Thursday, October 22, 2009

A long time coming

Today I received news that the Matthew Shepard Act has passed the Senate and will be heading to President Obama's desk for signature. So many of us have watched and waited for 11 years. We have written letters, called our representatives, spoken to our neighbors and relatives, and believed that one day we would prevail. We certainly didn't expect it to take this long, nor did anyone envision that it would be connected to a DOD spending bill. Truthfully, none of that matters to me today - only that we did it.

I've sent the message to the Spectrum lists, texted some of my friends, and shared the links on Facebook. A couple of friends have asked me how I'm doing; it's probably because I mentioned I couldn't stop crying. I'm pretty sure they're tears of joy, though. To be honest, I'm a bit overwhelmed. After 11 years, it doesn't quite feel real. So many times we've come close to getting it passed, only to be turned away at the 11th hour. The last year hasn't been all success, either. After Prop 8 passed in California, I was left feeling somewhat discouraged. After all our hard work, after opening our lives and hearts to strangers so that they might understand, how could they still not get it?

Today's vote signals to me that we really are making progress. It gives me a renewed belief that we will see equality in my day. That soon my marriage will mean something everywhere. That we will ensure ALL students feel safe and welcome in school. That we will all be respected and treated like human beings. The way Matt would have done it. It tells me that we will repeal the discriminatory laws, and enact protections. And that our hard work is not in vain.

Most of all, I'm thinking about Matt. I know that he's smiling today, but also egging us on to do more. Don't stop here, because there's still so much that has to happen. We can't rest yet, but today at least, we can take comfort in our success. Matt, I renew my promise to you: I won't stop until everyone is safe.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thinking of you...

I usually send a message your way on the 7th, but I know you'll forgive my tardiness; I've been sick with a cold. I've been thinking about you a lot lately; I always do this time of year. I still miss you, even after all these years. I miss seeing your smile on campus and getting a chance to talk to you about your Poli Sci class or the paper that's stressing you out. I miss the sparkle in your eye as we talk about the upcoming events for Gay Awareness Week. Did you know that it's now a whole month? I was just getting to know you when you left. I had hopes that you'd become an officer for the student group; you sure seemed to have leadership skills, personality, and enthusiasm.

So much has changed since then, and yet, at the same time, so much hasn't. Part of me wants to apologize for the things that haven't. I wish we had stronger laws today - I don't know that it would have made a difference or changed the outcome, but at least it would make a statement that what happened is not okay to us as a society. I wish that the government took people like us more seriously - or at least treated us as people. That you could hold any job for which you're qualified, live in any place you can afford, and visit your loved one in any hospital. Most of all, I wish you were still here. I'm sure there's more we could have done to make these things happen sooner, but I also know there's only so much we can do at once. And I know that they WILL happen.

I'm also proud of what we have done, though. Policies here HAVE changed, and we've come a long way since you were here. We've got a resource center now, and you should see how many students hang out there during the day. We go talk to a lot of classes every semester, and so many programs are firmly established now. What you must think of where we are. I often wonder how much of that we owe, at least in part, to you. I don't really have an answer, and I know it's not as simple as cause/effect relationships. Time and progress move on with or without us, but I know deep in my soul that you're a part of all this. Somehow, that knowledge helps a bit, though perhaps that's just mental defenses trying to rationalize and protect from pain.

It seems like someone is always asking me about you. Wanting to know more. Trying to understand. I hope I'm doing you justice; I worry about that all the time. I can only wonder what you'd say about something, how you'd react to this news or that event. I'm sorry that so many people have said such horrible things about you, but I also know that's nothing new to either of us. I'm sorry so many people have tried to twist the way you left - make it seem more justified...or somehow blame you. I've tried to give people the full story, but I can't force folks to listen and I can't stop rumors and misinformation from flying wildly. I've tried to do what I think is right, and what I think would represent you and your ideals. We both know I'm not alone - there are thousands of folks out there doing great work. How amazing is your mom?! She never ceases to amaze me.

It's not always easy. I admit that I get tired at times, and sometimes I just don't want to relive the horror, shock, and pain. When that happens, I try to think of your smile, your laugh, and the fact that you're not around to speak up for yourself. I know it's not my fault or my job, but I feel like someone ought to speak on your behalf. To tell people your story in the hopes that someone might be spared what you endured. That their hearts will be softened or lifted, and that hope and understanding will fill that space. That they'll be a little bit more like you. I know you weren't perfect, but I still look up to you. I won't get the chance to see what you could have done, but I hope that what I do makes you proud...and that you'll let me know somehow that your amazing smile is still here with me.

I miss you, Matt.

(In memorium, Matthew Shepard: Dec 1, 1976 - Oct 12, 1998)

Friday, August 28, 2009

A letter to Gary

For the record, I was working on a nicer, less political/militant/bitchy post, and then I read my daily gay news update. For those who are part of the inside joke, just read the following post and imagine a % symbol on either side of the whole thing.

Gentle readers, I'd like to introduce you to Gary Herbert, the new governor of Utah - I'd like to have a conversation with Gary today, though you're free to listen in. The previous gov, Jon Huntsman, is off to take a new job as the ambassador to China. Congrats, Jon. When asked why he doesn't support GLBTQ rights bills like Jon did, Gary had this to say:

"We don't have to have a rule for everybody to do the right thing. We ought to
just do the right thing because it's the right thing to do and we don't have to
have a law that punishes us if we don't."

