Monday, May 26, 2008

Thoughts on Memorial Day

I'm not a fan of fact, I'm not a fan of any kind of fights. Anytime I've witnessed others fighting, I become ill as my stomach turns somersaults and my head feels faint. I just don't like the idea, or the results, of harming another person.

I do realize, at times, that it happens. Perhaps it has even been unavoidable. I don't claim to be a history buff, but I know the U.S. tried very hard to stay out of World Wars I and II, only to be sucked in after an attack. If I recall correctly, it was the sinking of the Lusitania that drew us into the first world war, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor that dragged us into the second. After offenses like those, what else could we do but fight? Opinions differ about our present war, but that's beside the point.

I just LOVE me some military women! I don't know what it is about the uniform, which makes a hot woman even hotter! In fact, I've done all branches except for the Air Force and the Coast Guard. Hahaha! I guess this makes me military by association. But, these days, and for the past nearly two years, there's a certain sergeant who's had my attention...and eventually became the woman I know I was meant to live my life with.

I always support the troops whether I agree with war or not. Though some troops volunteer to go to war, most are sent there. It's part of what they agreed to when they signed up for the armed forces. Sure, many join for the college fund, for the experience, or like Kristin, because they were in a "I don't know what to do with myself and I'm going to show myself I can do this" phase, and were searching for something. Very rarely does one sign up because they love fighting wars. However, the probability of being sent to war is rather high these days.

For those readers who have been in the military, or like me, are a "military spouse," you know that these soldiers are owned by the government. They go where the military sends them. Yeah, you can have some say in the matter, from time to time. For example, Kristin volunteered to go to Korea (as our friendship was budding, before we got together...gosh, I remember feeling crushed when she told me she did this), because it allowed her to choose to return to the post she was stationed before leaving (meaning she will be near me again). Also, it allowed her to avoid the nearly involuntary deployment to Iraq. So, sometimes, there is a choice, but overall there is not. For example, they took her leave from her (because they said they were short-staffed), and she cannot come home for Pride. She also found out there is the possibility of being extended in Korea, and there's also a chance they won't follow through with her choice of returning to her previous post. So, she has very little control until she gets out in 2009. However, should they determine they can't afford to lose her, OR if within 3 or so years they decide they need her back, she will have no choice but to drop what she's doing and return. So...ultimately, the Army has her life for quite a while.

Alright, so ANY soldier makes a sacrifice for our country, even if they aren't at war. There is a personal sacrifice on the soldier and the soldier's loved ones. Now, let's take it a step further. I read with interest, some interviews on some older African-American gentlemen. They spoke of how Memorial Day is personal for them...something they celebrate in their own heads...but nothing they care to partake in. These men were from the segregation generation, and they spoke of how their units were not afforded the same "luxuries" as the white units. Though I don't recall specifically what the differences were, I remember thinking, "Gosh, that's not fair at all!" I remembered thinking how dare the government expect these men to fight for our freedom only to be denied civil liberties and equal rights back home.

And then I thought some more...we currently have many gays in the military. Some are fine with their lack of rights. They have no problem living in the closet, keeping it all to themselves. For those with families, though, it's been quite an issue. For others, though, like Kristin, this IS a problem. And, I'll tell you why it didn't really hit her until she had a family.

When she first joined the Army, she actually ended a relationship over "Don't ask, don't tell." Fast forward to a couple of years later, and then I came into the picture. This is when her lack of equal rights really hit her and she determined she'd no longer be swayed by them. She even came out to her commander while stationed in GA, but he said he didn't care. Upon arriving in Korea, and going to briefing after briefing where they've discussed allowing families to accompany their soldiers, it bothered her. She would ask in her mind, "What about my family?"

