The Lyralen Kaye Rules of Order Part 2: What is an Ally?

I recently wrote a book about how we come together and how we fracture. In it, I probe the definition of what it means to be an ally. Then I got in an argument with someone on Facebook, as usual, in which the issue came up.

Here’s the thing: I think many of my straight acquaintances would be surprised by my ally criterion, mostly because they don’t fit it. In fact, there came a point in my life at which I had to question whether having friends who had no clue that I might even have these expectations was an example of self-hatred and internalized homophobia. Because really, we need to pick friends who are on our side.

In the center of this stood my friend M, straight, with LGBTQ siblings, who worked for Maine Won’t Discriminate, who donated, who listened, who wanted to know my experience rather than be validated for hers, who was best woman at both my weddings, who supported, showered me with love and kindness, and generally fought like hell for equality. She kind of ruined me for liberals who think just having the right attitude and political beliefs is enough.

So in the Lyralen Kaye Rules of Order, here are the criterion for allyship:

  1. Takes political action on the part of the LGBTQ community. In other words, does at least two of the following: marches, donates, makes calls, votes in special elections or on ballot measures, spreads the word, checks the LGBTQ record of candidates and makes decisions based on that record.
  2. Understands that when someone LGBTQ starts talking about their experience or views on LGBTQ issues, they should listen, rather than argue or impose their own views as correct. In other words, allies know not to straight-splain.
  3. Stands up for LGBTQ people in social or public situations.
  4. Has been or is personally close to a member of the LGBTQ community or lives connection to a diverse community.
  5. Doesn’t allow homophobic comments to pass in conversation without calling it out.
  6. Knows what a homophobic comment is.
  7. Has read LGBTQ literature, seen media or read queer theory beyond The Kids Are Alright, which most straight people don’t recognize as a homophobic movie.
  8. Knows the difference between queer literature and literature and media that have been created by straight people about queer people.
  9. Understands why LGBTQ people should have the opportunity to play LGBTQ characters in theater and film.
  10. Understands that queer identity and queer desire are different from the mainstream.
  11. Understands and acknowledges that everyone in this culture has internalized homophobic images, ideas and attitudes and that becoming fully accepting is a lifetime process.
  12. Doesn’t believe that LGBTQ issues don’t affect them, just because they’re straight.
  13. And, ideally, questions ideas and attitudes around gender and genderized behavior. That’s pie in the sky, but so is the whole list, even in liberal Massachusetts.


Partner Lesson #4: Butch People Primp, Too!

This one is short and sweet:  everyone is vain!  Someone (no names mentioned) might spend more time getting dressed and examining herself in the mirror than I do.

My gender queer partner constantly busts stereotypes for me, mostly by being quirky, neurotic and unexpected.  I kind of enjoy this, at least in the abstract.  When we’re 20 minutes late (again!) because she can’t decide what to wear, well, I grow impatient and even angry, rather than taking the time to remember how I enjoy her neuroses.

Here’s the thing:  my partner worries constantly about getting the right haircut (in spite of the fact that she’s had basically the same haircut for almost all of the 29 years that I’ve known her).  She tries on the same t-shirt in four different colors before making up her mind.  She asks me to help her decide between this boy hiking boot and that boy sandal.  This brown shoe and that brown shoe–which looks better with the khakis?  Should she wear the gray khakis or the beige khakis (same exact style, bought at exactly the same time).

Now, sometimes the gender expression actually causes the problem.  What she’s really deciding is if this pair of pants will express the right mix of boy/girl, or if it will tip her too far toward girl and she’ll feel awkward in her skin all night.  But beyond the more serious facts of body image, gender, social acceptance, self-expression is the simple fact that I, the femme, think about dressing, primping and looks about 75% less than my butch partner.

Now, I’m not an normal femme (or a normal anything).  I make a decision, and then I put myself together either with enjoyment (usually, “Ha-ha, let’s f#$% with everyone’s idea of fashion), or enjoyment (“I am hot!  Even at this age!”), or a sense of chore, (“Guess I better wear makeup, since it’s all theatre/film people).  For most of my life I never did my hair (it fell to my waist and a ponytail or braid took the least time), never wore makeup, and even wore a kind of uniform (jeans, pretty shirt, fleece or leather jacket).  I think it might be hard to find a femme who spent as little time on her appearance as I did (and still do, though now it’s more since I’m an actress).  I had a teacher in grad school who confronted me.  She thought since makeup and clothes make me significantly more attractive, I should do myself up all the time.  (I did not say, “When hell freezes over,” but I thought it.)

So, the lesson–gender is not a determining factor in how long it takes someone to get ready to go out.  It’s not a determining factor in vanity.  As the title says…Butch people primp, too.  My partner, the tech geek, the khakied, blue-jeaned, t-shirted, hiking booted phenomenon, is a big-time primper.

Also, she’s usually late because of it.  Now that I’m a quasi-Buddhist, I may sit on the floor of her bedroom, being present with what is as she throws similar clothes all over the furniture, trying to decide what to wear to the party, the dance, the dinner with friends.

