equal ground

The Trans Preacher's Wife

In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, North Carolina recently won our battle for marriage equality. While I intend to find (ahem) time to write more about this later, I wanted to leave you with this testimony that I delivered yesterday evening at the Interfaith Voice after-pride service. 

f79e9e4eb680bac233d97eac57d604d5The We Do campaign, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is the brainchild of the Campaign for Southern Equality working out of Asheville. Headed by UCC Reverend Jasmine Beach Ferrara, the staff works tirelessly across seven southern states, staging peaceful justice actions in pursuit of full marriage equality.

To tell you the truth, until yesterday, the reality of marriage equality in North Carolina hadn’t actually sunk in yet. I had anticipated a huge party; great rejoicings in the streets of Winston Salem filled with tears and hugs. After all, I had lobbied hard against Amendment One and Liam…

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Less Than


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Magazine-illustration-1950s-colour-lithoYesterday Liam and I participated in our third We Do Campaign action for the Campaign for Southern Equality. You can read about our participation in two earlier stages here and here. Recently, clerks in such places as New Mexico and Pennsylvania have been issuing marriage licenses despite the fact that their individual states do not sanction same-gender marriages (New Mexico neither approves nor prohibits them and Pennsylvania is not legally recognizing the marriage licenses issued in spite of state laws). Here in North Carolina, we have added Amendment One to the books, in spite of the tireless lobbying against it. Amendment One makes any kind of same-gender union illegal in this state. The Campaign for Southern Equality seeks, in this stage, to engage a clerk of court, bring them into our experience, and encourage them to stand with us in an act of conscience and award a marriage license to a same-gender couple. We hoped to be that couple.

In anticipation of our action, Liam wrote a beautiful and heartfelt letter to the clerk of courts here in Forsyth County requesting that we be granted a marriage license. Although the answer was a resounding and precipitating “no”, we still prayed that, when we got to the desk and actually presented our story to the clerk, our no would become a “yes”. Wishful thinking.

Our action took place early in the morning and we arrived at the public staging area at 8:15. We were greeted with hugs and an overwhelming amount of love and respect from friends; some live locally but others drove from the far reaches of our state and from South Carolina to support us and the We Do Campaign. Our incredible friends from Gender Benders got themselves up at 2:30 a.m. to make the 3 hour journey. My heart skipped a beat to bear witness to the support of our friends. After greetings, we filled out our license application alongside the other couple, our friends L Rankin and Kristin Hedin (who would also be requesting a license in the action). The inimitable Reverend Jasmine Beach Ferrara gathered us into a small circle and gave voice to our prayers and wishes for the day’s event.

The group at large circled up and prayers were spoken by the clergy present. Our own UCC pastor was in attendance (his third time accompanying us as well), along with two of our very good friends from the UU church in Asheville, NC (a couple who had participated in a We Do Campaign action in the last stage). My heart was racing as we queued up to head into the registry of deeds and I clung tightly to Li’s hand.

Liam and I do not talk about what we are planning to say prior to each action. I generally let Li do the talking as I tear up and well over when speaking on issues that hit close to home. As a pastor and educator, he is used to public speaking and does so well and eloquently. This was no exception. We approached the desk (taking note of a heterosexual couple applying for their own license at the next counter), and before Li would make a request, he retained our licenses and asked the clerk (a nervous smile plastered on her kind face, she was clearly steeled for the onslaught) to hear our story.

I cannot tell you exactly what he said to her. I remember her face. I remember the fact that she never once broke eye contact during the telling of it. I remember hearing not unkind laughter from the couple next to us. I remember the feeling that the support group behind me radiated love and affection and had our backs. I remember that Li did not identify himself as a member of the trans* community and being surprised about that. (One of the things we wanted to focus on was the fact that when his gender marker changes—one initial on a driver’s license—our outcome in these actions will automatically change as well; which just proves how ludicrous these laws actually are. We will be the same couple that has stood at that counter and been denied three times.) And I remember screwing up my courage, looking into her eyes and that frozen smile (after already having been told “no”) and saying to her “Your job is to grant joy to loving couples every day. Would you deny us that joy?”

