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Where do they come from? (or, some things remain ineffable)

I woke up Tuesday morning in an extremely dark room with the feeling that something was wrong. I rolled over to squint at the red large print display of the alarm clock to see that it was after 10. I exclaimed a swear word or three and scrambled to get out of bed, since I have a 9:30am meeting every day at work which I was now quite late for.

I wondered why my alarm hadn’t gone off and glanced down at my wrist. I was still wearing my Apple Watch, so I hadn’t remembered to put it on the charger. I could see the hands on the face stopped at about 3am and realized that the battery must have run down. I turned on the light so I could find the charger, and was a little confused because the furniture in the room appeared to have been moved around. And I had no idea where my phone was.

I left the room, having to pass through the small master bathroom with the large whirlpool bath, through the big storage room with all the creepy furniture under dusty sheets, through the cramped kitchen with the weird stove and the red and white cabinets until I reached the living room, where the large dark brown shelves were stuffed with old photos and knick knacks, the coffee table with the book shelves built in sat in front of the turquoise couch, where I finally found my phone, which I needed to use to call my boss.

That was about the point when a corner of my brain that had been pointing out all the incongruities managed to be heard over the total panic I was having to point out that none of the things I just described actually exist in my house…

And I opened my eyes again, finding myself curled up in my recliner (I sleep the first part of most nights in the recliner because of the chronic reflux and the subsequent bleeding ulcer that very nearly killed my 18 years ago). I could read the glowing display of the cable box (right next to the charger with my actual Apple Watch—you know, a device that if the battery was dead you wouldn’t be able to see the hands since they are just pixels on its screen—was charging). It was 6 am, not 10-something.

Since I don’t normally remember more than a few snippets of dreams, I got up and checked around the house, figuring that I had been in the middle of a deep sleep and an unexpected noise had interrupted. But I couldn’t find any obvious problem. My husband had already left for work (as is usual for that time). It was just a weird dream, I guess.

I double-checked that the watch was charging and that the alarms were still set to go off at the usual time, then crawled into bed hoping to get another hour sleep.

And I got thinking about some of those details in the dream, because many of them have appeared in many of my dreams over the years. The crowded master suite bathroom with the whirlpool, for example. The kitchen with the weird stove. The enormous dark creepy store room. And so on.

Some of the details of those rooms I understand. The red large print alarm clock belonged to my first husband, Ray, when we first started dating. I kept it for many years after he died in 1997, even though most of its functions (the actual alarm, the radio, and the battery backup) had stopped working long before. The dark book shelves crammed with knick-knacks and photos used to actually exist in my great-grandmother’s den. The coffee table with bookshelves (holding an encyclopedia set) and the turquoise couch were both in my evil grandmother’s living room. One of the places my nice grandmother lived for a few years when I was in grade school had those red and white cabinets (but not the weird stove). But I have no idea where many of the other details come from. I’ve never lived in nor do I remember visiting a home that had that big whirlpool bath, for instance. Yet it appears in my dreams again and again and has been for decades.

I don’t remember any house with a huge store room full o furniture under dust cloths, though such rooms appear so often in movies—particularly horror movies of a certain era—that we can probably assume it’s just lifted from those movies.

And this is not by any means the first time I have tried to figure out where the weird stove comes from. It sort of looks like it was designed by Escher? It’s so hard to describe. There are burners where you couldn’t possible expect a pan to sit on them, for instance. And it has a bewildering array of levers and control knobs.

The truth is that our subconscious has more than a few ineffable processes. So while we can try to figure out where some of those images and notions come from and what they mean, there is no objective way of verifying the validity of those conjectures.

Which is something I find myself saying in a different way again and again to some friends and acquaintances who bemoan their inability to come up with “good ideas” for writing. There is almost no such thing as a bad idea for a story. I mean, you can build stories on bigoted or hateful premises, and that isn’t exactly a good thing, but generally speaking, any idea, no matter how mundane or surreal, could be turned into an interesting story with enough work.

And rewrite.

The truth is that almost any story that you can name that you think of as great, was almost certainly a mess and barely readable in the first draft.

It’s okay if the idea doesn’t feel great when you start. Get the first draft done, no matter what those voices of doubt say. Set the story aside for a while. Then pick it up and start editing.

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Join us in the light! #NationalComingOutDay

Today is National Coming Out Day. If Ray were still alive, it would also be the day we’d be celebrating the twenty-sixth anniversary of our commitment ceremony (he promised to stay with me for the rest of his life, and he did). My (very-much alive) husband Michael and I don’t have any anniversaries that are close to this date, but this is the twentieth National Coming Out Day we’ve lived together.

I’ve written about why I think it is important that every queer person (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, nonbinary, genderfluid, asexual, aromantic, two-spirit, questioning, et cetera) who can safely be out of the closet to do so. Study after study has shown that the more queer friends and acquaintances a straight person has, the more likely they are to support equality for LGBT people. Studies also show that queer and questioning teens and children who have positive queer role models in their community are significantly less likely to attempt suicide than those who don’t.

