Another book the whole damn world needs to read

Raising-My-Rainbow-Adventures-in-Raising-a-Fabulous-Gender-Creative-Son-Lori-Duron

When I was in my mid-twenties, my dad told me that Ellen Degeneres coming out of the closet and my gay best friend being gay/having a boyfriend were “what was wrong with this world.”  It made me incredibly sad and angry to hear him say this (not the least of which was because he still didn’t know I was bisexual.)  In my opinion, Ellen and my best friend were two shining examples of what was right with the world. After finishing Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son* by Lori Duron (and foreward by the ever-amazing Neil Patrick Harris and his partner David Burtka)  I can say without hesitation that Lori Duron is now added to my list of “what is So Very Right with the world.”  Granted, she’s a “who” not a “what”, but this book and the open, loving, giving, accepting, nurturing way she and her family are raising her children transcends how awesome she is as a person.  (Though she is quite kickass all on her own.)

The book centers around the titular “fabulous, gender creative” C.J., who discovers Barbie when he’s just two and a half years old and sets off running down the gender creative road, leaving his family in a glittery, pink wake.  As Duron describes, “It was like watching somebody come alive, watching a flower bloom, watching a rainbow cross the sky.”  From that moment on, C.J. began to discover the world of “girl”, resplendent with long, silky hair, Disney Princesses, sparkles, Monster High, skirts, Hello Kitty, heels, and the sheer awesomeness that is the color pink.  His response of pure, unadulterated glee to it All Things Girly concerned his mom and dad.  C.J. is, after all, a boy.  Boys are supposed to like “boy things: trucks, dinosaurs, the color blue, to name a few.  Right?
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Long post about LGBTQ (and poly, too!) YA fiction is long.

So in the wee hours of this morning when my head wouldn’t shut off but also wouldn’t focus properly, I found this site called gayya.org which is all about LGBTQ Young Adult fiction. They have a pretty fantastic reading list, and welcome suggestions for more titles to put on the list (I sent them four.)

They also have an Online Resources page, where they link to “blogs, websites, and authors” who support LGBTQ YA fiction. I suggested youngadultmag.com, the online YA magazine I’ve written for. To demonstrate the LGBTQ inclusiveness of the site, I shared links to the lesbian poly story I wrote (did I mention the reading list for this site also includes YA books that have some form of polyamory? It’s part of the last category!) and a currently featured, first-in-a-series (called Reflection of a Leader) story, written by a dear friend of mine, centering around about a HS teacher and coordinator of a student LGBTQ group.

The reading list on the site was pretty comprehensive, so I’ve copy and pasted it here to spread the word, give me (and anyone else, if you’re the curious type) an idea of what I’ve read, add some commentary, and also help me to pick new books to check out from the library. Which, can I just say that even though I’m living in the South now, my library has a heartening stock of LGBTQ books? One of the newer ones on the Lesbian list, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” just came out and the library had it ready to go!

LESBIAN CHARACTERS AND PAIRINGS
Gravel Queen by Tea Benduhn
How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart <- WONDERFUL book. Loved it.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth <- just got it from the library last week
The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer
Down to the Bone by Mayra Dole
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden <- one of the first lesbian books I read. Made me love the Temple of Dendur even more.
Good Moon Rising by Nancy Garden
Sister Mischief by Laura Goode
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
Torn by Amber Lehman
Gravity by Leanne Lieberman
Ash by Malinda Lo
Huntress by Malinda Lo
My Tiki Girl by Jennifer McMahon
Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle
Tripping to Somewhere by Kris Reisz
The End by Nora Olsen
Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters
Far From Xanandu by Julie Anne Peters
Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters
Rage by Julie Anne Peters <- Incredibly good, and deals not only with lesbian teen characters, but an abusive one.
She Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters
Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Grl2Grl by Julie Anne Peters
The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
Empress of the World by Sarah Ryan
The Rules for Hearts by Sarah Ryan
Inferno by Robin Stevenson
The Sweep Series by Cate Tiernan
Please Don’t Kill The Freshmen by Zoe Trope
Pink by Lili Wilkson
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
Love & Lies by Ellen Wittlinger

