Well, he IS a boy.

On Saturday night members of my rugby team headed to Portland, MO for the 4th annual street dance hosted by my second cousin’s bar. I mean, you probably know this bar is called “Holzhauser’s Bar and Grill,” and it’s pretty much been owned by a Holzhauser for 80 years.

Anyway, the rugby team has been coming to Portland pretty steadily for about 9 years. We sometimes have a bonfire in my parents’ back yard. We always drink too much and sleep in tents in the yard.

More than 50% of team happens to be made of women who date women (or Non-binary people who date women).

Of course, being from such a small place,  I always hesitate to bring my friends. We are a large group: some of us are black, brown, or present more masculine than Portland might be used to. The only reason I feel comfortable there is because of my last name. Holzhauser’s fight for their own, even if their own is, you know, a little queer. Without my family there, I wouldn’t be there.

But the story goes like this: a large group of the team was playing pool. The end.

As I was leaving, an old acquaintance of mine walked out beside me and said something like, “my son really enjoyed watching your friends play pool. He was like, ‘all those lesbians. It’s so hot.'”  Since I was tired and ready for bed I just said, “Gross.”  To which she replied, “Well, he is a boy.”

*record scratch*

I kept walking and didn’t say anything else.

Because I figured this is the best way to say something about it:

One extremely upsetting thing to me is when men think that lesbians are made just for them. I can’t tell you the amount of times some dude has looked me straight in my eyes, licked his lips, and asked me to kiss my girlfriend so he can watch. Or has asked me to kiss a random fucking woman. Or he’s asked me to come home with him and his girlfriend/wife so we can have a threesome. Or just fucking asked if he could watch while I had sex with my girlfriend (I won’t touch you, I promise). In those moments, I felt threatened. I felt scared. It’s hard to express how violating that is, how I have to worry if he might try something, or try to hurt me if I say no impolitely. When that’s happened, I’ve had to try to use my wit to get out of the situation instead of just punching him right in the dick.

So, here is this teenage boy at the Portland bar watching my friends play pool and acting like regular humans playing pool. And he finds that hot because…he’s watched too much porn. He’s seen anything in the media. He’s been taught that lesbians exist to turn him on.

And his mom justifies this. When I say to her, “Gross.” She defends him with his gender.

I know I’ve yelled about this before. But I have to again.

Cis-Men are taught that all sex exists to please them. They are taught that without a penis, the sex doesn’t count. (If my wife sleeps with another woman, she isn’t cheating). They see two women in a relationship as non-threatening and not real. Many of you have asked, “who is the man?” Because you just can’t fucking deal with the fact that THERE IS NO MAN. And, again, I direct you to a friend from high school who asked me how I had an orgasm if no dude was involved. OR all those people who questioned my virginity because I hadn’t had sex with a dude. “But, like, you’re still a virgin…”

I’ve watched men blatantly hit on my girlfriend when they knew (and didn’t care) that she was with me.

We are invisible and too obvious all at once, depending on the desire of some man.

So, women of the world, just fucking stop defending cis-men like their brains are too infantile to learn compassion or empathy.

Parents, teach your sons that no woman’s body is his god-given right. And that when two women are together, they are definitely not doing it for him.

Capture

 

 

 

A Note to My Second Cousin: Fuck Your Microaggressions at the Potluck

Dear Second Cousin,

If you remember correctly, just this Saturday evening we were hanging out in Portland, celebrating all the 70th birthdays that just happened in our extended family. You and I hadn’t seen each other in quite a while, and because you’re, like, 7 years older than me, we were never super close growing up. Anyway, I made a joke about being from Portland because you’d told me your daughter was dating her second cousin and you laughed at her. And I was relating to you the time my dad told me I was related to my boyfriend. I joked, you know, good thing I’m gay, anyway. And you said, “Yeah, we all know” And the other cousins standing in the circle, sweating and drinking their Busch lights as the lightning bugs started to flash all laughed. But you. You had to say, you had to mansplain, “Well, I think women are lesbians because a man has done them wrong.” And I, ever so much more like my sweet, non-confrontational mother, just said, “Oh, my God. Shut the fuck up.” I looked at the surrounding cousins to help me, but nothing came except swigs of  light beer and the shifting of bodies and slapping of bugs.

