White Men, Their White Sons, and the Trampoline Park

It happens like this: your kid is having a birthday party and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves until the one kid who is black comes over to say that this dad told his kid to punch him. So. The kid punched him.

You believe this kid, of course, and ask who the kid is and who the dad is. He can’t find the kid, but he knows the dad; he’s one of the rednecks up in the fucking adult balcony which overlooks the entire place. You know he’s a redneck because he’s hanging out with other white guys who are wearing hunter orange Under Armor hoodies and those stupid fucking t-shirts with the American flag in, like, black and grey with matching hats.

The kid says to you, “You should go say something to him.”

And this is where your privilege becomes glaringly obvious because you realize you’ve never had to have a confrontation like this. So, you try to postpone it. You tell the kid (the 11 year old) you might go say something later. But you really don’t plan on it. I mean, Jesus, you’re 5 feet 5 and 142 pounds. Your hair is purple or red or some color in between and you’re the queerest looking person in the building. The worst part: you know who these fucking guys are. You grew up with them. I mean, maybe you’ve never heard or seen anything too blatant, but you always knew.

So, you look up to that balcony with the redneck dad crew as they survey their land like kings. You tell the kid, you know, “I might go say something later.” And hope the kid forgets about it.

Because you are a coward. And you’re scared of these white dads. And you’ve never really had to do anything like this. Because you are white. And your kids are white.

Towards the end of the birthday party, the kid comes back to you and looks up there, to the balcony of white men, this eleven year old light brown black kid with a poofy pony tail and undercut. And he says, “I’m going to go up there and say something.” And you, a coward, encourage him not to. And say, you know, I want to help you, but I’m scared. And you don’t know what he thinks of you, you fucking coward of a parent. So when he says, “when my mom gets here, she can say something,” you feel like a real piece of shit. You ask, “what does your mom normally say?” He says, “If your kid touches my kid again we’re going to have a problem.”

So, you consult with your partner and your teenage but adult daughter. What do I do? But you fucking know what to do, don’t you? You coward. You white girl type person. You know exactly what needs to happen, but you’re scared. There’s no way in hell you’re letting the kid go up there, but the thought of going up there, ascending all of those steps to where those men lean on their forearms surveying their land, makes you feel nauseous because even though you are a badass, you do not want to be hit or shot by these white men.

Eventually, you puff up and ascend the steps with your daughter behind you because she is ready to fight. She is Gen Z and she gives no fucks and yet all the fucks at once.

So. You walk up the steps and see that he’s coming down the steps, but he’s engaged in conversation with another white man. You wait patiently because you’re socialized as as southern woman, but, sensing a lull in the conversation, you tap him on the arm and say, “Hey, I heard that you told your kid to hit my kid.”

And he looks at you like you’re nothing and says, “I don’t know anything about that.”

“He’s black,” you say, “does that help?”

And with that, this white man starts going down the steps saying things over his shoulder you can barely make out. So you say, loud enough that his other white dad friends can hear, “So, it seems like you do know something about that?”

You let him walk away, but then go to your table where your partner, the kid, and Cyrus are waiting. You’re fucking mad. You call him a coward and he says he has to go to the bathroom and then goes outside.

Why. Why is he going to the parking lot? To get a knife? A gun? Will he wait for you there? You don’t really think so, but you also don’t really know. Now, there are 5 people in your family all wondering what to do.

Just then, he walks back in, so you’re all glaring at him. As he passes he gets mad, “Why are y’all looking at me funny?” And you all answer in different ways, yours being, “I wanted to have a conversation with you.”

But. He can’t handle it. He’s walking away while saying, “that kid hit my kid in the head three times (while playing dodge ball) and, look he’s smiling right now!”

So. You white man. You do know what happened. And you did tell your kid to hit my kid. And you think it’s justified. And you didn’t have the fucking balls to even have a conversation about it.

He still can’t handle this, though. This confrontation and what you and your family look like. (You imagine you’re a white man, momentarily and how the conversation could’ve gone then. Or. The kid he told his kid to hit was white. Would it be the same instructions?)

He keeps walking, back up the steps to his kingdom. And he’s accusing you of arguing, and all you wanted was to have a conversation.

He looks down on you. He flips off the eleven year old. The one black kid. And he’s saying some shit from his tower but you can’t hear him over the roar of children running and jumping and the music.

So, your daughter flips him off. Two hands. And he’s mad now. Saying some shit you can’t hear. But there’s blood rushing in your ears because you’re ready to fight. Or you hate yourself for not doing anything an hour ago.