The answer was the same: “I’m sorry but I cannot issue you a marriage license at this time.”

I don’t know why I thought these actions would get easier as time goes on. You’d think we’d be old hat at this and it would be no big deal. The truth is that it gets much more difficult. The fact that we are second-class citizens is thrown into the harsh light of day. The fact that the majority of my home state chose to discriminate against me and went so far as to put a constitutional amendment on the books banning me from legally solidifying my marriage to the person I love is staggering. We turned from the desk and I walked out, ahead of Li, and into the loving arms of a friend who literally held me up as I my breath caught and my chest heaved. I had no control over the sobs that escaped me and clung to her as other friends rushed over with tissues and comfort. My heart shattered and I was left feeling very much less than.

Less than the couple that left before us, smiling and on their way to lifelong recognition of their marriage. Less than respected. Less than a citizen. Less than human.

The remainder of the morning was filled with prayer, support, love, friendship, coffee, and a few interviews with local news agencies that never made it into print. I awoke this morning to a text informing me that my photo was plastered all over the local newspaper’s website. I have yet to see a print version, so I’ve no idea whether our action warranted ink or not.

In the end, we accomplished a great deal. We made a connection with someone who is in a position to make a difference. We told our story, publicly and honestly, and asked her to see us as worthy of the same human rights as our heterosexual counterparts. We looked into her eyes and she looked back at us. She “saw” us. While we were not granted equality at this time, my prayer continues to be that someone, somewhere, will come out from behind that counter and say “Yes, I will grant you the right to marry your partner. The laws are unjust, you are hurting no one in so doing, and I want to stand on the side of love.” The action continues and we will pray for just such a day.

The Lump


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tumblr_lp8bkgptxp1qiej2io1_400A few months ago (maybe a year? Time whizzes past my head these days and I can honestly say I don’t know how long it’s been, which scares me to no end.), I noticed The Lump under my arm. Not really my armpit and not really my breast—sort of hanging out in the space between my stubble and my sleeve, it started out as a swollen place that aggravated me when I pushed on it. So I stopped pushing on it.

Last month I was dressing for a wedding. I had bought a lovely, sleeveless, hot pink dress. A-line, belted, and flattering, I was excited to wear it. When I looked in the mirror, I saw The Lump. This thing that I’d been ignoring had stealthily grown up and out. It hurt. It was painful to touch and painful to be touched by anything. There was no solid cyst or lump to hang on to—just a blob of fatty tissue that nagged at me, felt uncomfortable, and looked rather unsightly. I chose to ignore it, hoping it would yet go away.

A week later I received a call from my doctor who needed to run blood tests in order to continue renewing my thyroid medication. It had been two years since my last appointment and I couldn’t keep shirking my physician. I made an appointment and kept it, despite my lack of health insurance. While there, I used the opportunity to discuss a couple of troublesome issues: the ongoing tightness in my chest since my eight-week bout of bronchitis and The Lump. She donned latex gloves and started massaging the offending mass. Then she leaned against the wall and heaved a rather large and exasperated sigh. “That has to come out,” she said. “I don’t know what it is but I don’t like it. Make an appointment with a plastic surgeon and let them biopsy it.”

Oh, yeah…the “B” word. I was already dealing with two masses on my thyroid that I’d been avoiding since my last ultrasound and after yet another round of imaging later that day, I was able to breathe easier when it was confirmed that neither had grown in two years. A reprieve from the neck up. The neck down, however, was another story. I made an appointment for one week later and turned up at the plastic surgery center a day late, due to a conflict between what I was told and what was on my referral note.

My doctor was ridiculously young. He had a whitehead on the side of his nose that I couldn’t stop staring at. I kept thinking that with all of the laser dealies and rejuvenating jobbies and pretty young estheticians running around, he should have been able to get somebody to pop that bad boy before seeing patients. He looked at The Lump. He poked it. He prodded it. He grabbed it. He fondled it. It hurt and I wanted to hit him. Then he decided a breast exam was in order.