GAY CHARACTERS AND PAIRINGS
Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman
Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block
The Value of X by Poppy Z. Brite
The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron
How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart
Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers
With or Without You by Brian Farrey
The Screwed-up Life of Charlie the Second by Drew Ferguson
My Heartbeat by Garrett Freymanm-Weyr
The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold
Jumping off the Planet by David Gerrold
Bouncing off the Moon by David Gerrold
Leaping to the Stars by David Gerrold
Two Parties, One Tux, and A Very Short Film About the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman
Mariposa Club by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Last Exit to Normal by Michael B. Harmon
Geography Club my Brent Hartinger <- This is part of the “Russel Middlebrook” series (as is the title below this listing) which centers around Russel and his friends in high school. This series is awesome to me, especially, because it features one of YA fiction’s few openly bisexual female characters.
The Order of the Poison Oak by Brent Hartinger
Jack by A.M. Homes
Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
Totally Joe by James Howe
Freaks and Revelations by Davida Wills Hurwin
Freak Show by James St. James <- OMG, I don’t think I’ve ever read a more fabulous character in all of literature than Billy Bloom.
Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger
Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg
The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
Absolutely Positively Not by David LaRochelle
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Leviathan
Boy Meets Boy by David Leviathan
Wide Awake by David Leviathan
Love is the Higher Law by David Leviathan
Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne
Dramarama by E. Lockhart
The Year of Ice by Brian Malloy
Twelve Long Months by Brian Malloy
The Wicked Lovely Series by Melissa Marr
The Straight Road to Kylie by Nico Medina
Hero by Perry Moore
Sunblood by Maria Mora
Shine by Lauren Myracle
Exiled to Iowa. Send Help. And Couture. by Chris O’Guinn
Sprout by Dale Peck
Blood Hound by Tamora Pierce
Do You Know That I Love You by Mark A. Roeder
Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen
In Mike We Trust by P.E. Ryan
Saints of Augustine by P. E. Ryan
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz
The Rainbow Boys Trilogy by Alex Sanchez <- ADORED this trilogy.
So Hard To Say by Alex Sanchez
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai
A Really Nice Prom Mess by Brian Sloan
Stick by Andrew Smith
Big Guy by Robin H. Stevenson
The Blue Lawn by William Taylor
Please Don’t Kill THe Freshmen by Zoe Trope
Peter by Kate Walker
Dishes by Rich Wallace
My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr
A vigil for Joe Rose by Michael Whatling
Bad Boys by Diana J. Wieler
Teenage Rewrite by Brandon Williams
What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson
Hushed by Kelly York

TRANS, POLY AND QUEER PAIRINGS AND CHARACTERS
I Am J by Chris Beam
Speaking Out – Anthology edited by Steve Berman
Mariposa Club by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
F2M: The Boy Within by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher <- It was good. But I also remember it not being as good, to me, as Luna or Parrotfish (see below).
Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr
The End by Nora Olsen
Luna by Julie Anne Peters <- I love Julie Ann Peters. She’s my hero in the LGBTQ YA scene. I would love to meet her one day. Also, this book rocks my socks and I recommend it to anyone, whether you’re dealing with trans issues in your life or family or friends or not.
Blood Hound by Tamora Pierce
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger <- AWESOME. One of my fav trans fiction books.

“But yesterday, Independence Day, at 85 miles per hour I plowed that Harley through the buffet line. It occurs to me…”

“…I don’t think I know me as well as I thought I did.”
-“I Don’t Think I Know Me” by Eddie From Ohio

For nearly twenty years, I’ve loved this song.  But only in the past few has it become uncomfortably obvious that it’s all too true.

No, I didn’t plow into a buffet line.  But there have been other things I’ve willfully just gone ahead and done that really…what the hell was I doing?  There’ve been reasons.  There always are.  Love.  Money.  Attention.  Affection.  Security.

That first one…and that last one…

Man.  It seems I’ve made many decisions based on those two things.  Much of my writing and thinking recently have been examining how and why I’ve done what I’ve done for love.  A Chorus Line‘s “What I Did For Love” sums it up nicely: Won’t regret, can’t forget what I did for love.

But there is another word up there that’s motivated me more sometimes.  And led me down far darker paths.

Security.

