My exchange with Linda Seiler, ex-trans Christian evangelical

Chi Alpha—a conservative evangelical student group—invited Linda Seiler to share her testimony on being ex-transgender (like ex-gay, but for transfolks). Through prayer, she became cisgender. Or something of the sort. Anyhow, some students (myself included) organized a counter protest and affirming space to debunk her lies. I wrote her an email after the events and she finally responded. I am documenting this exchange here. First, my letter. Then her letter.

——
Hi Linda,

My name is Benny, a doctoral candidate in the department of Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

I am one of the primary organizers who organized a response to your presence on our campus last night.

Your use of outmoded, unsupported research on a research institution aside, we were saddened that you did not show up to our event after your own where you could interact with our NUMEROUS queer-affirming religious leaders throughout the Southern Illinois region.

In the future, we hope that such “apologies” are not buttressed with pseudo-scientific research and without inviting affirming and queer people to speak alongside yourself.

Sincerely,

Benny

—-

Hi Benny,

Thanks for your note. I apologize for my delay in getting back to you as I’ve been on the road for 10 days and have fallen behind in emails.

You have every right to disagree with what I’m saying. As I stated Monday night, the university should be a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas where students each come to their own conclusions on issues presented. As far as outdated & outmoded research, I think you’re right that I need to strengthen that part of my presentation. Thank you for the feedback as I’m always trying to improve. However, I did cite the latest known twin study (2008) and also cited a more recent APA quote (2008) than was quoted on the info sheet your group distributed when we arrived (your quote on point #2 was from 2000). I find it ironic that I am charged with outmoded information when something I shared was more recent than what your info sheet stated. That being said, if you know of any more recent scientific studies (regarding a genetic link to homosexuality), I would like to learn more if you have any links to pass along. I agree with you that a presentation at a university needs to be up to date on the latest research. I am just not aware of anything published after 2008 when the APA changed their statement to include that the cause of homosexuality is likely a complex mix of nature and nurture—hence, my assertion that there are a variety of environmental factors that can contribute to same-sex attractions which can be substantiated by reputable sources at www.narth.com (a secular organization of research scientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists that parted ways with the APA due to their research findings that contradicted the politicized views of the APA). In fact, Narth produces the “Journal of Human Sexuality” which is an excellent source commenting on the latest research out there. I agree  with you that I should document my sources better so people understand that what I’m sharing is from documented research and not just my own ideas. Thank you for that reminder.

In the end, you have every right to disagree with what I’m saying and to host similar events to promote your own ideas. I don’t want to live in a culture where you don’t have that right. But I hope that you would agree I should be afforded the same right to share my own story and the reasons why I have come to the conclusions I have. To disagree with someone else’s beliefs is not hate speech. I think a culture that allows for differing views to have a seat at the table so people can come to their own conclusions makes us a stronger society as a whole.

Also, I did want to come to your gathering on Monday night, but I was held up by people who wanted to talk to me afterwards, and I wanted to give them my full attention and answer their questions instead of rushing off. However, even if there were not people who stayed after to talk, I have to be honest and say that after the last student who stood in line to ask a question (I don’t remember his name) stormed out of the auditorium in a fit of rage, I did have concerns for my safety. I didn’t feel threatened by the majority of your group during the evening (most of you were very gracious to me, thank you), but seeing that young man lose control of his emotions and leave before I could even finish my sentence left me feeling like I was not welcomed. In other words, it did not feel like a “safe zone” for me. If I had come, I would have felt like I needed to bring several people with me for safety reasons. Obviously, this is a volatile issue, but I think we need to learn on both sides that keeping our emotions under control, taking time to truly listen, and making others feel like they are valued as a person is important. But if we yell at each other and don’t let one another finish our sentences, we are not truly listening and valuing the other person, even if we disagree with their ideas. Disagreement does not have to be denigration. I did my best to speak with compassion and to reiterate multiple times that you don’t have to agree with me, and I am not forcing anyone to change. Each individual has a right to decide whether or not they want to accept or reject same-sex attractions (if they experience them at all). I don’t hate any of you, and I did not raise my voice or cut anyone off during the Q&A time. And yet, that same grace was not extended to me by some members of your group. I realize that is not representative of your whole group, and you especially have been respectful towards me in your emails and your FB posts on your alternative event which I appreciate. Thank you. As I said Monday night, I agree with you regarding the concept of a safe zone, and I refuse to denigrate a person because of what they believe, even if they disagree with me. But I would hope that the safe zone would not be a double standard and that someone like me would not be denigrated and publicly maligned because of what I believe. If we both call for a safe zone, let’s practice what we preach.

Thanks again for writing, Benny. I will take your comments to heart and work on my documentation. Hope you stayed warm and safe during the storm today.

