Ellen and the New Age of Uncle Tomism

Be kind—Ellen’s simplistic, almost childlike solution to all the world’s problems. The problem with that is what it really accomplishes is minimizing serious issues that require serious attention. Take the current fight for LGBTQ equality. For some Americans this isn’t just a matter of agreeing to disagree on a difference of opinion. This is a matter of personal freedom, safety, and the ability to earn a living, and the ‘be kind’ mantra makes those fighting to correct this problem seem like crybabies.  

I get that all poor Ellen wanted to do that day was watch a pro-football game in luxury box seats surrounded by other elite, filthy rich people, but the fact is, whether she likes it or not, she’s an LGBTQ icon. She doesn’t get to enjoy the publicity of cozying up with her former-president friend, George W. Bush, without having to issue a statement justifying her refusal to call her friend out on his rampant anti-LGBT bullshit during his presidency. I mean didn’t sitting next to him with her wife make her think, This fucker actually tried to alter the fucking U.S. Constitution so Portia and I could never be married? Apparently, when you’re a multi-millionaire insulated by celebrity and privilege that doesn’t occur to you. (Click link for article)

https://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/02/24/elec04.prez.bush.marriage/

What her recent photo op has done for me is force me to confront my own perspective on the meaning of friendship and the mistake I’ve been making with some of my own friends over the last three years. As kids you assume—hell, you shout it from the highest mountain—that true friendship means your friends will walk through fire with you, no matter what.

However, I’ve come to realize that as an adult, I’d been holding on to a childlike, romantic fantasy about what I should be able to expect from friends. And I have to admit it’s been a jagged nacho to swallow.  

I’m reminded of a time in early 2016 when a friend had expressed to me how sad it made her to learn that I had to hide who I was in high school in the 80s and that she wished I told her I was a lesbian, so she could’ve stood by me. Moments later, she proceeded to debate me about why Donald Trump would make an excellent president. A rather mixed message I’d say, one that I’ve never quite figured out how to interpret beyond the expression, “put your money [vote] where your mouth is.”

I’ve been able to bargain away the apathy of my friends who indirectly support the prejudices and inequity touted by the Republican party by assuring myself that if those Alt-right/evangelical kooks ever do get their way and gays are suddenly likened to Jews during Hitler’s reign in Europe, those friends would be there for me, risking their own safety to hide me in their attic. I’d like to think that, but if they’re not willing to stand up for me when it would cost them than nothing more than a vote that technically doesn’t even count living in Connecticut… (now, Jean. That’s just crazy talk.)

Politics aside, I know that if I needed money or a place to stay or a table to have a holiday meal at, my friends would be there for me without question. I love when we drink, gossip, and laugh, and that we all share a long history, but sometimes that nostalgia comes at an emotional cost for me.

Maybe it’s true that the older people get, the more conservative they become. Not everyone has the courage to be like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, the white civil rights student activists who died alongside their black friend, James Chaney, in Mississippi in 1964, murdered by white supremacists the same year President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. (Click link for Freedom Summer Murders article)

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/freedomsummer-murder/

I try to imagine myself in a Handmaid’s Tale scenario and wonder if I’d be brave enough to fight to the death for my rights. I honestly don’t know, but there’s something romantic as hell in Patrick Henry’s quote, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I can say without an iota of doubt that if a political party was targeting a specific group of Americans, especially one to whom my friends belonged, I would absolutely renounce that party and stand by them, walking the walk, until that party changed their destructive beliefs. That’s the only way it will be stopped and the social tide of ignorance, bigotry, and oppression be turned.

But that’s a perspective I’ve gained belonging to a targeted group, and one perhaps others not in my shoes can’t grasp deeply enough to be motivated into action.

I can’t help wondering if those who espouse Ellen’s ‘Be kind’ slogan would also expect people of color to remain friends with someone who suddenly, casually announced they’ve become a white nationalist. Is it okay then to say “fuck being kind and fuck you for not having my back?”

I get why they say friends shouldn’t discuss politics. It slaughters that big pink elephant of delusion in the room we humans so desperately need to function in life. But as mature adults in a complicated world, we can’t fully put politics aside. Like it or not, they are an indicator of our personal values, and values are vitally important when it comes to who you confide in and spend precious time with.

And yes, Ellen. I will absolutely be kind to anyone, until I learn that person is an active participant in the systematic oppression of LGBTQ Americans. Then I say, “Fuck you. You don’t deserve my kindness.”