It’s amazing what we’ll give up in when it comes to security, isn’t it?  Just look at headlines and the current political climate in the US since 2001.  It surely goes back further, but in my life, I witnessed a great shift in perspective post 9/11.  People became obsessed with “security”.  I put it in quotations because…well…it’s an illusion.  I first came to this realization back in college, shortly after the attacks.  Students were getting ugly, saying callous things like “we should just bomb those countries off the map” and defending against any dissent by retorting with, “if you don’t like it, get the hell outta my country.”  The founding fathers would be so proud.

Rather, they’d be horrified of that type of intolerance.  And of the liberties we’ve given up in the name of security.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

It seems he knew that “security” was very seductive and seldom worth what you gave up for it.

An illusion.  A goddamned illusion.  Some people sleep better at night knowing that their doors are locked, their kids are in their beds, and tomorrow, they’ll get up and go to work.  Nothing really can prepare you for a heart attack.  Or a teenager who gets it into his/her head that s/he’s bored and wants to take the family car without a driver’s license and winds up in a ditch.  Or that some mad man might shoot up your place of work or your kid’s school.  So we make laws designed to make people feel like someone else is protecting us.  “Won’t someone please think of the children” is one of the most disgusting versions of this.  Everything has to have soft corners, be nice and not upsetting.  God forbid children get hurt, or have to deal with disappointment.  Everyone’s a winner.  Which means in many ways, we all lose.

All an illusion.  I figured this out in college, some 12 years ago.  How had I not understood how it applied to other types of security I was seeking?

I loved being married.  I wanted it so badly.  To feel the ring(s) on my finger(s).  To know that I had someone(s) there who had my back, who loved me unconditionally, who wanted to raise a family together, who would be faithful and supportive, who would grow with me into old age.  Security.

But the rings and the vows don’t guarantee that over time, people won’t fall out of love with you.  I can’t make someone be faithful.  Or love me the way I had so hoped they would.  Or support me.  Or raise a family. Or grow old with me.  No one can -make- anyone else do that (not without shady influence, anyway, and really, who wants that?  Well, not me, at least).

Sweet baby Jesus, how I wanted to believe I could change…anything…everything…myself.  I could learn to like things that horrified me.  I could turn a blind eye (sometimes even heart) to things that hurt me.  I could ignore the intuition, the unease, the desperate longing for more, sometimes for anything.  So often, I did.  Too often.  So much so that when it ended, there was honestly some relief.

However, when another opportunity for that security I so desperately wanted presented itself, I all-too-swiftly abandoned some of these dawning realizations, that relief and what it had meant.  Focusing only on the good and willing the bad to go away again, I thought it would be enough.  I thought -I- could be enough.  Enough to cobble together a type of family that I never had.  Security that I dreamed about, where I wouldn’t have to lie awake at night in a state of perpetual anxiety.  I wouldn’t be plagued with the crippling fear of being left yet again, as I had been so many times.  Someone(s) wholly excited on a regular basis to be with me.  To be honest with me.  To love me.  To trust and who trusted me.

A friend recently said, “you need…better love.”  It’s true.  I do.  But I have no idea how to look for it now.  I’m no longer certain that I want to get married.  What’s the point?  It doesn’t, in and of itself, mean forever.  It doesn’t mean faithfulness.  It doesn’t mean honesty.  Hell, it doesn’t even mean Iove.  And it certainly doesn’t mean security.

Which means I’m back to the drawing board.  Figuring things out from the ground up.  Because clearly, I don’t think I know me as well as I thought I did.

“I’ve been here sleeping all these years.”

It’s been a dark week.

My brain and body had very few spoons to start with and the slightest little thing seemed to tap them all at once.  I was besieged by unrelenting nightmares, surprised by physical and emotional pain (much of which shouldn’t’ve been surprising), and bombarded with a near constant urge for chocolate to soothe my nerves, however temporarily.

Slowly, I feel it lifting.  Suggestions from friends (force yourself to work on, and therefore through, it) and family (the less politically correct version: suck it up) helped slightly but not as much as I hoped.  One of the most helpful things was actually when a friend resurrected her round robin style of getting a group of her friends to say three things they’re thankful or glad for every single day. Constantly reminding myself of the good, and having other people do the same, reminded me how many blessings are in my life, if only I remember them.

It’s not perfect.  I still feel off, and things take far too many spoons away from me.  But I’m getting somewhere.  I’m getting some of it out in writing, some through reading, and some in just exploring the dark, painful parts and letting them hurt.