Blessings,
Linda

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Sponsored Liberation is Oppression in Disguise

 

 

 

Some students at the university where I both teach and learn are “questioning the presence” of a Chick-fil-A franchise on our campus. This questioning emerged after Chick-fil-A president, Dan Cathy, admitted in an interview with the Baptist Press that the company supports “the biblical definition of the family unit,” which does not include same-sex couples. This comes after Equality Matters reported that Chick-fil-A donated over $3 million between 2003 and 2009 and over $1.9 million in 2010 to antigay organizations through its WinShape Foundation. Chick-fil-A is, indeed, a company that fuels Christian-based homophobia. That being said, I don’t frankly care. I mean, I don’t eat at Chick-fil-A as it is. Now, before you get up in arms, this isn’t meant to be an appeal to apathy. Quite the contrary. See, I don’t eat at Chick-fil-A because my diet is vegetarian and because I try to avoid fast food. The reason that I don’t care is because Chick-fil-A is a corporation. And corporations have little bearing on my life; even though I am queer and in a same-sex (open) relationship. Or, rather, they shouldn’t have any bearing on any of our lives in the ways that Chick-fil-A is made out to have and that we have concomitantly granted them. And here lies the beginning of my argument. See, I believe that protests against Chick-fil-A should commence and that we should all “question the presence” of Chick-fil-A on our campuses (and elsewhere); though there is only one reason why Chick-fil-A is on any given campus: it pays the rent. Cathy remarks “While developers had no identity whatsoever with our corporate purpose to ‘glorify God and be a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and have a positive influence on all that come in contact with Chick-fil-A,’ they did identify with the rent checks that we wrote to the mall, that were based on our sales.” Public universities—like my own—who are in constant budgetary crisis mode, are made to rely on funds wherever they are, and that increasingly includes sponsorship in many shades. Hence, Chick-fil-A’s presence on a public university campus.

Now, this isn’t where the questioning or discussion should end. Indeed, it should begin at the point where financial impetus emerges. With this in mind, I am certain that the university will not boot Chick-fil-A because it is a guaranteed income flow. As such, a university decision to grant Chick-fil-A rental space has little to do with queer politicking and far more to do with larger economic political moves that disallow such questioning to have any effect at the start. So, where do we begin? Well, I think we need to begin with a line of questioning that leads to a serious reflexive critique of not only Chick-fil-A’s presence in America but larger economic systems that operate in and around our lives. The reflexive component emerges when we begin to ask ourselves the necessary question: in what ways are we securing our own oppression by protesting supposed anti-gay or homophobic businesses.

Questioning whether or not a corporation supports queer people reiterates the very structures that keep us all oppressed, which inevitably forecloses on analyses of neoliberal governance, which prohibits a radical coalitional politic. Neoliberalism is an antipolitic politic where individual liberation is accessed through consumption. That is to say: those who work hard will eventually achieve liberation. Thus, our liberation is inherently indebted to and reliant on corporatism. In the long run, this is why so many have fallen (and continue to fall) for the belief in the inevitable success that is waiting just around the corner. Newsflash: we can’t all be billionaires in a profit economy as Audre Lorde showed me years ago. That means you. And me.

Tiffany Hsu—author of a July 18, 2012 Los Angeles Times article reporting the Cathy interview—asks, “Is Chick-fil-A anti-gay marriage?” Similarly, I imagine protest signs that will declare: “Chick-fil-A is homophobic!” These rhetorical means anthropomorphize a corporation and as a result grant humanity to non/human entities. To answer Hsu’s question: no, Chick-fil-A isn’t homophobic. Rather, it is a business with a corporate structure that is set up in such a way as to allow for a flow of funds that support the owners Biblical principles, which includes opposing marriage equality in addition to supporting conversion therapy programs (Exodus International being a beneficiary of Chick-fil-A donations via WinShape). This isn’t merely a game of semantics. Rather, Hsu’s logic (and the inevitable protest signs) emerges because, sadly, we have already collectively fallen for the belief that corporations are indeed, persons. The (in)famous 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Committee signaled that corporate personhood is indeed a viable position in America. This disgusts me and it should you. In this system, Chick-fil-A (not a human, but granted personhood) can be homophobic. That is to say, a corporation can somehow possess an attitude toward particular persons. This makes no sense. And yet it does: Corporations “express” their attitudes through financial support of a given cause. I am not saying that it is fair or right. I am saying that this is the twisted reality: corporations have been granted the ability to express hateful attitudes because individuals can rarely match the financial support of a billion-dollar corporation.

It is Cathy who is homophobic and it is Cathy who hides behind Chick-fil-A drawing on selective Biblical principles to justify his company’s stance. But, as Cathy makes clear in the Baptist Press interview: “There is no such thing as a Christian business . . . Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me . . . But as an organization we can operate on biblical principles.” This muddled rhetoric buffers him from accusation. That is to say, accusations of homophobia will never strike him directly. He is a moving target between a corporate-person and himself. Don’t be fooled: Cathy is homophobic and uses his religious beliefs to justify his “love the sinner, hate the sin” position.

