Thursday, October 25, 2007

Welcome to the family, Albus

So JK Rowling has officially outted Dumbledore. Nonchalantly. In Carnegie Hall. Some conservative wankers have raised a stink about how he's supposed to be a moral role model for children. Funnist thing, but the text of the books hasn't changed. He still is! Many of these people are the same who had raised about the books from the start, claiming that they were occult and promoted witchcraft. Hogwarts hogwash!

Most of the response has been supportive, though. Some have asked why she didn't include it from the start. She's been accused of trying to utilize free publicity to increase sales of her books. Well that doesn't seem likely, given that ultra conservatives are likely to step up their boycott efforts, and alienate a segment of less conservative folks with a hot button issue.

I'm all for it. And I love the fact that she'd known Hogwart's Headmaster was gay for some time. It wasn't a big deal. Being gay is a PART of who he is. And not necessarily the most important part. He loved. Not lusted. The revelation wasn't salacious. It was matter-of-fact. And isn't that the way it should be? Being gay might have influenced his character, but he's a good person, role model, teacher, and person. And that's all that matters. His heart and mind. His soul. Gay or straight. Humanity. I can't wait until everyone thinks that way.

Granted it will be a LONG time. Meanwhile, we can all enjoy watching the vein on Bill O'Reilly's forehead bulge out while he rants about it. Or Phelps condemn Rowling. Maybe he'll say Dumbledore's death was God's punishment. Either way, it should make for entertaining bigotry.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some Days Are Like That

An emotional rollercoaster, that is. As most of my regular readers know, I had to take one of my puppies, Reese, to the vet yesterday. He hurt his back a few days ago, as dachshunds often do, but didn't show any signs until he couldn't use his back legs. While dragging his back legs behind him, he looked a bit like a seal; it would have been adorable if I hadn't been so terrified. He's still at the vet on 3 days of IV fluids and steroids in the hopes he regains some feeling and mobility in his hind legs.

Needless to say, I was an emotional mess and more than a little bit of a train wreck. Parenthood is easy when things are going well, but trouble makes it so much more complicated. I had several meetings and appointments scheduled for the day that I couldn't cancel, though I didn't really want to be doing anything other than worrying and stressing.

My first appointment was one that could not be missed. Yesterday was Teacher In-Service at the high school, and we were asked to do a one-hour modified SafeZone Session for the teachers and staff. We did a full session 7 or 8 years ago, but the principal at the time was nervous enough that he didn't want it to be held on school grounds. So we did the session in the Union and 12 people, including said principal, showed up.

This time we met in a classroom and 31 people attended, including the advisors for the school's Gay Straight Alliance. The sponsor for "The Day of Truth," the conservative anti-gay response to GLSEN's Day of Silence, was also there. The session went VERY well, and I heard nothing but thank you's from the attendees. (No comment from the "other side of the fence.") It did my heart SO much good to make a difference and touch the hearts and minds of teachers who will in turn be there for students. Maybe it will make things easier for a kid down the road, and he or she won't have to go through what so many of us did while growing up queer.

My second meeting was PACMWA (President's Advisory Council for Minority and Women's Affairs), which I'm chairing this year. We've been struggling to find a common meeting time, haven't met for a few weeks, and had pressing business. Namely, planning for a Diversity Summit. It was a very productive meeting, and even though half of the committee couldn't attend, we made great headway on planning, as well as a few other issues. It, too, did my heart good.

The rollercoaster continued with a visit to see Reese at the vet's, which was an odd mixture of difficulty and catharsis. That was followed by a double header in the volleyball tournament. The physical activity was exhausting, but helped me purge a great deal of angst and frustration. Hitting things can be happy, and volleyballs don't press charges like people might.

Today's lesson: life has a lot of ups and downs, twists and turns, whether they come in one day, one week, or one year. It's important to remember that there are bright spots in addition to the dark days. Try to remain focused on that; it helps get you through the rough spots.

Oh...and Reese is showing signs of improvement. Keep your fingers crossed. The next post? Dumbledore is gay!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

November Three Seven Five Delta Sierra

"90 miles from Cuba." You can buy signs anywhere in Key West that say that. It's because it's true. On my recent trip to Orlando for a work conference, my friend Jace, who just happens to be a pilot, had reserved a single prop plane for a side trip to Key West. He offered to take me along, and I told him I'd buy his food, booze, and hotel in return. After all, the plane was over $700. Lodging and all the liquor we could drink was the least I could do.

You know you're in the world of Jimmy Buffett when you land and the control tower tells you to take taxi way "Niner" to the hanger, adding "It's the one that's NOT flooded." We called for a cab, and an aging hippy who reminded me (in only the slightest way) of George Carlin pulled up and asked us where we were going. I answered "we need a place to stay." After clarifying that we did not have a reservation anywhere, he said "Cool. I assume you want to stay downtown, near Duvall Street?" We said "Hell yes" and were off.

The first place we stopped was the Blue Marlin, and they had a room available for a decent rate. It was only two blocks from Duvall Street, which is Key West's version of Bourbon Street. We dropped our minimal luggage, threw on fresh clothes, and head out for a night of infamy. We stopped at the first restaurant that caught our eye, a place called Crabby Dick's. The first thing to order was a cocktail, and I was debating what I wanted. When Jace said "Pina Colada" I realized there was no other possible order. We had three each with dinner, which consisted of conch fritters (thanks for the recommendation, Jerry!), ahi tuna, Gulf shrimp, and scallops. Yes, we went a bit wild with dinner, but it was SO worth it.