But it is also important for your own mental and physical health. Being in the closet means living in a constant state of fear. You second guess everything. You’re constantly worried about being rejected by friends or family members if they find out. All that anxiety and stress takes a toll on your mental and physical well-being.

Make no mistake: the fear is real. About 40% of the homeless teens are in that situation because they were kicked out of their homes by their parents when the parents found out they were gay or trans (which is why I advise young people to be very careful about coming out while still financial dependent on their parents). Even if you wait until you are a self-supporting adult (I was 31 years old when I came out), you may still face rejection from people you have loved and counted on your whole life. One of my grandmothers forbade any other family member of mentioning me in her presence. A friend I had thought of as closer than a brother since we were teen-agers was quite angry when I came out and to this day (he happens to be married to a distance relative of mine, so I still hear about him from time to time) insists that I’m going to burn in hell because I’m gay.

But, not everyone reacts that way. And some people will surprise you. One of my aunts who is otherwise quite politically conservative declared that anyone who had a problem with me being gay would have a bigger problem with her. Some people who had been acquaintances that I thought would just shrug and move on became genuinely close friends because coming out to them is an act of making yourself vulnerable—and when they react to that vulnerability with acceptance, that changes the way you perceive each other.

Once I was no longer spending all of that time and energy trying to hide part of myself from anyone, I found that I had more energy and enthusiasm to do the things I love. And when you’re doing that, you meet other people who love some of the things you do. Coming out meant losing (and in some cases evicting) more than a few people from my life. It wasn’t a loss, though, because those people had never loved me for who I was—they liked the mask that I wore when I was closeted. And that’s true even of the relatives who had suspected I was gay for decades and had spent many years praying that god would change me. Those were people who were not adding to my life—their love was conditional, and one of the conditions was that I live a life of fear and without love and intimacy. Separating myself from those people, made room for a much more wonderful and supportive found family.

I was lucky enough to fall in love with a sweet man who loved me back. And after he died, I was lucky again to meet and fall in love with another (though very different) man who loved me back. Being able to love and be loved and not keep that love a secret is something that straight people take for granted that many literally can’t comprehend why being out matters. Once you experienced it, you’ll be amazed at how long you put up with concealing your real self.

So, if it is safe for you to come out, you should. You’ll find that standing out in the light, being true to yourself, is so much better than hiding in the dark!

Oh, and some of you may find this article useful: Trevor Project Releases Coming-Out Handbook for LGBTQ Youth.

How we react to the world is both human and political, but I repeat myself

“Fox News: Liz Warren wants to take money from the rich and give it to the poor! Me: Cool, cool. Mark Zuckerberg: Liz Warren is an existential threat to my business! Me: Guys, I already like her, ok. You don't have to sell her this hard.”

Despite the graphic, this post is not about what most people think of as politics. (Click to embiggen)

So, I’ve written a few times about social media, with the observation that a lot of the dysfunction that people like to attribute to the technology is really just human nature. Which doesn’t mean it’s not a problem, it’s just that neither tweaking the technology nor abandoning it altogether is going to solve those problems. But, the technology does have problems; sometimes one of those problems is that it is simply amplifying some of our less-functional traits, and sometimes it’s something much more complicated.

I’ve also previously mentioned that I’m one of those people who has found that if I don’t check Facebook from time to time I absolutely will get no news whatsoever from some branches of the family that I would like to stay in contact with. Muting and carefully unfollowing/blocking some people has decreased some of the previous annoyance—I don’t need to be reminded that Cousin Windbag thinks god will destroy America because I was legally allowed to marry my husband by seeing all the hateful memes and such that he posts constantly to his wall, for instance. And no one needs to see all the racists, xenophobic, anti-semetic nonsense Uncle Blowhard shares. But no matter how carefully I curate the feed, things get through that are a bit more than an annoyance.

Such as the friend request from an ex-step-cousin who (when he was a young adult and I was still a child) constantly referred to me as “that faggot” to other family members. I didn’t really want a reminder of that particular bit of childhood bullying, thank you very much. I don’t know why he decided to send me a friend request, but the particular political leanings displayed on his public wall makes it seem very unlikely his intention is to apologize.

Or the relative that, so far as I can remember, hasn’t contacted me in several years (to be fair, I also have not made an effort to reach out to them) who decided to send me a private message to offer condolences for the death of my father nearly three years after the fact. Now, offering condolences is fine—and there are many reasonable explanations for why someone hadn’t been able to offer them sooner.vBut here’s the thing: my dad was an emotionally and physically abusive man and it wasn’t at all a sense of loss that I felt when he died. Heck, one of my best friends made me practice saying, “We weren’t that close. We’d hardly spoken in forty years,” when my father was lying in hospice so I wouldn’t instead blurt out something inappropriate if an acquaintance or co-worker offered condolences.

This is also one of the relatives that I’m muting on my timeline because of all the anti-gay, anti-immigrant, et cetera stuff they post. In other words, all the same sort of things that Dad would rant about if you gave him a chance.

