Aug 30, 2012

I Won Something!

Fun story.

I don't know if you've seen The Real L Word, but it is kind of one of those guilty pleasure shows for me. There is A LOT of drama, which is not so much my thing. But there are several characters (I say characters, but it's a reality show, so they're real people) that are women I can relate to.

I've only seen through Season 2, but my favorite couple so far is definitely Cori & Kacy. I find them the to be the most stable, loving & respectful of one another, and mature of most of the cast. I love their relationship dynamics, and I think they set a wonderful example for young lesbians! As someone on the show called them, they're "the Unicorn Couple", because they have a beautiful love story that just seems too good to be true.
Cori & Kacy (source)
Anyway, I'm getting distracted. The point is, I think they're wonderful people, and so I started following Cori's blog (check it out!) and twitter.

Recently Cori started selling knitted hats on etsy (visit her shop!) and she had a twitter contest to design a logo for her etsy in return for one of her hats. I love doing stuff like that, especially just for fun, so I spent a few days narrowing down tons of options until I settled on a selection worthy to send over. Considering she has 17,000 followers on twitter I didn't think I'd have much of a chance.

I about had a heart attack when I heard back from Cori that she loved one of the logo's I'd sent and it was the winner!!! Not too long after that she sent me my own beautiful CocoKnitsXO hat and made the announcement! Poor K has had to suffer through many very excited emails/texts/facetime conversations with me in the meantime. She was really proud of me though.

My new CocoKnitsXO hat!
As soon as Cori stocks up her etsy store again, I would definitely recommend purchasing one of her slouchy beanie hats! It is so soft and fits perfect - I can't wait to wear it this fall & winter!

Here's the winning logo! I'm still over the moon she picked it.

Aug 27, 2012

The Tragic, True Story of Miss Wilma

Once upon a time there was a girl named Wilma growing up in a small town in Ohio in the early 20th century. It was a tiny catholic town built around a very large church - dutifully constructed by early German immigrants to America.

Not 20 miles from Wilma's town, was another small town of German immigrants. Only one difference: this group was of a protestant faith, not catholic. For this reason, the two towns did their best not to mix - especially when it came to their children.

Wilma dreamed of growing up and getting married. She loved children. She loved making a home. She wanted these simple, beautiful things out of life. She wanted what her parents had.

And then, she met a boy. They met by chance, and it began to grow into something more. He noticed her, she noticed him, and the feelings grew until they were going steady and in love. She knew this was who she wanted to spend her life with. Only one thing was out of place - he was from the protestant town. It didn't matter to her, but it mattered to others.

When her parents found out the intentions of the young couple to marry, they absolutely forbade it. It was non-negotiable. Wilma was obedient to their wishes, broke off the relationship, and shattered her own heart.

She lived until she was 92 with that broken heart. Wilma never married, never had children, and never loved again.

Not her actual photo, but I thought she'd look like this. (source)

My grandma told me that story this weekend, she knew Wilma. Everyone felt sorry for poor Miss Wilma because they knew her sad story. Would Wilma's parents have still forbade their daughter to have that love and happiness, if they could have seen how her life would turn out? Would they have been able to see past the doctrinal differences of their religions in exchange for giving their daughter her dreams of companionship and a family?

This isn't a story about how everyone needs to find someone else to be happy and have a good life. That is not in the least my reason for telling you this - some people are happier on their own and that is wonderful for them. This is a story about the shortsightedness, stubbornness and selfishness of parents who refuse to place their child's happiness over their own agenda for their children.

Some might argue that the parents were protecting her in some way. Looking out for her best interest and doing what they thought was best. And maybe in their minds, they were. But at some point, as a parent, don't you need to humble yourself when you see your child's broken heart, and really question, what truly matters in this life? And if your answer isn't along the lines of "to love and be loved", and sounds more like "that everyone live according to my religion", then you've desperately missed the point of it all.

I had a strange and terrifying dream this weekend that reminded me of Wilma's story. In my dream, K was marrying a man, a gay man. They didn't love each other. They were both marrying the other simply to make their parents happy, and it was working. K's mother and all these people in our lives were ecstatic that K was marrying a man instead of me. "This is good! This is right, this is what God intended - a man and a woman."

