Wednesday, June 21, 2023

In Praise of Pride Merch, Part Two

Loss is, but so is LOVE.

This year, for the first time since burning-things-down summer, Amy and I joined the Philly Pride March. People of all ages were wrapped in every color of Pride flags, every sequined or tulle (or both!) permutation of every flavor of rainbow. So many young people with cute pansexual flags painted on their cheeks. Everyone there (aside from the requisite small group of surly religious folks) seemed so happy, so free, and SO STINKIN’ CUTE!

And there, at the end of the march, were the booths. My favorites were the independent artists. They were selling in-joke t-shirts, pronoun pins, big, bright PLUS SIZE! dresses. One booth had a flag pin selection so thorough that they had both the old and new versions of the polyamory flag.

And of course, there were organizations: for reproductive justice, for gender-affirming care, for getting out the vote. The National Parks Service was there making a flag out of rainbow “what inclusion means to me” postcards.

As I’m describing this day I kind of took for granted, it’s really hitting home how much history and effort and sacrifice had to happen to get us there. Just like those Freedom Rings were a key to a bigger life, Pride is a rebirth, reaffirmation, and continuous organizing of that bigger life. It feeds us and connect us and fills our field of vision with bright adorableness so we can be fortified to keep building a loving world.

There were corporations at Philly Pride too, banished to something called “corporate alley.” I love that for us.

But about those corporations: I am so, SO happy that my niece came of age in a time where her bisexuality was so ordinary that she could shop about it in the Target. I love that she could be like “Oh there’s a Star Trek themed Pride shirt this year and now I have a Star Trek themed Pride shirt.”

I love that I could super casually pick up a bi bandana to use as an in-case-there’s-teargas-and-also-because-Covid mask in the summer of 2020! Plus glittery rainbow socks.

When I see the Pride sections in regular stores, I always wonder what it would have felt like to see them as a kid. I was raised rurally and then sheltered-suburbanly in the Eighties and Nineties. For queerness, I pretty much had Madonna (whose records my mom let me get) and Culture Club (whose records she did not.) When I grew into hair bands, I had pretty, pretty Sebastian Bach on my wall making me feel gender things I didn’t have words for.

Would a beautiful activist Skittles package or a rack of multi-flagged tees have given me a language for what I was feeling? Maybe! Who knows! I didn’t even have a language for talking about “regular” sexuality, let alone for discussing queerness.

Which is why it really, really hurts my heart that violent, cruel monsters bullied Target into taking their Pride displays down. It feels like an end (hopefully just a temporary end) of a golden age. It’s not that I think corporations genuinely cared about us this past decade or so—it doesn’t make a difference to me how they feel, only that they’re adding more rainbows (And therefore, I think, more queer visibility) to the world. We really, really need all the rainbows we can get.

I value Corporate Pride not so much as a part of activism as a bellweather, as a symbol that we were powerful enough to be a mainstream thing, marketed to like everybody else. Selling us stuff is not an act of altruism, but it lets us see our progress nonetheless. It lets us see ourselves.

I know the tyranny of disinformation, violence, and fucked up “anti-woke” initiatives won’t prevail in the long run, but for now I just want to stop and feel the pain of losing a little ground. Pride is much bigger than cruelty, stupidity, white supremacy, much bigger and more powerful than brute force. It’s love, y’all, and there’s absolutely nothing they can do to overcome love.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

In Praise of Pride Merch, Part One

It seems like olden times—in 1993, the summer after I graduated high school, my that-summer best friend Brett gave me his set of Freedom Rings. Just the six rainbow colors back then, rings a little less than an inch big on a cheap hardware-store-like chain. They felt like the most beautiful thing in the world to me. They were like the key to some grownup gay world I couldn’t quite picture.

A few weeks before that, I’d gone to one rock show (King Missile at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park) with a pink triangle drawn on my hand in lipstick. I wanted people to know I was bi, I wanted to meet girls if I could, but I didn’t have any visual language for it. Although, I guess my goth-punk style maybe was a little bi in retrospect?