Sometimes people drift out of your life because of circumstance. But sometimes it’s a choice. Our different worldviews and values are a far bigger barrier to any relationship I’d have with this relative than the 1200 miles distance between our homes.

And please don’t tell me that it’s just politics and that family is more important than a mere opinion. Politics isn’t like be a sports fan. I can be friends with people who root for football teams I dislike, just as I am friends with people who don’t like my Seahawks. But politics is about policies that all of us have to live under. And politics is also about values. Unfortunately, a lot of politics is about which people are treated as people under the law, and which are treated as things.

For example: the way our society is structured, you have to work to survive. If you aren’t willing to say that queer people, trans people, people of various ethnicities, and so should protected from job discrimination, then you are saying that you don’t care if those categories of people die. Similarly, if your reaction to finding out our government has been seizing children at the border and packing them into cages is to try to blame the parents rather than being incandescently outraged at the abuse of children, I am more than justified in judging you for that.

I’m allowed to decide I don’t want to be friends with people whose values are monstrous.

Many times when critiquing social media, people focus on the impersonalization—it is easy to forget that it is another person on the other side of the screen and say things we would never say in person. But there is also the inverse problem, particularly with the way some social platforms work so hard to connect you with people you used to know, mutual friends, an so on: over-personalization. I and the second relative mentioned above haven’t seen each other in person in decades, nor talked in years. But thanks to the social media, an illusion can exist of continued contact because they can see my posts.

In my mind, I’ve been giving this person the cold shoulder for years—but in a completely non-confrontational way. And admittedly, I’ve been happy about being able to mute some people and so forth without them ever knowing that I have. I’ve let the technology aid and abet my passive-aggressive method of cutting them out of my life. Which means I’m at least partly responsible for these awkward moments that do more to remind me of bad things from the past than cheer or console.

I don’t have a pat answer of how to go forward. I think it is okay to let yourself drift away from people who have more negative impact on you than positive. But I think it is also important to ask yourself whether you’re making an effort to be a positive in the lives of those around you.

After summer comes the… cold and flu season already?

So, we had a mild-ish summer this year (which after several years in a row of breaking the previous hottest-summer-ever records was nice), and we had our usual not-quite-fall-yet weather for most of September, until the very end of the month where temperatures dropped, we got snow in at least one of the passes, and suddenly it feels a lot more like November than October. And, oh, yes, when I came down with a bad cold or flu three weeks ago, it seems so did half of my co-workers… and just as I thought I was getting over it, I get hit with another round.

The one upside, I think, to being sick for a few weeks with long work hours is that I was distracted for most of September about the proximity of my birthday. I did keep forgetting. I almost broke the rule my husband has imposed for years: From about a month before my birthday through Christmas, I’m not supposed to buy things for myself that other people might get me for my birthday. I can buy food, medicine, clothes, and other necessity types of things, but not books or movies or anything at has ever been on one of my wishlists. I didn’t break the rule… I just came close a few times. Because I kept forgetting what month it was.

And that’s a good thing because of what usually happens during September. See, two days after my birthday is the birthdate of my first husband, who died 22 years ago. And a few weeks before my birthday is the anniversary of the first date I ever had with my late husband. And most years when I realize that my birthday is coming up, that immediately reminds me of Ray’s birthday and the anniversary, and that often kicks off a bit of seasonal depression. Typically said depression doesn’t let up until mid-November: the anniversary of his death.

It isn’t always really bad. Sometimes it just means that for a that few months I’m prone to more moodiness than others.

This year it didn’t really hit until the day after his birthday… and so far it hasn’t been very bad. Or at least not bad as the misery of being sick. Not being able to get any sleep last night from the coughing, for instance.

Not that being miserable sick is necessarily any better, but what can you do?

Wanting a better world, or, confessions of a queer nerdy survivor

“Some people are angry if others don't suffer as they suffered... ...others do everything in their power to make sure no one else suffers as they have.”

(Click to embiggen)

It’s really hard to remain respectful in some arguments. For instance, I fully support the proposals of several progressive politicians that we make university education free. Every other industrialized country in the world does it, so why can’t we? Well, one argument that comes up again and again is, “But won’t that make all the people who had to pay off huge college debts angry?” My first response is, speaking as someone who spent many years trying to pay off his education loans, and only managed it because he was lucky enough to be an early employee of a tech start up that succeeded (so guess where 90% of my stock option earnings went?), “No, I would not be the slightest bit angry if no one else had to go through what I went through!”

My middle school wrestling coach (who was also my 8th grade math teacher) was old enough that he nearly died of polio as a child. He had to wear a leg brace the rest of his life, among other negative health issues left over from that ordeal. And while the anti-vax movement hadn’t reached its current level of penetration in society, back when I was in school the early stirrings of the movement existed. There was a story in the news about someone urging parents not to get their kids vaccinated for reasons that indicated they didn’t understand how vaccines or the immune system worked while I was his student, and so one day before we had our math lesson, we were treated to an impassioned talk from Coach about how 1) he wished the vaccine had existed when he was a child, and 2) how could any parent be so irresponsible as to not want to spare their child the pain and suffering or a preventable illness?

