Tag Archives: lesbian

So I guess this is it…

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When I started this blog, the intention was to capture my thoughts and feelings, critiques and celebrations as I went through the wedding process as a lesbian living in North Carolina.

I am thankful I set a cut off date because I never wanted this blog to drag on forever with occasional posts that never mean much to anyone. Nor did I want it to be purely political. It was about all the different parts of my journey up through last Saturday. So I guess this is it, this will probably be my last post. At least until the wedding pictures come in and I can add a slideshow for folks to see.

I learned a lot on this journey, mostly how to be thankful for the folks who never treated my wedding weekend differently than anyone else’s simply because I was marry a woman: Pastor Kelly and my Green Street family, the folks at all three David’s Bridal stores, the caterers, the jewelers,  my family and friends. I learned that sometimes the world is awful to gay folks, but many times it’s not. I found that for me, the actual process of saying my vows and having other community members bear witness to my permanent relationship with Marianne means more than any piece of legal paperwork ever could.

I love you all, I mean it. I’ll still be around in some form or fashion, but for now this is it. There’s an ending here, but it’s also a beginning for me. I quoted bell hooks on the “About” page of this blog She’s also applicable here:

I still think it’s important for people to have a sharp, ongoing critique of marriage in patriarchal society — because once you marry within a society that remains patriarchal, no matter how alternative you want to be within your unit, there is still a culture outside you that will impose many, many values on you whether you want them to or not.

I’m grateful for all this blog’s readers who stuck with me for the past 11 months, encouraged me both in person and through the blogosphere and gave me a reason to continue each week. I sincerely hope that you all gained as much as I did throughout this process.

A 3-minute perspective change

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You’ve got to fight…for your right…well…just for your rights, actually.

Sometimes I love my job as a community newspaper education reporter. I always like it, but today I love it.

I’m writing a story about the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program designed to serve at-risk children who otherwise wouldn’t get a high quality education before they started Kindergarten. Long story short, the N.C. legislature wrote a section in their 2011 budget bill that placed a 20 percent cap on the number of at-risk children allowed to enroll in NCPK, as well as imposed a co-payment on children attending and drastically decreased the NCPK funding. Certain counties challenged the law and in July 2012 a judge ruled that the state was in the wrong – all eligible at-risk children must have access to NCPK with no “artificial barriers” like co-payments. The state balked and appealed the ruling but on Aug. 21, an appeals court upheld the July ruling.

All this matters because if the ruling stands and the state doesn’t appeal it (again), more than 700 children in my county could have access to a high-quality pre-k program they might otherwise never get.

As part of my story, I ended up speaking with Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. State Conference of the NAACP who reminded me how important it is to continue to push for what’s right, regardless of party affiliation.

This shouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat issue. 144 years ago blacks and whites together guaranteed public education to every child (by way of the state constitution).

In the end, Barber said the legislature continues to hurt the most vulnerable in N.C.’s population, the 24.7 percent of the state’s children living in poverty, to protect their own interests.

This is bad for all children at risk. If you help children early, you ensure their success and ensure future of state and county.

Along those same lines, I got thinking about my rights as a lesbian in America. Currently North Carolina has a state legislature who just bullied an amendment that violates my rights through their ranks and got the voters to approve it in May and America is ripe to have the worst federal government in recent history for women and LGBTQ folks if voters don’t pay attention.

If the legislature can’t even abide by what’s been in the state constitution for 144 years, the right to a “basic, sound public education,” then what hope do I have that they will protect my (currently non-existent) rights to love who I want to love and to have all the legal protection necessary to care for my family?

I don’t, so it falls to me and other voters to get informed, educate others and work to gain legal and election victories in November and beyond.

Tuesday I was feeling a bit jaded and over the whole activist thing. Funny how one little three-minute phone conversation can change your perspective.

A Celebration of Blessings for our Committed Relationship

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These were the flowers M gave me for last year’s anniversary – a year to the day we’re getting married.

Our wedding invites and RSVP cards came this weekend.