Frankly, I think it’s irresponsible of Ellen, a role model to many young people, to suggest that they owe their oppressors, bullies, or even friends unconditional kindness. Sounds kind of Uncle Tomish to me. Instead, why not encourage young people to politely call out those people for the damage their actions or words bring upon others?  

The impassivity and indifference that arise from the “agree to disagree” cop-out enables a dangerous paradox. The level of it I’ve seen in the last few years from wise and compassionate people clearly elucidates why social justice movements usually take 75 to 100 years to realize change. When you’re not part of the targeted group, it’s so much easier to sip your cocktail and pretend the problem isn’t as urgent as the whiny liberals make it out to be.

Kindness, like respect, must be a two-way street. I refuse to stay quiet for the sake of anyone’s feelings while my own government tramples over me and those who claim to love me enable it. My days of martyrdom to make others comfortable are over. And if someone ever sits me next to an anti-LGBTQ policy or lawmaker, bet your ass, I’ll kindly ask them to explain their position. Like someone with Ellen’s level of power and influence should’ve done.

As for the folks who think opening your mouth against people who tolerate injustice and discrimination against LGBTQs is unkind and unreasonable, perhaps you might consider redirecting your frustration toward the groups who are the cause of it. Then we’ll be back on the same page again, agreeing to disagree about stupid, inconsequential shit, the way friendship was meant to be.

A Mammo & Ultrasound Once Every Spring ☢… These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Last month I went for my annual mammogram. It’s supposed to prevent women from dying horrible, prolonged, and expensive cancer deaths, so health insurance companies rigorously encourage us to be proactive in maintaining our good health. In addition to the mammo, my health care providers insist I get a companion ultrasound because my titties are as thick and fine as a Kardashian’s ass.

So imagine my surprise when I received a claim recap a few weeks later saying that I’m responsible for approximately $434 of that highly-encouraged preventative care. I didn’t elect to have this procedure, so how could I be charged for preventative care when my insurance plan covers preventative care? I suppose the answer lies ensconced deep within the massive ball of red tape inside any insurance conglomerate. The culprit who made this seemingly arbitrary determination must be a vindictive member of the Itty-Bitty Titty Committee. Or a man. I’ll wager my bloated co-pay on the latter.

This got me thinking how many other financial penalties do I pay just for being a woman?

First, I analyzed the expenditures men incur simply being men. As with women, whatever extra expenses men pay usually pertain to their nether regions. However, their cost is significantly lower and for less consistent lengths of time. As I discovered once browsing a local hardware store, (yes, some lesbians really do enjoy that), some men suffer a tragic condition known as “monkey butt,” a cutsie way of saying chafed ass crack. But that’s only some men, usually men who work strenuous jobs where they work up a good sweat on the daily. Okay. A tube of that magic balm costs them about $7.99 and probably lasts a good six months, depending on how much they sweat or how big their asses are.

Now if you’re a male athlete, you’ll incur the expense of protecting and preserving any and all things testicle-related. You’ll need the jockstrap costing between $8.99 and $25.00, depending on the brand. And you’ll probably also need that special ball powder to keep your mushy little corn hole bag dry during those intense “ball” games. (See what I did there?) And then possibly a can of jock itch spray—if that’s still a thing? It’s been a long time since I had teenage brothers. After thorough research, my findings conclude jock itch spray is indeed still a thing, and it’ll run you about 12 bucks. Again this is probably only a once annual expense, depending on how much you sweat or…  how big your balls are?

In either case of monkey butt or athlete’s crotch, men do not suffer these conditions consistently for forty years of their lives as women do with menstruation. I’ll bet there’s even an impressive percentage of men out there who’ve never been affected enough by either affliction to require forking over lots of their own money to treat it.

The Whole “Package” Probably Runs Ya About $40

That brings me back to the women. (Sounds like a country song I could write about my life, but I digress). Here’s a quick and dirty rundown of the expenses women must pay simply by virtue of being women. Foremost, nearly every woman will require pads and/or tampons monthly for a span of about forty years, give or take, with only a small percentage of women who may have medical issues that stop menstruation.

The Huffington Post broke down the average lifetime cost of a woman’s period in an eye-opening 2015 article:

18 grand for a plumbing system I’ve never used? Are you fucking kidding me? 🤦‍♀️

Special Footnotes for the Fellas:

*Panty liners = Think drip pans during your driveway oil changes

*Chocolate = If you think chocolate isn’t an essential for survival during a period, try taking that candy bar out of your lady’s hand and see what happens.