You apologize to the kid. The kid says, “it’s okay.” And you say, “this is not okay.”

You can see and feel in this kid’s eyes; he’s done this before.

And you, you coward, you almost didn’t say anything at all.

At the Very Least

There is a yearning I have as a queer person to be seen. Not noticed or ogled or stared at the way a person does when my androgyny makes them uncomfortable. Really seen–in the way that you see other people, acknowledge their humanity, and then go about your day. I want to be ignored like the rest of you.

A few months ago, I watched the show “Heartstopper” on Netflix. It’s about two high school boys (who play rugby!) entering into a romantic relationship. When I finished all of the episodes, I was a heap of shivering tears and snot. It wasn’t necessarily because I was happy for them. I mean, yeah, of course I was. It took me some distance and kleenex before I realized that through the entire show, I was just on edge waiting for The Bad Thing to happen. I mean, they get bullied, but they (and others) stand up for them and are ultimately okay. Eventually, they’re both out to everyone in their high school. The last episode, one of the boys came out to his mom. I started crying when he tried to start the conversation. I knew what was going to happen: yelling, tears, accusations, being told he couldn’t live there anymore. But. The mom was totally fine with it. She even told him she loved him and asked questions about the other boy. The Bad Thing never happened, but every time I recognized a possible situation for The Bad Thing, my body reacted to the perceived threat.

That’s when I really fucking lost it.

In my 25 years of being out, I’ve seen movies and shows which portray caricatures, stereotypes, and ultimately, queer people through a heteronormative lens. Ask any gay and they’ll tell you if you’re watching a show with a lesbian she will die at the end, and if she’s dating a bi girl, the girl will leave her for a cis man. There are websites which discuss the trope of “burying your gays” in film and television. When I was first out, I had to search hard to find movies with queer characters. When I did find myself in those films what I saw was me being raped, killed, ostracized, ignored, mocked, and maybe worst of all, utterly unhappy at the end (if I didn’t die in the second act). Queers generally aren’t allowed a happy ending. And our stories are fraught with trauma: getting kicked out of the house, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse. Secrets. Lies. Closets.

This entire series of this show I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, for The Bad Thing I’ve grown accustomed to seeing happen to queer people in television happen to these poor, cute little rugby boys. There is a time in the show when their relationship is secret, and the out kid has to be okay with seeing the other closeted kid. I was triggered. Not in the way that assholes use the word, but actually.

To me, being the one who is “out” in the relationship or situationship or whatever, means pain. When I was 21 my girlfriend wasn’t out to her friends. On her birthday, I brought her flowers, and we planned on spending the evening together-painting, watching The Big Lebowski, and drinking Red Stripe. But. Her friends called to tell her they were coming over. She told me I had to leave. At the time I had a shaved head and was wearing men’s tank tops and raggedy, long denim shorts I bought from Value Village. I mean, there was no way I was passing for straight. I should also mention the year was 2000. I pleaded with her to let me stay and just pretend to be her friend. She looked me up and down and said, “they’d know.” I said, “they’ll know about me, but they don’t have to know about you.”

“They’ll know,” she said.

So, she handed me the bouquet of flowers, and I sneaked out the back fire escape from her third floor apartment while they came in through the front.

I’m not lying to you.

In-between my marriage to the Awful One and my other very serious partnership, there was someone. You didn’t know. You couldn’t know. She came from money. And status. And a Baptist family. She went to the best schools. She’d never dated a girl before, but she’d always known, the way all of us know. I promised myself when I was younger that I’d never be with anyone again who wasn’t out. The best laid plans… And. Well. I loved her. And she loved me. But it was all in secret.

One day she flew back from visiting a friend and told me it was over (this was the final time; she’d tried to break it off at least 7 times before that). Because, you know, she just couldn’t anymore. She told me she’d never tell her parents because it would hurt them too much. She’d never tell her friends because it was hard. I was devastated. I mean, utterly gone. I had panic attacks. I became depressed. There was no one to talk to because no one really knew, except the one friend who did know and told me to get a therapist. What still haunts me about that woman is I was merely a ghost passing through her life, and I remain a character who lingers unnamed in her poetry.

This show, though, is utterly joyful. And when I found myself a confused mess at the end, I realized all the trauma that still exists for me. I realized at every turn I expected the worst for these kids because I’d experienced some of it, had heard most of it from friends I’ve met along the way, and I’ve seen the rest reflected back to me on the big screen.

