Read

  • Where To Read Me (3/25/2017)

    babakfakhamzadeh

    Press And Writing

    You can read posts here, though I mostly post on Facebook or my meandering at The Rest Of It, or you can also find my poetry over here at Words I Write. Posts on this site will have more to do with politics, activism, community, and consulting. Posts everywhere else? Well..that’s the rest of it.

    Rogue Valley Messenger

    Julie Gillis Gay Place Blogs

    Good Vibes Blog

    Good Men Project

    Getting Cocky On Campus Carry

    The Texas Observer Rabble Rouser Round-Up

    Amplify The Women’s Community Center!

    Everyday Feminism: The Healthy Sex Talk

    Settlers Of Caftan, The Good Eye,

    Women’s Community Center of Central Texas New Development Director

    KXAN Women’s Community Center To Empower Women

    Over The Rainbow The WCC, The Horn

    Julie Gillis At Nerd Nite

    No Comments

  • New Year, New Chapter (1/6/2016)
    craigsunter

    craigsunter

    It’s a new year and all around me I see proof of it online and off. Mostly, it’s in the “New Year/New You” posts on magazines, ads, CNN reports-everywhere! Lose weight, change your face, get a new job, join the gym, be someone new! Resolutions focused on changing the “you” of you into a new person, don’t work, and frankly that usually leaves most of us who try it feeling like failures by February.

    And think about it. In order to be a new you, that means have to give up who you currently are and who you used to be. That’s not only impossible, it’s kind of mean!

    You are exactly who you need to be.

    The thing is, we don’t need a new us, we just need to work on the next chapter of the story of our lives. It’s always your story, and you are always the lead character. Why not think of the new year in terms turning the page and seeing what adventures you can create?

    I’ve fallen prey to the same resolution listing and I’ve certainly tried to avoid being me by being a whole new person-boy have I and Lordy how that didn’t work out. But over the past few years, I’ve discovered some core truths about myself in the world, the skills I offer, and the next chapters I myself want to set out (in print or otherwise).

    Your story matters and I want to help you tell it.

    Whether you are working on transitions in the story of your life, if you are needing strategic production support in creating a powerful event, or if you are seeking someone to speak or emcee an event I would love to work with you.

    I have a handy little page on the blog with info on what I offer-from personal story coaching to social media management to events, and I’d love to talk and find out if I can be of help. I offer competitive rates, as well as a sliding scale for my services, and always offer a free complimentary session for us to get to know each other to see if the relationship is a match.

    These are just a few of the services I can provide. Let me know if you’d like to connect. And Happy New Year. You are going to be amazing.

    Personal Consultation: The Story Of Your Life

    What’s your story? Experiencing big changes or transitions in your personal narrative? I’m highly intuitive about finding the heart of the life-issue or artistic vision you are working on, helping you plan and set goals, all while providing compassionate support along the way.

    Promotion and Media: Your Story Online

    Need support with social media campaigns? Know that you need them but are not sure where to start? I am well versed in finding the narrative you want to share and condensing it to 140 characters, fun posts, captivating images. Social media is a powerful and necessary part of any business, non-profit, or event, so make sure your story is told online as well as face to face. A plus? I collaborate with Tilton Rivers Films so can serve as a one shop stop for media needs.

    Producing Events: Your Story On Stage

    Events are stories on a bigger scale, with the power to create a shared experience. With over 20 years experience in theater and event management, producing small evening events as well as festivals and conferences, I can manage the event for you, offer services from consulting to crowdfunding, from strategic planning to volunteer management.

    Public Speaking: Stories For Change

    Sometimes we need to hear stories as much as tell them. Whether you need an emcee to help spice up your event, or need a workshop presenter on the topics on Public Speaking, The Power Of Play, Transformational Storytelling, Sexuality, Spirit, And Shame, or Improvising Your Relationships, I’d love to work with you.

    No Comments

  • Year Behind/Year Ahead (12/31/2015)
    flickr groume

    flickr groume

    Today is the last day of 2015. Tomorrow begins the month of January, named after the Roman God Janus. He had two faces one which looked at the past, and the other looked towards the future.

    My 2015 has been very full, very busy, and very educational. I’ve performed or spoken at 26 events. I’ve been a facilitator or trainer at 12, and the productions I’ve worked on numbers about 15. I’ve begun additional free-lance production and consulting for some incredible and visionary folks, and am focused more on story than ever.

    While all this has been going on, I’ve been enjoying a lovely life with a wonderful husband (20 years!) and madcap children (already in middle and high school!), and I am so grateful to have dear and valued friends.

    On top of that there has been a real re-emergence from the past two years of grieving the death of my mother. While I’ve been present and happy on the surface, there was a whole lot of Orpheus in the Underworld about my inner life since she passed. Or Eurydice. One or the other, not sure, possibly I lost some of myself there and was finding out how much I could bring back. Regardless, I’ve done a lot with my time and from looking back over the year I can see how it was leading me to where I am now.

    Sometimes being busy is a good thing. It’s certainly valued by our culture, right? Being too busy to sleep or go see friends, or even book a massage because you are so stressed from being so busy! As the NYT said, it’s a bit of a trap. But sometimes it’s a way of avoiding stopping and reflecting on one’s life. If you (or say I) are so focused on externals rather than what really needs to be addressed internally, well then cycles occur and they aren’t always good.

    Or if some things are working in your life, but other more structural things are not, you might (or I might) be very tempted to pay attention to the workable things and ignore the things that are harder. And, even with the good things happening, you may find that you (or well, maybe me) can’t really get over the hump of it all to affect some real change that would make a BIG difference.

    It’s a little like being stuck in an eddy. Even if the scenery is nice, you need to get your ass downstream because the river is flowing, and you are supposed to flow too. Something. Mixing all my metaphors.

    All this to say, I found myself at the end of 2015 with a new awareness of boundaries, of self care, of respect for systems and my role in them, and of family.

    With that knowledge, I’m very much looking forward to well, looking forward into 2016. I wish you a thoughtful look back and a Happy New Year ahead!

    No Comments

  • Archives Exiting The Mobius (12/24/2015)

    From My Archives Exiting The Mobius

    nosha creative commons flickr

    nosha creative commons flickr

    I watch my Twitter feed, my Facebook timeline. I see a winding stream of posts, typed and sent through the ether, human voices posting about inhuman things. Inhuman circumstances created by humans in systems built by humans; perhaps the systems are inhuman because we can’t live up to our promise, or perhaps the systems kill our spirit leading us to act in inhuman ways.

    Syria.

    There are people trying to reach safe havens risking everything, and losing everything, their most precious loves, their children. Who made this happen? Why is there no salve for this? Where can these people go? Can we sit and watch?

    We need to help. We need to help always and every day. This is a tough life, being human because the helping, the need for the help, never seems to end; indeed we may be causing the need for help even as we may try to fix it. Humans seem to me to be a mobius monster of cause and effect, good and evil, help and harm.

    Still, the harm is here and we need to help. Many will offer some brief respite, money, goods or services to help those refugees from a man-mad war, from terror, from death and destruction.

    As the article states, these are practical ways you can help, I can help, at least in the short term.

    Make a donation, and volunteer, and petition the countries you live in to act. It may seem like a small thing, just doing even one of the items on the very long lists. The impact of a small thing feels, well, small when compared to the situation at hand. I don’t know that it’s comprehensible, the terror and pain people must be in to escape and leave their homes. It’s happening though, and if every one of us did something that would have an inestimable impact. At least I think it would.

    Perhaps it would be help in the short term, but what’s the impractical way to help, the radical way, the way that stops this from happening again? How can we act practically when what is happening is irrational and a rip across the soul? That’s not addressed except in snippets on my feed. Sometimes I scroll social media looking for clues and keys.

    Meanwhile, I’d like to also mention that this same pain and fear is in our backyard here in Texas. There are many people escaping difficult lives, war, poverty and coming to the US where they risk everything, can lose everything that is precious.

    We have families in detention centers here in our state. It’s a kind of torture to be so isolated. Again, I don’t know that people comprehend what is really going on there, perhaps they can’t because to open up their minds to what is really occurring to human beings, is to risk a kind of madness of awakening. But it’s also madness to keep our eyes closed.

    Dilley. Karnes. Hutto.

    You can also help here, right now. End Family Detention has a number of ways to help, both pragmatic and personal. Their links on how to be of service are invaluable, but you need to feel, as well, the Visions From Inside, the pain and the needs and the words of those in detention centers because they would be erased, forgotten, invisibled if not for End Family Detention and volunteers who stand up for humanity in inhuman systems.

    Practical and pragmatic ways to help are good, at least they are far better than nothing. I am never satisfied with that, not even in my dreams at night. Why? Why this circular winding, back and forth of beauty and degradation, of humans and inhumanity, of pain and relief, peace and chaos? How to drop out of that mobius to find the deepest places of change?

    Is it possible? What would it take to really help? Photos? Stories? Water over stones over time over souls? How do we exit this loop or is it part and parcel of what it means to be human?

    No Comments

  • Grief (12/19/2015)
    flickr thomaspics

    flickr thomaspics

    On Monday, December 21, I have the honor of reading at Grief Rites. This is an amazing reading series in Portland, Oregon which focuses on that which waits for us all. Death.

    From their site

    memento vivere ~ memento mori
    remember to live ~ remember you will die

    We are afraid of death and grief. We are afraid to talk about it and think about it. The only way to end the fear is to talk about it openly and honestly. We are ALL going to die. We all know someone who has died. We all know people who will die. We may even have the honor of being with someone when they die.

    Let’s work together to help end the stigma. Talk about it. Sing about it. Write about it. Make art about it. Embrace conscious and compassionate death. Live until you die, and then keep living.

    Grief Rites will bring you information about how to talk about grief (and how not to!). Information about home funerals, green burials. Articles, poetry, essays, quotes. Inspiration. Consolation. No bullshit. The real truth.

    I’ll be reading a piece about letting go of ghosts (even though they are always with you) which yes, does involve a little bit of sex because what would a piece from me be without sex? Sex and Death are closely related, you know?

    We need to talk about the hard stuff because that’s what makes us all connected, human.

    So if you are in Portland, come on out and see the show and say hi if we haven’t already met. I’d love to say hello!

    No Comments

  • Exiting The Mobius (9/3/2015)
    nosha creative commons flickr

    nosha creative commons flickr

    I watch my Twitter feed, my Facebook timeline. I see a winding stream of posts, typed and sent through the ether, human voices posting about inhuman things. Inhuman circumstances created by humans in systems built by humans; perhaps the systems are inhuman because we can’t live up to our promise, or perhaps the systems kill our spirit leading us to act in inhuman ways.

    Syria.

    There are people trying to reach safe havens risking everything, and losing everything, their most precious loves, their children. Who made this happen? Why is there no salve for this? Where can these people go? Can we sit and watch?

    We need to help. We need to help always and every day. This is a tough life, being human because the helping, the need for the help, never seems to end; indeed we may be causing the need for help even as we may try to fix it. Humans seem to me to be a mobius monster of cause and effect, good and evil, help and harm.

    Still, the harm is here and we need to help. Many will offer some brief respite, money, goods or services to help those refugees from a man-mad war, from terror, from death and destruction.

    As the article states, these are practical ways you can help, I can help, at least in the short term.

    Make a donation, and volunteer, and petition the countries you live in to act. It may seem like a small thing, just doing even one of the items on the very long lists. The impact of a small thing feels, well, small when compared to the situation at hand. I don’t know that it’s comprehensible, the terror and pain people must be in to escape and leave their homes. It’s happening though, and if every one of us did something that would have an inestimable impact. At least I think it would.

    Perhaps it would be help in the short term, but what’s the impractical way to help, the radical way, the way that stops this from happening again? How can we act practically when what is happening is irrational and a rip across the soul? That’s not addressed except in snippets on my feed. Sometimes I scroll social media looking for clues and keys.

    Meanwhile, I’d like to also mention that this same pain and fear is in our backyard here in Texas. There are many people escaping difficult lives, war, poverty and coming to the US where they risk everything, can lose everything that is precious.

    We have families in detention centers here in our state. It’s a kind of torture to be so isolated. Again, I don’t know that people comprehend what is really going on there, perhaps they can’t because to open up their minds to what is really occurring to human beings, is to risk a kind of madness of awakening. But it’s also madness to keep our eyes closed.

    Dilley. Karnes. Hutto.

    You can also help here, right now. End Family Detention has a number of ways to help, both pragmatic and personal. Their links on how to be of service are invaluable, but you need to feel, as well, the Visions From Inside, the pain and the needs and the words of those in detention centers because they would be erased, forgotten, invisibled if not for End Family Detention and volunteers who stand up for humanity in inhuman systems.

    Practical and pragmatic ways to help are good, at least they are far better than nothing. I am never satisfied with that, not even in my dreams at night. Why? Why this circular winding, back and forth of beauty and degradation, of humans and inhumanity, of pain and relief, peace and chaos? How to drop out of that mobius to find the deepest places of change?

    Is it possible? What would it take to really help? Photos? Stories? Water over stones over time over souls? How do we exit this loop or is it part and parcel of what it means to be human?

    No Comments

  • Weight: At (un)Spoken (8/8/2015)

    —–

    I used to have a world class clavicle.

    Memory 1: I am 13 or 14. My dance teacher reports that my body is wrong for ballet – too large of butt, too stocky of thigh. I am sad and I cry as I tell my mother. She says offhandedly as if issuing a casual curse, “Well you do have a full behind. Don’t ever gain weight because you’ll never lose it.”

    I grew up a slender child, but puberty was not entirely fair. I got aforementioned full backside and strong thighs but no breasts whatsoever. I was, much to my mother’s happiness, thin in most of the ways that appealed to her. No boobs, but I figured I could make up for it in other ways.

    In my 30’s, I used to use the coy phrase, “I have a world class clavicle.” I liked this description because I could comment on my body in a sexy, yet, non sexual way. I figured it would attract a person who might be curious about what exactly that meant.

    And what it meant was the space between bone and shoulder was hollowed out enough to fit a little champagne cup in. I could pose like the models, you know, enough bone to prove I was thin even if I wasn’t traditionally sexy. The Dior New Look. My clavicle, singular, as if that was the only body part I could recommend. I got lovely compliments about the path from clavicle to gentle cleavage. I enjoyed that.

    Caveat 1: This piece is not a fishing expedition. This is not self pity. This story, if you stick with it, has a different purpose.

    Memory 2: I am in my first college play. The production is Grease. still committed to dancing, I’ve been aged for the “Rydell High reunion” wearing wrinkles and an unflattering costume. Afterward I seek out my mother for praise. She hugs me and says, “Your butt looked pretty big in that costume, better watch it.” I wasn’t shocked by this at this time, a comment like that. It became a pattern with us, this fusion combined with distance as if the only love she could give was sideways, on the sly.

    I did watch it for a damn long time and things were fine until a few years ago when my clavicle went AWOL. So I did what I always did. You know the drill, cut your intake, increase your output. I took up running. Gained weight. Did paleo. Gained weight. Went back veggie. Gained weight. Got plantar fasciitis and couldn’t walk/run. Gained weight. Little bits, over time that stubborn weight stayed on. I got my thyroid checked and checked again. I asked various and sundry doctors and heard repeatedly “you are just getting older.” Older sure, but I was doing the work. And when you do the work and get no response it feels like treachery to me.

    This may seem silly to you, a woman of hard work, good productions, supportive of activism, worrying about something seemingly trivial, so unfeminist…. I know. It seems trivial to me as well. I mean, it is trivial. And complaints very ill placed in the big picture. But missing my clavicle, was like misplacing a magical charm that secured my identity as desirable and in control.

    It’s amazing what we hold as a magic symbol, yes? Literal and figurative we hold these powers over each other, against each other, and create magical thinking about who we are based on beliefs rooted in our observations and our family histories. Our mirrors are intricate and layered.

    Memory 3: Even in her 60’s my mother smokes and eats quite little to keep her body small. The rest of her family is bigger boned and heavier than she. Her difference is the only currency she has, the only way to win some kind of invisible unheard argument between siblings. It is her magic spell.

    After college, we are the same height and size. But she has more length in her legs. She holds this inch of femur over me. Every time I visit, or we drive in the same car, she notes it “Oh I have to push the seat back, my legs are so much longer than yours.” and so forth- her length, thus her herself, superior. I come to expect her commentary and welcome it if only to get it over with. She may have legs, but I do have my clavicle.

    My husband, who is loving and gracious and wise, pointed out once that the times I was the thinnest, were the times I was the most despairing.
    —After a horrific breakup with first real love-my sexuality, going from girl to woman, undoing me into denying my body.
    —After having my first child, I was in the grips of postpartum depression-motherhood literally consuming me.
    —After moving my mother here with Azheimer’s. I was responsible for all her things, her life. I had two small children, a husband in school, and a mother to care for. I withered away alongside her. Her slimness from illness, mine? Not enough nurturing to go around.

    Caveat 2: I am not judging anyone’s body but mine and in fact, the women I have loved and made love to were lush and full and powerfully bodied. They were present and comfortable in their flesh in a way I couldn’t be.

    Memory 4: We are in Athens trying to get my Mom to see a doctor for a coloNOscopy. Besides the Alzheimer’s, something is wrong. She is rail thin and cannot eat without vomiting. She weighs 105 pounds and I tell her this. She smiles, prideful. I get on the scale later myself.

    Years went by, Alzheimer’s and pneumonia finally overtook her and she died the summer of 2013. I was spent from years of caretaking, from grieving in slow motion. Mentally, I was all over the place, pouring manic emotional energy into activism and online work. Physically, though, I moved little: from couch to car to desk to car to bed as if I was using all my energy to hold off grief. I was building an emotional wall of WORK and PROJECTS and INVOLVEMENT which drained any other ability to move. I noticed my bones, once prominent, fading into a background of flesh.

    When I went to picked up her ashes, I was stunned at their heft. A box filled up with a person – heavy, dark, a cube shaped black hole made up of my mother, absorbing my light and attempts to leave her orbit.

    She sat on a shelf hidden in the back of a closet for a full year before I had the nerve to hold her memorial. Over that year, I pulled the box out occasionally, just to say hello, apologize, listen? I could feel her glare piercing through the cardboard at me. I’d glare back at her, then down at my body and compare. I’d hold her weight in my hands and allow my guilt to simmer. But only for a minute. Shut the closet door. Back to work.

    I released her ashes in 2014. After, the memorial I thought that magically the my clavicle would become visible again. But instead, my lethargy persisted, deeper still, unyielding, a kind of depression that not many but those closest to me would be able to observe. I felt like the main character in the horror film Shutter, the murderer literally carrying his guilt, the ghost of the betrayed on his back bearing down, weighing on him in pain and pressure.

    Memory 5: During the final stages of Alzheimer’s she eats with abandon and without restriction or guilt. Every meal, every day. Snacks even! She becomes fuller, heavier. She takes up space and is blissfully unaware of her size. If she had known, she would have been appalled, filled with loathing, and furious with me for letting it, any of it and all of it happen. “You let me get me fat,” she would have said, “You put me in a home.” Looking back, if I’m honest, I gained most of my weight during the same period.

    Maybe it was a psychic penance, guilt I carried for not keeping her safe from Alzheimer’s or keeping her out of the nursing home. An undiscovered mirror neuron response, a quantum mechanical emotional umbilical cord never truly cut? Possibly it was a cry for acceptance manifesting in flesh- thin when she was thin or heavy when she was heavy, staying close to her in the only way I could, the only way she would allow, sideways and on the sly.

    Caveat 3: I am not a physicist or psychic so what I just said is probably bullshit but it feels right.

    I’m not sure what changed on the second anniversary of her death. Perhaps there is only so much burden a body could bear, or perhaps I just decided somewhere inside myself that I wasn’t guilty or responsible for her illness. Perhaps she decided to lift off and go and therefore removing the bulk of her expectations on me.

    I felt different. I felt my body. I felt like moving and not for the purpose of slimming down to have my clavicle back. Still. I wondered about the path of it all. Sure, my gaining could be tied to aging and a slowing metabolism and peri menopause, but maybe something else too.

    Maybe I needed the extra weight simply because I was carrying more on my shoulders.

    Maybe I needed the muscle because I needed strength to hold myself up.

    Maybe I needed the fat because I needed padding for comfort.

    Memories aren’t straightforward, more like fragments spiraling round a mountain, or down into a cavern- and only at the end can we see the circuitous and winding path we’ve been on. There are parts of ourselves we hide from our own eyes. And in that way, we can avoid the truth until we are at the peak or in the pit, until we are ready to truly see.

    It was a strange thing to realize that my clavicle was gone. Well, of course it was still there. It was just coated in body that had never been there before. That was about 5 years ago and I certainly felt the shame my mother would have wanted me to feel. Sometimes I still do, today even, yeah. I can admit that. At least this much has changed: I can look in the mirror and say, well, I may not have a world class clavicle, this body has served me well and still so far to go, right?

    It’s my body after all. Not hers. It has to live and be able to love straight-forwards and direct. I’m thankful to begin seeing this that perhaps this body, mine and mine alone, knows far better than I do.

    —–

    No Comments

  • Charleston (6/21/2015)
    Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the scene of a shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID GOLDMAN/AP

    Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the scene of a shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night.
    CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID GOLDMAN/AP

    Like many of you, I am deeply saddened and angered by the racist murders and crimes being committed against people of color in the US. The massacre in Charleston is an abomination, a grave and obscene moment in our nation’s history, but one that should not be considered out of character, unthinkable, surprising. Our nation’s history is filled with racism and violence and white people need to stand up, wake up, and say, “No more! Not in our names!” I’ve compiled all the articles and actions I can find, and will continue to add to the list as I find new information. Please leave links in the comments.

    Many of the links below I have found on FB and Twitter. Ron Berry has generously compiled many on his FB page. I apologize for not linking every single person who has shared these.

    Supporting AME Church and thank you Angeliska Polacheck for the links.

    • You can make a donation to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund at any Wells Fargo branch across the USA.

    • Send a check to Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, c/o City of Charleston, P.O. Box 304, Charleston, S.C. 29402.

    • Text ‘prayforcharleston’ to 843-606-5995 or go to www.bidr.co/prayforcharleston to donate by credit card.

    • Send a check to Lowcountry Ministries, a South Carolina nonprofit that also has established a fund to help Emanuel and support projects for youth and vulnerable populations, at Lowcountry Ministries — the Rev. Pinckney Fund, c/o The Palmetto Project, 6296 Rivers Ave. #100, North Charleston, S.C. 29406.

    • Donate to the Pinckney Fund online at palmettoproject.org via major credit card or PayPal.

    • Give directly to Emanuel AME Church. You can donate online via major credit card or PayPal.

    Activists/Hashtags On Twitter

    Deray McKesson, Matthew Fortner, #charlestonshooting, #standwithcharleston, #takedowntheflag

    Reading Lists
    Charleston Syllabus is a huge resources of current events, slavery in the US, southern history and more.

    A great read-The Half Has Never Been Told Edward E. Baptist and on AutoStraddle #BlackLivesMatter Reading List.

    Actions

    Ferguson Response includes actions for Charleston around the country. You can add your own, or find one in your city.

    Showing Up For Racial Justice is a great way for white allies and accomplices to get involved and learn.

    A petition to remove the Confederate Flag from governmental places, Move On.

    In Austin, a call to take down the Jefferson Statue.

    UT Vigil for Charleston

    Also in Austin, Undoing Racism Austin.

    Articles and Commentary

    Ta-nehisi Coates writes in The Atlantic, Take Down The Confederate Flag-Now

    Charles P. Pierce and his Esquire piece,
    Charleston Shooting-Speaking The Unspeakable, Thinking The Unthinkable

    T. Rees Shapiro at Washington Post Washington And Lee University To Remove Confederate Flags Following Protests.

    Murders In Charleston Jelani Cobb for The New Yorker

    What Is Whiteness by Nell Irvin Painter in the NY Times.

    A South African Calls for Accountability, Not Forgiveness in Charleston by Xolela Mangcu in The Root.

    The Huffington Post’s Ben Hallman
    The Confederate Flag Is a Racist Symbol of a Failed Rebellion. It’s Not a Debate.

    A white ally speaks, Marcy Taylor Rizzi at Luckygirl75.

    White Terrorism Is As Old As America, by Brit Bennett in the NY Times

    Medium’s John E. Price writes, Yes You’re A Racist…And A Traitor.

    On Alternet, Dr. Robin Diangelo discusses 11 Ways White America Avoids Taking Responsibility For It’s Racism.

    Baynard Woods writes at The Washington Post Only White People Can Save Themselves From Racism and White Supremacism.

    Aaron Barksdale at Huffington Post shares 7 Was To Be A White Ally For Charleston And The Black Community.

    For parents who need to discuss the shootings with their children, Britni writes at Fiending For Hope, Resources For White Parents On Talking To Kids About White Supremacy and Racism.

    6 Ways White Supremacy Takes Its Toll On Black People’s Mental Health by Terrell Jermaine Starr at Salon

    Two articles on mental health and illness (and how that’s not the trigger here) from Arthur Chu at Salon It’s Not About Mental Illness: The Big Lie That Always Follows Mass Shootings By White Males and from Julia Craven Racism Is Not A Mental Illness.

    David Remnick from The New Yorker Charleston and the Age of Obama.

    Joshua Dubois We Need To Talk About White Culture in The Daily Beast.

    Reverend Broderick Greer in Philly.Com on Nothing Isolated About The Shooting.

    Lydia Polgreen for the NY Times From Ferguson To Charleston And Beyond, Anguish About Race Keeps Building.

    No Comments

  • Thoughts on Sex and Dying (4/15/2015)

    The inimitable Elizabeth Wood of Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance has written a compassionate and thoughtful piece looking at a challenging issue-sexuality in the last years of persons in nursing homes. She references a case in Iowa where a husband is now being charged for sexual assault for intimacy with his wife. There are no easy ways through this tangle and it’s a hard hard case to read. Elizabeth writes that:

    Issues of sexuality in institutions like nursing homes are complex to begin with. Add mental impairment and family conflicts they get more complicated. Nothing I am about to write should be construed as oversimplifying complicated issues. Rather, in my comments on this specific prosecution, I want to add to the conversation about those complexities by suggesting specific ways of thinking about pleasure and danger for elderly people with memory or cognitive disorders.

    She and I, and many others, discussed this at length on Facebook. I have a personal relationship to Alzheimer’s, as my mother died from it nearly two years ago. I wrote this a few months after she died while there was a terrible case happening in Texas regarding end of life decisions and pregnancy. The concept of choice and autonomy, consent and decision making…well, it’s difficult and challenging even on a good day. Try living through it with someone you love when they are dying, slowly, piece by piece.

    Midway through 2013 my mother passed away after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s. At the end, she couldn’t speak, couldn’t toilet or feed herself, and she didn’t know people. Had she been able to know of her circumstance, in a nursing home, (well kept and lovely, but a nursing home nonetheless), she would have been deeply angered as “ending up that way.”

    She was clear, clear as glass, 15 years ago when we first talked about her end of life issues. “I’d kill myself first.” she’d say, when topics of nursing homes were brought up. “I want to die like my mother did, quick and it’s over.” She didn’t get that choice, as she began to show signs of the disease that would rob her of of her memory and her ability to move, her personality.

    During the initial stages of the disease, she’d would often bring up suicide. As the disease progressed, and she was cruelly aware that she was losing herself and her autonomy, she would rage against me, accusing me of wanting her to be shut away, and that I’d find her dead the next morning. Of course, her memory wouldn’t allow her to remember she’d threatened it and I’d find her confused come morning, but happily settled so long as I was there.

    She would have wanted to die on her own terms. It was not a choice.

    I struggle with the Iowa case, even as I am very sure I’m missing crucial information regarding family dynamics, history, and more. I do know that love, touch, and intimacy are vital parts of our whole lives and I believe that our elder care support systems (and the children who are part of their parents’ lives) need to grapple with the topic of sexuality head on, honestly, and with honor and respect for the fullness that intimacy brings to our lives, no matter how old or ill.

    Dementia is terrifying, to me at least, because it ventures into territory of reality. Who are we if not our memories? Our shared connections that dementia threatens to sever bit by bit, in strange and unpredictable stages? Is consent possible at 10 am but not at 5pm? Does the loss of short-term memory eradicate the need for intimacy? What if you don’t remember that you wanted it moments earlier? Should facilities go 180 degrees into keeping patients physically isolated? How does that help a person in any way? How do we begin to grapple with the loss, guilt, fear and pain family members go through? Spouses?

    We all will age, and we will all die. We all forge connections and relationships and I personally think those are what help make our life (and our dying) bearable. Its imperative we talk about both sex and death so that the ends of our lives may be lived with as much joy and pleasure as consensually possible.

    1 Comment

  • Women’s History Month (3/1/2015)
    Artist Anabel Gomez

    Artist Anabel Gomez

    Today is March 1, 2015, the first day of Women’s History Month, and the theme is Weaving The Stories Of Women’s Lives.

    The website asks the important question, “Why Women’s History?”

    The NWHP answers that question with a quote and a fantastic tour of their site:

    Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less. ~ Myra Pollack Sadker

    History helps us learn who we are, but when we don’t know our own history, our power and dreams are immediately diminished.

    Multicultural American women are overlooked in most mainstream approaches to U.S. history, so the National Women’s History Project champions their accomplishments and leads the drive to write women back into history.

    Recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life – science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine – has a huge impact on the development of self-respect and new opportunities for girls and young women.

    With an emphasis on positive role models and the importance of women from all backgrounds, the NWHP has developed a nationwide constituency of teachers, students, parents, public employees, businesses, organizations, and individuals who understand the critical link between knowing about historical women and making a positive difference in today’s world.

    The NWHP is the catalyst, the content provider, the behind-the-scenes director of a myriad of activities promoting women as leaders and influential forces in our society. For over 30 years, the NWHP, founded in Santa Rosa, California, has established a nationwide presence as the number one resource for information and material about the unfolding roles of women in American history. The NWHP leads both local and national efforts, consults, publishes, distributes, inspires, advises, and networks with a wide variety of institutions and activists in the field.

    Every year in March, the NWHP coordinates observances of National Women’s History Month throughout the country. The NWHP originated this widely recognized celebration and sets the annual theme, produces educational materials, and chooses particular women to honor nationally for their work. Women’s History Month programs, community events, plays, essay contests, and related projects often have wide-ranging effects.
    Every year the NWHP, in conjunction with academic institutions, holds workshops and conferences that highlight the role of women in particular areas, such as the Women of the West. These collaborative symposiums provide important opportunities for sharing research and stories about women’s roles, struggles, and successes today and throughout our history.

    The NWHP also operates an award-winning web site, which makes information about women available and widely accessible. The site, www.nwhp.org, attracted over one million visitors last year making it the leading destination of its kind. Ongoing expansion and updating keep the site relevant and easy for students, journalists, and anyone else to use. Materials can also be ordered through the NWHP’s extensive online store.

    In our own personal lives, the NWHP encourages discovering stories about our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers to help us better understand their lives, the challenges they faced, and ultimately, ourselves and our own times. Recognizing the dignity and accomplishments of women in our own families and those from other backgrounds leads to higher self-esteem among girls and greater respect among boys and men. The results can be remarkable, from greater achievement by girls in school to less violence against women, and more stable and cooperative communities.

    The impact of women’s history might seem abstract to some, and less pressing than the immediate struggles of working women today. But to ignore the vital role that women’s dreams and accomplishments play in our own lives would be a great mistake. We draw strength and inspiration from those who came before us – and those remarkable women working among us today. They are part of our story, and a truly balanced and inclusive history recognizes how important women have always been in American society.

    A contribution to the NWHP will allow this well-known and nationally respected organization to expand its important work of writing women back into American history.

    The Women’s Community Center of Central Texas will be celebrating this month by posting pieces of history on their Facebook and Twitter, and also by producing WE Con, an powerful gathering of women from all over our city, focused on empowerment and social justice.

    This question, Why Women’s History, is important to answer. I’ve seen it posed too often, as if women are simply a subset of humanity, and not a culture of their own. All women; old and young, of all sizes and shapes, races and creeds, from the entire LGBT spectrum, trans and cis and the gender non-binary, have stories that must be told, histories that should be celebrated, gifts that should be put to the best use for making our world better.

    This month I challenge you to celebrate and support all the women in your life. Listen to them, learn from them, show them your love. And know that Women’s History is half of humanity’s history. We would do well to know it all.

    No Comments

  • On Compassion (2/22/2015)
    creative commons flickr mike gifford

    creative commons flickr mike gifford

    I’ve been looking up quotes about compassion. It’s a word, a feeling, I connect to deeply. I wonder if people, hearing the word, think of it as some kind of unilateral forgiveness or cuddly pat-on-the-head kind of “It’s ok” response.

    I don’t.

    I think people are struggling, all over. I think, for the most part, the speed at which the internet and our modern media works, isn’t the speed at which deep personal understanding works. I think that deep and personal change often comes out of uncomfortable situations plus time plus a reasonable “safe” space to process about the feelings.

    This is something I was taught in a training a while back. Too much intensity-no learning occurs, people shut down. Not enough intensity-people don’t learn, they don’t have to connect. There are conditions within which that inner change (the hard stuff which goes up against cognitive dissonance) can happen.

    (of course, everyone may have a differing experience of intensity…another thing to ponder)

    Andrea Grimes posted from Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice about a presenter who said the following about pro-lifers and conversation with them:

    “Hayes: “a certain amount of compassion” necessary when talking w/anti-choice folks. “these are people.”

    and

    “Hayes: “I don’t think we take into account this is something they’ve been immersed in since childhood” re anti-choice folks”

    and

    “Hayes: “If we can stay calm and kind, they’re more likely to hear what we have to say.”

    For the most part I do believe that, though I also know that sometimes you have to speak and act very forcefully in order to make change. I may never really be an activist. I certainly can’t imagine being a politician. I am fundamentally suspicious of power.

    I’m interested in change, but what burns inside me as a driving force, is the change that can come inside of people; seeing a connection between a pro-lifer and pro-choicer (I’ve had these) with a seed that is planted, or helping to act as a “detangler” or knot-undoer in hard situations of conflict, or holding space for people to come together to do work, and helping to make that space productive and yes, kind, even if it’s difficult.

    Which it often is. Difficult. Hard. Powerful. Wrenching. And all of these things that I see people struggling with, that I struggle with, around all the isms, and social justice issues are often (not always) connected to shame, guilt, fear and they are powerful emotions. The work I’ve done personally has been very emotional but it’s felt healing.

    I don’t fit into the equation any other way than I fit in. And compassion is a huge piece of that. Spirituality is too. Kindness? I hope so. I fail at that and I respect anger for the force that it is, for it is righteous.

    I try to see change as a sphere with all of us entering into it on different nodes with different connections and different skills.

    I am comfortable with my node. I think it’s valuable.

    No Comments

  • Action! Demand Justice and Care for Pregnant Women in Jail (2/4/2015)

    Reblogging this from the Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman site! Go read up on all their good powerful work!

    Join Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman, Mamas of Color Rising, and the Texas Jail Project next Thursday Feb. 5th at the public hearing to support the rights of pregnant inmates across Texas.

    What: Texas Commission on Jail Standards Public Meeting

    Where: William P. Clements Bldg.
    300 W. 15th Street, 1st Floor, Rm 103

    Time: 9-10am. Come early- 8:45am if possible. (small room)

    Find: A Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman rep. with a clipboard and stickers

    Thanks to all of you who signed our Nov 6th Call to Action to demand that:
    1) the current minimum standards of care be implemented and enforced,
    2) more specific written policies and procedures be established, and that
    3) all pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes begin to be documented in jails across Texas.
    At the last public hearing in Nov. 2014 our members testified and shared the story of Shela Williams, who after receiving inadequate care in Travis County Jail had a stillbirth this past summer. We offered a strong rebuttal to the Commission’s claim that it can not provide pregnant women with adequate medical care in all county jails due to lack of doctors in some rural counties, by proposing that midwives serve as alternative providers. We also presented a set of specific recommendations to serve as a starting point for written policies and procedures for maternal health care. Your support strengthened the voices of the formerly incarcerated women and other Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman members who testified at the hearing! 177 individuals and 23 organizations officially signed on to the letter we presented to the Commission.

    Thank you for your support and participation.
    We hope to see you at the next Thursday’s hearing as we escalate our demands for humane care for pregnant women in Texas jails.
    Stand with us, wear a sticker, be counted!
    In the meantime, please consider making a donation
    to support this volunteer effort.

    At Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman, we are working towards a just and loving world;
    where all mothers receive, attentive, quality, loving care,
    and where all communities have equitable resources to care for their children.

    Please come out and support this action, and help demand care and justice for pregnant women in Texas jails.

    No Comments

  • Kurt Vonnegut Was Right (1/6/2015)

    “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
    -Kurt Vonnegut

    I agree, wholeheartedly, which was why I was thrilled when my (very kind) husband sent me this video on how we are built to be kind. Excerpted below is the information from the video and the links to Berkeley research on goodness. Goodness is difficult at times sure, kindness too. I can certainly verify that I have found it hard to be kind (both to myself and others). But I do like the idea that the mythos of Might Makes Right is being debunked. For all our difficulties, we join together and seek community. We help each other, even when it’s not necessarily in what seems to be our best interest.

    Check out the video and let me know what you think!

    “Greed is good. War is inevitable. Whether in political theory or popular culture, human nature is often portrayed as selfish and power hungry. UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner challenges this notion of human nature and seeks to better understand why we evolved pro-social emotions like empathy, compassion and gratitude.

    We’ve all heard the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, born from the Darwinian theory of natural selection. Keltner adds nuance to this concept by delving deeper into Darwin’s idea that sympathy is one of the strongest human instincts — sometimes stronger than self-interest.”

    FEATURING: Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and founding faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

    Berkeley Social Interaction Lab:

    Greater Good Science Center:

    No Comments

  • Revolutions (12/31/2014)
    creative commons flickr by Alan

    creative commons flickr by Alan

    Definition of REVOLUTION

    1
    a (1) : the action by a celestial body of going round in an orbit or elliptical course; also : apparent movement of such a body round the earth (2) : the time taken by a celestial body to make a complete round in its orbit

    2
    a : a sudden, radical, or complete change
    b : a fundamental change in political organization; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed
    c : activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation
    d : a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm

    Why do we call them resolutions?

    I wrote all this last year, and I’m a little wobbly from the truth I see in it for me now, today. I could probably write this same post all over again.

    “I resolve to let things make sense.

    Turning around to face the past year, I do know this, risk is vital and that life is random and capricious. Deaths of all kinds, physical and meta, occur without much notice. Using your precious time preparing for the moment when you’ll be who you are enough to do the things you want is a risk indeed, but not the one that will help you. By negotiating with demons such as After-I-lose-weight or Once-I-save-the-money and so forth in order to be who you already are, and you DO know who that is, is a kind of dying while living. Risking leaping while learning, just letting yourself take the damn lead, that’s the trick of it. Even if it is terrifying, it’s aliveness.

    I resolve to be who I am.

    There is no glory in waiting, no nobility in waiting to live until later, until tomorrow, or until the time is right. My mother, who waited and waited and waited while she was alive, waited for something that I still don’t quite understand, always put off who she had been, could have been again, and simply waited. After her illness, I waited alongside her glimpsing parts of the me I should have been being, if not for waiting, waiting until she passed? And then? Get to finally be myself without fear of loss and reprisal? Have less on my plate? Just wound up behind where I could have been? Perhaps, perhaps it was all a process to get where I am today.

    Still.

    I resolve to live without waiting.