Erm…what? I expected him to say that I had some fatty deposit, we could cut it out in the office, and I’d be on my way to wearing sleeveless tops again in a month. What I didn’t expect was the order for a bilateral diagnostic mammogram, followed by a sonogram, to be done ASAP (which, in my world, means another two weeks as I wait on my health insurance to kick in).

I came home sick and scared and tearful. I love The Girls. Having reached an age where everything is moving east to west and then south, The Girls are still hanging in there—perky, responsive, and utterly perfect. They have nurtured my child during his first year and I often use them to divert my husband’s attention during an argument or stressful conversation. A gay male friend of mine (the only one who could ever get away with such a statement) recently told me (in church, no less) that I had “a nice rack.” Yeah, I was tickled.

This week, Angelina Jolie, underwent a radical bilateral mastectomy to avoid getting breast cancer. She of the beautiful, bountiful breasts, sacrificed them to potentially save her life after discovering she carried a gene that gave her an 85% chance of being diagnosed with it. A few years ago, cancer was unheard of in my family. We had strokes and some heart disease, but cancer wasn’t an issue. Until my favorite aunt was diagnosed with advanced, acute breast cancer. Having endured 15 hours of surgery to remove and then reconstruct her breasts, in addition to full-on follow-up therapies, she is convalescing nicely but will remain on chemo pills for 10 years.

I ignored the signs. I ignored The Lump. It may be nothing. It may be a lipoma or a shiny node or some other benign, unnamed, easily rectified thingamajig. I’ve waited for months (years?) to deal with The Lump but now that I have, I feel this incessant need to hurry up and find out what I’m faced with. I have no earthly idea how I would handle losing one, or both, of The Girls. I’d like to say that my self-worth isn’t tied to my awesome boobies, but that would be a lie—they are seriously awesome. I’d like to say that it would be no sweat to hack them off and replace them with some radical tattoos, but the truth is, I’m quite fond of them and…I’m scared. Even though this is horribly premature and hopefully unwarranted, I am giving voice to my fear. I admit that I am terrified and worried and obsessing. I should be working and yet I am recording my terror for posterity (or however long WordPress blogs remain in the Internet ether). I feel ashamed of myself for ignoring The Lump and I hate that I have to live with it for even one more day, much less two more weeks and then who knows how long after that. I want it gone, I want a clean bill of health, and I want to keep The Girls. I want to live long and never be faced with tough decisions that might be necessary to live my life.

I want never again to have to write posts like this one.


Laurel House


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suzanne-etienne-bowl-of-strawberriesWarm, soapy water trickles over the backs of my hands as I rinse earthenware bowls and mugs. Behind me, my son (his iPhone and iPad forgotten for the moment on his blue plaid bed downstairs), cuts strawberries and places them in a Tupperware container to munch on throughout the day. The silence is punctuated only by his periodic exclamations over the size of the ripe, red berries until my mother takes up her dulcimer.

She sits in a ladder-backed chair, her feet firmly planted on the hardwood floor that is warmed by the midmorning sun shining through the sliding glass doors. She deftly hammers out traditional bluegrass (Loch Loman, Red River Valley, Amazing Grace). My father smiles and takes up a book.

Clad in a favorite flannel shirt (brown, worn, warm), he stretches out in his well-loved recliner. His King Charles Cavalier Spaniel sits faithfully at his side. Still distrustful of me, my son—the strangers in the house–he glares at us (wide-eyed and alert), ready to run from the room should the scary monsters get too close for comfort.

Beyond the plate glass windows the sky is a crystal clear blue hanging over a patchwork quilt of land that stretches as far as the eye can see (The Appalachians surrounding us, Pilot Mountain in the distance). Beyond that, a mere hour and fifteen, our home.

Today, though, this is where our hearts lie. As bright red Cardinals and playful Black Capped Chickadees darting from tree to tree (still barren in the early Spring) outside the kitchen window, I rinse another plate. This—this is morning in the mountains.

A Maze Meant


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MINOTAUR-300x222My son is stoic. He keeps his feelings in a tightly lidded canopic jar adorned with shaggy hair, skinny jeans, and headphones. At age 12, he is dealing with a pretty serious problem that is almost beyond his control. I have been sworn to secrecy regarding its nature and it has nothing to do with his family, friends, or school. He is fighting a battle that tears at my heartstrings, plucking a mournful cat-gut sound day in and day out.