Currently, there’s a push in the US to get public schools to pay for sanitary products for students, replacing the pay dispensers in the girls’ bathrooms. This sounds like a no-brainer. It’s a health and sanitary necessity. To my knowledge nobody in the history of public schools has ever had to pay for their own toilet paper. Why should girls have to pay extra for what their bodies naturally expel once a month? New Hampshire is one state that’s, as usual, ahead of the curve. (Click link below for article)

https://www.vnews.com/N-H-passes-law-requiring-public-schools-to-provide-free-pads-tampons-in-bathrooms-27066373

Again, the cynic in me raises an imperfect eyebrow and posits that if boys started bleeding from their wieners once a month, Congress would call an immediate special session and vote on free wiener pad funding for all public schools nationwide in a hot minute.

Other than that, medications for erectile dysfunction, (a judgment by God… just kidding 🤣 ), are covered in full by most health insurance plans.

But wait. We’re not done with the women expenses. Here’s a list of sometime incidentals specifically associated with the female anatomy as comparable to the above man list:

  • Menopause: If you’re like me and at the stage of perimenopause where the symptoms are irritating enough to entertain OTC remedies before you dive right into the prescription HRT that has long been suspected to cause certain cancers, your average cost for a 30-day supply of an OTC supplement is between $10-25. For you mathematics enthusiasts, you can multiply that cost times 12 and then that number by 5 because that’s how many years the average menopause takes. (Approx. $800)
50 is the New $21.99. Per Month. For Menopause Supplements. 😣
  • Sanity Maintenance: I would be remiss if I did not include the additional cost of alcohol and/or sedatives necessary to survive some days living as a woman in a man’s world, (i.e. mansplaining, manspreading, man making more money for doing the same job). These supplies are especially crucial for women raising children. (Wine costs incalculable unless you’re Rain Man.)
  • Cooch Care: Lest we forget the colorful array of conditions that can arise merely from having intercourse with men, delightful things like UTIs or vaginal bacterial imbalances or STDs that can result when men don’t wear condoms. All of these will require some type of treatment as they rarely go away by themselves. (Thank you, dear Sappho, for exempting me from at least one of these groups.)

Women’s rights advocates have spent the last fifty or so years unpacking and debating the importance of gender equality, how women can do anything men can do and should be compensated equally for it, and so on. But when will gender equity have its day? When will society realize that things like feminine sanitary products and ultrasounds for at-risk women and other expenses relating to proper health care are not luxuries women can live without? They are not incidentals that result from something that a woman chooses to do, like, for instance, participate in sports.

We have a long-standing tradition in this country among law and policy makers of ignoring these extra financial burdens on women, yet the moment a treatment for a penis-related crisis like ED arises, insurance is on top of it without question.

The battle still rages on.

So until women achieve full gender equity, each time I catch a male stealing a glimpse of my ample, expensive-to-keep-on-the-road titties, he’s getting a “sir” charge just for being a man. It’s not fair and it’s not right, but neither is making girls who aren’t even old to get jobs pay for sanitary products. Or insurance companies telling a woman she needs preventative care and then using evasive tactics like arbitrarily designating the costlier preventative procedures as non-preventative care to avoid paying claims.

As for the ladies who may sneak a peek at my dense, dazzling duo, this one’s on me. You pay for enough already. 😘

Follow Jean on Twitter @jeaniecopes and Insta @jeaniecopesauthor

The October 8th Ruling: Ghoulishness Even Scarier than Halloween 🕸☠

As the leaves perform their leafy magic, and the October 1st tax increases loom here in the Constitution State, I’m commiserating with those eager to flee Connecticut because of high taxes and seemingly endless budget deficits. Another of Connecticut’s nicknames, the “tax you to death,” is no doubt well-earned.

However, unlike most of my compatriots who dream of or are actually planning a move to a more financially stable state, I know I won’t be leaving any time soon, for one, because I’ve already adapted to the $.10 plastic bag tax, never having been a fan of seeing them flap in the wind from bare tree branches in winter. But the reality is I can’t leave, not if I want to continue having the audacity to live as an out lesbian and be a public school teacher.