    The year itself ends, a symbol of passage both of time but also life. A year dies, a year is born and we mark the end with lists and the beginnings with resolutions, perhaps it is all the same thing swirled in and out of itself. All I know, facing this transition is that holding back the self, the call whether through waiting, hiding, not risking, being one way at work, another outside of it, serves no one, certainly not you. Certainly not me.”

    And yet, there was frustration at things not making sense.

    There was challenge in trying to know who this person I said I’d be ok with being actually was.

    There was most certainly waiting.

    Sometimes waiting is the thing that you have to do in order to not wait. Waiting as an action? I don’t know, it feels like one of those paradoxes.

    Sometimes there is a desert and you sit in that desert because that’s where the work has to happen even if it doesn’t feel like work. Sometimes things take a lot of time to process, to grow, and to emerge from where they’ve been hidden.

    Have I mentioned ever that I’m an ADD Aries with an impatient streak?

    I realized today that a year ago, a friend of mine made a big and bold declaration about her life. When I read her words, I had this huge huge response inside my chest, of desire, of want, of a nearly desperate call to do that same thing. I know it wasn’t time, but the call was loud and clanging in my ears and I was terrified.

    She wants to be a minister. I do too.

    I am often embarrassed and frightened by my desires, the deepest ones, as if to admit the want is a weakness. Or worse, that admitting them is opening the gate to let out a hungry animal, that will then leap out of me and consume me. I know that seems dramatic, but it feels like that sometimes.

    These desires are the transformative/transcendent experiences, the peak moments. Sex, food, grief, writing, theater, dance, music, magic, deep community, religion. All are the same feeling, on my own or in groups, I realize it’s a room of mirrors all of it the same dynamic and the same feeling inside of myself.

    All are the same feeling because it is all the same thing. The source.

    And I have lived a life where I measure those out those moments and try to control them, or I leap a little too far in (often letting alcohol provide a gateway in) and feel overwhelmed afterwards, or I deny them totally choking off the power that is right there and poking at me and wanting out to run alongside me. There is a lot of shadow territory there. I started off life with some heavy stuff, so it makes sense I’d either have jumped into it or left it in a box avoiding that work in favor of “light” things.

    I don’t know that I resolve anything this year, save to continue revolving around the center of this understanding, spiraling inward? Outward? Which doesn’t always happen in space because of gravity, I realize but that’s the image that comes to mind.

    Revolving.

    Revolutionizing in both sense of the word. And it feels like revolutionary times right now, at least it does to me. We are all feeling it, I think, this pull towards realness and real systemic change is happening hard right now, and frankly, it will take all of us to pull this revolution off; a revolution of people, accepting the deepest truths about ourselves personally and culturally, light and dark. It will entail not hiding desires in boxes, not measuring them out with fear and a leash, but letting them run alongside, often leading the way of revolution, towards love and rage and hope combined.

    At least, that’s how it feels today, on this last day of 2014.

    No Comments

  • Must Reads-Race, Ferguson, The State (11/29/2014)

    All of these writers have moved me over the past week. If you know of others, please list in comments. All the voices, all the protests, all the people in the leader, if I can help promote and amplify, then let that be a gift I can give to stand behind and lift people up.

    On how protests are wakes not pep rallies-A letter to white people by Aaron Goggans.

    Sarah Kendzior reports on Ferguson.

    Black Rage and Fear after Ferguson, by Brittany Cooper.

    Travis Gettys writes about Racism Without Racists and how so deeply white supremacy is integrated into us, that we don’t see it.

    Stacey Patton offers a piece on Black Children and Childhood In America.

    Mia McKenzie lays out what violence is and isn’t.

    Burnt Orange Report writer Emily Cadik points out some truths on arrests of Black Americans in Texas.

    No Indictment and Protests in the Guardian’s Comment Is Free by Syreeta McFadden.

    Carol Anderson writes about how Ferguson was about white rage, not black.

    A powerful post by Latoya Peterson on Tamir Rice.

    And Derrick Clifton with advice for white people. Things not to say.

    No Comments

  • Darker Stories (9/25/2014)
    flickr shotsatrandom

    flickr shotsatrandom

    Today there was a very good post in HuffPo about things not to say when someone has experienced a great loss. The article was specifically discussing death, because death loss has a very particular feeling and pain to it. Grief can be found in losing other things, most certainly, and it’s real, but this article really moved me because we, as a culture, don’t talk about death other than to cover it up.

    The article lists things not to say, 8 of them, to someone experiencing deep grief such as

    “1. “Cheer up. Your (loved one who died) wouldn’t want you to be sad.”
    After my mom died, people told me that Mom would hate to see me carrying around such pain and that, to honor her memory, I should stop being sad. It’s true that I can’t think of a single time when my mom said to me, “I see that you’re super sad, and I think that’s awesome!”

    Sure, Mom liked to see me happy, but for a period of time after she died, I simply couldn’t be happy. When you love deeply, you grieve deeply. Grievers need to be sad in order to get to the other side of grief.

    2. “Focus on all the blessings in your life.”
    While this message is optimistic and all, it’s not really what a grieving person wants to hear when his world has just been shattered. I mean, I get that it’s better to concentrate on the positive than the negative. Nevertheless, even if a griever appreciates the good things in his life, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s reeling from a monumental loss. Therefore, when someone is newly grieving, he likely won’t feel like yelling from the rooftop, “Hey, look at lucky me!”

    (and my personal least favorite)

    3. “She’s/he’s in a better place.”

    I agree those things aren’t especially useful things to say, but then again, for some people they might be. More importantly, I think we need to consider WHY people say those things. My thought is its because we don’t know what to say instead, and we feel extremely nervous and vulnerable about saying anything at all. We create verbal rituals to pass the difficult moments, which often make the moments longer and harder. We create verbal rituals also to protect ourselves (magically) from death coming near us. Many of us are highly rational atheist types, but I see this kind of “Defense Against The Dark Arts” kind of magical thinking all the time. It shows up a lot in victim blaming, but also around difficult transitions like deaths, divorces, job loss, and illness.

    Why not talk about death more and get used to sitting with people in their difficult emotions? It’s hard, I’ll say that. I’ve experienced how hard it is on both sides. I’ve lost a father early in life, several dear relatives in my teens, a boyfriend to suicide, and my mother over a long slow lingering battle with Alzheimer’s. I’ve not known how to share my stories and felt awkward when I did, like I was that weird kid at the party with TMI. I also was comforted in the weirdest of ways by people with good intentions but who didn’t help much.

    Mostly, its simply that I wasn’t sure how to asked for what I really wanted that could help me, and others didn’t know how to offer. I’ve been on the other side of it too, saying the wrong things, being afraid to reach out (that magical thinking thing DON’T ATRRACT DEATH!) and been frustrated when nothing I could do could help (most scarring- with my own mother whose grief ran so deeply that I pretty much lost her for about 5 years).

    Because of this, I think we should open up a conversation about it to make things easier. Want to talk about death, grief and grieving? I’d love to meet you for coffee or lunch. Have a story to tell about a loss? I’d love to read or hear it. There are several friends of mine who want to hear and share those stories too. I think they need to be told and that we can create a courageous space to share ALL of what they entail-from the sadness, to the absurd, to the (yes) humor that can attend death, and wild frightening moments of emotions that fill us up so much we can’t but pour them out in deep and powerful tears.

    Let me know if you are interested. They may be darker stories, but the deserve, and I’d say demand, to be told.

    2 Comments

  • People’s Climate March (9/21/2014)
    flickrcreativecommons jonathanpercy

    flickrcreativecommons jonathanpercy

    Join me tomorrow at the People’s Climate March ATX with Shield The People!

    From their Facebook Event and Dave Cortez:

    Solidarity with the Global Majority
    Austin Texas stands with the People’s Climate March in NYC, in calling for accountability from our public leaders to support climate justice. Those least responsible for climate change are those most likely affected by it and those most responsible are the least affected. The advancement of a global environmental justice movement is rooted in action, not words – and is rooted in land, not ideas. Texas stands in solidarity with the global majority who suffer the theft of their land, the extraction of natural resources, the pollution of land and water and the drought brought on by climate change. This is our environment.

    Climate justice is social justice!

    Sustainability for whom?

    The same forces that drive the exploitation of the Earth also drive the exploitation of her people. The continued expansion of the industrial extraction of natural resources leaves people without economic power or access to land. We need power in the hands of the people, not in the hands of corporations. People need to connect back to the land and build sustainable economies that work for everyone. Sustainability means access to land and a meaningful relationship with it. We can only resist climate change when we have the power to ground local economies in the production of culture and land that is equitable and sustainable.

    • Support land based struggles
    • Support indigenous peoples sovereignty
    • Support cultural territory

    This is OUR environment.

    • Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline – Stand with Shield the People
    • Stop mountaintop removal – Stand with Appalachia
    • Stop Immigrant Detention – Stand with Immigrants
    • Stop Mass Incarceration – Stand with the urban poor
    • Stop Gentrification – Stand with East Austin
    • Stop Climate Disruption – Stand with the global majority
    ► Environmental Justice in Austin

    Texas is suffering drought and losing its precious water and land resources to fill the pockets of the 1%. Meanwhile there is unprecedented development and hundred’s moving to Austin daily. This is our environment – we must protect it.

    What are we doing to combat climate change and create environmental justice in Austin?

    1) Make Austin Energy a zero-carbon emitter by replacing the coal and gas plants with solar, wind, energy conservation and energy storage alternatives.
    2) Keep Austin’s energy utility in the hands of its people, not private corporations, and make the management of the utility accountable to elected office-holders.
    3) End special contracts for the largest corporate energy users, which increase rates for everyone else and put a disproportionate burden on lower income ratepayers.
    4) Ensure that all ratepayers get the lowest rates possible by replacing fossil fuels with renewables, and by ensuring that energy conservation and energy efficiency programs are available to lower income stakeholders.
    5) Stop the new Decker Gas Plant
    6) Supporting the buy outs of homes in the Onion Creek Floodplain and funds to help families transition out of harms way
    7) Supporting the demands of East Austin families and students at Zavala Elementary for the closure of the metal foundry Pure Castings
    8) Increase access to locally-grown healthy food in marginalized communities without encouraging gentrification.
    9) Recognize and support the existing cultural territories in Austin who are resisting displacement through gentrification.
    10) Support sustainable transportation

    Peoples Climate
    Bold Nebraska
    Shield The People
    Indigenous Women
    ATX Climate Action
    Equilibrionorte
    Almademujer
    Sierra Club

    10653565_923702226749_3395484581190357685_n

    No Comments

  • PRIDE (9/20/2014)
    Essygie Creative Commons

    Essygie Creative Commons

    I’ll be at Pride today at Fiesta Gardens with the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas! Later, for the parade, I’ll be marching with BedPost Confessions!!!!

    Get out there and celebrate love, joy, bodies, pleasure, and equity!!!!

    No Comments

  • Cruelty Free, Fast Food Women, And Morrison (9/12/2014)

    10532948_502576193211251_6181072454974088865_n

    Come to the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas tonight and tomorrow for two special events.

    First, the art opening of Paloma Mayorga’s Cruelty Free:

    Join us for the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas’ first art exhibit opening, a project dedicated to highlighting women in art.

    “Cruelty Free” by Paloma Mayorga

    Opening Reception:
    September 12, 2014 @ 6:30pm-8:30pm
    Introductory remarks and artist talk at 7:00pm
    FREE and open to the public!
    There will be snacks and drinks!
    **Beer and hard cider will be provided courtesy of Artisanal Imports for those 21+**
    Free parking on street after 6pm.

    Childcare will be provided just shoot us an email a day in advance: info@womenscommunityctx.org

    Paloma Mayorga is an interdisciplinary artist whose work primarily focuses on issues of identity and explores the ways in which the human body relates to its natural and constructed environments. After earning her B.A. in Studio Art from Southwestern University in 2010, she has dedicated her time to working for Latino arts organizations that promote cultural diversity. Mayorga renounces Western lifestyle norms and traditional ideas of beauty in order to illustrate a universal truth that connects all living beings as a means of feminist empowerment.

    “Cruelty Free is a series of photographs I’ve created in collaboration with the women depicted in them that reveal disheartening truths about our experiences with and in our own physical bodies. After reading through old diary entries I wrote when I was ten years old, I decided that the negative self image I had created at that age be exposed and turned into a source of self empowerment and connection to other women that may have also felt the same growing up.

    For this exhibit, I have asked a close group of friends, colleagues, contemporaries and confidants, who have been incredibly empowering for me in our communal struggle to defeat cultural, emotional and physical issues, to share their own writings. I hope that by exposing the words we use to describe ourselves, we can overcome the cruel ideas that have been predisposed for us about how our bodies should exist, what our minds should think, how we should identify ourselves because of tradition, genetics, or culture that are destructive to our own sense of self. I ask that we all look at ourselves and see our potential, unfiltered from pre-constructed ideas of what we should see, to be powerful, to be influential, to be loving and to be completely and honestly cruelty free.”

    The exhibit will be up until November 21st, 2014. Come see it again and bring your friends!

    And tomorrow??

    10620609_505338296268374_7790553701326467388_n

    Fast Food Women and Morristown

    –from the Facebook Event:

    For our monthly Saturday screening, the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas and Resistencia Bookstore, casa de Red Salmon Arts, invite you to a special screening of Fast Food Women and Morristown, two films about labor and working-class communities. A discussion with the director Anne Lewis will follow after the screening!

    Fast Food Women (1992)
    Women in Kentucky, as across the nation, are increasingly applying for jobs frying chicken, making pizzas and flipping burgers for fast food chains. They are not teenagers or college students on summer break. Indeed, they are struggling to support families in communities ravaged by a failing economy. Award winner Anne Lewis documents the low-wage, no-benefit jobs of the ‘working poor’ in America’s new ‘service economy’.

    Morristown (2007)
    A working class response to globalization filmed over an 8-year period in the mountains of east Tennessee, interior Mexico, and Ciudad Juarez.

    Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 6 pm
    Women’s Community Center of Central Texas
    1704 San Antonio St.
    Austin, TX 78701

    -This event is a FREE community screening!
    -Snacks provided
    -Free childcare available! Just shoot Andrea Zarate an email the day before at andrea@womenscommunityctx.org

    Resistencia Bookstore, home of Red Salmon Arts, is a liberated space for independent thinking, community building, and creative & revolutionary vision. For more info and film screenings visit the store at 4926 E Cesar Chavez St, Unit C1, Austin, Texas 78702!

    For more info on the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas visit http://womenscommunityctx.org/

    This project is funded and supported in part by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com

    No Comments

  • Prayers For The Messy (9/7/2014)
    Daniel Oines Creative Commons

    Daniel Oines Creative Commons

    I am messy.

    I live in fear of the unexpected drop-in with a carpet bedecked in crumbs, a bathroom evident of life, a kitchen sink filled with mess and remains. I’ve had eating disorders which I suspect are related to the same root fear and desire for control, the right food at the right time made with the right combination of fats and carbs, the proper perfect amount of exercise all in the goal of control of the body, the control of the mess.

    I am messy.

    Fear of messes means you don’t risk. It means, often, a waste of energy on making sure things are perfect, rather than enjoying what’s happening in the NOW. It can also be a kind of procrastination technique, keeping yourself (or I should say myself) focused on cleaning or order rather than creation which frankly is one of the most messy things anyone can partake in.

    I am messy.

    I feel shame around it, the mess, the lack of perfection, the missteps or the waste of time this time I can’t help but use to create order, a facade I suppose of what’s really happening underneath, passions, humors, miscalculations, things inside me that don’t always match up, inconsistent and bumpy.

    Do we all feel this messy? Do we hide it in perfect homes or perfect bodies or perfect yards or perfectly ordered lives and careers and rules of how to be? Maybe. I know I feel this messy. Sometimes I just have to forget about cleaning up, and get to doing the work, which perhaps is just the same thing.

    The only way not to leave a mess, is not to live.

    Here’s a poem and a prayer from a beautifully talented Austin writer, Abe Louise Young.

    FORGET MAKING YOUR BED
    by Abe Louise Young

    (for Emily Joan)

    Forget making your bed. Make your desk instead.
    Let your bed sheets lie rumpled on the floor
    with pillows underneath them
    like elephants in the bellies of snakes,
    with stuffed animals and a water glass
    tipped over on top.

    Forget the bed. Put the pages of your desk in order.
    Line up the sheets from head to foot.
    Smack the dust and grit off. Shelve the books.
    Make your bet that what you’ve got to write might crack a boulder
    like a light bulb, that a cone of butterflies will stream out,
    that you could make a person you’ve never met
    want to give birth through her eye sockets.

    See those piles of old textbooks,
    post-it notes, envelopes
    with little plastic windows, job application folders,
    nests of screws and nails and grommets,
    empty condom packets, coupons for bulk soy milk?
    Take it all and throw it out.
    Would you sleep in that?
    No.

    Dream at your desk, then work your mind
    through its torque. Mime the regular simplicity
    of milking a goat. Every day, twice.
    Morning and night.
    A squirt of hot goat’s milk
    puddles in a metal pail with each gentle tweak
    of your mind’s nipples.
    If you don’t, the goat will cry.
    Have you seen mastitis?

    So milk the stream down, thin as silky thread.
    Stir the cream slowly so it turns to butter,
    then heat it to cheese,
    add those herbs you’ve spent years growing
    in cracked pots on the windowsill.
    Memory sits down gratefully
    like an old farmer
    and takes off its weathered, sweaty cap.
    Out of the sun, off the fields,
    in your company. Put out a loaf of bread.

    Put your head where your feet should be.
    Hug the pillows to your chest.
    Pretend you hold a body, soft, trusting,
    someone who’s not going to leave at morning light.
    These are your readers,
    the ones you need, the ones you are lonely,
    brittle, adrift without, the other mammals
    full of feathers, like you,
    who miss their mothers, like you,
    are ringed round with zippers, like you,
    indented and passive, like you. But not tonight.

    The night is big and empty on your desk.
    Touch blank paper with your fingertips.
    The paper used to be trees; seed,
    soil, water and sun, which used to be
    your ancestors’ voices and breath
    buried in light without a box.
    They will lead you to your readers.
    You might never know them,
    you might die before they’re born.
    But tonight, hold them tight.
    Make the desk sprout leaves and sing.
    Make it feel like a sapling.

    No Comments

  • Back To School (8/25/2014)

    3473944706_5d8cea632d_z

    For many of us in Austin, today is the first day of school. My eldest is starting high school (which is hard to fathom), and all across the city there are thousands of first day outfits, backpacks, and supply bags ready to go. There are nervous parents poised with a camera and teachers prepared to engage minds, and often hearts, in learning. I am grateful to those teachers who do so much, and often get so little, for so many.

    There is so much to learn. Literature, reading, algebra, geography.

    History.

    I worry we don’t do enough about history. I worry we teach the wrong history, the history of the winners, but not the history that matters. Of how we truly got to be who and how we are, right now in America.

    There has been so much pain over the past two weeks. So many hearts broken over and over again, as if they weren’t broken and bruised enough before by racism and an endemic violence of white privilege, like a virus as Andrew O’Hehir put it so powerfully in Salon. It’s Ferguson but it’s so much more, going back monthly, yearly, since our inception.

    The history is right in front of us, living still and happening in an endless loop, and yet I don’t think this truly gets taught in our history classes, in our school-day curriculum. Not at least until College, and even then it’s often an elective or selected major.

    I think we have to change this. We have to truly teach our history, all of it, to our children now, so that they may change how the future rolls out.

    I’m thinking about this, with my children still sleeping tight in their beds, their bags ready to go and their outfits picked out and I wonder how we make that happen. We can go back to school at powerful places here, or here, but we must join in. And we have to teach real history so we know the truth.

    No Comments

  • What To Do? Look Local (8/22/2014)

    Jessica Luther has a really wonderful post up about how to help Ferguson, but also how to address issues in our own communities.

    For those of us who don’t live in Ferguson, or Missouri, or even remotely close to Missouri, it can feel futile watching from afar, wanting to be part of a solution that can help end the pain that community is experiencing.

    But here’s the thing. Wherever you live, there are problems in your community that are looking for solutions. And there are probably already people in your community working on them (this is true in Ferguson, for sure).

    She goes on to link a number of events and rallies here in Austin that are happening from Saturday the 23rd forward.

    Saturday, August 23, at 5pm: “#TheNewMovement :: Justice for Michael Brown and What MUST Come Next. At Givens Park (3811 E 12th St, Austin, Texas 78721). Description from the FB event page:

    This Saturday evening at Givens Park, I’m asking everyone in the City of Austin to come out and have a very frank and open conversation about police brutality in America. Being that police brutality is something we deal with heavily in Austin already, this last incident is far from an isolated event.

    Furthermore and MOST IMPORTANTLY, we will be discussing FEASIBLE PLANS OF ACTIONS for the future of OUR black and brown communities throughout the country.

    We will also have stations with on hand for individuals that have been having trouble processing their thoughts and feelings in the past week for people to vent and get their feelings out.

    For any further information, contact Chas Moore.

    There are several more listed but please check out Jessica’s post for yourself. She has links on history, police issues, and ways to help Ferguson.

    No Comments

  • Less Snark More Education, Please (8/1/2014)

    This morning, I found an article on my Facebook feed from Buzzfeed. I own up to reading online magazines and pop sites and generally I enjoy humor and news and occasionally combined but this article really, really bothered. me.

    It’s an article about doctors sharing anecdotes about the “dumbest patients” they’ve ever treated.

    Here’s the link if you want to add to their click rates for the day, or if you want to read the article without giving them any additional revenue, click here on the Do Not Link site.

    The article is mostly stock photos of doctors looking bemused posed beside the quoted “dumb” situations. Most of the situations have to do with sex, such as:

    • Not understanding how the Nuva Ring works
    • Not knowing that it takes penetrative intercourse to get pregnant
    • Not understanding particular vocabulary regarding how to take medicines
    • Not knowing how STDs are passed or proper use of condoms
    • Feeding an infant coffee instead of formula

    All of the patient’s concerns are heartbreaking and leave them extremely vulnerable to disease, unintended pregnancy, and more, and I’m ashamed that they were used for click-bait fodder.

    Instead of mocking people’s ignorance on the internet, perhaps we should all be pushing for more comprehensive education about our bodies?

    These people came to their doctors because they didn’t know what was going on with their bodies, with their sexual needs, with their health. Some people don’t even have access to doctors (or are too embarrassed to ask), but post on places like Yahoo Answers. They ask questions that may seem ridiculous to all us supposedly well educated and extremely privileged folks, but it’s a huge sign that people aren’t being taught about how their bodies work all over our country.

    Perhaps on the surface it seems laughable, like an article just for kicks, but at my age now, and having worked in and around sexual human rights issues for so long, it kills me to see a) how lacking our basic knowledge is throughout our country and b) how mean people are when people are vulnerable.

    Right now though we don’t live in a culture where a straightforward article about the systems behind these “dumb patients” are examined (at least not on pop internet sites), we live in a click bait world. It’s callous and it doesn’t offer any real solution to the problem. No where does the article share how the doctors dealt with the situation, just leaves the anecdotes for shits and giggles.

    The Buzzfeed article pulled the anecdotes from a subReddit, just as an FYI. I don’t really recommend visiting. I sympathize with the need to vent, because I imagine that doctors and nurses see so much that they can only triage in terms of information and education, but to share it like this? It amplifies the venting into mockery and makes the rest of us think that’s ok.

    What are the solutions, that’s what I want to know? How do we get more education into schools, to parents, to adults? How do we treat honest and vulnerable questions as a sign of curiosity and desire for better health instead of “dumb” questions to laugh at? And how do we shift a culture that seems to nearly bathe in snark into one that honestly enjoys earnest community?

    I talk about BedPost Confessions a lot, I know. It’s kind of my offering as an answer to some of those questions. We, my co-producers and I, focus on adults and combine education and ethics inside of a framework of entertainment. We select pieces that are amazing, sexy, and well crafted of course, but we look for humanity and vulnerability in our submissions first and foremost. We take confessions from the audience but we don’t read ones that are illegal or cruel (and we get some cruel mocking ones). If the confession is filled with confusion? We try to answer the question. We honor where everyone is at in terms of needing education. We want the space to feel as secure and warm as possible, knowing that people may feel that they are taking a risk coming to the show.  It’s not about “safe” necessarily, but it is about kind and loving, open to vulnerability and learning, at least I hope it is.

    We work with a number of sex educators as well, all of whom have had their work cut out for them in the school systems. We offer space to community groups to come and table to share advocacy around sexual rights, and we work with adult stores who offer real educational experiences along with their wonderful wares.

    I get it. Snark feels good. It’s easy. Those anecdotes or answers we find on Yahoo are low-hanging fruit for comedy. But that’s not good enough for me. That doesn’t, in my opinion, further real cultural change towards health, pleasure, and wellness. And it makes me mad. Snark may mean that people just don’t see any real hope? I think there is real hope. I’ve talked to enough people after our show, or through groups like Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance to know that real lives are changed when people open up and share in community with empathy and with courage. It is amazing stuff and guess what? There’s humor there, too. Our show is funny, or so I’ve been told.

    It just doesn’t wind up hurting people, even if they are just anonymous folks on the internet or the audience. And if it does? I want to know about it.

    We need more education, that much is clear. Can’t we do it without continuing a cycle that shames?

    No Comments

  • My #FaithFeminism-Holding Not Harming (7/23/2014)

    I want to talk about the Divine Feminine.

    Today, after a really nice lunch out on the town, I drove home and listened to NPR. There was a story on Here and Now focused neuroscientists studying the effects of abuse and neglect on the childhood brain. Basically? Abuse and neglect, even in the short term, causes drastic and dramatic effects on the brain, so much so that the scientists were calling it a public health issue and a neuro-toxin.

    Which? Duh.

    I hate to sound sarcastic about it, but if you look at any mammal that is taken from parents and then malnourished, abused, neglected, you see signs of real issues. They bite, or try to get affection and then hiss. They hide. They have neuroses like being afraid of a particular gender or a sound. Some of those take years to shift and change, and some patterns don’t get reset.

    Look at any story or study on kids in orphanages, overbooked with kids who don’t get touched, and you’ll see extreme behavioral issues which take extreme therapy (and time) to heal.

    In the story, a mother and father discussed raising an adopted child who had been abused and neglected. He showed signs of this deprivation and it took a great deal of time and effort, love in action, to help him, help him relearn. The words from the parents were validated by the science, which again, I’m happy about, but it seemed intuitive to me. Why wasn’t this known before?

    While I’m glad that science proves this (because MAYBE we’ll start to get a grip on really practicing love, compassion, empathy, touch, gentleness and protecting children who then will grow into adults who can do the same for their children), I’m angered that it takes science to create “proof” when the signs are visible and have been for centuries.

    It’s not surprising, I suppose. We live in a culture that still holds fast to spare the rod/spoil the child. Really, the rod is what causes the spoiling. It damages the brain, in some cases irreparably.

    I’m a Texan, and many Texans talk a lot about Christianity. I think about the small children at our Texas border who have already gone through hell (enough that their mothers and fathers sent them away in the hopes of something better), and now are languishing in detention centers while being faced with armed guards, refusing to let these children come unto us, whole towns voting on keeping them out. Not just here, we have children all over the world facing war and abject cruelty, which only creates cycles which will be extremely difficult to heal from.

    I was raised Christian and have struggled with the very idea of faith-just search spirituality in my blog and you’ll see what I mean. I react poorly to what I see as an entirely masculine form of religion. God as a father, cruel and punitive. God as a source of phallic power, women as help-meets. God as a gate-keeper of love, only some receive it. Purity culture, run rampant. It’s left women in the position of servant, vessel, chattel, symbol upon which to project all manner of toxicity and abuse.

    The Divine Feminine has been tamped down, enslaved, silenced, kept in the background, and treated generally like dirt while wars are waged in the name of Christ, children are cast out instead of taken in, and women are taught that they are only worthwhile as a supplementary to men, our very body and sexual self considered sinful.

    The goddess needs to rise.

    Last night, I had this weird half-dream about such a creature, a giant mother-figure populating war torn areas with therapists and healers per person, swaddling people, holding them for as long as it took to heal, settling down nations with a calming force of peace-allowing the tears and rage and fear and frustration, but holding it, not directing outward into more rage but just letting it dissipate and replacing it, over time, with trust.

    Maybe it will take a new kind of feminine power/not-power to shift things.

    This kind of force could protect the earth, which is traumatized, could protect children who grow into cruelty learned from parents who were taught it by theirs, to hold instead of harm, could allow for sexuality and pleasure and gentleness rather than repression, consumption, and greed. It would teach sharing not dominance.

    I don’t suppose that’s actually a theology, or maybe it is, but it felt, in the half-asleep state I was in, to be the answer. Holding, not harming. Stopping, just stopping and holding.

    I have not been to seminary. I have not studied a wide variety of texts or books on queer and feminist theology. I just know that there has to be something different, either something very old or very new, and it has to involve a balance bringing women and the pillars of real compassion, the hard work of peace, and the idea of plenty, not scarcity, into consciousness.

    There is so much holding to do and we need strong arms, of all genders, to be willing to reach out and take in, breathing peace in and out. A bosom of endless nourishment each to each other, caressing all with milky-sweet breath and gentled touch.

    No Comments

  • Fadi Skeiker Workshop Happening In Austin (7/15/2014)

    1395897_10103742420730730_898207188_n

    Fadi Skeiker (a shadow and object puppeteer), has come all the way from University of Jordan to visit Austin and to teach a workshop.

    Performing Virtual Advocacy
    An event hosted by Austin Community College

    Workshop facilitator: Fadi Skeiker (University of Jordan)

    Participants in Performing Virtual Advocacy workshop will be guided into devising scenes for three imagined characters who are living in different Arab Spring states. The facilitator will be using applied theatre and devising techniques as tools to craft the monologues of the three characters. Participants will be using social media platforms such as Facebook and twitter as sources of information; therefore, participants are asked to bring their smartphones/tablets/laptops to the workshop; and are asked to do a bit of research on Arab Spring states, such as Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia..etc. prior to attending the workshop. No previous theater experience required.

    Workshop is going to be at the 301 Gallery Theater, Rio Grande Campus, Austin Community College (1212 Rio Grande Street). The workshop is free and open to to interested participants in the community.

    Monday July 21 from 6-9pm

    To register in the workshop, please email or call:
    fadiskeiker@hotmail.com
    phone: 737.333.9299

    No Comments

  • Walking Away (7/5/2014)

    10505401_10104763499530630_4165418020502037602_n-2

    My 4th was spent in Marfa. Normally, I dislike the holiday both for the reasons you’d expect from me (a disillusionment and anger at our nation for atrocities, racism, and lack of equal rights) but also because I’m not ever too keen on crowds and plastic pedestals of pride and victory, the patriotic emails from politicians and companies both, begging me for my filthy lucre. I do like a good cookout, though. We started the day at Above All Else where there were also several shorts focused on protecting the treaty lands of South Dakota, and impassioned requests from Lakota elders that we all work together to stop the pipeline.

    After the films, we went outside to meet with the elders who spoke about their village they’ve established as a protest and barrier against the Keystone. It was so clear to me, under the huge sky with the wind rustling past us, that we must act, and together. A new way must be midwifed. It’s coming, it’s most certainly present, but it has to be born. We all have to do it, and we all have to learn when we are centered in the story using our own individual skills and powers, and when the story is what matters, not us individually. That’s a complex skill, but we can do it. I saw it in action yesterday. Community, real family, interdependence, patience and compassion while holding a fierce line and living so, so differently, that’s what it will take.

    The rest of the day we wandered, eating ice cream and getting sunburned. We landed at El Cosmico for their cook-out, by Frank, beer, and cold tubs. A wild encampment filled with dogs, children, rag tag clothes, and dusty arty people both in the Empire, but seeking ways out of it. I felt my privilege so deeply, just being there, and wondered if it was possible to walk away from structures of power when everywhere I go, there they are, so there too am I.

    Can we live outside it? Is it so tangled in us that we enjoy our film festival experience all while sharing films about the empire that is killing the planet, dining well, driving long distances in the great desert using fuel. Sometimes my mind gets caught up in itself.

    At dusk, we drove to a park on the outskirts and listened to music from the band stand as the wind whipped and the stars appeared in a crescent moon sky. Just looking up is a dizzying experience. The sky extends, like arms or a maw, to swallow you into itself. The stars range from edge to edge, more than I’ve ever seen. My eldest ran to the playground, a scrappy grouping of old metal slides and spinning circles, and watched the display of locally bought and shot fireworks. My youngest and I danced on the pavement to the music, doing the shag, swinging in circles. Sublime.

    The darkness fell, and I lost track of everyone, then found them, and then suddenly had a feeling of fear. Existential maybe, but about just flying off the face of the earth into that dark open embrace of space. Even as I was connected to the ground, I tangled my own limbs into my husbands, my children, for extra touch points of gravity. I watched the people laugh and dance, hug and play, thinking of the vastness of the desert, of space, and of our own hearts. So close together all of us, but sometimes it’s so hard to keep ourselves connected. And we have to stay connected, so easy to say. Why so hard to do?

    We drove home in the hypnotic dark, sought out the Marfa lights, made up silly theories about them in the car on the quiet ride back. We tumbled into bed, dirty and dusty, reddened by the sun, possibly changed by the day and the kiss of the desert, but maybe not. Maybe we’ll take what we learn with us. Hard to tell what will stick, what we’ll take with us as we walk. Can we even walk away, and can we do it together? Maybe it’s walking towards something. Something better. 

    The boys still sleep, curled up like little wild animals, unaware of what the future will bring.

    No Comments

  • Amplifying The Good (6/10/2014)

    I’ve been struggling lately with vision, goals, what I should be doing with my time to best support a new way of being in the future. I’ve talked about empire a lot, this corporate consumer model that extracts good and worth out of people and the world, leaving little left.

    This is an incredible little video, idealistic and succinct, which brought some hope to my heart.

    350.org – A new economic paradigm is not only possible, but plausible.

    How We Live: A Journey Towards A Just Transition from Kontent Films on Vimeo.

    It’s clear that we CAN live differently. It’s a choice, and not necessarily and easy one, but we can choose.

    All I know is, I want to live in a different world, one made by our hands. All of us, working together to build and birth something new.

    Here’s a woman, Vandana Shiva, leading the way with saving and cataloguing seeds. She’s amazing

    Two Options from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

    There are lots of intersections where change can be made, vision renewed, systems reconfigured. From slow food to home farms, storytelling to theater for justice, Moral Mondays to Cowboys and Indians facing the Keystone, people all over are waking up to the possibility that something can indeed be done. There are healers, ministers, farmers, artists, activists working together in ways they never have before. It’s new, sometimes people don’t intersect as well as they should, or even know they can, but it’s happening.

    It’s challenging, especially in a world where bad news is blasted from every social media outlet. Just today I could have posted about 10 horrifying and demoralizing stories of things so big that I wind up freezing, for issues which I don’t know how to help. I get down. I feel helpless. I wonder what it is I’m doing that makes a difference. But I do know how to help when things get broken down to steps. And I try to remember that there is as much or more good happening, and that I have to help amplify the good. That in every article of horrifying news, there are always ways to discover change. For every shooting there are now groups like Everytown pushing for gun reform. For stories about prison human rights abuses, there are groups like the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition helping to expose the problems.

    Amplify. Organize the good. Create community around the good. Listen to and create space for people to tell about the good. Build pathways between groups of goodness that may not even know about each other. Because there is a pull in the hearts of so many, and people need to know who is out there doing amazing things.

    No Comments

  • Of Adam’s Rib (5/27/2014)

    I have been, like so many, watching the horrific case of Elliot Rodger, a young man who brutally murdered 6 people. He committed this act of violence after leaving multiple videos and a lengthy and detailed manifesto focused on his pain and rejection by women, his inability to connect with people, and his sense that the world wasn’t responding to him as it should. The 137 page letter is chilling.

    I am not a psychologist, nor an academic. I can’t speak accurately about his mental state, though I, like so many again, have opinions, unprofessional as they may be.

    I’d like to think he was a sociopath with extreme narcissistic focus (mirrored in a deep and unabating self loathing and huge levels of anxiety). Women were the symbol of wellness, power, and worth. I don’t think there were very many human beings in his life that he actually saw as separate differentiated individuals. His writing about his life was devoid of empathy or compassion about anyone else’s circumstance, only how other people affected his life, not being happy when they helped him and hating them when they got in his way or failed him. His piece makes it seem like the only person who cared about him was his mother.

    Nothing in the manifesto, save the end of it, was about non-reality, only about him and his idea world that would come to fruition if people would just behave the way he wanted them to behave. In this case, it was women he felt entitled to, and particular kinds. But his writings show some pretty messed up beliefs about sex and his early experiences with his body and sexual imagery, entitlement and dominance-the lessons of which are all mirrored in our culture. He seems to have found sex particularly disgusting, but also nearly an addiction.

    I don’t like that the narrative around the shooting is focused primarily on mental illness. Not because I don’t think he was extremely disordered, but because we focus on this as an individual mental health issue, rather than a cultural and societal illness. We cling to the idea that these rampages are purely isolated occurrences, that somehow these young men, nearly always white or raised in a white cultural milieu, just snapped. Why they snapped? That’s not something we dare deal with. far easier to erroneously blame his attack on schizophrenia or autism, rather than look at the much bigger problems and dynamics that might combine into a perfectly violent and murderous storm.

    It’s an additional part of a failed narrative to blame violence committed by people of color as acts of moral and character failing, rather than mental illness. We say that its about drugs and gang violence, that people of color aren’t educated enough or whatever other dismissive bullshit passes for excuse. We rarely give them the out of mental health issues. Racism pure and blunt.

    And as for hate crimes, we allow that narrative as well, but only in some specific cases. Shooting up a synagogue is an obvious act of anti-Semitism, for example. Beating up gay men, or killing trans individuals, joining groups that attack based on race, are seen as hate crimes..

    But in the cases where women have been killed (and there are many cases of men killing women for issues pertaining to sex), we don’t allow a more realistic narrative, one of hate, entitlement, control and the toxic effects of modern Western masculinity. It’s just mental illness. As Ruby Hamad states so eloquently:

    His mental state may have played a role in his crimes but Rodger’s digital trail leaves no doubt that he was heavily influenced by a culture of hatred towards women. He did not choose a sorority house any more randomly than the Brussels shooter chose a Jewish museum. Both were targeted attacks against a specific group of people in the community, and both presumably driven by a violent ideology.

    It’s true that not all of Rodger’s victims were women, but his male victims were chosen because they were allegedly getting the sex Rodger felt he was entitled to: “I’ll give you exactly what you deserve … all of you men for living a better life than me. All of you sexually active men. I hate you.”

    It is disturbing that even when a killer leaves vast trails of evidence detailing the exact motivations for his crimes – hatred towards an identified group – because that group happens to be “women”, we prefer to engage in mental gymnastics rather than admit that this hatred is a real and not uncommon thing.

    Elliot Rodger may have acted alone in his killing spree but he was far from alone in thinking he was entitled to women’s bodies, that sex with women was his right, and that the women who denied him this right deserved to be “punished”. As feminist blogger Melissa McEwan argues, “Dismissing violent misogynists as ‘crazy’ is a neat way of saying that violent misogyny is an individual problem, not a cultural one.”

    For all the talk of women’s empowerment, ours remains a toxic culture that denies women’s subjectivity, insisting, for example, that the “friendzone” is a real thing because men can’t seem to grasp the simple fact that women are not slot machines into which they can insert “niceness” and get sex in return.

