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Category Archives: LGBT

Going to the Chapel…Then Home

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Goin’ to the chapel
and we’re gonna get married,Unknown-1 lesbian wedding Unknown-2
goin’ to the chapel and we’re
gonna get married!
Gee I really love you and we’re!
gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel of love!

 

I’ve been resisting writing about the gay marriage issue, but the more I read other people’s comments and opinions, the more I feel compelled to throw in my two cents.

When I got involved in the Women’s Movement in the late ‘60s, the two institutions we most despised and wished to do away with were marriage (and the nuclear family); and the military-industrial complex. So when the next big movement—LGBT rights—washed across the land with its hootin’ and hollerin’ about getting married and joining the army, it seemed like one huge irony to me. More even than ironic, it bordered on buffoonery. I thought the gay rights movement was hopelessly misguided, even right-wing. Of course I understood that nobody wants to be excluded from places and opportunities others are part of, and gradually I learned about the tangible benefits gay people were losing out on, so I kept my mouth shut. If gay people’s greatest aspirations were to mimic the straights, I just couldn’t get myself excited on behalf of Gay Pride. I was thrilled when my friend Laurie marched one Pride Day wearing a wedding gown and holding a sign saying Assimilation is Not Liberation.

It was the Women’s Movement that coined the phrase, “The Personal is Political,” which also works in reverse, i.e., The Political is Personal. These issues aren’t merely academic or theoretical—they have a big effect on real people’s everyday lives. That gay people could not, until the day before yesterday, legally marry one another in America, affected my life.

I’ve blogged about this before.  In fact, the day I posted about my friend Phyllis Christopher moving to England to be with her partner I got the greatest number of hits to my blog of all time. Though a lot has changed since then, Phyllis is still in England, so when the Supremes handed down their decision, I immediately emailed her: Get married. Pack your bags. Come home!

English: A man with a rainbow flag at the Gay ...

Gay Pride parade, New York City, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For reasons having nothing to do with the United States government, she might come home and she might not. But as she responded:

There is a lot to consider but what this means is that I will be able to make decisions without the law getting in my way.

Like I said, The Personal is Political, The Political is Personal, and all the exiled couples can come home if they want to.

Welcome to America!

For information on the end of DOMA see the Immigration Equality Blog      

Millionaire Matchmaker Does Bi Woman Wrong

Millionaire Matchmaker

Image by freeloosedirt via Flickr

Watching Millionaire Matchmaker is my most guilty pleasure. Though Patti Stanger abuses her clients and makes off-the-wall mismatches, it’s great fun, and once in awhile she does hit one out of the park. She did it last night, matching a Christian farmer millionaire from Indiana with a wholesome former 4-H girl — and in the heart of LA–who’da thunk it?! These two seem headed for the aisle. Her other project this week, though, wasn’t just a bust — it was, IMO, a crime.

An adorable millionaire named Tricia who recently left her cheating husband told Patti with conviction that she wanted to check out her “bi-curious” nature. After sending the girl to a shrink to be sure she wasn’t just temporarily angry at men (groan!), Patti actually did a fantastic job of inviting  a bunch of A-list bi and lesbian women, and a few men, to Tricia’s mixer. She ended up choosing to date Tyler, a smokin’ hot  butch who claimed she’d “flipped” many a straight girl. When Tricia didn’t feel sparks on their date, though, she and Patti both decided in a New York minute that she was unequivocally straight.

Hello? When a hetero couple doesn’t hit it off right away, Patti doesn’t send them to the nearest gay bar; she finds them more hets to choose from. Plus, the reason Tricia didn’t drool over Tyler the way I (and no doubt every femme in SF) did is because she’d unwittingly screwed up the date by taking Tyler roller-skating; Tyler could handle it, but barely. Skating was something she was obviously not very competent or confident doing. Thus, on their first date Tyler was effectively emasculated .