Aside from the fact that she's underpaid at the single rate, that it's on me to furnish all the medical coverage for myself and the kids...aside from all the financial aspects, which is okay, because I'm I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T, do ya know what I mean? (Haha, does anybody actually know this song?) Anyway, aside from all this, we've come across other complications along the way. First of all, should the Army decide to change her post (after Korea), it will mean nothing to them that they are taking her away from me and the kids. If we were straight, though, they would just move us as well. Also, when I visited her in Korea, I had to go through a comprehensive check-in and check-out process everytime we came on and off post. Had I been a straight military spouse, though, I'd have my own ID card. In fact, I could have rode the shuttle directly in from the airport...for free! Of course, the former issue is much larger than the latter...but it's just things that we encounter day-by-day. It has really put our relationship to a major test. We both have tendencies to run from relationships (actually, she runs and I just push them to leave me...great combo, right?), so even with the complications, the fact that we still talk numerous times everyday and intend to have a life together says a lot. We know we have something that we only share with each other...and though this is conceited, we feel we have something unexplainable a lot of couples don't. That might just be our bias, but it's how we feel.'s been nearly 8 months, and on some days, I still cry just as hard as I did the day she left. Yeah, I'm one of those pitiful emotional types. Haha. You know, I even had the privilege of visiting her, and it didn't seem to make the distance any easier. This wasn't one of those "love and lose" relationships...this is the real deal. So...yeah, I have to admit, everything feels incomplete without her. No, I don't sit and mope. I can't just stop living. I get out, have fun, and spend time with the kids and with friends. Yet, there's nothing I do that wouldn't be better if she were here with us. Sometimes, we call and text while I'm out and about to help her stay engaged. Yeah...that's been our version of spending time together for the past 8 months.

As I get pitiful about my personal experience as a military "spouse," I have to scold myself, too. I know how bad it feels today, thinking we have over 4 months left...thinking about the missed birthdays, doing Pride without her, etc. But, here on Memorial Day, I think, "Gosh Brandi, you are such a loser. Some people will never get to see their soldier again."

I guess that really puts it in perspective for me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

California Supreme Court Declares Marriage Legal for Same-Sex Couples

On May 15th, the California Supreme Court declared marriage legal for same-sex couples in California, citing the domestic partnership system in place in California was the equivalent of second-class citizenship and NOT the same as marriage. Couples are expected to be able to marry in 30 days! And unlike Massachusetts, couples from anywhere in the country can go to California to get married, though most of our home states aren't expected to recognize our marriages from California.

On this truly historic decision, I can't help but get excited for all my friends and fellow activists who have been working for years to legalize marriage in California. I think of how happy they were in 2004 when Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the doors of marriage to them, and the tears they shed when their marriages were overturned and tossed aside as if their families didn't matter. It is wonderful to turn on CNN and see so many of those same people celebrating their love as if it were 2004 again.

It is not 2004 though, and since then, many Americans have had the opportunity to see that the marriages of same-sex couples in Massachusetts have had no dooms-day affect on the country or their own marriages for that matter.

Those of us in the activist world expect right-wing groups like the Family Research Council and others to take on a MAJOR offensive in California to try to change the state's Constitution to ban marriage by same-sex couples. We will see money pour into this campaign like no anti-marriage campaign in the past because the right-wing realizes if they lose this battle, the game is over. Already, they realize they are losing the battle, and this really is their last stand.

Meanwhile, gay and lesbian couples will marry in California to celebrate their love and gain the protections and responsibilities that go with marriage. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi have said they will marry. I imagine we will see a host of other celebrities walk down the isle, but more importantly, we will see everyday people marry and gain the legal protections and respect their relationships deserve. It is the everyday people who are neighbors, co-workers, PTA members, etc. who will win over the support of Californians when it gets to the ballot box.

Thankfully, this time Governor Schwarzenegger has said he will not support a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. Let's hope many others will follow suit and do the right thing for our families in California.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Your mama's so gay, she thought the Home Depot was a dating service!

To make a terribly long, complicated story a little shorter, I "came out of the closet" a little later than most. I was 27!!!!! After growing up in a super right-wing family (and I mean EXTREMELY conservative views), and constantly battling myself from within, I finally decided to just be me...and that includes being a lesbian. No, it doesn't define me, but it is a huge part of me. Of course, this affects my dating life, my civil rights, and to some extent, it involves my children. Anyway, my point is that when I was much younger, I went to great lengths to try and make myself be the person I thought I was supposed to be. I didn't realize that being gay was actually normal; I thought I was just having devilishly temptuous thoughts. So, I got married, and for reasons unrelated to my sexual orientation, I got divorced.