“How do I look?” she’ll ask.

“Primped,” I’ll answer.  And then I’ll run for the hills.

Everything Is Everything. Or, Buddhism Meets Baruch Spinoza.

I have decided it is useless to pretend about, well, pretty much anything.  So, this blog is so little about film-making even though I’m making one.  It’s more about how to live a life.  In this case, mine.

But, I am making a film.  Which worries me.  I am such an impractical idealist with such high moral standards.  I tend to make up for that by being ridiculously over-competent, but still.  The challenges to those moral standards frighten me.

Here’s how it goes.  Last week was a big film week.  Through Father Paul Bresnahan, I booked a presentation at nAGLY, which is a support organization for queer youth.  Everything is about fund-raising now, but I wasn’t about to fund-raise youth.  I thought I’d just go and talk about being queer, and having been bullied, and my life-long obsession with homophobia, the nature of love and spirituality.  What I know about teens is that they always know bullshit and they hunger for truth.  So I thought I’d offer my truth and hope to connect.

It was fantastic.  The youth were so smart, and struggling to understand their place in the world, and hungry for any movie that told the story of their lives as queer people, and so hopeful that I could maybe provide one of those stories.  I felt so humbled to be allowed in.  Into their world, and their felt sense of themselves, and the way they related to each other.  I asked them to like the FB page, but that wasn’t really the point.  The point was moment-to-moment experience.  The point was being with the truth of what is.  It was only two days after my visit to Meditation Land, so what did you expect?

Anyhow, later in the week I went to Provincetown for the film festival.  There was a point on Saturday when the rest of the team were off watching movies and I was alone at the table.  And I just let go of making the festival work for us.  I sat there, and I could smell the sea, and feel the wind on my skin, and this feeling of peace just ballooned out of me.  I picked up my cell phone and dialed into a webcast on guess what? Spirituality.  And immediately people started coming up to the table.  Some of them wanted help deciding on movies.  Some of them wanted to know about Ptown.  One of them seemed incredibly interested in investing in the movie.  I really liked her, and I can’t stand pitching to people if I don’t really feel that the project is a match for their beliefs.  So it was just fun to talk and to connect.  The rest of the weekend was like that.  Meeting people I liked.  Having interesting talks.  Many of them seemed interested in the movie.  But you know, we’ll see.

Fund-raising.  I used to raise money for the big left wing organizations.  I did this over the phone and they trained us not to even say, “How are you?”  I couldn’t believe that.  You weren’t supposed to give the donor a chance to hang up.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you might have noticed that following the rules without thinking about them is just not something that I do.  So, I didn’t follow that rule.  In fact, I always said, “How are you?”  I’d say, “Hi, I’m Lyralen, I’m calling for xxx.  How are you today?”  And I actually wanted to know.  I wanted to know who I was talking to and what kind of day he or she was in.  I tried to listen and be respectful.

I was one of the five most successful fund-raisers in the company.  I did my best work for the organizations I believed most in, and I connected with people about how much we both cared about the cause.  Fund-raising never made me feel dirty.  I remember a friend said, “I hate those calls.  I can’t believe you do that.”  I said, “I raised $10,000 for people with AIDS this week.  What did you do?”

So, I think it’s just like that.  Fund-raising has to be moral.  And if connection is spiritual–and I think it is–it has to be spiritual.  It has to be genuine.  Like, come along for this ride if it’s right for you, if you love the story, if you care about gay marriage.  I think it’s so necessary to ground down into that, because when you want people to help you, you can lose focus on connecting and just get into will.  Trying to make people do what you want.  Which in my book, isn’t moral.  Period.

I think making a film should make me nervous.  Like, writing the business plan, I started to think about my investors.  I thought about owing them honesty, and a fair and good business deal, and a budget that would make it more likely they’d make their money back.  That might mean some sacrifices, but I want to feel really good about this.

Truth is, my favorite restaurants have not only good food, but nice people working there.  My favorite companies are socially responsible.  And the thing is, Buddhists teach you to do no harm.  To leave no footprint.  We made a verbal contract to not kill even one mosquito while we were on retreat.  It makes you think about lovingkindness.  It makes you want to saturate your life with it.

Of course my dark side is alive and well.  Duh.  I’m a human being.  But if I can see it, accept it, not let it determine my actions, well…

I am not in control.  Everything is itself.  Baruch Spinoza created pantheism, the belief that God is in everything.  Buddhists believe in treating everything in the world as God, even if they don’t ascribe to a monotheistic or even theistic world view.

I don’t believe in God.  I believe in the I-Thou relationship, in which I try not to forget your humanity or my own.  And I forget for tiny moments, and then have to remind myself.  I am lucky if you let me in, even for a moment.

Like I said, I am an impractical idealist.  But really, if you write a film about the nature of love, and the main character believes that love is expressed in action, in behavior, in being better, you kind of have to at least try to live up to that.

I hope I can.  Every day of my life I have hoped that.  Even on the worst days.  So must we all.