Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Am a Holy Woman (tm)

By WordyGrrl

Ever know a couple that's just such a perfect couple that they nearly make you sick up? Together more than a year, yet still putting mushy notes in each other's lunches, sending flowers and -- the kicker -- using actual snail mail to exchange smarmy, adoring cards? And they drop frequent hints that they're still burning up the 500-threadcount Laura Ashley sheets with each other.

My pal Miss A and her girlfriend Miss J are such a couple. Sure, they get teased about it, it's really refreshing to see two normal, sane women enjoying a healthy and happy relationship. A great pair of gals, and they're as much fun to hang out with individually as they are when they're together. Trite as it may sound, it's nice to see two nice people join forces to become a nice couple.

It's no surprise that they're thinking of getting married. After all, it's legal in California, which is a mere daytrip from Washington state. We've even joked about loading up an RV with other lesbian couples and doing a long weekend roadtrip there for that sole purpose. Now that'd be an adventure worthy of YouTube, eh?

So a few days ago, I get a call from Miss A. She and Miss J are out running errands, and they've just come up with a great idea. Apparently the idea that they'd like to have me officiate their union. I was so shocked, so tremendously honored that I nearly dropped the phone. I mean, it's one thing if they ask you to be a bridesmaid. But to actually DO the honors? Wow. Talk about feeling all warm and fuzzy.

"So start Googling and find out how you can become Sister Wordy or something," Miss A said. Five minutes and several keystrokes later, I became Reverend "WordyGrrl" (not my real name, duh) of the Universal Life Church. It's an organization so open-minded that their logo is a string of everybody else's religious logos, and their main motto is something along the lines of "Be Nice."

Called Miss A back, and let her know that if she's serious, things are a go. I am now legally able to enunciate some lovely verbiage and pronounce them married in the presence of two witnesses. Well, it'll be legal when same-sex marriage becomes legal in Washington state, but you get the idea.

In any case, I am now a Holy Woman ™ , invested with the power to say nice things at weddings and funerals. No word on their site about conducting exorcisms in the aisles of WalMart, but I'm hopeful. Scenes from that godawful remake of "The Crucible", starring Winona Ryder, are coming to mind. [Game idea: do a shot every time somebody calls out Goody's name.]

I've got so much to do! As a newly-ordained Holy woman ™, I need to design some raiments, create a dogma, a catma, it's endless!. Declare my kitchen a church, designate a finely-crafted microbrew as a sacramental wine, etc.Already decided that Girl Scouts Samoas will be the official "wafer," with the classic shortbread as backup in case any parishioners don't like coconut.

There's also a catch: I'm agnostic, a secular humanist. Meaning that my "belief" is that the existence of God/Godde can be neither proven nor disproven by science or logic.

I don’t slam religious beliefs at all; talking about it is as fascinating as recounting ancient Greek and Roman myths. Sometimes we need an emotional justification to explain the unexplainable. To put off grasping our mortality. To look at a leaf and ignore what we know about photosynthesis and to be simply amazed at how it changes color over the course of a few months.

As an agnostic Holy Woman ™, how does this work? If I'm not sure God/Godde exists, who am I entreating to listen? Whose blessing am I asking for?

Somewhere out there is a small child who's convinced there's a monster under the bed. A big, scaly smelly one with glow-in-the-dark eyes that nobody else can see. Just the kind of beast who needs to be exorcised, driven out with a few fancy phrases and a spritz of "holy water."

And there are a couple of sincere, loving women, a perfectly matched pair, who want to proclaim their one-ness before friends, family and whatever Supreme Being exists.

There are fears to be quashed, confirmation to be given, love to be celebrated. Who am I to remain inert? Somebody as to say something! Do something! Drape something around my neck, hand me a smudge stick or some of that leftover incense. This Holy Woman ™ has work to do, even if there's no giant, magical superbeing to tally it up.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Amazon Trail: Damn Yankee

By Lee Lynch

I never thought of Florida as "the South" until I lived with a Floridian. She called herself a Southerner. Now that I live here with my sweetheart, I understand that she really was.