Almost every year during Pride Month I wind up writing at least one blog post where I say I am proud of myself and my fellow queer survivors because we survived the bullying, gaslighting, abuse, and oppression and have managed to create beautiful meaningful lives. But while I’m proud of having survived that, I don’t think any less of anyone who didn’t get bullied as much as me. What kind of psychopathic monster would wish that kind of pain on another person?

Part of the answer, I know, is that most of us have been taught from a very early age that misery builds character—that we become a better person by enduring these experiences. It’s reasonable to infer that I believe that from my comments such as that in the previous paragraph. But that isn’t quite what I mean. Misery doesn’t build anything.

It’s like exercise: you’re probably familiar with the notion that engaging in exercise which stresses the muscles will stimulate the body to increase muscle mass. That’s true enough, as far as it goes. But it isn’t the exercise which is building the muscles. It’s your body that is building extra muscle mass, and it can only do that if your diet includes enough protein, and if it has time to rest in between periods of exercise. Exercise is a specific type of stress placed on your muscles. It isn’t random. Beating a person will also stress the muscles, but that kind of stress doesn’t elicit the muscle-building activity at a bio-chemical level.

Similarly, it isn’t the bullying to built character, it’s several other things. One factor is how the person experiencing the suffering responds to it. Some survivors of abuse become abusers themselves later in life. That isn’t what people usually mean by “building character” even though it is a perfectly predictable response to being abused. Another factor is whether the person had other positive things in their life. Were they getting emotional support? Did that have someone in their life who loved them unconditionally? Were the places or times when they could escape the abuse?

I’m proud of people I know who survived bullying and worse not because of the bullying, but because they have embraced kindness and compassion despite the bad times. It’s what they did with it that matters.

Life will always have challenges. But some challenges are artificial. People forget that the very notion of money and private property are things humans just made up. They aren’t like laws of physics. We can change how the system works. And it isn’t that hard, because we do it all the time. Every time we change a tax (whether an increase or a decrease), we’re changing how the financial system works.

We live in a world where nearly 40% of the food we produce each year is just wasted. Yet there are people who can’t get enough food (or enough nutritious food) to survive. We’ve reached the point where large financial institutions are starting to panic a bit because of the sheer volume of wealth that is being hoarded in non-productive ways by the billionaire class. People are finally beginning to realize that the old truism (usually attributed to Henry Ford—hardly a progressive icon) that if workers are not paid enough to afford whatever products industries are producing, those industries will collapse.

I want the world to be a better place. I want people who are small children now to grow up and not have to struggle against problems that are entirely arbitrary and artificial—problems that we know how to fix—even though I had to fight those problems. I’m perfectly okay with them growing up in a better world than I did.

Don’t you agree?

It’s good to be prime again—birthday thoughts from a homo devil

Today is my birthday. If you want to know which birthday, let’s just say that I am the only prime number less than 60 and greater than 54, okay? When I was a kid, my birthday was early enough in the school year that I often seemed to catch teachers by surprise. It was late enough in September that, under the rules of the school district we lived in when I turned five years old, I wasn’t allowed to be enrolled until the next year. So I was usually older than the rest of the kids in my class. There were some downsides to that, but also a few upsides.

The other thing that used to be more of an annoyance when I was younger was how crowded the birthdays were among my extended family. I was born 39 days after my Mom’s 17th birthday, and only 6 days before my Dad’s 18th birthday (yes, my parents were 16 years old when they got married!). I was also born 8 days after one of my cousins (the one that has been called my almost twin since we were infants, because when Grandma was babysitting both of us strangers would think we were twins). I was born two weeks before one grandmother’s 38th birthday and ten days after one grandfather’s 40th birthday. Also within a few weeks of my birthday were the birthdays or two uncles, and a whole bunch of other cousins (and demi-cousins, and step-cousins, and cousins-once-removed and so on).

During my teen years, when we lived in the same community as most of my mom’s siblings and other extended family members on her side, from the middle of August through Christmas there were one or two birthdays every single week. And my grandmother on that side (who was emphatically the ruling matriarch of the clan) insisted that everyone needed to show up and celebrate everyone else’s special day. Which didn’t really feel all that special when it was the 6th or 9th extended family get-together of that month, you know? Not that I have a right to complain. My one cousin whose birthday is two days after Christmas would be the first to point out that there are worse times to have one’s birthday than late September.

Which is sort of a convoluted way to say that while I have always enjoyed those times that we have gotten together with a bunch of friends to have a blow-out birthday, I’m also perfectly happy to spend the day lazing around the house, reading, and enjoying the well-wishes from friends; and then celebrating with a dinner with my husband.