I woke up nearly in convulsions and a cold sweat at the idea of K committing her life to someone other than me. I felt as though I had been yelling in my sleep, trying to stop this for happening. It took a minute or two, and then the huge wave of relief washed over me when I realized it was all a dream and K was still mine.

I don't think K is likely to marry a gay man anytime soon, and we chuckled a little together when I told her how the man in my dream looked like one of the flamboyant gay designers from Project Runway. But the sad part is, there are parts of that dream that felt a little too real - K's mom would be ecstatic if K found a man instead of me.

Aug 24, 2012

Do All of Your Friends Look Like You?

Is it important that our friends are like us? This is something I've given quite a bit of thought to. And I still wrestle with the answer.

A while back I was talking to my mom and happened to mention how I was sad I had no gay friends. (I have since then been able to get to know some gay people - YAY!) But her response at the time was, "do you need gay friends, does that matter?"

"Yes of course it matters! I need people who understand where I'm coming from!" was my adamant response.

Should we surround ourselves with only people who believe the same things we do? Who think the same way? Vote the same way? People who've had the same types of experiences?

Isn't that what keeps us in small worlds? With no one differing, no one questioning?

I think friendship is so interesting. Every friendship is built on different things. Maybe it's your "work friend". Or a friend that you do ________ activity with. Perhaps you have friends that you only can talk about one subject with, and that is the extent of your relationship.

Those are all fine, but the best friendships are built on nothing more than two people being 'thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth."

The problem is, I built a lot of friendships in the past with my faith as the commonality. And now that my faith has evaporated and I'm no longer a fish in the water... it left some gaping holes in those relationships. But I still care about those people. I still love them for who they are, with or without their faith. I see them as the individuals they are, not as the beliefs they subscribe to.

If I am anything in this life, I am loyal.

A counselor once told me I should be prepared for those friendships to fade over time. That I couldn't maintain, long term, a relationship with someone who believes that an essential part of me is a "sin". Or at least, she said I shouldn't maintain that. It's not good--it's not healthy for me.

I shouldn't have to be defending myself all the time in a relationship, working to convince them I'm happy or feeling the weight of silent judgment. True friends are people you can be happy and yourself with. Who know exactly who you are and accept you as that. Who aren't waiting for you to change someday.

It's easy to tell someone to cut those ties. But is that really the best thing to do?

I guess the answer I usually settle back on is this: it's ok to keep those friends. But don't expect them to be your best friends. And make sure they're not you're only friends. Your closest friends should be people who love you unconditionally. End of story.

Everyone else, you can keep them around as long as it's not damaging the way you view yourself. Keep an eye on that: check back in with yourself every so often. "Are the friends in my life helping me love myself more, or less?" And if the answer is the latter, it may just be time to move on.

Are most of your friends similar to you? Do you think it's important to have friends who believe different/the same things as us? Do you have "deal-breakers" for your friendships? Have you ever ended a friendship because of differences?

Aug 20, 2012

You and Me m&m's

I remember one day, over four years ago, I went to check my little mailbox at the school where I was studying in Australia, and I found a small, lumpy package in there. It was from K, across an ocean.

A few weeks before I got the package we had been IMing and she told me about her psychology class when they'd been talking something about different colors and personality types, or something like that. I don't remember the details, but I remember asking her "what color am I?" "Red," she said, without hesitation. "Why am I red, what does it mean?" "It means your passionate and you have a big heart."

"What color are you?" I asked her. "I'm green, because I'm full of energy and life," she said cheerfully (anyone who knows her knows this is SO true).


In the oddly shaped little envelope, was a baggy of m&m's. She had painstakingly sorted out all of the other colors from a large m&m's bag, and kept only the reds and greens to send me. The little note inside explained: I sent you a bunch of you and me m&m's. I bought a bag and just separated the green and red ones. Exteriorly we look different - we have different personalities. But we have so much in common on the inside. You are so full of passion and love and I'm...crazy and full of life. We just compliment each other.

If you've taken any art or color theory classes, you may have learned that red and green are what are called a traditional complimentary pair. They are on complete opposite sides of the color wheel. That means they could not be more different from one another. But, if you stare at green for a while... and close your eyes, you will see red. (have you ever done that? I used to do it all the time as a kid - I'd stare at something and then close my eyes to see what the opposite would be - here is someone who explains why this happens). They counter balance each other.