This is what I call “corporate evangelism.” Chick-fil-A, drawing on corporate evangelism, creates more revenue (more than $4 BILLION in sales in 2011!) to support their Biblical positions than any church ever could. Indeed, corporate evangelism takes tithes in the form of indiscriminate financial transactions. Church tithes have one thing in common: they come from believers in a given religious tradition often in a given church locale. Corporate evangelism tithes have one thing in common: they come from customers who enjoy a particular product. In Chick-fil-A’s case, customers like questionable fast food. In terms of raising funds to spread one’s own agenda, corporate evangelism is the present/future for the dissemination of conservative belief. Likewise, the corporate evangelical model is the present/future for the dissemination of supposedly liberal stances as well. Sort of.

J.C. Penney’s hire-ups were criticized when they hired Ellen Degeneres as their advertising representative. One Million Moms, an organization filled with angry homophobic moms (with less than a hundred thousand members on facebook), declared a protest against J.C. Penney for their hiring Degeneres. However, their protest was against the company, not those who instituted the hiring. J.C. Penney’s advertising responded with a father’s day ad featuring a same-sex male couple. In the end, the counter protest benefited J.C. Penney through the same channels that elicited the initial protesting. That is to say, for a company to make millions, their teams must create an ad campaign that provokes religious fanaticism by appearing to support queers. Thereafter, they need only wait for the pro-gays to offer a counter protest that challenges the religious hate by buying things in support of the allegedly pro-gay company. Meanwhile, these funds do not go to queers that need it. Instead, it stuffs the pockets of stockholders and the like. In the end, queers lose. Again. They will receive millions for “standing up” for gay rights, and very little critique of the company will emerge because any such critique is viewed as being against gay rights. Bush Jr would be so proud that the pro-gay side of the aisle has taken to his “you’re with us or you’re against us” rhetoric. This is the latest scheme in corporate gain: exploit the fuck out of oppressed classes by creating the need for a protest whose goal is to consume products in the name of liberation!

Likewise, Kraft made headlines when it featured its now (in)famous gay pride Oreo cookie. Both ads sparked controversy, creating rifts of dialectic support and protest. On a recent drive from Southern California to Southern Illinois, where I now live, I listened to the Michelangelo Signorile radio show. A central topic was the gay pride Oreo. Signorile admitted that he hadn’t had an Oreo in over 10 years and that it was because he was health conscious and found Oreo’s suspect. Admittedly, Oreo’s are allegedly vegan. However, I prefer to avoid them because I am not quite sure how I feel about a vegan product with a creamy center. I digress. Signorile stated that despite his health consciousness, he would probably purchase a package of Oreo’s in support of Kraft. This worries me. Unlike Chick-fil-A’s corporate evangelism, I doubt Kraft or J.C. Penney, as corporate persons, are donating millions of dollars in support of queer politics. Perhaps they are. But how much do they truly care about queer bodies or politics? About queer sexuality? What do they lose in the larger scheme? What is at stake for them? When we believe that they lose millions in protest, we have been taken by the neoliberal impulse to buy our liberation through their corporate gain. Not our political gain. Said another way: it isn’t liberation! Indeed, J.C. Penney featured two dads and Kraft featured a gay pride Oreo because they can make more money off of queers (and supporters) than off of one hundred thousand angry moms. These are corporate ploys where financial gain is the game and where oppressed classes always lose. I worry because we need to step back and look at the larger picture that extends beyond supposed attacks against, or corporate support of, queer bodies. What are Chick-fil-A’s hiring practices? What are the working conditions like? The same goes for J.C. Penney. Kraft. The stores where Kraft’s products are sold even.

As many of you should know, women are disproportionately affected by poverty. This poverty is often the result of our buying into the logic that we can purchase our liberation. Indeed, the liberal impulse to unabashedly protest marked antigay corporations (or ahem, corporate owners who draw on corporate evangelism to disseminate their word) is the same dialectic impulse to support, without critique, those businesses heralded as progay. However, that progay stance has very little to do with queer people and more to do with making revenue for that company. Again, Kraft will make more money off of a queer (and queer supporting) base than an antigay base. This wouldn’t be the same 10 years ago, when “support” didn’t guarantee profit. Wherever there is profit, there will be corporate support. And support is relative to a given time and place. Are the same ads running in other countries with the same fervor? Thus, progay corporations might support marriage equality in America because it is popular now but would probably fail to lend public support to say universal access to HIV/AIDS medication, informed consent access for gender and/or sex transition practices, gender identity protections clauses, reform in immigration policies, and even equal access to abortion.