But to get back to the cluster of family birthdays and why I mention being a homo in the title of this post: one of the step-cousins I mentioned in passing above had his birthday just a couple of days before mine. He was the step-son of one of my dad’s siblings, and therefore didn’t join the family until I was about 11 years old. When I was in middle school he was in college, and whenever we were visiting his family, or if his family came to visit the grandparents (and therefore we all had to show up for at least part of the visit), he always found a way to tell me that I was a freak.

By which I mean he would literally say, “You are such a freak!” or “God, you really are an over-educated freak, aren’t you?” He only called me a faggot to my face once that I recall, but years later I learned that my aunt (his step-mother at the time) was constantly admonishing him for calling me a faggot while talking about me with other family members. And I want to emphasize here, he was 20 years old and when I was 13—so this wasn’t a child being cruel to another child, but rather someone who supposedly was an adult being cruel to a child. Anyway, it should come as no surprise that I didn’t shed any tears when said aunt divorced his father when I was in high school. I thought I would never have to deal with his nonsense for the rest of my life, right?

Well, now we live in a world that includes Facebook. I typically log in to Facebook no more than about once or twice a month, and only then because for some family members I care about, Facebook is the only way to reliably get news about what’s happening in their lives. And so a couple weeks back when I logged in to ping some of my fellow Seahawks fans, what did I find but a friend request from this jerk…

Now, to be fair, he wasn’t the only person during my childhood who found ways to point out that I didn’t conform to societal expectations. I spent most of my childhood trying to figure out why so many of my classmates, public school teachers, Sunday School teachers, and pastors thought that there was something wrong with me. Specifically, why so many classmates, teachers, adult relatives, and at least one pastor kept calling me a “pussy,” “sissy,” “homo,” “faggot,” “weirdo,” et al. Once puberty hit in full force, I finally knew and all of that energy was redirected to trying to convince myself that I wasn’t gay, but that somehow I could thread the needle between my sexual orientation and the expectations of both society at large and the evangelical church in specific.

So, he wasn’t really that much of an outlier among the folks I had to deal with back then, but still, I look at that friend request and have to ask, “Why?” Because when I look at his timeline, it is all pro-NRA and pro-Trump memes. Therefore I can’t imagine that he is reaching out to apologize and say that he wishes he had been more supportive of my non-conformities when I was a kid. Maybe he is, but even looking at his current photos all that comes to mind is all of those times he called me a freak and how he used to disparage me to other family members. So, no, I am not going to accept his friend request.

I spent too much time as a child, teen, and young adult trying to accommodate haters like him. As an adult, I’ve forged a life with friends who love me and accept me (even though I am far from perfect) for who I am. I don’t feel any need to make time for people who couldn’t do that when they had the chance.

I usually end my birthday posts with some words of wisdom about some lesson I have learned. This year I’ve going to paraphrase/mangle Harvey Fierstein:

There is nothing you need more from other people than love and respect. Anyone who couldn’t give you that when they had a chance, doesn’t deserve a place in your life.

Hey, y’all, it’s fall!

Yesterday was the autumnal equinox, which means that in the northern hemisphere summer is over, and fall is here! I love fall. I sometimes have described fall as my favorite season. Though I have also said that here in western Washington state we have only two seasons—Rainy and Road Construction. And I’ve also joked about Decorating Season. Regardless, I really enjoy the fall. I don’t deal well with hot weather, so even when we have a slightly milder summer as we did this year, I’m always super happy when the weather people start saying things like we aren’t likely to break 80º F this year. Besides the cooler temperatures, this also means that it starts raining more regularly, and I love the rain.

Fall means more than just a change in the weather. Until well into my twenties, fall also meant the beginning of a new school year. And while as a child the restarting of school meant dealing with bullies, it also meant new text books and new teachers. And I’m a big book-loving nerd who enjoys learning new things. So the arrival of autumn makes me think about new project, or gives me inspiration to work harder on unfinished stories and the like.

Fall is also the kick-off of Decorating Season, as mentioned above. I don’t do quite as much elaborate decorations for the various holidays as I used to, but I have hung up a glittery Happy Harvest thing on the front door, and I have a bunch of window clings of autumn leaves and pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns and black cats. So spooky things will be going up in the next few days. Then after Halloween I’ll swap out for more generic harvest and Thanksgiving stuff.

Which means that Christmas isn’t far around the corner. Which means I need to start doing a better job finding presents for people on my list!

But for now, I’m just happy that it’s finally Fall!

“Hello Autumn”

“Hello Autumn”

Here comes the rain again… and I couldn’t be happier!

This picture is actually from a thunderstorm in 1999 (c) Patrick Haggerty/Associated Press

I don’t deal well with warm weather. I have sometimes phrased this as, “I melt at 80 degrees or higher.” For most of the 43 years that I’ve lived in western Washington state, that hasn’t been a big problem, because we usually only get a week or so of weather in the high-80s and up most summers. The previous few years (as the average temperature of the atmosphere has been climbing), have been a different story. Last summer and the summer before we had several weeks of the high weather accompanied by smoke from wild fires in Eastern Washington and British Columbia. Smoke so severe that health officials weren’t just recommending that some people might want to wear masks, but urged everyone to wear particular masks for days on end.