This Sunday past, he had an outing to our local hospice with his confirmation class from church. He and his mentor walked the labyrinth on the grounds. He came home with silent tears welling in his big brown eyes. He wouldn’t talk to me.

He was grouchy all day; out of sorts, cranky, and full of backtalk. So unlike him as he usually self-corrects pretty quickly these days. We were becoming angry parents—full of righteous indignation over his “go-straight-to-hell” death stare. Still, he wouldn’t talk to me.

Yesterday afternoon we started to do his homework and he was sullen and unfocused. I laid down my papers and turned to him. He began to sob. I gently, ever-so-gently, coaxed it out of him: the hurt, the fear, the anguish. Feelings that no child should have to deal with. Not about this. I couldn’t take his pain away. I could only sit with him in mute understanding and compassion. Infinite compassion.

I grabbed the car keys and we went back to the labyrinth. I indicated a bench and let him know I’d be waiting. When he pulled out his iPhone and his earplugs, I gently suggested that he might want to be quiet to let his inner voice be heard. He said music helped him think and settled on a haunting violin piece by Lindsey Stirling. I nodded and sat down, watching him trudge heavily out of sight. I sat in the warm early spring breeze, taking in the beautiful grounds, well aware of what transpires behind the lovely architecture of the hospice buildings. Caretaking. Support. Grief. Hope and hopelessness. I wrapped my arms tightly around my waist and waited.

Eventually he came out and sat down next to me. His eyes were full of pain. We talked of making pacts and better choices, of being healthy for each other and for our family members, of how to feel safe in an unsafe world. He took my hand, my tender boy, and led me back into the labyrinth. We walked silently together and I marveled at how incredibly sensitive he is. My son has come through a world of hurt in his short life and yet he lives happy and loving and open and honest. He has a wisdom so far beyond his age and I was cut to the quick with the rawness of each footfall as we wound our way inward and inward, moving ever forward.

At the center of the labyrinth is a fountain, the water bubbling up and over a garden of loose stones. I started to walk around it, intent on heading back out. But he stopped, my boy, and appeared to be meditating or praying. I followed his cue and begged God to lighten his burden, shift it to my own shoulders, let me carry it for him. Eventually he reached down and chose one small stone that he clutched in his hand. I followed suit and he nodded that it was time to head back out. He talked of the weather, the warmth, the sunshine of the day before. He was done processing and he was ready to be stoic again. I ruffled his hair and he smiled at me. My only child, my little man, my warrior prince ready to fight his demons on his own terms.

A Thank You Note


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broken heartToday while I was trolling a friend’s Facebook page for an article she had linked to a few days ago, I came across this linked post about thanking your ex for all the worthwhile things you learned when you were together. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and when God keeps smacking me over the head with signs, it’s usually time to make my amends where they are due.

I will be the first to admit that I haven’t had a great history with relationships. Then again, while they haven’t lasted into their golden years, they did have some pretty awesome moments. More than awesome moments. I have truly loved and been loved and sometimes things just don’t work out. For a long time, after each break-up, I would blame and blame and blame. I have had a difficult time seeing my own behavior problems and taking accountability for the part I played in the “dissolution of marriage.”

In one case, I was married. We were together for 14 years and things gradually unraveled. By the time we were done, it was a pretty mutual decision. Our divorce was made much worse due to very bad choices I made in a fit of panic and anxiety over being alone for the first time since I was 17 years old. I illustrated very plainly that I don’t do single well. In another case, we were together barely 2 years; we got engaged, we broke up. I learned how to do single very well indeed and eventually came out of that time with a reticence to put a toe into the dating rapids that made me clutch my life jacket of resistance.

In both cases, I learned a lot–although not right away and not consciously. I learned that I had been, throughout my life, horribly co-dependent (had I been mindful enough to access self-help, Harriet Lerner would have made a fortune on me). I kept hearing the term “pushy,” but didn’t really understand it until I looked back from the nearly normal perch on which I now sit and realized that it’s annoying to others when you are obsessive about texting and calling when they are out with friends or family, are maniacal about trying to get your partner to share their feelings when they just need some space, and have an incessant need to know where they are at all hours of the day. From this independent place I now inhabit? It would have made me crazy.

