Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mental Health and You

There are things we aren't to talk about, and I don't know why.

First, a meet-cute story about how Greg and I got together: In 1999, I was in college after a few years of not being in college. The previous attempts at college had not been very successful--I'd wasted a lot of money and time on several universities without realizing not everyone needs a degree; some people, despite conventional wisdom, are not at their best in academia. I'd spent my time at the University of Memphis avoiding classes, reading both comic and actual books, going to events, and seeing films not readily available in my small town back in Alabama. Rather than admit I'd spent a great deal of time and money not attending classes, I declared I was miserable in Memphis, and wanted to attend the University of Alabama (I was not miserable in Memphis--I loved the city; I just wasn't mature enough at the time to realize all I needed to do was get a job, move out of the dorm, and go about my business).

Living in Tuscaloosa was like living in an alternate dimension. I did go to my classes, but I hated each class. I read, but I did not read the assigned material. I did not socialize. I ate Krispy Kreme donuts for dinner. My dorm-mate was a Japanese exchange student named Yu who did not speak English and so was not able to warn me that he suffered from epilepsy.

Yu was a sweet guy, but sad. One day, I came into the dorm-room to find him sobbing into his girlfriend's chest. The girlfriend, whose name I can't recall but whose face I still remember--she was pretty, without make-up--translated Yu's words to me. The girlfriend, speaking for Yu, said, "I had a seizure at the mall. In front of everyone. Everyone saw me have the attack. I am humiliated."

A few weeks before, when Yu and I moved into the dorm together, he saw Mishima's Confessions of a Mask on my bed, a book I'd been rereading periodically since graduating high school. He pointed to the book and then did the international sign for 'crazy' at one temple. And I thought about that moment during this new moment, where Yu tried to explain to me his troubles through his girlfriend.

"I am humiliated," the girlfriend had meant. What she said was, "Yu is humiliated."

And I was.

Not to draw a direct, serious line between epilepsy and being gay, but it is very difficult to be gay in public, at least for me. Yu saw his seizures as a weakness of self, and for a long time, I saw my own urges the same way.

Funny story: I latched on to Lao Tzu and the Tao te Ching as a way to bleed emotion from myself. Lao was a Chinese man who would not know what to do with Yukio Mishima, a Japanese man, and during my time at the University of Alabama, I spent a great deal of time bouncing between Lao and Mishima; when presented with Yu's humiliation, though, I failed to make the connection. It is possible to both be comfortable with yourself in public, and be at one with the public. And so rather than give Yu a comforting hug to let him know it was okay, I simply nodded at his girlfriend, left the room, and went to my RA, demanding to know why I hadn't been told my roommate was prone to seizures.

So, to the meet-cute story, which I promised a few paragraphs up.

Some years passed, and I left college, then returned. There was some death in those years, and divorces, and I had a relationship or two. Remained guarded about my condition, remained determined to bleed out all emotion just to get through each day.

I wasn't at all good at being emotionless, by the way. It took a decade or two before I'd understand I wasn't meant for the Tao anymore than I was meant for college.

But at my third college, I ended up writing for the school paper. I had a column that was, if I'm honest, a pretty good column. In fact, it was the reason I continued showing up to classes, and lasting a few semesters--I wasn't in school for the degree; I was in school to learn how to help Yu not be afraid to have a seizure in a mall in Tuscaloosa. I was in school to learn how to not be humiliated by being you. And one evening, I decided to write about being gay.

When I turned in the column, the publications adviser urged me not to let it run. "It is beyond the pale," she said. She was a wonderful woman with a dog named Disney, and both she and the dog are dead now. It happens.

She meant well. She was hoping to protect me.

What she didn't know is that I'd decided to come out because I'd met a guy.

Greg was not my first boyfriend; I'd had two others: one in high school and one in that between-time when I wasn't in college. There was also a girlfriend, who remains a friend. But I met Greg while covering the first meeting of the University of North Alabama's Gay-Straight Alliance. It was the first time I'd allowed myself to want someone, and acknowledged to myself that I wanted him, and pursued, and won.

The set-up: the editor of the paper mentioned there was to be a meeting of the GSA, and it might be interesting to cover it if anyone wanted to visit the meeting and write about it. I volunteered. Back then, I wore a floppy fisherman's hat. I had the hat on when I went to the meeting--terrified, I might add, that I'd give myself away as anything more than a writer. I wasn't there as just a writer; I was there as both Lao Tzu and as Yukio Mishima.

Greg was in charge of the meeting. He was the first president of the University of North Alabama's Gay-Straight Alliance. He sat in the crook of a half-moon-shaped arrangement of chairs, some filled, some empty, and held off on the meeting. "I was told the paper would have someone here so we're just waiting on the reporter," he said eventually.

Someone to Greg's left said, "The reporter is right there." And pointed at me. And Greg looked at me.

And that was that. A few days later, Greg and I went on a date.

And then I wrote my column, and came out to my parents.