It was awful! The sky was a sick yellow color, the sun was a hellish red color, everything stank of smoke, my sinuses were swollen as if the worst hay fever day was coinciding with a sinus infection, and it was so hot I just wanted to curl up in a deep freeze somewhere.

And the two things — higher average temperatures and smoke — were related. Because wild fires are both more likely and harder to contain because of the heat and how dry all the plantlike growing in the wilderness was.

This summer we had something that was more like the summers of old (which are going to continue to be less likely as we go). We had a week of really hot weather, then a few days of cool weather, a week or too of kinda hot weather, a few days of cool, and then another week of really hot weather, with a bit of a cool down to only sort-of hot weather, and so on.

Then, Saturday night, this happened: Hundreds of ‘insane’ lightning strikes bring chaos to Seatte. And while the actual storm was a bit disturbing, it was part of a big shift in the weather pattern, as we move out of the summer pattern and more toward fall. The long-term forecast is we won’t hit 80 degrees Fahrenheit
again this year, which has me cheering. And the short-term forecast is periods of occasional rain today and tomorrow, partly sunny Wednesday, and then back to rain.

I love the rain. Really. I like listening to it coming down. I like hearing the sound of tires on the wet roads. I like to go outside and stand in it for a while… I’m just really happy.

Another upside to the slightly closer to normal weather over the summer is that I didn’t have as many awful hay fever days. I still had a lot of bad hay fever days and I was taking extra meds a lot, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the last several summers.

Of course, I’m not out of the woods there, yet. A lot of flowering plants, some trees, and many grasses will keep pollinated for the rest of this month and into October. And when the pollen starts to subside, all the ferns (which grow all over the place in our damp client) will start sporing. And then some time in November as the ferns stop filling the air with their spores we’ll have mushrooms and toadstools popping up everywhere and the air will be filled with fungal spores and molds until (if) we get a hard freeze.

But it’s a lot easier to deal with hay fever when I’m not also feeling like the air is baking my body as a walk around.

I much prefer to rain.

Set our hearts at liberty — more confessions of a queer ex-evangelical

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are bing that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”

“The problem with (some) christians: That they think they are being that guy (points to Jesus being lashed and tortured) whilst behaving like those guys (points to the roman soldiers beating Jesus).”

Marriage, as we know, is a blessed arrangement. We also know that it’s an ancient tradition. Except, of course, exactly what that arrangement was and how it was arranged has been a constantly changing thing for all of human history. For instance, in some of the Ancient Greek city-states the tradition of male line inheritance required that if a man of property died without a son, a surviving daughter or granddaughter of child-bearing age would be forced to marry her closest male relative and that husband would then become the heir. Many societies didn’t merely allow a man to hve more than one wife—it was expected! There were fewer societies that allowed a woman to have more than one husband, but those existed, too. Even if we restrict ourselves to the Judeo-Christian traditions, remember that the Biblical King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Most European traditions didn’t assume monogamy was part of marriage until something between the 6th and 9th Centuries AD. Christian teachings didn’t start treating marriage as a sacrament until the 16th Century AD (despite that oft-quoted verse about “what god has joined together”). The same sort of people who quote that verse while demanding that secular law follow their tradition ignore the parts of the New Testament where the Apostle Paul condemned marriage as a waste of time, and only grudgingly said that if a man found himself so burning with lust it distracted from evangelizing should he marry.

The modern notion of marriage being about two people who fall in love and decided to pledge themselves to each other didn’t really become common until the 1700s. Now, it’s true that songs and poems and such from the 12th Century on waxed rhapsodic about courtly love, but it was considered the exception, rather than the rule.

All of these facts contradict what I was told about marriage growing up in Southern Baptist churches. Marriage, according to them, was a sacred institution that had existed unchanged since the beginning of time. And it had always been about a man and a woman who love each other and commit to a lifetime together. And once married, no matter what the circumstances, the two are bound together in love and divine grace, et cetera.

And they really did mean no matter the circumstance. I sat through more than one sermon where the pastor said that even if you make a mistake and marry the person god didn’t want you to, once you exchange your vows before god, that person is now the right person.

Despite the above, as far as I know, every single Baptist church we had ever been a member of had at least one married couple in which at least one member had been married to someone else before, been divorced, and had now re-married. And most people in the church treated the second marriage as just as sacred and eternal as the ideal they kept talking about. The usual hand-waving was the god forgives everyone who repents, and therefore if someone has committed the sin of divorce, but now has sincerely repented and pledged to make it work this time, well, god’s going to bless that.

Of course, before many members of a congregation were willing to go to that step, the divorced person would have to suffer for a while. They had to have a moving tale of the pain and heartache and regret they went through to show the sincerity, you see. Because someone had to be to blame, right? And if someone is to blame, then they must be punished. Like the women in this story: For Evangelical Women, Getting a Divorce Often Means Taking All the Blame.