Currently, in nearly thirty states in this “free” country of ours, I can be fired from my job for living openly as a lesbian. All it would take is a complaint or two from parents, and suddenly, my livelihood is in jeopardy because, in certain parts of the US, I’m viewed as unfit to educate children. My lifestyle is immoral, and according to some serious right-wing extremism, I may be secretly pushing my gay agenda on impressionable youngsters—as if we could win free timeshare points for every kid we recruit. I wish. 

On the Weekends We be Extra!

Now this may sound like the plot of an old black and white movie about rampant bigotry in the pre-Civil Rights South, but it isn’t. This is 2019. And while, it’s long been illegal to fire African-Americans from their jobs simply because they’re black, it is still legal to dismiss members of the LGBTQ community if an employer feels that our lifestyles conflict with their religious sensibilities. This is because the LGBTQ community is not specifically listed as a protected minority in the Civil Rights Act pertaining to job discrimination.

Atticus Finch, where are you?

But on October 8, 2019, our Supreme Court will issue a highly consequential ruling that will either change that or solidify it. And frankly, I’m terrified of the possibility of it being solidified, as it is a ruling that will likely stand for the rest of my life. (click link below for article)

https://www.businessinsider.com/lgbtq-employment-supreme-court-cases-explainer-2019-9

What that means is I’m stuck here in Connecticut, the tax-you-to-death-state because it’s one of only about twenty that have legislated equal rights for its LGBTQ citizens in all aspects of our lives. In essence, the ridiculously high taxes most residents here view as an unjust burden, I view as “protection money” so to speak, like one would pay to mobsters or prison gangs—money that I shouldn’t have to part with, but if I want the dignity to live and work safely and in true freedom, money I must pay.

So to anyone who still thinks presidents and politicians have no say in Americans’ civil rights, let me remind you once again that they do. Had Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell not obstructed President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, I wouldn’t be quite so riddled with anxiety right now awaiting my fate as it now rests in a majority of justices whose ideological beliefs mirror the conservative anti-LGBTQ values that continue to oppress us. 

I have to admit that it requires more mental energy than I care to expend to process living in a country where my access to equal protection under the law has to be voted on every few years. The angst is worse than trying to choose the quickest checkout lane in a grocery store during the busiest time of day. But at least if I pick the wrong lane, the worst thing that can happen is my rotisserie chicken won’t be as warm as I’m hoping when I get it home.

Get it while it’s hot!

If the Supreme Court chooses the wrong lane on this issue, I won’t ever bring home a warm rotisserie chicken again. As I count down to their decision on October 8th, I can’t help contemplating how I will feel should they rule in favor of discrimination instead of equality. How shitty will it be if I’m condemned to live the rest of my life in a state I may not choose to because in over half of all the other states, I’ll still be regarded as a second-class citizen?

So from now until October 8th, while you’re getting all curmudgeony that your trip to Shop-Rite now costs you $.30 more, be glad you’re not standing with me in the express lane to inequity. And if you decide that you’re fed up paying all these taxes and want to evacuate the state like a refugee of an economic disaster, be glad your main concern won’t be finding a state where something as insignificant as who you love can cost you your career.

Jean Copeland is a high school English teacher and award-winning lesfic novelist from Connecticut.

Shop her books: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Copeland/e/B00P7YT9DS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

The Anniversary of a Promise 🤞

Twenty-nine years ago today I started a job I didn’t want in a career I wanted even less. I remember the day as if it were yesterday for both the warm, sunny late summer weather outside and for the dark, depressing pall of doom that hovered over me inside the building. I didn’t want to be a receptionist.

At twenty-one, I wanted to be an actress or a screenwriter—my heart knew it, my soul knew it, and my Leo astrological sign knew it best of all. That was my destiny, to embark on a journey of creative exploration through which I could reach the masses, not as a mere computer keyboard-poking paper pusher.

The screenplay I had written a year earlier and a literary agent in Texas had agreed to represent, not surprisingly, was not picked up for production by a Hollywood studio, so after a year under contract, the agency had returned the manuscript to me with their warmest regards. Dejected, bordering on despondent but still living with my parents, I felt obliged to at least try to assimilate like a normally functioning adult in the working world.

And so it was, the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend 1990, I sat down at my new post at the Fuchs Lubricants Co. reception desk, a job handed me by a friend who was headed off to her senior year in college, and tried desperately not to bawl my eyes out. The thought of eight hours a day, five days at week staring at fake plants, 1970s interior décor, and the faces of a bunch of adults with that definitive look of having given up long ago, loomed over me like the Grim Reaper of hopes and dreams.

