Regret Is My Teacher


Seriously?

Friggin’ Brene Brown.

My partner and I have been taking her online course LIVING BRAVE. Apparently, it’s the first year it’s out.

We have an exercise in which we write about a time in our life in which we fell down. An occasion of regret.

What is a fall? For me, a terrible mistake. A time I didn’t show up, or couldn’t live up to my values the way I aspire to do.

I mean, seriously.

The result of all this is that I’m buying steampunk military clothes just so anyone who looks at me knows that I am badass. Never mind that the people who usually wear these clothes are late teen boys, and I’m a middle aged woman. I need friggin’ protection!

I should say, that I did NOT follow her instructions and pick some light, easy, whatever moment in life, a small fall. I picked the life-changing splat that I call They Named Us Mary II. Which was a production of a play that I wrote in which pretty much everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. (I knew it was a fall when I was in it. There was one big disaster and my partner said, “Now we’re in performance. Nothing else is going to happen.” and I said, “You wanna bet? This is just the beginning.” And I was right.)

I’ve been very grateful for the wake up call that was They Named Us Mary II, but absolutely haunted by my own mistakes and behavior, full not only of regret, but shame.

Regret is my teacher.

It should haunt me. Because in doing the Brene Brown exercise, and in picking this cage rattling, down to the core, shredding moment, I learned the core of my most painful mistake in this production is, well, still a big tendency. I learned something I so need to know as I move forward in my life.

I don’t ask for help. I forget that asking for emotional support is even a thing. I assume I’m friggin’ Hercules.

I act as though my life hasn’t happened to me. As if I’ve never been hurt. As if I’m up to every challenge.

To my male friends, I feel you. I am just friggin’ like you.

And it’s not true that I’m up to every challenge.

I wasn’t up to that one. And in my gut, I knew it. I knew I should have turned away the offered opportunity. I went silent when I needed to speak. I fell apart when I needed to lead and make hard decisions and have hard conversations. I fell into my own darkness.

Thank you to Brene Brown for teaching me that I can be so…well, wounded.

And to whatever/whoever for this understanding–that when I fall, I’m in pain, I need help, I must connect.

Human like everyone else.

This is what the start of self-forgiveness looks like.

Run from Fire: My Latest Screenplay


Here is the logline of my latest screenplay: The head of a battered women’s shelter struggles to take down the hero fireman who stalks and rapes her after she helps his wife.

The word that people say to me when they hear this sentence is: intense.

Oh, shit.

Can I tell you how much I hate that word? I’ve been called intense since before I was in the womb (or at least it feels that way), and what it always seemed to mean was, “too much.” Or, “tone it down.” Or, “too dark.” Or, “too emotional.”Or, very simply, “SHUT THE F UP!”

I mean, I really hate that word.

I will say that Run from Fire dives into a small town experience of violence and injustice in which a battering rapist is able to run wild because his brothers, cousin and uncle are all cops and firemen.

It’s about rape. And fear. And trying to overpower someone you can’t overpower.

My partner said to me, last night as I was freaking out about having sent it to contests, that I need to remember that I am an artist who sees the world from an outsider point-of-view, and everything I write is controversial. People get mad at me because of what I write. And that is a good thing, because I’m trying to wake them up.

I’m writing about rape. In the thriller genre. Because I have something to say about violence, about the need for power and control (in everyone, not just the batterer/rapist), and I believe what I have to say is important. Drilling down into the dark isn’t easy, but unless we can look the hard truths of the human experience in the face, they will run us right off this planet.

I’m saying I believe what I write is important.

And when I’ve written about this subject before, the critics tore me to shreds. The male critics, gay and straight, I should add. The women were more balanced.

I would like to say that this scares me. That it felt terrible. That part of me believed we should all keep silent about such things, even as, clearly, I stood up and shouted I would never shut up.

Oh, how hard it is to separate yourself from your own work!

Because I am a survivor of violence.

Not just an activist for women’s rights. Not just the woman who testified before judiciary committees and marched on Washington. But the one who knows the private moments of humiliation and powerlessness no one should ever know.

This does not mean I don’t know what I’m talking about. It means that I do.

But it also means that criticism, and being told to shut up, overtly or not, really friggin’ hurts.

I believe art can be about any subject. There’s not a single autobiographical fact in my screenplay, but somehow it feels about me, because there’s a stigma around the subject matter.

Let the screenplay stand on its own merits. Let me tell the stories I tell from the strength and power of both terrible truths and heartbreaking kindness.

Let me say that I am afraid. That I remember the vitriol of critics, the intense discomfort of people afraid to ask if I knew something about this subject, the shame we all have in talking about it.

So, preemptively–yes, I know something about the subject. Since my explosion into performance came from winning the Amazon Super Slam Finals with two poems about violence against women, that really shouldn’t be a secret.

I would like to say that when I write about an Episcopal priest possessed by grace and integrity, I also know what I’m talking about, and not just from the priests I’ve interviewed. I know her from the inside out.