The full article is at if you're interested, though I should warn you - it might make your brain bleed a little bit. I know it did mine. I'm afraid we don't live in Candyland, though they have rules there too, come to think of it. I would say that most people resist their homocidal tendicies by not killing people...but it's not because it's considered "doing the right thing." No, we have laws that prohibit such actions, and they comes with penalties that punish folks who just can't seem to do what's right. The simple truth of the matter is that not everyone does the right thing all the time, and that we should prepare ourselves for the times when they don't. I like to call this "reality."

Gary also said it would bog the state down in "minutiae." Really, Gary? Can I call you Gary? I don't believe that visiting my partner in the hospital or being able to get him insurance (which we currently can't) is minutiae. And Gary, I don't think it's "trivial" that he would have to pay extra inheritance taxes on the house if something happened to me. And it's not a "detail" that he can legally be fired for being gay.

Gary went on to ask "Where do you stop? I mean, that's the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we're going to have a special law for blue-eyed blonds ... or people who are losing their hair a little bit." I realize that as a new governor you're probably a very busy guy, Gary, but let's try to stay on topic. I'd appreciate it if we could compare apples and apples here, if you know what I mean. We're not firing people for being blonde and we're not saying you can't get married if you're bald. Our laws DO prevent regular folks like me from doing the same thing because I happen to love another man. Also for the record, the "slippery slope" argument is a type of logical fallacy. I learned to avoid these in debate, clear back in 9th grade, but it seems Gary didn't.

Gary, imagine for a moment that you lived in a world where a majority of the folks happen to be gay, but you're still straight. (I hope I'm not assuming too much, Gary - I'm going to guess that you're just unaware, rather than think you're a masochistic, self-loathing queen who needs to put down the dress and come out of the closet and into the light with the rest of us...but I digress.) Would it be fair for the gay society to take away over 1000 federal rights and privileges? Would you be willing and able to change who you love just so you can fit in? When you can't find a job, rent an apartment, or have your partner at your bedside in ICU, would it still just be "minutiae" or "a slippery slope?"

Gary, I read about your comments in a daily news update. Earlier this week there was a story about a Michigan man who was attacked in a park by his neighbors because he's gay; they beat him severly and burned him with cigarettes. Today's included a followup story announcing the sentence in another case of assault, this time in Dallas. This summer I've read about Fort Worth police beating a man in a gay bar during a "routine check," a teacher who was fired for being gay, and a pastor who claims a tornado was God's punishment for allowing gay clergy. Oh silly me, I guess that was all just this month, my mistake. Are these minor annoyances too, the kind that would "bog down" the government?

You know, Gary, I've been told there are a number of folks living in Utah who happen to be LDS. Now I don't agree with a whole lot the Mormon Church says, but I respect their right to say and believe it. I also don't think it's okay to persecute anyone of any faith for their beliefs as long as those beliefs stay within the confines of the law. I'm very glad we have laws that protect religious folks' employment, right to marry, right to buy a house, etc. I know there are folks out there who might fire people over their religion or make comments about "those people" moving into the neighborhood. Gary, don't you think everyone deserves the same respect?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Take your ball and go home

And here's where I try to offend and enrage some of my friends. For those not in Laramie, there was a bit of a row when UW announced the closure of the Geological Museum along with a host of other cuts made necessary by a shortfall in the budget. There were letters to the editor, messages across listserves, and video posts decrying the action. "Where will the children learn about dinosaurs!? How will they learn to love science?!" Essentially, the message was that the big bad President and his cronies were taking the dinos away from the kiddos. Of course, it's not as simple as all that.

Don't get me wrong; I wasn't happy to hear the museum was closing either. My mother brought us here on vacations, and we always made it a point to swing through the museum. I came here with just about any school trip that made it as far south as Laramie, and remember walking through the display of rocks that reacted to UV lights on junior high and high school trips for competitions held on campus. As a student at UW, I would stroll through from time to time, checking to see what was new or what had changed. I don't want to see it close, but I also know that President Buchanan and the rest of the UW admin don't WANT it to happen either.

Budget problems mean tough choices. They can mean that Jesse and I don't join our friends for a night on the town because we have to buy dog food for the kids and Ramen for ourselves. They can also mean that a museum closes to save staffing dollars and overhead costs, rather than cutting scholarship programs that keep current students in school or cutting a major from the books. No matter what gets cut, you can be certain that SOMEONE is not going to like it, someone is going to miss the services they once enjoyed, and someone might lose their job. I'm certainly glad I'm not the person who has to decide which person isn't needed as much as someone else. But that's the choice we're left with at times. I may not agree with all the decisions made, but I also don't have ALL the facts in front of me. Call me foolish, but having spent some time with the President and other admin types at UW, I really do believe they have its best interests at heart.

This week UW announced that the Foundation had secured funding for a security position for the museum, meaning they can reopen their doors. True, it will probably not have the same hours, and there won't be a curator there to offer tours on a whim. It's not the same as it was. To me, it's much more important that UW listened to the public outcry, and did what they could to make it better. The kids can once again see the dinosaurs. They can wonder at the "ordinary rocks" that glow in the dark when you push the button for the black light. Science has once again been given to the little ones. Wouldn't you think that people would be a bit happier?