Seriously? A lesbian working for a company called Fuchs Lubricants?

I don’t remember anything of what was said to me that first day or what I’d said to others, but I remember each syllable of the promise I’d made to myself. “This isn’t forever.” I’d whispered it aloud as I willed my eyes not to pool and dug deep within my self-preservation reserve for something, anything to help me believe it.

But it wasn’t easy.

Life, low self-confidence, and the lowest of expectations anchored me in the job for the next thirteen years. As the years went by, I feared that this was indeed my manifest destiny. My heart never accepted it, but my brain, ever the realist, observed, as each year came and went, the light of the hope of future greatness dimming ever so gradually until it finally went black.

That was about when my life partner at the time rigorously encouraged me to quit my wretched employment and embark on a new journey toward a profession that would bring me at least enough fulfillment that I’d stop coming home each night and making her life miserable with a never-ending litany of job complaints.  

When I reached the stage where even I couldn’t stand myself anymore, I took the dive—quit the security of that full-time position, endured the culture shock of full-time college campus life, and somehow found the self-discipline to do at thirty-three years old what most people were doing at twenty. The end result? I became an English teacher. Huzzah!

Almost exactly fifteen years to the day I’d nearly surrendered all my dreams to a steady paycheck and impressive health benefits package, I’d finally made good on the promise I’d made myself that sad day in 1990.

I was now a high school English teacher…a nervous high school English teacher who needed to get a Master’s degree to keep her full-time position.

Enter the creative writing program at Southern CT State University. Again forced into something I probably never would’ve pursued through my own volition, I opted for the creative writing thesis to avoid having to take two extra classes. During that time, I gave birth to my first “child,” the thesis novella that would become the coming out, coming of age Goldie award-winning lesfic novel, The Revelation of Beatrice Darby.

Biggest, Bestest Surprise Ever!

Now as I observe the twenty-ninth anniversary of the most important promise I’ve ever made, I write this to commune with all those who’ve ever promised something to themselves and have made it happen, are still waiting to make it happen, or have simply never had the inspiration to make a promise to themselves at all. To all of you, I say make the promise, and for fuck’s sake, keep the promise! No matter how long it takes, remember what you wanted, remember what you felt you deserved from this life and scrounge up the fucking the courage, whether you beg, borrow, or steal it, to make it happen.

At age fifty, am I the rich, famous writer I’d fantasized about being as a kid? Fuck no. But I’m living my best life, and I make no apologies and harbor no regrets.

I teach, I write, and I live. What more can I ask of this crazy, messy cluster fuck of an existence than to be free enough to allow myself permission to feel satisfied with myself and my life at the end of each day?

Shop Jean’s novels at:

https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Copeland/e/B00P7YT9DS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

50 Years of F*cknuttery: What it Took Me Half a Century to Learn

Now that AARP has seduced me into its cult of early-bird specials and discounted movie passes, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the past fifty years of life in this kooky world and share my musings with you all.

As we know, the ideal beginning for young people includes following a linear course in life, aspiring to make wise choices that will guide them down the path of least resistance. And then there was me. I was the one always veering off the road into ditches or getting stuck in the vortex of those vexing rotary circles at every opportunity.

At 16, little did I know that I was gathering up a cache of fucks that would haunt me for the next 25 years.

Robert Frost suggested that taking the road less traveled made all the difference. However, at times I’ve posited that the reason the road was less traveled in the first place was because most people were smart enough to avoid it. It’s overgrown and littered with the fuckery of such things like incompetent people rising to the top and the exasperating inanity of perpetually picking the slowest line in the store or the lane of traffic zipping along only to grind to a halt the moment I switch into it.

No matter what I did, it seemed I was destined to do it ass-backwards. Even my early educational path was obstructed with dubious choices. Later when I got my shit together, I’d think, dammit, if I knew then what I know now I would’ve installed myself in an all-girl college and joined the field hockey team. But nope. By the time I realized I wanted to finish my college degree, I was almost old enough to play the Rodney Dangerfield role in Back to School. Yes, I eventually earned my master’s degree, but what had I missed out on taking such a divergent path? A big lez-fest of sorority house pillow fights in our bras and panties? Or was that just lesbian pulp fiction wishful thinking?  