It's a whole different world down here from New York, where I grew up; Connecticut, a state with utterly no personality where I lived for 18 years; and wild-west Oregon, a state that probably helped prepare me for Florida.

The Tampa Bay area newspapers are full of news of the recent raising of a 50 by 30 foot Confederate Flag flying on a 139 foot flagpole. Supporters said that it's a part of U.S. history and that the First Amendment gives them the right. Other residents say the flag is a symbol of a shameful time in our history.

In the early 1990s commissioners in the county where it flies passed a human rights ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Four years later, the county rescinded the ordinance. In 2005, the same county banned recognition of gay pride when what started as

a prohibition of gay rights library displays became a broad county policy. Is the whole country this homophobic, or am I just lucky enough to live in places where it flares up like wild fires and hurricanes? When I lived in Southern Oregon, my county was targeted as an AIDS Free Zone where people living with HIV would not be allowed. Oregon was one of the biggest battlegrounds for our civil rights. Now that civil unions are allowed in Oregon, I live in Florida, where not even Rosie and Kelly can marry – or adopt.

But Florida is a beautiful state. I finally get to live among palm trees. I never have to worry about being too cold. There are egrets and herons and wood storks and cardinals everywhere. I live in muscle shirts and shorts. I've retired my jeans for tropic weight pants. The old Florida architecture is as exciting to me as the Chrysler Building.

Of course, with exotica come the creepy crawlies. I skirt ponds and lagoons widely after hearing stories of alligators taking strolls in town and inviting themselves onto screened porches. You can't avoid all the swampy critters, though. The first time I saw a flying roach as big as a hummingbird, it was all I could do not to scream like a girl. Butterflies as large and dark as bats flap their wings outside my desk window all day. I call the wolf spiders wooly mammoths because they're the size of saucers. They move fast and sideways, like crabs. I hear they jump when threatened. It took me two days to use the guest bathroom again after I spotted one in there. When a workman discovered a wooly mammoth in a closet, I was the one who had to protect him from it. He couldn't wait to get home and tell his wife he'd survived. It may still be living in our clothes.

Then there was the snake. I understand that I inhabit their territory, so, outside, I just run. One of the cats came to tell me this one was in the house. They had it cornered until it slipped behind a bookcase. Two weeks later it reappeared at about 6:00 A.M.

"Lee!" called my sweetheart with a note of panic. I managed to grab my clothes and glasses while she kept track of it. Mostly asleep, I followed her urgent instructions until we captured it in a bucket and escorted it to a field down the street.

Those things creep me out, but I have to say they are nothing compared to my memory of the civil rights battles in the 1960s and the reality of slavery in this country only a century and a half ago. Every time a neighbor's oversized red pickup diesels past our house, a confederate flag decal pasted over half of his tail gate, I am more creeped out.

Earlier today I went to pick up a log from a local tree service in a nearby town (to use as a kitty scratching post). These guys were super nice. When I saw their Confederate flag bumper stickers I was glad I'd parked my car butt out, where they couldn't see my rainbows.

I wanted a map of the town so I could explore. The Chamber of Commerce parking lot was adjacent to Boyles Backyard Bar where guys sat at the covered outdoor bar drinking lunch. Down the way was Billy Jack's Burger Shack and across from that I spotted the Patriot Bank.

No, I didn't scream like a girl. I did skedaddle outta there like wooly mammoths were pursuing me. Like a damn Yankee.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2008

July 2008

Lee Lynch is the writer of more than a dozen dyke books, among them "Sweet Creek", as well as book reviews, articles, feature stories and a syndicated column. You can read more about Lee here . You can check out her Lee's Myspace page . And visit Lee's Tripod homepage. Lee's most recent book, The Butch Cook Book, Edited by Lee Lynch, Sue Hardesty and Nel Ward, is now available at:http://www.butchcookbook.com/.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Anti-Reunion Reunion

By WordyGrrl

Ever get bored and ruminative at the same time? Listing off your favorite personal accomplishments can kill some time and give your ego a life. Among my fave victories is getting the hell out of Mississippi after high school and never going back. Sure, I've driven through the state, rolled down the windows long enough to enjoy the song of cicadas and that sweet, heavy lemony scent of full-blown magnolia blossoms on a steamy summer night. And then I held it until I could find a nice, clean gas station just over the state border.