After dinner we set out on our primary mission: get drunk and have a night of pure fun. In Key West, there is a law against open containers. They don't take it seriously, as every block had at least one cocktail stand without seating...just the way I remembered New Orleans. We went from one drink to another, focusing on rum. We staggered through the city, drinks in hand, right past police. As our waiter had told us, as long as you're not being an ass or causing problems, they don't care about open containers.

We found good music, amazing art, and rainbow flags everywhere. We went past at least four bars that were doing drag shows. Nightly. It would seem a good way to get rich quick would be to open a scooter store, as everyone was buzzing around on a Vespa or other scooter. Pizza delivery was done on scooters. At the end of our evening, we staggered home, and eventually found our hotel. It was warm and sticky outside, so Jace peeled down to his boxers, jumped the fence around our hotel's pool, and dove in for a quick cool down dip.

The next morning we cleaned up and called for a cab, as I had to be back in Orlando by 1 for a conference session. Our driver this time was a former stripper who had danced in 49 states. Hawaii is the one she'd missed, and in Wyoming she had danced at this club in Cheyenne known as The Green Door. It really is a small world sometimes. It seems most everyone we ran into who lived on the island had the same story. "I came here on vacation and never left." Our waiter had missed his flight. He didn't bother to find a new one. The stripper used to summer in Alaska and winter in the Keys. She stopped flying out for the north.

Both Jace and I understood the sentiment. It was a simpler life. Time and schedules meant little. Spontaneity was rewarded with hidden secrets, local hangouts, people willing to share or help out. Tropical paradise, cliche as it might sound, is a fairly apt description. The title of this post was our radio call sign in the single prop plane. Today's lesson: do something without a plan. Just drop everything and go. Go out on the town, start a road trip, or book a ticket to someplace you've never been but always wanted to see. Say "Fuck it." And live! I agree with Queen Latifah: "I'm Gonna Live 'til I Die."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Too many topics!

I'm back from my conference trip to Florida, and there are so many things I want to write about. I have a post about Key West, and how I want to go back for at least a week so I can channel Jimmy Buffett. I have a post about Disney and getting in touch with your inner child. I have a post about common courtesy, especially as it relates to traveling. And then there's a post about the guy I met. Fear not, faithful readers, as these posts will be forthcoming. But there's a post that must come first.

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day. I always try to take a moment on this date to ponder the person I once was and who I have become since I came out of the closet. I have now been out of the closet longer than I was in it. I realized the other day while sitting on a panel, and it's an odd feeling, to be sure. I'm so much happier now than I was when I was still living the lie. I feel I've made a diffence, and am happy about who I have become.

I ponder a vision of the future, when the countless people who live in fear of their lives because they love someone of the same sex can be honest about who they are. A world where all can marry, and children are protected no matter what shape, size, color, or chromosomal makeup their family might have. That vision of tomorrow gives me hope, and that hope makes me work even harder today.

And today I always take a moment to mourn. Tomorrow will be another anniversary. At 12:53am on October 12th, Matt died in a Fort Collins hospital. UW President Phil Dubois called to tell me around 5 am. I will cry. I will think about the pain and struggle over the last 9 years. I will think about positive change and discussion over that same period.

I will, once again, renew a promise I made 9 years ago. I will keep pushing. Keep working. Keep speaking. Doing. Fighting. Helping. Teaching. Living. I remember you today, Matt. And tomorrow. And the day after that. And each day after.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


There's been a lot in the news lately about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. This is not the first time it's been taken to Congress. The first version of this iteration of the bill included protection for gender identity as well as sexual orientation. Democratic leadership then worked to revise the bill, removing gender identity because they didn't they could get it passed if it was included. There was an immediate and resounding outcry about the removal. It raises a very difficult question: do we include gender variance and risk not passing the law AGAIN, or do we work for what might be attainable now and keep coming back until everyone is included?

It's not a simple question, and there are some well-reasoned arguments on both sides. My initial reaction was that any step forward is SOMETHING, and that no struggle for equality has happened all at once. But I also know that gender identity is often forgotten, is less visible, and treated as more "fringe." But isn't providing protection for 80% of a community better that protection for none? It's a tough one, isn't it?

If nothing else, the debate has shown that the queer community can organize well and quickly, almost rivaling the grassroots machine that is conservative Christianity. Every member of the House received a letter signed by 90 different groups, asking that they consider the bill in its original, inclusive form. Over 200 churches - yes, I said churches - organized to have their members flood phone lines in support of inclusion. It's nothing if not impressive.

The more I listened to the discussions, debates, criticism, complaints, anger, and hope, the more I felt conflicted. Make no mistake: I firmly believe that gender identity should be protected in our country just as much as sexual orientation. Period. End of story. I think that if you're a good employee, you should not be fired for any "essential characteristic." Then I heard a very simple comparison. What would we have said if the civil rights movement had worked for rights for African Americans but not Asians? Or if a compromise were made so that light-skinned minorities were protected but dark-skinned people weren't?

It became very clear that if we're not working for equality for EVERYONE, we're not really working for equality. We might not be successful in getting it passed. But that doesn't mean we should try for anything less than what is right. Perhaps we could obtain employment protection for GLB people if we took gender identity out of the bill. But wouldn't that "victory" feel hollow if everyone in the queer community didn't have the same protection? Wouldn't we be hypocritical if we didn't do everything we can to include EVERYONE? If Congress wants to strip gender out of the bill, let them. But not without a fight...for fairness.