Once again, we got to highlight the fact that we can’t call what we’re doing a wedding. Because Green Street is a Methodist Church and the UMC doesn’t recognize gay marriage.

When we first ordered our invites, we had to carefully dance around what exactly our ceremony on Saturday is (again). And we finally settled on a Celebration of Blessings for our Committed Relationship

Originally, we sent out our save-the-dates and called it an Act of Civil Disobedience which it was going to be when we were first going to do our ring exchange in front of the church right before the ceremony as a way of highlighting the fact that we’re not equal on so many levels – the church, the state…

But then there was a discussion on how much of the street technically belonged to the church and if having a parking lot vow ceremony technically constituted “using” the church to have a ceremony and would Green Street be in heaps of trouble if someone wanted to pursue it and we didn’t want that and really wasn’t it supposed to be our special day and on and on and on and on and finally M and I made the command decision to say:

Ya know what? Let’s just save everyone trouble and have the ring exchange ceremony the night before at Wake Forest Baptist Church with a small group of people.

Side note: I am thankful that Pastor Kelly and Rev. Angela Yarber are helping us facilitate this double event wedding weekend extravaganza!

So the Act of Civil Disobedience didn’t really apply anymore. That and I think I’m a bit jaded after the loss of Amendment One that I still don’t really want to be an activist right now. Not just because we lost but because Equality N.C. created all these elaborate discussions about how A1 would hurt straight people and we still lost. I wish we had just said that it was about gay marriage – we would have at least lost honestly.

So there it is – A Celebration of Blessings for Our Committed Relationship. With the ring ceremony the night before. It works and it’ll be fine. I just really wish sometimes that the world was different from what it is.

Feminist theory and my marriage

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Marianne had her first theory class tonight and since she is currently reading her homework assignment, I decided to jump back into a little of my favorite feminist theory alongside her. I started with what I know and love – Michel Foucault and Judith Butler.

(Just an FYI, I once read the entirety of Butler’s Undoing Gender during a summer vacation, so yes, I’m kind of a theory nerd).

As I was tooling around the internet looking for stuff by/for/about them (because all of my books are in storage), I came across a piece from Butler’s Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence:

Law itself is either suspended, or regarded as an instrument that the state may use in the service of constraining and monitoring a given population; the state is not subject to the rule of law, but law can be suspended or deployed tactically and partially to suit the requirements of a state that seeks more and more to allocate sovereign power to its executive and administrative powers. The law is suspended in the name of “sovereignty” of the nation, where “sovereignty” denotes the task of any state to preserve and protect its own territoriality. 

Basically perfect for where Marianne and I are on our journey toward relationship legality. At every turn it seems the state does something to keep us as lesbians ( or any homeosexual) in check – to get a name change we need a whole host of legal documents – yet the state does not demand any of that from certain other citizens – say a woman who marries a man. What makes the straight woman any less of a threat than us? She could just as easily be running from the law or assuming a new identity for any number of nefarious purposes as we could.

The second part of Butler’s quote is applicable as well, gay marriage accross America could be allowed tomorrow but it currently doesn’t suit the best interest of the state, America, for a number of resons – economically, politically, morally.

The biggest point of Butler’s peice is this I think – rules are arbitrary and only used when they serve the best interest of the state. Individuals don’t matter and until the state sees a useful purpose for allowing gays the right to marry, it seems we’re kind of stuck.

Practically, this means M and I are stuck waiting another six months to begin the name change process. Seems “the state” requires us to live here for at least that long. Boo hiss.

Excuse me, who is obsessed with my sexuality?

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Editor’s note: Today would normally be a Sunday News Round-Up day, but instead of trying to quickly find all of the news I didn’t have time to read this week, I’ll just give you one blog post, in it’s entirety, that I did read. Because it’s that good.

Excuse Me, Who is Obsessed with my Sexuality?

by Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

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I recently broke up with my oldest sister on Facebook.