Missed opportunities in Sapphic experimentation aside, by the time I’d turned 40, my “happily ever after” long-term relationship had ended and my life had become a cliché in desperate need of a total reboot. Ironically, the evil empire that is Facebook would be my deliverance, and I would never again doubt the power of female friendships, both old and new, in enhancing the enchantment of life’s journey.  

Now as I turn 50 (insert Sally O’Malley impression here), I feel like I’ve finally learned the most practical and beneficial of life lessons. I’ve come to realize that every time I gave a fuck about the minutia in life that won’t matter a year, a month, or a week from now, I was giving away a piece of my joy. Recently inspired by the self-help idea Du jour of “decluttering,” this year I decided to declutter my vast collection of fucks to free up space for more joy. Yes, when I’d used up the last fuck on something like feeling the need to apologize simply for being me, I vowed that once my fuck reserve had been depleted, I would not restock. 

When I say I’ve defucked my life, I’m not talking about the simple daily fucks one needs to give as a member of a civilized society so we’re not banished to the colonies—things like caring about my career, my loved ones’ and my health, and recycling so that I’m not part of the army of douchebags who continue to leave their toxic footprint on the necks of our future generations. I’m talking about the big, festering, self-defeating fucks we store up and then expel in the form of crippling guilt and anxieties. Women worry much more than men that on any given day we’re failing everyone around us or that we’re not measuring up to some ridiculous, idealized expectation society uses to oppress us. Then we allow those fucks to sit there on our shoulders, weighing us down, stiffening our backs, and upsetting our stomachs. Those are the fucks from which I have resolved to divest myself.

For some reason Millennials have been able to figure this out with their “Imma do me” mantra that often irritates the shit out of elders around them. Maybe what we are so annoyed with is that these young’uns have reached this level of clarity a lot sooner than we have and thus, will enjoy many more years of living their best lives. 

But now I’m sounding like the fuck of bitterness has perched itself on my shoulder. So do you know what I’m going to do? Flick that fuck right off me and remind myself of my own mantra, “what is.” That’s the tricky part. When the fucks land on you, you can’t allow them to roost. You must be mindful to shoo them away like a horsefly at the beach the minute they alight on you, trusting in your new fuck-free existence.

Now that I am further out than in, I approach all things with a hearty helping of perspective. While I’ve not yet entered that Zen zone of total enlightenment and still drink too much craft beer and laugh too hard when someone farts, I know that I’m doing the best that I can. Some days it will be enough and some days it won’t. But rest assured that even on my worst days, I’ll disperse no further fucks against myself.

I don’t give away my power to anyone or anything anymore. I’ve been through enough to know that no matter how bad it is, we all find our own ways to cope and press on with our lives. I’ve been luckier than some in this world and others have been luckier than me. But that’s how the fucks crumble. And if I can convince myself that I possess the power to make it rain on a beach day or ground the airplane that was supposed to carry my high school friends and me to Vegas, then I know that I also have the power to live in peace and find and accept joy in all its forms.

Going fuck-free is the best 50th birthday present I could’ve given myself.

Jean Copeland is an award-winning author of several lesbian fiction novels. For more info, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Copeland/e/B00P7YT9DS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Pride Month is a Time to Celebrate But…

I love this month not only because June is when I finish the school year and can focus on novel-writing for the summer, but also because it’s the only month out of the year when the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ community receive the attention and thoughtful contemplation they deserve.

Pride 2019

Unfortunately, it’s also the time when some straight people, frustrated with the myriad minutia of their over-burdened straight lives, seize this opportunity to point out that if we want equality so bad, why do we want/get our own month of parades and special attention? Well, the simple answer is, and please pay attention, we don’t have equality yet. As long as our elected republican members of Congress fail to pass the Equality Act, America will always have states in which the LGBTQ community is most definitely not considered equal. And frankly, that’s all I’m going to say to heterosexuals about this asinine complaint they’ve sifted out of the cesspool of social media.

Now to the other “but” in my blog… and no, it’s not one of those tight, cute ones you see on boys marching in their spandex shorty-shorts in Pride parades all over the world. This “but” has to do with all the fabulous corporations in America that temporarily change their logos to rainbow, have “Pride” days at amusement parks or sporting events, or just give us a happy, rainbowy 2-thumbs up in whatever product they’re selling. We love this–don’t get me wrong. But you know what we would love more than anything else? STOP voting for politicians at the city, state, and federal level who REFUSE to support LGBTQ equality as evidenced by their shameless public sentiments and voting records.