What I meant to say was this:

  1. How dare you, or any man think that a woman’s default setting is men. That’s fucking ridiculous. I hate how men think they have ALL OF THE POWER to keep a woman straight or turn her gay. Fuck you. Fuck every guy who thinks they have that kind of influence.
  2. If every woman who’d ever been treated badly by a man became a lesbian, EVERY FUCKING WOMAN WOULD BE A LESBIAN, you sweating, cut off shirt wearing ogre. Look at you, all uncomfortable in those Wal-Mart brand, saggy ass jean shorts. You think women are into all that mess? Please.
  3. Are gay men gay because a woman has done them wrong?
  4. Lesbians are not man haters. But you, and men like you, are doing a super duper job of turning us (and straight women) that way.
  5. Also, your comment about your daughter being a lazy barrel racer. Fuck you. And fuck your sexism.
  6. I want to say your comment didn’t wake me up all night with thoughts of what I should’ve said. With me telling myself how terrible I was in that situation with no comeback. I totally stayed perfectly asleep not thinking about how I’ve been out for so long and still, you, a family member, had to say some stupid shit. Some stupid shit in front of others who didn’t notice the indiscretion or also didn’t know what to say. Some stupid shit that I, queen of witty comebacks, didn’t have a comeback to.
  7. Fuck you. And fuck the deer sausage you brought.
  8. And to the relative who asked where my “Friend” was (meaning Gaby, my partner of yearly 5 years) Fuck you, too.

 

download

 

The Writing’s on the Wall

I have been in many romantic and sexual relationships with women during my tenure on this planet, and that has afforded me a unique position that I think most men in romantic relationships with women might not get. Women talk to other women. They talk about sexual abuse and assault because women believe you, and ALL women have experienced some sort of sexual assault, whether they are willing to admit it or not. Whether they call it sexual assault or not. The issue is, most women don’t like to call what has happened to them assault because we are always comparing our trauma to someone else’s. It goes like this, “yeah, he coerced me into having sex and I asked him to stop, but I said yes, and it’s not like he hit me, so I guess it’s not like So-and-So’s experience, so it isn’t really rape/sexual assault.” And since so many women have that story, they just call it sex. When I say this has happened to many women, I really mean most. I mean, actually, everyone. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

Here are some very upsetting numbers:

Nearly half of the women I’ve been with have been raped. And, no, not the “man jumping out from behind the bushes” kind of rape, but the “I know this guy” kind of rape. And it fucking happens all of the time, you guys. ALL. OF. THE. TIME.

In fact, I’ve never heard a story from a woman who has been sexually assaulted or abused by some guy she didn’t know. It’s always her “boyfriend” or her “friend,” or, you know, someone else’s friend at the party. Or the guy from class who’s just been trying to get her to go out with him. And these women I have loved blame themselves. Or they don’t use the “R” word for reasons I mentioned above. They don’t think their story is the worst, so they are ashamed to even say anything happened. They have been socialized to understand this is what it means to be a woman.

Growing up, I understood that a girl losing her virginity happened under this circumstance: the boy begs and begs and begs and begs until the girl finally says okay. The boy will hurt you. The boy will not understand that you are capable of feeling pleasure. If he does understand, he will not care. The boy will tell his friends. You will be called a slut. He will be called a hero. You are expected to do it again and again.

This is how it happened with most of my friends. This is the story I was told. This is the narrative I was expected to live, too. I was supposed to be okay with this, the way some of the women I’ve loved were supposed to be okay with this. And they were. They were so okay with this, that most don’t even tell this story any more. They are so used to how all of this happens, it doesn’t even seem like something worth mentioning. Because. It’s happened to all of us.

Endure this. This is what it means to be a woman.

This abuse is so embedded in our culture that unless I’ve been penetrated by a man, I’m not even considered a woman. Or, not a real woman. I’m something less, unless a man has touched me.  I know this because friends used to get confused about my virginity. “…but you’ve never had sex with a guy….”