    Jackson Katz wrote about all of these things after Newtown, and begged the media to focus on nanhood not guns or mental illness when writing about such shootings. I’m not sure you can leave out guns and mental health, or manhood or masculinity. Guns relate directly to masculinity. Our current cultural hatred of vulnerability and compassion relate directly to how we accept or deny mental health services. Our cultural mental health itself is in trouble, with its focus on power, dominance, greed, achievement, control of resources by any means necessary. That’s tied into masculinity as a representation.

    The misogyny is real. Violence against women as a hate crime? I think it’s real as well, and directly related to the symptoms listed above. We don’t accept the idea of hate crimes against women and here’s why I think that is-women aren’t seen as separate from men, but as a subset of men. Two great authors have amazing articles on the subject of this act being a hate crime and a symptom of misogyny built into our culture, Soraya Chemaly and Pia Glenn. Race also played a role, as noted here by Zac Cheney-Rice.

    For about six years I produced a women’s comedy festival here in Austin. For women, by women it was an amazing gathering of talent, humor, and skill. Each year I did press I’d get the question of “Why have a women’s comedy festival?” I always wondered if the Latino Comedy Project got that question. Or if Cine Las Americas heard statements like that? Or if Ballet Folklorico, or Alvin Ailey, or the Bay Area Black Comedy Festival had to answer questions about justifying their difference, their uniqueness.

    Something about women separating themselves out irritates our culture. Or maybe it was, as I thought quietly, years ago, that women aren’t a “culture” on their own. They are a subset of men, drawn and born out of Adam’s Rib as per our very bible. Not unique in our own selves, but a helpmeet to serve Adam, and this mythos fills all our cultural norms about women and their role. How can you hate that which is part of you, right? But you sure can keep it in line, because it belongs to you.

    When you see women as a sub-set of you, as a resource or as something that you own or control, it twists and toxifies the relationship.

    This is about so much, this shooting. It is indeed a mental health issue-for our whole culture is mentally, emotionally, psychically unwell when it comes to power, greed vs softness, love. It is indeed a gun issue since so many guns are just available but also act as a cultural symbol of that desire for dominance, masculinity pathologized. It is most certainly a gender issue and an issue of hatred of women (seen as a resource that now are trying to be viewed as equals).

    Since Newtown, there has been discussion of Aggrieved Entitlement, a state of experience that men, white men in particular are experiencing as our culture shifts dramatically.

    Masculinity is equally resistant to any type of critical self-examination. The combination of the two, and an intervention which seeks to examine white masculinity in America and its relationship to violence, is destined to create a hostile reaction on the part of many white men.

    In all, I am legitimately taken aback by the sincerity of the pain and offense at the idea that white men could be experts at committing singular types of crime in America.

    Moreover, in surveying the comments and reactions to my (and other) essays about Adam Lanza, white masculinity, and gun violence, there is a tone of real hurt.

    White Masculinity, like Whiteness, imagines itself as normal, innocent, and benign. The very premise that the intersection of those identities could result in socially maladaptive and violent behavior which is evil, and yes I use that term intentionally, is rejected by those deeply invested in a particularly conservative and reactionary type of White Masculinity, as something impossible. To even introduce such an idea is anathema to their universe. The language is verboten. The Other is suspect until proven otherwise; “real Americans” as “good people” are to be judged by precisely the opposite premise.

    I don’t particularly want some new DSM diagnosis for individuals. Aggrieved Entitlement, while it makes good sense on paper, as a label doesn’t necessarily solve the underlying issues which are racial, gender based, spiritually inculcated of how our culture operates.

    This is about so so much, so much that it’s nearly unbearable to take in, to understand, to heal. So much easier to just pick a camp of blame. Right now there is so much pain. I wish truly we’d all collectively do the work of healing. I admit I don’t truly even know where to begin.

    9 Comments

  • Out Of The Bedroom (5/15/2014)

    I’ve had a very powerful week, politically and spiritually speaking.

    Our producer Mia Martina was on a panel for the Forbidden Film Fest on Sexuality and Feminism, along with some local activists, Dr. Kim Tallbear, Morgan Collado, and Mistress Kayla. The conversation was passionate and focused on the next level of activism, even past intersectionality, and truly reinvigorated my belief that what we do is political and required if we want to shift systems. We must approach this work with earnestness but also a sense of humility. We will get things wrong as we go. We must always be willing to learn, to be challenged, to apologize when needed and to push forward when others need challenging.

    As Dr. Kim Tallbear quoted from Margot Weiss’s article on sexuality, referencing Pat Califia, “”I do not believe that we can fuck our way to freedom.” You have to work outside the bedroom for equality. Simply engaging in “transgressive” acts (whether or not you find them transgressive) with no follow up action doesn’t change systems necessarily, further expansion and work is needed for liberation, rights, equality.

    A few days after the panel I traveled to Kerrville to capture footage as Mary Ann Barclay did her ordination interview. She is a queer woman and a kick ass theologian, feminist, inter sectionalist; the kind of Christian that I dream about. She’s radical and wonderful.

    A finer candidate for minister I cannot imagine, from her personal strength to her in depth understanding of Weslyan Theology. While I find much of organized religion very problematic and painful to move through at times, I recognize a deep spiritual resonance in many communities that I’ve met (secular and non). But I recognize what can only be called “spirit” in Mary Ann as well as her partner Annanda. Call it social justice. Call it Buddha. Call it love, service, leadership, but my lord, call it what it is, a gift.

    My husband and I have been filming and documenting the process she’s gone through, and we went out in Kerrville waiting for the decision. We couldn’t be with her during the day, but we witnessed such powerful community and fellowship, love and compassion from morning until we left to drive home. Bearing witness and providing space for this story to be heard, seen, it’s important. She is a minister and nothing can actually stop that. She lives her faith in the world, and no title will change that. She has, as they say in the church, a prophetic voice and nothing will silence it.

    Her sexuality, orientation, ADD to the power she has as a voice in this world, not the opposite. This is the thing, isn’t it? Our wholeness is what helps others be whole. Our authenticity helps others find their true voice. Being willing to be seen helps others see more clearly. Were I to be a church-goer, I’d want my pastor to be able to embody the struggle, walk the path towards wholeness, authenticity, vulnerability, realness. To ask ministers to deny a core part of themselves seems heartbreaking to me.

    She is a model for living authentically and frankly, in my opinion, embodying God in the world from her love to her partner, to the service she provides others, and the message she brings. The church is truly behind, but then looking back at history, institutions usually are. The NFL seems to get it, I’m not sure why the Methodist church can’t.

    As she notes in this piece, it’s not the end for her path. It’s most certainly not. And we hope to document what goes forward because her story, like so many before her, so many happening now right now, so many LGBT youth being cast out, not able to marry or be ordained or be in fully community, those stories are sacred texts.

    The stories told at our show are also sacred, powerful and important. Stories ARE holy moments, distilled into words, so we all feel less alone.

    Taking sex out of the bedroom, taking food out of the kitchen, taking the work into the world is vital, at least in my opinion. We cannot separate who we are from what we do, nor should we. Our sexuality is core to our humanity and those stories shine a light on how we all navigate the world. Those who have shared those stories, I am so deeply grateful to for their courage in shifting the lens on sex. It’s spiritual in the best sense of the word.

    No Comments

  • The Power In Social Media (5/7/2014)

    I know that yesterday I posted about my frustrated relationship with social media, but I thought it worth sharing that two things occurred this morning shining a light on how powerful the collective voices of individuals can be.

    This particular article I’m writing here might not flow, might not have all the moving pieces to seem well written. I’m still recovering from a flu and my head aches and feels foggy. Still, I want to say these things.

    First, an article on Mashable, Bring Back Our Girls: Why The World Is Finally Talking About Nigeria’s Kidnapped Students, popped up in my Facebook feed.

    The girls were kidnapped from their schools over three weeks ago. The trail, which could have perhaps been followed if immediate action was taken, is cold. Boko Haram has claimed to have sold the girls as “wives,” a misnomer if ever there was one, into slavery to other militants.

    And the media, for the most part, has remained largely silent. Coverage of the missing girls has been dwarfed by the other major stories of late — the South Korean ferry, the racist NBA owner and the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

    “Maybe if the more than 200 Nigerian girls abducted from their school weeks ago were on a ferry in Korea, a jet liner in the Indian Ocean, in the owner’s box at a Clippers basketball game, or were white, the world would pay more attention,” Boing Boing blogger Xeni Jardin said, echoing the thoughts of many.

    “If it had happened anywhere else, this would be the world’s biggest story,” said CNN’s Frida Ghitis.

    But now, three weeks later, a hashtag associated with their disappearance has been tweeted nearly 1 million times.

    I’ve been a part of that million, following the story since it’s beginnings. I rarely go to major news outlets for actual news. I scroll Twitter each morning and take note of the stories to follow. Twitter is filled with citizen activists who know what to pay attention to, and they do it well.

    I believe major media outlets didn’t pay attention to this story because it is Africa. Because race. Because gender. Because poverty. Because there seems to be a priority list for all the horrific stories that could be reported on at any given moment. And there are a lot of them. As I mentioned yesterday, social media can mean feeling covered in badness, over-empathizing, taking in too much about things that it seems impossible to do much about.

    But millions of Twitter users did indeed do what they could, which was hashtag the hell out the situation. Finally, there has been “breaking news” on CNN, though for the girls that will be cold comfort. They’ve been kidnapped, assaulted, raped, and sold all while the powers of the modern world did nothing. All while millions of individuals in the world screamed through the internet, through links and posts, through calls to their representatives and through petitions.

    It took constant pressure to make their plight rise up the priority ranks. Social media played a huge role in doing just that, getting the attention to push the response up the chain. It is shameful that the world powers, the media, the news channels waited so long to respond to the cries of the Nigerian parents. I’m glad people have called and called and called for attention to be paid. In this case, it was a large group of students, women, and the group kidnapping them was clearly and adamantly against western education, and focused on Jihad. If it had been only a few girls in Sweden, though…

    Meanwhile, I’ll note (not as a derail, but as a heartbreaking reality that something truly toxic is happening longterm) that these girls being captured isn’t something new per se. Girls around the world (yes, the US) are trafficked for labor. Hundreds of thousands of children around the world get captured to be soldiers, economic labor, drug mules, and more. I see very little about that on mainstream news, and watch as activists write tirelessly only to be ignored.

    Perhaps there are just too many symptoms manifesting to truly pay attention to and treat the actual illness. My mind feels like it will break wide open sometimes. We want all these things all these material goods and a way of life that we’ve grown up with. On whose backs has that life been built? What is the relationship to child soldiers in Africa and how I live here? My out of season strawberries and children working in fields? I’m not sure how we all aren’t thinking about this.

    This one news event should have hit major outlets immediately. AND the bigger and more toxic longer term problem should be on the news ALL the time until we get our shit straightened out. It will likely take more than hashtags to make that change.

    The other thing that I saw today, and it seems silly even to tie this together with the previous topic, was a post by a friend. Long story short, she’d had a voucher for airfare due to delays on the airlines’ part, but due to extreme illness wasn’t able to use it and booked a ticket for her mother within the time frame allotted. Her mother became ill and she wanted to extend the ticket past the original deadline to help her mother travel later. The airline balked of course, until she threatened to take it to Twitter and Facebook. Suddenly, no problem.

    Why can’t systems and corporations just do the right thing to begin with? I suppose because we built the systems that way and our western system rewards corporations that protect their financial bottom line over anything else. And maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s related to power and dominance just hating bad public relations? Better to spare $300 in a voucher rather than lose $10,000 over a Twitter snafu?

    Better to get some kids on the news than to really deal with changing an entire world view about economic labor and bodies and how we use people (perhaps we always have) to further empires built of people by people on the bodies of people.

    I don’t have an answer for it, I just know that the more eyes on the systems and the freer we are to call the systems out, change the systems, keep actual checks and balances in place the better we are. Or should be.

    And I know that no matter how it hurts, we have to keep our eyes open to see what’s really going on and see the systems for what they are. The girls need to come home, not just for them, their families but for all of us to say No More Of This Anywhere.

    God knows what happened to the men early on who took the girls. Or to the leaders who took the boys and raised them up to be able to take those girls. Or to us who change the channel when things get too hard to watch, who need to figure out our priority of things to respond to in a world that is catching fire, or may always have been burning, I’m not sure.

    I don’t have a damn hashtag for that. There is power in social media, I just hope we can figure out how to truly use it.

    No Comments

  • Look To The Rainbow or Chase The Dragon (4/9/2014)
    Follow The Fellow Who Follows A Dream

    Follow The Fellow Who Follows A Dream

    My eldest son had a theater performance last night. Their classes all did a kind of lip sync’d but originally choreographed take on Broadway musical numbers from Annie to Hairspray. He did well, had a great time, and came home riding on air.

    As I was getting him in bed he told me, “That’s the best feeling in the world, being on stage. I just feel so amazing.” And then he paused, his face hidden and shadowed in the dark room. He asked shyly as if he was discovering something of tremendous import, “Does it feel that way for you when you are onstage?”

    Yes. Yes it does.

    Being onstage, rehearsing, producing (and to some extent writing) feels like nothing else. No where else do I feel quite so competent as in a collective space working on receiving and transmitting emotions in text and movement and then offering that to an audience. There is a very particular skill set that allows for that kind of space creation and holding it just long enough for a show to happen and it’s powerful and feels, well, spiritual in nature-energetic, a force coming from someplace (maybe it’s all just chemical but it feels transformative at its best).

    I felt this sharp tug at my heart when he asked, as much for his question as for my own struggles with having this need to perform. I felt almost a kind of sadness that he felt that feeling because I know it means a life of sacrifices, struggles, and really weird hard choices if he’s called by the dream-like power of Art and Theater, not by Business or some other more valued lucrative force.

    I know a lot of artists. Nearly all of them have a day job and then their own gig. Austin is filled with people working and then WORKING on what counts for them the most, what calls them and makes them get up and create. Most of them are not paid well, if at all, for that creative work. Musicians, painters, actors, singers. Most have to support themselves with a 40 hour gig, live lean and forego middle class luxuries.

    There are a few who have figured out how to live on art. Some of those few have family money, or have made exceptionally wise money choices, or have supportive spouses. Some don’t have any of that but have pretty much lived on the brink of homelessness to just work in the arts because they can’t do anything else, and by “can’t” I don’t mean skill, I mean that’s the thing life gave them to do. That’s it for them. Art.

    I also know a few folks who have actual careers in law, engineering, business, higher ed. They don’t seem to have a side gig, but feel really satisfied by their career. I’m not sure what they do at night or on weekends but it doesn’t seem to be additional production work, or writing. Maybe they invest? Build things on their homes? Go out? (I jest a little, but I know people who do not go overboard with the extra projects, either art or activism like my friends and I do and it confounds me.)

    Many of those people make a really good solid living in their career. Their avocations are just that; hobbies that please them outside of career. But what of all the artists whose actual vocation is the thing that doesn’t pay (but which is often viewed as a hobby by employers)? Reminds me of this article in the Onion recently.

    All those thoughts cartwheeled through my mind as I tried to get to sleep last night.

    “Does it feel like that for you when you are onstage?”

    God, yes. The best feeling in the world to be in a show. Or to facilitate a group of people through a creative process. Or to brainstorm and come up with ideas. Or to listen to someone who needs coaching. or to get all the pieces together for an event. The interchange of energies, transmitting and receiving is the dream, the sweet spot where I have something to offer.

    I’m lucky that my career and weekly work is such that I can (and do) use those skills-event planning and production, speaking and outreach, facilitation and consulting, because those are the only damn things I’m good at. And I’m lucky that I have been able to integrate the arts and activism into my life throughout my life. Heck, I try to integrate my arts and activism into each other so I can get more done! I’m extremely privileged to live in a town like Austin where you can craft out a side gig pretty easily and it’s something that keeps the town “weird.”

    But I wonder and ponder for my son. How to explain to him that even if he could be a full time actor? The performance is still only a small percentage of that career. From auditions, to money management, to agents, to rehearsing, to classes, to promotion and marketing, to just paying bills and maintaining a home, getting onstage is still rare.

    And if he’s like the thousands of artists that do their thing on evenings and weekends, how to prepare him in ways I was not prepared, and ways I most certainly ignored out of a romantic idealism about art and purity and my own pathological issues with money?

    I don’t want that feeling to be something he chases like an addiction, getting it where he can, if he can, because he has to live a life that isn’t his just to get by. Nor do I want him to treat it like a musical theater-like dream and not take it seriously or give it up altogether. The arts are tremendously undervalued in terms of monetary reward (unless you are famous and then it’s extremely overvalued) and that means people either give them up or try to work the system ruthlessly. It can’t be idealized and it shouldn’t be cynical, but it seems to me those are the choices lately.

    What kind of stories do I tell him in order to help him value earning potential but also his innate skills? What do I do to help him build his own mythos, his own path, rather than crush him with the one I was raised with, the daughter of a well known talented composer whose legacy…well, was crushing in many ways and left me focused on the right things but the wrong ways?

    I don’t have a lot of answers to those questions. I’m only now, at 45, beginning to really look in the mirror and ask them of myself. Which, I can tell you, is a painful thing right now. I can look back over the last 15 years and think, damn. I’ve really bungled a lot of opportunities and I’ve truly missed the boat by dividing myself. Personal work is the hardest work.

    Which is why I think that shy question, in the dark, was so powerful. It was a moment of consciousness from a young boy taking the very first steps into adulthood. Him recognizing, perhaps for the first time, that his parent had a connection to him in a way that felt real and visceral. An awareness of something he may not ever have suspected about himself, and that his mother had also traveled that same way.

    It was a stunning moment, at least for me. And I am still boggled as to how to move myself through it, but surely there is no better reason than to make things a little easier for him.

    2 Comments

  • The Henson Generation?– Millennials just don’t get it! How the Muppets created Generation X –Salon.Com (4/7/2014)

    I cannot say I love the title of this piece, pitting as it does one generation against another, but I truly appreciated the insights regarding the stories we of Generation X grew up with and how they .

    Millennials just don’t get it! How the Muppets created Generation X – Salon.com.

    “Debuting in 1969, ”Sesame Street” was an experiment, to find out if public television could level class discrepancies and change the world. Airing free-of-charge in every home in the country and making learning fun, it undoubtably did. More than a simple lesson on the alphabet, for those of us raised by Big Bird, you couldn’t help feeling a sense of idealism about the future. It’s a message that’s hard to put into words, but you feel it if you watch Jimmy Fallon and the Roots sing “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street” – as over a million viewers have. Just the opening bars of that song are enough to make me feel like a kid again.”

    I certainly grew up on Sesame Street and my father, a Henson type (though older) was fascinated with what television and media could do to change our culture.

    “From the ’60s on, Jim Henson’s work would reach nearly every child, whether it was “The Muppet Show,” “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas,” “Fraggle Rock,” “The Storyteller,” the Muppet movies, “John Denver and the Muppets,” “Labyrinth,” “The Dark Crystal,” “The Jim Henson Hour,” or “Muppet Babies.” Unlike Sesame Street, Henson’s later work did not have a “curriculum” created by Harvard psychologists at the Children’s Television Workshop. All the same, each show and movie had purpose.

    Henson told his staff that with “Fraggle Rock,” he wanted to make a show that would help “stop war in the world” by teaching conflict resolution. “Muppet Babies” was made to encourage imagination. According to the show’s head writer, “[Henson] wanted children to believe anything is possible. That’s the only thing that’s going to save this planet — the power of imagination.” Though “The Muppet Show” did not have any overt “teaching objectives,” it had the implicit message that all kinds of weirdos and goofballs can work together in peace, give or take a few explosions. Underneath the screwball humor, “The Muppet Show” had a message of brotherhood.”

    Indeed, reading through this article I saw myself over and over again, the idealism, the creativity, the focus on community and acceptance of difference.

    It’s long but it’s worth the read, especially if you are a fellow X’er.

    No Comments

  • South (by) BedPost (an unofficial event) (3/7/2014)

    891906_677235082327365_209631556_o

    Presenting South by BedPost: An intimate night of storytelling with the sex-positive participants of SxSWi. This is an unofficial event.

    The ladies of Bedpost Confessions are celebrating their participation in SxSW Interactive (Julie and Sadie are both leading Core Conversations) by hosting a FREE storytelling event at one of their favorite places – The Butterfly Bar Austin

    9:00 pm-11:00 pm
    Butterfly Bar at Vortex Rep.
    2307 Manor

    With stories told by these sex positive folks from different parts of the country:

    ☮ BedPost Confessions co-producer and author of the memoir Open All the Way –
    Sadie Smythe

    ☮ Author of An Open Apology to All My ExGirlfriends – Stirling Gardner

    ☮ Rapper, writer and performer –
    Ejede

    ☮ Kink Academy Founder and FemDom Foot Goddess –
    Princess Kali Erotication

    ☮ Sex worker’s rights advocate, sex educator and relationship coach –
    Sabrina Morgan

    ☮ Writer and columnist –
    Oscar Raymundo

    ☮ Emceed by BedPost Confessions co-producer, writer, performer and activist –
    Julie Gillis

    Come on out to the Butterfly Bar and enjoy hearing some amazing tales!

    No Comments

  • The SXSW Premiere Of Above All Else (3/5/2014)

    1907759_704039032951820_1700414755_o

    My husband Christopher Lucas has been a producer on an amazing documentary filmed and directed by John Fiege of Fiege Films and premiering at SXSW.

    Above All Else “is an intimate portrait of a group of landowners and activists in East Texas who tried to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a $7 billion dollar project slated to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Risking financial ruin, their personal safety, and the security of their families, these unforgettable people and their stories become an exploration of the human spirit and a window into how social change happens in America.”

    There are three screening times at SXSW.

    Monday, March 10, 12 PM, Paramount Theater
    Tuesday, March 11, 4:30 PM, Alamo Village
    Saturday, March 15, 2 PM, Topfer Theater at ZACH

    Help us fill the 1200 seats at the Paramount! $10 Individual tickets will go on sale 15 minutes before each screening at the venue box office. Arrive early in case of lines.

    $12 advanced tickets can be purchased here.

    SXSW Badge and Film Pass holders are given seating priority – you can purchase badges and passes here at SXSW.

    No Comments

  • BedPost Quickies! March 4, 2014 (3/2/2014)

    1513233_661910583859815_688059510_n

    TUESDAY!!!!

    BedPost Quickies is a NEW and FREE open mic night that occurs the 1st Tuesday of the month at the ND. Come and test out your story in a fun space with great people. At BedPost Quickies you will have 5 minutes to read your material and practice your performer skills with a live audience. You do not need any stage or writing experience, this is a safe and brave space to share your story.

    Sign up is from 7:00 to 7:30 PM. We will take the first 15 performers. You’ll be assigned an order number and when it is your turn you’ll be given 5 minutes in the spotlight.

    What Are The Rules?

    5 minute maximum

    Your piece should be about sex, sexuality, feminism, gender, relationship.

    It can be political, personal, fiction or non-fiction.

    No offensive, non-consensual or illegal material (please check with us before performing, but you should stay within the ethos of BedPosts Smart, Sexy Stories filled with ethics, education and entertainment)

    You must bring a written copy of your piece!

    Where and When?

    The North Door
    502 Brushy St., Austin, Texas 78702
    7:00 sign up
    7:30 start

    No Comments

  • Testify (2/28/2014)

    1596660_706238819420027_1750461813_o

    I’ll be reading a story at Testify tonight about mental health, motherhood, and the mayhem my brain got up to after a chance encounter at the Austin State Hospital.

    “Touch has a memory.” – John Keats

    Our lineup this month has an excellent collection of particularly palpable stories, ranging from heartfelt to comical, regarding touch – emotional, spiritual, physical, and imagined; its cold absence and its (at times) overwhelming presence.

    Testify is proud to present the following storytellers live on stage:

    Marcellus Cadd
    Jessica Rue Wilson
    Julie Gillis
    Kate-Monster Ross

    See you soon!

    The Producers of Testify
    (Abby, Erin, Genevieve, Kacey, and Kate)

    Doors: 7:00 pm
    Show starts promptly at 8:00 pm
    Tickets: $5 cash at the box office ($6 for credit cards)

    **PLEASE NOTE performances may contain strong language and adult content. No one under 18 will be admitted without a guardian.**

    No Comments

  • Rouse The Unruly Mob (2/26/2014)

    1556350_504814579632375_1729162964_o

    This will be the next three nights! There will be amazing performers and speakers and ways to get involved with reproductive justice!

    Artists, performers, poets, musicians, dancers, activists, scholars, pundits, healthcare providers, filmmakers, photographers, journalists, feminists and freedom fighters! Join us for three nights of skits, sketches, schtick and succor.

    Remember the filibuster!
    Remember the Mob mentality!
    Remember our voices!

    Rouse the Unruly Mob will be curated performances, open-mic rants and rhymes, live forum fun, and a consciousness-raising romp!

    When: February 27, 28, March 1

    Vortex Theater

    No Comments

  • What Love Is All About (2/15/2014)

    Watch this.

    Read the words of Ellen Page. I couldn’t put it better than this.

    “What I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it, and yes, even the pain of it is the most incredible gift to give and receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and and without compromise.”

    My congratulations to Ellen Page, and my love and support to everyone out there living and loving authentically and with compassion for others.

    Sexual, orientation, and gender rights are human rights.
    Love is love.
    Equality for All.

    No Comments

  • BedPost Confessions Loves Nerd Nite (2/12/2014)

    1797404_10152219832034489_257214440_n

    It’s that time again.

    Every year we mash up our nerdy brains with those of our smart, sex-positive colleagues at BedPost Confessions, resulting in a bubbling Valentine’s stew of piping hot, sexy nerdiness. We took a year to cool off in 2013, but the mutual attraction could not be denied…

    Get out your sporks! Sex Nite Confessions has returned.

    The talks:

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

    “Simplified Dating,” by Harris O’Malley (aka Dr. NerdLove)

    Dating can be a frustrating, confusing mess…but it doesn’t have to be. It’s time to treat dating is a skill, not as a mysterious process. By stripping dating to it’s core essentials, we can make dating a simpler, more enjoyable experience.

    Harris O’Malley is a blogger and dating coach who teaches nerds how to date better at his website Paging Dr. NerdLove.

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

    “A Brief History of Select Kinks,” by Megan E. Allen

    Many people ask about the origin of their own kinks and sexual interests. This is not a discussion on that. This is a bit of historical proof that humanity has been kinky all along.

    Sexual health educator in training, writer, and kinky person with far too many academic resources at her fingertips.

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

    PLUS!

    The return of the Sexpert Confessions Panel!

    Credentialed sexperts will discuss your (anonymously submitted) questions and confessions on sexuality, gender, orientation and more.

    Our sexpert panel will be facilitated by Julie Gillis, a producer of BedPost Confessions and other events focused on community building using theater and storytelling as a bridge between art, justice, and the everyday world.

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

    Want to find your nerdy valentine? Form a covalent bond at Nerd Nite Speed-Dating before the show:

    …or meet some new friends through the Nerd Nite Ambassador program:

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

    As always, Nerd Nite is FREE (we do it for the luv).

    Doors at 7, talks start at 7:30. Talks may not be given in the order described. Grab a beer and relax!

    The North Door
    502 Brushy St., Austin, Texas 78702
    View Map · Get Directions

    No Comments

  • Soundtrack Series, I Believe (2/7/2014)

    Performed at the Soundtrack Series at the Long Center, January 31, February 1, 2014

    I would like to take this time to apologize to a woman who served briefly as my therapist in 2008, the one who accused me of being in a spiritual crisis. Melissa? You were right. I was wrong.

    My very independent mother had been moved back to Austin and was being placed into a nursing home due to Alzheimer’s disease. She’d been deteriorating for years and no longer could drive, cook or no be safe on her own. She was angry and overwhelming. I was angry and overwhelmed.

    The therapist was a very nice woman and we got on well for a few sessions until she told me that I was having the aforementioned crisis of a spiritual nature. I didn’t react well to this news.

    You should know all this first:

    My father, a composer and conductor from a long line of artists, musicians, performers and writers, died in 1978 in South Carolina, a sudden sudden change in our life. My mother bereft, depressed, and desperate, moved to be with her sister in Athens Georgia to provide a physically (if not emotionally) safe place for me to grow up. I came of age in that small arty town filled with magnolia trees, a strange combination of preppie clothes, tail-gates and musicians in thrift store clothes.

    My mother loved classical music, and hated nearly all of the bands I’d listen to, but she enjoyed REM, in part for their lyrical voices, their beautiful minor keys, but in greater part probably because she worked with Michael Stipe’s parents and felt fond of the fellows. She had married a musician after all. She knew what they were up against.

    I did my best to survive while growing up with a grieving mother who was hard to connect with, and REM provided a soundtrack for my life from 8th grade onward until I went to college at UGA. I played REM certainly, since my mother wouldn’t complain and I Believe especially, with its inscrutable lyrics that I would puzzle over like a seeker at the Oracle of Delphi.

    I graduated with a BFA and I left Athens as much to find my fortune as due to too many memories, every road, every house, showed the patterns of grief, which layered on from my mother, our escape here after my father died, the town was just too hard to live in.

    I ran, feeling this intangible mysterious pull to Seattle.

    My mother drove with me all the way across the country, a 5 day ultimate awkward mother daughter road trip. We talked little but listened to I Believe playing over and over on a squeaky cassette tape as we crossed the plains into Colorado. Proud mountains arched ahead, wide flat skies behind my Toyota truck, me both terrified trusting in the call to leave home for the unknown.

    Sometimes, in the car, I held her hand, like a child.

    My mother helped me unpacked my things and she cried uncharacteristically as she went to the airport to fly home. I can’t imagine how hard that actually must have been, to leave her only child in a faraway land but she knew it was time. I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t cry back, though I tried.

    I didn’t listen to I Believe for very very long time. We visited infrequently.

    Seattle was new and I dove into its strangeness. I moved from sweet southern folksy pop for Nirvanic grunge, discordant and loud. It was then and there I moved fully from childhood religion to the church of theater.

    I’d gone to lots of churches as a child. As a child I was baptized Presbyterian and remember weeping at the radical idea of another human being sacrificing himself in such a painful way for love of us. My relationship to spirit had long been fraught.

    As I aged, I explored reincarnation with my mother (who was seriously into Shirley MacLaine at the time so it bonded us), witchcraft and crystal mysteries, all of which were supported in that small arts town, and even my liberal Episcopalian youth group.

    But, Seattle brought me perspectives on the politics of organized religion, the power mongering and media manipulation of the rising evangelical Right. I developed a big city agnostic attitude, along with my martinis, Doc Martans, social justice work, and producing theater year after year.

    I rejected edicts from on high claiming why someone should or shouldn’t be able to marry, or what I should and shouldn’t do with my uterus. I felt that modern Christianity was marketing ploy, a consumer item, responsible for all kinds of bad public policy and used as a bludgeon to hurt people.

    Religion was rejected by rote, even after moving to Austin and having family, children with questions of their own.

    Plus, everything was fine, with my lovely kids, and lovely family, and exciting and adventurous friends, and job that had to do with giving and connecting and the social justice volunteering and the joys of improvisation, and the awaking of sexual exploration and writing, a kind of magic of its own.

    Until my mother became ill.

    Alzheimer’s is an ugly disease, robbing the bearer of their dignity. It’s ugly for the family as well. She and I had been at arms length over the past 10 years, and I didn’t handle her return gracefully.

    I was unmoored. Resistant. Afraid of her and of the memories of my father’s death, our strained mother daughter relationship, come home to roost. As she became more and more ill, I was doing more and more theater, more and more activism specifically around sexuality, sex instead of death perhaps. I was totally over my head.

    My mother was in the worst stage, waking up in a fog, agitated and violent at times, extremely afraid. And because of her confusion, and me being the only caretaker, she was blaming me for all of it, all while I tried to manage a job, young children, marriage, my life. So when I went to visit this therapist, I was looking for were pragmatic tools to help get through the hard patch.

    At this point in therapy, Melissa looked at me and told me I was in a spiritual crisis.

    I told her I wasn’t.

    She did the same thing the next week and I got even more agitated. I reacted strongly to the idea of God in anything having to do with me, my mother, her disease, you name it. “Let’s move away from this topic.”

    Two sessions later, she brought it up again. I quit with a few choice words. I stewed and sputtered for weeks about it. Thing is? She was right.

    I spent those years ignoring the signs that I was myself carrying-I was at once seeking for solace in the midst of despair. I placed all my action into social justice, in heart in mothering and then counseling students, my faith in producing and holding space for performers, I was doing the work of the family business.

    Finally, in 2012, it happened.

    During a trip to North Texas for a special concert celebrating my father’s music, I sat listening to the profoundly spiritual strains of his work. In that great hall, I felt his depth and devotion to god and to making the world better. He was as progressive of a democrat as they come, a Christian and he meant it, what Christianity meant for real. I thought about his family, their history, mine.

    Right then, in that concert hall, I counted off one by one the long line of relatives and realized they weren’t just artists but ministers, missionaries, choir directors, pastoral counselors, vestry, elders, and deacons. My mind was blown.

    I thought my own path, about the people, writers, performers and audience at the show I co-produce, BedPosts (which more than one person has called a kind of church) and had an epiphany! It was right there in front of me. The family business wasn’t art! It was RELIGION. I’d been doing it all along!!! All I could say was, OH FUCK as silently as possible as I sat there in the concert hall, freaking out.

    Back in Austin, I listened to Life’s Rich Pageant again, listened to “I Believe” and like a bell, there it was in the lyrics, clear and sweet and plain.

    I believed. In what? Coyotes? My calling? What did that even mean in a world where my life was taking care of someone dying in dribs and drabs, someone losing parts of themselves over a 10 year slow moving brain melting crisis with nothing to be done but witness it.

    While it wasn’t a Road to Damascus moment, I sat with this new awareness for months.

    Not long after, pneumonia grasped my mother. I sat with her for 5 days as she slipped away, the ultimate awkward mother daughter road trip. I held her hands as she faded, slowly, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to go, how hard it must have been to be trapped, but we knew it was time.. I packed her belongings and I’m not ashamed to say that this time, I didn’t have to try to cry.

    So yes Melissa, I was having a spiritual crisis. And I went ahead and stayed in the desert a long time, cause I don’t like being told about my business and sometimes I need that realization to sidle up to me and just sit next to me for a time before I can look it in the face. Which always turns out to be looking back at my own face, yes? Me, waiting for me to catch up. Hi there.

    I still don’t like organized religion. I still think that human systems are only as healthy as the humans in them which means the humans leading them have to do their own work first.

    I believe in the connection between all living things, and that theater is a way of embodying energy that is transformative. I believe in the holy work of listening and bearing witness to each other’s stories as we strive for justice.

    I believe, is the thing. If not in “god” then in the clues woven into complicated 80’s lyrics like a benediction waiting to be discovered. In a joyous hymn of coyotes, rattlesnakes, and trusting the call, in a wild force of love.

    I definitely believe in that.

    1 Comment

  • On Sexual Abuse, Predators, and Pedestals (2/5/2014)

    I’ve been following the Woody Allen case for several heartbreaking days. I just saw a post about Bill Cosby, and accusations about him that got ignored in years past. There are so many other examples of abuse in the mainstream media, years worth. I’ve heard stories about bad situations in my own city, people who aren’t celebrities.

    Here is the deal. There are predators out there. Some are wealthy and powerful and some are not. They come in all genders, orientations, ages. They look just like everyone else. They may be boring regular folk, or they may be exceptionally talented artists, powerful leaders.

    The cognitive dissonance involved in recognizing a person you know and like as a predator is really really really hard to deal with. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is. Humans pretty much hate cognitive dissonance. It’s painful and messy and causes all kinds of trouble. We avoid it in minor and major ways. On top of that, kids are not treated as reliable, generally speaking and that makes it easy to side with the comfortable side of the dissonance that “That person would never do that.” But that person might well do that because some people are predators.

    I’m putting two articles, one by Andrea Grimes, and one by Natalie Shure, here which are poignant and personal examples of how the whole experience is rigged badly for kids, how hard it is for them, and how rarely things really get resolved.

    Please read those.

    Here’s all I have at the moment:

    1) I think kids (and adults) who report abuse should be taken seriously.
    That means a) believing the trauma and b) truly examining the entire system within which it occurred).

    2) I think we need to really (REALLY) educate our legal system folks (police, lawyers) to get what is going on so that those people reporting abuse are truly taken seriously AND the system is such that laws are actually protecting the survivor and then ethically and forthrightly defending the accused within a much better structure. Side note on False Accusations which do occur, and if someone falsely accuses they too are acting in trauma, causing trauma, and are likely acting predatorily.

    3) This means dismantling rape culture and a culture of dominance which costs women, kids, the disabled and disenfranchised and protects those with money and power. Right now? Most victims of rape and abuse do not report, reports don’t go to trial, trials don’t end in convictions. That means there is a huge problem in the system.

    4) I think when we build systems of power and money around people (who might be predators) then the systems are so focused on that power and money (and all the people employed by that money) that the system has its interest in power not justice.

    5) I think we have to start dismantling pedestals because worshipping people isn’t healthy and leads to a deeper experience of cognitive dissonance. There shouldn’t be anything shocking about hearing of a leader that’s harmed someone. We act, each time, as if we can’t believe it. Yet it happens over and over again. And we love our stars and leaders, it may be a built-in the human animal but man, it causes problems, especially when with point 4, there are systems designed to keep the money coming in.

    6) I think we have to keep working on digging into sexual shame, dynamics of power on the individual level (people abusing each other), consent, education, honesty and healthy pleasure rather then fetishizing purity. It’s a spiritual issue. It’s a justice issue. It’s a human issue. Purity culture destroys women, men and children. The fear and loathing of sexual pleasure, wrapped in dogmatic doctrine and topped with a side of guilt causes big time problems.

    7) I think we have to speak out and call out bullshit when we see it. I’m part of a show that talks about sex. How many people there are seeking health and growth? How many people have experienced manipulation and abuse? How do we open up the space to keep the space courageous, safe and focused on transparency? How do we call out those who do harm? How do we support each other through cognitive dissonance if such horrible moments occur?

    8) All these things have to be worked on all together to truly shift what’s going on. No one should be falsely accused and no one should be sexually abused and assaulted. Trauma should be believed. Systems should protect rather than harm. Rape culture, dominance and patriarchy are a part of the problem. Shame is inherent in a culture of purity related to old patriarchal dynamics. Change must happen.

    Finally, predators rely on our natural avoidance of cognitive dissonance. They rely on systems of power and dynamics of sexism. They rely on pedestals and our denial to keep them exactly where they like to be. They are predators, and as such they are good at manipulation. They don’t really care if it upsets us. And they look exactly like us.

    I’m a fan of a lot of artists, but if I feel with certainty they are abusers? That art is not worth me selling out human beings who were damaged by them. Their art isn’t worth someone else’s soul.

    No Comments

  • Acts of Revolutionary Love (2/2/2014)

    I want everyone to watch this amazing speech by Laverne Cox.

    Understanding the complex dynamics of orientation, sex, gender, gender expression is hard work. I know a lot and I don’t know anything at all.

    I’m clumsy, still, in how I integrate new understanding of non-binary possibilities into a brain that was taught nothing but binary from day one.

    I’m clumsy, still, in remembering respectful gendering and use of pronouns. I try. When I make mistakes, certainly not intended, I hope I can get correction so that I can do better in the fight for all to be held up in honor and respect.

    I try to use my imagination to employ empathy around just how much trauma and struggle must go on in a soul that feels completely that their body isn’t right, doesn’t match, yet they are told over and over again that the soul is the thing that is wrong. Over years, people are told they are wrong for knowing who they really are inside and out. That’s so damaging, so deeply wrong.