I am red: emotional, passionate, decisive, explorer, courageous, full of will-power and love.
K is green: energy, spirit, full of life, down-to-earth, generous, social, and loyal.

To this day, I still think of us as those m&ms. With our different candy-coatings, but the same chocolatey-goodness inside. And I still think of us as red and green personalities.

Do you have a color that you feel represents you? Do you think people have different aura's of color?

Aug 15, 2012

Book Review: In One Person

This was my very first John Irving novel, but it definitely won't be my last. The thing I search for most, in good fiction, are true-to-life characters: three dimensional people that step off the pages, speak to you, and interrupt your life for a time.

We not only spend 60 years with Billy Abbott, the narrator, we get to know an entire cast of friends, families and others that wander in and out of his life. Time passes through the 50s, 60s, all the way up until current day, when Billy is a 70-year-old man looking back on his life and telling his story.

"We are formed by what we desire."

The title of the book comes from Shakespeare's Richard II. There is a line in the play, Act V, scene five, when the king says "Thus play I in one person many people, and none contented."

We spend much of the book with Billy as he is coming of age. Or rather, we spend much of the book with Billy reflecting on his coming of age years, as he is now a 70-year-old telling us his story. He weaves those long-ago stories with foreshadowing references and glimpses of what is to come. 

These formative years of adolescence indicate to us everything that Billy will be. His teenage years are marked by what he refers to as "crushes on the wrong people". He is simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the crushes he forms, not necessarily on the girls his age, like he is supposed to, but on the male wrestlers, on his friends' mothers, on the "transexual" librarian. Billy is bisexual and the novel explores the boundaries of gender and the experiences of a sexual "outsider". It's almost as though his bisexuality is a character in and of itself, steering him through life, seizing control.

His bisexuality not only makes him an outsider among straight people, but in the gay community as well, as neither of them can completely claim him as their own.

"My dear boy, please don't put a label on me. Don't make me a category before you get to know me."

Irving has so many powerful themes in this book. The importance of sexuality and who and what we desire forming who we are. The perspective of a bisexual man is fascinating, because gender becomes very unimportant. Unlike most people, gender isn't an issue in determining if he finds someone attractive. But we watch the world around him struggle with genders and labels, while he is only an observer. He is surrounded in life by people "breaking gender rules", but doesn't think twice about it. 

There are also themes of tolerance. Obviously, tolerance for those who are different. But it goes beyond that. Billy has to learn tolerance for those who have no tolerance for those who are different--like his own mother, who never accepts him.

We live through the AIDS crisis of the 80s & 90s with Billy, and watch friends and lovers wither away to nothingness. It's hard to believe I was living on this earth when that was happening, what a horrible chapter in history.

One of my favorite elements of the book was the way Irving incorporated the theater as an integral part of Billy's life. Shakespeare especially, and Ibsen's plays too. No matter what happened in life, Billy could call to mind a line, a scene, a memory from one of the plays he or his family members had performed when he was growing up. It's the beauty and truth of how literature sustains us.

I could go on for quite a while about this book, but I'll wrap it up now. If any of those topics sound interesting to you, you will enjoy this book. It's not happy by any means. As Irving's website phrases it, it is "A compelling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences."

You don't arrive at the end with a happily ever after, but you will find solace in the wisdom, understanding and perspective that only a 70-yr-old guide can offer on life's journey.

Aug 13, 2012

NOH8 Campaign!

I don't remember the first NOH8 photo I saw, but I know it made an impression on me. The NOH8 campaign began in 2009 in protest to California voters passing Proposition 8 (the constitutional amendment in CA banning gay marriage).

In the three years since it began, NOH8 founder and photographer Adam Bouska has photographed over 26,000 single or group photos as part of the visual protest, all around the country. His work is striking, and it is so amazing and exciting to see how many people are coming out and supporting this - straight, LGBT, families, celebrities, kids--even pets! And it just keeps growing.