The divorce came seven and a half years after the marriage. In that time, I grew a lot in my mind and spirit, and pretty much overcame any "hang-ups" about going to hell, being sinful, etc. Oddly enough, I learned a lot about myself while getting my degrees in psychology (which, oddly enough, was intended to serve as training to help others). At any rate, upon divorce, I felt free to roll with nature, and to make decisions based on how I feel. Ever since then, in 2002, I can say my intuition has grown exponentially, and so many other doors to my existence opened.

At the time, my children were ages 3 and 5. It wasn't long before I found my first girlfriend, and we were definitely not meant to live our lives together. So...I'd see her at school, work, and on my "grown-up weekends." In the event she came around the kids, they had no idea we were more than friends. Thus, I didn't approach the issue with them. I still wasn't totally sure what to make of my new relationship let alone what to tell the kids about it.

The first girlfriend saga didn't even last a whole year. Yet, I was certain I was gay and not bisexual, and I knew that I'd continue to date women. I thought, for a while, about how I'd approach the issue with the children. I contemplated between two extremes. I figured on one hand, I could wait until I had a meaningful relationship, with partner-potential, to even bother discussing the issue. On the other hand, I thought the younger they are, the better.

After another relationship failed a year or so later, I knew it may be years (or never) before I actually settled with a partner. I thought about how the kids could actually be grown and moved away before I find this in my life. That would be absolutely terrible, to come out with something that late in life. And besides, I was out of the closet with all the adults in my life and I had grown comfortable with being a lesbian. day, when the kids (ages 6 and 4 at the time) were playing with their Barbies and super heroes, they paired them up with each other and said they were "getting married." I noticed all "couples" were opposite sex, so I took the opportunity to say the following:

"You know kids...most boys have girlfriends and most girls have boyfriends, but some boys have boyfriends and some girls have girlfriends."

"Really?" they both responded.

"Yes," I confirmed.

And to that, they went on with their play session. They weren't so shocked by my statement. So, about a week or two later, I had another opening, and I asked the kids what they would think if Mommy had a girlfriend. Morghan's response was, "You do! It's (the name of ex-girlfriend #2)." My jaw dropped at the realization that Morghan already knew.

Fast-forwarding to the present day...Morghan is nearly 11 and begins middle school in August. Chandler will turn 9 over the summer and become a big bad 4th grader. Both have known for years that I'm a lesbian, and as the time progresses, my appearance "looks more gay." Haha! I'm completely open about this with everyone except for my students. Of course, most have picked up on it (Come on, most are street-wise alternative school students), and it's no big deal (even though sexual orientation is not included in the school system's EOE statement...different topic, different blog).

So, what's the problem? The kids very rarely feel comfortable being open with their friends about my "lesbionic ways." I mean, I know at their age, they probably won't. I've never encouraged them either way, I've only said it is completely up to them what they say to their friends. Before Kristin was shipped off overseas, they'd just say she was my friend. Some kids even mistook her for a guy. I don't know how, though. She's way too pretty (no offense to men, of course). In fact, she was in the top ten for Miss New York after being crowned the winner in two different beauty pageants. Anyway...some of the kids back in Augusta would ask my children if she was their dad. Hahahahaha!

Kristin has been away most of this school year, and I'm not totally sure if she's ever coming back to be with us, the way we were before. This actually saddens the kids as much as it does me. But, that's beside the point. The point is that the kids haven't seen me behave romantically with a woman since then, but they seem to have grown more sensitive to what their peers think...especially my soon-to-be 6th grader! At an informational meeting at her future middle school, I jokingly whispered something about admitting I'm gay, and she looked horrified, as if it would be the worst thing ever. I just looked at her and said, "You have to know I won't do that."

Later that evening, I had a discussion with Morghan. I told her my position on my "gayness" and hoped it helped:

It's still up to you what you say to your friends or what you don't say to them. I will never go out of my way to embarrass you. I will not walk into your school, announcing anyone is my partner or holding hands or kissing them. You never have to worry about that. At the same time, though, I'm not going to pretend that I'm someone I'm not. I will not grow my hair longer or try to be girly just to make myself look less gay. I already tried that, and I wasn't myself. You know I've always encouraged you and your brother to be yourselves and all I can be is myself.

