Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rainbow Serenity

“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm,” Author Unknown

I sent my latest Shavings with Anne Balay’s “Steel Closets” on the cover to Brandon Wagman, head of the Highland LGBT group Rainbow Serenity.  Anne deeply admires Brandon and has participated in local Gay Pride parades that he has organized.  On Rainbow Serenity’s website are stories about “coming out.”  The 18 year-old author of “My Story” wrote: I found out [I was bi] because in first grade I began to crush on a girl, then later I also began to crush on a boy. I said to myself ‘what is wrong with me?  I am not normal.’  I would always hear my mom say homosexuals go to hell, and was afraid of telling my mom because I felt that she would not love me anymore. I decided to tell her when I turned 16 and she began to cry; she grounded me for a full year and said that my friends made me become bi. In reality all my friends are straight and they actually helped me come out. I do like girls more and I lean more towards girls. I had to convince my mom that I am supposedly straight so she could let me go out. It is difficult for me to be straight because I am not a ‘girly’ girl, I am more of a sporty type. My mom gets upset if I dress in sporty pants instead of girly. It is difficult, but I have to respect my mom.”

Another self-described bisexual wrote: “I was 15 when I started actively fantasizing about females as well as males; while babysitting for a friend I watched a lot of ‘Sailor Moon’ [an anime TV series featuring a female superhero], it was like porn for me!!! Even still though, I did not realize that girls being with girls was possible, much less normal.”  After she got married, she told her husband she was bisexual, and he pushed her to engage in threesomes.  She refused, and they divorced. Later, while living with another man she met a butch lesbian and realized, in her words, “that I was attracted to females in every way, and that it wasn't just femme girls.” She did not act upon her feelings, however, and, she wrote, “in the process of our friendship going downhill, I learned about the extreme distrust, almost to the point of being hatred, that lesbians have for bisexuals, the names like confused, users, easy, cheaters, and greedy, were all flung at me.”  Finally she met her soul mate but had a hard time disentangling from her boyfriend.  She wrote: “During the time I was in limbo, I had to deal with lesbians telling the woman of my dreams that I wasn't good enough for her because I was bisexual, that I would leave her for a man, that bisexuals are greedy and will sleep with anything, that for all intents and purposes I was a ‘breeder’ and the only thing breeders were good for to a lesbian was for babies, I had never realized the extent to which the anger from lesbians was toward bisexuals.”
Three years ago in a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode titled “The Bi-Sexual,” Larry meets an attractive woman at an art gallery and arranges a date.  Later he discovers that Rosie O’Donnell had the exact same experience with the woman.   When Larry concludes that she must be bisexual, Rosie says, “What is that anyway?  Pick a side already.  Can’t you make up your mind?”  Larry chimes in, “Half the population isn’t enough for you, already?”  Then Rosie tries to get Larry to back off by claiming that most people calling themselves bisexual are really gay.

Rainbow Serenity’s website contained a link to Out and About Northwest Indiana, which recently celebrated its sixth anniversary.  Gail Thomas posted a photo where a dog has a Gay Pride flag in its mouth and members are holding up cards saying, “Have a Gay Day.”

Laverne Cox, on Time’s cover, stars in the Netflix drama “Orange Is the New Black.”  Growing up with a mother and twin brother, Laverne took tap and jazz dancing classes but wasn’t allowed to try ballet because the mother thought it too gay.  A third grade teacher told the mother, “Your son is going to end up in new Orleans wearing a dress.”  Laverne told a Time reporter: Up until that point I just thought that I was a girl and that there was no difference between girls and boys. I think in my imagination I thought that I would hit puberty and I would start turning into a girl.” 

Time estimated that two-thirds of “trans people” seek medical treatment and about one-third have sought surgery.  Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told Time that the focus on what’s in trans people’s pants is “maddening for us.  It’s just not what any of us thinks is an exceptionally interesting thing about us.”  Even so, when Laverne Cox appeared at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco, people wanted to know about so-called “she-male” sex workers, whose porn sites attract a wide audience.  The Internet has enabled transgender people to realize they are not alone and to link them with others.  Here’s how Time described the 1,100 “gender-benders” in the audience: “Men in deep V-necks and necklaces walk by women with crew cuts and plaid shirts buttoned to the top.  Boys carrying pink backpacks kiss on the lips, while long-haired ladies whose sequined tank tops expose broad shoulders snap selfies.”  The article, “The transgender Tipping Point,” is subtitled “America’s next civil rights frontier.”  In backward Indiana we’re still working on same-sex marriage and universities granting tenure to open lesbians.