    How does anyone grow up whole hearing that kind of bullshit, when in their heart they know it isn’t true? Many don’t. Many children struggle so deeply, are abused by peers, schools, families, many commit suicide.

    I watch micro aggressions all the time, people using the wrong pronouns, even when requested otherwise. How damn hard is it just to use the pronouns someone requests? Even if you don’t believe or understand them about their gender or about non-binary gender dynamics, what does it cost you to just use the pronoun they request? Do people not know it causes harm to hear the wrong pronoun over and over again? Or do they and they don’t care because the request bothers them so much? Why is your discomfort more important than theirs?

    One of the ones I hear the most is, “Well he was a he before he transitioned and it’s hard to remember.” And my response is, “She was always a she, she was never a he, even though her body appeared male. So by mixing those pronouns you are denying her entire experience growing up and finally claiming herself.”

    I don’t know what it costs a person to just support a person who is trying to heal and be whole. How much does it really cost me to say “she” instead of “he.” To me that is loving someone, not telling them they are wrong, or too angry, or upsetting the social fabric, or being a bother.

    It’s so easy. Just use the pronouns requested. Build a relationship, learn about that person. See that person for who they are, a human being. Isn’t that better than smashing them down back into a place you recognize, even if they don’t?

    I’m clumsy, still, and I understand trying to navigate and learning. It can seem challenging, but really, it’s not about me so much as it is about supporting people who need love, respect, support. That’s worth the challenge. I read, watch, listen. I listen some more. Ms. Cox put it perfectly, “Loving trans people, I believe, is a revolutionary act.”

    Please watch.

    No Comments

  • I Believe: Soundtrack Series Tonight (1/31/2014)
    Soundtrack Series

    Soundtrack Series

    Y’all, I am going to be reading tonight and Saturday at the amazing and profound Soundtrack Series! I am in fantastic company, with such talented and skilled writers that I can barely contain myself!!! Please come and see it, hear the music, and enjoy an incredible night!

    My piece was inspired by REM’s “I Believe.”

    From their FB invite:

    The Long Center presents the acclaimed Soundtrack Series, coming to Austin for two weekends: January 31-Feb 1 and April 11 & 12!

    This is the new, organic Long Center series featuring local writers and performers that everyone is talking about! Jeanne Claire van Ryzin of the Austin American-Statesman has called it ‘One of the most refreshing things we’ve seen at the Long Center…!”

    The amazing lineup for Jan/Feb:
    Jay Byrd
    Chris Apollo Lynn
    Holly Lorka
    Carrie Clark
    Julie Gillis
    Elizabeth McQueen

    Here’s how it works: local performers and writers get on the mic to tell the hilarious or heart wrenching stories and memories they forever associate with a song from their past. We all love music. But The Soundtrack Series celebrates just how much we all live music.

    The Soundtrack Series operates on the idea that just about everyone has that one song that sparks a great story from their past. Music lovers of different ages, backgrounds, and (of course) musical tastes have come to The Soundtrack Series to tell and listen to song-fueled stories, and feel the buzz that comes from connecting music with memories. The Soundtrack Series is for anyone who has ever built an iTunes library, combed through vinyl at a flea market, used a pencil to tighten their favorite cassette; and for anyone who has a favorite song, a least favorite song, or any song that takes them back to “that one time when…”

    The Soundtrack Series has been featured in the New York Times, BUST, NY1, “Above and Beyond” in the New Yorker, a Critic’s Pick in Time Out New York, a Gothamlist Event of the week, and included among the “Best Events and Things to Do in NYC” by CBS News New York.

    Contact our Group Sales department for information on discounts for groups of 10 or more:

    For mature audiences only.

    FOR MORE SHOW INFO AND TICKETS:

    Questions? Call the 3M Box Office at (512) 474-LONG (5664), TTY (800) 735-2989.

    Enjoy some music on me!

    No Comments

  • Us, Here, Now. (1/25/2014)

    photo
    (photo credit Kit O’Connell)

     

    Today there was a rally at the Capitol on the anniversary of Roe. It was a rally for the side of things that call themselves, Pro Life, though our team usually calls them Anti Choice. We had hundreds of amazing people, fantastic organizers, brilliant activists all. I am so grateful for them and their passion and devotion to justice.

    One of the signs I saw today was about “My Generation Will End Abortion.” That’s a Utopian sentiment, and truly naive.

    Abortion has existed for as long as women didn’t want to be pregnant. It’s existed in every culture and country, and has been needed not just to end a pregnancy that is unplanned or unwanted, but to save women’s lives should the fetus be causing danger to the living woman. The physical process for supporting a woman through a difficult miscarriage is the same, and doctors need to know how to help women through all phases of their reproductive lives.

    I believe abortion will always exist because there will always be circumstances in which women have to choose. My life? Or, the life of the fetus suffering and unable to grow. My children’s well being? Or this new accidental pregnancy. My emotional, mental, and physical health? Or the pregnancy caused by a rape. There are more, many more stories, including wanted children who cannot be borne, including forced pregnancies through rape or coercion, including pregnancies incurred because teens had no idea how their bodies work.

    The issue is access, resources, and choice. Do this, and you will indeed reduce the need for abortion services.

    Abortion services though, will always be needed and should be legal and accessible, with trained providers that are free from religious or political pressure to deny patients rights.

    Here are some things that will not end abortion:

    • Lying to women about condoms, as many so called crisis pregnancy centers do.
    • Shaming women and men about sex.
    • Denying that some men rape or abuse women and girls (not that those women tempt men).
    • Closing reproductive health centers (that will just mean women will take radical and drastic steps).
    • Impoverishing communities by gutting education, approving unfair bank practices, eliminating health and mental health services, and lowering wages.
    • Telling children they are like used up pieces of gum if they have sex, and then lying to them about their bodies, how they work, and being disingenuous about contraception.

    The only way to reduce abortion (for it can never be eliminated) is to do the opposite things:

    • Provide extremely comprehensive sex ed to all genders.
    • Offer unfettered access to contraception, reproductive services and education.
    • Create cultures of absolute consent and acceptance between men and women regarding sex and pleasure.
    • Support a political system that provides living wages, fair bank practices, less corporate interference in local job economies, and provides safety and health care for all.
    • Increase the safety net for mental and physical health, for job loss, and economic stress.
    • Decrease oppressive racial and gendered systems so that more people have access to more education, more jobs, more ability to live with autonomy.

    This will mean less unintended pregnancies, and more planned for and wanted children. It will also mean that the choice to keep an unplanned pregnancy will mean far less financial disaster for families.

    It will also mean a more equitable life for ALL THOSE WHO ARE CURRENTLY ALIVE.

    It confounds me that even when given this response, the Right and Anti-Choice side denies and refuses the truth of it. All I have heard for the million years I’ve been fighting against anti-choice laws have been about control, shame, vengeance, and discipline.

    • Don’t have sex.
    • Wait until marriage.
    • Pray.

    Live with your mistakes (as if a child should EVER be told they are a mistake to live with).

    The core belief structure seems to be about personal control (and fear), vengeance instead of understanding, denial instead of adaptation. Punishment, certainly.

    I don’t doubt that many many on the Right believe deeply that they are the correct side, that they hold the loving position, the compassionate position. I certainly know our side believes we are and we do.

    The very words have different core meanings to align with the different deep core beliefs. When I say love and compassion are part of abortion services I am accused of murderous intent. When I hear and see those words used by the Right, it seems cruel and manipulative and I see it as a cudgel to control through shame. This semantic divide can make dialogue seem nearly impossible, nearly alien in how we use the words or understand the positions. One inroad I’ve seen is with Exhale and their use of stories rather than arguments.

    In all this, I go out, I write and I activate with many others, but I’m a bit at a loss to figure out how to motivate the even larger numbers of people to get out there and make change. The Right believes they have “god” on their side-their churches organize like wild, they focus on their actions in much more lock step and may even feel that their actions are spiritually called (and if not that, their communities are part of church life so it’s where everyone is, pressing each other to act).

    I’m not sure how to take back the spiritual position (or if we can), though Cindy Noland of Faith Action Women in Need, did a great job today speaking on faith and abortion as compassion, healing, justice. We are a mixed group of atheists, agnostics and the message of spirituality may not appeal to those on our side, but something has to pull more and more of us in.

    I  think it should, something should to get people out organized and in force. As Gar Alperovitz said last night in his talk, “The Quietly Deepening Political and Economic Crisis: Possibilities for an America beyond Corporate Capitalism,” the issues aren’t historical or political, but existential. “What are you going to do?”

    Martin Luther King, Jr. said, most profoundly, “Life’s Most Persistent And Urgent Question Is, What Are You Doing For Others?”

    Perhaps the Right believes that’s what they are doing, those others being fetuses in varying stages of development.

    But, all I know is us here now. Those others? That’s you. The kids in school in this very county that might be marked for the school to prison pipeline. The people in West Virginia without water. The families who have lost children because of lax gun laws. The racism endemic in our country. The men and women who have lost jobs because of corporate outsourcing. The prisoners in Guantanamo, lingering still.

    What will it take to get you out there?

    The goal should be making this life livable for those here who are living. All of us, all colors, shapes and sizes, ages and ability. All of us deserve clean water, clean air, healthy food, access to jobs, safe working conditions, fair and equal treatment under the laws and the expectation that WE are the people making democracy happen.

    What will it take to get you out there?

    I think there can be no more holy work than that. And I want to see more and more of you stand with me. We are all we have and I believe if there is a “god” it is in those moments and junctures between each of us, tendrils of connection lingering eternally, invisibly, but part of us. That’s what we can count on now.

    What will it take to get all our generations out there, and what will we do for others? How will we take to the streets to act on behalf of the least of us, here, now?

    We need every single beautiful one of you.

    1 Comment

  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words (1/23/2014)

    rsz_ku-xlarge

    How many times have you seen articles about social justice issues, then witnessed the opposition response of religious folks that pulled directly from scripture? I’m thinking particularly about the LGBTQ movement towards equality.

    Too often, it looks like people making a really good case for why marriage should be granted, or sharing stories about why protections need to be in place for them. Certainly those laws are needed in places such as Russia, Uganda, and Nigeria where LGBTQ people are being physically harmed (and some Right Wing folks are wishing we could get such laws here in the US). Those people are seeking rights and the responding protests often come in the form of biblical passages. The “clobber passages” are used often, even though I haven’t found any direct quotes from Christ on the subject.

    This, to me, ruins what should be a perfectly wonderful spiritual practice. Christianity-as social justice, as action, as radical political force against oppressive systems, as non-violence, as love-really appeals to me. Christianity as theological manipulation used for political purposes to oppress others bothers me one hell of a lot.

    I ran across the article today on the difference between theology and action, and I wanted to share it with you because it resonated deeply. It’s entitled, When Christians Love Theology More Than People, and it hit home with me as to why I’ve always had such a struggle in my desire for spiritual growth and community.

    The author, Stephen Mattson, begins quite straightforwardly:

    “Beyond the realm of churches, religious blogs, and bible colleges, nobody really cares about theology. What does matter is the way you treat other people.

    Within Christendom, we’re often taught the exact opposite: that doctrines, traditions, theologies, and distinct beliefs are the only things that do matter. It’s what separates churches, denominations, theologians, and those who are “saved” and “unsaved.”

    Anyone recognize that?

    I’ll generalize here, but in my experience many human systems, spiritual or not, behave this way. It’s an in/out, group/not group, belong/not belong thing that probably has some sort of biological component in our evolution. I figure that we create doctrine and dogma to justify the human instinct to create safe group systems, rather than the opposite.

    Certainly other religions manifest rules and codes, and corporate and political systems do as well. It’s common to see “With us or against us!” or that’s “not American!” that kind of thing. When it comes to a spiritual path that speaks of love, of grace, of healing, and of universality to then create divisions based on doctrine written by man (and yes, I’ll state that I interpret the bible from a progressive and metaphorical perspective) I get irritated and angry.

    I suspect many many of you do as well. In fact, my guess is most of the people that read this blog are either staunch atheists, agnostics, or folks who have been damaged by modern Christianity, in particular.

    But for whatever reason (and believe me I don’t understand it) I seek spiritual growth, expression, community. I’ve been calling this a “little s” spirituality because it matters far less to me that it has an organized history or a particular creed, but more that it’s how human beings can invoke the ACTIONS of love, connection, witness-bearing, activism in service of social and human justice, and against what appears to be a culture determined to ruin people and the planet through corporate policies that focus on money, profit, greed, consumption, and not humanity.

    If you are secular and you are doing this work, I cheer you. If you are spiritual, I cheer you as well. Whether you enter from politics, activism, art, or religion, I hope that no matter your relative position in the web of that work, it’s actions that matter more than dogma.

    I admit it. I believe that there is something connecting us all. It may well be just turtles all the way down, from the above pictured galactic filaments all the way to neurons, both mirroring all up and around like a mobius strip. It might be that there is some larger consciousness out there simply waiting for our microtubules to evolve up to meet IT, and in some ways I don’t really care. I want human equality and stewardship of the planet. I want justice. I want results.

    Stephen Mattson, who has a number of good articles on the tension many feel about seeking a more just Christianity, ends his piece this way:

    When you love me in deep and meaningful and authentic ways — nothing else really matters.

    But when you idolize belief systems and turn theology into an agenda, it poisons the very idea of selfless love. The gospel message turns into propaganda, friends turn into customers, and your relationship with God turns into a religion.

    You may have the most intellectually sound theology, but if it’s not delivered with love, respect, and kindness — it’s worthless. The practical application of your love is just as important as the theology behind it. Our faith is evidenced by how we treat others. Does the reality of your life reflect the theory behind your spiritual beliefs?

    Actions speak far louder than words, and reach much farther than quotations. Actions, visible actions, can contain real risk, but that seems so much more worthwhile than using verses as weapons. Hate shows in anger and fear. Love thrives in justice and equality. That’s where I take my faith, personally.

    3 Comments

  • On Sex And Humanity (1/21/2014)

    Sex and I have had a lengthy and solid relationship. Spirituality has been more touch and go.

    I’ve been a long time observer, fan, activist, advocate and participant regarding consent, LGBTQ equality, women’s agency in controlling their body, sex education, and opening up conversations and respectful dialogue about pleasure, healing shame, promoting the humanity of sexuality.

    I consider the show I co-produce, BedPost Confessions to be a kind of church, one that allows people in where they are now, gets them listening, talking, pondering and most importantly providing a place for people to be witnessed as sexual beings, full in their humanity. We producers focus on three pillars; ethics, education, entertaiment, to provide the base for a solid show that has reached 300 per month for over three years.

    I’ve mentioned before that I fell away from organized religion for a few reasons.

    One, early on in my parochial education I was informed that all non-believers went to hell, something I could not square with a kind and loving God. Two, as a person who found great joy in the sensual and in novelty, I was awakened to the possibilities of the world in school. So many languages, so many plants, animals, eco-systems, art forms.

    For humans to have such variety, it only made sense to me that God would be beyond, and I mean BEYOND our comprehension, but that all our paths and stories would have to lead us in a wonderful web of connectedness back to the source code that created us. I did not hold fast that there was just one narrow path that only predestined were allowed upon, or that there were magics or tools only a priest could use to help you out.

    Three? That sex was such a thing of consequence and loathing/longing. That gay people couldn’t marry. That women were forever Madonna/whores. That men were fully in charge with perceived penis power and women (life bearers) were somehow second class with their monthly curse. It made NO sense to me.

    I saw how religion hurt so many of my friends coming out. Rejected and cast away from churches and families. Emotionally tormented and tortured during the AIDS crisis of the 80’s. I watched childhood friends spurned from their religious homes because they divorced abusive husbands. I’ve seen more than my fair share of church leaders fall far from grace in sexual scandal. I’ve researched stats on porn usage in the most evangelical states (high), knowing that there was a kind of “good for me but not for thee” principle in action.

    Finally, I ‘ve heard stories from women and men trying to undo the dysfunction and damage that religious upbringing had done to them. As a sexual being, I couldn’t square that most of all.

    All of those reasons seem less like things a Source of Great Love would want, and more like something people would make up to control each other. I couldn’t hold truck with literal interpretations that held no room for cultural change, scientific discovery, and growth. That’s heresy I realize, from a Christian perspective, but that’s me, Heresy Girl.

    The irony is? Throughout my life I’ve been “in church” the church of theater, the church of social justice, the church of community. It’s been a “little s” spirituality, and a radical one, but I’m accepting it more and more, even though finding my faith alongside producing BPC is challenging.

    Recently, I came across a tweet from Jonalyn Fincher, of Soulation, on “Why Wait? Reconnecting Sex With Your Humanity.” I admit I was immediately triggered, in that “Oh boy, here we go” kind of way that I get when I see pieces on sex by Christian public figures. I’ve watched Jonalyn’s videos, and I’ve enjoyed her work, even when I haven’t concurred. I watched and found things to agree with all while finding places to take issue with.

    My feedback will be directly below the video, which I don’t think will embed directly. My caveat? I’m not a biblical scholar so I won’t be offering much feedback from that point of view.

    Why Wait? Reconnecting Sex with your Humanity from Soulation on Vimeo.

    My first reaction is that the “Humanity” mentioned through the piece is humanity as measured through Christianity only. I get it, the POV is Christian and the audience is Christian, but that leaves out a hell of a lot of other people and cultures. A cursory google provides loads of links on sexual mores of different religions. Here are a couple on Buddhism (amended to add that there are various forms of Buddhism and these are general links). Here too is a fun wiki on Religion and Sexuality and a humorous “brief” history of Human Sexuality.

    Jonalyn mentions in the video that most, if not all, cultures have pretty extravagant rules for sex. I don’t disagree. From the links above you can see that all the major religions have rules, though they are quite different in levels of control or repression. The Brief History Of Human Sexuality article mentions this as well, that without cultural rules we’d be like our closest relative,

    “And what if we weren’t bound by such social limitations? Taylor offers the promiscuous—and very laid-back—bonobo chimpanzee as a utopian example.

    “Bonobos have sex most of the time … a fairly quick, perfunctory, and relaxed activity that functions as a social cement,” he writes. “But for cultural constraints, we would all behave more like bonobos. In physical terms, there is actually nothing that bonobos do that some humans do not sometimes do.”

    Humans are meaning makers so it makes sense we’d make major meaning out of something we want to do so much. Food and sex both have loads of mythos, history, rules, longing, loathing, desire and so forth. We just talk about food a lot more, share recipes all the time, and explore all types of food (not just “one” kind) so framing humanity (and sexuality) through a singular Christian lens seems quite limiting to me personally.

    My second reaction? Concern at the dismissal of non-married but long term relationships. All relationships end on this earthly plane. Whether it is divorce, death, or desertion, the legal document does not ensure betrayal or denial, and in fact is a holdover of a time when women were not granted full rights. Marriage as a legal institution had a great deal to do with property rights, and marriage for romantic love is relatively new. Here is a looooong wiki on the history of marriage. It has varied throughout history, with all of the progenitors of the form, I’m sure, believing theirs was the one true way.

    Also, in a country that still denies same sex marriage rights, to ask LGBTQ individuals to remain celibate, rather than be joined in committed relationships, seems completely unreasonable. I understand that a great deal of the Christian world believes that marriage only equals man and woman. I disagree wholeheartedly both from a “come on!” perspective, it’s 2014 and the clobber passages have been well investigated, but also my god, the recruiting and retention disaster that is for people who WANT to be in the church, love God, but are flatly rejected as less than equal or not ideal?? Not. OK. Not. Love.

    (There is nothing, NOTHING, in my opinion “less than” in a gay relationship. This is where traditional Christianity fails me (or I fail it) completely.)

    Onward, there are abuses and problems in some Christian married relationships. There are firmly committed, long term loving and healthful Atheist non-married relationships. There are combinations galore. Why not look at the loving, committed, healthful parts and worry less about the legal status? Why is the action of love less important than the label?

    Thirdly, Jonalyn mentions hook-up culture and the problems it appears to bring some women. I don’t deny that many people go into hook-up culture with hope and find it ultimately unsettling. I feel that way about fast food. It smells good and tastes good for a moment, but I feel sick after consuming it. I know some people that eat fast food all the time and don’t seem to have any trouble. My solution is to do what works best for me and acknowledge that perhaps other people truly gain nourishment from fried processed food.

    I agree completely with her in that if hook-up culture is causing problems for you, making you feel horrible, causing problems in your life? Stop doing it. But I’d also advise that if monogamy is causing you to despair seek knowledge about different ethical models. And, if remaining in the closet as a gay man or woman is killing your soul? Please come out and live your beautiful life with integrity and authenticity.

    This brings me to the part that I deeply agree with. Jonalyn and her husband stated that marriage as a relationship model provides three things:

    Long term vision
    Communication
    Vulnerability

    I’m totally open to long term vision, communication, vulnerability, for any and all relationships. How we treat co-workers, friends, neighbors, lovers, partners all should follow that same kind of respect and honor. We, as human beings, and speaking to my own explorations of Christianity, should hold a long term vision of how we exist in relationship to others.

    I may have the opportunity for amazing exchanges with people for one day or for a lifetime. Do I hold them in my long term vision as deserving of compassion and respect? Do I communicate with empathy and honesty? Do I share my vulnerable self when possible, allowing others that same safety?

    As such, I have no problem ascribing these guidelines to sexual relationships! I think this is awesome and powerful! I just don’t believe one has to be married (or be straight, or hell, even monogamous) to do it. This is about intention and living with integrity and ethics, as well as being open and communicative about your relationships. And it is about doing that which is leading you towards whole life and whole love, healing shame and building internal strength to share with a partner.

    I think this particular topic is vitally important for Christians to face because there are believers who are grappling with wanting to have sex! And to enjoy sex! And who have kinks! And who may have been taught shame inducing doctrine! Do you know how many people I’ve met who are identified Christians but who feel shame and guilt about kink or explorations? And consequently hide it from their own spouse? How is that ok according to Long Term Vision, Communication, Vulnerability? There is so much shame associated with sexuality (based in old Puritanical religious models) that it can be really complicated and difficult to unravel by using those same religious models.

    What I love about the guidelines proposed is that they aren’t necessarily religious, but, to me, universal. The video includes the Finchers speaking about how these may only play out fully in a marital relationship, but I disagree.

    I think that the guidelines increase the probability that a relationship will grow and thrive, legal status or not, but the absence of them may have a negative impact EVEN if it is sanctioned and approved by God/Law.

    I cannot support teaching a person that sharing their body with another outside of marriage is automatically a cause for shame, but I do agree that sexuality needs much more discussion, more education, more dialogue so that the young and old alike, of all orientations and gender, can make more sold decisions, understand risks and benefits, and utilize agency in creating kind and loving relationships. I think its vital for spiritual communities to grapple with sexuality and speak out loud about it. I loved how frankly Jonalyn and Dale spoke about sex and their marriage, and how eager she is to bring sexuality into the conversation of faith. I fully support that, even where we disagree.

    I’m looking forward to more dialogue with Jonalyn and hearing more stories both from people of faith and non-theists about how sexuality reconnects them with their humanity. For truly, our humanity is the whole of us, sex included.

    2 Comments

  • Waiting For Death (1/19/2014)

     

    “We do not know where death awaits us so let us wait for it everywhere. To practice death is to practice freedom.”
    – Montaigne

     

     

    Midway through 2013 my mother passed away after a 10 year battle with Alzheimer’s. At the end, she couldn’t speak, couldn’t toilet or feed herself, and she didn’t know people. Had she been able to know of her circumstance, in a nursing home, (well kept and lovely, but a nursing home nonetheless), she would have been deeply angered as “ending up that way.”

    She was clear, clear as glass, 15 years ago when we first talked about her end of life issues. “I’d kill myself first.” she’d say, when topics of nursing homes were brought up. “I want to die like my mother did, quick and it’s over.” She didn’t get that choice, as she began to show signs of the disease that would rob her of of her memory and her ability to move, her personality.

    During the initial stages of the disease, she’d would often bring up suicide. As the disease progressed, and she was cruelly aware that she was losing herself and her autonomy, she would rage against me, accusing me of wanting her to be shut away, and that I’d find her dead the next morning. Of course, her memory wouldn’t allow her to remember she’d threatened it and I’d find her confused come morning, but happily settled so long as I was there.

    She would have wanted to die on her own terms. It was not a choice.

    Even at the very end, when I worked with Hospice during her last bout with pneumonia, the choice to let her go was mine. It felt deeply devastating, but also compassionate and right to let her body finally rest, let her mind finally go, let her soul, if there is such a thing, fly free.

    To hold the choice of death or life, is a terrible thing. I gained no pleasure out of it, just a sense of finiteness and constancy of it, death always there just waiting for us patiently.

    As a general rule, we don’t talk about death much, not in any real depth, as a country. We talk about being pro-life, but enact policies that strip communities of financial and sustaining resources, and support companies that harm our earth.

    Death, really talking about death; the kind of death we’d like to have, what choices we might have to end our lives ourselves, what kind of funerals are allowed us, and frankly the money that is required (from someone, somewhere) to maintain a dying body for what could be years.

    We don’t have the conversations that would lead to compassionate policies and even state by state nothing is clear about who gets to choose and who gets to control how we die at least not on a national level.

    In my home state of Texas, Marlise Munoz was found with no heartbeat and not breathing. She was unable to be resuscitated and was pronounced brain dead. But because she was 14 weeks pregnant, the State of Texas required that her body remain on life support, against the stated wishes of her entire family and herself, until it is known if the fetus is viable. In this article by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check, it’s clear that the family’s choice and desires are not being heard.

    “ The Texas advance directives statute dictates that “a person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient,” but according to some legal experts interviewed by the Associated Press, the hospital could take Munoz off life support without violating the law. Nonetheless, hospital officials continue to insist they must keep Munoz’s body alive to sustain the pregnancy. A number of other states have similar laws, though many account for fetal viability at the time of brain death. Texas’ law, and laws in 12 other states, do not. “

    Huffington Post thankfully provided us a chart on the states that require brain-dead patients to be kept alive against their will and The Dallas News released an editorial recently noting the reversal in positive in Texas law, perhaps put in place by anti-choice activists and politicians. The NYT released one just today, poignant and spot on. The family is taking legal action, and indeed their lawyers have confirmed Ms. Munoz is brain dead.

    “Texas law has allowed hospitals to honor patients’ signed declarations, known as advance directives, since 1977, when Karen Ann Quinlan’s case became national news after she collapsed from a drug overdose and entered a permanent vegetative state. A prolonged battle ensued between Quinlan’s parents, who wanted to let her die, and her hospital about the right to disconnect her body from artificial support systems.
    Muñoz’s case could have been quickly resolved except for her pregnancy. Her body should not be kept going by artificial means only to serve as a human incubator. To do so represents a perversion of motherhood and the natural life-death cycle.”
    The natural life-death cycle.
    Do we even know what that means anymore? I don’t blame all of us for being confused since science can sustain life past living and in fact, there are many incidents where lives are cut off too soon. Death may be natural but all of us seem to fear it, hate it, and fight it.

    One family fighting in the opposite direction of the Munoz’ has been found in California. Jahi McMath had a tonsillectomy. After she woke up and began bleeding profusely, she suffered cardiac arrest. She was placed on life-support, but declared brain-dead and the hospital fought to have her removed from the support against her family’s wishes.

    Where there are editorials in Texas pleading for Munoz to be released from life-support, there are the opposite in California, with medical ethicists questioning the parent’s of McMath.

    “Jahi’s case has been widely criticized by medical experts who have emphasized that people who are declared brain-dead are no longer alive. At least three neurologists confirmed Jahi was unable to breathe on her own, had no blood flow to her brain and had no sign of electrical activity three days after she underwent surgery Dec. 9 to remove her tonsils, adenoids and uvula at Children’s Hospital Oakland and went into cardiac arrest, causing extensive hemorrhaging in her brain.”

    In one state, a brain dead woman is being kept alive because she might have a living fetus inside her, against the family’s will (and her own choice); in another, a family has been pressured to take a child off life support against their choice. I wonder about the role of race, class, age, and reproductive status. I wonder why the cases can be so different in the same country.

    In both of these cases I see trauma, grief beyond words, pain. All made worse by corporations and laws intervening and taking choice away. I see policies tying the hands of doctors, I see comments morbid and cruel. I don’t see a path towards healing or resolution. I don’t see a good death for either of these women, for dead they are but kept alive in opposite directions.

    Once Hospice and I met and assessed both my mother’s disease progression and the infection that was racking her body, there was no other compassionate choice. It took four days for her body to let go. Death was like labor in reverse and I sat with her. We both labored. It was an experience filled with sensation, both physical and emotional, powerful and terrible. It was holy and right to experience it, to help her have as good a death as possible, though she didn’t have the death she wanted. I have noted that very few people want to talk to me about it and I wonder how much that is related to the larger issue, of how we, as a people relate to death. I know I’m not alone in wondering how we move towards good death. Others are writing about it, hard though it is.

    I wish that we were truly able to move past the policing of death and who got to control it, and into the discussion of it, the sharing of the lived experience of death and dying. Perhaps that’s a conversation we all need to have. (Here is one way to start) To talk about death, to wait for it compassionately, to practice just a little so that when the time comes, we know what to do.

    6 Comments

  • Aim Well (1/18/2014)

    West Virginia. Water. Corruption.

    Please watch this video from Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

    A company destroys the water supply for 1/6th of the state, declares bankruptcy to avoid legal issues, and the owner appears to form a new company to buy out the old one. This is wrong and needs to be seen.

    Post it on Twitter and share it with whatever activists you know. Right now I think the only thing we can push for is awareness about the legal complicity. That state is captured and locked down through the economic power of coal. The citizens are afraid to lose jobs and there is little economic stability so they can’t protest (or believe they can’t). The politicians may be in the pocket of industry for similar reasons. this is what happens when there is no political oversight and corporations pull the strings of our economic and political systems.

    Aim to the heart of that in whatever way you can.

    We are complicit in the sense we all take part in a culture that needs coal (and gas and oil) to live our regular lives. And that we too are afraid of risking jail for protesting or loss of jobs for being public nuisances or living off the grid in more and more ways. West just happened here last year. There are so many other pockets of our country where fracking is happening and ruining water (which corps like Nestle increasingly own), where pipelines for Keystone are breaking and leaking such toxic chemicals, and look at our gulf. Who was truly punished for that?

    All for oil and gas, all for continuing our current lifestyle, which is not sustainable. Even as I write this, I’m aware it’s on a computer created in Asia, built mostly like by the hands of people who weren’t treated well, with parts mined out of other countries, all made by deals through governments and corporations avoiding potential abuses and oversights. This is me, in a house heated by gas, cooled by electricity, with cars that need fuel, and plastics that make my life easier.

    I don’t know how to manage. I’m in it, what do I do? All I can do is figure out how and where to aim.

    We must aim to the heart of the merged corporate/political marriage, aim towards living as differently as we can, and keeping our eyes open to how systems work. We need to be in solidarity with those in other states while working for HUMAN rights (clean food and water, regulated work conditions, fair and just pay, safety from harassment over orientation and gender, race and ability, not to mention equality and legal rights for all) and a government that is truly of the people, not corporations and for the people, not big business.

    Aim well. And be prepared to get in trouble for it.

    No Comments

  • Beyond Useful (1/3/2014)

    My good friend Harmony shared this quote today on Facebook:

    “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

    I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”

    ~George Bernard Shaw

     

    It rang true for me and reminded me of a piece I wrote for the Good Vibes blog, a while back. While this piece was focused on women and aging, the initial quote which inspired it, by Meryl Streep, resonates. In concert with the quote above, what is better than being useful, then knowing you fill up life, give and are available to others, and leave this life empty but only for having given it all.

    —–

    Beyond Useful

    I am 42 years of age. I never thought I would be 42. Not because I thought I’d die prior to the date, but I suppose I thought time would stop at some point. Thirty three? Twenty nine? But time did not stop and I am now 42.  One day I will be 59 and then 64 and possibly 77 should all things go well.

    I’m a fine 42. Fit, strong, competent. Creative and aware of who I am, moreso than at any time in my life. I have children and I have love.  I have little to complain about.

    But.

    Age is strange for women. I know, I know, age is strange for all of us, but I think there is something particularly cruel about how women are framed or viewed as they age, especially if they are mothers as well.  They wind up, oddly, desexualized in mainstream media, or if they remain sexual they are “Cougars” predatory and desperate rather than filled with passion and knowledge of life, love and everything in between. I find this to be sad.

    Which was why I was so excited to see Meryl Streep grace the cover of Vogue and to read the subsequent article about her.  She’s long been one of my favorite actresses, but I’ve also admired how she’s fully participated in life-from food activism to a long term marriage and motherhood.  That, combined with her chameleon talents keeps me hungry for more of her on stage or screen.

    The photos of her were stunning  and the article fantastic.  It struck me though, how true this particular quote was and how sad it made me feel. Sad but also hopeful.

    An excerpt from the Vogue Article-

    “In 1989, she turned 40. “I remember turning to my husband and saying, ‘Well, what should we do? Because it’s over.’ ” The following year, she received three offers to play witches in different movies. She saw the subtext pretty clearly: “Once women passed childbearing age they could only be seen as grotesque on some level.” But with The Bridges of Madison County (1995) she captured “the audience that were my girls, that I knew they’d get it if we could get the movie made,” hence Dancing at Lughnasa and One True Thing, which were also about “women whose usefulness had passed.” And her last five years saw hit follow hit: The Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia!, Julie & Julia, It’s Complicated. That last film, she says, “in the period of Silkwood, could never have been made, with a 60-year-old actress deciding between her ex-husband and another man. With a 40-year-old actress it would never have been made.””

    Think about that:

    “Once women passed childbearing age they could only be seen as grotesque on some level.”

    And

    “women who’s usefulness had passed.”

    That’s a stunning observation and cuts to the heart of many of us who are in that age range (or close to it) but without major studio support and access to fine designer clothes.  Am I grotesque on some level? Is my usefulness passing?  Why is age and motherhood the antithesis of sexy in this culture?

    At what age does the usefulness return? Old age of the true elder? When women like Dr. Ruth and Sue Johansen can disburse humorous but accurate advice on sex, toys, and positions? Do the young find their shows appealing for their lack of overt sexuality? Are they safe grandmotherly figures, only now able to say all the crazy words? I daresay most of us would probably be shocked and envious of their sex lives.

    Sexual desire does not stop as we age. Desire for life? Desire for love? We feel these, I believe, in some form until the day we die.

    The irony is of course that most women feel their most useful, their most sexual, their most creative and in touch with their inner awesomeness in their forties right when the main stream media and Hollywood is telling us we have only a few options for role models-asexual mother, desperate cougar, grotesque witch.  We know it isn’t true, but we have few mirrors to guide us.

    Meryl is one and thank all the goddesses of the pantheon for her.

    I’ll list a few more, actresses all, visible, in the public eye, Mirrors.

    Frances McDormand. Helen Mirren. Tilda Swinton. Sigourney Weaver.

    These women are strong and beautiful and yes sexual in their power, no matter their age.  Think of Meryl in Mamma Mia. No matter how you feel about a musical based on ABBA’s work, she’s an older women in love with a man HER OWN AGE who loves her back, passionately. Most films would have paired someone half Pierce Brosnan’s age.

    Frances McDormand in Laurel Canyon; strong, passionate and in control, she’s pursued by a younger man who swears he loves her, she accepts his advances, realizing he may be fooling himself but not her.

    Helen Mirren in anything, really! Talented, beautiful, funny; she’s constantly being told how hot she is by men of the younger generation.

    Tilda Swinton in I Am Love. Chaos and desire unleashed upon control.

    Sigorney Weaver-Is there anyone sexier then Ripley? She’s a mothergoddessbadass. Always giving up love and comfort to protect those she loves. She has no time for cowards, not because they are weak, but because they are strong and don’t use their strength. If that isn’t deserving of desire, then I don’t know what’s what.

    (If readers have other women they’d like to add to the pantheon of older magnificent, completely useful and in no way grotesque goddesses, I’d love to have them listed as my list is by far incomplete in terms of race, sexual orientation, and genre of art or cultural achievement.)

    So we age. And that’s ok. And it should be a tribute to our usefulness, our stamina, and our knowledge, aging. It should not be a point of shame and despair, though I’ll admit, seeing my body change, my skin shift, my energy alter….those are often moments where despair rings my front doorbell and I’ve been doing my best to ignore it. Perhaps even overcompensating for the fear that doorbell ring inspires.

    Thing is, no matter how my body changes, my inner experience stays the same.  My mother said to me once, “Whenever I look in the mirror I expect to see a 30 year old. That’s how old I feel. But the reflection startles me every time. Who is that old woman, I think!” I suppose that’s how it is for all of us.  I know that’s true for me.  I never feel far away from those in their 20’s but I also feel comfortable with people older than me.

    These women, willing to make their visage known on silver screens, in magazines, and on the stage make me hope for aging as a woman.  They are able to create multifaceted characters, work hard, be powerful, and also be mothers on their own in their real life.  They are the mirror that I want to look into, so that when I see my own reflection, I can smile at what I see; not just the body or face, but the fact that I am, and will continue to be, useful. And that is where the truest beauty lies.

    —-

    Usefulness. Of all kinds.  These women are useful. There are people around us constantly who are those mirrors. Instead of complaining and allowing fear, how much better to know that we are also mirrors to someone, making change happen simply by living our lives fully and with deep intent to be used for our calling and purpose.

     

    No Comments

  • On BedPosts, Magic Dust, David and Goliath (12/20/2013)

    t would be really easy to say that the reason I produce BedPost Confessions with Sadie Smythe and Mia Martina, and our manager Sara Henry, is to give Austin another reason to claim weirdness, to entertain and titillate the audience, to put on a good show. Sure, that’s great. I love that and we do an excellent job at that goal.

    But it is not why I do this show, not at all.

    The articles below is about how the Methodist Church defrocked a Reverend for having a) the loving courage to marry two gay members of his congregation (one of them being his own son) when that was against the rules of the Methodist Church, but even more problematic, b) the audacity to say that the rules were wrong and that he’d keep doing it and that most heretical of all c) the discernment to call out the hypocrisy of the Methodists own rule book wherein on little rule says no gays and another little rule says love all and treat all equally.

    In good faith (truly in the best of what faith should be) he said he couldn’t abide by it, others around him agreed, and the church took away his magic dust (which, as you all know, he doesn’t need to do the work that he is clearly here to do).

    This is a David and Goliath Story, right? And the Church probably thinks they’ve won in this case. But really? They have not. They have shown themselves as the “Peter” denying Love, denying Justice when it was right up in there in front of their faces. And that is going to create a hell of a lot more Davids to fight this ridiculous institutional prejudice and homophobia and the Church will find itself on the wrong side, not only of history, but of their entire stated purpose. Love.

    And if you can’t see why this relates to BedPosts, well I’ll spell it out.

    Last night we had a number of stories that went past provocation and into the space of what it means to be human and in our bodies. What making love means and doesn’t mean. What owning choices around your body means. What learning how to love your body means even after it’s not doing what you think it should mean.

    We’ve had stories about struggles with identity, with healing after trauma, discovery, finally understanding pleasure, and more. And yes, sexy fiction, hilarious comedy, scintillating poetry (sometimes all combined) that gets conversations started. We need those conversations because we’ve been so programmed to think that we shouldn’t talk about it and indeed that WE SHOULD DENY our brothers and sisters who are different OUR OWN CHILDREN in Reverend Schaefer’s case, because they don’t conform to this silent, repressive, archaic view of sexuality.