That said, beyond Chick-fil-A’s antigay support, I am worried about the coded sexism and racism that gets overshadowed by the desire to protest antigay businesses. I mean, doesn’t a Biblical view of the traditional family also suggest a vehemently prolife, antiabortion, anti-access stance? I think so. And as a result, “questioning the presence” of such businesses should concurrently question other areas that the financial donations inevitably support.  While marriage equality is the hot button issue of the day, so too is abortion access. And it must remain so. What, I wonder, is J.C. Penney’s stance on abortion? Kraft’s position? Where’s the abortion pride Oreo? The J.C. Penney pro-abortion ad? What? Abortion doesn’t sell products? Well, coded antiabortion rhetoric sells Chick-fil-A. What is the pay disparity between women, and especially, women of color, that work for Chick-fil-A and J.C. Penney, and Kraft? Who gets health insurance? Who doesn’t? Conservative antiabortion programs target young women of color. What does this say about Chick-fil-A’s financial donations? These are questions that must be attended to when “questioning the presence” of any corporation. In the long run, these businesses do whatever it takes to make a profit.

In the meantime, I refuse to see inclusion of queer bodies in advertising campaigns as a marker of liberation. Unlike corporate evangelism, which funnels funds to projects it supports, corporation that verbally support relatively liberal causes (like marriage equality) funnel funds to their stockholders. In one way, Chick-fil-A emerges as a relatively moral company because at the very least it funds what it believes in. Perhaps we should inquire what Kraft and J.C. Penney—as corporate persons—believe in beyond using queer bodies to make a profit. The same could be said for those companies (Starbucks, which is known for its oppressive work practices locally and globally, comes to mind) that have pledged to support marriage equality. I am not asking that Kraft, J.C. Penney, and the like match Chick-fil-A (and similar) donations. Rather, I am asking that our critiques of supposedly antigay corporations be matched by critiques of those allegedly progay organizations. Without such critique, we might find ourselves supporting a company for one embodied dynamic at the demise of another. Yes, they might appear progay but they might be painfully sexist, racist, ableist, and the like. I don’t know about you but I hardly see this as a move forward. It is a sideways and backwards move into the pockets of corporate owners who win either way. Unlike oppressed classes, corporations lose nothing when gambling with our lives. In the meantime, I won’t shop at J.C. Penney because they feature same-sex couples in their ads. I might shop at J.C. Penney because they have a sale that fits my budget. Some of us don’t have the means or privilege to protest what is the popular thing to protest or support what we are supposed to support. I will continue to avoid Oreo because cream shouldn’t be vegan. And I will continue to walk past Chick-fil-A because I don’t want to consume chicken. I will continue to work with queer folks in my communities. I will continue to compile lists of resources for transfolk in rural areas. I will continue to voice my pro-abortion politics. And I will continue to critique corporate structures that demand our unquestioned allegiance at the demise of our brothers and sisters in struggle. Finally, I will continue to question the affective drive that propels us to act without critically asking what is at stake in our desire to protest without linking to broader systemic oppressions. I will also continue to support those students protesting Chick-fil-A and Dan Cathy.

In solidarity and critical reflection.

References

Blume, K. Allan. “‘Guilty as charged,’ Cathy says of Chick-fil-A’s stand on biblical & family values.” Baptist Press. 16 July 2012. Web. 19 July 2012.

Equality Matters. Fact Check. Equality Matters, 2 July 2012. Web. 19 July 2012.

 

 

 

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At the crux of workplace rumors

I am frustrated that I have once more been swept up into someone else’s games. I learned this evening that there is someone who has taken it up themselves to spread rumors about me in order to avoid working with me as well as to mask their own fear of queerness and difference. Now, I take it that those typically in positions of (social, institutional, cultural) authority will caution me to “calm down” and that I am probably “blowing things out proportion” assuming that I am looking for their support in viewing this form of action as discrimination and downright hate. Please, allow me to welcome you to the rumor mill.

Apparently person A—who I refuse to learn the name of because I would rather address it to the entire workforce as a problem that must be addressed in toto—told a number of my co-workers that I told “her” the following: “why would you be friends with ‘B’? ‘She’ is a God-loving heterosexual.” And that I “hate heterosexuals” and that I “fake it in front of the straight co-workers,” and that it is probably best that “she” no longer work with me because “she” is afraid that I might “actually hate her.” And now… background.

This supposed interaction is news to me. What makes this even worse is the implication of person ‘B’ into all of this, thus attempting to pin me against ‘B.’ To my knowledge, ‘B’ has not heard any of this.

More background. A few weeks ago, ‘C’—the person who will eventually approach me tonight and tell me why she asked me the following question and how it was because of this rumor—sat next to me while I was visiting the shop as a customer, off duty. She asked if she could ask me a question, and I said absolutely. She warned it might be odd and I told her no such question has come my way as of yet.