Here’s another number:

1/4 of the women I’ve known and loved have had an abortion. The reasons are variable. One was 15 and it was her boyfriend. One was 17 and in a relationship with some fucking asshole. One was something around 20 and stuck in an abusive relationship. They all knew they were lesbians, but you know, lived in a world where they were forced to be with men. You can’t even know what that feels like. You can argue that they knew what they were doing, that they could’ve just not had sex. That they could’ve been more careful. They only knew that they were doing what they were told they should do by society. They were enduring womanhood. You can go ahead and blame the girl for a society that tells her that men’s sexuality is more important than women’s. That it is completely her fault that she begged and begged him not to. That she at least asked him to wear a condom. That he pulled it off without her knowing. That if she really loved him, she’d just do it.

1/4 of the women I’ve known and loved told me about their abortion. Which leads me to believe there are more. There are always more.

This also leads me to understand that more than 25% of women out there in the world have had one, too. My friends, if it is you, I’m proud of you for a making the choice that was best for you. No matter why you were pregnant in the first place.

Of course, not all abortions come from rape or abuse. Some come from failed birth control (which is blamed on the woman). Some come from a total lack of birth control (which is also only the woman’s fault). Some come from wanted and loved pregnancies that are not viable (the woman’s fault). Some come from life or death situations for the mother (the woman’s fault).

Most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at 8 weeks. That’s just one missed period. That’s also her fault.

After enduring womanhood and hearing countless stories from partners and friends, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to imagine most unwanted pregnancies come from a trauma associated with how the woman became pregnant. No person should be forced to carry the fetus of a rapist.

Consider this: trans men can also be pregnant. They can also be raped. And I apologize for not tackling this immense topic right now.

Consider this: I have been told by men what my body should and shouldn’t look like my whole life. I’ve been told by men how I’m supposed to have sex. I’ve been told by men that I am not officially a woman without having sex with them. I’ve been exploited by men who see my sexuality as an extension of their fantasies. Women are shamed into sex. They are shamed into complying. They are shamed into pregnancy. They are shamed for, finally, making a decision about their own bodies.

Everyone listen closely: you know someone who has been raped. You know someone who has had an abortion.

We need to start using the “r” word. We need to start talking about abortion, too. About real numbers. About how it’s saved more lives than it’s destroyed.

You need to understand that when a woman shares with you the intimate details of her body, she has thought long and hard about what she’s saying. She has broken through the social barrier we’ve put in place to keep her silent. She has weighed the consequences and decided that she’s willing to fight the onslaught of judgement about her “choices.”

You need to listen.

You need to listen and believe what has happened.

20190517_180627

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Dish

Gaby’s love of food extends beyond the act of preparing it. Until her, I never really thought about how food is presented to someone to eat. I grew up in a household of corn mixed into mashed potatoes and gravy drenching everything. And though I do appreciate how food is plated now, I still don’t care. I just want to eat. But I do see the psychology  in making food look good in order to taste good.

Another thing I never really thought about until her is the art of food photography. It’s not just snapping a photo, straight on, of your dinner and posting to Instagram. Like any good photography, it’s about angles, light, and composition. A shitty photo of your dinner can make it look like garbage. Gaby’s really good at making amazing food look even more amazing. Just recently she bought a real camera and spends all of her free time practicing. If you don’t follow her already, I suggest you do in order to watch her already baller skills develop.

One of the benefits, I guess, of having her learn photography is her taking pictures of more than food. She’s snapped some great candids of friends. And, since I have a new essay coming out, I thought it was time to update my author photo. The last one was taken nearly 6 years ago. Six years ago I was in my early 30s; now I’m in my late 30s. That’s like a life time. Well, in preparation, and in an attempt to figure out lighting and the best time of day, she asked me one evening to sit just for fun. Since I was wearing a Christmas shirt and it was February, I took it off. And since I had just made myself a martini, I brought it with me. It was fun, or at least not horrible, and I actually liked one of the shots: Capture

This is an honest shot of me. This is my typical, non-smiling look. This is my sarcastic look. This is me, not really wearing clothes after I get home from work. My hair hadn’t been cut in over a year, and I figured out how to twist up my man bun. This, I thought, could be social media-worthy. I am not unattractive. There are things about me that people can appreciate. But then. I kept staring at myself. Like, one of those moments when you look in the mirror and you’re overcome with the thought, “I’m a human person. I am a mind inside a body. This is that body. This is what my shell looks like. Look at that face. I can make my face move like this…”  I used to go down that rabbit hole when I was teenager. I guess I had a lot of time on my hands. Or, I was a teenager. So, my 39 year old self looked deep into my own eyes for the first time in a while, and then this happened:

now this

I’d like to say at my age and with my life experience, this doesn’t happen to me. But it does. As much as I try to keep it from coming. I think we all do this. Or, if you don’t, please tell me how.