Nobody I talked to at the show knew what I meant with the lipstick triangle, it felt like a clumsy misstep. But with those Freedom Rings, I felt like an instant ROCK STAR wherever I went, whether they translated to anyone else or not. I felt like a goddess like I was dialed into something much bigger than myself, but also dialed INTO myself. They were a swaggery Dumbo-feather that helped me stomp/tiptoe my way into my adult queer life. (Even if that summer paired me up with a boyfriend who reminded me of Eddie Vedder. Shrug emoji? That’s bi, I guess!)

Anyway, one piece of jewelry helped me claim something important about my eighteen-year-old self.

Now, I have thirty years of pride tchotchkes and as many decades of rainbow art, queer poetry, and a jillion paragraphs examining all manner of multi-gender affections, and an ex-wife for a best friend.

Once, during the pandemic, I typed “bi socks” into the internet and had them in two days, delivered to the front-neighbor’s door, but still!

Last year, a friend of mine designed one of the pride Skittles bags, and Amy and I looked for them everywhere we went. In a grocery store in the middle of red rural Upstate New York, we found them! Then, out in the parking lot, a stranger noticed the rainbow sticker on Amy’s car and came over to do some gay bonding. She mentioned that she didn’t have much support around there. You could tell that running into us meant something to her.

On the way to my nephew's birthday, randomly stopping for snacks, and there we were: ORGANIZING.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

How Did I Do on my 2022 Goals? (7-10)


7. Listen to my friends. I feel like I’ve come a long way! Quickly apologizing helped me keep getting closer to a dear, newish friend. A longtime friend reached out to ask me to coach him, and I asked if we could coach each other instead! That was one of the most fun, meaningful, and productive connections of this year or any year—I’m so glad I thought to make the coaching reciprocal!

But, a couple of friendships ran their course. Is that okay? Probably! It’s sad to let things go, but it’s also refreshing to realize that just as people get to stopping points with me, I can get to stopping points with them, too.

Anyway, I think I’m still a crappy friend sometimes, but I’ve made progress!

8. Malcolm Kenyatta for Senate: Volunteer twice per month. I could’ve done a lot more for Malcolm, but his campaign meant so much to me! I gave him a painting! I got interviewed for a documentary about him while stapling flowers to a piece of street art! I love Malcolm, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to nag people about this fave in the future!

9. Grow and save money every day. I was SO on my way to this one until I ran my mouth at that meet and greet—it’s hard not to think of my Mighty Writers ending as self-sabotage, though I’m not sure how I would have done it differently! (Except to have NOT GONE TO THE MEET AND GREET—what a weird and not-cute lesson to have learned!)

Dear money, I really do love you. Maybe I’ll figure out in 2023 how to get and keep you.

10. 1-2 hours of accounting weekly. It was more like an hour a month, I’m sorry to say! See #3 and #9. Accounting needs more love in 2023 for sure!

Monday, December 12, 2022

How Did I Do on My 2022 Goals?! (4-6)

4. Festive self-date weekly, flirt all the time!

Heck yeah and heck yeah! Since I’m an Artist’s Way person, I’m supposed to be taking myself on dates once a week anyway, but I often will skate by on, like, going half a block down the street to smell the candles at the co-op annex. Those still count, but this year, I wanted the self-dates to be special.

At first, it was hard. I was still brokenhearted from a romance that ended in mid-November. But I did it. I drove to the OUTER suburbs to see a matinee of Nightmare Alley. It felt grim and lonely, not just because I’d chosen a superbleak movie!

But after a couple of months, I was driving along to wherever and I just thought “I love you.” In my head! TO MYSELF! I was dreamily stopping to take a sunset picture in the Movie Tavern parking lot on the way to see The Black Phone. Equally bleak movie, way-less-bleak heart!

Self-dates make the world feel more open, generous, and playful. One movie night even led to a second-chance love adventure! Two, actually, but those are stories for another blog.