The article talks about being an alcoholic and that was not my problem although I have other things I am still dealing with in an effort to be a better person. I feel as though everything I went through in my relationships helped to strip me down to bare bones so that I could develop a new, healthier skin. I am no longer creating drama in my life. I don’t do turmoil. I’m not frantic or needy or worrisome. I don’t rely on my partner to bolster my self-image. I’m not at all perfect but then I don’t strive to be either. I am, I think, a pretty damn good partner in my marriage. I don’t get bent out of shape when my husband stays out with his friends–I know he’ll come home eventually because this is where his heart is; I don’t freak out when he isn’t in bed at 2:00 in the morning–he’s a grad student and long hours come with the territory; I don’t push him to talk when he needs time alone–he’ll come around and we’ll communicate when we’re both calm and rational and ready. Our lives are joined and separate and simple and complicated and full of trust and mutual respect and true love and high passion. Our relationship is a very good balance of all the things I’ve always wanted but could never achieve because I was immature and demanding. I get that.

I’m not saying I would turn back the clock and do it over again. I am not mourning the loss of my relationships. So what do I have to thank my exes for? Helping me learn how to laugh, not to take things too seriously, being okay with just being me, letting go of the need to hold on so tightly that they could not breathe, learning to clean up my own side of the street and let them worry about theirs (I am not anyone’s savior), and knowing that I don’t have to attend every fight I’m invited to. Walking away is okay sometimes (you have to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em).

To you (you know who you are) who gave me wonderful years of special memories, many hours of fits of laughter, vacations, family that I still cherish, continuing friendships (surprising that you still stuck with me through all the messy endings), and, in one very special case, an incredible child that we both love more than life itself–I honor you. I thank you. And I love you.

I would expect that my husband thanks you, too, for having a hand in providing him with a much better wife for the long haul. We may make those golden years yet.

Today I Baked Banana Bread


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ImageGiving up beloved treats for Lent has never worked out well for me. Two years ago I tried to give up cheese. That lasted about 2.4 hours. Not days. Hours. Self-imposed fasts make me pissy, regardless of their spiritual significance. Whenever I go on a diet I feel utterly and immediately deprived and tend to rebel by pigging out on the nearest high fat, high calorie foodstuff. So, fasting for Lent? Not really my strong suit.

This year I decided that I would give up something that would help me out in the long run. After several weeks of rumination, I decided that this year I would fast from sloth. I freely admit to being a horribly lazy person. I am also highly adept at procrastination. I am self-employed and I tend to work best under pressure, at the last moment. I am not a plan-ahead Type A personality. Nope. I’m a laid back, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-knickers, finish on a wing and a prayer, type of person.

Unfortunately, this kind of behavior has some pretty harsh repercussions. I often ignore projects or chores that are distasteful to me and so they go undone until I feel overwhelmed and crushed under the pressure to tackle them. For instance, I moved into my husband’s house in July (it’s now February), and I still have six (SIX!) boxes of various office supplies, old bills, papers, and files sitting on the floor of my office. I have had the best of intentions to unpack them but intentions only get you so far. They sit behind my computer chair and with each passing day, I feel their weight bearing down upon me, threatening to suffocate me.

I have a similar issue with bills. I hate tackling finances. Dealing with money makes me itchy and twitchy and depressed. It’s one of the few things that Liam and I argue about. I have this idea that, like a toddler who thinks that if he can’t see you, you can’t see him either, I can ignore my bills and they will just go away. I don’t have to pay them, they’ll just disappear. Right? Yeah, until the Internet service gets shut off because I conveniently ignored my bills long past their due date.

So instead of taking my usual afternoon nap (sometimes just a power nap, sometimes a long two-hour snuggle under the blankets like a mini-vacation from life), I am devoting one hour a day to something I don’t love. Each day I pick a project to tackle and I do so mindfully–whether it is devoting mind, body, and soul to cleaning a bathroom (my 12-year-old son now has a sparkling lavatory thanks to my efforts on Saturday) or prayerfully unpacking one of those weighty cardboard boxes.