So far, I've only heard complaints. "What about Brent's (the curator) job? Who will lead tours?! Who will share their knowledge?! This is unacceptable!" This angers me. I wish Brent could keep his job and that nothing had to change. But it does, and it doesn't help matters to point fingers and do nothing but bitch. It might be an assumption, but I figure most visitors to the museum can read, and there's plenty of signage to offer a self-guided tour. Not every museum has tours, and yet I've managed to enjoy and learn from them anyway. For those who are too young to read, it's a pretty safe bet that they'll be accompanied by someone who can. Parents or teachers, perhaps. Will people get the same amount of info, or be able to have a random question answered on the spot? Probably not.

So what? Shockingly enough, you might have to go LOOK UP INFORMATION FOR YOURSELF. You might have to go find an answer for your children. And that's actually a good thing, folks. It teaches them how to get answers for themselves, rather than having to rely on someone else being there to spoon-feed you facts. My mother made me look up words in the dictionary too, and I lived to tell about it. I even developed a thirst for knowledge, and to this day will look up info on my own. It's called learning. I refuse to believe that we've become so lazy that we are incapable of learning on our own. We're too used to asking Wikipedia, the History Channel, our professors, the nightly news, or anyone else to tell us what's important. To condense knowledge into bite-sized digestible pieces that fit into our shortened attention spans.

UW is doing its best to meet folks half-way. They know the museum is a great resource and that it's important to people. So they're doing what they can in a tough situation. The way I see it, we can sit back and poo-poo the fact that it won't be as good as it was or exactly the way we think it ought to be. We can focus on what they're not GIVING us rather than the effort they're making despite a lack of funds. Or we could recognize that they're focusing on what people said was the biggest problem with the closure. That they're willing to listen to public comment. Which is more wise? I know what my mother would have done. She's the one who taught me that if someone else is buying and cooking grilled cheese for dinner, I better not complain that it's not the steak I really wanted.

So don't expect sympathy or sorrow from me because you only got part of what you asked for. Don't be surprised if I don't loathe the President with the same venom as you because he had to make a tough choice. My mother raised me better than that, and perhaps if more people did the same, our students would score better on tests, be better prepared before entering the work force, and would develop a deeper love of know...that stuff you said was the most tragic loss and insult. The learning will still be there, you just might have to be a little more active in the process.

Today's lesson...well, lessons:
  • Sometimes we can't have everything we want; it might just help us to appreciate what we DO have.
  • There isn't always enough to go around, but it might help us think about what we can do without.
  • We don't always get to set the rules of the game or decide who gets to play, and there's no promise we'll win. The important thing is that we play fair, be good competitors (even when we don't get our way), and don't just try to pick up our ball and go home when we're not happy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Bug Has Bitten

Recently I decided it was time to begin planning the wedding in earnest. I'd been out to a few wedding sites before, and bookmarked things that looked like they would come in handy. I finally got them printed off and organized in a binder. I set up a wedding website, created our wedding registries, and we started talking about things like colors. We've already got an officiant, DJ, photographer, and the wedding party pretty well nailed down, thanks to fabulous friends. All of this was kind of fun, and I felt rather ahead of the game. I started on a guest list, and from there am looking into available venues. And then I went to a wedding...

Jesse's brother Ryan and I went to Kaycee this last weekend for their cousin's wedding. Haley and Geoff are amazing people, and are hellaciously fun to boot. Of course we agreed to do whatever we could to help out with preparations and such. So we spent a few days hanging thule, setting up chairs, arranging flowers, and doing most any task that needed doing. We hauled around the bride, helped figure out how to make things pretty, and played MC at the reception. Our bodies were sore and our feet were blistered, but we had a lot of fun too.

I tend to tear up at weddings, but this time I lost it about 15 seconds into the ceremony. The couple is very close to our hearts, and we'd invested a lot of time in everything turning out just so. And it did. Haley was a vision. Geoff looked incredible in his suit. Yet all I could think about was that in just over a year, I'd be doing the same thing with Jesse - celebrating our love and commitment to one another. Formalizing what's in our hearts. I can't wait!

Today's lesson: Do something for someone you care about, for no other reason than: you can. You just might enjoy it, and learn something about yourself in the process.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Silver Linings

Yup, I have an acute case. Of the blah's, that is. So many of my friends have been commenting on the fact that it's June, yet we're stuck with day after day of rain, cold, and gray. It's been fairly nice in the mornings, but by the time we're getting off work, it's storming again. We've had hail, rain, and rain. In Goshen County and Aurora, CO there were tornadoes. Every day we fear for the safety of the tender young, impressionable plants we worked so hard to plant...and paid a fair chunk of change for.

We're used to fairly decent weather this time of year. The old joke is that Wyoming has two seasons: winter and construction. Looking around, I note that there are several streets torn up and that highways to most anywhere come with a delay. So where's the sunshine and 75 degree weather we dream of all winter long? It takes a lot out of a person. I can tell Jesse is crankier when he can't go mow, pull weeds, or otherwise putter in the yard. I know that I'm happier when it I don't freeze my ass off in the office all day long and when I can lounge in the sun and fresh air.

I keep trying to look at the bright side, though. When it's warm outside, my office can also be unbearably hot. Being on the 4th floor of the oldest building on campus can do that to you. It also means that we're not having to water the lawn every single day, and that means lower water bills. It also means that later this summer, we might have a chance to go boating or floating. It means that the plants will grow more, the animals will have more food and be stronger, and we might stave off a drought for a while longer.