So when I saw they were coming to Chicago on Saturday, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. I wouldn't say it was exactly convenient to go. K and her little sister were visiting, and we had to take quite a detour trip to make it there. Get up early. Several extra hours of driving. Passing through a torrential downpour. Stashing one of our cars in Gary, IN (waaaaay sketchy place) so we didn't both pay $32 for 2-hr parking in downtown Chicago. Detours and directions, and finding the place. BUT WE DID IT. And I know K knew how much it meant to me, so she helped make it happen. 

It did mean a lot for me to be there, but it meant SO much more to me to be there with her. She doesn't get as into all of this type of activism stuff, but I love it. I was practically giddy to walk in and see tons of LGBT Equality supporters standing around in their white shirts! 

Room full of NOH8ers!

We were some of the first ones there (within the first 100 people), which was great because we were on a time crunch. We got our face tattoos, I got a souvenir key chain, and we stood for a while practicing our pose in the mirror. We still couldn't decide exactly how to pose, but then I realized there were a cluster of gay men waiting politely for the mirror so they could do the same thing. 

Ultimately it didn't really matter what pose we picked, because the photographer, Adam, kind of positioned us anyway. I'll post the "official" photo when I receive it in 4-8 weeks. But this will work for now! K's little sis snapped this for us right after we took our photo. (The duct tape symbolizes the silencing of minority voices through legislation, like Prop 8, that discriminates against them).

After each photograph, Adam the photographer hugged each person and thanked them for being part of this. I was standing there with the duct tape on my mouth watching the adorable little interracial family getting their photo taken before K & I, and I was tearing up. I was just overwhelmed that this many people can take time out of their lives to support something they believe in. And something that starts with just 2 people, can grow to 26,000, and then 100,000, and pretty soon, you're making a real difference. I know I'm a tiny piece of that, but I'm proud to be part of it!

Adam hugging us!!!

I look forward to the day I can tell my grandchildren about this, and we'll look back and say "remember back when we were young, and gay people weren't treated as equals under the law?" and they'll say "I can't believe that!" because it will seem so outrageous to them that that type of discrimination actually existed in my lifetime. 

One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” ― John F. Kennedy. 

Aug 7, 2012

What's So Great About Marriage Anyway?

There's been a lot of talk in the media about gay marriage these last couple weeks (thank you Chick Fil A!) And whether people are pro or against, it doesn't matter, because the point is we're talking about it. I think it is more "harmful" towards marriage equality if people are indifferent - and polarizing debates like these make it almost impossible for people to be indifferent! For any type of progress, people must be inspired to action. You can tell how big this whole thing got by the fact that A) My co-workers were discussing it, they are usually very indifferent towards gay rights and B) I actually had a conversation with my mom about gay marriage!

She seemed to just have some honest questions about it, such as: why is marriage better than other legal unions? or, why can't we just create something like marriage, but call it something different, so people aren't upset? is marriage legal in other countries? what's DOMA (the acronym that came out of my mouth every-other-sentence)?

So, for anyone else who's curious and has similar sorts of questions, here are a few brief (brief as I can make them!) overview answers, with references for further research:

or, if this is kind of boring to you, skip to the end for some gorgeous wedding photos! I promise there won't be a quiz.

What makes marriage so special, why does everyone want the right to marry? 
Spouse recognized in society as the most privileged party, including medical decisions, legal document signing, public assistance benefits. Social security, disability and medicare can only be paid to legally wed spouses (also, veteran & military benefits). Insurance usually only covers married spouses, and benefits of bereavement leave or leave to take care of your ill spouse only apply when married. Marriage gives you the right to visit a spouse in jail or intensive care at the hospital. Legally you have the right to sue on behalf of your spouse, and you can't be called to testify against your spouse in protection of "privileged conversations". In case of divorce, marriage entitles sharing of community property, and in case of death, your spouse has rights over after-death procedures. Married couples can also file joint tax returns, with some additional financial benefits that go with that. (source) Married couples have a total of 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities in the US. (source) So much more than a document! 

Why can't gay people just have civil unions?
Civil unions only provide legal protections from the state in which they're granted. No federal protections, rights, or priveleges. And no guarantee your protections will carry over to another state. In other words, it includes only a small portion of what legal marriage offers to couples. (source) Very few states even allow civil unions, anyway, so it's not like it's an option for everyone. (source)

Why can't we have something that is just like marriage, but isn't actually marriage, for gay people?
My sister had a good answer for this one. This logic of "separate but equal" is similar to the brilliant minds who thought it would be "fair" to have two separate drinking fountains: one for black people, one for white people. But, if you don't think black people are inferior, why the hell can't they use the perfectly good drinking fountain the white people are using? Marriage is a well established institution and it will serve LGBT people beautifully, just as well as straight. And no, we won't contaminate it.