Anyhow, she paused and asked, “do you hate heterosexuals?” I paused and blinked. I smiled at her, she smiled back. I told her, “no, I think they are fascinating creatures, like any other human creature.” I went on, and this re-created of course, to the best of my ability:

Hate is a strong word and simply put, no I do not hate heterosexuals. What I am cautious of, however, is heterosexuality as an institution of authority in our society. I am weary of ways in which heterosexuality seeks to unquestionably stamp out sexual and gender differences through norms and assumed shared values. It is not heterosexuals that I am weary of or fear, it is unquestioned heterosexual privilege. It’s the assumption that I am heterosexual and the assumption that I will simply be happy for one’s engagement when, perhaps, that same person made sure to vote yes on Prop 8 claiming that it isn’t them that is homophobic, it’s their beliefs. It’s the systemic way in which queer people are silenced and made out to be freaks to be further ridiculed. So, no I do not hate heterosexuals, it is heterosexuality that worries me. And this is because it means that I am forced to be weary of my surroundings always. It means that when I work a shift hear and am subjected to customers that have 2 hour Bible studies talking about “the homosexuals” in negative ways that I am to simply smile while my heterosexual and cissexual and cisgender co-workers get to work without a worry in the world. That at any moment, as it has already occurred on a number of occasions that one of these customers have no problem approaching me to preach to me, to attempt to save me from my poor life choices with regard to my sexual and gender identities and livelihood. So, no I don’t hate heterosexuals, I fear heterosexuality and what it does to people’s assumed perspectives.

Tonight, my coworker who asked me this question tells me that the reason she asked me the aforementioned question was because of the person above and that others were beginning to worry about being around me. Funny, once I heard this, things began to make sense. For weeks now, my coworkers avoided me, or hesitantly smiled at me, and generally offered a feeling of reserve and fear toward me. I simply went about my business though unquestioning.

This now potentially makes sense, and it irks me.

It hurts me that someone would have the nerve to do something like this and to go out of their way to say something like this about me. I stand by my explanation above, and will not—in fact refuse—work to make this employee feel better about their fear of me. I will not apologize for this incident and I will not work to hug them so that they can deal with their hatred and lengths by which someone will go to distance themselves from me.

As it stands, the work environment now feels unfortunately disgusting. This has worked to place a wedge between me and coworkers who are afraid to approach me. In fact, my coworker tonight approached me because she is not afraid of me, as she put it. Allegedly, those who have been exposed to this rumor have all failed to ask me outright, thus reinforcing their own crafted fears of me and the queers. Yes, I am an outspoken queer advocate and anti-oppression worker. When I hear racism and sexism and heterosexism and oppositional sexism and other forms of oppression and hate, I call it out. Perhaps people are afraid, but it is a fear that reflects in their own unwillingness to engage in progressive social change.

There are those who then ask how I am approaching the situation, thus deflecting the attention from those coworkers and customers that spew their unattended to hatred toward marginal groups. This occurs at all work places, I know. As it stands, I am now at the fore of one of these battles, and it will end immediately. Unfortunately, it appears that most of the rumors that circle my store, persist because no one approached others when they are harmed preferring to let it “blow over” thus reinforcing the actions.

In this instance, the coworker has managed to show “her” fear of me and queerness by attempting to position me as someone who is homosexist; thus further reinforcing “her” own naivety as to my identity and positionality, as someone who does not identify as gay in the first place.

I am meeting with management tomorrow. We will approach this coworker, whoever it is, by weeks end.

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Toast/Speech for my brother’s wedding

I've thought long and hard about how to approach this speech and realized that every time I sat down to write, I couldn't offer my words without also invoking our late brother Nate because as the three of us grew, we were always seen as the unusually close trio of siblings. Indeed, I offer these words in his memory and in your honor.

With Nate in mind and the bond that the three of us share know that this speech comes from a place of intimacy and in knowing my brothers as both friends and as siblings. It comes from a place of love.

When we were younger, Nate and I would bask in terrorizing Joshua and he has some permanent scars as proof, although I suspect he's made up stories because frankly I think it's more sexy to say that your knuckles got scared while snowboarding then saying that your brothers tied your arm up and thrust your hand into an operational fan to see "what would happen."

Despite my masterminded scientific experiments, which sought to discover how much pain my brothers body could handle, we loved one another. After the fourth of July, when we were younger, Joshua would demand that I join him in collecting used fireworks for our masterpieces. He would drag me out of bed and pressure me to dress. We'd hop on our bikes, with bags slung over our shoulders and we would grab as many discharged fireworks as possible. We would come home and Joshua would set to work piecing together a masterpiece of trash, fireworks, and other found items. I would sit back and watch, occasionally join in at his demand but always careful not to deviate from his master art plan.

Joshua has always been an artist and he sees beauty in ways that I can only hope to one day envision. The optimism that my partner accuses of me is only eclipsed by the optimism that my brother embodies. Funny, our mother always noted our individual skills growing up and she always found a way to harbor those natural skills in each of me and my brothers.

Nathaniel, the guitar. He could hear a song once and play it note for note. His voice was angelic and his music was magical. His own lyrical construction offered me hope.

Me, the pen. As the writer, I work to piece together poetic pentameter and academic jargon seeking to make knowledge from nothing. Mastering styles at once, I was the one who felt through written word.