I still miss the sun, though. I try to focus on the silver linings, but it's sometimes harder than it looks.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Today in History...

If you think about the sheer volume of world history, any given date will have seen important moments. Today is no exception. I bopped on over to and to check out what had happened on the May 26ths of the past. Of course, I found some interesting tidbits:
  • 1805 - Louis and Clark see the Rockies for the first time
  • 1864 - Montana became a territory
  • 1896 - Wall Street Journal starts publishing the Dow Jones
  • 1897 - Dracula was published
  • 1977 - Star Wars opened
  • 1978 - The first casino in Atlantic City opened

Neat stuff, right? At least if you're a geek like me. Here are some that seemed important, ironic, or otherwise relevant today.

1937 - the Golden Gate bridge opened
How ironic that such an icon of California - San Francisco, even - should open on a date that saw something beautiful close there. On May 26, 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, denying marriage once again to loving couples. To citizens. I saw hope close in the hearts of many people. I admit, it was a difficult day for me too. As we research the 3 day waiting period for marriage licences in Massachusetts, I had toyed with the thought of a wedding on a beach in California. Say goodbye to my money, California. Licenses, hotels, cab rides, meals...and that's if we didn't do a reception with flowers, cake, cocktails, etc. Or take a day to see the sights. Also today, the New York State Comptroller released a report stating that if New York allowed gay marriage, they'd gain at least $210 million in revenue.

1994 - Michael Jackson marries Lisa Marie Presley
Yeah, that turned out well, didn't it? I'm tired of trying to explain what seems so simple and apparent to me. It's a civil contract, folks. It doesn't force a church to perform a ceremony. It says I'm committing to this person (in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part) and they have the right to my stuff, to make medical decisions for me, and all the stuff that goes with a marriage. Because I love them. Why is this so scary? You can married without a church. Why can't we? Did you know there 1138 rights and privileges that come with a marriage license? That there are many we can't get through legal paperwork? That many of these protect our families, children, and assets when something goes wrong? That denying us that WHOLE list is not only separate and unequal, but that it puts kids at risk?

1938 - The House Committee on Unamerican Activities is formed
Such a symbol of the misuse of power and how paranoia can permeate our society so much that we deny basic due process and civil liberties to our citizens. The rights of the minority should never be put to a vote; it's a basic premise of democracy. Because of who I am, I am not allowed to do something most everyone else takes for granted. We can't put it any more simply. We once had laws stating that you couldn't marry someone with different color skin. In 1967 the courts ruled that Unconstitutional, though not on May 26th.

1989 - The Danish Parliament allows gay marriage
How's that for irony? Please note that Denmark has not collapsed, exploded, or slipped into moral depravity. Straight people still get married there too. The churches haven't been run out or burned down. Children are no more likely to be gay than before, and the crime rate hasn't spun out of control. So can we get over it, already? The doom and gloom is just propaganda. All that's happening now is that you're denying loving couples the same rights which you, Britney Spears, and every unfaithful or closeted politician have been flaunting while making a mockery of the institution I want so badly to enter.

I know that this, too, shall pass and that progress and momentum are on our side. So let's spend more time fighting for what should be a no-brainer because a fundie got their undies in a twist. We've got nothing better to do, like fix the economy, reduce unemployment, ensure everyone can see a doctor, fight diseases on a global scale, repair social security, end a war....get the point yet?

Here's the other thing that happened today: for a huge segment of the population, the fight is on. Remember how we mobilized in response to the AIDS epidemic? You ain't seen nothing yet. You have challenged our right to love, and straight or gay, that's a sure way to back a human being into a corner. And NOBODY puts Baby in the corner. We're not going away and we're not giving up. There were 106 rallies across the country today. I can't wait to see what we'll do next. Our hearts will not be denied and our voices will not be silenced. That would be Unamerican, and our love (and weddings) are worth fighting for.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On joy and fear

Yesterday afternoon was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me. I spent most of the day in the usual way, slogging through paperwork and planning at work. The morning offered a ray of sunshine for me, as I got to leave the office and facilitate a SafeZone session with this year's Orientation leaders. They're a great group, and the session went very well...leaving me in a pretty good mood.

Late in the afternoon I decided it was time to check up on the search for Craig Arnold. Craig is a poet, professor at UW, and friend to many here in Laramie. He's been part of the Flock, connected with the GLBT community, and revived open mike poetry readings/slams. In other words, he's a sweetie with a big heart, an infectious smile, and a place in our hearts. He traveled to Japan to visit a volcano for a project he's been working on, and went missing on a hike. After 10 days of searching, the teams were called off. Things aren't looking great, as they found his footprints leading up to a step dropoff, but not back down.

I was emailing with him a few months back about sexual harassment training, and my hope of his safe return is dwindling in my heart. It made me think about his son, Robin, and the nights we all spent frolicking and cavorting at Mark and Tessa's old apartment and the original Flock Hall. It made me think about his partner, Rebecca, and what she must be going through right now. Terror instantly seized my heart: what if it were Jesse who was missing? How would I go on? Process it? Survive? I realized that my greatest fear has changed, and losing Jesse is now the worst thing I can imagine for myself. I suppose that's a true measure of love, as his life means more to me now than my own.