    I do this show (and I deeply believe my fellow producers do as well) because lives and careers and relationships are at stake out there and while I don’t thing our show is some kind of catalyst to change all things, it does help by starting real conversations in real time getting to real questions either during the show, or maybe weeks afterwards. Maybe even years.

    I know I do this show, all the work I do, because I want to be part of the process to inspire, support, and promote so many creative wonderful expressive Davids to fight this sexual bullshit that the Goliath will have to just stop, or it will not survive. I hope Goliath knows that. Cause people aren’t going to stop being gay or having sex or needing to talk about this. In fact, more and more people will rise up and need these conversations. The church will crumble if it can’t respond. Maybe that’s the best thing, to allow for something new, I don’t know.

    From the NYT article:

    But far from intimidating others, the trial and defrocking of Mr. Schaefer have galvanized a wave of Methodist ministers to step forward to disobey church prohibitions against marrying and ordaining openly gay people.

    Members of the United Methodist Church, the nation’s third-largest Christian denomination, have been battling bitterly over homosexuality for four decades. The church now faces an increasingly determined uprising by clergy members and laypeople who have refused to cede, even after losing the most recent votes, at the Methodist convention last year, on proposals to change church teaching.

    I don’t know how Reverend Schaefer feels this morning. I hope he knows there are a hell of a lot of people out in the world who have his back. I hope he knows he was right to do what he did. I hope he knows he displayed a courage of heart that is beyond inspiring to me and to so many others. Finally, I hope he knows that if he’s ever in Austin and wants to tell his story about love and defrocking, there will always be a place for him on our stage. magic dust or not.

    No Comments

  • Books That Matter (12/13/2013)

    Unknown

    There’s a Facebook Meme going around about books that have had a great influence on you. Here are my ten. If you have favorites you’d like to leave in comments, please do!

    1) A Wrinkle In Time–Madeleine L’Engle
    I read in childhood and it combined/sealed my love of science, if not fiction, and spirituality/community. Earnest, but Love was the thing that won in the end.

    2) Rootabega Stories–Carl Sandburg
    I both read and then also performed these in my early childhood. This book combined poetry, myth, storytelling and Americana and Sandburg’s humanistic spirit has continued to inspire me.

    3) Still LIfe With Woodpecker–Tom Robbins
    From Tequila to Camel Cigarettes, red hair and learning how to be an outlaw, this book, read in 1980, probably is what planted a deep quiet seed sending me to Seattle and spurred a deep affection for comically poetic fiction.

    4) Catcher In the Rye–JD Salinger
    Oh, high school–I understand this type of depressive alienation all too well.

    5) Dune–Frank Herbert
    This was my bible in high school. It had politics, sci fi, and religion and soaring space battles.

    6) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance–Robert Pfirsig
    Everyone has to read this in AP English, right? To get the mind blown about values and ethics?

    7) The Sunflower–Elie Wiesel
    I took a Religion class on the Holocaust in college, my second to last semester. I almost decided to stay in school for a double major. This book on what forgiveness meant was very powerful)

    The Cloister Walk–Kathleen Norris
    I found this beautiful book in an Ashland bookstore in 1996 and is a prose poetic journey through liturgy in a Minnesota Monastery. It’s amazing and read it yearly.

    9) Theatre of the Oppressed–Augusto Boal
    I read this recently, and in light of the things I’ve witnessed in Austin, beyond and the work I’ve seen done with students at universities.

    10) Empire–Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
    Recent reading for me, academic and thorough, for deepening my understanding of where we are and how we got here in terms of political power and empire.

    No Comments

  • Restore The Block (12/12/2013)

    So a short post on an action you can easily take part in.

    Twitter has changed their blocking policy. Used to be that if you blocked someone, they couldn’t see your tweets, couldn’t retweet you, couldn’t mess with you (which if you are a woman actively activating about women, LGBT issues, abortion, sex, politics…well, you’ll get messed with).

    In addition, Twitter is a place where people can get stalked and the block function helped deter, if in small part, that ability. Sure, you could still log out, look at a public profile, or create new accounts to mess with people, but the block function slowed you down.

    Now?

    The block function merely mutes the irritation user so that YOU can’t see them, but they can still see everything about you and RT you etc. Makes stalking and harassing that much easier.

    Why did this happen?

    In a Forbes article, it was indicated that Twitter made this decision because people who had been blocked complained.

    Twitter spokesperson Jim Prosser says Twitter made the change because it thinks it will cut down on the vitriol, anger, and resentful Jezebel articles that result from knowing you’ve been blocked. “Now when you block a user, they cannot tell that you’ve blocked them,” tweeted Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. “It was a longstanding request from users of block.”

    “We saw antagonistic behavior where people would see they were blocked and be mad,” says Prosser.

    In other words, harassers got their feelings hurt for harassing and instead of Twitter supporting those being harassed, they took care of the feelings of those causing problems.

    Kind of like asking the bullied kid to find a new school instead of making the bully leave.

    Wrong on all counts.

    And yes, it’s a public place and yes, people could go private but really, that’s like saying, “You can only have conversations inside your home with the door locked. Expect all kinds of shit if you step outside the house.”

    But, we don’t expect it outside the house. Of course, women get told that they have to expect harassment outside the house, too. Which if I were a man, I’d be pretty pissed that people expected men to be jerks offline and on, instead of stepping up. That’s my least favorite excuse about the Internet’s bad behavior. “What do you expect?” Why not, hell yes let’s clean this mess up!”

    Regardless, you can take some action right here tonight. Just go to this Change petition by Zerlina Maxwell and sign it, share it and complain to @twitter and @dickc (the CEO).

    Make some noise and help clean this mess up.

    No Comments

  • Going Rogue (12/9/2013)

    Here is the piece I performed for BedPost Confessions last month on sex education in Texas and how we can all go a little rogue.

    —-

    I was minding my own business, just sitting in a coffee shop having a wonderful latte waiting for my darling 13 year old son to finish his improv class, when I looked at Facebook.

    There, in a link, was an article from Think Progress, with this title:

    Abstinence Only Course in Teas tells kids that having sex makes them like a chewed up piece of gum.

    I had to read that twice to settle into the reality that it was an actual article and not a joke. Which, being Texas and the ongoing purity culture wars, it obviously wasn’t.

    I decided to click on the link, and found this quote.

    According to Think Progress, “Starting in middle school, students attending the Canyon Independent School District are instructed they should remain a virgin until they get married.
    And the teachers that work in those Texas schools are instructed to drive this point home by telling kids that they don’t want to be like a used toothbrush or chewed-up piece of gum.”

    As I read through the article, it became clear that a parent in Canyon had heard from her child about this curriculum (because the school didn’t send any of it home to parents) and had gone in and read over what they were teaching her child.

    She, an obvious spitfire and candidate for my version of mother of the year, took a photo of the offending text.

    gum-555x365

    So, according to Texas Sex Ed, you should remain virgins until married but then if you do it, at all prior to that, you are a chewed up piece of gum.

    thesun.co.uk

    (Pink is for girls, right?)

    Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t look anything like sex to me. They also compared non virgins to old nasty tooth brushes no one would want to use.

    I think (if I can interpret this next slide clearly enough) that those pretty and clean toothbrushes in the back are straight, virginal and monogamous. Unused and pure, unlike that promiscuous SINGLE and unwanted toothbrush in the foreground.

    myblackbeloved

    Or something like that. All I’ve ever used my toothbrush for is oral hygiene and I have never thought much about sex when I brush (other than perhaps my breath will be minty fresh).

    That toothbrush is not a person, I hate to tell you. That toothbrush is a piece of plastic. Do you think the people writing up that curriculum understand that? That people aren’t toothbrushes?

    I mean, if we are used up after sexual relations, what’s a thrice married father of 5? An glass of sour and curdled milk left out to spoil?

    That grandmother who is enjoying dating in her 70’s? Is she like a moldy old piece of bread?

    What’s a survivor of sexual violence? What might they be?

    Please. We are none of those things. We are human beings.

    So, at this point, my latte is cold and congealing in my cup, and my fingers are frenzidly typing out some kind of obligatory political rant-post in my Facebook, when my darling son comes down the stairs from his class and says, “Oh no, mom, why do you have that face?” He already knows that “mom is on the internet getting outraged” look.

    And I looked at him and I said, “Because there are people in this state who think you should teach kids abstinence only by telling kids if they have sex, they are no better than chewed up gum or used up toothbrushes.

    And he looked at me and he said, “Chewed up gum? Used toothbrushes? Shouldn’t those people be fired??”

    Which, if you think about, is a very good question.

    It was at this point we had a mother son talk about sex, sex ed, what he’d been told in school (mostly DON’T DO IT), and how he already had heard that girls weren’t supposed to do it, but he kept hearing that boys were supposed to have sex in order to be cool and how that was, in his words, hypocritical and plus the math didn’t work out on that particular equation.

    We said all the words (lots of words, so many words, words that whoaaaa!) that scare the pants off of most of us parents including the words YOU CAN ALWAYS TALK TO US ABOUT THINGS AND THERE ARE BOOKS ON THAT SHELF YOU CAN READ.

    At which point he wisely said, “I think more parents should talk to their kids since they really aren’t getting adequate info. Most of my friends’ parents don’t talk to them. I think they should.”

    And life went on and no one died from having yet another version of “the talk.” That’s what feels so important to me you all because….look…Who out there has kids, knows kids they like, was a kid needing information and support as you grew up?

    Right, that pretty much covers all of us.

    There are 1028 school districts in Texas and HALF of them don’t teach sex ed at all! the rest mostly only teach Abstinence Only, with a few exceptions for abstinence plus.
    That’s a whole lot of kids not getting even the basics on how to take care of themselves.
    Meanwhile, there are politicians and groups fighting hard against letting any accurate information in text books and getting in the way of teachers who want to teach and during all this time, kids are being told they are chewed up and unworthy, and it just feels like the damn wild wild west.

    This is real stuff-STDs, rape culture, slut shaming and victim blaming, gender dynamics causing boys and girls harm, teen pregnancy. The less access to education and resources kids have the more problems we’ll have. The less resources young folks have around how to love, learn, consent, respect? The harder things will be for them as adults.

    Look, I KNOW deep in my heart that every parent is going to have some differing opinions on how this all works. How their kids should learn or not, about sex, should it be in the schools or at home or both, I understand how fearful parents can be. Even me having to handle my children’s questions is daunting!

    I mean come on! It’s terrifying and I’ve got some basic training, but even this week he was asking me ALL kinds of questions. Like, I can’t believe the things we are discussing. And he has every right to get those questions answered honestly and with respect and compassion.

    Still, no matter your politics and beliefs, I can’t imagine anyone wants their child, or a kid they know, to feel like a used up piece of gum? A nasty toothbrush? For having normal wonderful sexually developmentally appropriate feelings? For loving a partner? That’s just hard to comprehend, how people might let that happen.

    It’s just heartbreaking to think that kids are growing up with that much shame, when as we know, all of us here, sex is gorgeous and beautiful and amazing. And powerful. And yeah, sometimes scary, but don’t we owe it to them to be honest about all of it? I think, me personally anyway, that our kids deserve our honesty at the very, very least.

    So, I decided to go rogue.

    I thought, Bedposts is the kind of place that adults head to for learning how to talk to each other about sex and gender, maybe they’d want to help support the next generation? Since I’m not an actual sex educator I thought, “Who out there could lead us all? Who out there has the badassery required, the skills available and the kickbuttedness in her SOUL to help all us civilians to make a difference for the teens of this state?”

    Of course I thought of Ebony Stewart, poet, artist, genius. She went ahead and wrote this wonderful pledge for anyone who might want to join in and stand up for the youth of Texas. She joined me on stage and lead us in this (completely non-binding yet highly symbolic) vow.

    The Beast

    Quoth the poetic Ebony Stewart:

    “My name is Ebony Stewart aka The Gully Princess aka “I’ll eat cho cupcake.”
    And as a Sex-Ed teacher in this he’er great state of Texas I believe it takes a village to raise our adolescents.

    I’m here to DEPUTIZE YOU!

    On this day November 21st and every day forward before my friends, strangers, bartenders, BedPost Confessions, a sex-ed teacher, and all the gods we serve…

    I will, if asked and in the most consensual and ethical manner with good boundaries and only if I feel safe in doing so, teach adolescents how to affirm and respect themselves as sexual persons (including their bodies, sexual orientation, feelings and to respect the sexuality of others).

    I will increase comfort and skills for discussing and negotiating sexuality issues with peers, romantic partners, and people of other generations.

    I will stay current in all the latest music, relationships and sex scandals (such as KimYe because Brangelina is not relevant anymore).

    THINGS HAVE CHANGED since “back in my day.”

    I will not use the phrase “back in my day” anymore!

    I will explore, develop, and articulate values, attitudes, and feelings about my sexuality, their sexuality and the sexuality of others.

    I will reject double standards, stereotypes, biases, exploitation, dishonesty and harassment.

    I will acquire knowledge and skills for developing and maintaining romantic or sexual relationships that are consensual, mutually pleasurable, safe, and based on respect, mutual expectations, and caring.

    I will be honest in talking to adolescents about sex.

    I will actually use the word sex.

    I will also use the words vulva, clitoris, penis, arousal, erection, and ejaculation.
    Instead of whoowhoo, peepee, whoHA, Jimmy, nut, bang, blowpop, or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey when talking to adolescents about sex.

    We DECRY the act of shaming.

    Sex is not bad.
    If sex was a bad thing none of us would be here.

    If I don’t know, I will say I DON’T KNOW!
    I will find a way to get the best and most accurate answer by contacting Ebony or any of the BedPost Confessions team and we will Google the answer TO-GETHER!

    I, Ebony will always be available to help parents and adults learn how to talk about all this!!!

    In closing,

    The body is a good thing.
    I am a good thing.
    Therefore,
    I am worthy of good things.

    And so too, then are the teens of this great state.
    So say you AYE??”

    And then everyone in the audience was deputized, if only unofficially, to be awesome and it was good.

    From Shutterstock

    Because I am an ethical mother, I told my son what I was planning on talking about at the show. I didn’t give away his questions or things he wanted kept private, but I did read him Ebony’s pledge. You know what he said to me? “That’s really really cool, mom.”

    And it is cool, that in a state filled with people trying to keep information away from curious, intelligent, maturing teens, there are some grown-ups who want to do the right thing.

    I’ll be doing that right thing, and I hope you will too. Let me know if you need any help, cause I know a Sheriff in town.

    No Comments

  • On Nelson Mandela And Revisionist History (12/6/2013)

    There is little I could ever say about Mandela that would worthy enough to print. This is from Musa Okwonga, “Mandela Will Never, Ever Be Your Minstrel” and it is powerful and exactly right.

    OKWONGA.COM » Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel..

    This is required reading during a time when Mandela’s legacy is being revised and sanitized through the lens of power and Empire. Please read it and let his words sink in fully.

    Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.

    You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.

    You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.

    Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it. And perhaps the greatest tragedy of Mandela’s life isn’t that he spent almost thirty years jailed by well-heeled racists who tried to shatter millions of spirits through breaking his soul, but that there weren’t or aren’t nearly enough people like him.

    Because that’s South Africa now, a country long ago plunged headfirst so deep into the sewage of racial hatred that, for all Mandela’s efforts, it is still retching by the side of the swamp. Just imagine if Cape Town were London. Imagine seeing two million white people living in shacks and mud huts along the M25 as you make your way into the city, where most of the biggest houses and biggest jobs are occupied by a small, affluent to wealthy group of black people. There are no words for the resentment that would still simmer there.

    Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human, and he did all he did in spite of people like you. There is no need to name you because you know who you are, we know who you are, and you know we know that too. You didn’t break him in life, and you won’t shape him in death. You will try, wherever you are, and you will fail.

    We are all thoroughly human and we all need to respond to the call of justice, not erase the cost of it.

    No Comments

  • 4 Plus 4 Equals (12/5/2013)

    I had the great fortune to get to attend a unique event on Tuesday and I thought I’d share word about it in case others want to get involved with any of the groups that helped produce it.

    4 Plus 4 Equals is a “unique city wide visual art project designed to raise public awareness and provoke conversation about mental health. Four visual artists and four people in mental health recovery (peers) have co-created art works that illuminate their exerpeinces in new ways that empower and inspire.”

    4 Plus 4 Equals partnered with Fusebox Festival, Via Hope, and Hatch Inspired Social Change to create an interactive experience for artists, peers and members of the community, while providing the catalyst for continued community dialogue through the artwork itself; posters which will be distributed throughout town.

    While each set of artists/peers discussed mental health, recovery, stigma, art, and the complex navigation of life, the process began through a facilitated process that brought the participants together to allow for a period of trust building to occur. Artists gleaned amazing stories and information about their peer, offering their own fears and questions, and presented them with a physical visual representation of their exchange of stories.

    The interviews between artist and peer were captured by Michelle Dahlenberg of Hatch, and can be found here with the artwork from their artist:

    Richard’s Story

    Michu Benaim Steiner Lope Gutierrez-Ruiz

    Michu Benaim Steiner
    Lope Gutierrez-Ruiz

    Jessica’s Story

    Claudia Gizell Aparicio Gamundi

    Claudia Gizell Aparicio Gamundi

    Elvia’s Story

    Brooke Gassiot

    Brooke Gassiot

    Brandi’s Story

    Rebecca Layton

    Rebecca Layton

    The group discussion at the public event Tuesday night was deep and honest. It quickly became clear from listening to both artist and peer that both sides felt trepidation, worry, and a kind of performance anxiety in working together. Artists had to risk a level of vulnerability not necessarily common in a traditional client meeting, creating a space of support for the peer but also sharing of themselves in new ways. Peers had to risk being seen through the eyes of stigma rather than as human beings with their own stories.

    Both sets of people had to be willing to disappoint the other, and willing to really hear and see, while also truly sharing parts of themselves. I heard many people use the phrase, “It was as if they really saw me.” It always seems to come down to that, to being truly seen as a human with complexity rather than a type or stigmatized “other.” And while it’s an easy statement to make, and seems the obvious choice, how we see (or how we get to that seeing) isn’t always the easy path we’d like it to be. It takes work and effort and vulnerability both to be seen, but also to start seeing.

    While I wasn’t in the creative experience with the artists and the peers, I believe they experienced something truly healing and transformative both in their understanding of how art can be a mirror for experience, but also in understanding the humanity in those suffering from a mental health disorder. It’s an illness, after all, much like diabetes or cancer, and deserves the same levels of compassion, support and understanding.

    Given the article I linked Tuesday regarding “praying” away mental health issues and denying people’s lived experience by means of religion, I found the gathering last night to be doubly important. This was a living spiritual, communal, evocative and humanizing experience powerful for all connected to it.

    The process wasn’t about “curing” an illness, but listening to people where they were at. It wasn’t about forcing a frame on how art or health should be, but about seeing what comes of people just sharing stories.

    I believe the most radical moment was, for me, when one artist spoke eloquently about the difference he felt in moving from that traditional client/artist relationship with firm boundaries, deadlines, deliverables, and monetary exchange to a real vulnerable collaboration between human partners. Given that so much of our western life is spent navigating exchange, in finding ways to compete, win, assert, dominate, or at minimum keep firm emotional lines drawn between people and systems and processes, I found that to be a profound shift- the mutual sharing had to occur or the process wouldn’t work.

    That kind of radical shift can be revolutionary in how we work with each other, turning that work more into play, into discovery, and health, and joy, rather than a tense negotiation around time, money, and product.

    Both sides of the equation have to willingly give up stigma and old beliefs in order for that seeing to be done. While I know this can happen organically, I do think having events and projects facilitated by those who have experience in midwifing that shift is inherently valuable.

    There will be more collaborative efforts with 4 plus 4 Equals and I’m really excited about watching more and more people get involved. I’d love to see this work done with theater, storytelling, sculpture and dance. There are so many ways to find connection.

    Please check out their website for more information on all the partners and teams, and for ways to get involved.

    No Comments

  • Discernment (12/3/2013)

    I find a great deal of pleasure in spiritual and metaphysical inquiry, and by that I don’t necessarily mean religious at all. I love podcasts such as On Being, I enjoy reading books on philosophy and experiencing poetry, I dig theater and nature. Also, I follow quite a few bloggers on Twitter that write about faith and justice, several of whom adhere to Christianity, but others still who are Jewish, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist. All of them teach me much.

    As I was raised Christian, with all the familiar rituals and stories it contains, it’s often a spiritual home base to which I want to return. Still, I’ve struggled, from a very young age, with the idea of “one way” to God taught to me by ministers, ignoring my questions about good people that would not be “saved” except through Jesus. My mother, thankfully, told me the minister was wrong. I believed her, and my own 10 year old sense of fairness, over him.

    I still struggle because I see real benefit in community and in groups working towards justice and through deed and symbol. And I occasionally start to get comfortable with the idea of claiming some part of myself as Christian, whatever that means, and feeling ok with that alignment, which for reasons stated above feels more “at home” than other forms or paths.

    Then I see articles like this.

    Right Wing Evangelicals Claim ‘Good Christians’ Can’t Get PTSD and I just want to go screaming off into the street.

    “On a Veteran’s Day broadcast, two of America’s most influential televangelists claimed that good Christians can’t get PTSD.

    Kenneth Copeland, who is famous for pitching a fit when a senator tried to investigate his nonprofits and for inspiring a measles outbreak, said, “Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me. You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it, it doesn’t take psychology; that promise right there [in the Bible] will get rid of it.”

    Ok, then. In addition, he talks a lot about acting “biblically” in war and if you do so, you won’t get PTSD. I don’t know what that means precisely, but it does lead to this important conclusion.

    “Unfortunately, there is a logical flip side to this statement: someone who has PTSD must have not been biblical in his actions, and thus he is ultimately responsible for his own PTSD.”

    It’s a really infuriating article, and of course it’s entirely bullshit. In fact, much of the article goes on to discuss how issues like homosexuality rightly were taken out of the DSM, thus leading some conservative church leaders to distrust psychiatry and focus on treating mental disorders (which can be both circumstantial and physical in nature) as issues of sin.

    This harkens back to much older Puritanical beliefs that health and wealth were signs of right living and gifts from god. Thus, illness and poverty mean you are seriously screwing up with the Big Guy and were all your fault.

    Which, pardon me for saying so again, is crap (and frankly means that if based on religious reasons they come for my birth control, they might come for your anti-anxiety meds, or whatever else suits their fancy).

    Articles like this sicken me SO much because it’s one thing to long for the mostly positive churchy memories of my youth with my family, child-like Disney World memories, but a complete other thing to see that Magic Kingdom taken over by what appear to me to be hate filled Zombie people, with goals of greed and manipulation, coating the whole shebang with slime. It’s one thing to still feel loving and nostalgic towards all the stories and candles and hymns and ritual, and another to watch current church leaders claim that people who are suffering and need help are sinners.

    I feel ill watching those people twist the beauty of ancient texts, the symbols of thousands of years of contemplation, the power of actual community into something so abhorrent, greedy, and flat out toxic. They take words written in languages since translated tens of times, meaning lost or changed, or flat out obscured, and trick people into thinking along literal lines instead of metaphoric. They act like a virus run amok so far that most everyone thinks being sick is actually healthy, so much so that when the goldarned POPE wisely damns capitalism people lose their collective shit.

    So yeah, I have a hard time figuring myself out and what I want in all this.

    Sometimes, though, I find articles like this, by a Quaker writer, who takes on the conscience clause Evangelicals with great aplomb and logic and I sense deep humanity and truth in her words. It’s a brilliant piece.

    For a long time I bounced between articles like that, one pulling me away from my deepest sense of spirituality, and the other holding me tight like a security blanket that “not all Christians are like that” without me actually seeing the point beyond it all. It’s not that I get to reclaim some nostalgic version of a Disney World Jesus, but to a much fuller sense that it is about being human, here now, more than anything, no matter what name you put on things.

    It means, to me, that we are here now and real justice means calling out the bullshit as we see it. That symbols and ritual and comfort can mean everything, but wind up meaning nothing if you let them take over the community and humanity of the basic message of pretty much all spiritual paths.

    Love each other. Help each other. Heal each other. See each other. Be Here Now.

    The Buddha in the road is always needing to be killed, for as soon as dogma cements itself into plain text instead of yeah, the living word (which is basically US living and working towards peace), then it’s dead and beginning to Zombiefy taking all of us with it to someplace really nasty.

    At least that’s all I have today, that and that anyone telling you your mental illness is due to sinning needs a good compassionate metaphorical kick right in the spiritual ass.

    5 Comments

  • Transgender Day of Remembrance (11/20/2013)

    1459924_10152039810915196_2129888927_n

    It is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I hope for peace for those who are lost, warmth and comfort for those who are grieving friends and loved ones, courage and solidarity for those who have to face such harsh and unfair, unjust treatment simply for being human, and encouragement to those who wish to be of support and fight alongside. We are all human and our bodies are all beautiful and loveable and deserve respect. No more violence.

    Please go here for more information.

    No Comments

  • Exhale Pro Voice In Texas (11/11/2013)

    Exhale Pro Voice is visiting Texas and facilitating story sharing focused on reproductive justice and abortion. I’ve written about this before, here at my blog, but just wanted to put the good word out that there is one event tonight at 7:30 pm.

    Exhale creates a social climate where each person’s unique experience with abortion is supported, respected, and free from stigma. Exhale provides services, training, and education to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve post-abortion health and wellbeing.

    Exhale is pro-voice. Coined in 2005, the term “pro-voice” was developed by Exhale to represent our approach to creating a social climate where each person’s unique experience with abortion is supported, respected, and free from stigma. Designed to pay homage to the historical struggles for voice and affirmation that our founders had learned from—civil rights, queer acceptance, and the anti-domestic violence movement, among others—pro-voice points towards a whole new way forward on abortion conflicts by giving new focus to an element typically exploited or ignored: personal experience.

    Pro-voice is a practice of nonviolence rooted in conflict-transformation principles. It is a process to create fundamental change in the way our culture addresses personal experiences with abortion. Our pro-voice approach creates, replicates, and sustains strategies that grow culture change.

    BedPost Confessions is helping to host Exhale Pro Voice here in Austin. We are thrilled to collaborate with those focused on the power of stories and how working in the narrative of people’s lives can truly shift the polarized frame these topics stay mired in. If you are interested in taking part in tonight’s event, please email me at juliegillisproductions@gmail.com and I’ll share more information with you.

    No Comments

  • A Short Post And Request (11/9/2013)

    Please read these three articles and listen to this amazing interview.

    I have a lot to say about all of them, but I’m really thinking about them hard first, chewing on things, and trying to determine exactly how.

    In short, all of these posts discuss social justice topics, but threaded through are the questions of privilege and what privilege does (intentionally or not) in creating or placing limits on our human creativity and imagination to envision a more equitable world. Limiting creativity and imagination limits the amount of empathy and compassion we can feel, creating a cycle where we are prone to precise stereotypical beliefs and scripts about “how things are.”

    The first article is by Robert Jensen, about how if we are to survive, the future must be Green, Red, Black, Female. It is provocative and radical in the best sense.

    Roxanne Gay wrote a heartbreaking article for Salon about How Black Girls Die in America, and the last two paragraphs are just crushing. We can imagine how things should be, we do them. It isn’t impossible and most of us prove that on the daily. So what can we keep doing to hold onto that hope?

    The video interview is between bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry discussing race, women, feminism, the word ally, and what it takes to imagine a non binary world. It’s powerful and amazing and will possibly challenge you. Take the challenge and sit with it. I’m going to be listening to it for weeks to come.

    Finally, a piece I saw just today linked by the amazing Lauren Chief Elk regarding sports, teammates and a rape case in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club. The piece is hard to read, not for the least reason these were her friends and trusted team mates, but because the young men were acquitted even with a full video of what happened. The writer, Jennifer Doyle, posits at the end of the article that most juries of our peers may not be able to imagine a world outside of sex negative, repressed and phobic beliefs about sex. So when they see a video that some of us can clearly categorize as non consensual, they literally see something different. They can’t imagine other things because of their cultural training.

    Please consider reading or watching these and let me know if you are seeing what I’m seeing. I’m really wrestling with this idea (laid out so clearly by those posted above), that our current cultural, financial, and educational system (of privilege, corportisim, of white supremacy, of sexisms, classism, and racism and more) is leaving us without the means to create visions of a better world, visions from our own imagination (a skill and ability that is our birthright), and that the system in place likes it that way. Just fill in the blanks, teach to the test, take the easiest route, regurgitate rote information in school and in life, and that leaves us devoid of skills we need to reach and achieve so much more, so much outside this greed and power trap we are currently in.

    I’d love your thoughts.

    No Comments

  • Renisha McBride (11/7/2013)

    I know I post a lot of things that seem to be negative. I guess most of them are when they are on rape or racism or gender issues or LGBT and equality fights. It’s what I see, and can’t not see. Just like that person who is an amazing editor, you know the ones that can just SEE the comma splice or dangling participle floating up off a page waiting just waiting for a red pen? Those people can’t not see errors when they read things (probably in this very post).

    I see things like injustice and inequity and systemic imbalances, personal and group dynamics, personal and cultural counseling type things. I used to not see as much of it, but even when I was really young, yeah. I was that kid pointing things out and being a bummer when everyone wanted to just have fun and talk smack. Ignoring it then was possible, but it wound up being problematic with my natural empathy. I can’t ignore it at all now.

    I’ll try to post more beautiful and positive and hopeful wonderful things, because while I do see those too, I don’t pay enough attention to them. THat’s not good for me and I’m sure it makes me seem difficult to be around. I don’t want to be difficult to be around and I want to share more joy and experience it too.

    Still. This has to be said right now.

    Renisha McBride was in a car accident late at night, with a dead phone battery and she went door to door in Dearborn Hghts, MI (a suburb of Detroit), and received no help. Her final stop was at a house where, it has come out, she was shot in the back of her head as she was leaving. She was 19 years old.

    I just want you to think about that. Imagine being young, disoriented after an accident, panicked and seeking help from people who you have been told should probably help you. Most of us grow up with some kindness around us and hope that people will help us. Imagine it being cold outside, being scared, being without a phone, but thinking, “This is a safe neighborhood.” How many of you expect that a door would at least be answered through the lock with a “I’ll call the cops for you.”

    I would.

    She may not have expected a welcome, given Michigan and race issues, but she had to get help and tried to get help. She is now dead. Her family is trying to figure out answers to questions that may be obsfucated. No one has been arrested yet, given that Michigan is a Stand Your Ground state.

    I’m horrified and outraged that this situation happened.

    I’m not surprised at all though. Stand Your Ground, gun culture, fear of otherness, racism, a city impoverished financially and governmentally…how could this not happen? There is ample history showing us what happens to cities, systems, countries and cultures (and the people in them) when there is scarcity mixed with oppressive governmental forces focused on finding scapegoats for the problems of the “good people.”

    How do we break this cycle? Can we?

    Even from the most selfish perspective shouldn’t it make OUR lives better to help other people have better lives? Why are we so convinced that to help others up means we have to drop down? Why can’t we all configure clumps or lines or clouds of shared experience rather than some kind of status pole with people on top crushing those below? Are we not creative enough to come up with some other system? What a failure of human ingenuity.

    Can we find justice for Renisha McBride, when justice for Trayvon Martin didn’t happen? I get it that doing the work of dismantling internalized isms is really hard work. Really painful work at times. But shouldn’t it be worth it? Shouldn’t it be the very damn least white/straight/wealthy/ablebodied people should do?

    Already on Twitter there is outrage at people reacting, well, poorly to the idea that the man who shot Renisha was in the wrong. There are people explaining away other people’s pain with “Not all whites are like that” or other pablum that does little but fuel old painful and burning fires. There are people asking People of Color to explain what’s going on instead of reading, listening, doing the damn work themselves, only further cementing a pattern of oppression that is already in place.

    This just can’t continue.

    Is it painful to face what has lead to this? Yes. Are Renisha McBride, her family and friends, Trayvon Martin, Marissa Alexander, countless names of men and women of color abused and killed, (names most of us have the poison privilege to not even know) are they worth us dealing with that pain and working to dismantle one of the most toxic systems on the planet?

    Yes, they are.

    How? Listen. Read. Observe. Be gentle. Fight for people who need your support if they ask you to do so. Stand behind them and to the sides. Wait and do that education of yourself without putting pressure on others to teach you. Ask when you need to, but establish trust with your peers. Demand an end to Stand Your Ground laws. Fight against guns. Be vulnerable to others. Get therapy and go learn more about social justice Use your brilliant imagination daily to imagine how things might be like outside your own system, your own world where things are different for you. Vote. Keep telling powerful stories of what you are doing RIGHT NOW to make the world better. Fight for fair voting laws. Listen. Play. Find beauty and gentleness and joy and spread it like an antidote against whatever virus of dominance and greed and power is infecting more and more of us.

    Please call Council Chair Kenneth Baron of Dearborn Heights at 313-565-0420 or
    Kenbaronsflorist@sbcglobal.net demand justice for #RenishaMcBride. Please apply pressure to the system so that she receives justice for this killing. Cause that’s what it was and in cold blood.

    And please, please keep using your brilliant, creative, playful and wonderful minds to imagine and build relationships, cities, states, systems that don’t rely on one structure of up and down, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, have and have nots, fear and greed, and power and scarcity. We have so much more power than that. So let’s please use it and soon. We are failing all of us if we don’t.

    5 Comments

  • October ICYMI and Upcoming Events (11/2/2013)

    Here are all the links you may have missed and some wonderful upcoming events!

    ICYMI

    Please give to the Lilith Fund if you support Texas women.

    Here’s a great piece on the young women who are doing online and real time activism, just in case you missed them.

    Today is Dia de los Muertes. Here is a provocative and challenging article on appropriation. It received loads of comments on my FB.

    Flavia Dzodan writes about blackface and holiday traditions in the Netherlands.

    More on Halloween and the use of blackface in the US. Zelli Imani has a great and unique take on why it happens.

    Mary Ann Barclay offers a poignant piece on just wanting to belong in her church, as she is, while other members feel it’s an imposition to do the work of inclusion.

    Anyone see all of Slate’s Emily Yoffe doing her typical victim blaming around women and drinking and rape culture? This piece is a stunning rebuttal to her and I sincerely hope she reads it.

    The CDC had broken down the math on rapists and gender, as there are groups pushing false information out there.

    A great piece by Patrick Michaels on two couples challenging Texas’s same sex marriage ban, is linked right here.

    Grace writes about hell houses and the gender politics of the religious right.

    Check out bell hooks pushing back on leaning in. This is a must read.

    Finally, Austin! If you love Fusebox Festival, it’s free this year! Give now and let all of us enjoy great art!

    Upcoming Events

    Saturday, November 2:

    Mortified is on tonight! Real stories from the pasts of real people.

    They Speak Poetry Slam is on this afternoon!

    Speaking of Dia de los Muertos, here are two options! One from Allgo and one from Krewe Bisoux!

    The Institution Theater is sharing their Dr. Who inspired “The Professor.

    The Hideout Theater is offering a spooky Bedtime Gorey.

    Sunday November 3:

    Let Her Speak is an amazing reading of Wendy Davis’ Filibuster! Six hours worth!

    Friday November 8:

    Check out Gnap Theater Project’s Cherry Orchard!

    No Comments

  • Real Monsters (11/1/2013)

    Newt: My mommy always said there were no monsters – no real ones – but there are.
    Ripley: Yes, there are, aren’t there?

    –Aliens

    Last night, as I was engaging in neighborly frivolity and community, passing out candy and treats while enjoying the night air and traditional Halloween fare, the news came down regarding the 5th Circuit Court’s reversal on HB2. From the New York Times article:

    Abortion clinic owners and women’s health advocates said the decision would have catastrophic effects because as many as 13 of the 36 clinics providing abortions in the state would have to stop doing so immediately, forcing women in large swaths of Texas to travel several hours on at least two days to obtain abortions.

    The clinics forced to halt abortions have been unable to satisfy a new requirement, part of a broader anti-abortion law adopted in July, that doctors performing the procedure must have formal admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

    I looked at my Twitter feed and it was filled with rage and sadness at the news, though it was news that was expected. Still, a nightmare for women who now face, yes, undue burdens as they seek reproductive services and justice.

    I’d like you to consider the true scope of what these laws will do to women, the true scope of what is intended. Complete subordination of our equality to men based on gender and biology.

    Jim Rigby said it well in his blog post last night (bolding and emphasis mine):

    The anti-choice strategy of harassing clinics while waiting to overturn Roe has been incredibly successful. In addition to banning abortions after 20 weeks and making abortions much more expensive, the new law puts pressure on hospitals to distance themselves for abortion providers or face the same kind of protests, vandalism and vilification that has had a withering effect on abortion clinics for decades.

    A central question at stake in the struggle for reproductive rights is whether women are persons in the constitutional sense of belonging to themselves. Do women have inalienable rights that cannot be put up for a vote, or are their bodies a kind of community property? If a woman’s most personal decisions are to be determined by political and judicial means, then she has been ruled incapable of moral agency.

    Much of the response I’ve seen from the Right is that women and children are now safer that women’s access to full reproductive services has been taken away and limited. Safer how? Safer why? Safer to be broodmares? Safer to suffer through extended miscarriage without trained staff to help? Safer due to having to fight to show mercy to a irrevocably damaged fetus that will not live past birth or will suffer interminably ?

    If that is safety, then I don’t know what the word means. It is a fetishization of babies and innocence, mixed with sadism over suffering, wrapped up in the bows of false spirituality.

    Meanwhile, in the land of living people, food stamps are being cut, minimum wage is not being raised out of fear, though corporations could indeed pay their staff better, and we have experienced a government shut down based on providing health care to citizens at affordable costs (which include that devil, contraception!).

    Safer for whom? Businesses that love low wage employees? Prison pipelines that force inmates to perform slave labor? Churches who teach the antithesis of Christianity, but promote white babies in quiverfulls, no doubt to make up for the changing face of our culture both in race and in sexual orientation, a change that should not provoke fear but joy.

    These are the real horrors, the real monsters and ghouls that seek to take away rights, provoke hatred, promote ignorance and fear around things like basic health care, enslave people for profit, and deny that love can exist in multiple gender combinations.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m terrified, because the monsters we are dealing with are people just like us, at least, I have to believe they are like us. Maybe they aren’t. Even in Aliens, the cruelest monsters were people working for hivemind of The Company. The aliens were just trying to live.

    We need, then, our brave Newts’ who call out truth to power, and we need our Ripleys’ to go back to the fight again and again, regardless of the risk. And thankfully, there are many out there, too many for me to name in my blog (though they are in my link page, in my Twitter feed), but they are made up of people who believe in joy, and in social justice, and in hope, and in choice.

    They fight for human rights, for a world unpoisoned by hate and dominance, for love, and for each other. They fight for a world that can be so much better than this one. Part of the power of reproductive justice is that it feeds into education, economics, autonomy of relationships, ending abuse and sexual assault, and more. How we treat women is connected to all of those things.

    One way you can help, and I strongly encourage you to do so, is to donate to Lilith Fund, Naral, and Planned Parenthood.

    Lilith Fund:

    We envision a society in which equal access to abortion is guaranteed for all, regardless of economic situation. The Lilith Fund believes in reproductive equity. The right to choose an abortion is meaningless without access to abortion services. Restrictions on abortion access and funding are discriminatory because they especially burden low-income patients. We oppose all efforts to restrict abortion rights and are committed to fighting for access to abortion.

    Naral:

    NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Foundation’s mission is to support and protect, as a fundamental right and value, a woman’s freedom to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices through education, training, organizing, legal action, and public policy.