That’s what you’ve seen, too, right? How many happy queer characters exist? How many queer characters do you know where their queerness ISN’T EVEN DISCUSSED because it’s normal and no one cares? When I see something like that, my brain misfires. How many queer characters do you know who do more than just act gay in the show?

As queer people, we have learned to hide. Some of us can shape-shift in circumstances which require it. Some of us don’t have that luxury. Even as someone who has been out for so long, I still find times when I try to make myself smaller to make others more comfortable. I’m still morphing into the person I am–each day moving farther away from who I was told I was, or who I pretended to be. I quit wearing dresses over a decade ago, but finally quit wearing women’s dress shirts when I lost my boobs. Those shirts, and some of the accompanying lady dress pants were a costume I put on so people wouldn’t automatically assume I was “the man.” By becoming who I am, I’m just getting sexier all the time. A lot of queer people in your life are wearing costumes. They are hiding behind clothes, hair, maybe some personality traits that aren’t fully theirs.

As queer people we are raised hearing things like: Don’t be proud of your gayness because it’s embarrassing. Don’t make people uncomfortable by saying it. When someone calls your wife or partner your “friend,” don’t you dare correct them because at least they’re not yelling homophobic slurs at you. At least you’re being tolerated. At least your grandpa isn’t alive to see this.

We are out here, being the least for you. The least likely to say how we’re feeling. The least likely to dress how we want. The least likely to show up to a family dinner because of the looks we get.

The least likely to survive our childhood.

We are the least. Yet, we are told we’re still asking for too much.

Untitled (is literally the title)

I started watching Seinfeld recently. It debuted when I was only nine, so I just caught a few episodes here and there. Plus, I think we only had one channel at the time and whatever channel it was on, was not the one. The thing is: this show is so dated. The jokes are mostly sexist or related to men and women and all those old tropes. The jokes are also racist. The jokes are also homophobic. I keep watching because I like pop culture. I mean, I want to know the inside jokes of my generation. I want to get it. But. This show is not nostalgic for me. It just plays like an old show.


On Saturday, I went to the only official gay bar in town. I haven’t done that in many, many years. I arrived too early because I’m not good at going out. And I like to go to sleep at nine. So, it was 8:30, and I was there with 6 queer dudes and a lady bartender. It wasn’t terrible. People started showing up for karaoke, which started at 9:00.

I saw an old student of mine. Somehow in the conversation we discussed musicals and theatre and musical theatre. You see, when I taught him, I was teaching “Introduction to Theatre.” As we were talking about music and things, he said, “You introduced me to Hedwig. It changed me. And, I introduced so many others to it.” Since I was so moved and unable to express my emotions, I just said, “OMG shut up.” He went on to say that because of me, so many queers were exposed to something they otherwise might not have known.

When that movie came out, I was 21. It blew my mind. Except for Rocky Horror and the trans women I saw at the gay bar in Houston (though we did not say trans and we did not openly discuss women like this), this was one of my first exposures to, well, differently gendered people. The musical made a huge impact on me.

Of course, 20 years later, I can see how it can be problematic. Is Hedwig a trans woman or a gay man who gave up “a piece of oneself” in order to escape East Berlin?


The episode of Seinfeld I’m watching right now is called, “The Subway.” One of the sub stories is that Elaine is going to a “lesbian wedding.” Costanza asks at the diner, “so who is the groom or the bride? Do they just flip a coin?” Elaine responds sarcastically, but there is no more dialogue about it. At the moment I started writing this, she was on the subway getting into a conversation with and older woman. Elaine says the present she’s holding is for a wedding. The older woman asks too many questions and Elaine finally says, “there is no man. It’s a lesbian wedding and I’m the best man.” The older woman scoffs and then moves away from Elaine. Elaine calls after her, “Wait! I’m not a lesbian! I hate men, but I’m not a lesbian!”


So, while I’m at the bar talking to my student I ask him if he likes boys. He says he does, but he also likes girls. I say, you know, it just doesn’t matter these days and that’s awesome. I’m positive that me asking this personal question made him feel comfortable to ask me, “are you going by different pronouns now?” I laughed and said no. And pointed to my chest. I had cancer, I tell him, so, I don’t have those anymore. He says I look great. He says I look younger than when I taught him. That was about eight years ago, I figure. I weighed maybe 15 pounds more. I was sadder then, too. I tell him I’m a girl, but that I don’t really care anymore. My gender is not important. I’ve been saying that a lot recently. I had a conversation with a friend the other day about this. He is a boy. I am maybe a girl. We dress the same. We walk and talk the same. I tell him, you know, I don’t know if I’m a girl, but I do know that I’m not a boy. He says the same for him. He doesn’t know, but he knows he’s not a girl.