I see Erika, who is nearly 15, staring at herself in the bathroom mirror for way too long. I see her walk by her reflection in a window and pause to look at her hair, only to move one strand of curls back and forth for several minutes. I see her in the living room mirror adjusting her shirt around her waist and then turning around to pop her booty out and give it a hard look. I see her self-consciously moving through this world. I see her have the same anxiety we all have. Or the same anxiety I have which I assume everyone else has. We’ve talked about it. I try to tell her that I understand and that is gets better. Or we learn to turn down the volume of our inner critic. I think of this scene from Bojack Horseman.

I understand food seems to taste better when it’s expertly presented. When it’s an array of colors stacked to trick the eye into believing there is more there than in reality. Arranged to show only the best parts of each component. I suppose there are people like that, too. They know how to put themselves together.

I am not always this hard on myself. There are times I’m able to forgive myself for all the things I’ve done and move on. There are times when I’m positive that my friends like me and even care about me. There are times when I’m proud of all that I’ve lived through, when I know that I’m a good person, despite the bad things I’ve done to you all. To myself. There are times when I feel like I’ve really found myself and my truth and my wholeness and all of those things we are striving for. I can see those things in the martini photo. I can see a woman comfortable with all that she is. Sometimes I am her.

But, despite all the angles and light, I can also see that I’m not an elaborate, colorful, carefully constructed dish.

I am something like biscuits and gravy. I am either gross or delicious, depending on your tastes. Sometimes, I am way too much. I am best warm and terrible cold. Or I am something like a sloppy Joe: full of savory filling but just barely held together. If you put me down, I’ll fall apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pride and Prejudice

It’s pride month. So, let me remind you that I’m a homosexual. I’ve been aware of myself and out for 21 years. In that time, society has changed drastically, but not enough.

Maybe it’s because of my age or the people I hang out with, but it’s very rare that someone asks me “when did you know you were gay?” or “who’s the man?”  It’s such a relief.

This is the time I dreamed of when I was 17 and sitting in that therapist’s office and he was trying to tell me that being gay was going to be so hard and weird and maybe I should reconsider. As he would go on about all of the challenges of being gay, I would try to imagine the day when I just lived without anyone caring if I was. Today is that day.

I’m so grateful to feel so much safer than I did 21 years ago.

That doesn’t mean that everyone is safe, though, or that things are just fine.

My fitbit app updated the other day to include “female health.” It’s a nifty period/ovulation tracker. I pushed the button to allow it to ask me a series of questions. They included what type of birth control I use. I clicked none. And felt judged. Now that that portion of the app is set up, I can go in and track things in my life like: sex, unprotected sex, and the morning after pill. Obviously, these things don’t apply to me.

And I really hate that my fitbit thinks I have sex with men. My fitbit has made an assumption about me based on the fact that I clicked “female” at some point in time. At least I’m a cisgender female. Think of those others who have clicked the same and then been faced with a menstruation app that doesn’t apply to them. I’m sure all of this seems like the stuff that makes your conservative uncle want to say something like, “all of these gotdamn people wanting everything to be sooooo POLITICALLY CORRECT.” But, if the people making the fitbit app update were a little more diverse, I bet this wouldn’t happen. Someone in that room would’ve said, like, wait not all women have sex with men or have a period. And they would’ve designed a separate button that says, like, “click here if you have sex with women.” I would’ve felt so included. I would’ve happily clicked the shit out of that button. I wouldn’t known that someone out there was looking out for me. Instead, I feel a little sad. Instead, I have to stare at those options of clicking protected or unprotected sex.

Speaking of sex.

I’ve had this skin problem on my right hand for years. In the past, it went away and came back. I would have a few months with no outbreak. But now, it’s been here since October. It’s eczema, I think. These tiny bubbles form under my skin that leak fluid. My hand itches like a sonuvabich. More specifically, my thumb, middle, and pinky finger and no where else. It never goes away. Something as simple as water can make it flare up. It’s the fucking worst.