For some reason, my southern alma mater has apparently become reunion crazy, throwing fests yearly instead of just humanely stopping at the 20-year mark back in 2005. Looking at the class website, it's pretty sad and somewhat shocking to see who's died, including a girl I had a major silent crush on. We're not that old yet, but we ARE getting older and who wants a reminder of the aging process? The elephant in the middle of the room that is our own mortality and lost youth?

But in 1983, there were no cell phones, no internet and no chance of keeping in touch if numbers were lost or somebody moved without having a forwarding address to give you. And so shortly after graduation, we were blown to the four winds and lost touch with each, left alone to create our own lives, develop our own personas, careen madly through our 20s, reassess the damage in the 30s, and start getting invites to join AARP in our early 40s.

Sure, I had some really good times and a great bunch of friends in high school, but in all honesty, there were only two classmates I really gave a serious damn about meeting up with again after all these years. And thanks to the internet, I just found them a few months ago. We re-met via Classmates.com, coincidentally by cheating that site out of membership fees by posting pics of ourselves with our emails superimposed on them.

These were my main buds. My boys. And both of them were as out as one could be in Mississippi in 1983. That is, they were out to me and whichever boys they could furtively fumble with on the downest of the down-low. I listened to their stories and kept their secrets, interviewed them with a red Panasonic cassette recorder and did fashion shoots with a 110 camera. But I never came out to them. What can I say? I just wasn't ready to be as out as they were. The Klan was very openly active then and African Americans weren't the only groups being lynched in Mississippi then. Queers were, too. And besides, what if I was only a phase?

Turns out it wasn't. I am indeed a big, ol' flaming lesbo, among other things. A lot of other phases have come and gone since then, and "my boys" and I have been firing off the emails like mad. We're burning up bundles of bandwidth, trying to fill each other in on the phases, twists and turns our lives have taken since we spray-painted "Class of 83" on every available stop sign in Meridian.

David was an insecure, shy, skinny boy with a big nose and unruly mop of curly hair, overly concerned with wearng "the right labels" in order to be "popular." He recently appeared semi-nude for the cover for a coffee table book called "Men of the Sierras" and has a steady job in film production with Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks studio. Brad, an 80s version of Oscar Wilde with a penchant for blasphemous discourse, weed and canned wine coolers, gave up drama school for a gig with the state government as a health educator.

We overwhelmingly decided to blow off the official class reunion in favor of one of our own. The Anti-Reunion Reunion. Taking incomes into account, we decided to meet in the place where the one least able to afford travel lives. Having received no offer of a raise in 10 years, Brad was the "winner," meaning we'd all meet up at his place. In Gulfport, Mississippi.

Brad says Gulfport is different, that it's some kind of blue-minded oasis in a red state. And we are different now. My boys are men now, fully grown and entering the real prime of their lives. And I'm not that skinny, anti-social kid anymore, who relied on humor or conducting interviews of others to deflect questions about herself.

And so in September, I'll be flying to the Magnolia state I fled so many years ago, vowing never to return. I'll be coming out to the very people I should have come out to first -- those who came out to me, in a time and place in which it felt damn dangerous to do so. But I'll be back, older, wiser and far stronger than before. I'm a grown woman now. Since graduation day 1983, I've lived in a lot of different countries, been in a war, seen amazing beauty and heart-wrenching squalor (often in the same place). Learned the difference between bullshit that amuses me and bullshit I won't tolerate.

So here's to good friends and that old hometown of mine: The people who shaped my persona because they reveled in being different. And to the place that made me what I am simply because I refused to become a part of it.

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