And not long after that, Greg told me he was on meds for his disorder. And I knew I had a choice: I could leave the room and demand why the RA hadn't told me about Greg's condition, or I could stay and try to make sure things work out as well as possible.

I'm still awful at having public displays of conditions, but I chose to stay, and I eventually left Alabama to enjoy a life in the city, and realized New York is Lao Tzu and Alabama is Yukio Mishima, and I love both.

So, going back to the first line of this, having said all this, there are things we can't talk about, and I don't know why. There are other people in my life who are hurting, and I cannot ask, on their behalf, for help. It is a nice thing to put out your vulnerability because the world isn't as awful as it seems. Sometimes, most times, the world understands and throws back support.

Or maybe Yu and I are just lucky.

Sarah Pa.... Can't Finish

It's late. The air conditioner a floor above us is dripping water in steady clicks, and I assume our AC is doing the same onto the AC below us.

Clickclick.

Greg's hand is currently on my left foot. We were watching a movie, then he went to sleep in a mass of pillows and sheets and comforters. Waf, our dog, is in the mix too: he is crumbled into the mess and it is quiet.

Except HBO's movie, Game Change, is on the television. Julianne Moore is pretending to be Sarah Palin. And while it's a wonderful performance, it wasn't my intention to be the only human awake and watching the film.

It's difficult to admit how truly sorry I feel for Sarah Palin because she's done a lot of work dismissing humanity.  But I pity Sarah Palin. Her random hatreds--of Muslims, of Lame-Stream media, of human decency--are from a place no one can explain. She knows what she knows, but she can't understand her knowledge is not absolute.

Same with Donald Trump.

Clickclick.

Greg's moved his hand from my foot, but our dog is still nuzzled into my armpit, and Game Change is playing on.... and here's were we are: Sarah Palin somehow convinced an entire voting group that they were right to feel racism is okay. Sarah Palin enabled already-awful assholes to feel right in their assholishness.

Game Change, which is a film made during the 'Birther' shit Donald Trump wallowed around in, tries to explain Sarah Palin. Game Change makes you feel, for a moment, Sarah Palin's humanity.

Game Change was made four years ago, and could not anticipate Donald Fucking Trump, nor could it inform the political reality we're currently living.

The upstairs AC drips down onto my AC, and my AC drips onto the one below. Trickle-down is an honest and innocent thing, but it is not economical.

Sarah Palin was a mistake, but she was not an honest or innocent mistake. She was a drip that landed on an AC, and created Donald Trump below.

Waf isn't concerned with the clickclik.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Say My Name

So this is where I am: I cannot speak to actual humans supporting Donald Trump. This is not a boilerplate statement, and not a bumper-sticker quote I'd paste to my non-existent car. It's a simple fact: I am incapable of speaking with, conversing with, interacting with, or otherwise engaging with any human enabling Donald Trump.

It's true—eight years ago I was not on board, or in the pantsuit pocket, of Hillary Clinton. It's also true—I have not always been a fan of President Obama. It's also true I gave up on The Walking Dead after season 2... but I was an early adopter of Breaking Bad so I know I can be right more often than wrong.

Breaking Bad was one of the best shows in the history of televised entertainment. If Shakespeare had been alive during its run, he would've put his pen down occasionally and said, 'Wow, I wish I had thought of that line.'

The one who knocks... Wait. Not my point here.

Some years back, I wrote a very long screed for a website that no longer exists (I wrote the screed as Samuel L. Jackson, and was apparently so good at writing Samuel L. Jackson blogs that the site was sued by Jackson's lawyers) that America did not need another Clinton or a Bush. I, as Sam-Jack, was referencing the fact that since 1980, there had been either a Clinton or a Bush in one of the top two positions in United States government.

We needed a breather. And we got one. We got Obama.

Obama did some things, and then he did some other things, and then he announced he was for marriage equality. And the White House did this:

A year ago, I went back home for a funeral. I was still amazed, excited, energized from that moment, seeing the White House bathed in rainbow colors and celebrating not just marriage equality but my own marriage. My own union.

Keep in mind: most of my family like Greg—my husband—more than they like me. Which I get. He's more pleasant than I am.

Also keep in mind: My family is in Alabama.

Alabama is not as backwoods as you'd think. Alabamians are fine with the gays, the lesbians, the trans, the poly, the differently-colored, and the differently-religious. Even the non-religious.

The hard truth I've come to—and realized during my last visit home—is that they are not fine with people pointing out faults.

The funeral was for my step-grandfather, and there's nothing I can say about it. But the funeral coincided with Donald Trump's rally in Birmingham. Perhaps you recall this rally. It's what made him the nominee. 

What I learned during the meditation on death and the visits with family is that there is no true acceptance. There is always some suspicion. If no one voted on my marriage, as they never voted for desegregation and they never voted for the very idea of voting—if the Supreme Court forced the point rather than waiting on a referendum—my marriage was, and remains, null.