It doesn’t matter. I mean, it doesn’t matter to people who belong in your life. It does matter to those other people, though. You know who I’m talking about.


I’ve been gender bending for a long time whether I meant to or not. I’ve been kicked out of and stared at long and hard in bathrooms. I had a shaved head 25 pounds ago and wore baggy pants. Now I have short hair, wear “boy” clothes, and don’t have boobs. In fact, the other day, an older man opened the door for me and while I was saying thank you, I saw his eyes move up and down my body. I could see that he was questioning his decision about if he should’ve opened the door or not. I laughed behind my pandemic mask. On another occasion recently, I felt someone coming up behind me. I hear, “excuse me……..” I knew the long pause was meant for my gender. He couldn’t decide on sir or ma’am. It didn’t bother him, though. You can just tell these things. I helped him find his way across campus.


Toward the end of my night out, as a friend and I were heading home, some queer man stopped me to ask my name. I told him, “Christina.” He said he hadn’t seen me there before. I said I don’t really go out much these days. And then I said, “Well, I’m an old Soco gal. I went there a lot around 2002.” He looked at me, paused, and said, “Gal…so you’re not a gal now?” I laughed, “I’m still a gal.” But then this guy looks blatantly at my chest and says, “Sorry. It’s just that you don’t have any boobs.”

When anyone says the word “boob” to me or I say the word in reference to the parts of my body that were, I always sort of swipe my hand into the void of where they were. I said, “I had cancer.” He tripped over some words or some syllables and I saw his friend behind him and the embarrassment on his face that he felt for his friend’s mistake. The behind friend said, “congratulations on your survival” or something equally as awkward. I said goodnight.

And I thought about that interaction on the way home.


Remember my friend who dresses like me? The one who’s anything but a girl? There have been several occasions when he and I are hanging out and servers at restaurants assume we’re together. I mean, really together. I’ve noticed, though, these servers are, like, 21 at the most. I’ve never been so happy to be mistakenly someone’s love interest. Here we are, two very queer looking people. And these young servers aren’t assuming I’m a big ‘ole dyke. Because, you know why? They really don’t care. They have seen all sorts of people with all other sorts of people.

I think back to my 21 year old self. Christina at that age wanted to be seen as a lesbian. She wanted people to recognize she was a woman who was romantically and sexually interested in other women. It felt good. I felt like I was doing my part to be seen and have others be seen.

Christina at 41 is much different. I don’t care if you can’t figure out my gender. Hell, half the time I can’t either. I don’t care if you think I’m sleeping with my much younger dude-ish friend.

I’ve said a few times recently that if I would’ve “known” about non binary people when I was a kid, I probably would identify that way. Or genderqueer. Or anything other than woman that isn’t “man.”

Isn’t it ridiculous to believe there are only men and women and they can only have sex with each other and only one person until they die? It’s utter insanity.

I mean, I’ve asked this before, and no one has really answered, but, what does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a man? I honestly can’t tell you. I just know that I’m probably neither.


I call myself queer now because it’s a reclaimed word and it encompasses everything about me: my sexuality, my gender identity, my androgynous appearance. I am queer just means, I’m not about that 2 gender 1 sexuality type thing that this society seems to be so fond of.

I know I’ve said it a million times, but I wish we didn’t have to talk about this. I wish people could just say their pronouns, people would say, “nice to meet you,” and we’d all just fucking move on with our lives. But. We can’t.

It’s still important that queer people speak up and that we are seen and that we have allies who help us when we’re too tired to do all of this work.

But saying, “I don’t care who you sleep with, as long as you don’t flaunt it” is sort of like saying, “I don’t see color.” It’s important to see and acknowledge black people and their experiences. And on this, Indigenous People’s day, it’s important to see and acknowledge the indigenous people whose ancestors lived here long before most of us. I want to be clear that I’m not equating being queer with being a racial minority; I want only to say that we must still, because of our past, acknowledge the struggles that others endure.


If you’re wondering about the Seinfeld episode, well, Elaine gets stuck on the subway and misses the wedding. She has to, I guess, since the whole episode is about the four friends and their separate, but comical misadventures on the subway. But, the three male characters have fuller story lines in this episode. And it was 1991. I was 11. That’s how old Cyrus is now. I probably didn’t know the word “lesbian.” I would’ve gathered, however, that lesbians are different and bad and something to laugh about. I mean, I learned that eventually. Somehow, though no one ever said it directly to me, I knew. The same way you learned. That we’ve all been taught. Somehow.