This butch was the type who’d show a femme a great time, but here she had to spend most of her energy keeping herself vertical without appearing spastic. Meanwhile, Tricia showed off her repertoire of roller-skating tricks. What a sad waste of butch energy! If Patti knew the least little thing about butch/femme dynamics she would have seen what the problem was and sent these two off to climb a short hill with a picnic at the peak. Tyler, unthreatened, would have easily swept Tricia off her feet, something she couldn’t do with the babe on roller skates! I can envision her assisting Tricia up the rocky terrain with a chivalrous hand, the way a super butch once helped me, then putting down a blanket in a clearing and pouring the wine.

Tricia deserves another shot or three at women — unless the whole point was to reassure herself she’s not bi or gay. Straight girls do that. Ask any heartbroken butch who was a straight girl’s first and was later dumped for “the real thing.”

If I were a millionaire, I’d save Tyler’s butch ego by calling Patti about a date with her. I would only do it, of course, for that reason, to save Tyler’s ego.  As everyone knows, I’m straight.

Big Sex Little Death: Review

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Susie with Cocktails at Bruno's in the Mish

Big Sex Little Death
A Memoir by Susie Bright
Seal Press  2011

I wasn’t certain I’d review Big Sex Little Death, Susie Bright’s long-awaited memoir, since I’m too close to some of the material to be purely objective — but as it turns out, I just can’t stop myself.

 

Full Disclosure: Susie Bright was one of the first people I met when I came West from New York some 25 years ago, and one of my first acts as a San Franciscan was to submit my sex stories to her Herotica collection. Shortly afterwards, I joined the On Our Backs staff as Susie’s assistant, a year later became their fiction editor, and, finally, was second successor to the editorial throne. Shadowing Susie didn’t end at OOB: I assumed editorship of Herotica with the #4 volume, when Susie moved on to more lucrative projects. I told her I  seemed to be following in her footsteps; she replied with her radiant million-dollar grin, “I’ll just keep warming up the chair for you.”

 

That charm and generosity are quintessential Susie, and they permeate Big Sex Little Death, her journey from childhood to teen socialist to feminist to sexual activist and public figure. I was familiar with much of this history, but seeing it all together in one place, I recognized, for the first time, how much Susie and I have in common, beginning with abusive mothers who lost their own mothers at an early age. Being a “motherless daughter,” I’ve recently learned, can affect a woman more profoundly than any other aspect of her life; it particularly influences the kind of mother she becomes. My mother was emotionally abusive; Susie’s was mentally ill (apparently undiagnosed), and  physically abusive:

She pinched the top of my arm and dragged me out the door. I remember her grip on my arm—and her disgust at my blubbering. I was pathetic, I knew it, but I couldn’t stop. I could see in her eyes how loathsome I’d become.

All this because Susie missed her cat, which her mother had unceremoniously abandoned.

I know all about that look in a mother’s eyes; that Susie was on the receiving end of it makes it that much more astonishing that she grew to become such a strong powerful woman. Lest anyone foolishly credit such experiences with helping to radicalize a person, it was not her mother’s abuse but her father’s love and support that pushed Susie forward. He stood proudly behind his teenage socialist firebrand, and he welcomed her home when the fires went out. Both parents – Mommy dearest was not all bad – were “braniacs; they were language, poetry and music fiends; they took enormous pleasure in big ideas and the power of word. They were literary sensualists.” Not a bad heritage for a feminist leader.

Susie took a dollop of this and a plateful of that from her parents. She incorporated socialist ideas into feminism – and took feminism even further, insisting that female-centered sexual representation and expression were its logical extension.

I wish she’d probed a little bit deeper into her life as an active Socialist. As her one-time editor, if she had asked for my opinion I would’ve urged her in that direction. Some of her anecdotes of life among the Commies aren’t reflective enough to satisfy, and while I loved what I read, I wanted more.

One of the major differences between Susie’s journey and mine is timing: I was a young mother when I first became, as I see it, conscious — while Susie seems to have been highly conscious from birth. I don’t know of many teenagers who can be as confident as Susie seems to have been in her beliefs, especially since they ran against received opinion.