You have to understand my sister. She is a right wing, dyed-in-the-wool, Bible-believing fundamentalist Christian Republican. She believes, as she has stated on my Facebook threads, that if President Barack Obama is reelected, he will no longer be a “secret” Kenyan-born Muslim, but instead will reveal his true Muslim identity and force all American women to wear burqas. She also believes he is a socialist, fascist, communist who will lead the government to take over all facets of American life, suspend the Constitution and force us all to eat broccoli and exercise at least 30 minutes a day whether we want to or not. OK, perhaps those last two are a stretch, but she has said that the government can’t tell her what to eat.

I always dread the notification that she has replied to one of my posts. It’s the same feeling I get when I have to go to family functions and deal with her face-to-face — a sense of overwhelming doom that I will be pummeled unmercifully with “facts” from FOX News. I was raised a polite Southerner, which keeps me from walking out of the room when all this starts. My partner, who is not a native Southerner, has no compunction about evacuating the room when my sister starts in on the crazy.

A kind therapist of mine suggested that I set boundaries with my sister, telling her that I preferred not to talk about political or religious subjects with her, which really just leaves the weather as a hot topic.

“That won’t make her stop,” I sighed.

“Then you can walk out of the room without being rude,” my therapist said, “because she’s the one rudely ignoring your boundary.”

Again, I sighed, but on Facebook that fateful day, it all clicked into place. She had been posting her usual nonsense on a political post and I politely (as politely as you can on Facebook) asked her to unsubscribe from my feeds and stop posting on my status updates and links. If she didn’t, I firmly told her, I would unfriend her, which is the Facebook equivalent of walking out of the room.

She sent me a long, personal message expressing her hurt feelings and accusing me of hating her. She would, however, comply with my request.

Then she dropped the bomb.

She accused me of having a “myopic view/obsession” about being gay. There it was, the crux of the problem in our relationship. She has no idea why it is so important to me to constantly talk about being gay, to constantly talk about marriage and other rights denied to gays and lesbians. Because in her view, being gay is not “something God endorses.”

Suddenly, I completely understood her “side” of the argument against gays and lesbians — and it comes from an equally, if not more, “myopic view/obsession” with being straight and/or a deeply conservative Christian.

In my reply to her, I tried to spell it out as clearly as I could: I am not “obsessed” with my sexual orientation by choice — any more than I actually chose my orientation in the first place. Every single gay or lesbian person who is concerned with any part of their lives is forced by society and the church to be “obsessed” with their sexual orientation.

I would love to live in a world where my sexual orientation did not matter. I would love it if society and the church never thought to ask, or shrugged and moved on when they found out. But I don’t live in that world. I live in a world where, no matter how many years my partner and I live together, and no matter how many legal documents we compile between us, we will always be strangers under the law.

We may have wills, body disposition papers and other documents stating what we want done with our property, bodies and other worldly possessions, but all of those are up for grabs when family members smell money. Those legal documents don’t stand a chance in a homophobic court system, especially here in the South, so don’t tell me I can cobble together enough ad hoc legal protection to mimic marriage rights. It’s impossible.

Society also won’t let me forget about my sexual orientation when I go to work. In right-to-work states, I can be fired from my job just for being a lesbian — or even being suspected of being one. More forward thinking companies are actually offering health benefits to same-sex partners, but we’re taxed heavily on this “benefit,” thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits federal recognition of even legal same-sex marriages.

Society won’t turn a blind eye to my sexual orientation in other legal matters like hospital or jail visitation rights with my partner, especially if “real” family members object and even if I have a medical power of attorney. Again, we’re strangers under the law, no matter how many years you’re together or how many documents you produce to swear what your intentions are toward one another.

If we wander on over to the church building, we find, once again, it is the institution that refuses to ignore my sexual orientation — and in some cases, my gender. There are many churches that, based on their view of Scripture, would refuse to have me for a member, let alone a deacon, board member, elder or, heaven forbid, the pastor. Many mainline churches have stepped up in the past few years and embraced openly gay and lesbian members, leaders and clergy — but that’s only because our community has been successful in its “obsession” about moving the church forward.