Also, music has been a comfort.  Tylan’s song “Wild Awake” sums up the last 14 years of my life, right up to now, fairly well.  The title of this post is a Melissa Etheridge song called “Into the Dark”, which is where I’ve been.  Others that have popped up are “The Morning of the Rain” and “Let There Be Lonely” by Jonathan Jackson, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserablès, “Thank God for My Friends” by Crystal Bowersox, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Celtic Woman and sometimes Elvis, and “Hold On” from The Secret Garden.

So, yeah.  Holdin’ on.  I guess that’s something, right?

Having (a different kind of) trouble with words

A dear friend sent me a gorgeous Italian leather journal last year. I still have yet to put a single word down in it. I also have a red leather journal with gold gilt page edging. Another virgin journal. Sure, I’ve opened them, stroked their pages, inhaled the glorious leather scent. But for some reason, I can’t bring myself to physically write in them, which is lunacy.

Part of it is that I find it easier to type, here or in a .doc, than actually mark up these beautiful journals and notebooks. But the other part hit me a few weeks ago as I considered getting out some of the not-made-for-the-internet thoughts and feelings I’ve been struggling with…

Something in me argued that “this isn’t important enough” to mark up those beautiful journals. Apparently, something in me thinks that what I’m going through right now, this upheaval, this heartache, this confusion, this introspection…is too…what? Messy? Ugly? Boring?

Unworthy, somehow.

I don’t know precisely where this is coming from. Maybe in waiting for the “perfect” use, I’m having a problem not accepting that life is seldomly perfect. Or maybe by thinking my life is too messy to fill these bright, clean pages, I’m not embracing the difficult parts and seeing the potential the pretty pages could play in helping me suss things out.

Or maybe I’m just afraid of what will come out when I don’t have to edit names, events, thoughts, and feelings for an online audience.

Guardian Angel bitch-slap and Goodwill FTW.

Being bitch-slapped by your Guardian Angel is a humbling and humorous experience.

I was at Goodwill today, looking for a birthday present for a friend.  Since I didn’t find the book I was looking for, I wound up wandering around and found myself in the lingerie section.  There, on a hanger, was an amazingly soft, gray cotton bathrobe.  In. My. Size.  

Since I’m not what you’d call a lil gal, this was quite nifty.  As I was pulling it off the rack, I thought, “it’s only $7.  It could come home with me…”  

And then I heard this little voice say, “you DO NOT have money for that.  $7 can be much better spent on something more useful. Like groceries.”

I persisted and was attempting to try it on and fall even more in love with it (did I mention it was SO SOFT?)…when the hanger slipped out from under the fabric and popped me in the lip.  Hard.  Fucking ow hard.  And suddenly, there was another little voice inside my brainmeats going off…

If you think you’re gonna spend $7 on a piece of clothing designed to make sitting on your ass easier and more comfortable, you’ve got another thing coming. 

So I wandered some more, rubbing my lip that thankfully didn’t split but felt like it had.  And I walked out with a summer exercise outfit (which I did not have.  The last time I tried working out, I damn near passed out from wearing thick sweats and a heavy t-shirt): a pair brand new yoga capris and a tank top.  For a grand total of $7.

“The legacy stops here.”

Turn-on-the-light-Dumbledore

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
-Albus Dumbledore

A few years back, I saw this on a bumper sticker:

“Barn’s burnt down; now I can see the moon.”
– by Japanese poet, Mizuta Masahide.

It became embedded in me, a reminder of the mentality and attitude to have when things go bad.  Because they will. Go bad. But they will also go good. One of my favorite folk singers, Susan Piper, wrote a song called “Wait Till Tomorrow Comes” (from before she eschewed all her albums made before she was Born Again). The chorus goes:

When the sun comes out it feels just like we’ve never known the rain.
And when the rain beats down it feels just like we’ll never laugh again.
But we always laugh again.
Wait till tomorrow comes.”

Life is an epic roller coaster; up, down, twist, turn.  You don’t know whether to scream for joy or fear, and many times, it’s both.  Sometimes you feel like you’re going to throw up, but damn…the rush is amazing.  Granted, I’ve only ever been on one roller coaster in my life.  But it was enough to inform me of that I’m making a right proper analogy.

And so.