Is marriage legal in other countries outside the USA?
Gay marriage is legal in a dozen or so countries around the world (way to go Scandinavia!). And while I would say the world is generally moving in that progressive direction, there are still countries where 
people face penalty of prison or even death for being gay. See map below:


What is DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act?
As you can see, legal marriage is better than any other type of partnership for a couple who is committed to eachother. And while some gay couples have been fortunate enough to live in a state that grants them actual, legal marriage, DOMA still comes in and screws everything up. DOMA says that only marriages between a man & woman are eligible for federal recognition (this includes insurance benefits for government employees' spouses, Social Security survivors' benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns). DOMA also specifies that states don't have to recognize another state's gay couples as legally married.

Now that you got through all of that, here is a beautiful New York lesbian wedding I found today on a site I just discovered called Equally Wed. Read the story here. (Photographer)

I love weddings. 

Aug 6, 2012

When Bad Things Happen...

To Drunk People.

Now now, let me start with a disclaimer. I am not a drinker. I have the occasional social beverage, but overall I've been pretty unfamiliar with alcohol in my life. I didn't even have the "college drinking experience", which is supposedly a rite-of-passage. I think that because of all this, I am very inept at handling my liquor. 

Exhibit A: K's little sister's 21st birthday night out last week. 

Everything was going so well. I surprised K, and she was so happy to see me. Her little sister was happy to see me, she loved her gifts. We went out with a small group of friends and family for a good time. Starting with the chicken limo.

We took turns riding out the top and making chicken noises. K and I enjoying ourselves:

The Redbull girls even came to say hi - free Redbull!

Me and the birthday girl.
What could possibly go wrong here?

So we started bar-hopping, having a good 'ole time with karaoke and dancing and friendly people. But somewhere in there I had the drink or two (or a shot?) that put me "over the edge". That is when I go from being "fun-outgoing-Ruth" to being "highly-sensitive-emotional-Ruth". Highly sensitive meaning either VERY happy, or VERY sad. A dangerous precipice. Unfortunately for K, it went to very sad when a wandering boy came over and started flirting with her. I was cordial with him, but afterwards pulled her aside and started crying, with whining, pathetic, irrational and probably not completely coherent arguments of "why can't you just tell him I'm you're girlfriend so he'll leave you alone?!?"

Thank god I don't have videos of myself in this state. It's all quite humiliating. Clearly, he was no threat whatsoever, and I had no reason to be jealous. But I was way past "clearly" at that point.

Here is where the bad things happen to drunk people. Little did I know, in the midst of my wailing conversation with K, her cousin wasn't standing far away and heard the entire thing. Yes, including the bit about K being my girlfriend - which K hasn't told anyone in her family (other than her sister and mother).

K happened to glance up and see her cousin, and then she knew she knew. She told me in a perfectly rational tone that her cousin had just overheard everything, and I felt horrible. Obviously everyone is going to find out eventually, but I promised myself a long time ago that I would let K "come out" to the people in her life at her own pace.

The night ended not-so-well with both of us very upset and in need of lots of water, aspirin and a good sleep.

Happily the story didn't end there. We were able to have a good talk the next day and fixed things back up. K found out that her cousin had "already known" (doesn't everyone say that?). Apparently her cousin isn't the only family member who's been speculating about us, either. K said, "I guess it's just pretty obvious to everyone how much I love you."

So, some more people know about us. And the world didn't end. And she loves me (even after that sad display). Life's funny, huh?

What bad things have happened to you in a drunken stupor? Anyone else had an accidental coming out?

Aug 1, 2012

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

Yep. It's time to talk about it. I've been kind of avoiding this one, just because I'm a little overloaded by all the attention its been getting.