I try to make fresh goals every year, but maybe this one needs to be every year, right underneath “Make stuff whenever I want.”

5. Cultivate my Mighty Writers relationships. This one backfired so badly that “Don’t go to the meet & greet” is one of my guidelines for 2023. Still a heartbreak I just can’t find words for.

6. Two hours Kahn Academy math weekly. Yep! I mastered 7th grade math and I’m halfway through 8th grade math! I got to change my car magnet tutoring ads from K-6 to K-7! Adding a math grade is a pretty big deal, actually! I’m pretty excited about it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

How Did I Do on My 2022 Goals? (1-3)

How Did I Do on My 2022 Goals?! (1-3)


1.     Make stuff whenever I want!

This should be on the list every year forever! It’s both the easiest goal and the source of the most uncomplicated joy. I especially like being petty and low-key at- war with whatever creepy neighborhood busybody keeps taking my “Protect Trans Kids” watercolors down—sometimes I even make them into glitter bombs.

Note: I’m probably a neighborhood busybody too! But for GOOD!


2.     Keep up and ramp up fitness routines.

(If you hate food restriction talk and “wellness” talk like I often do, go listen to Maintenance Phase instead of reading this. It’s the best!)

Pretty good, I guess! I changed some food habits that were bugging me but no doubt added some other unhelpful ones. Oh well!

I always want to walk more, but making long Instagram stories and posts of nature pics has helped me stay motivated, especially since I have a really inspiring muse these days! See #1—creativity is the ultimate source of happiness.

I would like to go back to semi-regular in-person yoga classes in 2023! I stopped because of quarantine and forgot to ever start up again!

OMG I went dancing!!! Like 3 times! Plus to a couple of rock shows! One was in a basement! One was in a go-go club I’ve wanted to visit since I moved here in 2008! I’ve taken good care of friendships with my dancingest friends this year, so maybe I can go 5 or 6 times next year?!

3.     Be 20% less dependent on Amy.

Technically yes. I’ve gotten emotional needs met in other friendships and bonded with my supercute boyfriend! I’ve moved on from my nine-years-divorced relationship in some really significant ways, including settling into a comfortable and celebratory place with our friendship. (Reading Ace helped me see beyond expected relationship structures! I’d almost call us Queer Platonic Partners, but the word “partners” seems a little strong.)

But moneywise, I’m still dependent on my ex-wife/BFF. I felt SO CLOSE to money independence going into the 22/23 school year, but when my Mighty Writers gig crashed and burned at the same time my rent went up (A lot!) I kinda lost my way again.

I really need to add about16 work hours a month, fix my budget, and build my savings back up. Amy and I will always be there for each other, but I want to take better care of HER! And myself!


Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Don’t Worry Darling, Part Three (I Ruin Every Party)


Alexis Bledel On Madmen. All the pop culture Prismas!

In Victory, if you start seeing through your hypnosis, you have to be removed or electric shocked into submission. (Just like Rory Gilmore was that time she was on Mad Men. Fucking Pete.) It’s not good enough to apologize and try to obey, try to fit in, try to follow the script you’ve been given. You have to sacrifice either your life or your memories for the men of Victory to properly feel the confidence, worth, and control they’ve paid for.

The littlest disturbance in the illusion they’re creating has to be snuffed out before it can spread.

In 2008, my then-wife and I were at a family birthday party for my second-littlest cousin. We were playing the family’s favorite game, Encore! wherein you pick a card with a word or theme and sing songs back and forth in teams.

Maybe the word was “kissed” because someone, maybe me, started singing “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry. (OHBOY the queasy-cute aughts version of bi visibility! See also the movie Jennifer’s Body, from the same year.) My first-littlest cousin, maybe six at the time, said “That song is disgusting.”

And, though I hadn’t yet developed my eerily calm teacher voice, I think I was pretty chill when I said “You never know who might be around when you say something like that.”