But I get my sister’s blindness on this issue. Her life doesn’t have to revolve around her sexual orientation because society has accepted her lifestyle as “the norm.” She doesn’t have to think about “coming out” at work or paying steep taxes to get on her spouse’s medical insurance, or who may take away her right to make those heart wrenching decisions when a spouse is sick or incarcerated.

She doesn’t have to worry about which church will condemn her for simply walking in the front door. She doesn’t have to do her homework on churches in her community and find one that will accept her. All she has to do is see “Southern Baptist” or some other mainline denomination’s marquee and she can walk in the door without fear of being a theological outcast.

In short, her “obsession” with being normal blinds her to the very real truth about how minorities are treated by the church and society she swims unconsciously in every single day. She has the luxury of telling people like me to sit down, shut up and get over it. If I just stopped being gay, she reasons, I’d have all the same rights she has, so she can’t understand where her little sister has gone — choosing this life of obsession over sexual orientation instead of the normal life that church and society offers everyone.

I get it. She, along with many other heterosexuals, believe that gays and lesbians can change, so the laws don’t need to. But that doesn’t make her right. It simply makes her like Pat Robertson, who just told gays and lesbians to “shut up” until they can get together and make a baby. If that’s not being obsessed with your sexual orientation, I don’t know what is. People who can make babies together are normal, people who can’t aren’t and they need to just shut up. (Wonder if that means infertile heterosexual couples, too?)

Well, we won’t shut up. Their protests simply mean there’s more education for the LGBT community to do around the reality of our lives. But we also have to realize that there will always be people like my sister who, despite all the evidence to the contrary, will continue to believe gays and lesbians are simply obsessed with their sexuality, and refuse to see it is really the heterosexual community who is obsessed with our sexuality. They will never sit down and shut up — and neither will we.

Gratefully annoyed

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If I had one of those office magnet things that would allow me to choose my mood, today I would be gratefully annoyed.

Since moving to Greenville, most everything Marianne and I have tried to get as a couple has worked out. My work offers partner health benefits, the East Carolina University fitness center was going to let me join under the spouse designation, and now that we have the paperwork for our legal name change even that seems to be moving forward.

What I realized tonight though, was that we had to pass some sort of litmus test for all of these things:

  • My work had me a sign a statement, under threat of job loss if I lied, that M and I met a certain number of requirements to be considered a couple and thus she be eligible for partner benefits;
  • The fitness center was much the same, it seemed to be predicated on how long we had been together;
  • The Clerk of Courts basically told Marianne with a wink and nod where to find the paperwork online because Pitt County doesn’t provide it over-the-counter.

While I am grateful that we “passed” all of the required tests to qualify for what we needed, I’m annoyed because you wouldn’t ask a married couple these questions. married is married is married. For two days or two months or two years. Married is married. Which is why the USA just needs to get on the ball and allow all folks to get married to whom we want.

Beyond that, I am super annoyed that all of what I we have since qualified for has been because of whom we’ve spoken with:

  • Let’s assume that I didn’t know to ask about partner benefits at work and the HR manager didn’t tell me they were offered – it’s quite possible that she would be stuck with the super-expensive insurance provided by the graduate school;
  • Or if Marianne had spoken with someone else at the fitness center who didn’t think that gay couples ought to have the same rights as straight couples,  especially because ECU as a whole doesn’t offer partner benefits and it’s possible the worker M spoke with was being nice – I may not have been allowed to join the gym;
  • And it seems that which counties in NC allow people to get the legal name change paperwork at the Clerk of Courts office is totally arbitrary, Pitt County doesn’t, Forsyth County requires you to have a lawyer get it, but Wake County puts it online. Had the worker in the office the day Marianne went to ask for the paperwork not been as helpful as she was we would probably be hiring a lawyer at this point to walk us through the process.

So that’s where I am, gratefully annoyed. Grateful that we have been together long enough to qualify for most of what we need, but super, super, SUPER annoyed that even after M and I have our Ceremony of Blessings for our Committed Relationship, we still won’t be married “enough” to do us much good at all.