Yes, this is a big, bold request. It asks a lot of republicans–going against your family, your spouse, and your financial self-interests to take a stand for the most important and fundamental promise this country makes: “liberty and justice for all.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? (I mean the quote, not the part where you have to go against your own self-interests. But hey, every movement has its martyrs, right?) Think of what we can accomplish with this powerful statement. If we make it through one election cycle where every anti-gay politician loses, you can bet that future GOP candidates will think twice before trading on the Constitutional rights and emotional well-being of LGBTQ Americans for re-election.

But hey, enough of this heavy realism. It’s Pride month! Whether you’re an LGBTQ or a straight ally, let’s all dig out our leather, spandex, and all things rainbow and have a blast dancing in the streets with the same relief, exhilaration, and faith in humanity we’d have if the Equality Act has more than a Progressive’s chance in Mississippi during the Trump administration!

Enter Sandmann: A Teachable Moment About What We’re Teaching Boys

If you’re like me, you’re thoroughly sick of seeing the sweet, pubescent face of Nicholas Sandmann as he stoically exercises his “right” to encroach on the personal space of Vietnam vet and Native American elder, Nathan Phillips, and smirk in his face.

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You’re probably also emotionally spent from indignation over this Catholic boy’s brazen display of disrespect for his elders, especially one who served our country during a war, and that it seems his parents didn’t teach him the virtue of humility. But what’s been overshadowed by this MAGA-hat(e) incident is the actual reason why Sandmann and his classmates were in Washington DC: to protest abortion rights. This begs the question of all religion-based high schools: What lessons are they really teaching our impressionable adolescent males?

I find it disturbing, in a Handmaid’s Tale kind of way, that schools like Covington Catholic are teaching teenage boys that they have the right, even the responsibility, to tell grown women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies and their own futures. And that this particular school sponsored a field trip so that the boys, our future leaders, can practice applying the theory of this “right” in a real-life setting.

I can’t help but wonder does the imparting of knowledge like this lay the groundwork for these teenage boys to grow up believing that they inherently have some level of power or authority of over women? That perhaps if they can influence something as critical as a woman’s choice about her reproductive health, they may also have the right to arbitrate other important things like when a woman is choosing to have to sex with them versus when she just needs a little coaxing? Is that the lesson men like Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, and Brett Kavanaugh somehow learned in their formative years that paved the way for adult behaviors like the sexual assaults they’ve been credibly accused of?

We teach boys not to cry because it shows weakness; we teach them in grammar school not to hit girls because they are weaker than they are; we teach them that aggression in sports brings victory and in life brings the spoils of success. But what are the specific examples we, as a society, are setting to ingrain in them the belief that women are thinking, feeling, intelligent beings who are their equals? Aside from Gillette’s flaccid attempt to shame men out of their lifelong inclinations toward toxic masculinity in an ad for their products, what values are we really instilling in our boys? While everyone has the right to his or her opinion on abortion, the question of whether or not someone has the right to intimidate or force a woman out of choosing one is a matter of law. And that answer, in most places in the US, is an unequivocal no.

While we’re talking to our boys about respecting their elders and not pulling little Sally’s hair in homeroom, let’s make sure we’re also teaching them the difference between having an opinion about women and respecting women’s legal and human rights.

She-Devil: Susan Collins, Women, and the Kavanaugh Vote

 

Now that the SCOTUS has its newest credibly-accused sexual predator firmly in place thanks, in part, to credibly-accused sexual predator, Donald Trump, it’s clear who’s the undisputed winner of the GOP scapegoat award: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, for her surprising YES vote on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, our latest exemplar of Teflon-coated, whiny, white male privilege.

Now, rather than inundating Mitch McConnell’s voicemail with angry rants about Kavanaugh’s confirmation, or even Democrat turncoat Joe Manchin’s, we’ve diverted our attention to Collins, the woman. It’s easy to see why she’s seen as a gender traitor by many if not most American women given that she was supposed to be a NO vote. What the hell happened? How was Sen. Lisa Murkowki of Sarah Palinville, Alaska the one to find the courage to push past the partisan bullying and bullshit, and say out loud that Kavanaugh is unfit to serve?