But here is what is worse than the worst: this is, essentially, my penis.

I’ve been to the dermatologist and allergist. I’ve had patches stuck to my back. I’ve been prescribed some insanely expensive steroid cream (which only makes my skin crack and bleed). I’m not telling you all of this for a diagnosis. I’m telling you this because, as I mentioned before, things are better for queers, but not the best.

I had to suck up my feelings and tell the dermatologist that my partner is a woman. That my right hand is vital to my sex life. She smiled, but didn’t seem to care.

The allergist, when I told her, at least showed sympathy and said, “oh, my, this must really be affecting your quality of life.” I said it was. And I felt heard. Or nearly understood.

But yet. Here I am, still suffering with this stuff. Now, before you all start messaging me with other ways to be sexually active without my right hand, believe me, I know them. I’ve been having sex with women for 20 years.

Consider this: maybe a male friend you know has confided in his doctor (and you) that his penis has tiny, itchy bubbles, that it is constantly burning and flaring, that the skin cracks and bleeds. Would you offer him other ways to have sex or would you want to help him find a solution? Don’t you think the doctor would do everything in their power to help this poor guy?

So, why am I sharing with you these intimate details of my life? Easy. I want you to know that homophobia, or even lack of awareness of homosexuals, affects my life in a lot of strange ways. Several times a week, maybe even every day, I’m reminded by others that I’m not the status quo, that I’m not still fully included. And I’m white and cisgender. Just imagine how trans people feel. How people of color feel. How immigrants feel. How differently-abled people feel. How someone who is all of those must feel.

This is why inclusion and diversity are so important.

Your conservative uncle might also get annoyed with all the pride talk this month and all the rainbow flags. He might ask, “who cares if they’re gay? Why do they have to run around waving flags?”

Because. Every other day of the year is straight, white man day. And though there is no specific flag for that (though some might argue stars and bars), I see it everywhere, all the time. And I’m reminded, even when I look at my phone or visit my doctor, that I am still an outsider.

flag

 

Mother, Mother

I’ve been a mom for eight years and two months and some days that I don’t feel like counting. The journey has been very, very long.

My whole life, I’ve had two mothers: the one who gave birth to me and the one that did the real work of raising me. But really, there is only one.

Gaby was a mom when I met her, so Cyrus has three moms. Poor Erika lives with two moms.

My own mom is a woman most of you have met. You love her. You love her because she is always able to be positive in any situation. You love her because she hugs you, even though she might not remember your name. You love her because she only wants to dance and have a good time.

I love her because she is my mom. And like most people, as I’ve aged, I’ve realized her wisdom, how much smarter she is than I. I strive to be like her while at the same time I try not to be like her. I see this pattern in Erika, who is nearly 14, trying to cling to Gaby and push her away at the same time. It is exhausting, this pulling and pushing of our mothers, ourselves.

Today,  Gaby had to work and Cyrus was at his other mom’s house for the holiday. Erika went to her dad’s for a while. So, I went fishing with some friends; we paddled around a lake, caught fish, or in my case, struggled to catch fish. I spent the day in the sun, on the water, not trying to please anyone, not trying to do the laundry or mow the yard. I got to spend the day mostly in my head, sweating and cussing at the stupid fish for not biting. I think that’s what all moms really need: a fucking break. I wish Gaby could’ve been with me. She needs a fishing trip more than I do.

 

The thing is, Cyrus did not come from my body. The same way I didn’t come from Faye’s body. None of that matters to me. You see, my whole life is about being a part of a family that doesn’t look like me. I don’t feel like him coming out of my body would make him any closer to me, but I know most people feel that way.

When I meet strangers and I tell them I’m a mom, they assume Cyrus is biologically mine. They assume all of the physical pain and sacrifice that comes with giving birth to a child. To be a mother is to sacrifice your body, they think. You might think that, too. But you also may know what else I’ve sacrificed–what matters more than that.

I’m adopted. I’ve never thought of my mom as a lesser mom because I didn’t come from her body. I’ve fought with her for the reasons we all fight with our moms: we are teenagers and they couldn’t possibly understand us, right? It is very true and very not true. But the whole time I knew she was my mom. My only mom.