Here ends this year’s “coming out” post. Maybe you’re wondering, did Christina come out as non-binary?” What is she saying? Is it still she? What do I call her? I mean they!??

Let me make your anxiety even worse: I don’t know. I don’t care. Who fucking knows. It doesn’t matter. Probably still she.

And, call me whatever you want, just don’t call me late for dinner.

ba-dum ching

Just look how comfortable I was in this dress when I was 15 and Jesus looking over my shoulder.

Venmo: @molepoet

Photo Bomb

There’s something that’s been on my mind since it happened to me on Saturday:

I was at my hometown bar when someone I know but don’t really know started telling me about her cousin ( a girl) and her girlfriend. I didn’t ask, by the way, but I sat and listened as she shouted over the music that they live in another state and the girlfriend is a real bitch and do I want to see a picture of her cousin? I don’t care, so I say, “uhhh.” But, it’s too late. She’s scrolled to a picture of this girl. She awaits my response. So, I say, “okay.”

Maybe thirty minutes later I’m dancing with Cyrus and I see my mom trying to take a picture. I can see that it’s not her phone, but I don’t think a lot about it. Of course, I just flip her off because I am me.

Not too long after, I’m talking with my aunt, and I turn to say something to Cyrus. I see this massive phone right in my face, held by the person I know but don’t know. I say, “what the fuck are you doing?” She says, “I’m taking your picture.” Rudely, I ask, “why!?” And she says, “Don’t be hateful. I just want a picture of you.” Again I ask why. This time, she instructs me to stand up, smile, and she takes a selfie.

Queer people: You KNOW what this was about and why it bothers me.

NOT queer people: You can sit with this one and think on it until you find the answer.

Just a few weeks ago, I had to explain to someone I’ve known for many years what a micro-aggression is after this person revealed that they aren’t really an ally and can’t decide if they want to be. No. I didn’t have to explain. I chose to. I chose, once again in my fucking life, to educate someone.

I have been an out queer now for 24 years. The first year, I was out in Callaway County, Missouri. I think (correct me if I’m wrong) I was the first queer person to come out in my high school. You’ve all read or heard about that year by now, so I won’t repeat it. It was bad.

But, at the time, I had a very special thing going for me: Youth. I was excited to discover gayness and learn all the terms and wear rainbows and pink triangles. I was happy to have found that I wasn’t alone. I had the time to explain to you that, no, no one is “the man” in the relationship. I was so hopeful, friends, that because I was so blessed to be from such a small community, everyone would realize I was still just the same person they loved previously. That wasn’t the case.

It’s still not the case.

After 24 years of explaining to you and you and you that I am just a human person like everyone else, I am exhausted. I can no longer expend this energy to help you understand. It’s not really my job in the first place.

This photo incident got me really worked up. The thing is, I’ve been me for so long, I no longer think about how I look or how others look at me. I have short hair, I don’t wear dresses, and now I don’t have any boobs. I’m androgynous as fuck. And I look good. And I forget that people out there might be somehow upset or excited by this….this non-gendered expression. Some people, with large phones, might even see me as a spectacle…one they can just secretly photograph.

As I’ve been relaying this Photo Incident story to friends, one queer friend asked, “are there really people out there who’ve never considered their gender and sexuality?” And, I bet some of you reading this haven’t. You haven’t needed to in order to justify your own existence. You’ve never had to convince people that your relationship is just as valid as theirs. That your intimate relationships are not their business just like theirs aren’t yours. What a privilege to never have anyone ask you intrusive questions about your sex life, to assume things about how you feel toward your partners, and for someone to feel totally comfortable asking you about what parts you do and do not have.

There are an infinite number of genders and sexualities and ways to have intimate relationships with other age-appropriate human beings.

I once posted a meme that said, “to choose to be visually queer is to choose your happiness over your safety.”

Today I said to two “straight passing” queer friends, “my androgyny is a burden on me.” People see me and make a lot of assumptions about who I am. And they base their interactions on those assumptions. If I wanted to, I could grow my hair, swish my hips, and learn to contour my make-up. Boom. I’m not queer-looking. And maybe people would treat me differently.

-Of course, when I write about these things, I’m never just talking about the LGBTQIA+ community, I’m talking about other minorities, too. Those who face different prejudices and have been forced to educate others since the day they were born.-

I come out to someone, somehow, every single day of my life. I live in a world built for cisgender straight people for cisgender straight people, which means I’m bombarded by micro-aggressions every single day. Sometimes, a Jeep full of frat boys call me a fag as they speed by me. Sometimes, people refer to my very serious partner of many, many years as my “friend.”