From what I’ve observed through some of my female friends’ social media posts and the female Twitter trolls I’ve encountered during my own protest posting, Collins represents a vibrant, vocal collective of women who choose to believe the hysterical denials of a man accused of sexual assault, whom they don’t even know, over the credible allegations from his multiple female accusers. I keep asking myself, how could this be? I could certainly try to understand it if Kavanaugh was their brother, ex-boyfriend, friend, or hell, even the guy they once lived down the street from. But the majority of Kavanaugh’s harem of avid supporters has never even met him. It’s utterly baffling.

As I struggle my way through trying to make sense of this travesty of an “investigation” and confirmation process, I’m reminded of one of my #metoo moments that happened 39 years ago. Yes, I said “one” of mine, and yes, 39 years is a long time, but I can assure you, like Christine Blasey Ford, I remember it with haunting clarity like it was yesterday and I’m still that scared, confused 10-year-old girl.

One summer evening, as I was walking home, the neighborhood pedophile, a friendly seventy-something husband and father, called me over to his front porch. Teddy had engaged me in a discussion of a sexual nature on at least two occasions. I thought it was funny and silly to hear a grownup talking like that, and while I can’t recall his exact words, I’ll never forget the offer he made that sent me running home and made me afraid to walk past his house for years after. He said, “Why don’t you come inside and I’ll let you feel my balls.” How generous of him. While it was almost 40 years ago, I’ve never forgotten him standing in the threshold holding open the screen door for me like the witch luring Hansel and Gretel into her shack. And not just because I could’ve been raped by a disgusting old man, but because of the way the adult women responded once the incident was discovered.

After I ran off, Teddy must’ve got nervous and in a preemptive move, told his wife, as I later learned from another neighbor, something to the effect that I was making advances or suggestions toward him. Yes, that’s right—a seventy-something-year-old man trying to convince his wife that a 10-year-old child attempted to seduce him. Perhaps even more shocking is that his wife believed him and apparently contacted my mother.

I’m not sure what the conversation was between them because my mother is 80 now and her memory does not serve her that well anymore. But I  remember my mother asked me if I was hurt or if he touched me, and after I informed her that he hadn’t, she told me to stay away from him and not to tell my father, fearing he would get involved in the way all concerned fathers would. So essentially, the sexual assault attempt on me was swept under the rug, and we were all supposed to pretend it never happened.

Over the years, I’ve convinced myself that both my mother and the pedophile’s wife were products of a generation of submissive women who were brainwashed into believing that men’s bad behaviors were to be forever justified by shifting the scrutiny toward what the woman/girl did to provoke the behavior. I accepted that the man who sexually harassed me never paid for that crime since, like most child victims, I believed I was somehow responsible because when he called me to his porch, I went.

Sadly, however, that subservient, permissive attitude women were expected to have toward men isn’t some distant, distasteful memory from a bygone era. It has become abundantly clear over the last two years that this ideology that men can do no wrong and that women who accuse them of sexual misbehavior are somehow responsible for what happened to them, or are just plain lying, is alive and well in 2018. Somehow the GOP has managed to cultivate a new generation of women who believe unwelcome and/or violent sexual behavior and demeaning language directed at and about women is “no big deal,” especially if it happened in a man’s past. We shouldn’t, after all, ruin a prominent dude’s career and life now by holding him accountable for one or all of his misogynistic whims toward women in the past.

Many minds more intellectual than mine say the problem isn’t only men; it’s the rape culture that continues to undermine a woman’s truth in favor of a man’s right to “due process.” We should be able to accommodate both, but in an age where the balance of power clearly tips to the right; the gender breakdown of our Congress and lawmakers disproportionately favors men, and too many Republican female voters just don’t feel that women’s rights issues are their problems, it’s hard to see how we can change that culture.

Like many women’s rights proponents, I’ve vented my anger toward Sen. Collins as it was her YES vote that ultimately put an “unfit” man who “lacks judicial temperament” on the Supreme Court. But Susan Collins isn’t the only responsible party—it’s every woman who continues to empower and enable condescending, male-dominated political and social ideologies by siding with accused men based on their party affiliation and diminishing the words and stories of female victims who find the courage to stand up to the “boys will be boys” club and speak their truths.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that blue wave that I’ve heard is coming in November. Let’s hope it hits, so that the next generation of women won’t be swept away in the mounting GOP red-tide that has us headed toward mandatory red dresses.

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George Kraychyk/Hulu