People have asked me if it was hard bonding with Cyrus since he wasn’t mine. He isn’t mine? So, I’m not Faye’s? So, I’m not a “real” mom?

It’s true, no baby has ever come from my body. No baby has ever come from Faye’s body., either, but can you imagine another mom for me? I can’t.

The fact is, I have no idea what it means to have family that are biologically related. It’s weird to me that you look like your parents. It creeps me out a little that Erika and Gaby look so much alike. But, by some wonderful coincidence, Cyrus and I resemble each other.

I don’t feel like a lesser mother because I’m not a biological mother. And I hope that my mom has never felt that either. I don’t feel that way toward Erika, but maybe she has trouble understanding that since she looks like her mom and comes from her mom.

One of the women I went fishing with today was, at a certain point, my daughter. She was already adopted. Then, adopted again. There are too many layers in our lives to even dig through.

All of this is to say:

All of the children in my life are mine.

Being a mom means giving all of yourself, all the time.

Being a mom means kayaking around a lake trying to forget, for just a moment, you are a mom.

20180513_145715

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Day

There is finally an answer to the ultimate question we’ve all asked for years: today.

Today is the day Cyrus’s button, that fucking port in his stomach where the feeding tube has been hooked up thousands of times, is coming out. Fuck. I’ll even do some math. The tube was inserted about 6 times a day for nearly 8 years…2,735 times is a conservative estimate. For more than two years, the first two of his life, he had to be hooked up to a pump for a better part of the day. Then came the bolus feeds. Then came those times when he’d be out of the house for more than a couple of hours and someone would’ve forgotten the tube. There would be a trip back to the house to retrieve it.

His life revolved around that goddamn tube. If the button broke, which it did many times, he couldn’t eat until it was reinserted, either at home or at a hospital. There were times it fell out and the hole closed and had to be re stretched. There were times when the tube that connected to the button would break. There were so many fucking times that he’d cough in the middle of a feeding and milky liquid would fly everywhere. My house smelled like the sweet rottenness of dairy, soaked into the carpets, the couches, the beds, the sheets, his clothes. There were times when I forgot to feed him.

It was hard to find a babysitter; the tube is a scary thing. He had to go to a particular preschool because they were willing to tube him while others didn’t have the insurance coverage for it. My dad has never tubed him. Very few of you have ever done it. He had to have a doctor’s note in order for the nurse at his school to give him water. Tap water. A doctor’s note. He needed a doctor’s note when he required more tube food in the day. In order for the school to feed him, a doctor had to say so. A doctor has controlled most of his food intake: how much, when, what, how. Until Gaby came, made a nutritious, real smoothie. Of course, I had the instinct to ask the doctor, anyone in a white coat, if it was okay. I had to ask if it was okay to feed my kid. I had to relearn that part of myself.

As I wrote a bit earlier, he has gone without a full day’s feeding since October 1st. It was that time that he was given a tube, secretly, while he was sleeping. When his button broke on November 27th, that seemed a sign that it was time. He hasn’t used the button since.

His eighth birthday is in 15 days. He got the tube in July of 2010. That’s a lot of years for everyone to have to deal with that thing.

He is really excited.

It feels impossible to tell you how ecstatic I am about this. Today is the shedding of the last layer of weighted sadness I still wear from the NICU. The final symbol of all that pain, all of those muddy days of mere existence.

Since he was born, people have said eventually he’d outgrow all of his preemie problems. I was naive to think that they meant “soon.” I suppose in the span of his life, 8 years isn’t a long time to deal with all that’s been thrown at him. For me, though, that’s been the first 8 years of my parenting experience. Doctors, therapists, surgeries. That’s all I’ve known. That’s all he’s known. That’s all you’ve known of him, too.

That’s not even 1/100th of who he his.

If you see me this week and I’m staring into space, I promise I am not sad. If you see me crying, I’m not sad. If you see me drinking too much, I am not sad. I’m light and airy. I am made of sunshine.

The grass is turning green. The buds are forming. The birds are singing. Cyrus’s long winter is over.

The long days of sunshine that pull life from under the dark soil are finally here.

 

 

20180304_084038