Joshua, the brush. The charcoal. The air brush. The spray can. The axe. The acrylic. The oil. The canvas. The pastels. The world. Joshua is a worldly artist, capable of picking up any medium, with a precision met only by the originators. What he touches becomes a world of possibility, and the world in turn is made beautiful by his touch. He sees possibility in anything and everything and he is, ultimately a dreamer.

Guided by the dreams of tomorrow, he sees possibility and knows how to make things work. He solves problems and despite his stubborn persona, he is steadfast and focused. Despite his simultaneous lack of focus, he remains engaged. And through his engagement with the world, he makes things happen. Leaving things better off than when he found them.

Indeed, he imparts in us all a beauty that can only be interpreted as individualized and tailored perfection.

Sure, he may "forget" to lock the front door; or wash the dishes; or move his truck; or turn off the lights; or turn down the music; but in the end, he never forgets to love.

Through all of the beauty that he sees in the world, he loves. Joshua is love. He thinks through and with emotions. He feels the moment and he is the moment. But he is not shortsighted by the moment either. He sees endless possibility in the moment. And it is beauty. It is love.

That is why, even though I just met Jennifer, I know that Joshua is making the right decision. That when he looks into her eyes, I know that he loves her, that he can see the future, that he can see that even though the path may be, and probably will be rough, that his creative capabilities enable him the possibility of navigating that terrain with Jennifer by his side.

Together, they will move forward; prepared to engage what comes their way; and together, they will make beauty and they will be love. For, they already are love.

While we get to know Jennifer, and while Jennifer's family gets to know Joshua, I know that all will grow together.

I leave with two haikus, one for each of them as words of advice. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with the haiku, it is an ancient poetic form. Quick and effective. If you are not listening, you will miss it entirely. They typically consist of three lines with a syllabic structure of 5-7-5, that is 5 syllable line, 7 syllable line, 5 syllable line.

Haiku for Joshua:
My little brother
When it gets hard, breathe and love.
Also, take out the trash!

Haiku for Jennifer:
To my new sister
Don't be afraid to slap him
He needs it sometimes

Continue reading

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where he enters so too does hetero-priv

Probably the only regular… no, routine dynamic of me and my father’s relationship is his denial of my queerness coupled with my distaste over his religiosity and blind dogma. Also, the text message updates letting me know where abouts the US his truck is headed next.

This morning, the text message reads: “Long Beach Ca to Athens Tn. And then to Mount sterling Oh.”

I don’t respond as I imagine his trip through Long Beach will not involve a stop or he would have mentioned such. Besides, I have plans today. I am talking to GCA about the thesis process at 4:30 and have work from 6pm to 10:30pm. Also, I will need a nap at some point today.

At 3:27pm the next text message reads: “I’m parked at walmart in long beach going to do a little shopping.”

I am confused. I respond that I have a meeting and work and he notifies that he is having my brother bring him to my shop for them to hang out while I work. I guess I get to see him. I go to my meeting.

The dialogue is mediocre. Half interested faces strive to stay awake and engaged while I discuss the thesis process. Those who have opted, already, for comprehensive exams tune out. Two grad students are giggling about something in the corner while I revisit my defense. My colleague, who just passed his comp defense, is now speaking and those who have tuned out during my mini-talk are now invigorated and seeking answers to their laziness: “What if I get the answer wrong?” I think to myself, “just don’t. You’re a master level student.” I lack patience I am told. Three excuse themselves so that they might make it to their class on time. The allotted time goes over and we are excused. I rush to my car, not to see my father, but to get home and change and to grab some food prior to my shift.

I get home and switch into my trademark denim pants. I am thinking about Aaron. I smile imagining seeing him open the door to his place. The way he kind of looks down and to the right and tilts his head slightly up in my direction welcoming me in with his nonverbals before his verbals can catch up. Tomorrow. I will see him tomorrow.

The love of my life. My favorite person.

I swallow two pieces of pizza in whole. I run out of the door. My shift begins in less than 10 minutes. I text my brother, who is allegedly with my father already, and tell him that I am 2 minutes away. I  swerve into the parking lot and park my car. I turn of the engine of my car, note that I will need gas after my shift. I look at my eyes in my rear view mirror. It is dark out and the only thing lit up is the mild glow of the store, alive with bodily silhouettes. Still, I can make out my eyes as I take a deep breath in. I hold it. I exhale slowly, unwilling to fully engage my father. I step out of my car and look inside of the store to see him at the register with my brother and, his girlfriend.

Three of them. Stand at the register. I walk up to dad from behind and tap him on the shoulder. He turns and smiles. We embrace. I cannot look him in the eye. I smile and try to be present. Just present.

My dad. When I see him
I get anxiety.
No matter how hard I try
I cannot let it be.

His face is rounder. His belly fuller. And yet, he is thinner. His familiar smile attempts to calm me. The smell of cheap, stale cigarettes flirts with my memories. I grab a cup from the counter and fill it half way with coffee.

