Years ago, an old friend of mine said to me in her inimitable Southern drawl: "I needed to be hit over the head with a 2x4 to get the message."
As a native New Yorker and someone who barely knew what a 2x4 was, those weren't words I would have used, but I knew what she meant.
I've been known to ignore signs from the universe for umm ... decades?!
Signs that I was gay (really, oh so gay).
That I was a writer.
That I could use my natural gifts as an editor to work with other writers.
Instead, I typically chose the safer, easier-in-the-moment path.
In my 50s, I finally listened to the signs from the universe, which led me to the very different life I am leading today—as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a first-time dog parent (!), the wife of Wendy, and a book coach dedicated to helping queer folx raise their voices,...
I had two polar opposite experiences last week that convinced me that queer people need safe spaces to raise their voices and write their stories more than ever.
First, I read in the newspaper that the Pope declared that being gay isn’t a crime—sure, it’s a “sin,” but not a crime. So comforting.
I haven’t had time to unpack all the feelings that exploded through my body when I read that headline, but here are a few:
"We're really excited about your book," the thirty-something editor said to me. "Because we want to publish the plurality of the queer experience."
Maybe that was her nice way of saying that there aren't a lot of books out there by middle-aged white women who discover they are LGBTQ+ in their fifties :)
Yes, we needed and need those stories. But we also need a plurality of LGBTQ+ stories to share the plurality of the queer experience.
Stories like IN THE DREAM HOUSE and GENDER QUEER from BIPOC queer writers like Carmen Maria Machado and Maia Kobabe, respectively. From lesbians, gay, trans folx, bisexual, nonbinary, young and old queer folx. From every color in the rainbow.
But what if you're not part of the rainbow? Does the editor's comment have anything to do with you?
Today is National Coming Out Day, a day I didn't even know existed when I was living as a straight woman in a mixed-gender marriage.
Back then, I was oblivious to the struggles of LGBTQ+ folx and the history of that community. I "knew of" gay people, but I didn't have a single LGBTQ+ friend. Or at least I didn't think I did.
This isn't an uncommon experience.
Robert Eichberg, one of the founders of NCOD, said in 1993:
"Most people think they don't know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact, everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes."
It wasn't until I made a pilgrimage to Iona, a tiny isle off the southwest coast of Scotland, that I realized I did have an LGBTQ+ friend after all.
The year was 2001, and I was a forty-year-old stay-at-home mom searching for my purpose.
I'd left a toxic work environment as a corporate...
I'm in a conference room at my wife's workplace, Temple University, here to celebrate the investiture of the university's new president and go to the homecoming game.
Every so often, Wendy pops her head into the conference room to introduce me to one of her colleagues. She's proud, I think, of me, and excited that she has a wife to show off. :)
That wasn't the case when we first met.
Back then, Wendy was working for a Christian college where it was technically okay for a community member to be gay but only if they didn't act on it.
Wendy, on faculty for 20+ years, could have been FIRED for holding my hand in public.
Yep. In 2017, this was the case, and it remains the case today. And firing Wendy would have been completely legal.
I hope someday she'll let me help her write the story of how she ended up being subjected to...
Snippets of experiences from my childhood living as a girl and moments of parallel in adulthood, as I re-experience firsts as a man.
I knew there was an important story there, and I also knew that "snippets" weren't going to do it justice.
"What are you most afraid of?" I asked. I figured the snippets approach was a way for Beck to protect himself, to guard his heart from further trauma and judgment.
Snippets! So light and breezy!
Because this is a writer who has been abandoned over and over by the people who are supposed to love him most.
I chuckled, not because this was funny but because I hear a variation of this fear all the time from writers.
Being afraid that people will think you're a narcissist if you write your story really means you're afraid that no one will...
"We had a protestor at our wedding," my wife tells anyone who will listen. "I consider it a queer badge of honor," she always says, with a smile.
Maybe she's right, but a year ago when I spotted a man on a step ladder blurting obscenities through a megaphone at our wedding party, I felt horrified—and afraid.
Would he follow us through the streets of Lancaster? Were there more people like him around every corner? Would a fight break out? Would my wedding day be ruined?
I had no such worries on my first wedding day, thirty-five years earlier. The day where I wore my mother's Priscilla of Boston wedding gown and my father walked me down the aisle of the Wellesley College Chapel to my soon-to-be husband.
The man I would build a good life with. Have two sons with. The man whose heart I would eventually break when I came to terms with my sexuality late in life. The man who let me go with grace and compassion. The man who continues to extend both to me.
Writers go on a hero’s journey when they make the decision to get their story out of their heads and onto the page.
Queer writers go on a Queero’s Journey!
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