So today I baked two loaves of banana bread with chocolate chips. Let me clarify, I hate to bake. I do. I have always loved cooking but cooking, for me, is an active endeavor. I rarely follow a recipe and when I do I always improvise. When I am cooking I am constantly doing something, stirring or tasting or seasoning or setting the table while something luscious bubbles on the stove. Baking, on the other hand, has to be precise. You can’t fudge the measurements. You can’t walk away and forget it like a stew that needs to simmer for several hours so that the tastes deepen and richen. You can’t cut corners and you must follow instructions.

Today I discovered an almost zen-like quality to baking. I prepared (I know, right?). I got out measuring spoons and cups and all of the bowls I would need and each ingredient. I laid open my tattered, tomato-sauce stained copy of Joy of Cooking and found a recipe to follow. I painstakingly measured ingredients and followed the instructions step-by-step. And afterward, with a timer set for precisely 60 minutes, I washed up immediately, leaving no trace of the mess that was made during my baking experiment. An hour later, I was rewarded with two perfect loaves of banana bread (with chocolate chips, because a girl has to improvise somewhere). They were warm and golden brown with just a touch of crustiness on top. The whole house was redolent with the smell of baked goodness and as I cut a slice to take to my mother-in-law I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride. The same sense I felt when I stood back from the bathroom on Saturday to admire the sparkling fixtures and clean floor covered by a just-washed bathmat.

They say it takes 21 days to develop a habit. My hope is that at the end of this Lenten fast, I will have more energy to tackle my work, my housework, and all of the other myriad projects I get myself involved in. I hope that I will open my bills when they come in and that I will pay them on time without resentment. I hope that my office will be clean and organized and I will be less reticent to take on the chores that need to be done rather than rolling my eyes at the dust and thinking, tomorrow…there’s always tomorrow. I hope that, after all this, I will be better prepared to love my God as I find grace even in the mundane.

When Our No Becomes a Yes


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Image courtesy of Reuters

In May of 2012, my partner (who I refer to as my husband although we are not legally married despite having had the big white wedding in October of 2011) and I participated for the first time in the Campaign for Southern Equality’s We Do action. I wrote about it here. January 14, 2013, found us once again standing in front of the county court clerk applying for a marriage license.

The answer, again, was no.

This year’s action was part of Stage 4. The We Do Campaign travel team accompanied LGBTQ couples from seven southern states as they applied for, and were denied, marriage licenses in an attempt to work toward federal marriage equality. They are a tireless team of dedicated individuals who work in the most grassroots of organizations—their home base is a small donated office space and they are more likely to be found sacking out on the floor of a farm house in Tennessee than in a hotel room at the Hilton.

I had this crazy notion that, because we had done this once before, this January action would be easier. I would be less nervous, less anxious, less emotional. It isn’t easier the second time around.

I knew what was coming. I knew that, because the state of North Carolina passed an amendment in 2012 banning same sex marriage (or even civil unions), that Li and I would be denied our request for a marriage license. We do this because we’ll be denied. That’s the whole reason behind the action. That’s why we call it an action.

But Li and I are in an interesting position. Li is in transition from female to male. As of January 2013, he still had not legally changed his name to Liam and despite the burgeoning facial hair and almost baritone voice (recorded for posterity on the evening news that night), the driver’s license he presented is for “Lisa.” Without the funds to cover what we like to refer to as gender affirmation surgery, Li is not yet eligible to change his gender marker.

But by the time the next action rolls around the driver’s license he presents may well have an “M” where the “F” now stands and the name will be changed from “Lisa” to “Liam.”

And with those two small changes, our request for a marriage license will be approved.

Can you imagine? We are the same two people. We are, for all intents and purposes, currently considered a same sex couple and so we are not allowed to get married in this state. But if the social security office and the DMV recognizes him as male then the state of North Carolina will suddenly, magically, grant us a marriage license.

We are still the same two people.