    Planned Parenthood:

    As one of the largest nonprofit health care providers in the state, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ health centers will continue to provide essential health and education in Central and North Texas such as life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV tests, and birth control to help families plan and space their pregnancies.

    For more than 75 years, Texans have trusted Planned Parenthood for affordable health care and birth control, accurate sexual health information, and to advocate on behalf of women and families.

    If you can’t do that, support liberal progressive candidates, vote, donate to food banks because they will be stretched to capacity very soon, run for office, write blogs, share news on FB and Twitter, go to meet ups, and most of all know that there are so many of us here to support you.

    So far as reproductive justice is concerned, we have to make a choice, as Jim Rigby said:

    The only two options now left for Texas women are solidarity or servitude. It is an historic time of crisis in the battleground state of Texas. No one should serve over the women of Texas who denies their right to constitutional personhood. Either Texas women unite to drive misogynists out of the Texas Legislature once and for all, or they will face a future defined by the very men who are insulting and assaulting them at every turn.

    So, let’s unite.

    1 Comment

  • Before You Know It: A Film by PJ Raval (10/30/2013)

    Note: I’ve published this post before but the Kickstarter is only $300 away from it’s goal of $50,000 to get this amazing film into theaters around the country! Please consider making a gift to this project! Here is an update from PJ Raval himself!

    This is an incredible film that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing several times. PJ Raval, a talented filmmaker from Austin, TX, is trying to get this as widely screened as possible, and so he’s launched a Kickstarter to help with funding that tour.

    We, as a culture, are becoming more comfortable with the idea that all people (all colors, sizes, and orientations) need love, relationships and sexuality. But age (and accepting that humans are sexual into their older years) is still a barrier. This film shows clearly and poignantly that no matter our age, love and desire ALWAYS matter. Give a little, give a lot, but consider a gift to this very important film.

    Before You Know It – Official Trailer from PJ Raval on Vimeo.

    BEFORE YOU KNOW IT
    a film by PJ Raval

    We have a major announcement and need your help…

    We’re launching a Kickstarter Campaign – Help bring BEFORE YOU KNOW IT to theaters! We are raising $50,000 to bring our feature length documentary to communities across the country, and we need your help!

    DONATE!

    What is Kickstarter?

    Kickstarter is an all or nothing fundraising platform, which means if we do not raise our goal of $50,000 in thirty days, Kickstarter returns all the pledged money to our backers and we will receive NOTHING. So, please give what you can, spread the word about our campaign & help us reach $50,000.

    People like you want to see this film! Tell your friends, neighbors, groups, and anyone you meet about this fantastic documentary and our pledge to distribute the film to communities across the country. We’ve heard your requests to see the film all over and want to bring it to your town!

    LEARN MORE

    Why support our Kickstartercampaign?

    You’ve seen BEFORE YOU KNOW IT and now you want others see it too. Maybe you support independent filmmaking, or you believe the stories of our LGBTQ elders are important and must be shared. It’s important to us to share BEFORE YOU KNOW IT with larger audiences for several reasons. The BEFORE YOU KNOW IT production team feels that the gay senior community is very vibrant and very much present; however, it’s often overlooked when discussing LBGT issues. After all, our gay seniors were around during Stonewall, Harvey Milk, the AIDS pandemic and the recent overturning of DOMA! We want to share the stories of our gay elders and feel they deserve to be heard.

    How can you help?

    1. Tweet us! 
    • I’ve supported @B4YouKnowIt, and think you should too! bit.ly/kickBYKI #gayseniorcitizens
    2. Like us & post on Facebook!
    • Hear the stories of our gay elders by supporting BEFORE YOU KNOW IT by Director PJ Raval bit.ly/kickBYKI 

    3. Forward this email to your friends & family!

    We appreciate your support!

     



    Follow us on Twitter & Facebook for updates on screenings and special events & don’t forget to visit our new website beforeyouknowitfilm.com
    Facebook
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Twitter
    Instagram

No Comments

  • Dance: Bliss, Joy, Therapy (10/21/2013)
    Stéphane PIA

    Stéphane PIA

    One of the joys of my life is that I get to work with amazing artists. Sometimes I know one thing about them (they write wonderful pieces) but I only learn that they have not-so-hidden talents after coaching them! Lea Comte is a writer, performer and dancer who works with dance therapy. What she does is so inspiring, I had to share it and help connect her to people out in the world.

    I did an interview with Lea and she shared some amazing information and links.

    Q: Lea, to start with, what is Dance/Movement Therapy?

    A: As defined by the American Dance Therapy Association, dance movement therapy (DMT) is the psychotherapeutic use of movement to “further the emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integrations of the individual.”

    Q: That sounds amazing! How did you get into dance movement therapy?

    A: Ha ha ha! I love this question! I have been a dancer my entire life. I joke that dance is more of something that I am rather that something that I do. When I started my undergraduate school years as most teenagers, not having a clue what I wanted to do. I remember one of my first meetings with my advisor, he asked me, “What do you want to do?” “I like psychology and I like dance.” “How are you going to utilize that?” (shoulder shrug) “I don’t know.”

    After working as a pharmacy technician for years, I thought it was only a natural choice that I attempt pharmacy school. I applied to all of the in state schools and even some out of state schools, while I worked to complete all of my prerequisites. Months down the road, after several rejection letters, a D in neuroscience, and a crumpled spirit, I sat on the couch one evening with a glass of wine, crying. I thought to myself, “finding a career that I am meant to do should not be like this. Why can’t I just find something that combines my love for dance and psychology?” On a whim, I Googled “dance therapy” and BOOM, the American Dance Therapy Association popped up. I was elated! One year later, I was enrolled and off to New York to attend graduate school.

    Q: See, I had no idea you were a pharmacy tech either!!! What training did you receive in order to practice as a dance therapist?

    A: I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Dallas where I focused on Human Development and Natural Sciences. I then attended graduate school at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York where I received a Masters in Dance and Movement Creative Arts Therapies. While in graduate school I completed two internships. The first was at a HIV/AIDS day treatment program for adults, the second was a day treatment and partial hospitalization program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals.

    Q: What types of people do you work with?

    A: My specialty is children. I have worked with children of all ages, from newborn to teenagers. I am most intrigued by toddlers though. Starting around ten months to age two and a half, kids open up to the world like no other time in their lives. Everything they experience is new and fresh, it’s like I get to re-experience the world for the first time.

    Q: Why utilize dance/movement therapy with children?

    A: Movement is the language that children use from birth. Utilizing dance and movement therapy with children gives them an instinctual tool to express their thoughts and feelings. DMT is applicable for children of all ages, all physical and mental functioning levels, and all diagnoses. By entering into their world, “trying on” their movement, and allowing them to express themselves freely, without judgment, children feel more seen, heard, and understood, boosting their self-confidence and sense of self.

    Q: What do you mean by “trying-on” their movement? Would you say more about that?

    A: A dance movement therapist’s tool of assessment and intervention is movement. When we physically and literally try a child’s movement, we pay attention to what that movement feels like for us. We pay attention to any thoughts, feelings, or sensations that we may be experiencing through this movement. Through this embodied process, we are able to make more insightful interventions with the child by pulling from our own experience.

    Q: If I brought my child to you, what would a session or the therapy entail?

    A: I devise a goal-oriented plan for each child that may include individual, parent/child or family therapy sessions. Sessions usually include a warm-up, active engagement, and cool down or closure period. Creative movement, dance/play, music, American Sign Language and other creative arts are utilized to cater to each child’s preferred method of expression. The duration of a session is dependent upon the child’s needs and stamina, and can range anywhere between thirty minutes to one hour.

    Q: Who can benefit from Dance Movement Therapy? Is it just for children with special needs?

    A: Any child can benefit from dance and movement therapy. The goals of a DMT session can range from, but are not limited to:

    • Obtaining Coping Skills
    • Appropriate Anger Expression
    • Better Integrating Senses
    • Developing Healthy Attachments
    • Coping with Loss or Trauma
    • Developing Social Skills
    • Clarifying Body Boundaries
    • Expressing Needs

    Many disabilities are treated with DMT:

    • Sensory Integration Disorder
    • Attachment Disorder
    • Autism
    • Down Syndrome
    • Anxiety Disorder
    • Obsession Compulsion Disorder
    • Pervasive Development Disorder

    Q: What are you currently working?

    A: I am working on a couple of things at the moment. I am working to establish a practice over at Big Sky Pediatric Therapy. We are offering individual and group dance/movement therapy sessions for children.

    I am also currently in my third semester of an international post graduate training program. Dr. Suzi Tortora conducts a bi-weekly webinar hosting twelve dance movement therapist from around the world, to teach about her Ways Of Seeing program. The webinar focuses on utilizing dance movement therapy with children and their families. We are developing a further understanding of family dynamics, infant mental health, movement assessment, and the role of non-verbal communication. We will be presenting as a team at the National American Dance Therapy conference in New York, October 25th.

    Q: Where can people get more information?

    A: There are several websites that have wonderful information. Some of my favorites are:

    ADTA, SuziTortora, BigSkyFriends, Psychology Today’s Blog.

    There is also a wonderful YouTube link to a video about dance movement therapy with children.

    It sounds like all of us could benefit from playing more and being in our bodies. Lea Comte is not only a talented performer but she’s truly shifting how we can work with bodies and spirit.

    Thanks, Lea!

    No Comments

  • Maryville And America (10/16/2013)

    I’ve been struggling with how to write about what’s going on in Maryville. Or if I should write about it. Or if I’ll be writing about some other town with the same type of situation in 4 months.

    I’ve already written many articles about Steubenville, after all. About the roots of the problem, how we make sense of it, finding cures, if that’s possible.

    This case seems somehow worse to me because the girls, their parents all did the right things and went to police, and police responded correctly, only things got shut down.

    There are a lot of people tweeting this one Slate article usually with some kind of tag on the tweet like, “Why does this keep happening” and I want to be like, BECAUSE power protects power.

    Because we are country that appreciates and approves of dominance displays. Because women and men are taught very different and usually conflicting things about sexuality, and because corruption isn’t rare, in small towns or anywhere else.

    I’m foolish enough to say that the answer to everyone asking “why is this happening again, why is this script playing out the same way? is relatively simple, but the solution is very difficult.

    • Radically reframe our views on power, sexuality, and vulnerability in our culture.
    • Make protecting power and powerful criminals a bad thing, not something that is continually rewarded with money and more power.
    • Dismantle and shift cultural attitudes that place women in the ‘No” position but pushing men to always get laid no matter how, that women are still residually “property” of men to be bought at high cost or treated badly at low. Allow men to say no to power and sex without cost to them.
    • Allow weakness and vulnerability, something we all experience, to be acceptable.

    So, how those things happen, that’s the complex part.

    It’s hard to dismantle deeply held beliefs. The cognitive dissonance is painful. The structures supporting those beliefs are big and small, powerful and often invisible. Those fighting them are often accused of being heretical, foolish, naive.

    It’s generational in nature, change, and it takes a lot of people with a lot of leverage all agreeing (basically) on a shift to start seeing it on a global or national scale.

    It’s hard to shift attitudes and in fact, there are people out there pushing those attitudes to stay in place. And I think most of us know all this, which is why the pieces like Slate’s ask those questions. Because to make these changes seem overwhelming in the face people and systems of power set on keeping the old ways set.

    Which brings me to this horrible but perfect example of people in positions of power trying to keep things set in the past, in this Slate article today by Emily Yoffe.

    It’s basically, “Hey ladies! If you didn’t get so drunk at parties, you wouldn’t get raped!” Which discounts of course that lots of women get raped sober. Or are drugged by people who know them. Or lots of other things.

    There are a lot of people on twitter really pissed off at her right now.

     

    Articles like Yoffe’s do the opposite of my suggestions above. They keep men in the role of having to get sex and women in the role of fighting men off (and getting blamed when they fail), the hold no empathy for the pressures teens and college kids are under, frame relationships in terms of dominance and avoiding harm, rather than teaching harm reduction to kids directly and they make horrible assumptions about men.

    Following Yoffe’s advice women shouldn’t ever move alone, go out, provoke attention. It’s an archaic model of women as property that can be considered shiny or tarnished.

    Which leaves out men like Chris Brown who had his first sexual experience at 8 (by an older girl, which to me is sexual assault) and men who DON”T want to have sex. It leaves out women who DO want to have sex and it erases men and boys who are sexually assaulted. We have to teach kids about sex, early. About what pleasure and consent is on all levels from playing with friends to having lovers and to teach them that verbal coercion and guilt tripping is also a kind of dominance play. We have to allow women to be sexual so they can say yes AND no, and we have to allow men to not want to get laid if they don’t feel like it.

    It’s a victim blaming article and I understand why. Our culture values power and winning so much that to “lose” in any way is sort of the ultimate evil we must guard against, weakness is anathema to a dominance culture and so we engage in magical thinking to avoid it touching us.

    We blame victims almost like a kind of superstitious totem. “He got robbed/lost his job/had cancer…she got raped/got knocked up/has a bad kid” because they did something wrong! I won’t do anything wrong and I’ll attack them so that badness won’t happen to me. Bad things happen to everyone.

    Why don’t we value taking care of the good guys when they get hurt, and putting the bad guys where they need to be when they hurt people? They need help, therapy, support, justice which might equal time in jail, for damn sure (and even there I don’t support those criminals being further injured).

    A whole community blamed Daisy. They burned her house down.

    This is madness.

    Luckily, there are investigations happening for real into this case, a case with more young women coming out and talking about their own sexual assaults related to the alleged perps.

    Why do we let power protect power and then wonder why this happens again and again?

    How can we find the collective will to make the changes that will help us answer and solve that question?

    I see a direct connection between Shutdown, the gaslighting happening there, the mocking of our poor and hungry, the emotional and physical abuse the country is undergoing by a group of people who value power above all else, and what’s happening in Maryville.

    We have to stop this. We have to take care of each other, really. Truly.

    And we have to be willing to give up what we as a culture appear to value in order to do it. That’s probably going to be a long and hard process.

    No Comments

  • Still Shut Down (10/13/2013)

    Two weeks ago I wrote about the impending shutdown. I never believed it would last this long. I guess I just didn’t have the guts to open my eyes to what the Right Wing is doing to our country.

    We may be shut down for a long time, and this will have global impact. Already other countries are mocking us (while probably terrified at what the default will wind up doing to their own economies). Meanwhile there are myths going around from the Right Wing itself about how it’s all Obama’s fault, when they are the ones who have caused this mess.

    The Shutdown can be explained, pretty easily, here.

    More than the global, is the local. People aren’t going to eat (and some are afraid to eat due to food contamination). People will lose their homes. Cancer patients don’t get their trials. Food isn’t inspected. Bills will not be paid, causing all kinds of dominoes falling upwards and downwards. Women and children are bearing the brunt of services denied. This may not be the kind of thing a country, a community, recovers from because there are so many ways for this event to hurt us.

    And then yesterday people who needed to use EBT cards (food stamp debit cards which are part of the SNAP program) were denied usage in 17 states due to some technical glitches.

    Twitter abounded with harsh snippets of insight into how many Americans feel about poverty, which is to say that there are a lot of people out there in our country who think if you can’t afford to feed yourself, you should starve. Better yet, if you are a child and hungry, sell yourself to businesses never minding child labor laws.

    Some people had more reasonable and compassionate things to say:

    In the meantime, the Value Voters Summit went on as planned filled with rage for Obama, seething anger towards women who use contraception, hatred for gays and lesbians, and a deep desire to have more guns in their lives. Read GraceIsHuman’s tweets for all the news on that, if you can stomach it. She sat through it, the least we can do is read it.

    So I don’t know what to think. I really don’t. Is it fear on the part of the conservatives? Some deep level of denial and magical thinking that if they mock the poor, rage against women’s choice, blast vitriol at the LGBT community, poverty or strife won’t happen to them? Are the poor some kind of totem of horror to them? Are women so truly terrifying? Or is it more malicious and cruel, mocking for fun, just a fascist kind of rallying call to get people willing to vote their way?

    Jim Rigby said this early this morning:

    “It is very hard to teach compassion in the American Empire. Everyone wants to hear sermons about personal love, but no one wants to hear even a mention of our collective violence against the rest of humankind.”

    Right now we have a country being held hostage by a small group of people who don’t like that rule of law and constitutional passage of bills gave them results they didn’t like. They are bullying the rest of the nation and basically doing the equivalent of blaming the abused for being annoying and causing the abuse. They are enjoying the breakdown of the country because, I believe anyway, they are in hopes of some kind of biblical apocalypse bringing end times OR just total financial control over the 99 percent. Possibly both.

    I want to believe that the law and justice will prevail. I’m concerned at the froth and frenzy being whipped up by the Tea Party. I’m worried about the lack of critical thinking happening in our media (bought and paid for, much of it, by the Right).

    I’m extremely disheartened by the attitudes of so many that the poor deserve to starve, that children should “earn” their food, that citizens are basically always on their own. While I completely understand the problems with welfare states, the system currently isn’t supportive of fair wages, fair bank practices, fair and equitable education systems, fair cost of living pricing for apartments and food, or well, fairness.

    We need a change and we must make it so. We must demand empathy and compassion in our way of life, we must challenge beliefs that say the poor are unworthy, we must require justice and gentleness in how we treat the most vulnerable among us and we must let go of this cultural madness that compounds cruelty and shame in our daily lives.

    This is not a Christian nation by any account, but one that is the very antithesis of the greatest spiritual leaders.

    We need change and we need it now. I sorely hope we can bring it out and to life.

    2 Comments

  • Stand With Wendy (10/10/2013)

    0-1

    If you’ve read my blog this year, you are aware that I’m a fan of Wendy Davis. The Senator pretty much stole my heart this summer when she filibustered during the outrageous, horrible, and downright unethical House Bills which took justice and choice away from countless Texas women.

    I was so revved up about her that I wrote a post about it. Hundreds of other people wrote articles as well, all summer, and there was a groundswell as big as the heart of Texas, with women and men alike sharing stories and making themselves heard.

    She inspired change in us. Many of us were involved activists, some of us more than others. But the anti-choice, anti-justice bills this summer brought leadership and passion and action out of so many of us, including Wendy.

    She did what seemed impossible, speaking for over 10 hours while standing on her feet, against impossible odds with a Senate stacked with people ready to bend the law to their will, finding infractions other Senators easily got away with, and helped to what people felt was impossible-

    She stopped the bill.

    I believe she can do what seems impossible for Texas.

    Wendy Davis can help turn Texas blue. And that’s no easy task. It will take a hell of a lot to do it.

    While there is a lot Wendy has plenty of, like gumption, fire, and fierce ideas, she does need our help. She needs volunteers to call and block walk and assist with campaigns, she needs publicity and strategy and tools to get her message out. She’ll need our votes most certainly.

    But beyond that, and most importantly she needs our financial support to do all that hard work.

    Today I am asking for that support to make Wendy Davis our next Governor.

    Give here. I have and I encourage you to support Wendy. It is clear to me that we need change in this great state.

    • We need a Governor that will protect all Texans, not just the rich ones.
    • We need a Governor who understands women are more than incubators.
    • We need a Governor who will respect the law, and stand up for all of us.

    The fight for our rights isn’t over. Stand With Wendy.

    Because she stands for the best Texas can be.

    notover-348x348

    No Comments

  • Exhale Pro Voice and Texas: The Power Of Storytelling (10/8/2013)

    Exhale Pro Voice will be coming to Texas in November. I’ve written about this before, here at my blog, but along with the story sharing and facilitation, will come a documentary team who is capturing the good work this non-profit is doing in the world.

    Exhale creates a social climate where each person’s unique experience with abortion is supported, respected, and free from stigma. Exhale provides services, training, and education to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve post-abortion health and wellbeing.

    Exhale is pro-voice. Coined in 2005, the term “pro-voice” was developed by Exhale to represent our approach to creating a social climate where each person’s unique experience with abortion is supported, respected, and free from stigma. Designed to pay homage to the historical struggles for voice and affirmation that our founders had learned from—civil rights, queer acceptance, and the anti-domestic violence movement, among others—pro-voice points towards a whole new way forward on abortion conflicts by giving new focus to an element typically exploited or ignored: personal experience.

    Pro-voice is a practice of nonviolence rooted in conflict-transformation principles. It is a process to create fundamental change in the way our culture addresses personal experiences with abortion. Our pro-voice approach creates, replicates, and sustains strategies that grow culture change.

    BedPost Confessions is helping to host Exhale Pro Voice here in Austin. We are thrilled to collaborate with those focused on the power of stories and how working in the narrative of people’s lives can truly shift the polarized frame these topics stay mired in. I personally also adore documentaries for the same reason as I love storytelling. My husband works in the documentary world and so I was thrilled to find out Exhale was part of a documentary on their work.

    I had the chance to interview the filmmaker, Rebekah Fergusson, about the project which follows five women as they travel all over the country sharing personal stories with abortion and inspiring dialogue in the communities they visit. Here is our conversation, and at the end of this piece, there will be a link to their Kickstarter campaign if you feel inspired to help!

    How long have you been working in documentary filmmaking and what was your inspiration?

    RF: I graduated from Duke in ’07 (after studying at the amazing Center for Documentary Studies there) and immediately directed, shot, and edited my first film. Shot in 25 countries around the world, Pelada is about stories of street soccer, and the people and places that are all tied to that universal game.

    Since then I’ve been behind the camera on many projects- TV, feature documentary, etc. Earlier this year I met the Pro Voice fellows after being hired by Exhale to film some of their college visits. I got a chance to do extended interviews with them and was really taken by their personal stories.

    How do you see the desire for stories (narrative) reflected in what documentaries do for the people who watch them?

    RF: We are always shaping our own experiences into story–our memories, fantasies, our own personal dramas. Documentaries do a really amazing thing– they take real life, connect the dots and reveal layers of story–physical, emotional, and psychological, allowing us to see things in the lives happening around us everyday that we would have never seen with our own eyes.

    Myths are how humans have always made sense of their lives, it is as necessary as breathing to us. Myths are most important to us when something is at stake–when we need something, or we are suffering… its important to us to be able to make sense of that– and this is where storytelling comes in, and how we allow ourselves to empathize with a story that may be something we have never physically experienced…but something that resonates emotionally and psychologically.

    What impact do you personally hope the film has? What have you witnessed so far that indicates a need for these abortion stories?

    RF: I keep going back to the moments when I sat down with Natalia Koss Vallejo and Kassi Underwood to do our first interviews. My first thought was not what could I do to impact the abortion debate, but rather…wow, I was just totally sucked into their world, and their journey for over three hours. I was suddenly in the mind of a 17 year old having to make an imperfect decision, but simultaneously in the mind of a 27 year old looking back on that high school kid and wanting to shelter them, to impart wisdom.

    There was something at stake for these women– the decision that they were faced with left them with something to lose no matter which path they took, it was paradoxical and imperfect in that way. And no one really talks about that when they talk about abortion. They are talking about what someone should do or shouldn’t do.

    That was something I could identify with, and I know the average American can…no matter what their political standpoint on abortion is, or whether they’ve experienced one before. These women aren’t saying “I think this, and therefore…” or “you should do this…” They are talking about how they couldn’t talk about sex in their Indian-American home growing up, how they thought of a baby name…still hoping they could carry the child, how they had to skip class, lie to their parents and hitch rides across town to make sure no one ever knew this had happened to them. This film taps into universal themes of stigma, grief, and being caught between two extremes.

    And there is a need— there is a need for people to understand when they draw a line in the sand (on any issue), most of the time the people standing on the other side of that line are a lot like them. The women and men who have actually experienced an abortion are the ones caught in the middle of this debate.

    I think people are ready for a different conversation to emerge around this issue. 1 in 3 women (and countless men) have experienced an abortion…so chances are that you or someone you know has experienced it in some way…we have taught ourselves to stifle these stories for too long.

    How do you see these stories affecting the larger political rift in the US over sexuality, reproduction and women’s rights?

    RF: I think stories create empathy and understanding. They expand the conversation, we suddenly realize how much more there is to what seemed like a trite overplayed two sided shouting match. I think the most important thing that a film like this can do is allow other women and men who have felt like they couldn’t speak out their experience, whether its just to their own family, gain the strength to do so. I also hope it allows for us to have conversations about the issue with an acknowledgement of the humanity on all sides.

    Next month they are headed to Texas, and we are raising money to follow them and get the film one step closer to completion. Every little bit counts!

    ——-

    I love Rebekah’s last paragraph. Humanity, empathy, baring and being witnessed. These are all things we at BedPosts believe in and we couldn’t be happier to help Exhale get to Texas. As promised, here is the Kickstarter campaign and a video about the project:

    No Comments

  • Hello, Who’s Calling? (10/2/2013)

    western electric 202 flickr

    With all that’s been going on in the world, and in our country lately (politically, the shutdown, the swaths of violence that have been overtaking our country, the violent political fights about rights and resources), I’ve been thinking a great deal about the concept of “calling” lately and how amazing people can be when they listen to that call.

    Having a calling means that something is so important and so powerful that you can’t not do it. You have to. While the phrase gets used a lot in ministry, having a calling could mean teaching, or a kind of volunteering, or a powerful way you are most authentic in the world.

    To not answer whatever call you hear is painful, that’s how you know you have one.

    As you may know by now, for me, it’s working for the human rights that are part of relational rights: gender, sex education, consent, equality, reproductive justice, and moving away from shame and towards wholeness.

    More than that, its about how I look at cultures and systems and try to find ways to shift them through consulting, coaching, and the advocacy of working with groups of people who feel the same way (and some who don’t). I try to put these skills into every thing I do, on or off-line, work or volunteering. It’s where I center my skill set for all my tasks.

    How I do it best is through theater/events and stories. It’s the oldest way to get messages across, it’s both educational and entertaining, and quite often irreverent and filled with humor, but that humor allows people to take the seeds they want planted and let’s them change at their own pace.

    Whatever it is you do; civil rights and race, environmental work, human rights, equality work, art, teaching, counseling, writing, building, engineering, sports, language you name it: your call is important to listen to and follow that pull in your heart, because you have great things to do.

    So listen and follow what you hear in your heart, even if it’s scary (which it really is sometimes, believe me) and be amazing in your gifts to the world. Pick up the call, cause that phone’s gonna keep ringing.

    No Comments

  • Shutting Down (10/1/2013)

    By the time this post goes up it should be clear whether or not our government is shutting itself down in a fit of childish pique.

    Over insurance. That mostly was a Republican plan.

    People, the President said it best, one branch of the government doesn’t get to shut down the whole thing. I don’t get it. There are millions and millions of people that will be affected by loss of income, loss of services, loss of resources because the Tea Party is throwing a shoe.

    Since when is cruelty how we operate? When exactly did that start? Was there a year when the trend began to move from government helping to take care of the citizenry to “deal with your life yourself?”

    Is it just me or are things worse than 20 years ago?

    I think paying into a system is worth getting things out.

    Since people will be going hungry (due to WIC being affected by the GOP Shutdown) please consider donating non perishable items such as baby formula, cereal, peanut butter and canned goods to local food banks. Check your liberal and progressive non profits and churches for how they may be helping.

    And protest. Because this is wrong, non spiritual behavior. It’s toxic and it’s not what America is supposed to be. But perhaps we’ve been traveling down that path for a long time.

    I hope we can make it out.

    No Comments

  • Producing (9/30/2013)

    Just a short post today.

    Here’s the great thing about producing. It’s creating a space for others to do amazing things, providing them with support so they can get their art (or otherwise) into the world. It’s coaching, consulting, collaborating, midwifing, fund-finding, people wrangling you name it.

    I really love doing it, because the art people around me bring to life is transformative. And the people I’ve worked with both during the day, and then in my off hours, are amazing and powerful. Good people, doing good things, are everywhere.

    I’m lucky that I’ve been able to help them find the ways to bring those good things to live.

    No Comments

  • We All Matter (9/25/2013)

    There is little to say that could possible add to what Wentworth Miller says here in this video from UpWorthy.

    I can’t seem to embed it, but it is here and it’s the story of his first suicide attempt, being gay, coming out, finding the “we” and “us” in a world that had left him feeling so alone.

    We all matter and we should all be loved and able to be who we are.

    Please stand up for the LGBTQIA community and let them know you are watching and having their back. Especially if they are young. We cannot afford to lose such beautiful souls over who they love, who they are.

    Please fight for equality.

    1 Comment

  • Are You Happy??? | The Habits Of Supremely Happy People (9/23/2013)

    I caught this article from Huffington Post today about the happiness habits of exuberant humans.

    The Habits Of Supremely Happy People.

    “In his 2004 Ted Talk, Seligman describes three different kinds of happy lives: The pleasant life, in which you fill your life with as many pleasures as you can, the life of engagement, where you find a life in your work, parenting, love and leisure and the meaningful life, which “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are, and using them to belong to and in the service of something larger than you are.”

    After exploring what accounts for ultimate satisfaction, Seligman says he was surprised. The pursuit of pleasure, research determined, has hardly any contribution to a lasting fulfillment. Instead, pleasure is “the whipped cream and the cherry” that adds a certain sweetness to satisfactory lives founded by the simultaneous pursuit of meaning and engagement.”

    The article goes on to list a number of amazing habits any of which might brighten your day up a bit. From surrounding yourself with happy people to taking time out to experience the sacred, to yes even “trying to be happy” as in faking it until your body believes it, all those things are worthwhile to practice.

    It is, always, about the practice. And it is, always, about experiencing moments authentically, rather than racing and seeking some Hollywood formulation of happiness and expecting to never feel sad or down or annoyed.

    As someone who lives with depression, and can often sail off into the stormy waters of a bad mood, seeing my glasses as nearly empty, I value posts like these (even if they do sometimes seem a little cliche).

    It’s about practicing happiness, and it’s about living a life that brings others happiness and promotes a better world for all.

    And occasionally, it’s about pure pleasure.

    Do you have tips you’d add? Arguments you’d make against the article?

    No Comments

  • Colorado Flood Relief (9/18/2013)

    Colorado is in trouble.

    Two articles, one from Salon, with a plea for help and attention to this national disaster and crisis in a world where Twitter and FB are overwhelmed with news of the latest events, is here.

    “Today alone, I read in the news that 260,000 people had to evacuate Kyoto due to a typhoon. In Washington’s Navy Yard, someone murdered 13 people with a gun. There’s the new episode of “Breaking Bad” and the threat of war in Syria. Every headline screams to be first in line. Everything is a crisis…I’d like to think that in our networked world, it’s easy to comprehend how the things we read about in the news or on social media might be impacting friends and loved ones. It seems, however, that we’re so drowned in data that we’ve become comfortably numb. Even our reactions have become passive, disconnected. Hitting “like” on Facebook or leaving a sympathetic tweet doesn’t come close to the human power of a phone call, especially for someone facing the loss of their home, their health, their life. We’re too disengaged to connect the dots between disaster and its human impact. And that scares me.”

    It’s a great piece, honest and real, potential disengagement scares me too. So many of us do want to help though, and perhaps its a factor of where we know we can help, how we can have an impact and not becoming overwhelmed with news. Drea Knufken’s piece exemplifies fears about empathy overload from a veritable mountain of social media. People can and do shut down in the face of it all.

    Then again, our social media can do amazing things, like take that mountain and carve it into precise paths of information. Storify, for example is a great way to capture data, tweets, and facts to list all the ways people can help out with disasters such at this. Thanks to GraceIsHuman for compiling the resources all in one place.

    Colorado Flood Relief (with tweets) · graceishuman · Storify.

    Please find the things you need to pay attention to and pay that attention. There are real people losing everything. Please help if you can. Use that great resource above and share it far and wide.

    No Comments

  • Seconded: This Is What MY Feminism Looks Like | The Mamafesto (9/17/2013)

    Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism. That’s what it looks like. Like support for all and working through all the intersections.

    It looks like this amazing piece by The Mama Festo.

    This Is What MY Feminism Looks Like | The Mamafesto.

    It looks like breaking out of old ways and opening up to a world that will be far more peaceful.

    Here is the full statement from Feminists Fighting Transphobia.

    “A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism

    We, the undersigned trans* and cis scholars, writers, artists, and educators, want to publicly and openly affirm our commitment to a trans*-inclusive feminism and womanism.

    There has been a noticeable increase in transphobic feminist activity this summer: the forthcoming book by Sheila Jeffreys from Routledge; the hostile and threatening anonymous letter sent to Dallas Denny after she and Dr. Jamison Green wrote to Routledge regarding their concerns about that book; and the recent widely circulated statement entitled “Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Critique of ‘Gender,’” signed by a number of prominent, and we regret to say, misguided, feminists have been particularly noticeable. And all this is taking place in the climate of virulent mainstream transphobia that has emerged following the coverage of Chelsea Manning’s trial and subsequent statement regarding her gender identity, and the recent murders of young trans women of color, including Islan Nettles and Domonique Newburn, the latest targets in a long history of violence against trans women of color. Given these events, it is important that we speak out in support of feminism and womanism that support trans* people.

    We are committed to recognizing and respecting the complex construction of sexual/gender identity; to recognizing trans* women as women and including them in all women’s spaces; to recognizing trans* men as men and rejecting accounts of manhood that exclude them; to recognizing the existence of genderqueer, non-binary identifying people and accepting their humanity; to rigorous, thoughtful, nuanced research and analysis of gender, sex, and sexuality that accept trans* people as authorities on their own experiences and understands that the legitimacy of their lives is not up for debate; and to fighting the twin ideologies of transphobia and patriarchy in all their guises.

    Transphobic feminism ignores the identification of many trans* and genderqueer people as feminists or womanists and many cis feminists/womanists with their trans* sisters, brothers, friends, and lovers; it is feminism that has too often rejected them, and not the reverse. It ignores the historical pressures placed by the medical profession on trans* people to conform to rigid gender stereotypes in order to be “gifted” the medical aid to which they as human beings are entitled. By positing “woman” as a coherent, stable identity whose boundaries they are authorized to police, transphobic feminists reject the insights of intersectional analysis, subordinating all other identities to womanhood and all other oppressions to patriarchy. They are refusing to acknowledge their own power and privilege.

    We recognize that transphobic feminists have used violence and threats of violence against trans* people and their partners and we condemn such behavior. We recognize that transphobic rhetoric has deeply harmful effects on trans* people’s real lives; witness CeCe MacDonald’s imprisonment in a facility for men. We further recognize the particular harm transphobia causes to trans* people of color when it combines with racism, and the violence it encourages.

    When feminists exclude trans* women from women’s shelters, trans* women are left vulnerable to the worst kinds of violent, abusive misogyny, whether in men’s shelters, on the streets, or in abusive homes. When feminists demand that trans* women be excluded from women’s bathrooms and that genderqueer people choose a binary-marked bathroom, they make participation in the public sphere near-impossible, collaborate with a rigidity of gender identities that feminism has historically fought against, and erect yet another barrier to employment. When feminists teach transphobia, they drive trans* students away from education and the opportunities it provides.

    We also reject the notion that trans* activists’ critiques of transphobic bigotry “silence” anybody. Criticism is not the same as silencing. We recognize that the recent emphasis on the so-called violent rhetoric and threats that transphobic feminists claim are coming from trans* women online ignores the 40+ – year history of violent and eliminationist rhetoric directed by prominent feminists against trans* women, trans* men, and genderqueer people. It ignores the deliberate strategy of certain well-known anti-trans* feminists of engaging in gleeful and persistent harassment, baiting, and provocation of trans* people, particularly trans* women, in the hope of inciting angry responses, which are then utilized to paint a false portrayal of trans* women as oppressors and cis feminist women as victims. It ignores the public outing of trans* women that certain transphobic feminists have engaged in regardless of the damage it does to women’s lives and the danger in which it puts them. And it relies upon the pernicious rhetoric of collective guilt, using any example of such violent rhetoric, no matter the source — and, just as much, the justified anger of any one trans* woman — to condemn all trans* women, and to justify their continued exclusion and the continued denial of their civil rights.

    Whether we are cis, trans*, binary-identified, or genderqueer, we will not let feminist or womanist discourse regress or stagnate; we will push forward in our understandings of gender, sex, and sexuality across disciplines. While we respect the great achievements and hard battles fought by activists in the 1960s and 1970s, we know that those activists are not infallible and that progress cannot stop with them if we hope to remain intellectually honest, moral, and politically effective. Most importantly, we recognize that theories are not more important than real people’s real lives; we reject any theory of gender, sex, or sexuality that calls on us to sacrifice the needs of any subjugated or marginalized group. People are more important than theory.

    We are committed to making our classrooms, our writing, and our research inclusive of trans* people’s lives.”

    I’ve signed and I hope you will too.

    No Comments

  • National Suicide Prevention Week (9/12/2013)

    3676572438_3d9c09efa3_b

    I am a person who lives with depression, dysthymia to be precise with an extra helping of PMDD (and yes, I’ve also had Post Partum Depression).

    Depression, and other disorders such as anxiety, are quite real. They feel, at their best (if one can describe them such), like a bad cold. You can get out of bed and do what you need to do, but damn, they make the day suck. At their worst, they can be fatal akin to a devastating pneumonia. Some depressions are circumstantial and quite temporary, but some are driven through hormones, biochemical imbalances, and other organic dynamics. It’s important to understand what’s what.

    Mine are related to genetics, as many people in my family have suffered from it, and related to hormonal balance (which again, showed up in my female relatives). Mine first declared itself in my teen years, causing me no end of turmoil around my cycle. It leveled out in my twenties with therapy and a very happy life, but resurfaced after I had children. Oddly, my PDD manifested primarily as anxiety, insomnia, and anger, which meant my OB-GYN didn’t pick up on it immediately.

    I have to work hard to manage my cycles, my nutrition, my exercise and my own expectations. People often don’t know because in person I’m an extrovert, a generally funny performer, and I believe in hope. But I do work hard.

    Depression, as many have noted, lies. It alters your experience of the world and of how you are (and who you are) in the world. It tells you you aren’t worth being. Anxiety can make you believe a flea is a giant monster, a small problem is the end of the world.

    The worst thing about both, at least for me, isn’t the physical experience of feeling sad and worried and despairing (even while knowing how good I have things and how good my life is), but the damn sense of inconsistency. I can SEE that last week I felt grand, but this week things are painted in shadow. That’s a really ridiculous thing to wrestle with while you are trying to get daily tasks done AND change the world through storytelling and social justice.

    I’ve lost people to depression, through suicide. It feels like a rip in the fabric of the universe, a person taken and violently without grace or reason (we don’t see the reason even if they did). I still see those lost in dreams some 25 years later. I’ve grieved over many other deaths as well, death being a kind of color in so many different shades from sudden to lingering. Grief is hard, but it is human. I can tell you this from my own experience drifting not even that close to the idea of the thing, suicide, that the person who commits it isn’t lying to themselves, but the depression is lying to them (and yes, mind/body splits and non-separation and all that but those are the words I have).

    But here is the thing, you are needed, you and your precious precious life. You with your ideas and your dreams and your talents, for you have them, you do! You are need to create and to touch and to love and to be needed. You make an impact even if you don’t know. There is light and there are people who want to help.

    Help may not even feel good, but remember the lies are like heavy coats weighing you down and shutting out light. Therapy, medication, vulnerability, those are all parts of what might help. There are hotlines to call, safety plans to make, people to reach out to.

    This week is National Suicide Prevention Week and there are so many things happening around the country. Pay attention. Listen to those around you who might need help. Don’t accept “fine” as an answer if you feel that gut feeling inside you telling you your friend or co-working is struggling.

    Connect. Be vulnerable. Be honest.

    That’s what I’m being. Because it matters and so do you.