I sit with them at their selected table filling the two minutes I have prior to the start of my shift. I try and remain focused. But the time has slipped away and I run to the back of the store. I put my apron on and punch my numbers into the computer. I straighten my apron on my flabby body. I look up and stare at my father who is talking with my brother and my brother’s girlfriend.

They discuss the future. I am not present. I am not in their future. I am not there now, nor later. I watch it develop. Grow. Become.

Become. New Beginning.

I wipe the milk from the counter top. I take orders. I watch them smile and laugh. They occasionally look at me.

He will never ask about my relationship. He cannot know about Aaron. Never will Aaron and I and my father sit like this. In public. Never can this be. For me. But maybe it’s for the better. But it is not. This man who has had no actual baring in my life still demands, in some way, my unconscious attention and devotion. I await for the chance for change and I do not know why.

I grow angrier and resentful that if I bring this up to my brother, I will be slumped off as too sensitive or as reading into things. He has never had to silence any part of his being for the sake of maintaining family. Therein beckons the demands of heterosexual privilege–here the simple ability to discuss the prospect of the future. To be recognized as present. To have a language that is shared. To be seen, both you and your partner. To not be silenced by your sibling and pushed away as complaining. As, again, sensitive.

I learned my lesson a while back that I do not bring these things up to my brother because they are minimal issues and personal problems to deal with. Dead ends. A round about dialogue. In I go and out I leave, alone still. No direction.

I see my brother and his girlfriend with my father. They have no idea the pain that such a picture brings to me. And yet the expectation of me: to be happy. For them. For us. For our family. No problems here. Well, beside my  own issues. I am angry. I am frustrated. I am defeated.

I want Aaron in my arms now. To hold me. To comfort me. To wipe my tears off of my cheeks. To kiss my forehead. To have someone love me!

I get home after work. My mother contacts me and already knows. She has “a feeling.” And I love her for it. Only she does get it. She has finally stopped trying to encourage me to respect the man she once called husband. She finally sees the systemic way in which I have been historically excluded through inclusive ways.

She simply asks, “Benjamin, how are you feeling?”

I tear up and tell her that I am fine. I then retract my statement and tell her that it hurts to watch my brother simply be with his girlfriend without a thought in the world that I have been, once again, harmed.

Will it ever get better, I wonder.

No. The only thing I can hope for is that he gets use to me. To Aaron.

He will not be allowed into OUR home unless he give US the full respect that we demand and deserve.

For you I continue
the fight to be

With a love as deep
as the distance that tears
me from family

For you I will try
to make it happen

To one day be embraced
to be held and loved

unconditionally.

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Dream recall

Below is a rough, quick write up of a dream recall. It is brief and it is unruly. Also, I mention cock… a lot. So be warned.

This morning.

My eyes open and I slowly sit up in my bed to check the time. 7:15am. My heads falls back onto my pillow. A slight tightness gives way across my face and I reach up to feel what has crusted. Snot. Charming, I know. Sickness in secrecy is the only humane way to be sick, I suppose. I think to the privilege of being able to be sick in the privacy of my own home, my own room even. To be able to simply be alone, to allow my body to (re)act to the illness that has taken my body inside out. I hesitantly stand up and shake the sleep away. Along with it, the remnants of a dream trying to remain. I look down at my morning wood. The head of my cock peaks over the top of my undies exposing itself in full as I stand full. I am not in the mood. I stagger to the bathroom to piss. I piss. The urine, a dark yellow suggests that I have yet to hydrate properly during the past 2 days of sickness. I shake my dick off and my touch feels good. My cock beckons attention, but I am still not in the mood. I’d rather wait. For more intimate times. I turn round and grab some toilet paper and blow my nose. The snot from the night has clearly gathered, what has breached is what is dried and crusted against my cheek. I blow, holding down my right nostril first, and then the left. Back and forth. Globs of wet snot and mucus shoot out of my nose and fill the loosely folded toilet paper in my hand. The weight of the snot is amazing and I wonder how so much snot is able to be produced and maintained inside of the sinus cavity. No wonder I get so dizzy. I examine the glob of snot and find myself in awe over the glisten that it casts. I toss the paper into the toilet and watch it mesh with my piss. I flush the toilet and head to the kitchen. I put two pieces of toast into the toaster and start the cycle. I grab the Earth Balance, almond butter, and grape jelly and place them next to a plate that awaits the toast. I scavenge through the knife drawer—a locus of potential pain and anguish. I find the butter knife and place it on the plate. My cock is still erect. I pull it out and stroke it a few times as I watch the toaster do its work. I stop and put my cock back into the undies thinking that there will be a better time for this… later. But I am horny. I grab a tea bag from the highest shelf and place it into my usual cup. I fill the cup with hot water and place it next to the plate. The toaster shoots the toast out. I lather vegan butter onto the toast followed by almond butter and a touch of jelly. I take a deep breath and think, “I hate putting things away.” I hesitantly screw the lids back on to the almond butter and jelly and snap the lid onto the butter. I put them all back into the fridge and grab my plate of toast and tea and head back to my room, where my computer is on awaiting my addictive fingers. I sit and take a bite of toast and enjoy the taste knowing well that the sickness is enough away that I at least have taste back. The flavors of butter, almond butter and jelly meld together and melt across my tongue. I sip my tea, “Gypsy Cold Remedy,” which consists of Echinacea and elder berry. It coats my throat. My cock is still hard. I look down and it seems to look up at me. I keep eating my toast. Cross my legs. And venture onto the computer. Facebook. Email. Youtube. Check. All substantial updates accounted for. I finish the last sip of my tea and sit back in my chair. It reclines back as Cat Stevens music fills my ears. My cock stands erect and beckons my touch. I stand up and head to the bathroom instead. I brush my teeth and pull my undies off. The bath water is running and I step on my scale. Up 4 pounds. This sickness has really taken a toll on my body in many ways. I step into the shower and take in the warm water. I feel it roll over my back and down my legs. I run my hand around my body and get to my right wrist. My hand stops at the bracelet on my hand. I hold it and look at it. It’s darkened by the water. I keep staring at it. It’s maker, Aaron, I’ve decided I do, in fact, love. Deeply. Why am I drawn to it now? It is trying to tell me something. I turn it around my wrist. I touch it and tug on it. I cannot hear it. And then a flash in my mind.