I ran into 61 year-old Marla Gee at a library computer station and again in the cafeteria, talking with Jesse Johnson.  “I’m not following you,” she said.  “I don’t care if you are,” I replied, referring to her reading my blog.  I am urging her to keep a journal when she starts law school.  She doesn’t even have a car but depends on Gary bus transportation.  What a remarkable lady.

After the 2004 Corolla passed its biannual emissions test, I returned Gin Blossoms and Hall and Oates CDs to Chesterton library and checked out Mara McPherson’s biography of Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin, “The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage and Scandal in the Gilded Age.”  In 1871 Woodhull declared to an appreciative, only slightly shocked audience: “Yes, I am a free lover!  I have an inalienable, constitutional, and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law can frame any right to interfere.”  During the 1980s MacPherson interviewed over 500 people in researching “Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation.”  Among its strengths is its exploration of the class differences between those who fought in Vietnam and those, myself included, able to avoid the war.

Seattle city council passed a $15-an-hour minimum wage bill.  It will be implemented gradually and contains exemptions but has started a long-needed nationwide discussion on what constitutes a living wage.  Councilman Nick Licata, cousin Andrea’s husband, spoke in favor of its passage.
Lorde and Joan Jett; below, Michael Stipe

At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2014 induction ceremony Cat Stevens was in terrific voice and spoke movingly about spirituality without specifically saying he was Muslim.  The finale, with Joan Jett, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, St. Vincent, and Lorde jamming, in place of the late Kurt Cobain, with surviving Nirvana members David Grohl and Krist Novoselic, was unforgettable.  Beforehand R.E. M.’s Michael Stipe, evoking the late 80s and early 90s, a time of Iran-Contra, AIDS, and the machinations of the Reagan and Bush (Sr.) administrations on behalf of corporate America, declared: “Nirvana were artists in every sense of the word.  Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard.  Nirvana was kicking against the mainstream.  They spoke truth and a lot of people listened.”  I saw the indefatigable Joan Jett, who sang, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” live at a Hobart Jaycee Fest, looking buffed and sounding fantastic for the fans gathering in Strack and Van Til’s parking lot for the occasion.
at Gary School Meeting; photo by Carole Carlson

Facing a huge ($27.3 million) budget deficit, Gary School Board voted, 4-2, to close six school, including Lew Wallace.  Just four years ago the Hornets’ basketball team, led by Branden Dawson and coached by Renaldo Thomas, reached the state basketball finals.  A standing-room-only crowd expressed frustration and dismay.  Teachers Union president Joseph Zimmerman warned: “We have to look at how we got to this point.  Across the city there are 4,000 plus students in charter schools.  This is the Wal-Martization of our community.”  Many affected by the closings will end up in charter schools staffed by non-union teachers with questionable ties to the community.  In New Orleans the charter school takeover is complete; there are no public schools left.  Republican state officials, who have done their best to strangle public education, must be deliriously happy.

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” contained lots of laughs, especially from Sara Silverman playing Ruth, a prostitute with a heart of gold.  Showing her vagina to a naïve virgin boyfriend, she lifts her skirt and says, “It’s like from here to her.”  When he says, “Oh,” she adds: “But this is just the outside, there’s these folds.”  His response: “OK, I’m gonna close the bible now.”  Mustachioed Neil Patrick Harris as a lecherous storeowner is the butt of a joke about hair and pussy.  There were cameos by Bill Maher and Jamie Foxx as Django, plugging a shooting gallery barker who used images of darkies eating watermelons as targets.  Liam Neeson was a credible villain and Charlize Theron equally sexy in cowboy duds or a fancy dress.  The peace-loving hero, Albert (Seth MacFarlane) is a sheep farmer, and there are jokes about having sex with ewes and an explicit scene of a male pissing on Albert as he hides from bad guys.

Driving home, I watched a half-dozed England Truck Driving School vehicles turn onto Ridge from Route 194.  A month from now, that could be Anne Balay.  I must look into participating in the Northwest Indiana Gay Pride parade with a sign, reading “Shame on Indiana University: Retain Anne Balay.”

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