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Monday, April 30, 2012

Transgressing Gender

Last week I made the commitment to and enjoyed the pleasure of hearing Kate Bornstein speak. Hir appearance was sponsored by the collegiate LGBTQIA organization. Hir talk was encouraging, inspiring, and enthusiastic while addressing the topics of sex, bullying and you.

Here are some of hir talking points from that evening:
  • Our imaginations are in thrall to the institutions of oppression. (Minnie Bruce Pratt)
  • The names we give ourselves must no longer bind us to a system that would rather see us dead.
  • More than either/or, how can I fit in and help heal this world? 
  • The Bully system demands that we make a choice: male/female, black/white, right/wrong, day/night, pink/blue, in/out, gay/straight. 
  • Each movement has named itself within the confines of the very system it was bucking - the Women's Movement, Gay Activist, Bi-Sexual Movement, Trans-sexual/gender, intersexed, ftm, mtf, all too terrorized to call themselves something other than male or female. We are beyond LGBTQQIA.
  • Gender Outlaws will remain outsiders. When they come we will be divided into the either/or. What cultural law are you breaking by just being who you are?
  • How can we find some common ground? We hold these truths to be self evident, that all people have the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The issue is that mythologies with more power bully the world. That makes it hard to coexist. Our pursuit of happiness doesn't count. When did we stop saying, "Have a lovely day."?
  • By leaving no option for a outsiders to thrive, a bully culture engineers its own demise.
  • We are still behaving like junior high adolescents - not really children, yet far from adulthood. We use our clicks and insecurities to bully others into compliance. Some pass (survive) by hiding, fading into the background, or acting as if. But what of those who can not pass? What of their right to pursue happiness?
  • The responsibility of growing up is to give a helping hand to those who are a few bubbles off center. We need to include - radically welcome - everyone who is being oppressed.
  • Binary systems of classification exist only in our imaginations. (Nature has more depth and breath.) Dream a good life for yourself. 
  • Yet, so much of what we dream as a good life goes against God. What happens after you dies? Messing around with sex and gender can get you sent to hell.
    • Here's your "Get Out of Hell Free" card. (Kate instructed the audience to pick one up at the table on the way out. In case we forgot or were negligent, they were passed out by ushers during the remainder of hir talk.) Kate spoke, "Live you life. Do good things. Be who you want to be, living and loving. Harm no one and be kind. If after a full and loving life, you die and wake up in hell, give the devil this card, or a reasonable facsimile, (Kate held the card up for the audience) and I will do your time for you. You see, I made a deal with the devil." 
    Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger. This is hir blog.  Take the quiz on gender. Challenge the dominate thinking. Open a discussion. End the silence that separates us. Live your dreams.

    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Possibilities and Challenges

    Before spring came...
    You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope. ~Thomas Merton
    Being a list maker, I start the process even before I get out of bed. These days, that's item number one - get out of bed. But before shifting even one foot to the floor, I speak my gratitude for waking up and having the blessing of getting out of bed both on my own and at my preferred pace. I once worked for a doctor who responded to greetings of well-being as, "Up and taking nourishment." I, however, am healthy and well, even on my achiest of days.

    Today's aches begged that I go for raw foods and juices, but when I got to the kitchen I required coffee before I could juice. Still thinking... The basic list, if I followed it, goes coffee, read, write, make list. I read before sleep and was still jazzed to work on that theme. Sitting at the desk with my coffee I opened a new document and began to type. I have learned to avoid opening a browser window as that is a sure distraction from even making the daily list.
    Here are a few tips toward a useful and supportive list:
    • Use a narrow piece of paper.
    • Brainstorm. Include everything - even the things accomplished before writing the list.
    • Prioritize. What's important? What's urgent? What's fun?
    • Divide. Today's headings are Possibilities and Challenges.
    • Determine - places to go, things to do, people to contact.
    • Complete and cross off.
    • Toss. Either before bed, or when the next list is made. Eliminate clutter.
    There. That's my blog posted, my list made, and I am ready to embrace the day with courage, faith and hope.
    How do list work for you?


    Thursday, April 19, 2012

    Tell Me The Truth

    I've been applying for jobs over the last month. Granted, it has been four years since I was last looking, but things have changed. Included in the application process are assessments, questionnaires, and surveys. Employers have developed or hired companies to design and implement instruments to probe the depths of our psyches as well as our social interest, manners and behaviors. Rephrased repeatedly were questions about honesty, lying and telling the truth.

    I answer the questions:

    Yes. I always tell the truth. (It really pisses people off, especially employers. They seem to want validation for their ideas and policies and expect an "attitude" adjustment - meaning compliance, with a smile.)

    One. The number of friends I had at my last job. (I go to work to work. I made that friend intentionally. I made a conscious effort to get to know her and determined that she might be fun to spend time with socially.)

    Yes. I am more honest than most people. I find people trust me because they know I tell the truth. If they don't want the truth, they don't ask me. On the other hand, we are accustomed to people smiling in our faces and then sneering behind our backs.

    But wait, this isn't just at work. Some people are practiced in social niceties. Me, not so much. I had a delightful lunch with my family. It was absolutely fun and playful. When I had nothing to say, I kept quiet. When a topic of interest opened up, I jumped right in. I happen to have a different opinion than everyone else at the table. I didn't mind, but they seemed to find it unbelievable. Since this was just lunch we parted and drove our separate ways.