And sometimes, well, they just want me to shut-up and hold still so they can take my picture.

Venmo: @molepoet

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.




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.







Why I Sit, Part II.

The last time I sat while the national anthem played was at Erika’s volleyball game just a few weeks ago. I was the only one. Dad was behind me, back a few rows of those middle school gym bleachers. I could feel his eyes on me. He didn’t say anything when it was done.

Beside me was Gaby, my Venezuelan, now American citizen girlfriend. She always stands, she told me. I asked if she felt that she had to. Yes. Yes, of course she does. She has an accent, you see. I can’t even imagine what people might say to or about a woman with a Venezuelan accent not standing for the anthem.

I’m privileged; I’m white. I talk like you do. I can code switch, too, between city and country folk. So I am positive that, even though you might delete me from social media, hatefully share my writing, or make snide comments on my post, you won’t kill me for who I am.

But you will do your best to shame me.


Last year on the Fourth of July, as Gaby and I sat in her yard on a blanket and watched the fireworks, I asked her if she knew the history of the Star Spangled Banner. I told her. How the fireworks represent the bombs exploding, the line about our flag still being there. I was touched and a little teary. Though I am not always proud of my country, I am still an American. I still find myself occasionally getting teary-eyed about the promises our constitution made, about the ideal of what our country is supposed to be. Land of the free. All that. Sometimes I actually buy into it. When I hear stories about refugees fleeing here and feeling so welcomed, so free to do as they please, I cry. How beautiful our country is. And for some people, we are still seen as a place of refuge, a wonderful land of opportunity. And this is what we claim for ourselves, but then, when people are actually in need, we talk about banning them based on a religion we find threatening because it is not a majority here. Which is totally the opposite of who we claim to be. When people who are brown risk their lives to cross deserts and rivers to reap the benefits (which we boast repeatedly) of this nation (whose arbitrary borders have crossed and recrossed theirs) we call them names and tell them to go back to where they came from.

Because a country is just that: a piece of land with a made-up border. Maps are constantly changing, you know. The lines may move, but the people remain.


I am told I should stand for the pledge of allegiance and place my hand over my heart. I am told to say, ” I pledge allegiance/to the flag/of the United States of America/and to the republic for which it stands/one nation/under God/with liberty and justice for all.


Let’s break it down.

I was told, at the age of 6, to pledge allegiance to an object, but to not have any false idols before me. Do you know how many rules there are when it comes to a piece of cloth? Lots.

I am told, still, to pledge allegiance to “one nation, under God.” Being an atheist, this is silly. Being an American, I cringe because I was under the impression we have separation of church and state.

I am told that I must rise for the anthem and the flag to pay tribute to those who have fought for my right to choose to stand or sit down or sneeze. I am shamed into honoring those who have come before me. So, I should know where I come from, all the sacrifices that have gotten me to where I am today. Okay. I will respect and learn from this country’s history. I won’t forget all that have come before.

But my black brothers and sisters are told to forget all that has happened. The slaves were freed, get over it already. Jim Crow. Civil Rights. That’s all in the past. Let’s think about the future. Everyone is totally equal in this great country of ours; that’s what our white, male, Christian ancestors fought for. Equality.

I am a queer woman. I make 22% less, on average, than the white men in charge of this country. And it wasn’t until last year that I was granted the constitutional right to marry whomever I pleased. Can you imagine being told by your family and government that you were full of sin and didn’t deserve what others deserve, that you were disgusting, that your partner couldn’t have health insurance, that you are not the parent of your own child? What a shame that would be.

Black women earn 15% less than white women. So. That’s 63 cents on the dollar to a white man. Equality.

And black men, well, stay tuned, gentle reader.


Girls on Film

When I was 17, I started working at Broadway Video in Fulton, Missouri. (“Thank you for calling Broadway Video where the hits are here, now, guaranteed, this is Christina, how may I help you?”)  I had to ask my parents first, since it was 30 miles from home and the closing time was around 11:00 p.m. It was 1996, so everything was still on VHS. I spent hours putting tapes into the rewinder and charging people a fee because they couldn’t do it their damn selves.  I worked with Kristin, one of my best friends, so we spent our time gossiping and choosing movies to put into the VCR when no one was in the store. She memorized the Men in Black dance and loved to do it when no one was around. When she wasn’t there, I challenged myself to close my eyes and picture where every single film belonged. Sometimes I’d just spin move my head back and forth, try to orient myself, and open my eyes to see if I knew exactly where I was looking. It was usually Lost Highway or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. To the left of the check out counter were the new hits, mixed in with newer indie films. Of course, being from Portland, I had no idea what an indie film was, but Kenny, another guy who worked there was starting to show me.