The first time she stands up for women and their bodies is, appropriately, the day she first bleeds. Late returning to school after lunch, sent to the principal’s office, Susie marches right in “like a mad bear,” protesting, “This is not right…My period just started at noon, and I had to figure out the Tampax all by myself….and you can’t discriminate against me just because I’m menstruating…” The mortified principal nearly passed out and practically begged her to leave his office, showing her the power of her sexuality in one fell swoop. She has continued to confront sexual ignorance and patriarchal privilege ever since.

Although I ate up the first two sections of the book, I was, naturally, in something of a hurry to get to the part about OOB. Reading Susie’s account of each incident, from the founding of the magazine to its change in ownership, I kept receiving little shocks of recognition with every turned page. If this was a comic book, light bulbs would be hanging over my head, popping off in every panel, so faithful is Susie to what happened, at least as I remember it. For those who weren’t  close to the scene, I direct you to the book. It’s a helluva story; maybe someday I’ll have enough distance to write more about it myself.

Big Sex ends on a positive note – the day that Susie and Jon and baby Aretha move to Santa Cruz to begin family life anew. That too I remembered….then I eagerly turned the page…and was confronted with a page headlined “NOTES.” I could not believe I’d reached the end! And more than 15 long years ago!

Now,  I have been waiting since the day Aretha popped out of Susie’s belly to see what kind of American girl/child/woman Susie Bright’s daughter would become. As a mother who feels that I fucked up the sex education along with everything else, I was dying to see how Susie did with the hardest job on the planet. Unfortunately, a veil descended and I didn’t find out.

Susie has a right to put in or leave out whatever she wants from her memoir – but as a reader, and as her friend, (and as an editor) I wanted more. I especially want to know what happened in the years since the time of this book’s ending. I want to know about her mothering: how did being raised in an atmosphere of, or at least lip service to, sexual freedom affect Aretha and her attitudes? What about their relationship? My daughter is still angry about some of my sexual openness; what’s the story with Susie’s? More than most people, I understand the delicacy of the mother-daughter relationship, as well as the desire not to violate a child’s privacy – but surely some of Susie’s story can be told without inflicting damage. This is not just idle curiosity, either: I honestly believe that Susie has something important to contribute to  this other area of female experience that’s been historically shrouded in darkness.

Because of this and a few more minor gaps, it doesn’t feel like Susie’s story has been fully told. Then again, nobody’s story is ever fully told, is it? Still, Susie has a lot more livin’ to do: I’m looking forward to a sequel.

Poem For A Reader

For My Ex-Lover’s Lover

I see what she sees in you:

the curve of your cheek

is almost more than I can bear.

Sometimes when we talk

you touch my shoulder gently

and I feel it in the places

where she hungers.

I know her weaknesses

and the way she likes to hold you

how her face looks to you

from below.

I see your limbs entangled loosely

and the movements that arouse her,

feel her hot and pulsing in your hand

as if I lie between you

instead of by myself

remembering the curve

of your cheek.

Sometimes I wonder
on whose account I’m jealous.

The Kids Are All Right: Movie Review

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Kids All RightWarning: Spoilers and X-Rated Material Ahead

Of course the kids are all right. I always knew they would be. Some people were wringing their hands, fretting about how children raised by gay couples might turn out, but I never thought they’d have it any worse than kids from other family configurations – then again, I don’t worship at the altar of the nuclear family. Besides, unlike straight couples who just assume they’ll have children, those living outside the norm are forced to think long and hard before jumping into parenthood; in fact, they don’t “jump” at all – they sometimes go through hell and high water just to become parents. And once they do have kids, they tend to be fairly conscientious raising them. I’m not idealizing gay parents or saying they’re better at it; it’s just that living outside the mainstream in any way whatsoever forces people to deal with a host of issues that heterosexuals never have to think about.

 

Surprisingly, however, the film’s title is hardly the point. It turns out to be not so much about kids raised by lesbians, but rather about love and family and betrayal, and all the complexities in long-term relationships. It’s about sexuality and sexual identity and the longing for connection. That the kids are all right is almost incidental.