Donald Trump does not give a shit, even a poople, about this. In his interviews over the many, many years, Trump has supported gay rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion, and, I'm sure, a new season of Breaking Bad (But he thinks it is called 'Breaking Nad').

Donald Trump is a bit like my family. They are fine with me. They support me. But they will be not be told how to make being me a legal and safe reality, and they will by holy hell never assume that that such protections cover anyone who is not Greg's husband.

So I cannot have sensible conversations with Trump supporters, or those who play games with the voting options. It's very true that we need a third party. Any other election I'd agree, but now is not the time to make the point and veer into Perotvia. If you're feelin' the Bern, I get it, but the Bern himself has asked you to vote for fucking Hillary Clinton.

If you're liking Jill Stein: I get it. I mean, you should probably put down the Stein and vote for Hillary Clinton, but I get it (not really). But well-intentioned.


Just remember this, you upside-down voting Bernie-bro Stein lifters: there are people who support my gay marriage but are still resistant to the idea that I can be married.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

USonian Arc

If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk. --Newt Gingrich (July, 2016)


Token, I get it now. I don't get it. I've been trying to say that I understand how you feel, but, I'll never understand. I'll never really get how it feels for a black person to have somebody use the N word. I don't get it. --South Park (March, 2007)

The most profound thing a person can do is admit there is a problem. This week, USonians admitted they have a problem. It was an obvious problem. And, as problems go, it had many symptoms, and many couch-doctors offering up well meaning diagnoses.

"Too many guns," some said.

"Not enough guns," others said.

"Racism," more said.

"Blue lives matter."

Orlando, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Mathew Shepard. James Byrd.

More guns, less guns, love, empathy, rule of law, Second Amendment... everyone had a general diagnosis for this week, but it reminded me of the story of the blind men and the elephant--you know, the one where some blind men feel up an elephant and conclude that the molested beast is anything other than what it is.

We have a race problem. True. Very true. So very true that even racists step back occasionally and say, "If you are a normal, white American, you don't understand..."

We have a white privilege problem. Also true. I know I've done things that would've gotten me put away for a long time if I'd been a different color. Or a different sex. Or a sex different from the one with which I identify. (I'm white.)

Which, by the way: We have a gender problem. If you don't know what CIS means, please look it up. And if you don't understand why nodding 'yes' at every Caitlyn Jenner interview is a failure on your part, take a moment to consider that Caitlyn Jenner supports a political party that endorses, in an Old Testament sense, her eradication.

Also, we have a gun problem.

Which is an interesting problem to have. It is quite literally the Founding Fathers anticipation of Anton Chekhov--they hung the Second Amendment up over the mantle, and we're now in the third act (which is funny because there are no second acts in American lives--we've already beat conventional wisdom!).

There are no good guys with guns. There are humans with guns, of course. But there are humans with spades as well. There are humans with knives. There are humans with screwdrivers. There are humans with fingers. There are humans with many kinds of tools, and a gun is a tool. Fingers, knives, screwdrivers, hammers, remote controls--all tools. All tools are, if used with enough determination, lethal. I get it.

But the Second Amendment only protects the right to wield one of those tools. The Second Amendment does not cover--in fact, no where in the Constitution is it stated that we have the right to--fingers. Hammers are not mentioned. Knives are not included. We did have the right to own people the same color as Tamir Rice, but we didn't have the right to own our own fingers, which with enough determination can be as deadly as a gun.

You can take my fingers from my cold, dead hands.

What's interesting about this week is that people did not vilify #BlackLivesMatter. An angry Black man shot a lot people, and for the most part we...

took a moment. We, no matter our politics and no matter our Cis/race/age/finger-count, took that...

moment. It gives me hope. It gives a lot of people hope, which validates my own hope and so I feel okay in acknowledging it: Hope.

Some have tried to dull the overall arc of the moral universe, which is okay. That's why the arc isn't truly an arc. It bends, but it also doesn't form a beautiful rainbow (Because I'm gay, I think in rainbows).

Dr. King said this: The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

There are a lot of people who would like to make that arc a scythe.

There are a lot of people who have made the arc a dull and jagged thorn.

But it is amazing to me that everyone I know has decided two things:

1) Understand that the 5 cops in Dallas were killed by an insane person. Guns are not fingers. Guns are not humans.

2) Understand that love is a nice thing, with frilly bits and occasional hugs. We can disagree a lot, but we all should disagree with a bend toward justice. And justice bends.

Just, you know, be kind to one another. And do not assume you know it all. Black lives matter and...

I shouldn't have to tell you this.

Jesus, I'm a gay man who has a pretty secure gay-to-white ratio. I'm not likely to be shot, but there is a spectrum--if I kiss my husband in the wrong restaurant, or on the wrong streetcorner in the wrong state... All it takes is one insane person having a very bad day. But while I worry about assholes, I am not black. I know the bending arc. I know justice. It bent very sharply for people like me.

For black men? It doesn't bend. It dawdles, meanders, and bullets travel much more quickly than justice.

So.

Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

Life is awful for every one of us.

Be kind.

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