Still reeling from the weight of Craig's disappearance and the fears it brought up within me, I drove home and made an overdue phone call. Margaret and Coley had called recently to invite us to their wedding party here in Wyoming. They were in Boston when I called, and Coley beamed through the phone as she said "We're officially married now." They were married in Provincetown, and though I've only seen a couple of "unofficial" photos, it was absolutely perfect. They left for their honeymoon in Key West this morning. Naturally I gushed congratulations at them, and told them how much it means to me that two of the greatest hearts I know have found happiness in each other.

It made me think about my own wedding, and the love and commitment behind it. It was something like a familiar hug, wrapping me in warmth. It also brought me to another bout of tears, thinking again about Robin and Rebecca. About love and loss, about uncertainty and fear. I could almost feel my own heart aching with love for Jesse, and its vulnerability since giving him a piece of it. I couldn't dwell on that, though, as it was too much to bear, even in the hypothetical. But that's the nature of love, isn't it? Letting someone into our hearts can brighten the darkest recesses of our soul, but also opens us to pain and suffering if something goes wrong.

Today's lesson: We all have a choice. We can give into the fear and remain closed off and remote. We can let our fear of losing someone paralyze us, spiral us into depression, or pull back into ourselves. Or we can use that fear to help us protect one another, cherish one another, and remind us how much those we care about really mean to one another. We can use it to make the most of every moment we have together, sharing in a joy that some ignore or take for granted. Don't give into the fear, friends...use it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fear Part II: Nothing to Report

I remember the first time I was aware that I was acting like a news junkie. On 9/11, I was glued to the news just like everyone else at work. Since we didn't have TV's at work, those with radios tuned in to various frequencies and everyone else bounced from news or network website to another. When new information was released someone would shout it down the hall, or IM updates from office to office. Pooling our resources allowed us to create an instant update network with those at work, our friends and family around the country, etc. It meant that we could access information collectively, and that made us feel better in the wake of fear and destruction.

I'm sure I'd scoured for news in this fashion before, but it was the first time I was actively conscious of the fact. Since then, I think our whole society has made this action permanent; we've institutionalized the need for instant news, even if it's no real news at all. When I was younger, something incredibly important had to be going on for the news to break into our regularly scheduled programming: an assassination attempt, an earthquake with serious casualties, etc. The news anchor would use their most serious and concerned voice as they gave us the details. They told us who had died, how many might be homeless, what the damage estimates were, and how to check on loved ones or where to contact folks about relief efforts. They waited until they had some information so they didn't waste our time...or cause needless panic.

These days we can't just watch the news and listen to the nice anchor-folk tell us about what's going on. We have to add news crawls at the bottom of the screen, giving us every trivial fact possible about the topic at hand, or recapping what was just said. We get endless updates about inane details of Britney or Lindsay's lives and news break-ins about the latest house fire in Southern California...just in case it turns into the next great SoCal wildfire. We watch an airport tarmac, waiting for the arrival of the President because somewhere along the line, we developed not only the right to know everything about everyone instantly, but the need. And we can only hear news from pretty people. It seems every network is racing to find a buxom beauty to draw us in while reading from a teleprompter. Does anyone else remember when anchors were chosen because they seemed trustworthy, intelligent, and approachable?

I'm certainly not the only one to point out this sort of insanity; Jon Stewart often has a clip montage that shows every major network anchor spinning their wheels to speculate as to what might be happening or what might have caused the latest...fill in the blank. They dust off the nearest expert and interrogate them about every possibility, no matter how remote or premature it might be. They have to fill time, you know, because sooner or later they will get information, and want to be the first to report it. Why wait until you have something to report before you start guessing about all the things that could be going on.

The favorite speculation game is connected to fear. Weapons of mass destruction, terrorist attacks, economic crisis, swine flu...they give us something to worry about, and these days the news is designed to deliver that fear right into your home and life. During a recent White House press conference, a reporter asked about the possibility that swine flu had been engineered or released as part of a bio-terrorism plot. With a wry smirk, the talking head behind the mike made it clear that, no, there was no evidence whatsoever to even suggest that. Naturally, they continued that line of questioning. I'm sure some network pumped it up with a segment that night that said "but what would it look like if they did?"

Make no mistake, it must also be completely instant. I was talking with a photographer from a Denver paper last year, who explained that he'd been asked by his editor to cover a funeral from the inside...via Twitter. He was asked to post messages during the service, "you know, if the minister says something that makes the family or someone important break out in tears or something." He politely refused, though it nearly cost him his job. He decided it was too much - too tacky during someone's time of grief to be focused on getting the scoop. Besides...who really needs that much information from a funeral. Last time I checked, funerals weren't intended to be entertainment...or a spectator sport.

So what's the harm, you ask? I'm proud to say that when news of the swine flu (aka piggy sniffles) broke, terrorism is something that never crossed my mind. I'm sure the Shrub would argue this means I'm not a good 'Merican, but so be it. Rather than talking about ways to protect yourself from any infectious disease, let's spend some quality worrying time. We probably also wouldn't want to spend time talking about overpopulation or poverty, both of which are actually impacting the current pandemic. Or access to quality healthcare and medication for everyone. Or how what happens in another country to another group of people can impact our daily lives, so we might want to revisit this whole globalization discussion (with a President who has two brain cells together to rub together and form a synapse). I don't view a funeral as a good time, and don't feel the need to obsess over every attendee or word said at a funeral that wasn't important enough for me to attend.