It would be lovely if we no longer felt such a need to participate in these actions. It would be lovely if they were no longer required. However, I imagine that there will at least be one more. And when that happens, we plan to be there. We will march the several blocks to government center again, faces grave and hands clasped tightly together, hearts beating wildly in anticipation. We will stand outside the clerk’s office once again and watch as our fellow volunteers enter with hopeful smiles and come out crestfallen with tearstained cheeks. We will walk hand-in-hand as we approach the desk, once again surrounded by loved ones, dedicated support staff, and hungry media. We will once again slide our request for a marriage license across the desk and when asked for our proof of identification we will place it in front of the clerk and he or she will inspect it–the “no” already forming on the lips suddenly becomes a “Why yes, we can grant you a license in the state of North Carolina.” And they take our information and they present us with that simple slip of paper that will entitle us, too, the 1100 federal rights that come with legal recognition of our marriage.

And we will smile. And we will hold each other tighter. And we will say, “We’re sorry, but we cannot accept this. Six months (or a year) ago, you would not grant us this license because then we presented as a same sex couple. Now we present as male and female and you approve us? We will not accept this license until every one of the couples here can leave with one as well.”

And we will wait. The “no” will be that much more bittersweet but we will have proved a point. We will be the same two people, having known and loved each other for nearly 30 years; two people who parent a child and maintain a home and pay taxes and are active in the church and community at large; two people who have been recognized as married by friends and loved ones but have not been entitled to the same rights as our heterosexual counterparts. We will be the same two people. Within a day of one gender marker change, we will be eligible for all those rights. I find this sad, frightening, absurd, and bordering on the laughable.

We will wait because no matter the gender marker, we are all human beings. We are all just people who love each other and trust that our love is as important as that of the next couple. Marriage should not be based on whether a couple looks “normal” or not; appears to be “one of us.” Federal marriage equality should be allowed because it is a right and we are all guaranteed the same rights under the law as citizens of the United States. We are human and we are equal.

We are the still the same.

The Butterfly Effect


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I walked as far as I could see.

The tide worked its way out, leaving shallow pools of clear, still water in its wake. Early morning sun baked my bare shoulders and the backs of my legs as I alternated between meandering slowly along the soft sand high up on the beach, pausing now and again to pick up a shell and inspect it before tossing it back into the pile, and strutting purposefully on the hard-packed sand near the water’s edge. When no one was looking I would tear into a flock of seagulls staring intently out at the breaking waves. A small. blonde Professor Jones without an umbrella, I would wave my arms wildly, laughing, and watch them fly over my head, squawking their utter displeasure.

I nodded at the elderly trio encased in their plastic armchairs, drawn down into the surf. They gripped their books and turned their dark bodies into the sun as a single unit. A quarter turn. A quarter turn. A crab scuttled away from the lifting and planting of my clumsy feet. I watched him move quickly, sideways, deeper into the water where it became murky.

I thought about the butterfly effect my presence had on the delicate ecosystem around me. Was I setting off a chain reaction when I picked up a hermit crab, firmly ensconced in a borrowed whelk’s shell? Would he have kept going up the beach to die? Did I deprive a heron from its intended dinner when I set him back in the water and watched the wave tumble him over and over again?

When I dug up tiny clams with my toes and watched them dive back into the sand, I was clearly the reason some of them washed back out to sea, unable to dig their tiny muscled foot back into their bed fast enough. Who was I to play God with the beached pufferfish, still gasping for breath, when I nudged his soft underbelly over and over again until he rolled back out into the water; one last lurch of his body and out to sea? Perhaps he was meant to lie there in the hot sun until his scales flaked and his eyes dried out–a welcome lunch for the hungry gulls, still cawing at me for disrupting their eternal vigilance.

Or perhaps it was preordained that I, a single human, out for a morning stroll along the beach, would come along and shake things up. The heron could get his dinner elsewhere as the hermit crab moved happily along the ocean floor; the tiny clams became food for the next link in the chain of life; the puffer fish may well wash up another day, but today he lived and ate and swam and did those pufferfish things.