I don’t have to be afraid when I tell her story. I don’t care what the critics think. I’m not vulnerable to shame.

More fear, when you break the taboo. More courage, to break it.

Harder, to write the story truthfully, to make sure it’s artistic, but not to make it less difficult out of the fear of what people might think.

I hope the people who read my screenplay find it well-crafted, meaningful, fast-paced, stunning and disturbing.

It’s a story.

And I’ve never been able to care for long what people think. Mostly, when they hurt me, I want to get even, as soon as I can.

That’s in the story, too.

I Am Not A Straight Girl, # Infinity + 1, OR, the GAZE (not necessarily male)


So, I really love writing my “I Am Not a Straight Girl” series. LOVE. It’s so much fun.

This one’s a quickie.

And all about the gaze. As in, THE GAZE.

Straight feminists talk about the male gaze. And if you’re sexually attracted to men, then the male gaze matters, right? You care what they find attractive and you form yourself toward that ideal, even if it twists you out of shape in a million ways. Not too powerful, not too smart, not stronger than…definitely feminine, definitely sexy. In the cliche, mind you.

But what about the female gaze? Or the gay male gaze?

What is my own gaze, for that matter?

What gaze do I lean toward, when I’m trying to attract a mate? (Okay, I already have a mate, and she pretty much finds the myriad of my gender fluidity and experiments amusing and even across-the-board attractive, so I’m good. Or I would be, if I didn’t like mass attention.)

Anyhow, in order:

The female gaze. As in straight female. When men lean toward that gaze, what do they become? And oh, why don’t we ask this question much more often?

Because men feel they have to be strong, dominant, smarter…they can’t fail, be weak, uncertain. The female gaze lives in the binary of traditional roles, and it demands that men never fully express their humanity. As a very honest friend of mine said recently, “I married jerks and dated nice guys who I judged.”

Or the gay male gaze. Which loves the perfect male form, which admires butchness, which allows vulnerability in limited ways, which wants sexy, which rejects geek, quirk, sloppy.

Gay men and straight women top the charts in anorexia/bulimia because of the emphasis on appearance in their respective and potential partners.

Which brings me to the lesbian gaze. Or the queer woman gaze. Or me.

Gulp.

Of course, I’ve been all over the map, but let’s land it where I don’t want to admit it lands–in the country of nurture. Support. Warmth. Not so focused on appearance, but definitely focused on comfort for the heart. And this might not be so bad, except that sexy and comfort don’t have a lot to do with each other.

Comfort has always been my Waterloo. Looking for the gaze that doesn’t ask me for a ridiculous amount of strength.

You see, there’s a reason I empathize so much with straight men.

However, in my particular queer gaze, I’m looking for duality, for both/and, for butch, for play, for outlaw. I’m most attracted to gender queer and trans people, because long before I had language to explain it, I knew that male and female both didn’t quite work for me. Neither were terrible, so I called myself bi, but honestly, too much yin or yang…not my thing.

I want the in-between, the other, the re-imagined, the inventing as you go gender. I want the discovery, I want the little edge of male that is a sexual gasp in the surrounding almost female.

We all look. We all have a gaze.

And that, in the end, is what this blog is about. Not the easily politicized…and don’t get me wrong, I get that straight women suffer in living with the male gaze, and that the male gaze is sexist and limiting and soul-crushing, or can be. I mean, I don’t really get why they don’t just turn to another woman, but that’s another subject.

But if we’re all looking, then let us look for what is human, what frees us to recognize each other.

Sexuality can’t be easily explained or defined. What attracts us, in the gender of another. But I can say that my partner’s gender is woven together with who she is…with her experience, with her morality, with her empathy, compassion and kindness. I love what her experience of otherness has done for growing her big heart bigger, even as I mourn for the loneliness she’s felt as an outsider.

We all look.

Look deeper.

Know that your gaze can carve a space for someone to live more deeply in this world.

Or can shut out huge chunks of who they are.

Love more. See more. Make room.

We’re all looking. It would be great if we all could really see.

I Am Not a Straight Girl #48578374 OR What Is Feminism in this Election Year


I will start by saying: I am in a mood. Read at your own risk.

Feminism. After about a heartbeat of fear of claiming this word (and I do truly mean a heartbeat…and that’s after growing up with mockery of women burning their bras and a bunch of other misogyny in my family), I was so entirely PSYCHED to call myself a feminist. When I got political, when I testified against the statute of limitation for sexual offenses, when I marched, when I fund-raised, when I gave money, when I worked professionally in the community, my heart cracked against the bones of my chest. I was that proud. To be a woman working for equality. Because I believed that I deserved it. That we all did.

Of course, I am also queer. And my partner is gender non-conforming. And I’ve got to tell you, that as I and we worked for choice, for women’s rights, I couldn’t help but notice the way straight women, straight feminists, reacted to my partner. Their discomfort with her. Their easy identification with me. Sometimes, we’d be at parties, and people would look only at me when they talked to us. (This is true hardly ever now…but of course, I don’t let people get away with it now, either.)