So, that was it, and the topic hasn't come up since then. I feel very much loved by my children, and I know they feel loved and safe with me. My intentions were to relieve Morghan of any worries of embarrassment (because that is probably the worst thing that can happen to a middle be OMG or something...TOTALLY!). I also wanted her to realize she had control in what information she gave her's nobody's business anyway, and she doesn't owe them an explanation. At the same time, though, I feel the need to give her something I didn't have: an example of self-comfort. I was never encouraged to be myself, and looking back, I can see where my Nana (the woman whose home I grew up in) had ideas about how I was supposed to be...her ideas and my reality are very far apart.

I hope I have not compromised the gay rights movement by telling her it was okay not to acknowledge my sexual orientation. At the same time, I feel it's a comfort she must come to naturally. She's a very loving, tolerant person, who finds any type of discrimination appalling. I think right now, though, her need to avoid any potential teasing (because middle schoolers can be meaner than ex-girlfriends...haha) wins out over her belief in justice for all.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Supporting the Team--the Atlanta Dream, that is!

Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending the Pre-Season game for the Atlanta Dream--the new Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) team in Georgia. It was a pleasure for many reasons, but I want to focus on the most obvious. As my friend Karen text-messaged us as she was waiting for us at the game: "I've never seen so many lesbians in my life."

My wife and I became WNBA fans back when we lived in Washington, DC. There, a new team had just started and there was a lot of buzz in the gay community about it. I was never before a big basketball fan, but somehow my wife and I were suddenly season ticket holders and die-hard WNBA fans.

Clearly a big part of the draw for us was that the stands were filled with lesbians (not so many gay men, but probably a handful), and families. We all got along wonderfully and had a great time at the games.

It has been no secret in the WNBA that many, if not all of the league teams are supported largely by the lesbian community. Without us, they would probably not survive.

So tonight, looking around Philip's Arena, it was so nice to see all the lesbians in the stands, the quick bond, smiles and nods between strangers. We who attend the games know we are part of a club. It's a great club to be in for many reasons, but the one that stood out to me tonight was our power.

I think one of the reasons so many of us come together and enjoy ourselves in this welcoming environment is because we have power. We are safe in our numbers at the game, so even though we may be sitting near someone with views that are non-accepting of us, we know they will not speak to us in that way because we are not the minority at these games. It is safe. It is fun. And it's great to follow the drama and stories that accompany women's basketball.

As a leader in this community who often struggles with the idea that we as a community don't try to grasp real power to help ourselves, I thought about how we may have unconsciously done so through the WNBA.

In Atlanta, the stands are clearly filled with lesbians (and at least two gay male couples), and we have the power to make or break this team. It also gives us a sense of empowerment that we can be who we are at these games.

With all this rambling, what I am trying to say is we need more of you to come out. Grab the power, join the club, and have some fun at this gay affirming venue. Let's make it really obvious who supports this team so it will be our team. Could you ever dream of us having the power to control the fate of a national sports team? We do. And this actually will help us in our drive for acceptance in this country.

Not only will straight people have the opportunity to meet gay people and realize were not so scary or bad, but we will gain tremendous respect from the business leaders in the community who need us to make this team survive and ultimately thrive. These are both important wins for us.

So, all that being said, I say come out to as many games as you can. Become a season ticket holder if you can. Buy your tickets for the home opener May 23rd through MEGA so we can show them our economic power. Folks, I may not have done the best job explaining this, but it matters.

Click here to purchase tickets for the MEGA block on May 23rd!

If you want to learn more about the Atlanta Dream, you can click here to go to their website!

**And on a side note to the LA Sparks and their fans--your team was rude and arrogant tonight! Though Candace Parker is probably one of the best players in the league, her arrogant, show-boating behavior was a disgrace. How disappointing to see her head down this path. I hope someone stops her and brings her back down to earth. With minutes left to a strangely close game, Candace, Lisa Leslie, and several other teammates were not even watching the game--they were dancing and watching various fans in the stands dance. They literally had their backs to the game, which is something I have never seen before in a team. How disrespectful to your teammates who WERE playing and to the Atlanta Dream who actually almost beat your team!

Still, it is a lot of fun, so come on out to the games!