Eighteen-year-old Joni, named for Joni Mitchell and played by Mia Wasikowska, has the riveting looks of Claire Danes; she also happens to resemble someone I know, and I could hardly take my eyes off her. Which is quite a feat when you consider that Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, both knockouts, play the mothers. Their gorgeous looks are underplayed: if they were wearing any makeup in this movie, it was to highlight sags and wrinkles. When Moore’s character dons her gardening gear, she comes off looking like a middle-aged Annie Hall wannabe.Kids All Right

The plot is set in motion when 15-year-old Laser (Josh Hutcherson) convinces his sister to find their donor, the man whose sperm contributed to their existence, since he’s too young, by law, to get the information himself. Joni, afraid of hurting their mothers, is reluctant, but when she meets Papa Sperm (Mark Ruffalo), she just about falls in love with him. So does everyone else in the family, with the exception of Mama Benning, whose fear of rocking the boat turns out to be well-founded: Mama Moore, while creating a lush garden Papa Sperm hires her to do, jumps into bed with him. The affair almost tears the family apart. That they survive is testament to the strength of their bonds and loyalty to one another – or so I perceive director Lisa Cholodenko’s point to be.

Mark RuffaloThe sex scenes between Moore and Ruffalo are wildly, passionately, animalistic. She literally tears his pants off, and greets what’s inside them like a long lost friend: “Hel-lo!” she says, apparently awestruck. Two or three substantial scenes of their lovemaking follow, in sharp contrast to the women’s sex: there’s been just one anemic scene of them in bed. In it we see Moore moving about under the covers, and Benning’s facial expressions – which would work if she were actually being expressive, but if anything, she seems bored. From underneath the quilt comes the buzz of a vibrator. More movement. End sex scene. The lesbians sitting behind me were laughing their asses off in recognition, and I confess I too got a chuckle out of the scene. The hetero sex scenes had not yet occurred, so it’s only in retrospect that I feel the lesbian couple got the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

More important, because Moore has such a raging good time in penis-land, what comes later on, in the confrontation between her and Benning, seems off kilter.  It’s evasive, even false. A bisexual friend of mine was miffed because Benning asks, “Are you straight?” rather than “Are you bisexual?” The latter question, I think, would’ve been out of character, especially during a confrontation – but there is something missing here. Benning’s question doesn’t even seem to register with Moore, and when Benning asks if it was about sex, Moore makes a dismissive face. Finally, she claims that she slept withKids All RightPapa Sperm because she was feeling “unappreciated.”

Is that what she was getting, her legs high in the air while Papa Sperm pounded into her like a steamroller? Appreciation? Gimme a break! The intensity of the hetero sex scenes, and the absence of romanticism, utterly contradicts the lie.

So I have to ask: Why? Why did the director stereotype lesbian sex as warm and cuddly, while depicting straight sex as raw animal pleasure? Was it fear of letting a mainstream audience see what women really do in bed? Or was she just rewinding old tired stereotypes of female sexuality? I guess it was foolish of me to expect Hollywood to move beyond lesbian stereotypes — a good movie about lesbian mothers is enough of a leap.

But here’s the thing: my criticism isn’t coming from some pro-lesbian-passion crusade. This is not a political ax I’m grinding. What I’m talking about is honesty and believability in art. The director’s choices regarding sexual portrayal wreck the film. Oh, sure, it’s a fun movie, it’s enjoyable to watch  – but the premise of the film doesn’t work, not if the implication at the end is, as it appears to be, that the family’s bonds are far stronger than a roll in the hay, and their relationships will heal and go on. From what I saw between that man and woman in bed compared to what I saw between the women’s sheets, I don’t believe this ending one bit. I don’t believe that Mama Moore will be faithful from now on. She’s going to stray again. And again.

Bisexual Survey

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My friend Heidi Bruins Green is conducting a survey on the experience of bisexuals at work. It’s being sponsored through a collaboration between Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, the premier international LGBT workplace organization; the Bisexual Resource Center, respected internationally as a voice for the bisexual community; and the American Institute of Bisexuality, the research leader in bisexuality topics, endowed by Fritz Klein to continue his work. They’re looking for as broad a cross-section as possible, including communities of color, across income levels, and people who don’t connect to queer community.  The information will be shared within the bi community and used to develop workshops for non-bi people. Click the link below to do the survey if you’re bi, and/or to pass it on to others.