That idea, that divorce is always wrong, doesn’t just hurt women who are in bad marriages. It also hurts children. I’ve written more than once about how my father was physically and emotionally abusive. When my mom shared her pain and fear with people at church, the answer was always the same: if she had enough faith, god would change dad.

No matter what evidence was presented.

When I was 10, my dad beat me on a Sunday afternoon with a broom handle while calling me the worst names imaginable. By the time he was done not only was I covered in bruises and contusions and worse, I had a broken collar bone. I had to be taken to the emergency room. Later that week—while my arm was still in a sling, I was bruised everywhere, and stitches visible on my face—our pastor looked me in the eyes and told me that if I would just be obedient and act the way my father wanted, Dad wouldn’t have to be so strict. Keep in mind, Dad had sworn off religion a few months before I was born. He refused to set foot in church and wasn’t the slightest bit friendly or welcoming when the pastor visited our home. Yet still, because of their theology about marriage and the husband’s role as master of the home, anything bad that happened to the rest of us was our fault.

I don’t know everything the pastor said to Mom, because I was taken away by one of the church ladies (who scolded me some more for upsetting my father so much he did this to me) while the pastor talked to Mom in private. But Mom came out of the meeting convinced that it was her fault. If she just had enough faith and loved Dad enough he wouldn’t be this way.

Somehow that doesn’t seem like the wise plan of a loving god, you know?

What brought all of this to mind today is this odd little bit of news I came across: Hate Group NOM Allows Web Domain To Expire. The National Organization for Marriage was at the forefront of the battle against gay civil unions, marriage equality, gay adoption rights, and several related fights for years. They poured millions of dollars into ad campaigns to defeat gay rights initiatives and so forth. They have insisted again and again that they don’t hate gay people—they are just defending traditional marriage.

The kind of traditional marriage that says a woman must stick to her husband even if he beats her and their children severely, for instance.

The organization still exists, and its president, Brian Brown, is still sending out fear-mongering email blasts to supporters begging for money. The last time the IRS got them to partially disclose their donors (they have been under investigate for many years because they never file complete paperwork or comply with court orders to disclose campaign spending) their donations (and the number of donors) had dropped off significantly. NOM used to be an umbrella organization for at least 8 different “education and advocacy” funds and a bunch of Political Action Committees, now all but two of those have been shut down. Apparently last year each of those two remaining entities reported income of less than $50,000.

I’m hoping that the website lapsing is a sign this hate group is gasping out its dying breaths. Joe Jervis, who runs the Joe.My.God gay news blog, reports: “I’ve put in the required whopping $12 bid to snap up the domain, which will redirect to JMG if I’m successful.”

If you can’t muster the empathy to tell an abused child or an abused spouse that being a victim isn’t their fault, you don’t know what “love they neighbor” means. And you can’t claim to be following a loving god while doing and saying hateful things about whole categories of people.


The title comes from the hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley, #2 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal. All of the Baptist Churches I was ever a member of used the 1956 edition of the Baptist Hymnal. The next major update didn’t happen until 1991, by which point I was out of the closet and officially declared myself a former Baptist.

He has no sock(puppet)s, and he must cry wolf*—bullied bullies are everywhere

April, 1958 issue of Amazing Science Fiction. Cover art by Ed Valigursky

This cover art by Ed Valigursky for the April, 1958 issue of Amazing Science Fiction shows a completely different kind of sci fi puppy than we’ll be talking about today.

I started to assemble this post about an aggrieved conservative sci-fi writer last week, but other things kept coming up, and since the kerfuffle seems to have blown over, I wasn’t sure there was much value in throwing in my two cents. But then a couple of the most recent developments in some national news stories made certain similarities between the actions of certain distressed pups and other angry white men. I decided that with so angry white men claiming to be victims, and maybe it was worth looking at a fairly inconsequential example that played out over a handful of days to get some insight into the motivations of the others. So, first, the meltdown of one of the fringe members of the melancholy canines.

Note: At no point in the following will I link directly to the angry, profanity-laden posts of the bullied bully. All links are to others talking about the situation. Some of them link to the rants, if you really need to read them.

So, a writer who markets himself** to a particular subset of science fiction fans—conservative, pro-gun rights—got really upset when some editor at Wikipedia tagged his wikipedia page to discuss possible deletion. The original article looked like it was lifted almost entirely from his own web page, and the only citations it had was to his blog and webpage. Under various editorial guidelines of Wikipedia the article certainly didn’t appear to meet the minimal criteria for keeping. I mean, come on: a bunch of the links on the first author’s page were places where you could buy his merchandise and his custom knives!

Of course, this happens all the time. Articles get flagged. There is one author’s article (that got referenced in some of the rants) that was tagged over seven years ago… and it has never actually been deleted. Part of the purpose of tagging such articles is to try to get some attention to them so that people will clean them up, add citations, and so forth.