    At work, those social discussions rarely remain relaxed and since after lunch we are heading back to our shared work stations, whatever issues/feelings arise tend to linger on. I have found it prudent to just avoid offering personal information. At my last job, they passed out a survey to new employees so we could self-disclose. It was less interesting than they hoped as my favorite car was "the one I am driving." Favorite book, The Alchemist. Favorite vacation place, Berkeley. The supervisor stood looking at me with her head tilted to the side.

    As I get older I have less interest in pretense. I am polite. I am civil. I am nice. I expect to be hired because I am competent, responsible, dependable, creative, exciting and willing to learn, shift and grow. I have applied for various situations, most within my field of learning, experience, and understanding. I also chose new and different positions.

    I like telling the truth. I find it hard to follow fallacy even in my head. Even my fantasies have the element of truth, as in, it could be. Interviewing is next. I have a great smile, a seductive voice and broad and varied experience. I am here and I am enough!

    Let us pray.

    Thursday, April 12, 2012


    Be impeccable with your word.

    Your word is your bond.

    Say what you mean.
    Mean what you say.
    Do what you say you're going to do.

    For example, Michael Scott does not like Toby and is unset about his return to The Office. I respect honesty.

    Gotta love the clarity of it.

    Sunday, April 8, 2012

    The Nature of Things

    Ocean Beach, CA and the Sutro Bath Ruins (r)  

    The Buddha’s Five Remembrances
    I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
    I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.
    I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
    All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change.
    There is no way to escape being separated from them.
    My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
    My actions are the ground upon which I stand.


    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    Spring Cleaning

    Spring arrives with the promise of new life, hope and joy. It is an excitement engaging all our senses. We smell the fresh blooms opening to meet the sun. We hear the birds singing earlier and louder each dawn. We feel the warmth of brighter and longer days. And as we choose, we touch the earth. We garden. We drink in the light. We throw open the windows. Ah!

    Nothing highlights the dust and clutter faster than the eastern sunrise. Lounging while we sip our coffee, our attention is drawn to the areas we neglected in our winter hunker down. By now, April, most of the northern hemisphere is looking to trade heavy coats and sweaters for less insulating wear. Making the wardrobe shift gives opportunity to review other items we have gathered and tucked away through the year (or years).

    We are a nation of gatherers, and as a rule, need reminders to recycle, reduce, and reuse. We now have songs, cartoons, billboards, flyers, special bags, boxes and other containers for (in some communities) curbside collection. In previous post I have shared that I am clearing my parents home. My mother died in March and we are sorting through decades of "gatherings." I can see how I have acquired this pattern and am committed to finding a way to enjoy what I have rather than spending my days managing it.

    The biggest issue is that my mother had some really cool stuff. I can't just toss it out. (My dad's solution.) The reality is, I already have everything I need. I came across a fabulous bag I really wanted. Before bringing it into the house, I decided which of the bags I already own I was willing to give up. Standing at the closet, I realized I was willing to give away five of them. (And yes, I have more. Have purses. Will travel.)

    I'm learning to pick up daily. My mail was on hold and rather than bringing it all home to sort, I stood at the recycle bin and left what I could at the post office. Then I opened and sorted the mail into what needed attention, what must be shredded, and what would go into recycling. On the way to the grocer, I emptied the recycling bag.

    Find ways to bring memories into the present without holding onto objects of the past. Some pretties sit about the house marking places in the past. If an item has no current significance, let it go. Many of the bits I saved over the years now decorate the garden. Stones, sand and water from distant ventures return easily to the earth. Just as easily is a favorite doll, shoe, or blanket that has lost its function.

    Some days I just walk around and look at all my stuff. When I find there is something I can let go of I place it in a basket by the door. Every Wednesday I am in town I carry those items to the charity shop. Letting go allows us to feel freer, to move and live more easily.

    Does it make me happy? Does it bring me joy? If not, let it go.

    Do I have a place to put it, for real? No, let it go.

    Am I really going to use this? For its intended purpose (mine or others)? ...

    Do I have duplicates? Keep one. Recycle the rest.

    Why am I still keeping this? Guilt? Obligation? Fear? I received a set of crystal stemware that belonged to my grandmother. Because I had young children I was afraid to use or display it. For a decade it was merely a burden that I carried and tended along with linen table coverings. I can finally enjoy the glassware and let go of any concerns of staining the linen. That's what happens when you use things.

    Am I saving this for someone else? I know that little of what I have will interest my children. They are now adults and if they desire something I have, they need only ask. It once bothered me when my daughter said everything would be hauled out for donation, but now that I am faced with the task, I understand.

    Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors' ~ Kahlil Gibran
    Following the examples I listed above, I have spend the day emptying my closet. I am amazed at the number of empty hangers I have collected over the year. I switch out my clothes seasonally, usually. But the last year has been very unusual. I started paring down and de-cluttering in anticipation of leaving my job and then living with less. I have massively more. Sadly, there were even clothes that didn't get unpacked last fall/winter.

    Here are a few more questions:

    Does this fit me now? There is no point in saving clothes we hope to fit into another day, on either side of the tape measure.

    Does this match my style? This applies not only to clothing, but make-up, accessories, books, ideas, thoughts and beliefs.

    What is the point in hanging on to this? I found some cool scarves, belts, sweaters, and t-shirts. Most it can go to donation or garage sale - whichever comes first.

    Finally, if I am going to store it, decide in advance where and for how long. I packed away my winter items and am airing the spring/summer wear. It has been a long and arduous process, but honestly, I feel lighter, more organized, and clearer.

    Remember, the universe abhors a void. As we clear out the old, we make space for more. Let's remain thoughtful, awake and aware of what we draw and accept into this newly created space.

    Blessed be!