From Heidi:

I really want to appreciate the people who have helped me put this together, like Lani Ka’ahumanu, who spent countless hours making the language more inclusive and reflective of the diversity of bi experience, as well as Robyn Ochs, Amy Andre, Wendy Curry, the BiNetUSA gang, Nora Madison, Susan Gore, and of course my wonderful husband and wordsmith, Jamison Green. The list is long and my gratitude enormous.  It definitely took a village to put this survey together.

If you are a person who is, or has been, or possibly one day could be attracted to individuals regardless of their sex/gender, please consider sharing your experience through this survey focused on people whose sexual orientation does not fit a ‘mono-sexual’ model.  This survey seeks to understand the workplace experiences of people who identify as bisexual, or as one of the many alternative labels describing ‘erotic fluidity’ (such as pansexual, men/women who have sex with men and women–MSMW and WSMW–queer-identified, many-gender-loving, etc), in order to educate heterosexual, gay, and lesbian co-workers, and impact workplace policies and practices.

Studies that focus on the general population tend to assume respondents are heterosexual, and don’t ask questions that explore the truth of sexual orientation.  Studies that purport to focus on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people rarely draw out the experience of erotically fluid people.  Sadly, the data that IS collected about bisexual people is often ignored because of small sample sizes compared against the data collected from the lesbian and gay people who are the ‘real’ intended target of most such surveys.  Studies focused on LGBT populations do not capture the large number of bisexual people who do not affiliate with the LGBT community.  The researchers hope to overcome these problems with this survey.

The researchers are Heidi Bruins Green, a corporate learning and development professional, workshop designer and facilitator, and Dr. Nicholas Payne, a statistician from academia and corporate America.  Heidi has led workshops on bisexuality in the workplace for fifteen years, often with well-known bi educators such as Dr. Susan Gore and Amy Andre, MA, MBA.

This survey was developed with the involvement of dedicated bisexual, queer, and erotically fluid thought leaders, as well as committed educators and allies who have focused on ensuring that the language of the survey was inclusive and as free from assumptions as possible.

The survey has 77 questions in five sections, many of them simple check-the-box and others with room to answer as fully as makes sense to you.  It takes approximately 35-45 minutes to complete.  It is important to complete your survey during one log-in session — once you log out, you cannot return to complete the survey, so please be sure you will have enough time before you begin, or plan to keep the survey window open until you have completed your answers.  The survey is for people 18 years of age or older, due to the requirements of the Institutional Review Board that has approved it.

As well as completing the survey yourself, you can help us distribute it by sending this information, with the link, to all the MSMW, WSMW, bisexual, erotically fluid people you know.  Known as ‘snowball sampling,’ we hope to have the survey cascade its way throughout various locales—urban centers, suburbs, and remote corners of the globe—to find out about this incredibly diverse population.  Please help us by forwarding!

Click here to take the survey.

Yours in furthering understanding,

BiWorkplaceSurvey Research Team:

Heidi Bruins Green and Dr. Nicholas Payne

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates™ is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Out & Equal champions safe and equitable workplaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The organization advocates building and strengthening successful organizations that value all employees, customers, and communities.

The Bisexual Resource Center envisions a world where love is celebrated, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. Because bisexuals today are still misunderstood, marginalized and discriminated against, the BRC is committed to providing support to the bisexual community and raising public awareness about bisexuality and bisexual people.

The BRC uses bisexual as an umbrella term for people who recognize and honor their potential for sexual and emotional attraction to more than one gender (pansexual, fluid, omnisexual, queer, and all other free-identifiers). We celebrate and affirm the diversity of identity and expression regardless of labels.

The American Institute of Bisexuality encourages, supports and assists research and education about bisexuality, through programs likely to make a material difference and enhance public knowledge, awareness and understanding about bisexuality.

Ed. Note: Don’t you just love the phrase “erotically fluid”?!–MS


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