So, a little background first. I grew up in a very traditional, Baptist, Christian environment. And my mom would take us to Chick-fil-A as a treat (it's a little pricey when you're on one income and you have 4 kids). Anyway, we loved it (for the record, their chicken is damn good even though I wish I could say it wasn't) and we used to get our Focus on the Family - "Adventures in Odyssey" cassette tapes there. I knew it was a Christian business from the time I was a little kid and I was really proud of the fact they were closed Sundays. Christians love having a business that is distinctly theirs just like LGBT people love having businesses to call their own as well.

Well, fast-forward 15 years, obviously my beliefs have changed a lot. I'm not a Christian, I get annoyed when things are closed on Sunday, and I am in a relationship with a girl, who I would like to have the option and right to marry someday.

So, just to be clear, I am 100% in full support of gay marriage. Duh. That's a no-brainer for me. It is clearly, in my mind, the RIGHT thing to do.

But I do remember a time when I would have felt standing up for Chick-fil-A was clearly the RIGHT thing to do.

It is amazing to me how split-down-the-middle my facebook friends are.

On the one hand I have friends posting blogs and articles about how we should protest Chick-fil-A, we should teach them a lesson for being anti-gay, we should donate money to HRC and other organizations that are pro-gay (I would personally recommend donating to Heartstrong if you're interested in doing that!). They say anyone who eats there is a biggot and an ignorant, close-minded person.

The other half are the Christians from my past and present who are rallying behind a business they believe is taking a stand for what is RIGHT. Posting pictures of the crowds gathering outside Chick-fil-A today (for Chick-fil-A appreciation day). Praising the Lord through their status' of the support the company is gaining, and the "difference it's making" for traditional marriage and how Christians will be persecuted for following the Lord when the World says something different.


I can't lie, I do find those thoughts and actions of Christians EXTREMELY distasteful. Kind of makes me want to start un-friending some people.

But here's the point I'm trying to make:

These people in my life, these Christians, who are fighting against something that is so, so dear to my heart, they genuinely believe they are doing something good. They think they're helping me by not supporting my "gay agenda", they're helping me "find the Lord". In their hearts (most of them), they have good intentions. 

In the LGBT community, we too easily DEMONIZE these people, just as they demonize us as "the liberal pro-gay agenda destroying our country". It's this extremism, this polarization that is severely unproductive in moving people forward and bringing us together. 

Look, if you're a Christian, I don't think you're a bad person. I think you believe you're doing what's right and trying to do good for the world. At least, I hope that's what you're trying to do. I have seen things the way you see them.

And if you're gay, I GET it. You feel trodden-down and second-class. I know what that's like. I want the rights everyone has. I don't want someone else's religion trumping my rights as a US citizen. I see things the way you do. 

All of the facebook status' (for BOTH sides) in the world aren't going to change the other sides' mind. We both believe we're RIGHT. We're both proud of what we believe. I don't have the perfect solution, but here are my final thoughts on this and then I'll drop it:

Christians: we're just people like you with beliefs and feelings and morals. Try not to demonize us just because we don't have your beliefs. Standing for what you believe is admirable (for both of us!). We're not "attacking" Chick-fil-A because your president is against gay marriage. We're upset because the Chick-fil-A supports groups like Family Research Council and Exodus Ministries. Do some research and find out what those companies are about and see if that still aligns with your personal beliefs. You have every right to support this business with your money.

Gay Community & Allies: I know it's difficult to relate to Christians sometimes, and it's easy to judge them in a situation like this. But try to keep in mind, they aren't doing this out of malicious intent, in their hearts, they believe they are doing good for the world. Either way, you won't change their minds by attacking them, you will probably just make them pursue this harder. So, I would recommend treating them with dignity and respect, as fellow human beings, and as you would like to be treated. The best way to help them have empathy for our cause is for them to realize we are everyday people who just want to love and be loved, as they do. This country is moving in the direction of gay rights despite their best efforts, so go easy on them, they're just going to take time to adjust to this as the new normal. We will all get there eventually and this will be a sad story for your grandchildren! In the meantime, check out the HRC Buyer's Guide, and maybe instead of protesting Chick-fil-A, put some energy into supporting business that supports equality. Money talks!

Are you gay? Are you Christian? Both? Neither? What do you think of all this? 

Sorry, I couldn't resist. This is Bessy the lesbian cow. She used to live at Chick-fil-A.

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