And, I couldn’t help but notice that my straight friends (except my closest friend, who rocked on gay issues) didn’t march for my rights, didn’t contribute money, didn’t testify at the courthouse hearings on marriage. Didn’t do anything except say, “Oh, good. Glad that’s happening for you guys.”

I started to get a bit of a resentment.

Historically, straight feminists were late to the party on lesbian issues, and vehemently opposed including our issues early on in the movement. Even though lesbians did SO MUCH FRIGGIN’ WORK in the movement. So much!

Then, in the 90’s, I walked in the back door of the men’s movement, and started a 2 decade march through men’s groups (I was the only woman). I heard men talk about their terror of appearing weak, of showing emotion…and it wasn’t only other men who earned their fear. It was the women in their lives, who wanted them to be strong. Women were and are as committed to the rigid definitions of male identity as men themselves. Women are, in fact, socialized to disdain the soft man.

Of course men don’t suffer the political and financial hardships that women and other minorities face. But they are not unaffected by the patriarchy. If the meaning of life is to be found in our relationships–to ourselves, to our loved others, to the world itself–men are hurt deeply.

They are not the enemy.

So, enter 2016, and the current political debate, which I find energizing, challenging, hopeful, stupid, connecting, mind-opening, numbing, and always, always, desperately needed.

But like I said, today I’m in a mood.

So, there’s Hillary Clinton. And I read about the great work she did as Secretary of State with women and girls, the way she met with women in every country she visited. The way she listened and cared, and wrote and gave the issues of women and girls her heart, her brilliant mind, all her commitment. I was more impressed by this than by anything about her.

Of course, there is this: Elizabeth Warren talks about Hillary Clinton. And this: Hillary on Gay Marriage.

And I find that I believe, as a result of that second link, that I think Hillary is for women and girls. But not this queer girl. I get thrown under the bus until political expediency lets her claim me after all.

And though I do believe she is truly for women and girls, she will compromise even her deepest commitment for political capital. That’s the Elizabeth Warren link. (Why isn’t SHE running for president?)

I’m also not a fan of what Hillary did in Libya, by the way, or the way she’s bought into the corporate interests, etc., etc., etc.

And here’s my mood: Since I’ve not yet met a single straight woman that has ever said, “It’s time for a lesbian president,” I’m really not feeling Hillary or the women who support her, because I get that their feminist vision doesn’t truly include me.

Unless, of course, I act like I’m not different.

My own feminism is this, “All people are equal.” Period. No one is more equal.

I have experienced gay bashing, sexual harassment at work, sexual targeting as a woman…and as a lesbian; sexual violence, I’ve been poor, I’ve faced sexism and homophobia in my own family, at work, and in the larger world. That doesn’t give me a pass on being a decent person, or on making moral choices. It does not allow me to betray my own values in compromises that will improve my career.

I would never make excuses for any person of any demographic, ethnicity, gender, etc. who compromises their morals and values for ambition. Those are just not my people.

So don’t ask me to excuse Hillary. As if she’s had it harder than me because she’s chosen to become a rich politician. I mean, seriously. My mood goes through the roof on this one. Like I don’t know the hardships of sexism?

I also think that if you have to compromise away your truest values to keep a job you better ask if the job is worth it or what’s going to be left of you by the time you get a chance to do the something big you once wanted to do…and now maybe are not even sure is possible.

I struggle to be emotionally neutral about Hillary Clinton so I can consider her policies, her thinking, her choices, her record. And no one makes this more difficult than Hillary supporters. Especially–and here’s my mood again–her supporters who have never worked for lesbian rights.

The bridge from liberal to ally is a long, long bridge. And the first step: admitting that liberal isn’t good enough.

In every blog I write with the I AM NOT A STRAIGHT GIRL title, I say this. I am not like you. I have never been like you. I don’t give support in the same style as you do, I don’t emote like you, I don’t have the same patterns of relating to the world…because I could genuinely give a rat’s ass about the male gaze (approval or erotic…not interested), because I don’t like to make nice, because when I am in all female straight environments (especially if they’re also all white), I feel like a complete freak. It’s lonely, and I feel terrifically invisible.

I know my straight liberal acquaintances have no idea I feel this way. They’re not allies yet. They don’t get it. I want to be safe, I want equal opportunities, I want health care, I want equal pay…aren’t we the same? Isn’t that enough?

No.

So.

Feminism in election year 2016 interests and appalls me. I see the long legacy of 2nd wave feminism with its blinkers for queer people. I see that Hillary Clinton divides women and what women believe about gender and sexism.

I believe we all wish we could vote for her, because of what women have suffered in inequality.

But she doesn’t stand for me.

Like so many feminists I know.

It’s a long journey from liberal to ally.

Become allies.

I can no longer stand with you on issues that barely affect my life when you don’t stand with me.

Want a lesbian president.

If for no other reason than that I am in a mood, and you might run into me in traffic.