last sentence right, I know it.

FP: Here’s some news for you: everything you write is sentimental.

Me: Don’t go there.

FP: Anyway, you felt okay about me a week ago. I think this is just you being afraid to submit. I think this is you being crazy.

Me: I’m not afraid. And I’m not crazy.

FP: Girl, look at who you’re talking to, and then tell me again you’re not crazy.

Me: There have been plenty of successful writers who are crazy.

FP: Not your kind of crazy. If they were your kind of crazy, nobody would’ve ever seen their work. They’d still be sitting at home talking to it.

Me: Well, there’s no way I’m submitting you as you are! I’d have to cut at least a hundred words. And I’d have to change that last sentence, dammit. I’ll get it right if it kills me.

FP: You’d die for me? I’m touched.

Me: Not really. It’s more likely that I’d kill you first, so you better help me with this last sentence or you’ll never get out of here.

FP: The word you’re looking for is “destiny.”

Me: Bullshit. I never use “destiny.”

FP: That’s not what those papers in the trash bin say.

Me: Yeah, and if I use “destiny” with you, that’s where you’ll end up.

FP: Geez, again with the trash threats. What’ll it be after you fix the last sentence?

Me: What do you mean?

FP: You know what I mean. After you fix the end, it’ll be the beginning that’s not good enough. And after that, you’ll need to change the characters’ names. And you’ll just keep fixing and fixing until you give up, and we’ll never get anywhere.

Me: Well, I have to get it right…

FP: Listen. Isn’t it the journey that counts? You’ve learned something while working on me, yes?

Me: Yes. Something about not having conversations with pieces of ficiton…

FP: And you improved your writing?

Me: Oh, yeah. You were atrocious when I first started working on you.

FP: And you had a good time? You remembered the whole reason you started writing, because it’s something you love to do?

Me: Yeah, we had some pretty good times together.

FP: Then it doesn’t matter what happens now, does it? Look, I might not be what you envisioned when you started writing. I may not be the piece that changes the world or touches lives. I might not ever get published. But I’ve been a part of your journey, and you’ve grown as a writer in the time you’ve spent with me.

Me: I hate it when you’re right.

FP: Hey, I come from your mind. I’m not saying anything that’s not already in there somewhere. Give yourself some credit. If I’m right, you’re right.

Me: Sure.

FP: And that last sentence? Switch the clauses, and it’ll be perfect.

Me: Wow, that is perfect. You’re brilliant!

FP: And if I’m brilliant…

Me: Then I’m brilliant?

FP: Don’t give yourself too much credit. I was going to say that if I’m brilliant, then it’s time to send me off! I wanna see the world.

So, this is what happens when I’m in need of encouragement. I turn to my writing, and it… talks to me. Hmm. This seems to be another one of those things that I meant to keep to myself, and ended up blogging about instead…

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 1:18 PM  Comments (3)  
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