I move forward.  To what, I’m not sure yet.  I should probably pick up that book (The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It by Dennis Merritt Jones)  my uncle recommended soon.  Problem is, I’m in the middle of about seven books right now.

And writing.  Applying to freelance gigs of all stripes.  Figuring things out little by little and trying like hell to trust in the process and not panic because everything’s not The Way It Should Be.  Because really, what the hell “should” it be?  When I was little, I wanted stable parents.  Kids should have that, right? Well, yes.  Doesn’t mean it always happens.  Didn’t with me.  But there were positive things.  And I learned many lessons from the not-so-positive (and sometimes downright terrifying) things I wen through.  Another book I have to get through regarding that is one my minister recommended called Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantage of a Painful Childhood by Wayne Muller.

When I got older, even though I lived in the North, there was a certain push to be religious.  Or at least say you were.  Figuring out where I fall in the spirituality continuum is an ongoing process.  One of my favorite books on this subject (this is turning much more book-centric than I originally intended…case in point of thing not going the way they “should”) is called Laws of Spirit: A Tale of Transformation by Dan Millman.  I first had to read Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior for a college acting class and was turned onto his work from there.  In fact, going back now to refresh my memory of Way of the Peaceful Warrior, the Amazon.com review hits it pretty much on the head (bold emphasis is mine):

During his junior year at the University of California, Dan Millman first stumbled upon his mentor (nicknamed Socrates) at an all-night gas station. At the time, Millman hoped to become a world-champion gymnast. “To survive the lessons ahead, you’re going to need far more energy than ever before,” Socrates warned him that night. “You must cleanse your body of tension, free your mind of stagnant knowledge, and open your heart to the energy of true emotion.” From there, the unpredictable Socrates proceeded to teach Millman the “way of the peaceful warrior.” At first Socrates shattered every preconceived notion that Millman had about academics, athletics, and achievement. But eventually Millman stopped resisting the lessons, and began to try on a whole new ideology–one that valued being conscious over being smart, and strength in spirit over strength in body. Although the character of the cigarette-smoking Socrates seems like a fictional, modern-day Merlin, Millman asserts that he is based on an actual person. Certain male readers especially appreciate the coming-of-age theme, the haunting love story with the elusive woman Joy, and the challenging of Western beliefs about masculine power and success. –Gail Hudson

No wonder I love his work so much.  And the book description of Laws of Spirit (from Amazon.com, again):

The Laws of Spirit opens with the story of Dan Millman’s encounter with a sage in the wooded hills near his home. Through stories, tests, and experiences in the wild, the sage challenges Millman to examine 12 core principles that underlie human existence: balance, choice, process, presence, compassion, faith, expectation, integrity, action, cycles, surrender, and unity. The book shows how these keys — at the heart of every religion, culture, and moral system — can lead to a deeper sense of meaning, connection, and harmony with the world. It also shows readers how these principles can transform relationships, careers, finance, and health. Quotations and reminders from across the centuries inform and inspire readers as they accompany Millman on his journey.

This one book has been like a personal spiritual bible for at least the last 15 years or so.  It’s a simple story, but incredibly complex in it’s message.  And so I pick my way forward on a spiritual path that draws from Paganism, Christianity, Discordianism, Buddhism, and others.  It’s not rigidly outlined, and it’s constantly tested, but it fits me better than any one religion ever has.  Luckily, I found a place of worship that accepts this Frankenspirituality in a local Unitarian Universalist church.

Then there are the romantic relationships and all that I thought would, could, should happen.  Currently, I’m in the process of stripping down and examining everything I thought I wanted, needed, believed, held dear about relationships.  I’m also looking really closely at my boundaries, desires, and abilities.  There are no easy answers.  Likewise, there are no “correct” answers.  Everyone has different settings, things they want in a partner, ways they deal with difficulties, goals to achieve together, etc.  That poly triad wants children while that monogamous couple does not.  Mazel tov for both sets.  Neither is wrong.  As Melissa Etheridge sings (and as was once a sign I painted in a big ol’ octagon on my bedroom door):

Mothers, tell your children.  Be quick; you must be strong.
Life if full of wonder; love is never wrong.
Remember how they taught you.  How much of it was fear.
Refuse to hand it down.  The legacy stops here.

Now, onward to find that light switch…