    No Comments

  • Spotlight On Exhale Pro Voice (9/11/2013)

    Anyone who knows me well knows these things about me:

    1) I love theater and storytelling and believe deeply in the power of the form to change hearts, minds, and cultures. These forms are both simple and complex as hell, radical and yet easy to connect to, and involve heart and playfulness, sensuality and the full range of human emotions we need so much.

    2) I believe in the work of peacemaking, in empathy and love, and in the fierce impact compassion can make. Peace isn’t touchy-feely lack of conflict, its engagement, witnessing, connecting even while in opposition. It’s hard work, but it’s so important.

    3) While I think that holding opinions and positions is vital, focusing outside the poles (pro/anti, negative/positive, yes/no and all the political alignments out there) can teach us what’s at the heart of the conflict that the poles are focused around. It may seem wishy-washy, but being willing to hold people’s humanity even while in dire disagreement is powerful. Examining, truly, the values that determine these oppositions, doesn’t always make the disagreement go away, but it does give us windows into healing, co-existence, and the biggest picture of who we are and might become.

    It is because of those three dynamics that I don’t always make the best political activist. I have my positions (progressive, pro choice, pro equal rights and sexual rights, anti-death penalty, pro civil and social justice and generally fearful of corporate power) but I often find myself drawn to the conversations where opposites fight, intent on humanizing those that are opposite me.

    That’s not always a popular position, and it’s hard to do-have an opinion but accept the human holding the reverse of yours. I do fail at it more than I’d like to admit, but I can’t give up on it.

    I’ve talked with and listened to “the other sides” at length. Not to change their minds, or have my mind changed, but to understand where they are, where they came from, and to figure out what dynamics have been in place culturally, societally and in some cases personally, to get them where they are now. This summer at the Capitol, for example, I heard both sides of testimony and within all of it, Orange and Blue, was pain. Shame. Trauma. Anger.

    What’s outside of that? What can help soothe it, on both sides? What tools can be used to take those stories, those people, and provide space for the lived experiences to be witnessed and heard? Because it sure seems like there are a hell of a lot of people out there that are polarized (which benefits political gain), and there are real lives at stake throughout all the political fights, lives that wind up lost or traumatized, and how do we support those people who may find connection and support in either direction on the polarized scale? How do we hear them? How do they want to be heard?

    It turns out that there is a non-profit in Oakland, California, Exhale ProVoice, that has been supporting the stories of women who have experienced abortion, that has trained listeners to just listen no matter the side of the debate they are on, and who now tours holding story-sharing groups to take those stories and have them heard, witnessed had no idea that Exhale ProVoice was doing that work but here today I found out about them:

    Exhale creates a social climate where each person’s unique experience with abortion is supported, respected, and free from stigma. Exhale provides services, training, and education to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve post-abortion health and wellbeing.

    Exhale is pro-voice. Coined in 2005, the term “pro-voice” was developed by Exhale to represent our approach to creating a social climate where each person’s unique experience with abortion is supported, respected, and free from stigma. Designed to pay homage to the historical struggles for voice and affirmation that our founders had learned from—civil rights, queer acceptance, and the anti-domestic violence movement, among others—pro-voice points towards a whole new way forward on abortion conflicts by giving new focus to an element typically exploited or ignored: personal experience.

    Pro-voice is a practice of nonviolence rooted in conflict-transformation principles. It is a process to create fundamental change in the way our culture addresses personal experiences with abortion. Our pro-voice approach creates, replicates, and sustains strategies that grow culture change.

    I’m absolutely fascinated, and am excited to learn more about them. The little I’ve learned so far is telling me that I am not alone in my beliefs that there is something outside the poles that we have to look at, that our stories make that bigger picture happen, and that empathy and compassion are indeed radical tools of social justice.

    4 Comments

  • Vigil (9/9/2013)

    candle

    Tonight, here in Austin, there is a candlelight vigil down at Barton Springs to protest the impending strike on Syria.

    “Austin, TX Residents to Hold Candlelight Vigil Monday to Urge Texas Representatives to Vote Against Bombing Syria
    Vigil to Take Place at 7pm, across the street from 805 Robert E Lee, Austin
    Event Is Part of National Day of Action Happening Across the Country

    Austin, Texas — Residents of Austin, Texas will hold a candlelight vigil in the field on the east side of Barton Springs on Monday evening to urge Texas Representatives to vote against bombing Syria. In particular, Rep. Ted Poe, Rep. Henry Cuellar, Rep. Joaquin Castro, and Rep. Mac Thornberry who are currently undecided. The event in Austin, TX is part of a national day of action being organized by the progressive organizations MoveOn.org Civic Action, CREDO Action, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), and Win Without War. Similar vigils will take place in nearly one hundred cities across the country on Monday.

    At the vigil, local residents will urge Representatives to avoid another unnecessary and costly war and vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution expected to be debated soon in Congress.

    The local organizer for the event, Barrett Phelan, said, “I am opposed to military intervention in Syria because the attack to punish Bashar al-Assad will not change the balance of power in the ongoing Syrian civil war. This intervention will result in another Iraq war. Need I say more?”

    WHO: Local residents opposed to military intervention in Syria.

    WHAT: Candlelight vigil to urge Texas Cornyn and Hutchison to vote against military action in Syria

    WHERE: The large field across the street from 805 Robert E Lee, ATX”

    Bring your own candle and join in this national day of action to focus on some other way besides bombs. Right now, the choice is posed as strikes or none at all leaving people suffering beyond measure. There have to be other interventions besides launching a full out war in this region.

    If you cannot attend in person, consider sitting in peace, with a candle or soft light and focusing your energy on creativity, love, hope.

    No Comments

  • Loss (9/4/2013)

    flickr barbara rich

    As of the writing of this post, I can count on two hands people I know who have been in deep loss, including myself, over the past summer. From politics and it’s meta experience of losing to people I know personally or online who are in stages of grief, to job changes I was emotionally unprepared for, and of course my own losses-I’ve lost a few people that I love this summer and in the past few weeks, it’s a strange time.

    As such, I’m reacting strangely. I don’t trust myself to write and I don’t trust my own reactions. Loss is strange. My mother was so sick for so long, and I took care of her mostly alone for so long that there was grief along the way. But still, I’m not foolish enough to think that I’ve actually grieved the death of her. It’s puzzling doing this out of order and not even trusting that all of it is over. Like I’ve been waiting so long for her passage that since it’s happened…did it? I don’t suppose that makes sense to anyone save those who have been caretakers for dementia patients but there it is.

    Given all that, writing feels like such a privileged thing to do at the moment, yammering my thoughts and opinions as if I have something new to say. Then again, not writing also feels even more privileged when there are so many stories out there to be boosted, so many people suffering, and so many goddamn problems and so much loss out there. Who am I to sit back and not bring things to attention (even if they are painful for me) when there are people out there going through the things and I’m damn sure its a thousand times more painful for them so Julie just buck the hell up.

    Three conundrums that have had me twisted up:

    One, to find the stories to boost, to comment on, to help promote and call attention to, one has to go online and wade through all the social media, columns, articles and general outrage and determine what really needs attention, but by that point you’ve read all this stuff that can truly just weigh you down with the realization that damn, ain’t shit you can really do about things.

    Two, if you spend much time on Twitter, you’ll run into the purity wars, respectability wars, anger (justified) and social justice struggles and man, sometimes I empathetically suck all that in and I feel like hell and I’ve not even written a damn thing. I know that I tend to be peaceable in nature, and I’ve certainly traced some of that back to my own personal family of origin issues with conflict, but man. Twitter can get mean. We can all mob up, even when we feel justified, it feels good to snark at people, but what damn good does it do? How can we express anger and pain without creating more of it for others to take on? How do we stay compassionate and connected without being doormats?

    Three, ego about platforms and how many people I’m reaching and who I know and who knows me, and “being successful” and all that. There are days when some of it feels really easy and good, like putting myself out there is part of “how things are done.” And there are days when it feels as if it’s all part of a much bigger problem involving earning money for doing spiritual work, placing ego and envy above mission, and being unable to hold compersion for others when I myself am not necessarily “succeeding.”

    Those are all things I ask myself questions about.

    I don’t know but there are days when being on Twitter doesn’t seem to be the answer.

    Still, I ask myself who am I to not wade in and add a voice in to the mess, maybe I’ll add some clarity. I’m not sure though. Maybe it’s about focus. Maybe it’s about my focus or lack of it.

    I do know that there are things that need to be witnessed and spoken of and there are people there who need love and support, which as I’ve said, are quite a few. I don’t know what’s going around, but death and grief seems omnipresent. I have a lot of people I’m concerned about. I’m going to try and focus on that offline and on, knowing that it’s a trap in and of itself worrying myself into inaction.

    No Comments

  • #LoveForLondyn: Letters for Andrea Samuels | beyondbabymamas (9/3/2013)

    This is a letter writing campaign to support Andrea Samuels, whose small daughter was killed in gun violence in New Orleans. Please click the link below, from Stacia L. Brown, and write a letter to this mother who is deep in grief. Let her know you see what’s happening, that you are a witness to senseless crime, that her daughter won’t be forgotten, and that love and care is out here in the world.

    #LoveForLondyn: Letters for Andrea Samuels | beyondbabymamas.

    This is something positive anyone can do and the doing of it is a piece of change that opens you up to more change. Change is what we need in the world, less violence, more love. More kindness, more support. More amazing people like Andrea and Londyn.

    No Comments

  • On Miley; Two Must Reads (8/28/2013)

    So, Miley Cyrus.

    I have a lot of feelings about her performance (if you could call it that) and sexism, racism, appropriation, laziness, and celebrity culture. I don’t have a lot of time this week to write.

    Because there are talented people out there writing full time, these are two articles showed up in my Twitter timeline that capture most of my feelings and they’ve put it far better than I ever could so you are in luck!

    First, there’s this wonderful article by Carolyn Edgar, The Trouble With Miley, which hits all my discomfort about how she did what she did and how poorly she did it-the performing, dancing, lazy use of choreography and history and more.

    “But after re-watching Miley’s video and MTV performance, it finally struck me that what irked me most about Miley’s new act wasn’t the elements of black cultural appropriation, but the sheer LAZINESS of it all. Miley succeeded in creating a spectacle, but failed at generating any excitement for herself as an artist.”

    That, in a nutshell. My inner feminist and social justice activist was completely angered by her number with Robin Thicke (and why the hell aren’t we writing more about his gross completely lazy and boring performance as an older man humping all over her in a song that really is problematic. It is. I know it’s catchy, but it’s a gross song), but my inner artist was pissed. Pissed at the complete lack of awareness and lack of well, art, when you have SUCH a huge platform to make it upon.

    Secondly, this amazing piece by TressieMc, When Your (Brown) Body Is A (White) Wonderland is such a must read. If you have any questions about WHY there is racism in Miley’s performance, WHY women of color are making such a necessary noise about it, WHY so many people, and many white women, are commenting on the appropriation, and especially if you are one of the hundreds of tweeters or commenters I’ve seen defending Miley and attacking bloggers for being “too sensitive” and “reverse racist” and especially if you are out there thinking, “Golly, there is so much more important going on in the world why are we wasting our time on pop culture!” well then just settle damn down for a second and go read this.

    Seriously. Go read it.

    “Cyrus did not just have black women gyrating behind her. She had particularly rotund black women. She gleefully slaps the ass of one dancer like she intends to eat it on a cracker. She is playing a type of black female body as a joke to challenge her audience’s perceptions of herself while leaving their perceptions of black women’s bodies firmly intact. It’s a dance between performing sexual freedom and maintaining a hierarchy of female bodies from which white women benefit materially.

    Being desirable is a commodity. Capital and capitalism are gendered systems. The very form that money takes — paper and not goods — is rooted in a historical enterprise of controlling the development of an economic sphere where women might amass wealth. As wealth is a means of power in a capitalistic society, controlling this means of acceptable monies was a way of controlling the accumulation, distribution and ownership of capital.

    For black women, that form of money was embodied by the very nature of how we came to be in America.

    Our bodies were literally production units. As living cost centers we not only produced labor as in work but we produced actual labor through labor, i.e. we birthed more cost centers. The legendary “one drop” rule of determining blackness was legally codified not just out of ideological purity of white supremacy but to control the inheritance of property. The sexual predilections of our nation’s great men threatened to transfer the wealth of white male rapists to the children born of their crimes through black female bodies.”

    We need to talk about Pop Culture because it is a mobius mirror of our capitalism, our corporate forces, our isms and denial, our isms and the fight to break through them, the dreams and goals we’ve taken into ourselves through what we are fed by those forces, our history, how we try to either break out of our historical bonds or are recaptured by them even by that which we create to entertain.

    Pop Culture and performances referencing older art forms, older artistic forms can be respectful, reverent (even in irreverence), and with talented performers can shine lights on where we have been and where we might go if they are conceived and birthed with that awareness and honor. Pop Culture and performances can also drive us back into a sleepy lazy acceptance of toxic narratives which are “no big deal” “Just for fun” and “expressing oneself” if they are done without that awareness, respect, craft.

    Miley and her team (for certainly there were hundreds of other people involved in that ridiculous spectacle and again let’s not leave Mr. Thicke out of this conversation), failed with craft, failed with respect and awareness, and certainly failed to lift up the mirror to show where we could be as a culture.

    They succeeded at playing out the same old shit, one more time. That moment, that mirror could be used to clarify and guide, but so often, like now, it’s an intentional distortion field, and if we don’t look into it and see what’s really there? A great loss to all of us.

    Please read those articles and think about who we want to be and why we are settling for what she did when we should be demanding so much more out of our culture.

    1 Comment

  • Hey! It’s Panel Picker Time! (8/26/2013)

    sxsw-600x230

    I, along with some truly kick-ass activists, have a panel up at SXSWi about what went on during the Texas Lege this summer. It’s called, Can Stories Turn Texas Blue? Digital Media And HB2 and I’d be honored if you’d go and vote for it!

    Here’s the description:

    Citizen activism is at an all time high, using digital tools such as Twitter, Storify, and Vine to immediately telegraph and signal boost stories from the ground to the cloud. In 2013, the Texas Legislature held two special sessions on one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the US. Initial hearings were held and citizens were cut off from being able to speak. Because of this, thousands of pro-choice Texas citizens travelled to the Capitol to testify. While the stories were told in person, and by Wendy Davis during a filibuster in the first session, digital media elevated the testimonies to a national and global level. The use of storytelling technology, old and new alike, allowed citizens to change the very nature of the debate and call attention in a bold new way to how politics can work at the state level, all while invigorating a brand new generation of activists.

    My talented cohorts are: activist, writer and historian Jessica Luther who organized SO much of the summer’s protests and support, Andrea Grimes, reporter extraordinaire for RH Reality Check, and the amazing writer and Rio Grande Valley activist Nancy Cardenas.

    If you’d like to support us, go to SXSW’s panel picker, create an account and then give us a thumbs up and positive comment on our site.

    Jessica has also written a great blog piece on the same topic so go and check her out!

    Vote For My #SXSW Panel, Please, If You Want.

    No Comments

  • Media And More (8/19/2013)

    I’ve been busy!

    I’ve been working on a column for a magazine called Flurt! Giving advice, general musings and things like that.

    Here’s a piece of mine from the summer and the Texas Lege on staying political!

    BedPost Confessions got a wonderful write up from CultureMapAustin on our show Thursday. Check out the piece which really gives a good overview of what to expect at our show.

    “Standing in line to get into BedPost Confessions at the North Door on East Fifth Street is the first indication that things are about to get a little weird. In the alley behind the venue, an eclectic collection of Austinites are gathering to witness Austin’s monthly storytelling event that celebrates all things sexy.

    With me in line are a lady in fishnets, a man in pigtails who rode up on a vintage motorcycle, and a collection of couples who have clearly just come from the office. Now in its third year, BedPost Confessions has quickly garnered a reputation for perpetuating frank, honest conversations about sexuality.”

    Our latest podcasts are up, here at our site, and also on iTunes.

    Speaking of Podcasts, I’m a huge fan of On Being. Last night I listened to Sidling Up To Difference, an interview with Kwame Anthony Appiah on how personal relationships with those who hold different opinions than yours creates intimacy and potential for compassion and change, something that doesn’t always happen in our online world.

    How can unimaginable social change happen in a world of strangers? Kwame Anthony Appiah is a philosopher who studies ethics and his parents’ marriage helped inspire the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. In a tense moment in American life, he has refreshing advice on simply living with difference.

    Enjoy the day! I’m going to go enjoy my 18th wedding anniversary with my brilliant and wonderful husband today!

    No Comments

  • Stories And Sexuality And Star Trek (8/16/2013)

    Last night, under a threatening cloud filled sky on a humid night, many wonderful people gathered to hear courageous storytellers take the stage. Those performers talked, laughed, and even sang about sexuality, relationships, gender and more at BedPost Confessions.

    The show was an amazing compilation of tone, talent and technique with a wide variety of stories. We heard a deeply sensitive piece about the illusions that can arise and be shattered during online dating. The audience enjoyed old fashioned erotica in duet form, and were delighted by an amazing gender bending mini-musical, cello and all. We also had a very powerful, brave, and personal take on marriage, equality and the risks of being out in a world with no protection for LGBTQ people. Finally, we were given a very unique and irreverent look into military culture and how sex and health are managed (or not) by someone who lived it for 6 years.

    I’m always struck by how different our stories about sex and gender can be and how real the language is for each piece. I’m a progressive liberal type with enough social justice training and academic influence to write a perfectlyperfect piece about health or consent, but honestly, while that may (or may not be) be an ideal, it’s not how everyone in the world experiences the world. People all over have different voices, different histories, different ways of seeing and experiencing the world, and speak in different “languages” (or frames) even when the language appears to be the very same one you speak.

    Sex is hard enough to talk about (and we are taught NOT to talk about any of it; from birth control to stds, to who we long for and why) to always have the talk come out in one particular way. What works on a college campus might not work in the marines, how you talk to a middle school class will be very different then the language you use at say, BedPosts. And while the facts might be the same in all cases (consent is vital, testing is necessary, birth controls are available), the delivery may need to be entirely different. I think that’s valid.

    A confession of my own, I’m a fan of science fiction and I’ve watched pretty much every episode of Star Trek. I always loved the fun stories of course, but I learned things and wound up puzzling over the political and moral questions often posed by the show. I suppose it’s one of the inspirations for me when it comes to how I want work produced; pieces and shows that combine entertainment, education, and ethics.

    BedPosts holds fast to those tenets and certainly mingles all three. It feels little risky to admit that perhaps Gene Roddenberry’s ideas and values have been inhabiting in my mind for years like some personal alien invasion, but hey, it works for me.

    In the Star Trek Universe, it’s clear that different cultures have different needs. What you do on one planet, in terms of diplomacy and change, won’t work on another. I mean, come on, peace treaty negotiations or wedding planning or even DINNER all have to be done differently on the Klingon Homeworld than on Betazed. Right?

    How we go about reaching people about sexuality and gender, how we start to shift and negotiate cultural change in terms of consent culture, sexual health and ethics, access and understanding of birth control, gender roles and gender itself…How we work with language and systems and art to move shame away, leading into connection and compassion, that all must be nimbly done and with a variety of techniques and language sets with the understanding that what works in one venue, may not work in another.

    I could struggle with whether that’s “right” or not, because it would be easier (and meet my comfort zone) if one talk or one frame fit all. I’m much more interested in the ability to connect, where I hope it counts, to help change happen. Sometimes it means talking to 13 year olds about things in ways I’d prefer not to talk to them, but hey, now they have more of an understanding of how gender works. I may not always feel as comfortable talking consent outside of the progressive Austin bubble, but I bet you a dollar I can find ways to do it in SmallTownRedState in ways that will take root. Or if I can’t? I can find people who can.

    People are complicated, systems are complex, and talking about sex is messy. Putting all of that together can be daunting, but I have this feeling more and more of us are finding ways to do just that, finding all the different ways we can reach out using all kinds of language, ideas and frames to make a huge change in the world. We at Bedposts are so proud of the people who have brought complicated, complex, messy beautiful work to the stage, and we can see in real time (and from real emails) how people have been affected by stories and truth, all from different perspectives, all at a bar, all while producing entertaining work.

    Thunder clapped loudly during the first half of the night, as a huge rainstorm released itself laughing, dancing onto our show like it was a performer as well. I felt wonder as I stood at the door of the ND during intermission and watched the lightning paint the night sky, watched the water drench the streets, and people too, who ran around it with glee. The storm seemed joyful, and washed away dust, heat, and perhaps even old attitudes about sex, leaving a sweet path forward for all of us to boldly go.

    No Comments

  • Signal Boost: Pia Glenn on The Harriet Tubman Video (8/15/2013)

    The amazing Pia Glenn writes this about the racist, sexist, all the ists video hosted by Def Digital. I shouldn’t be surprised at the depths people will and can sink to, but I am. Saddened that this is considered good material for Russell Simmons’ new venture, angry at people who think bits like this don’t matter, don’t add up to a bigger toxicity in the culture, and don’t care to think about it. Or get it.

    I Am Completely Disgusted By The ‘Harriet Tubman Sex Tape’ | xoJane.

    It’s not just the producers or the actors. Certainly there are hundreds of people involved in making the video.

    It is even worse than I could have imagined. I can’t stop wondering how many people were involved in the making of this YouTube conflagration? I completely understand that most people don’t look at a filmed scene and think of how many other unseen individuals are there also, but as an actor, I always do. (This is also one of the reasons why I cannot endure most reality television, but that is a post for another day.)

    Simply put: If you’re looking at something that was taped and it’s not a selfie, then someone is holding the camera. If you can hear dialogue, chances are someone is either holding a boom mic just out of frame or they were responsible for outfitting the actors with body mics. Is the video a mess of shadows and darkness? No? There just might be someone shining a light on the proceedings.

    Even if the actors were responsible for the technical elements too, as I am with my videos, that’s still three grown adults who had to sign off on this shit. Someone had to powder the actors’ faces, secure the location, either make or purchase the wardrobe, etc. I don’t frequent Party City; do they sell slave costumes?

    Not just them, but all the people sharing it. Watching it. Deciding it’s what we should have in the world. And I wonder why people decide this, that it’s worth having. From the pitch meeting to the release to the tweeting of it, what makes anyone say, “What a great idea!”

    It wasn’t a great idea. Not at all, an opinion I am quite happy to share with Pia Glenn.

    No Comments

  • On Bustle And What Counts (8/14/2013)

    A new website has been launched and it’s called Bustle! Because apparently there have never been websites for women by women! Aside from problems with the name, which brings to mind scurrying about a house or wearing a lump of fabric and metal on one’s behind, there are some other issues which have been brilliantly explained at the following websites which are run and lead by women for women!

    Slate Double X notes with something akin to joy that A Man Creates Very First Website For Women Ever. Well, not joy really, but it’s a great article.

    This one from Medium is too, The Worst Case Of Mansplaining, Ever.

    Bust, in Get Off Our Tit, cogently explains how they’ve been doing the work Bustle claims to want to do for some 20 years now. They also explain what they could do with $6.5 Million if women entrepreneurs were frequently given VC money.

    Bitch Magazine, in Douchebag Decree, explains how apparently all the other lady mags out there don’t really count, cause commercial success.

    The Hairpin, in What Is The Difference Between Mascara, Eyeliner and Concealer? Six Philosophical Inquiries, deconstructs Goldberg’s quote about mascara, eyeliner and concealer and why he needs to know nothing about them.

    And NPR, not particularly a lady mag, has a report entitled, Man Learns How Not To Launch A Website For Women, in which Goldberg states that yeah, if he could go back and relaunch he’d focus on money.

    This is my main issue. The issue of money and being commercial and commercial success and what it means.

    From Bitch:

    “When Gawker co-founder Elizabeth Spiers remarked that Goldberg didn’t seem to have researched his competitors all that thoroughly, and when Jezebel founding editor Anna Holmes noted that Bustle’s content already exists in many other web forums, Goldberg’s only semblance of a reply was to repeat variations on the themes of money, and hugeness, and, again, “difference.”

    “Bustle is a very different company from xojane or thehairpin. I would like for Bustle to be one of the fifty largest sites on the internet within this decade, and I would like to see it generate $100 million in revenue by that point. That’s not to say that it is impossible for a feminist site like thehairpin to also achieve this, but I think that we are approaching things differently. Raising a large round of venture capital is one such difference in approach. Partnering with a major media company like Time Warner is another….

    There are many great female-focused websites out there, and some great explicitly feminist ones too. Very few have raised venture capital. Very few attract eight-figure advertising revenue. Very few have been acquired for $100,000,000’s. My goal is for this to be massive.”

    In other words: “We’re different because I have a lot of money and I want to make a lot of money.” Does Goldberg really think this is a novel approach to women’s publishing? That Gawker Media started Jezebel because Nick Denton just really wanted women to make friends on the Internet? And does he really think that he’s going to be the one to break feminism through to the global mainstream because he has the most money?

    So that’s what this is about. Because it is always about that.

    It isn’t about feminism or social change, unless that change makes investors money. Which, frankly, seems antithetical to me in some ways. Sure, a living wage and security around health and life is vital for workers. But to say that a magazine venture only really “counts” as a success is through a financial lens is toxic to me. Bitch, Bust, The Hairpin, and so many other publishing teams, along with bloggers and writers who have done amazing work? They count.

    Goldberg says here, in the NPR article, on his desire to change how the launch went:

    “I should have recognized that there are many great female-focused and feminist websites out there. xojane, Jezebel, The Hairpin, Rookie,” he says. “But what separates Bustle is that we are trying to reach a level of mainstream appeal and financial success that has not yet been achieved for a female-focused website with a strong feminist conviction. I believe it to be important that women’s publications, especially ones with a feminist voice, are able to achieve commercial success.”

    As if that’s all women want right? Commercial success and progressive politics are exactly hand in hand and in line with each other. If feminism is a tool of capitalism then I suppose he’s right. But that means nothing counts unless it makes money. And while I want to make a living and I believe in paying people so they can live (which even though he’s paying his staffers, they’ll make approximately $16 per hour with NO insurance or benefits and that’s not a liveable wage in cities like Austin, NY, SF, LA or hell, smaller towns with writerly types, I don’t believe that money = worth in terms of art, politics and making change in the world.

    And frankly, feminism does play a role here in terms of if you want to be a capitalist, women aren’t well represented, as the Medium piece above shows:

    It’s documented, ad nauseam that women only receive 4.2% of VC funding in the US. I seriously cannot think of another more perfect example than this one to animate how horribly wrong the VC eco-system is, and how every single one of the players that gave @BGoldberg money should be ashamed of themselves.

    And you know why?

    If a woman led initiative had come to any one of these VCs and pitched their business as piss-poorly as Goldberg obviously did, with this kind of tepid writing, and storify-ing stealing interface, they would’ve been laughed out of their offices. Soundly. And with good reason.

    When sites like Bustle get $6.5 million in funding from multiple VCs, it is a glaring statement that as long as the same old same old exists in VCs, then the same old same old shit will get funded.

    So I guess if feminists want to make millions but be less-than-adequate, tepid and same old same old, we ladies have some work to do!

    Still, I think it’s sad and telling that that’s what he’d change about his launch and that’s what’s motivating the whole website. Bustle, at this juncture, seems like a vanity project with it’s roots in money not feminism, a sense of entitlement, and an galling arrogance about what women (women who have been working in publishing, writing, and journalism and producing work that most definitely counts for up to 20 years) want.

    2 Comments

  • Things We Don’t Always See (8/12/2013)

    aouniat

    My husband and I spent most of the weekend engaged in long overdo yard work. There has been weeding and cleaning, raking and redecorating. Satisfying enough as our yard has never been much to speak of, except large, but today as I was watering one of our oak trees I noticed a very busy parade of ants, thousands most likely, limbing upward from the jungle of grass onto a bark highway straight up over to a branch, into a small knothole, then out and up farther to what appeared to be another entry point into the tree.

    Ants, tiny and black, went in both directions, some carrying things, foodstuffs I assume, or maybe baby ants or aphids. Beside the ants were what appeared to be roaches of some kind, or smaller winged beetles. Brown and metallic, they weren’t directly engaged with the ants, but dashed in sudden bursts up, in contrast to the steady stream beside them.

    I couldn’t help but wonder, create a little narrative about the potential relationships playing out. A war? A coexistence? Trade and colonizing? Something completely outside of my ability to comprehend, most likely, given that ants are a collective and there I was, singular, giant and looming, making up stories about people, when they aren’t people at all. I wondered if they had any awareness of my presence since I’d just been made aware of theirs.

    I called my husband over and we looked at the branch. It was clearly marred and darker than the others with a marbled pattern of discoloration extending into the trunk. We both wondered if it was hollow and infested and talked briefly about whether the tree should go, what the cost would be in terms of money and shade, and we both noted that it would open up a big patch of grass to the sun, for gardening.

    We didn’t talk about the cost to the ants, which I’m sure would be best expressed as some kind of genocide, thoughtless and casual. Still in human terms, that story, yes? How to look at it from their perspective? Should I?

    There is an entire village in my yard, a city, perhaps connected collectively to others and somehow that makes me happy. The yard seems far more beautiful both in it’s tidiness, culling life and bending it’s shape to my human will, but also knowing that something wild, alien, and unknowable is fully wrapt into my life, my home, and now my awareness.

    I didn’t see it before, but now I do.

    No Comments

  • Pride And Prejudice And The Streisand Efffect (8/12/2013)

    There is a group in the UK called “Straight Pride UK” and they are up to all kinds of typical nonsense, such as trying to get straights to tell coming out stories about being straight, claiming that the gay lifestyle is a choice, promoting ideas that gay rights will oppress everyone else, that gayness is a choice and gays would best be served by turning back straight and shutting up etc, but it’s totes not hate speech, just PRIDE about being straight! The usual, we’ve seen it all before.

    A blogger/journalist, Oliver Hotham (who is currently my new online crush and hero), emailed them and they sent their press release to him rather than answer his questions, so he used their own (public, press release, words) in a post which received a lot of attention, and I suppose because of that post, THEY received a lot of attention for their bigotry, fear, and desire for superiority in relationship model.

    This bothered them so they pulled a DMCA at the fellow’s WordPress. Here’s that whole story.

    Then came the email from Straight Pride UK’s press officer, Nick Steiner:

    “It has been brought to my attention that you have published the email that I sent you to, you did not state this in your email request, nor you did have consent to do this.

    I therefore request that you take down the article that you have placed on your blog.

    You have 7 days in which to do this, failing this I shall submit a DMCA to WordPress to have it removed.”

    I laughed this off, and responded to the email arguing their case was absurd:

    1) There was no indication on the “press release” they sent me that it was copyrighted material. Nor did they make any mention of the fact that anything they gave me was copyrighted.

    2) I wrote “I’m a journalist and I’d like to ask you some questions” in my first email. If you’re a press officer and you don’t know what this means, then you really aren’t qualified to have your job.

    3) In my email about the questions they didn’t answer, I made reference to “the article”. If that isn’t an indication that I’m going to publish something then I really don’t what is.

    I thought this was a good enough defence, and I assumed this would all be swept under the carpet, and that their rather sad attempts to remove my article because it made them look stupid were all for naught.

    I was wrong – within a few days WordPress caved to them without question, removing my article and telling me if I tried to publish it again I’d be suspended, but that I could challenge the takedown of my article. I responded that yes, I very much would like to, and was emailed a form I’d have to fill in. One of the requirements was that I “consent to local federal court jurisdiction, or if overseas, to an appropriate judicial body”.

    Many people are now bothered by this reaction to being bothered, so they are reposting the original article en masse.

    Amazing to me how a group who feels that straights are “oppressed” by a small minority of folks who don’t even have the global right to marry, feels ok censoring someone reporting on it.

    It’s almost like they know something is a bit amiss in what they are doing.

    Look, I’m all for pride for all the orientations, I guess. I’m straight appearing, married to man, have loads of privileges in this world. I have a multitude of legal rights. But I no more chose my sexual identity than I did my eye color. And there are lots of people out there who are gay, bi, not straight who didn’t choose that either. It’s a cruel mockery and predjudice based and borne out of fear to claim it’s all just some casual choice.

    I long for a day when people don’t have to actively worry about how their genitals respond to people. That we could just acknowledge that we have sexual drives and base our relationships on consensuality, ethics, patience, and kindness.

    That day is not here yet, hateful words and groups blossom up like mushrooms after a spring rain, and justify their behavior out of fear and terror of difference.

    Currently, there is a bit of a campaign to republish the original article because Straight Pride UK can’t go after everyone, ala The Streisand Effect. So this has been my contribution to the cause.

    No Comments

  • Ruin Me-Archives (8/6/2013)

    I’m happy to report that I’ll be on an extended vacation through the 7th of August, traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be posting some pieces from my archives over the time I’m away, but if anything inspires me, I might throw in a new post or two.

    Here’s a spoken word piece I performed about bodies and aging.

    I performed this at last week’s Bedpost Confessions. I had some requests to share it, so here it is. I have refined it over the months and turned it into a bit of a spoken word piece. I thank everyone who has supported me while creating and performing this piece and am honored at the response.

    courtesy spdl_n1

    My ankles hurt each morning when I rise out of bed. I’ve found tricks to help ease those aches, stretching my calves and rolling my feet prior to placing them on my cold wooden floor. Still, the first few steps of the day indicate strain. Perhaps the beginnings of arthritis from years of overuse. I read my dancing life in my ankles, piano in my wrists, my oboe in my embouchure.

    The body shows age in lines and scars, in aches and fatigue. The stories of our years on this planet are written on and in our bodies. We may try to postpone aging, through surgeries, exfoliation, or love affairs, but the words are permanent.

    I admit that aging frightens me. At 43 I still feel vital. Alive. I’m aware though, that aging and being considered sexy don’t always go hand in hand. Especially when one is a mother. We are too complicated at best. Too much baggage. Invisible at worst. Outside of ‘cougars’ and ‘milfs’ the naturally aging woman might not be seen in a truly carnal light.

    I’ll share a quote with you from an online magazine:

    “A guy I know, a wonderful husband, recently confided in me that he loves female breasts. His wife is quite beautiful, but mothering has “ruined her tits,” he told me. He made clear to me that he intended to continue his interest in the female form in what he considered the least damaging way he could figure out—porn and strip clubs—so as to prevent a melt-down in his marriage. “My wife would freak out if she knew,” he said, “but I don’t want to end up doing something stupid like having an affair with some teenager.”

    This quote hit me. Hard. The word, ruined rang in my ears for days.

    Such reactions it provoked in many who read it. Was it really that honest lust, out in the open, is that threatening? Or was it the totality of the statement, the particular callousness of it, that desire is predicated on perkiness?

    Ruined.

    As a woman who is in favor of conversations about lust. I think my reactions were due to that casual cruelty. Can I see the difference between my body and one of a 22 year old nubile girl? Well, of course. Can I accept that when lustful eyes cross her body they’ll experience something different than when they see mine? Yes, I can. Nothing wrong with having that out in the open.

    My reaction is not, “Don’t lust.” I’m a fan of lust. It’s, “Be kind to me and my aging body while you lust for others, and I will be kind to you and yours, as my own eyes pause on younger flesh. And older flesh for that matter. Older flesh gets ignored in all this. Because its?

    Ruined. Ruins. The ringing continued.

    Her breasts were ruined from motherhood. Are mine? Or are they just written upon by life. By the stories of being young, of aging, of producing children. I can look at my body and read those histories.

    On my own breasts, I imagine poems of tears waiting for them to grow, of furtive teenage petting, of the first touch a hand, my heart pounding visibly under a shirt, him unloosing a bra, and the touch of his warm, slightly sweaty, clumsy fingers on my breasts. Fear that my baby A’s were too small to touch.

    Here are words of a soft insistent flick of the tongue and playful twists turning serious as growling teeth capture a nipple while I swoon at the attentions of a intuitive lover who understands how I like it.

    This mark, here a poem of shock at the a size C during pregnancy! The capacity for milk production, of a glorious spray of nutrients. In one breast preferred over the other, the larger one, over the heart. Also the sensitive one, coincidentally.

    A collection here of a baby’s unskilled latch, ferocious mouth on my flesh, giggling as milk spills from his lips, himself milk drunk in a perfect guileless sensuality of the purest bodily erotics-Here is satiety and pleasure and safety. Here.

    Here in this more flattened curve a story of empty sadness when that time of nursing was over. And then a piercing, sharp and shocking through a darker and far less perky nipple with a lover and husband holding my hands, as if to finally mark the ending of that chapter.

    These breasts are not ruined.

    There are more stories to be written, both on my breasts and other interesting places.

    My husband’s body too, is covered in heartbreak, stoicism, sweetness, longing, His sticky candy tastes and dark scents are stories whose secrets aren’t for sharing here, but I daily read the poems on his skin. He reads mine.

    A lover’s body is the ultimate adventure in erotic literature. So much to read so many places to write. This spot makes you gasp, you want more. That spot makes you moan, it’s too much. This thrust calls out a scream, feels like a lightning bolt of heaven. This place, with a finger drawn round and round in concentric circles, and a hand stroking upward, makes you come.

    From red handprints on skin, to leaving an invisible but indelible mark feeling on flesh, we are now roadmaps of the erotic. Knowing you without words, wordlessly, beyond words, past words, in pleasure’s control, is truly seeing into you, seeing who you are. Letting you see me.

    I still come back to the word Ruined.

    What about the sensuality of kindness? Where did that callousness in that original statement come from? Words mean things. What we say out loud is how we see the world. Are all of us worried that we are ruined or will be as we age? Worried we’ll be irrelevant, impotent, disregarded for sagging breasts, thinning skin, or growing guts?

    The pubic hair grays, you know. Scrotums drop. Vaginas that were once flowing natural springs are overtaken by a hormonal desert requiring lubricious supplementation. Penises that formerly stiffened eagerly in seconds, now take a longer time, sometimes needing scientific enhancements to coax upwards.

    No matter that our bodies age, inside our minds are the most Dionysian of desires, in fact my favorite moment from years ago of getting hit on was an 80 year old ex sailor with emphysema and a proclaimed penchant for cunnilingus. He couldn’t fuck me, his dick didn’t work, but he could damn well go down on me and how’d I feel about that! We were in a nursing home, and I figured his oxygen mask needed to stay put, so I demurred with a wink and a kiss on the cheek.

    It’s quite fair to say that we lust and desire the young, because they are beautiful. But isn’t it possible that that desire for them is also because they show us where we have already been? We already know we’ve written those stories, but still we’d like more, just a little bit more. We know our time is running out.

    Ruined?

    But fuck this unkindness. Listen to the voice of that desire in our minds. We need to hear the voice of desire inside screaming at us, like a dryad caught in the bark of a tree, like rings of trees inside us from youngest to our oldest forms. That one ring doesn’t age, but stays present and white hot if we just feel for it.

    That ring calls out to us past all the other aging layers to fuck, to play, to drink, to seduce, to dance and rage against the impending years. To want so much that your body aches to be thrown, divided, devoured, torn apart, ruined. Ruin me with your body and destroy me with pleasure until there is nothing left but me as I am.

    Listen to that ringing sound, even when the mirror is telling your youth is good and gone, you know it is still there, inside, alive.

    Though I push back against the inevitable decline, and fear fully the stories of family members who have gone before me, with mangled their genetics, nightmare stories, that’s enough concern let alone quotes about tits and aging, I know in my heart that our bodies are meant to be ruined from each other, from living life, meant to decline like temples first strong and shining, into rubble of achy bones and weathered skin.

    Our aging bodies remind each other, partner to partner, that we are not new anymore. This is hard, and scary, but it is also beautiful. Let us ruin each other with our sex, and love and pain and see each other fully and without words. We will wear our history on our bodies and it will tell us who we are. Our poems lead us from birth to death, and they are holy, all of them.