I turned up a piece of styrofoam, eroded, with shells embedded in it. Washed up after the violent storm of the previous night. Long since discarded in the ocean, still intact, still styrofoamy. Grimacing at the abundance of trash–a Dunkin’ Donuts cup here, a plastic bottle cap there–I thought to myself that I should bring a bag tomorrow; not to collect shells, but to collect trash. The detritus we humans leave behind in Paradise. That would be a more effecient way to leave my mark behind.

I nodded. Turned my face into the sun and smiled. I lifted my arms and praised Creator for this singularly perfect moment in time.

I looked up and I could see further yet. So I just kept walking.

Going Against the Grain


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This post first appeared a few years ago as an article for Our Big Gayborhood. I was truly honored to be a regular monthly contributor, but now that the site has been taken down, I am going to be re-posting my articles here. Under the amazing editorial guidance of Lori Hahn and Margo Moon, there was a phenomenal group of writers that contributed to OBG. It was quite a ride while it lasted. Although I wrote about my son’s scouting activities recently, this piece was written specifically around Memorial Day and so I thought it a fitting piece to start off with. 


Norman Rockwell

My son was born in 2000. The very same year that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America could decide who represented their organization, including the discrimination against gays both as leaders and as members. Back then, his “mama” and I were staunchly anti-scouting because scouts were staunchly anti-homosexual. Yet 7 years later, as a single mother, I found myself proudly signing my second-grader up for cub scouts.

I am fully aware of the scouts’ beliefs and attitudes toward homosexuals. There is a big part of me that abhors the notion that the organization believes that being gay is contrary to the scout oath to be “clean in word and deed.” While there are many things in my life that would probably not be considered by many to be clean in word and deed, I do have a very strong moral and ethical base—one that I hope to pass along to my child. I fought an internal battle before I got him involved in scouting. I spoke at length with my ex about it and surprisingly, she agreed it was a good move. We live in an area that is fraught with gang violence (are there many areas that aren’t any more?). He is exposed to people who are actively using drugs. He has had more than his share of exposure to alcoholics and those who drink under age. It is the nature of the place we live.

My combative measures included more involvement in volunteer work. My son and I serve dinner to the homeless and work with the food pantry. He never fails to recognize the regulars and call out to them. He enjoys his time there and we always come away with food for thought, so to speak. Church has played a big part in our lives. I sing in the choir and, on the weekends that he is not visiting his mama, he sits with the congregation before attending Sunday School. A big part of my plan has been to involve him in athletic activities and he now believes that his future lies with the NBA. I keep telling him not to quit his day job just yet. My final plan of attack against the onslaught of his pre-teen years was to get him into scouting.

Making the decision to do so required that I turn my back on all that I thought was wrong. I do not take homophobia or gay-bashing lightly. While I’m not extremely political, I do stand up for what I believe in. But when it comes to my child, I have to decide which ethics are more important. I have watched my son grow into a self-confident young man. He is, for the most part, polite and respectful of others. In his uniform he stands tall and proud. Last week he volunteered to wear his uniform to school and to escort the honored Veterans to the stage for the Memorial Day concert. This morning, we got up early and joined the local VFW members as they decorated the graves of fellow Vets. It was a momentous occasion for us; while I absolutely do not support war (I grew up a pacifist Quaker), I most certainly support those who volunteer their time and often their lives to protect our freedom.

Perhaps I’m getting more conventional as I get older. Perhaps I am growing more conservative. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my son’s participation in scouting is a good thing. He is more social, better educated, more responsible, and leans toward a higher moral ground because of it. This moral ground does not preclude him from fully accepting and allowing the fact that his mother is a lesbian. And, now that I’ve outed myself to the community fully, I’ve experienced no negative repercussions whatsoever. I guess they haven’t yet figured out what to do with dyke moms of cub scouts. Or maybe I’m just one of the non-threatening ones. Regardless, my son and I will be marching in the Veteran’s Day Parade on Monday. We look and act just like all of the other scouts and their proud parents. My secret hope is that, as my child works toward his coveted level of Eagle Scout, he continues to be okay with me and with our life together—and by virtue of his acceptance, he might be able to turn the tide in our direction.