Today's lesson: Pay attention to what the news tells you. Is it actually information, or just speculation? What are they not telling you, and how does it connect to your life? As mentioned in response to my previous post, critical thinking can go a long way. And take a breath, people. The latest story might actually be more interesting to you when they actually have information worth hearing. Perhaps if more of us waited until there are facts before we demand an instant update, we wouldn't go in search of WMD's that might be in someone else's country because the anchor (or VP) thinks they're good at speculating a compelling story at us.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Marketing fear

One of the legacies of 8 years of a Bush administration has been a focus on fear. Every morning the news tells us what color our level of fear should be today. We're taught that we're under constant threat, though they usually can't tell us where, how, or when. We're supposed to be afraid at airports, and to go one step further by pointing out anything supsicious to the nearest TSA agent. To some extent, I understand this, as no security force can watch everyone at all times. Nor would the average citizen want that, as many of us value our privacy and independence just as highly as security. On the other hand, that same mentality has been used before with horrific results.

The Nazis told German citizens to watch their neighbors, keeping an eye out for collaborators or sympathizers. During the Red Scare, Americans were told the same: to keep an eye out for signs your friend or coworker was in league with the evil communist enemies. In both cases, even the allegation was enough to land someone in the hot seat, prison, or worse. We rounded up 110,000 US citizens and placed them in our own version of concentration camps, all because they had Japanese ancestry and were related to the wrong people.

So what got me focused on all this fear mongering, you ask? Well, it's not a new idea to me, but it was driven home over the weekend. We were watching a commerical for the EcoCanteen, which is essentially a metal water bottle. There are certainly some good reasons for such a product - less waste collecting in landfills, lower cost since you're not paying for packaging, etc. The other primary point in the ad is that plastic water bottles release toxins which can be harmful to the drinker.

But mentioning that isn't enough. The ad shows a mom packing lunch for her kids, and then reiterates that toxins are present. The message seems clear: if you don't buy this product for your children, you're a bad parent. You're poisoning your children, you idiot! It then goes one step further...showing an emergency room in the beckground of the ad. Now I don't know about you, but I haven't heard much on the news about hoards of folks being rushed into the ER for water bottle toxicity.

At what point does drinking water become akin to playing russian roulette? And more importantly, when did it become okay to terrify people into buying something? Most of my friends joked about buying generators for Y2K. Most also laughed when the news reported that sales of gas masks, duct tape, and plastic sheeting were skyrocketing. In the end, this isn't that much different. "There's something horrible out there, and only our product can save you. Be afraid!"

To me, it seems there ought to be a law about such things. Truth in advertising. Public interest. Causing a panic. You know, stuff like that whole "yelling fire in a crowded theater." Fear has become a cornerstone of our American lives. The economy, nukes in Iran or North Korea, swine flu...the list goes on and on. Personally, I spent too many years living in fear while in the closet, and I'm not inclined to spend more years doing the same because of something else - especially plastic water bottles.

Today's lesson: Pay careful attention the messages being blasted at you, whether from an ad, a reporter, a friend, or family member. What's at the core, and what strategy are they using to win you over? Think for yourself, and don't give in to fear, extortion, etc.

Friday, May 08, 2009


Sometimes chapters begin, and sometimes they end. This time of year is always bitter sweet for those who work on at a college or university. My life has been no exception of late, and I've been through many chapters, with still more on the horizon.

Today is the end of a long, hard semester. We've been running at full steam since January, and I'm really looking forward to a couple of months without night classes, committee meetings, and study groups. Jesse and I will be able to spend a bit more time together, something we've been needing and wanting. We're hoping to spend some time relaxing, whether it's camping at his family's cabin, lounging by a lake, or cutting loose at Pride.

Today is the end of my first academic semester in the new job. Last summer was pretty quiet, and we certainly don't have the number of trainings and such as we do during the school year. This year, however, we're making some changes to different committees and gearing up to break into partnerships with four HBCU's (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). We're going to hit the ground running, and you can be certain that this summer won't be slow or dull. I'm not sure I'm looking forward to more ground-breaking work without a little down time, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

This time of year always means friends leaving, and is my least favorite part of graduation season. Most of the remaining denizens of Flock Hall 2.0 are bound for DC, and I'm going to miss the girls. Nobody cooks quite like Tessa, and we've shared many a bottle of wine together while whipping up something in the kitchen. Zach and Whitney will be here over the summer, thanks to their impending wedding, but then they're off to Africa to do HIV prevention and education.

Yardwork season is also starting. My hay fever HATES this time of year, and it often gives me flashbacks to my years working as summer help for my high school or working on the golf course back home. Kind of like weed eater/lawn mower/concrete pouring PTSD. That said, I'm looking forward to spending some time outside again, and Jesse is giddy about working on the yard. He's already got a jump start, and this weekend we're doing more...including planting flower seeds and veggies in the newly tilled beds out back. If nothing else, there will be more BBQ's and hot tubbing going on with friends, which is always a good thing.

One way or another, many things are starting, while still others end. It's all just another chapter in the stories of our lives. Before I move on to today's lesson, I have a request. Drop me a quick note on my comments, MySpace, or email. Let me know how the chapters in YOUR life are going, and how you're doing. It's a simple thing, but would mean a lot to me before everyone scatters to their own summer adventures. And now, without further ado...