One of the first ones on the shelf was All Over Me. I was allowed to check out movies for free, and really, the boss said, I could just take them and bring them back without putting them into the computer.


I chose this title one night, after a long day of rewinding because it looked like one of those indie films I’d heard about. I took it home and popped it into the VCR around midnight. I sat in the living room and watched as some girl with pink hair played guitar. And, at one point, she kissed another girl. In another mind blowing scene, I watched as one licked the other’s stomach. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I mean, I’d seen two girls kiss just a year before in this film:


And why do these two film covers look the same?

Which a friend had recorded from HBO and given to me to watch. I didn’t know why she did. But I came to understand as we aged. (If you’ve seen this film, you know there is some violent sex, rape, and very awful situations, but my focus remained on the girls kissing in the pool)

But this pink haired girl had me very confused. I stayed up all night, rewinding the kiss, the tongue to stomach action, worried that my parents would wake up and find me watching it. I didn’t quite know why it was wrong. I mean, there was no sex in the movie All Over Me, just some kissing and stomach licking. But it seemed dirty. Like I wasn’t supposed to see it. So I watched it in darkness that night and probably 20 more nights as I’d return the movie to the store and sneak it out again, sometimes in a different case.

Not long after that I met a girl. My world started spinning uncontrollably and, to make it worse and more confusing, this movie was on HBO that whole summer:


I watched it, disgusted. Confused. In silence. I cried. I prayed. I wished I could be someone else. And you know what happened after that.


Tonight when I was with some of my rugby friends we started talking about lesbian films. There aren’t that many, so it’s common for lesbians of any age to know most of them. We were in mixed company, though. There were 4 girls who date boys and 3 girls who date girls sitting at the table. The girls who date boys had never heard of any of these films. Meanwhile, we laughed and joked about all that we’d seen. How it seems that any movie with a lesbian lead means she’ll a) kill someone b) kill herself c) turn straight at the end. It’s hard to find films about lesbians that have happy endings.

The straight girls wondered how they missed seeing all these films since the rest of us had seen them. But. I tried to explain, we had to seek them out. To find ourselves mirrored somehow in society. I remember discussing titles with my worldly co-workers in Houston, trying to memorize all that they’d said so I could find and watch all of them. I felt like I was in a secret club.

One of my teammates, who is at least 10 years younger than I, said she used YouTube to watch most of her movies, clip by clip.

I shared that I was lucky to be exposed to a video store and then moved to Houston, met liberal people, worked next to a video store, and had movies like


come out in the art house theatres. So it was from there that I learned about

download (1)



download (2)

and I also saw


in the theatre.

I wanted to explain to my everyone at the table how  important it was for me to see myself on a television, to see two girls kiss in some larger narrative (instead of at the gay bar). In my day, there was barely an internet and Ellen was still newly gay. No one even talked about gay marriage. I know some of you must know how this feels– to want to see yourself on a screen. Ultimately, though, I think most people have never yearned for it because it was never missing from their lives. They see themselves in every movie, terrible sit-com, and perfume ad. Every single day.

I, however, see myself (or people meant to represent me) in very few films. One commercial with Abby Wambach. Ellen is on every day now. I still can’t believe how many straight women love her show.

I see misrepresentations of myself everywhere, though. I see people like me being denied marriage licenses, being denied cakes, jobs, and a pot to piss in. I am reminded daily by advertising and movie previews that I am not like everyone else. I have watched for half of my life as politicians and other people make decisions about what I can and cannot do.

And I’ve grown so used to it that I forget to talk about it with others who might feel the same way.

Tonight’s conversation felt so good.

At the end of the table were two teammates quietly mocking us, “So, when did you realize you were straight? Do you think your parents made you that way?” I don’t think they meant it in a mean way, but what I took away was this: they felt left out of the conversation.

That must feel awful.



My Gay Timeline Part II: 17 Years of Coming Out and Out and Out and Out and…

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be on a panel at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. There were 5 of us there, writers of Crooked Letter I: Coming Out in the South, to talk about the book and our experiences.

If you haven’t read it, and I’m guessing you haven’t, it’s not hard to tell what the anthology is about: coming out. The more I say that phrase, the more tired I become.

An audience member asked a question that still has me thinking. Chu asked, “Isn’t coming out something that you have to do more than once? Like, any time you meet someone?”