The bracelet is loose. I am holding it. But it is dry. This has happened already, or is supposed to? I am remembering the dream that lingered from this morning. A dream that I can recall. A start anyhow. All that I can recall is my holding my bracelet the same one that I wear in the waking world, made by Aaron. However, in my dream, the bracelet is long. It has a lot of slack and I am pulling on the slack. Beyond this, I cannot recall my dream. What could it mean  and how I access more of these dreams?

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illness

I fear that I am getting lazy. My body, a constantly moving, shifting thing… is far more delicate than I like to admit, or acknowledge. As of late, as I transition from the title of graduate student to that of Master of Arts non-student–forced to play adult; repay educational loans; get a job… again; find work in a place where no work exists; await graduate school; not regularly write or complete course work; read my own books; without routine–I find myself stammering for routine and within that quest, a desire to simply… BE. Yes, to be. That is, without the desire to project forward or to look backward.

To look forward, or backward, become tasks in and of themselves that encourage me to, act–and this act of acting is something that I find myself pulling away from. In one way, I see myself as becoming lazy because of this abrupt pause in scholastic projection (i.e. no due dates). In another way, my body is finding reason to finally rest. After 2.5 years of constant work, my body slows to a halt so that it can regroup–and perhaps this is where I am–a locus of catch up and rejuvenation. And this is, for the record, how I see it, with bouts of laziness seeping in from time to time. The problem is knowing when I am being lazy and when my body needs/desires some rest and pause.

In my attempt to negotiate this, though, I lose sight of listening to me and my body. As an example, I am currently sick. This is not an everyday/month/regular occurrence. Two days ago, upon arriving back from San Francisco and NCA, I awoke with a sour throat. It was minor, but I knew that it was real and coming my way. After all, my thesis is complete, NCA is out of the way, and I have no course work remaining. My body has found a window to force me down. And here I am. Slowed quite a bit.

Last night, I was with Aaron. I fear that I may pass it on to him. Whatever this is. Or that he gave it to me. Or that we become stuck in that cycle of passing bugs back and forth. Tonight, Chicken Soup for the Queer Soul.

I digress. As I formulate and conceptualize my standing in life as of now, I find myself resisting the urge to awake. To simply work out. I fear running like this, of making sickness worst. Of continuing to ignore the signs that I need to rest. And I think I do. So, I rest. However, I do not want my rest to result in my cutting corners, of slipping back into old ways. Just the other day, I desired a cigarette in a painful and realistic way. Indeed, I contemplated actually purchasing a pack and smoking one. I was worried. I am not working out much. I feel fatter. I fear getting fat again. It has become the mantra of old: tomorrow. I will start back tomorrow. I fear I won’t. I need to focus on this problem and regroup. I need to rest and to keep focus on me and my body, as one and the same in need of full attention and love.

I am learning to love myself. I am learning that I am not all bad. This has been a large part of my journey through bodily remanifestation. As I work to release more weight, to let it go and be, I find myself wanting it back when I am my most vulnerable–to push people away. And yes, I want Aaron so much closer. To me. With me.

I never thought myself possible of love. Of the desiring stare of another. Of another who could also love me outside of my immediate family. I do not want to become lazy. While I trust Aaron wouldn’t leave me should I gain weight back, I fear I would leave him if I gained weight out of shame of my own body and my own inability to control my self, my impulses to eat, to sit, to be.

In the meantime, I must sleep and rest. I need to work out. I will start tomorrow.

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