Anyway, because of the angry screed, dozens of people went to Wikipedia and screamed at the editors, accusing them of being angry libtards targeting conservative writers. Which, given the fairly well-documents conservative bias of Wikipedia editors, is more than slightly hilarious. Said wikipedia editors quickly determined that a certain number of the angry attack accounts were sock-puppet accounts belonging to the aggrieved author, and banned his account (though the discussion continued).

Equally of note is that a large number of identifiable actual liberal members (or not-so-liberal but still despised by the aggrieved author and is allies) of the sci-fi community logged in to argue against deleting the conservative author’s page, arguing that his long publishing history, award nominations, and so forth qualified him as notable. They also helped clean up the article and added a lot of third party citations (to places like Publisher’s Weekly, Locus Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Stars and Stripes, et cetera). In other words, the people he always claims are out to get him were actually helping.

But that wasn’t enough! No, being an angry little white puppy he was absolutely certain that there is a conspiracy to bully people like him, so he started predicting specific conservative writers would have their articles flagged next. Then, lo and behold, a few hours after each time he went online to make such a prediction, the authors he named had a deletion tag added to their Wikipedia page by a mysteriously recently-created wiki account. Many of those were very quickly untagged by the administrators.

It should be noted that, in addition to the sock puppet activities that got his account banned during this kerfuffle, the author has a history of getting accounts suspended on other social media platforms for setting up sock puppet accounts to follow him and agree with him. So, applying Occam’s Razor, we can assume that his predictions are not proof he is an oracle, but rather a troll.

The upshot of all this is not only was the aggrieved author’s page spared, but so were all the others that supposedly had been targeted.

The aggrieved author and his allies are so defensive that they don’t notice who is willing to help them. I also think contributing to the problem is how incredibly insular they are. The old version of his wikipedia page and a couple of the others that were briefly flagged only had links to pages controlled by the people who were the subjects of the articles. Yeah, some of the pages had a lot of self-promotion, but I think it doesn’t even occur to them to search for mentions outside their own favorite web portals. It didn’t take long for other people to find dozens of articles outside that insular bubble that mentioned the author or his work.

But despite overwhelming evidence that the content of the articles was the issue rather than any politics, and that people they insist are enemies are more than willing to help out if they see a problem, they insist that they are victims. It’s a classic persecution complex: a delusion that they are constantly being tormented, stalked, tricked, or ridiculed.

Except I think it goes beyond delusion. Being despised is their life blood. One commenter said on one of the blog posts: “Nobody hates them as much as they seem to need to think someone hates them and that is just a miserable way to go through life.” They feel miserable because they aren’t receiving the adoration or acclaim or praise they feel entitled to. But, they can’t admit that they are to blame for how other people perceive them. They need scapegoats. If other people hate them and are conspiring against them, then their misery isn’t their fault. Yes, it is a miserable way to live, but to them it seems less miserable than holding themselves accountable.

And that brings us to other, more serious ways this need to be hated can effect all of us. It begins yesterday when Senator Mitch McConnell took to the senate floor to whine about American citizens pointing out that his actions in blocking election reform again and again despite overwhelming evidence of foreign interference in our elections isn’t in the best interest of Americans. How dare we, the citizens who of the country whose Constitution he has sworn to uphold, express an opinion about his actions! How dare we present the evidence that of actions that at least border*** on treasonous!

His actions aren’t the problem, he insists. No! The real problem is all of us haters. Oh, and any of us citing this evidence are being just like McCarthy—you know, the angry Senator who in the fifties destroyed a bunch of people’s careers and lives without ever actually presenting any evidence that they were enemies of the nation. This is an interesting twist on crying wolf, I must say.

Similarly, the alleged president is still screaming at congresspeople and people of color who disagree with some of his policies, in between is constant stream of insults hurled at various US cities, territories, states, and even people who call him ‘Mr. President’—while at the same time pushing a narrative that people who criticize the US should leave.

Again, the problem isn’t him attacking anyone and everyone, the problem is all those mean haters. And if you think I’m stretching things to compare the alleged president to the aggrieved author: remember the many times that Trump has called into various radio shows and the like, claiming to be someone else praising Trump.

So, I guess a fondness for sockpuppets is another way to spot these angry bullies who think they’re victims.

They claim to be defenders of free speech, yet they are always throwing tantrums when other people say things they don’t like.


Footnotes:

* The title is a riff on Harlon Ellison’s Nebula- and Hugo-winning short story from 1966, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. In no way should this be read to infer that the late Mr. Ellison is involved in any way.

** When describing this situation to some friends I mentioned that all of the author photos available for him feature him holding a gun. And in at least one I saw, holding it incorrectly. I must state for the record that that characterization was wrong: there are also biographical pictures of him holding various hunting knives, swords, or wearing bandoliers of shotgun shells.

*** Personally I think he went way past the border when he blocked the release of the information about Russian interference just before the 2016 election. Everything since has just been him going deeper and deeper into treason.

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