Today's lesson:
Beginnings aren't always good, and endings aren't always bad - life is much more complicated than that. The most important thing we can do is keep turning the pages, one after another. You just have to see how this one ends!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Drama abounds

There's never a shortage of things going on in April:
  • AIDS Walk is still happening tomorrow. It'll just be moved into the Union Ballroom.
  • Bingo is also going to happen. Of course, the odds are not good that Sophie will be able to make it to town. And if the roads don't open today or tomorrow, I'll be doing the show by myself. YIKES!
  • A poopy person wrote a nasty letter to the editor about one of the events this week and said some really nasty things. We, of course, took the high road and wrote a couple of letters in response, turning meanness into learning. Go AIDS Walk Committee!
  • Work is going to be rather overly busy and stressful for a while. Nothing I can talk about, of course, but suffice it to say that people are stupid.

I's a WEAK update, but I wanted to put SOMETHING up.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Walk Approaches

Today is a day of good gay news. Iowa became the 4th state to allow gay marriages after a unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court. That should take effect April 24th. Tonight is the Elton John Concert, which is certain to raise a large chunk of change for one of my favorite organizations: The Matthew Shepard Foundation. The Shepard Symposium on Social Justice is concluding today, and there've been some incredible moments, speakers, ideas, and community development. And today is the day the first ever Wyoming AIDS Walk commercial found a home on YouTube. Check it out, as my friends at 89 Second Productions in New York did an outstanding job on it! Forward the link to your friends, family, and anyone you think might be interested. Encourage them to attend the Walk, drag queen bingo, and/or the week of educational events leading up to it. Help them donate time, energy, or funds wherever they can. It'll do your heart (and our communities) good.

Friday, March 06, 2009


It's that time of year again, folks. I know, I know...I've mentioned in the last couple posts that things have been busy. But it hasn't changed! It's gotten to the point that without lists of some sort, I don't know which way is up. I've spoken to a number of classes recently. Women's Studies (Love you Jess!), Social Work, Education, and Nursing students have all listened to me lately. Tonight I have to attend a dinner meeting for work, though it's really for PACMWA. Our office is doing most of the planning and arrangements, and Nell wants Tracey and I there.

Jesse has Founder's Day stuff for the fraternity this weekend, and I might be helping a friend install some new toys for her computer. There's karaoke tomorrow night at the Library, and you can bet I'll be there belting out my favorites. Next week I have AIDS Walk meetings, drag queen conference calls, and am speaking to more classes. I'm also speaking at the Junior High, as my old mentor teacher asked me to come be part of a discussion of diversity.

Within the next few weeks, I'll speak to classes for Social Work, Communications, and Geography. I'll present 2 SafeZone sessions, including one for the Shepard Symposium. I'll attend the Elton John concert and after party, and will go into high gear for AIDS Walk. Work will be quite busy too, and spare time will be rare and precious. Sexual Harassment Prevention training, diversity sessions, and random meetings and committee discussions will be crammed into the normal office work, and I'm not exactly looking forward to it.

Lists seems to be a necessity for my future, as well as several calendar and scheduling tools/tricks. List of bills, repairs on the house, maintenance for the car...I check one thing off and another 3 pop up. I realize that this is just a part of life, and that it will not continue at this break-neck pace forever. Sometimes it's hard not to get bogged down in the length of list, or the shear number of them I have going. Left foot, right foot...repeat as needed. Thank goodness for cocktails, a loving man, and puppy therapy. If only I didn't have to work over Spring Break.

Today's lesson: We can all get through this, though it will take strength and patience. It's hard sometimes, but take a step back and look at the big picture. This, too, shall pass.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Recipe for a great night

Last night we asked Bobbers to come over and regale us with Check Spellingtales of his adventures in Sweden. He had to beg off due to errands, obligations, and having woken up at 4am. Instead, Mr. Man kidnapped me and said only "We're going on a date." He'd packed everything we needed already, and told me I should change out of my nicer clothes, wear something comfortable, and that it would be "a long date." We got in the car and despite having 3/4 of a tank of gas, went to the station and filled up. Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued. 90 minutes later we arrived at our destination, and it was marvy. Here's the recipe:
  • Red Bull, Gatorade, and snacks for the drive
  • Two pairs flip flops
  • Two large terrycloth robes
  • Two swimsuits
  • Two towels
  • Two souls who aren't seeing enough of each other lately due to schedules