The answer: YES. Every.Single.Day.

When I first realized I was gay (or different, in some way, from others), I wore all the rainbows I could find. I had necklaces and bracelets. Shirts, too. Some funny, some offensive. I made it my goal to make others see me. To see that there are people like me (whatever that meant or means now). I loved watching peoples’ faces as they saw my Lez/Pez shirt and would either smile or snort their disapproval. My other favorite shirt I can’t seem to find any iteration of on the internet; it was basically the women’s bathroom symbol with boobs. Two of those. 69-ing. It read “porn star.” And my first offensive shirt I made in high school. I tore the bottom off a white t-shirt, so it was a crop top and wrote on it, in sharpie, “FAG.”  Mom ended up throwing that one away soon after I wore it to a coffee shop in Jeff City. She denied every touching it.

But my point is, I used to do that. I used to love doing that. I needed to do that. I wanted to be seen. I wanted to make that statement. I’m gay. I exist in the same world as you. Deal with it. My clothes and bracelets did all my coming out for me, I guess.

But now. I don’t want to come out any more. If you’ve never experienced this, let me try to explain all the ways we have to come out.

In the classroom: “Professor Holzenfluken, do you have any kids?”  I have a son. “Are you married?”  No. “Does his dad live close?”

And here is where I have to chose to come out or not. If I leave out the pronoun and say, “Yes.” I’m lying. To myself. Denying Cyrus’ true family. Not doing my part as a gay person to make sure people know we’re everywhere (more on this later). So I make the choice to say, “he has another mom.”

Then the barrage of personal questions about how we made a baby. And you know, no one ever asks a straight couple how they have a baby. And here is where I feel that obligation to educate. I could say, “none of your business,” but if I do, then I’m a bitchy dyke or they don’t learn a damn thing. So I take the time to explain because I’m probably the first person they’ve met who’s had that experience. It’s exhausting.

At the doctor: “Okay, just put your feet in these stirrups and scoot your butt down…more…more…more…more. Okay. So, I see you’re not on birth control; what methods are you using for family planning.?”    Sigh. I have sex with women. I told you last time. Doesn’t anyone write that down?

At another doctor: “So, you’re cramping and feeling nauseous, huh? We’d better do a pregnancy test.”  I’ve never had sex with a man/I haven’t had sex with a man in 5 years. Beat“Well, better safe than sorry.”

At restaurants: “Separate checks, then?”  Sigh. Together, please.

Walking with a partner anywhere: Can we kiss here? What happens if we do? Maybe we can just hold hands? We probably shouldn’t. You know. Just in case. Hands touch momentarily. Loving look exchanged. Person walking by frowns. 

In your own home: Repair guy shows up. “I have to leave, but my…(wife? girlfriend? friend? roommate?) will be home in just a few minutes.” Raised eyebrow.

At the bank: We’d like to buy a house. “I see.” -Fumbles with papers-

Most of you might say, “Well, fuck them.” But you’ve never had to do this. Weekly.

At this age, my sexuality is the lowest on my list of my identity. I hope, too, that if you describe me to someone, you wouldn’t include this part of me in your description. Just like I wouldn’t say, “Jane Doe? Yeah, she has black hair, is tall, she fucks guys. Loves it.”

There was a moment this weekend, when I was speaking on the panel, when I said, “Everyone in this room has a different sexuality. We all like different things. But not all of you are asked to explain yourselves. And it’s really no one’s business”

My sexuality is not my lifestyle just like yours is not your lifestyle. It means nothing to me until I have to explain it or justify it.

It’s the same for you. How often do you sit around wondering about your intense love of being on top? Or being tied up? Or tying someone up? How often are you asked to reveal that part of yourself?

Another thing I was asked to think about this weekend is my job as a queer educator. Questions from the audience members were somewhat political, asking what was next for the LGBTQ movement. Did we think that things will get better soon? What advice do we have for parents and friends of those coming out?

Honestly, I have no idea. I write and teach English and dig holes in the ground. I’m not a spokesperson for The Gays. I’ve done my part; I did that for years. Now. I just want to relax and raise my son. I want peace and quiet. I want to watch Netflix and go to bed at 9:45.

I feel some shame in that. If I quit making people aware, who will? If I don’t force myself to hold my girlfriend’s hand in Callaway County, how will people become used to it? Because I’m still afraid to do that… in most counties. Because, despite my tough rugby persona, I don’t like to be looked at or snorted at or made fun of or called a dyke by a Jeep full of fratboys. Because words are still very powerful.

And the silence of our loved ones is louder.