    No Comments

  • On Social Justice-Archives (8/5/2013)

    I’m happy to report that I’ll be on an extended vacation through the 7th of August, traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be posting some pieces from my archives over the time I’m away, but if anything inspires me, I might throw in a new post or two.

    On race, social justice and SJTI.

    I went to a conference last week, an institute and immersive experience, on race, racism and how it plays out on the individual, group and institutional level. The institute is the Social Justice Training Institute (SJTI) and they’ve been producing and facilitating these week long experiences since 1998. This was the 28th institute and it was more than I’d hoped, even better then I’d been led to believe, and a fundamentally soul shifting time out of time.

    The institute brings together approximately 40 individuals of as wide a racial range as possible, diverse in gender, age, sexual orientation and profession. The institute is 4 full days in length and is structured in a compassionate and intentional way, that brings each participant from where the are to where they need to be (and of course that is different for everyone). The focus of the institute is race in a US context but does touch on intersections of age, religion, ability, gender, orientation, expression and so forth.

    There were large group activities, smaller core groups for processing, a dyad for more personal interaction, and then a day where each of the racial groups shared time together in discussion and thought (and feelings) focusing on the needs and issues and hindrances and dynamics of one’s own race and race group. Following that, there were theoretical pieces around oppression, violence, non violent communication, and personal histories (and all the triggers and reactions they bring up).

    The institute was exceptionally well done and intense. Intensive. Immersive. Challenging. Shaking. Deep, so long as you allowed yourself to go deep, and filled with an empathy I’ve rarely experienced in group work on diversity or race. Or gender. Or much. I can’t speak for the facilitators or participants but to me, at the personal place that I am in, it felt deeply spiritual in its entirety.

    I will write more over the next weeks and months about my experiences and connections from this institute, but my initial take-aways are this:

    1) We are a country and culture that is obsessed and seemingly addicted to a dynamic of dominance and subordination. Whether that is about race (whites in the one up position) or gender (males) or sexuality (straights) or religion (Christian) or ability (able bodied) there are “right” ways to be. Because of this we engage (and I am speaking generally and I own that) in aggressions and violences from micro-actions such as dismissing someone in a meeting and then taking their idea, or not sitting next to a person of color on an airplane, or assuming that a sexual assault victim may well be the one to blame, to policies designed to keep a group in or out even as we try to shift those policies, to actual hands on violence in fights, attacks, bashings and hate crimes.

    We are swimming in a culture of dominance and subordination and we are nearly all part of a dynamic where we rank ourselves (even those in oppressed groups) in relation to others through that dynamic.

    2) There is a deep, deep sense of pain and shame connected to the violence, our place in it, whether from being perceived as subordinate and weak, to the harsh mental effects that holding dominance over others does to us. Often the dominant group isn’t always aware of the levels of shame they feel from not admitting they are part of that system, if they can even see it at all. Shame does bad, bad things to people, as Brene Brown has pointed out.

    One thing that happened for me at this conference was a sense of relief and release around that shame and violence, an eye opening experience but an inner eye, shining a light on how actual healing of a system can begin to occur in a system that we are all still a part of… through work on peace, non violent communication, and vulnerability.

    For that one little bit of perception shifting I am grateful.

    No Comments

  • Epiphanality-Archives (8/3/2013)

    I’m happy to report that I’ll be on an extended vacation through the 7th of August, traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be posting some pieces from my archives over the time I’m away, but if anything inspires me, I might throw in a new post or two.

    A little about spirituality and my family.

    I come from a family (on one side at least) of ministers. Lay ministers, choir directors, vestry leaders, deacons, pastoral counselors, church organists, missionaries, and writers of music and books on faith.

    Now, it’s not like I didn’t know this. I mean, I knew this on this intellectual level.

    But it hit me Tuesday, hard, after a meeting with my spiritual/midlife unraveling guide, that not only was my father this larger than life person in a counseling, coaching, mentor, teacher, and probably spiritual leader way, but the rest of my father’s family was chock full of spiritual leaders and ministers.

    I can’t really express to you how profound that realization was. I spent the day being really boondoggled and slightly hyperventalish. I mean, I’d always thought about how music, writing and art played a role in my father’s side of the family.

    But I never really realized that there is a huge spiritual legacy in my family. Or I did, but I denied it, ignored it, suppressed it, let it sit in some dusty back corner of my mind, where it remained, still and waiting for me to just get over it.

    Now, I’ve written a little bit about spirituality, and how I’m waking up to it. I have apologized to the therapist who tried to touch on it, but to no avail as I was neck deep in slapping down anything of the sort, denying my mother, denying my father and of course denying myself in the process.

    But, there is a difference between disagreeing with organized religion for what it is in today’s world and denying one’s own relationship with a spiritual path.  I have a deep concern about the political structures that form in spiritual centers turning them from contemplative paths into bureaucracies filled with human rules, human fears, and yes human hate.

    I understand that “Christianity” is a four letter word in progressive circles, mocked widely and feared deeply by many liberals, and not without reason. I’d say the current image of most American Christians is conservative and intolerant, and that the more progressive Christians don’t get much media time. Liberals and folks focused on secular concerns are rightly worried about encroachment of church and state, but that winds up being hard for those who have a desire for faith. In fact, I’d say it’s hard for progressive people of faith to actually come out and admit it without fear they will be rejected on some level. Which is too bad, since progressive allies are important.

    There is a difference between knowing all that and then still allowing for the spiritual path to present itself. Which was where I was stuck.

    So.

    I’m also a political person, in that I love social justice and follow politics accordingly.

    This link popped up in my feed on Monday. It’s an article by a Christian woman who is a Democrat and believes being a Democrat best exemplifies her faith, sharing how to her, progressive politics are right in line with Christian ideals. Being a good neighbor. Loving one’s neighbor as yourself. Tending to the least of us. I don’t think those things are only Christian. I’d say all our great spiritual leaders have focused on compassion, empathy, the power of love.

    I have a deep deep affection for the wild and radical Christ of my youth, for the writings and actions of Ghandi and MLK and the peacemakers who so well exemplify love and justice. I have deep sadness for how easily good works are turned into bludgeons to support and continue oppression.

    There are Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics in this world who exemplify that poetry, that wild, willful love that surpasses understanding, that radical action of being present for others. That there are such people means that it’s not the religion that’s important, but the actions.

    Actions of love. Compassion. Bearing witness. Community. Justice. Not conversion to a dogma, but an invitation to leave hate behind. To see clearly that greed and power hasn’t always improved things and that it often alienates. To hear clearly the cries of those who need real support, not pills or pablum or pop culture. To speak clearly truth to power and to heed a call of conscience even when the cost is very high, no matter secular or spiritual.

    I think we need to intersect and spiral and learn from each other to change, or we are all lost. I can’t see that fighting between the poles will do any good. For me, it’s going to be outside that entire paradigm.

    God? Who knows? Belief?  I’m not so much worried about faith or belief.

    How we act though, that’s the thing. To each other, to the least of us, to our world, environment, and animals.  Accepting our full selves, our true selves so that we can do that work outside the poles, even if it is hard and even if it means risking rejection from others who prefer the poles.

    No Comments

  • Doing The Work-Archives (8/2/2013)

    I’m happy to report that I’ll be on an extended vacation through the 7th of August, traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be posting some pieces from my archives over the time I’m away, but if anything inspires me, I might throw in a new post or two.

    Humans are messy, but we have so much potential.

    We are all human. We are all messy. We shouldn’t put each other on pedestals but we do, possibly because we know we ourselves would never survive up on them, not without falling. Perhaps we like to see people fall because it makes us feel better about our own flaws.

    We often are afraid to be as beautiful and amazing as we are for fear we’ll falsely set ourselves above, or sometimes we long to get all up on that pedestal and then realize how isolating it is. We suffer when we fall and others laugh and assume it was that we weren’t doing what we were meant to do. We worry we were on the wrong path.

    Pedestals or not, falling or climbing, there is nothing but the path that we each are on. We can fight the path, and become extremely frustrated, or we can accept the cup placed before us or the mantle offered our shoulders.

    This can be a quiet thing. Be a good employee, paint, run Or it can be more visible. Lead, minister, heal. Any path can be subtle with a person simply doing the work, unnoticed, quiet, stalwart or it can be on a more public stage. There really is no difference as one truly never knows what impact one has. A single act of anonymous giving can change a life forever. Spouting off on television might never change a single person. Or both. Or neither.

    It’s important to do the work, no matter the cost, if it really is the work you are meant to do.

    How do you know it’s your work? Your path? As a friend of mine just told me, it might be something that like a frog, keeps jumping into your lap, uninvited, odd, but it doesn’t get the message to go away. It might be something you are terrified of, but chases you down like a hungry wolf. You might think, “This is not for me to do, I’d be too arrogant to take it on.” You might be doing it all along only refusing to see that what you are doing is THE WORK you are supposed to be doing. “It’s just HR/teaching/parenting.” you say to yourself, when everyone else can see it’s a calling. It’s there in your mind and heart when you fall asleep and when you wake up and it wants you to listen.

    It won’t stop calling, is the thing. It will either make you miserable and drive you to abuse something (yourself, others, drink), or it will disallow success in other arenas.

    So what are you waiting for? An invitation? You’ve got one in the path itself and it’s waiting impatiently for you to walk it. Fear of failing and falling? Don’t get up on the pedestal to begin with no matter how tempting. Falling at ground level is a lot less painful! Skill? Skill comes as you walk, so get started and honor your power. Permission? You don’t need it. Those who would stop you are only limiting themselves in their own path.

    Find others who have trod ahead, run and catch up. Hold their hands. Sing some songs as you walk towards your truest self, lighting the way and marking roads that others may follow.

    No Comments

  • Hauntings-Archives (8/1/2013)

    I’m happy to report that I’ll be on an extended vacation through the 7th of August, traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be posting some pieces from my archives over the time I’m away, but if anything inspires me, I might throw in a new post or two.

    Fiction or non, both. A piece about a past love.

    Cross Posted at Good Vibes Magazine and performed at Bedpost Confessions.

    Starfish and Coffee was the song that was playing on a record player the first time I saw him on a dark autumn night. Boulevard in Athens, was where he lived, in a home of peeling white paint, dying jasmine and wisteria tangled in the fence, the smell of dank pine needle scent.

    Boulevard, one of the oldest streets, homes passed down for generations, filled with history, old stories and southern legend, impressions of each of their past residents, if you were sensitive enough to feel them. Boulevard was home to the hip young things renting over-sized historic dens of what currently passed for iniquity.

    His beauty was angelic, inhuman. Not quite of this world. He was friendly but I couldn’t make myself say hello. Tall. Slender, willowy, a slip of a boy, nearly not there, even though he filled a room. Blue eyes, a deep blue, like seawater in the gulf, blond silk crowning his head. A writer and poet, he was gorgeously odd, much like the Prince song playing that night.

    I have no memory of how we got together. Odd, but the first fragment in my mind, is me in his bed running fingers down his legs, seeing stretchmarks there, like scars from quick and sudden pubescent growth. Trailing my hand over his chest, smelling the frighteningly familiar sweetness of his skin, I was overcome by a feeling I’d not yet experienced.

    I’d had lovers before, but the first ones were simply me performing sex. I’d never had any that aroused in me that amazing and overwhelming feeling that is desire. Lust. Hunger. I was unprepared for that hunger, like an uncoiling snake in my belly that filled me out to each limb, each limb a snake with hungry mouths wanting for him.

    He became the perfect boyfriend. Attentive, romantic, silly. There was only this absolute mirror of pleasure. He was whatever I wanted or needed. That enough. But there was the sex.

    Sex was, just like the books said, exquisite.

    Kissing. Sliding into me. Exquisite. His hands, his breath on me, mouths on silky parts. A nearly piercing pointed pleasure at yes, the very center of me. Beyond exquisite, it was addictive. I would have done anything he asked. I did do anything he asked. I offered more and more, opened more of me to him every time we were together. I was shameless, but so naive as to think there was no shame, no limit to any of this, no end to the feeling in my heart and between my legs, lost in passion I was high and innocent and absolutely utterly obsessed. There was only hunger and I did everything I knew to do to please him, to love him to possess him the way I felt possessed.

    As the months wore on, we talked about moving in together. I met his family. He seduced me daily, we spent every moment together. And then suddenly, he was distant, hard to reach. I saw him on campus with another girl.

    It was nothing, he assured me. He was stressed, he said. She was in a class with him. They had a project together.

    On my birthday, he made love to me in his room, naked and panting, candles flickering our shadow puppets on the white old wall, kiwi fruit and our clothes strewn. Tangled in sheets, we made plans to vacation on the coast.

    A few nights later, he came over. He looked strange, no emotion on that beautiful face, and he said, simply, that he didn’t love me anymore. Disbelief. He didn’t love me anymore. I argued. He didn’t love me anymore. I think I actually might have begged like a child. He didn’t love me anymore.

    It was Athens in the late spring and the heat and humidity began. Yards filled with azaleas and dogwoods, storms at 3 pm sharp, water flooding the ancient streets. The wetness of the air mixed with my tears unhinged my mind a little. The bed sponged up my sadness. The air stuck to my skin, filled up my mouth, like the rotting smell of wisteria and jasmine. Insects pregnant with heatbuzz swarmed till they drowned in the electric whine of air conditioners and the cheap chardonnay I drank, as I sat outside on my mother’s porch all night, alone.

    The next month he’d call me on Tuesdays and try to see me, try to get me to sleep with him, and by Sunday he didn’t love me again.

    I went to his house to finally end things and found him, naked and panting, candles and kiwis, clothes strewn, in bed with the girl. Of course. He stared at me, a lightly mocking smile on his face.

    I never spoke to him again.

    A year after that, I moved to Seattle leaving my childhood home due to too many memories, not just of him, haunting me as I’d drive down a street or sit at a cafe, (This Place Was Where We Had Coffee. Here). But every road, every house, lamp post or street sign showed the psychic residue, patterns of conversations, drives, feelings which layered on and on from school, from friends, family, my mother, our escape here after my father died, so much layering that when daffodills bloomed, there was a pall under their cheery gold. This Place Was Tinted With Shadow.

    It was a town that tried to shed like a skin, and I ran filled with a fear of myself I couldn’t comprehend at the time.

    Seattle, which was curved and tall and dark, glinting wet rain and unending darkness, took me in hard and silent, and not six months into my stay there, at a time when I had begun to think of him and my old home with a touch more forgiveness, I got a call that he’d killed himself.

    He had leapt to his death, into a quarry, wrecking his beautiful body on the rocks. He left notes and notes for everyone, including one saying, “Tell Julie, I did love her.”

    The rationalist in me knows that he was suffering from depression and a possible personality disorder, that his great skill was being who everyone else wanted him to be. He was the perfect son, friend, lover until he just couldn’t be anymore. He hurt a lot of people, but he was the one aching, without a core.

    But my darker side (because sex and death are brother and sister twins, and I am prone to darkness) often wondered perhaps he was a ghost from the beginning. A shade, An incubus of sorts filling my body with the utmost pleasure but taking pieces of my heart away with each of my trembles, shivers, sighs. Perhaps each girl he went through, even the one after me, and the one after her, was selected to fill something up in him, something that was needy, empty, alone.

    Darker still, perhaps I’d offered him not love but torment, perhaps I wasn’t a girlfriend but a succubus, drinking my desire out of him until there was nothing left.

    Darkest of all, and perhaps my deepest fear, was that sex itself was the daemon, that the overwhelming desire and longing I experienced came from an untrustworthy source, malevolent, tricksy, cruel.

    Seattle let me heal. The city was glossy and black at night with neon, like glass blown by rough men with callused hands, creating a salty delicate sea creature, vaginal and open. That city brought me grit filled cobblestones, salmon, the sideways shadows of fall, and the cherry blossom snowstorm of spring, and journals, and theaters.

    And love. Real love.

    I did not love easily at that point. I was unsure of how to trust myself to know the difference between real and unreal.

    I found that the beginnings of that difference though, because of my husband. I let him in me, full of light and love and the most resolute realness, a depth of sexual maturity and understanding of pleasure that floored me then and still does. Neither angel nor ghost, but fully human and ready to grow with me, support and confront me, despite how hard times might become, despite how easy things might seem.

    How lucky I was to find him and even more thankful that I possessed the courage to let him enter me softly like rain on forest moss, to let him tangle me up in his strong arms, which like old growth forest, fragrant with life, covered me in nourishing fronds, his persistence and stubborn love like blackberry vines brambled their way into my heart, sweet fruit and thorns, to sit a spell. Beyond exquisite. Real.

    Ironic, for a sexual advocate, I still have the deepest longings for desire, lust, love, pleasure but I haven’t often allowed it, unless I had the most precise trust in the person I was with. Perhaps the lesson of the ghost, that time, those dark wonderings, remains marked inside me like scars from a quick and sudden, and heavy growth.

    My lover, my ghost, died long ago, though he’s visited In dreams, mostly, he’s come to say goodbye. We hug and he’s so entirely beautiful, angelic, he asks my forgiveness, I ask his. And as he walks off I know he’s free, and I know that it may not matter what was real to him, so long as it was real to me. And it was real, what I felt, how I loved. And how I’ve learned to love because of him.

    When I wake, in those moment, I feel lighter.

    No Comments

  • Birds, Bees, Consent-Archives (7/31/2013)

    I’m happy to report that I’ll be on an extended vacation through the 7th of August, traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be posting some pieces from my archives over the time I’m away, but if anything inspires me, I might throw in a new post or two.

    Ever think about how to talk to your kids about sex and consent?

    Originally posted at GoodVibes Magazine.

    Kids. I’ve got them. And everything to do with prepping them for sex ed seemed pretty easy when they were very little. I’ve been a strong proponent of sex educations in the schools, which, if you are from Texas you’ll know isn’t always much. And it’s been pretty easy to think, “I know what to tell my boys.”

    The technical stuff? The ins and outs, so to speak, that’s not hard to discuss. I figure most of us got a decent education one way or the other about what parts go where and why. But one thing that is usually left out of classical sex ed programs, and oftentimes left out of parental Birds And Bees talks, is the conversation about Communication with your sexual partner.

    Think about it. Do we ever tell our kids, “Here’s how you ask your lover what they’d like in bed.” or “Here’s how you read body language.” I don’t recall any such conversations with my highly liberal mother.

    But just like learning how the biology of your body works (to avoid STI’s and pregnancies) is important, so too is the education of how to communicate with each other. About when sex happens. About how sex happens. It’s a skill and a necessary one.

    Enthusiastic Consent is a huge issue right now in the sex positive and feminist world, and one that is truly underutilized in the education of all of us and sexuality and taking care of each other. I have two sons just getting ready to travel through puberty and I’m wondering if we can come up with ways to introduce the concept of enthusiastic consent to them. How blunt to be? How and when do we teach this?

    I mean, my husband and I already have a lot of conversations about consent with kids while they are young. Don’t take your brother’s toys without asking. Return them when he asks. You’ll hear about it from me or your dad if you don’t. If you are roughhousing, pay attention to the point when the laughing stops and the panic begins. Then STOP. Don’t ever be afraid to tell someone to leave you alone. Your body belongs to you.

    But when actual sex is involved, when they are in that stage when they are starting to date and things are getting fraught, how do we talk about sexual and enthusiastic consent with them?

    First of all, I realize as the mother, I may not be the right person to deliver this lesson. Perhaps an uncle or an older family friend should be the messenger of something I think all boys, and all girls and everyone in between should hear. Consent matters a whole hell of a lot, and empathy and awareness of the other person in any relationship matters. The other person is, well, a person. And I want my kids to really know that. I’d like all people to know this.

    So here is a draft of a speech I’m preparing, for them, from me or someone well placed to deliver it when the time is right, which is not now, not yet, but will come, sooner than I am likely ready for:

    “Dear boys. There will come a moment in your life when you will have a partner and you will start to fool around and eventually you’ll have sex. Orgasms are powerful amazing things. There will often be times when they will be so powerful and amazing that the idea of stopping before one happens will seem impossible or like the worst thing happening to you ever in life. Worse than the dentist or PE class.

    And I know how bad you think those things are.

    But the thing is, barring any unforeseen medical issues, you will probably have approximately 20,000 orgasms between the ages of 15 and 75, so if for some reason the partner you are having sex with needs or wants to stop (maybe their back hurts, or they get scared, or they just don’t like what’s going on) you can stop, knowing that you will have another orgasm. Maybe even ten minutes later if things settle down and your partner feels better. So you can wait. You can learn to wait, even though the feeling can seem overpowering. You can learn to wait, so that your partner can catch up.

    You should place your partner’s safety and comfort ahead of your pleasure, and frankly they should do the same for you. If YOU want to stop, you should stop even if your partner gets irritated with you, for they also will be able (generally) to have another orgasm later.

    Sometimes your partner won’t say stop with words. Sometimes it might be a change in their body language or breathing. Ask. Pause. Check in. Also? Have those conversations about communication, about body language, about not being able to read each other’s minds with your clothes on, so you don’t need to worry quite so much when things get more intense.

    At some point you are going to think you are grown up enough to have sex. Good. If you really are that grown up? Then you need to be grown up enough to talk about sex with the person you are going to have it with. To listen to their words and their body. And to have them do the same for you.

    Because both of you should be doing nothing other than really enjoying each other with a big old YES between the two of you. Yes is important. No means No. Pause the action if there is any question about which word is which.
    Now go clean your room.”

    It’s a start and a beginning of a conversation with my kids. I just hope I’m grown up enough to have it.

    No Comments

  • The Work? And The Work. Archives (7/29/2013)

    I’m happy to report that I’ll be on an extended vacation through the 7th of August, traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be posting some pieces from my archives over the time I’m away, but if anything inspires me, I might throw in a new post or two.

    Here’s a piece on how the real work of community doesn’t always happen during the actual tasks.

    Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a weekend retreat for a mid-sized group of people who would be spending the upcoming months together in a work-team of sorts. There were about 80 people and the day was structured around social justice training and committee work.

    At the lengthy lunch break , everyone ate their fill and then broke up randomly into smaller groups. Some played raucous games, some went for a walk. Other sat together and talked quietly while still other individuals read, alone.

    I spoke to another facilitator about how organically the groupings occurred. He agreed that that was where the real work of community building was done; not in the structured exercises or surveys, though certainly learning and growth were produced in that setting.

    But the real work of the team building came from each member reaching out to the others, finding the places where bonding was a natural outgrowth of proximity to time, each other and old-fashioned fun. They spent some time playing in other words. They all came back to the workshop with more energy and connection to each other and in a deeper more fundamentally strong way, than prior to lunch.

    After the lunch break, we pointed out to the group that we noticed their joining and connecting and, as a learning moment, filled them in on the intentional structure of that lengthy lunch break. Ninety minutes is way too much time to eat sandwiches, my colleague said. They got it.

    We need to do the work of building community, organizing others, producing effective programs, but we also need to recognize “the work” (the process of learning about each other and in ways that strengthen our daily tasks) is always happening, even if we don’t see it at the moment.

    No Comments

  • Don’t Sever The Connections-Archives (7/26/2013)

    I’m happy to report that I’ll be on an extended vacation through the 7th of August, traveling in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be posting some pieces from my archives over the time I’m away, but if anything inspires me, I might throw in a new post or two.

    Here’s a piece about connections and keeping them intact.

    When I was a little girl and I’d get into trouble, which I assure was more often than I’m happy about, my mother would often say, “I always love you, but I don’t like what you are doing right now.”

    That’s an amazing thing to tell a kid, I think, for it keeps a connection going between parent and child, but also let’s the rapscallion in trouble know exactly what it is that isn’t working for the parent. It’s the action being dealt with, not the person in total.* It allows a child to decide on how to proceed, while knowing their parent’s love, and at the very least the lines of communication, are there.

    My focus in my work, whether it is my professional career or my artistic avocation, is all about people, their feelings, and their interactions in groups, generally for the betterment of that group or artistic expression. I ponder a great deal about how people’s feelings and dynamics affect the groups and organizations they are in. These things are connected. What’s the old saying about how a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link? I think that holds true in all groups, from families to theater troupes to the work place.

    Oftentimes, the “weakest” link gets dealt with by a group rather harshly. The group itself can experience dysfunction by either placing all their focus on the “problem” in question or by severing a connection completely. Neither option helps further the strength of the individual person or the group. The connection is what matters and the health of the system is only improved when the group is able to stay connected, even while being honest about what is or isn’t working.

    The topic of connection has come up for me twice recently. First, as I came across this amazing article on the power of exclusion and it’s impact on individuals, and second as I’ve been working on a Chronicle blog piece highlighting Atticus Circle’s First Annual Awards Luncheon.

    I recently spoke to one of their guests of honor, Chely Wright. She is a talented musician who has come out in the past year, no small feat for anyone, for coming out of the closet (whether LGBT or otherwise) is a terribly stressful thing to do. In her case though, she came out as a country music star in an industry that has not always dealt favorably with LGBT issues. As we spoke, the theme came up about connection, about feeling so excluded and afraid as a young person and even as an adult, to know that she, like many closeted youth, had a secret that might cost her everything.

    One might ask, why is coming out so hard? There are clearly obvious reasons-your parents might reject you. Your work might fire you. Your social life might suffer. But even in liberal and accepting environments, the stress of coming out, of being honest about one’s self, can be more daunting than just losing a few friends or a job.

    Which brings us back to the article I linked previously. What I found mind-blowing about the it was that for primates at least, the stress of exclusion and ostracism is so profound that it causes actual physical pain. Even more interesting, was that even if you are being excluded by those you don’t respect or care for, the pain of that exclusion is just as profound. Imagine that….you are proudly standing up for what you believe in, and the opposition is angry with you, an opposition you don’t give a fig about, or agree with…you’ll still experience the psychic pain of exclusion.

    Which places many of the leaders of Social Justice movements in even higher esteem in my mind.

    It is such a deep structure in the human animal, that need to be included, that we experience incredible anxiety when we suspect we’ll be rejected for just being who we are. Class. Race. Sexual Orientations and choices. Political stances. Heck, even being that guy that doesn’t want to be on the Company Softball Team runs the risk of losing clout at work if he doesn’t pony up and play.

    What does that anxiety do to our relationships, to our work? How disconected are we from each other when we feel we have to hide the essence of who we are? Even those that are doing the excluding might fear they have something of their own to hide.

    When I think about creativity, generative work, groups of any kind functioning on the highest level, I think that one dynamic in place is the ability of the individuals to be able to stay connected to each other even if they disagree with the actions of each other. If we deny ourselves to each other, and if we threaten to cut off based on our own fears, doesn’t that leave us in a seriously non-creative, non-productive space?

    This of course begs a question in my own mind; Is it ever ok to use the tactic of exclusion? To say, “Because I don’t like what you are doing, I truly don’t love/like YOU.” To exclude and cause another person, one you might eat lunch with, or bowl with, or create projects with, that kind of anxiety just because you don’t understand why they are the way they are. There are clear instances where taking care of the self and safety is paramount, certainly.

    It’s an important question to wrestle with, and my answer tonight is that (generally) severing the connection, while it happens, may well cost me just as much as the person I’m rejecting.

    What about you? How do you keep connection with others even when you are at odds with how they behave and believe? Do you bring your fullest self to the game? If not, what would need to be in place in order to do so?

    No Comments

  • A Must Read: The Worst Of White Folks (7/24/2013)

    Yes, on vacation but I read this and had to share it. A powerful and gorgeously written piece about race and racism in America, by Kiese Laymon, here on Gawker.

    The worst of white folks, I understood, wasn’t some gang of rabid white people in crisp pillowcases and shaved heads. The worst of white folks was a pathetic, powerful “it.” It conveniently forgot that it came to this country on a boat, then reacted violently when anything or anyone suggested it share. The worst of white folks wanted our mamas and grandmas to work themselves sick for a tiny sliver of an American pie it needed to believe it had made from scratch. It was all at once crazy-making and quick to violently discipline us for acting crazy. It had an insatiable appetite for virtuoso black performance and routine black suffering. The worst of white folks really believed that the height of black and brown aspiration should be emulation of its mediocre self. The worst of white folks inherited disproportionate access to quality health care, food, wealth, fair trials, fair sentencing, college admittance, college graduations, promotions and second chances, yet still terrorized and shamed other Americans who lacked adequate access to healthy choices. White Americans were wholly responsible for the worst of white folks, though they would do all they could to make sure it never wholly defined them.

    I’ll be reflecting on this, and the truths in it, for a long time.

    No Comments

  • Welcome To The Club, Tuesday (7/23/2013)

    billiecaintuesdaycainjesusisntadicksokeephimoutofmyvaginaxojane

    So, a young woman showed Texas (and the nation) just how far the insanity of “Christianity” has gone, in this really wonderful article on XO Jane explaining how protesting gets you called a whore by the Religious Right at the Capitol.

    Tuesday Cain wrote up a sign for the recent protests against HB2, and it said, quite bluntly, “Jesus isn’t a dick, so keep him out of my vagina.” I can agree with that statement. Jesus isn’t a dick.

    By my understanding, Jesus was a pretty damn cool person, both radical in his fight against bureaucratic greed and injustice in the church and in his theology of individuals being able to reach god without priests. And you know, stopping adultresses from being stoned, calling out those who would stone her, being compassionate and connected with the poor, infirm, ill, and criminal.

    Jesus, the Jesus I came to know as a child and have since revisited as an adult, would be appalled at what is being done in his name. He might not be surprised given the same old crap was happening in his day, but appalled I am quite sure.

    But many other people became incensed by the sign and started calling her a whore. At 14.

    Tuesday Cain is smart and she’s right on the mark with her anger at her treatment, though this particular baptism by insult is one I hope she can reframe and eventually hold close to her heart as a sign she’s speaking the truth.

    Check out this snippet of Ms. Cain’s piece:

    I have seen anti-abortion protesters at a clinic near our house, and it makes me upset to see women who are facing this hard decision being told that Jesus condemns them.

    I guess I don’t think it seems very Christian to me.

    Then again, neither does calling a 14-year-old girl a whore.

    The first day that we were out protesting at the Capitol, my friend and I took turns holding up the sign I wrote, and an older man came up to us yelling right in our faces. “You two should shave your heads! You should become lesbians! No man will ever want you! You’re ugly!”

    The police had to ask him to stop yelling at us. It was scary. But more than scaring me, what it did was make me feel even more determined to stand up and protest even louder.

    I’m not going to let someone calling me a whore stop me from fighting for what is right for all women. I’m not going to let the bullies win in the fight over women’s bodies.

    And this one:

    I’m done feeling disappointed by these attacks. That is why I’m speaking out — even if I am only 14 years old.

    But the way things are playing out everything feels reversed. Adults are not acting like adults.

    Normally, I prefer to look up to adults as role models. But what is happening in Texas right now it’s hard to find adults who I want to look up to.

    I don’t look up to an adult who is taking away a woman’s right to choose.

    I don’t look up to an adult who is calling a 14-year-old girl a whore.

    I don’t look up to an adult who is screaming in my face and saying I am ugly.

    And I certainly don’t look up to anyone who says they are Christian but treats women the way I’ve been treated these past few days as a teenage girl.

    Damn right she shouldn’t.

    The people insulting her are not behaving in a way that is kind, moral, ethical, loving, compassionate, empathetic, vulnerable, giving, or well, Christian. They are being bullying, manipulative, unkind, hateful, judgmental in the worst way, and cruel. And to this agnostic, acting as devoid of soul as one can get. A recipe to turn people away from the church at the very least.

    This young woman, Tuesday Cain, is amazing. She doesn’t deserve what she’s getting, and I’m glad to see media standing up for her and amplifying her voice.

    All I can say to you, Tuesday, is this:

    You’ve been called a whore as a young woman. I’m sorry and I know it hurts. I’m so proud of you for speaking your mind, for knowing the difference between right and not-right. For having an amazing father who loves you and is standing up beside you. They called you a horrible word, but there is no true surprise there, because any woman speaking her mind, owning her body, claiming rights to her sexuality, being so bold as to talk about God, and speaking out against the status quo has been labeled a whore, a jezebel, a harlot, a slut.

    There are many powerful women who have been called that word, it is a band of holy, sacred, unruly people. I mean, let’s consider the legacy of Mary Magdalene. It’s really not very creative of those that use the slur, considering that’s their main tactic from the last 2000 years, but there it is. So very many of us have been called this word and probably more to come.

    Whore. Which is wrong. Which you are not. But they have no idea what you are. You scare them.

    They don’t understand what they are doing, they really don’t. They are scared because life itself scares them. We all do, just for living and being powerful and not afraid, because they are probably afraid even of themselves and it angers them that we aren’t. That’s not your fault. But you hear the truth and you speak it, and that frightens them so instead of trying to understand? They lash out with the world’s most boring and overused insult.

    Welcome to the club, Tuesday. You are surrounded by the most amazing company. Long may you use your pure, powerful, unruly, creative, and sacred voice to scare the hell out of those who would harm us.

    9 Comments

  • Burn (7/22/2013)

    It has been a very long and tumultuous summer. My mother passed away, my job has been relentless, and of course, there has been The Legislature. The intensity I’ve experienced, in addition to my daily life and work, has been extreme even for me and I’m well aware that I need a break. Burning your candle at both ends and through the middle isn’t good!

    My family and I are going on a long vacation to spend time with friends and family in the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve been looking forward to the trip for so very long. Having a time to retreat, think, reflect, and recover will be very valuable to me. Everyone should get some kind of time off, even if it’s at home.

    As such, I’ve been preparing and packing and part of that is to provide some blog posts from my archives, as I may not be writing much (but who knows, right?). As I was selecting posts I was struck with my recurrent theme of building community, spirituality, connection.

    I suppose that’s my root, yes? How I frame my experience in the world, through a spiritual lens. It’s still strange to me to admit that, to name it, especially since I don’t really go to church, don’t trust religion, don’t believe in some kind of sky god ticking off my good and my bad moments.

    But I do experience the world, social justice, human rights, food, and yes, sex, through a spiritual (and political for to me they are intertwined) lens, even if what I believe in is nothing familiar, nothing religious.

    And that’s ok, if not the most popular choice. Earnestness isn’t cool and finding the spaces outside the poles, dialogue, and the work of peace is damn hard to do, especially when fighting is so much easier. It’s easy to dismiss earnestness. I get it.

    Still, I was struck by this article by a Reverend, who writes for a site called Cabaret Church. His post was about Amanda Palmer and her music. He said this:

    You see, I didn’t go into ministry because I wanted to reenact dusty rituals, all the while keeping my hair neat and my overcoat buttoned. I didn’t go into ministry to write twenty-minute essays more conducive to checking one’s watch than to checking in with the state of one’s soul. I didn’t go into ministry to be considered an employee with a three word job description: keep people happy.

    I went into ministry because I long for transformation. I long for revolution. I am called to make this world better and to heal what brokenness I can. I am called to help create communities that empower all of us to encounter and respond to the All that is bigger than any of us, bigger than all of us, and bigger even than anything we can imagine. I am called to look for and help create communities that are engaged in the work of the spirit together. Communities that are a lot like the crowds at Amanda Palmer concerts or the people telling their truths and tweeting love and support for one another on a Friday night, tagging Amanda in every post.

    I imagine a church where every sweaty, glitter-drenched, dancing body is welcome. I imagine a church that can be loud and bold and angry when necessary. I imagine a church where we notice the many who say, “No one sees me,” and take time to stop, look them in the eye and say, “We see you.” I imagine a church where everyone is invited to not only attend the show, but to be part of it—to engage soul-deep in the art of living an authentic, embodied, meaningful life.

    That’s the church I imagine, thanks to Amanda Palmer. That’s Cabaret Church.

    This is how I feel about Bedpost Confessions, about storytelling, about spaces of rallies and protests, of organizing and meeting, about places of dialogue and seeking. I assume that there are so many people out there who, while secular, long for connection and community and ways to mark important and nodal points in their lives. In my very unstudied opinion, spirituality is NOT religion.

    Spirituality is a moving river and often, what is considered religion (at least to me) is a dusty rocky bed where the river once was. And people wonder why they are still thirsty.

    This is true not just for “church” but for things like pleasure, food, entertainment, sex. We are sold processed foods and told they are things to crave, when freshness and true sensual delights are right there in a garden. We ignore spaces like swimming holes for water parks, we suck up reality television rather than creating our own stories. We think irony and sardonic humor will keep our hearts protected, when it’s often vulnerability and compassion that do the trick. We expect porn to provide connection or education when often it does neither, but the opposite.

    Dusty beds where rivers once ran, and we return to them in search of refreshment. So where is the water that will quench that burning? I’m not sure. I’m really not. But I do think it happens during nodal times like birth, death, passages. In friendships, in subtle moments we’ve trained ourselves to ignore, and in places where we live, in person, with each other.

    The calling towards transformation, revolution, to heal what brokenness, and create communities is real. So many of us feel it and we shouldn’t play it down just because it isn’t “cool.” It’s about the coolest thing we could possibly do, like sparkling water, in my opinion, coolness that perhaps might start salving that burn.

    No Comments

  • On Trayvon (7/14/2013)

    I wish I had things to say that would change things.

    There is a speak out, a protest and rally tonight at the Capitol. If you are in Austin, please come.

    I’m not surprised at the verdict. I’m angry. Sickened, but not surprised. Heartbroken for Trayvon’s family and friends. For my friends who are so very hurt right now. I know my friends are hurting right now.

    I have so much privilege to be able to even lay out my outrage or anger, here. To make a call for change. It seems, I don’t know, arrogant to even write this, as a white person, with so much privilege. Perhaps I shouldn’t. But I write, yeah?

    Still, I am deeply saddened and extremely troubled by the news of last night, and well, the past three weeks.

    Our bodies matter, as do our rights. People of color, members of the LGBT community, women, those of different abilities, atheists or those who don’t “fit” into our proscribed religious expectations…there is a narrow band into which we are supposed to fit.

    People of color aren’t safe with their bodies. Women aren’t safe with their bodies. Our LGBT family is not safe with their bodies. Whose bodies get to be safe?

    We, humans, citizens, family, friends- We deserve to be safe no matter our gender, race, class, orientation or religious affiliation. Race is an issue in the US. Sexism, too. Fear of “the other” is alive and well. What we do about this, as a people, is important.

    And all good that I say this, good for freakin’ me. Many are saying this. Words are great, but only go so far.

    What do we do, what can we do, to truly change this system, a system that seems focused on greed, power, dominance, instilling fear and supporting shame, using racism and sexism and classism against us so that we wind up divided and afraid?

    How do we do our own work on our own fears and emotional/cultural baggage, while dismantling a system that wants to perpetuate all that we say, aloud and on paper, is wrong?

    I don’t have a lot of answers, at least no new ones. I do believe our culture, our world is shifting and all this backlash from the old guard is a part of it. Despite their cruelest efforts, there are millions of people who don’t want fear and shame and isms. People want more and better from each other and from their government.

    It’s a matter of will and of action, I imagine, personal and collective.

    Words only go so far, that’s the truth. Hope and courage in action I often say, but what does that mean? Right now for me it’s the willingness to stay vulnerable, to ally and follow leaders who know better than me what these poison isms have done to all of us, to give away my privilege, to call it out when I see it and to cut the bullshit out.

    A matter of will and willingness, and beyond that I’m not sure. But I do know people don’t want what just happened. And if enough of us want something new and beautiful, write it, say it, paint it, sing it, scream it….If we imagine it, we will create it.

    No Comments


  • See All Posts

    See the archives of all posts