And my brother, sitting across the gameboard from me, LOST HIS MIND. He was INCENSED with me for saying something so political. I don’t remember what his words were, but they were SPAT.

When I asked him to talk outside and told him to please not treat me with so much contempt, I wasn’t that articulate but I was still pretty calm. Until he said the following:

“You ruin every party.”

(To which Thanksgiving 2016 me could have responded: “Hold my pie.”)

Further back, when I was away on the West Coast, my mom said “We’re so much happier without you.”

Even further back, when I was a little kid and the parents were fighting and my mom told me “This is your fault. I wouldn’t have had to marry him if it wasn’t for you.”

For some reason, the mom ones don’t hurt as much as the brother ones (Though apparently, I do carry them around like rotten treasures.) I identify with my mom’s ability to say the cruelest, stupidest thing when angry and flustered.

But my brother’s contempt is so measured, so purposeful, so sure of its righteousness. It feels like hurting me is a first aid kit he keeps. Like putting me in my place is the surest way to safety, a roadmap, a prayer. It doesn’t matter as much if his world is disrupted if he knows his place in it, above me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Don’t Worry Darling: Being Chaos, Part Two

Rule number one of On Tyranny!

***content warnings: sexual assault, family violence, the Bush Years, 1/6/2021***

Being admonished/censored on the family facebook page is not at all like being frozen in a dream cul-de-sac by the evil incel version of Harry Styles, but the horror it brings up in me is the same. It happened over the summer, I realized it close to my birthday in September, and it crushed any hope or illusion that my brother would ever be on my side, or on the right side of history at all.

Like lots of queer folks and probably non-queer folks too, I’ve struggled with the reality of right-wing relatives. I’ve wondered how some aunts and uncles and cousins could profess to value me and my then-wife-now-BFF, how they could invite us over and treat us with such hospitality and also vote against our right to love who we want to, against our right to own our own bodies.

The cognitive dissonance of hearing the aunt who emotionally rescued me after my teenage sexual assault brought household abuses to a head saying in recent years that the idea of consent was ruining relationships, ruining men. The pain of hearing the mom who did her best to stand by me in that time tell me in 2016 that I create more rape in the world by thinking about it too much. Even after years of good trauma work and wonderful therapists and lovely, LOVELY Prozac, it’s hard not to feel like that lost and bruised teen, lost in a cyclone of random violence, practiced abuse, and institutionalized hopelessness.

That rescuing aunt grew into the most right-wing of us all, and at least one of my cousins followed suit. He worked in Bush’s NSA. At his (the cousin’s, not Bush’s) wedding, which I attended with my then-wife, the priest blamed both Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq on gay marriage having recently become legal in some states. (I want to say he also blamed us for 9/11, but I think I’m conflating that priest with Pat Robertson.) (Jeez a lot of things are supposed to be our fault!)

But! The same cousin had been at OUR wedding, cordial as can be albeit in an American flag necktie! (American flags were strictly a right wing thing in those early war years, it’s weird to remember now that we’ve devolved to other, more upsetting flags.)

I stayed pretty close with the right wing-est aunt, too, until a couple of things happened:

1.     My nice liberal cousin-in-law told me that Aunt Connie (the NSA cousin’s mom) and Aunt Patti were planning to march with the Proud Boys et al on 1/6/21. (The hero cousins of Aunt Patti’s fam talked her out of it! What a bunch of badasses!)

2.     Cousin Jimmy briefly left his wife and kids for another right wing lady and, OH YEAH, TO WORK FOR GUILIANI.

NOTE: I got this info secondhand from Nice Liberal Cousin-in-Law, who got some of it from Aunt Connie, a noted unreliable narrator. BUT! The day did come where I heard his name on Maddow—he was part of the scheme to invoke martial law and seize the voting machines.

HE WAS PART OF THE SCHEME TO INVOKE MARTIAL LAW AND SEIZE THE VOTING MACHINES. And everyone in the family but me is like, oh, this is totes normal.