Combine in one large pool of hot water from a natural spring. Sprinkle lightly with assorted locals for color and flavor, not to mention endless people-watching entertainment. Soak for 45 minutes and enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I know, I know...I've not been mosting much lately. Work has been keeping me very busy right now, so I don't have as much free time in front of the keyboard. I'm actually having to do work, and I do NOT approve. ;) I can hardly believe it's been a month since my last post. Well here are some updates and thoughts:
  • The new baby is here and doing fine. Lulu is too precious for words, and is adjusting nicely to life in Wyoming. She's getting along well with her new brothers, and is becoming less timid. She's spoiled rotten, and the boys are getting plenty of love and cuddle time too to ensure that we don't run into problems with jealousy. We've located the camera again, so a range of photos will be coming soon.
  • Planning is well underway for this year's AIDS Walk. Things are going very well this year, and I'm working on details for Drag Queen Bingo too. It should be one of Laramie's most exciting events once again! April 18th...mark your calendars now!
  • For the first time ever, I have someone in my life when Valentine's Day rolls around. This will be the first time I've had someone to celebrate it with, and Jesse's too. We're not doing the usual dinner and flowers thing, though. As usual, I'm helping Janet down at Killian's Florist make it through her busiest couple of days of the year. I start tonight after my day job, and will help get things ready and organized. I'll probably also help prepare some of the orders and deliveries for tomorrow. I'll also be helping out Friday night. Saturday is the big day, of course, and Jesse's going to help too. The plan is for me to help out in the shop and he'll drive one of the vans doing deliveries. We'll be together in a way, and it's actually a lot of fun delivering smiles and happiness to random strangers. Then we'll have cocktails in the shop at the end of the night, and Jesse and I will no doubt go out somewhere to have our first real V-day.
  • I wanted to share a new term I cooked up the other night. I was describing one of the bartenders at our favorite watering hole, The Library. He's trying to become a fire fighter too. After agreeing with Jesse and Mr. Jones that he's not hard on the eyes, I added "He's also got that 'Oh Garsh' quality about him, kind of a corn-fed naievete." As we continued driving, I thought about the mash up of a French term with a pastoral descriptor, and was rather proud of my new oxymoronic neologism. (Look it up!) Just thought I'd share.
  • My taxes are done and filed. I can't wait for the refund check to get here. It's going to exciting things like a transmission flush, paying off bills, and groceries. We're such party animals.
  • Wyoming's Defense of Marriage bill failed in the Senate. Never made it out of committee. So someone decided they'd take it up in the House. While it did make it out of committee, it died on the floor in a 25-35 vote. Focus on the Family dumped time and money into the effort. So glad it was wasted! Many, including some of my friends, jumped into attack mode right away. Some didn't just try to respond, they almost went into a panic. I think some forgot that legislation of this nature has been introduced every year since 1994 in Wyoming, and that it rarely makes it out of committee. I decided to sit this one out on the sidelines. I reminded myself that we cannot all be everything to everyone, and that we have to take some time for ourselves every now and then. That, and I have a little more faith in the common sense of Wyomingites. Okay, and their tendency to exactly the opposite of what outsiders (see Focus on the Family above) tell us we should do.
  • Jesse has night classes three days a week this semester, so spending time together is a precious commodity. We're still managing to go out for a drink now and then or make it to a friend's house for dinner or a movie. We've had folks over to the house a bit too, but we're not seeing enough of everyone. It's just the nature of the beast for a while. In other words, for our local friends and family, please don't take offense if we can't make it to something or haven't seen you in a while. It's not because we don't love you, it's because we're running in too many directions. We don't see each other enough, and "it ain't all about you!" ;) Also, if you've got something you want to include us in, it's best to let us know in advance. We have a calendar on the wall at home for recording our meetings, events, and obligations. Get on it sometime!

These are but of few of the recent adventures in the Rainbow Kingdom. Stay tuned for the next update, though the management hopes it will not take another month for it to happen.

Friday, January 09, 2009

After a month

It's been one day shy of a month since I last posted. A great deal has happened since then, to be sure. Here's a quick recap of the most recent month in the Rainbow Kingdom:

  • Right after my last poem, I caught the cold that was running around town. I was down and out for a week, coughing, hacking, sneezing, and being generally miserable. I went to the clinic and was given some beefy antibiotics. In fact, they're the same ones we give to folks with the clap. Yes, we got a lot of joke mileage about that. When you're down and out, sometimes little smiles mean the world.
  • We officially decided to get a new puppy. She's an American Hairless Terrier and we're naming her Lucretia, Lulu for short. We'll be picking her up from DIA sometime in the next 2 weeks. We've gotten the breeding rights too, and plan to start our own breeding kennel for AHT's. Check out our website: The business cards should be done next week.
  • We made a flying trip to Denver for my friend Mark's annual backyard Christmas party. Scotty and Craig drove back from Saint Louis and brought their new puppy too, an adorable miniature Aussie named Schatz (German for sweetheart). It was SO good to see them, Jerry, Adam, Kalley, and the whole Denver crew. I miss 'em all!
  • We went back to Kaycee for Christmas with Jesse's family. We had a great holiday, getting snowed in for an extra day. We took the Squidly with us too, and she managed to attract the only lesbi-tyrian in a town of 250 people. Within 5 minutes of being in the bar. We helped break in the bar's new karaoke machine, and I sang many duets with my father-in-law-to-be. Everything from Johnny Cash to Bon Jovi. Jesse and I got commemorative tattoos from his cousin's fiance - we got each other's initials on our right arms. We also made the official announcement to the whole family about the engagement. Nobody reached for torches our pitchforks.
  • Since I was off work between Christmas and New Year's but Jesse had to work, I donned my cape and tights to clean out Jesse's room in the fraternity. I think I should have asked for hazzard pay. All his fraternity brothers referred to the room as "the storage unit" as it was chock full of stuff and he's been staying with me since the middle of August. We managed to cram everything into the house somehow, and are filled to the rafters and busting at the seams. But he's got a full closet now, and we officially live together.
  • Earlier this week I caught a VERY nasty stomach flu that's rolling around town. I lost 7 pounts in 36 hours. While that's an EFFECTIVE way to lose weight, I don't recommend it at all and wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Wash your hands often, don't share drinks, and be careful who you least until this bug burns itself out.

I think that's the major highlights. I wish you all the best in the new year, and look forward to another year of memories, madness, and martinis with you!