Orlando-Fighting Hate with Drag

 

Saturday night, June 11, 2016, I celebrated PRIDE in my home city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Alex and Max were with me as we watched RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 contestant, Thorgy Thor, take the stage. She bounded on stage with such an effervescent energy! Her lip syncing was so precise. She was so present and was quick to engage the crowd. While singing “the children are our future” from a Whitney Houston mash-up, she lifted a child out of the audience and onto the catwalk. She cradled this 6 or 7 year old black girl who was having the time of her life. No movement was wasted. Every kick, mannerism, and flip were perfectly choreographed. As much drag as I have watched, I have never seen anyone as good as her in person. I couldn’t get enough!

The whole weekend was a hit. Tons of people came out to dance, meet friends, and see drag queens. Even a local public middle school choir sang Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” For a couple of days, all seemed right with the world. Families, couples, gay, straight, transgender, all races, all different economic backgrounds, young and old came to this safe space to be who they are and know that it is okay. There was such love and diversity. I looked at some of the younger people and wonder how my life would have been different if I would have felt as empowered as they are to be themselves at an earlier age.

When I went to bed Saturday night, I was content and exhausted. I passed out with a smile on my face. I slept in late on Sunday. It was early afternoon before I walked downstairs and tried to make myself some breakfast. Immediately, my brother-in-law came to me and asked what I felt about some mass shooting. I didn’t know what he was referring to. Walking into the living room, my father had the television on CNN and I quickly became aware of a proud LGTBQIA community getting mowed down in their safe space.

As the 24 hour mainstream news media went crazy, I just felt physically ill. Phrases like “the worst mass shooting in American history,” “ISIS loving terrorist,” and  “radical Islam” were thrown around with ease. Living in Kalamazoo, Michigan, we have had to deal with two tragedies in the last couple of months that made the national news: A random mass shooting perpetrated by an Uber driver that went off the deep end, and the mowing down of 5 bicyclists by some guy in a pick-up truck for no reason. Our community has prayed, given thousands of dollars to the victims, held candle light vigils, and even held a bike ride with over 800 bicyclists to take back our roads. Now this?

I know Islam is a peaceful religion. I know that, like any other religion, there are people that are extremists. What I hate is that there is this push for people to think Muslims are less than human. In the 80s, we hated Sandinistas and Communists. During World War II, German communities were suspect and Japanese Americans were imprisoned. Look at everything they tried to pass on Mexicans…as if they are rapists, drug dealers, and job stealers. This wave of hatred has never served to make our world more peaceful. It has just made it more difficult to understand each other and have real meaningful conversations about how we can live together more peacefully.

Nonetheless, one-by-one Republican politicians came on the screen to tell me how afraid I should be of these foreign Islamic radicals. No one is safe! Trump asked to be congratulated on his horrible ideas for throwing out all Muslims, or at least monitor their every move for no other reason than they practice this religion or might have had family origins in the Middle East. Then came all the false prayers and well wishes that these Republican politicians wanted to extend to the victims. Some of them could not even acknowledge that the victims were primarily gay.

Of course, that is difficult when you have spent your entire political career spewing hatred to this special population of people. When you were threatened by their relationships, you did everything you could to block them from ruining the definition of “traditional marriage.” You encouraged parents to abandon their gay children. You didn’t protect them from bullying, so several of them committed suicide. You tried to convince people that a transgender person using the bathroom that matched their gender identity would end in child molestation or assault and abuse against women. You equated being gay with being sick in mind, perverted. You carted us off to jail for being lewd and indecent, or you sent us away to be “cured” with prayer. All along, you toted religious liberty. Nothing should get in the way of your sincerely held religious beliefs or ability to practice your faith…as long as you were a Christian Conservative. It definitely didn’t cross over to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, etc.

Having the Supreme Court rule in favor of gay marriage was a huge milestone. It gave us hope that things were really changing. It helped millions of us come out of the closet because we finally acknowledged that we need to be who we are. But this attack, the aftermath, the proverbial news spin just reminds us how unprotected we really are and how being ourselves still takes an act of great courage.

Recent reports have acknowledged that the perpetrator had been to Pulse several times before he came back for blood. He had connected with people on gay apps. It is not a huge stretch to realize that the cause of this might have nearly nothing to do with “Islamic Terrorism.” The shooter came from a strict religious upbringing, with a father who would rather acknowledge his son as a terrorist than a faggot. I can imagine that if this gunmen did know he was attracted to men, and never felt he would ever be free enough to love who he wanted to love, that his life must have been hell. He went to this club several times. He saw these same-sex, loving couples having the time of their lives. I can only imagine the rage he must have felt. Still, in his plan to take his life and others, he still couldn’t accept the truth. He had to make sure to call 911 to let him know that he was a “terrorist” to cover it up.

In coming to terms with being queer, there is a point where everyone feels a little homophobic. It is where you have to deprogram your mind from all the things that you are supposed to be in order to sort out what you really want to be. It is so much better when you have loving supportive friends and family to help you work through it. So many people don’t. That is why you see politicians, religious officials, and “upstanding” citizens get caught up in gay sex scandals. Most often, these are the same people who draw up the most scathing and destructive rebukes of homosexuals. One wonders if this is to just create a diversion so people do not question their sexual identity.

There is also something to be said about the ability to purchase a semi-automatic weapon of war within 30 minutes. It is completely legal in the United States. The gun manufacturer is guaranteed more protection under the law than the victims. Countless mass shootings continue to occur, and our representatives don’t lift a finger. What are they doing in Congress?

The frustration is palpable. RuPaul’s girls have been very vocal on social media about the friends and the lives they knew who were killed. They knew that nightclub. Two of the girls even performed there that night and managed to get out before it started. In an interview this week, RuPaul said, “This is a huge wake-up call for us on so many levels, there needs to be a shift in our collective consciousness.”

So, what do we do? Do we just sit around and keep bitching about it, hoping that our prayers are enough? I say, enough is enough. It is time to take some action. It is time to speak up. Just this morning, I personally contacted my local Congressional representatives. You can call or write them, and I will put the link to do so at the end of this post. It took 15 minutes, tops. Next, I wrote a letter to my local newspaper. Simple. Quick. Done.

The next thing I think needs to be done is to reclaim our safe spaces and be out and proud. My girl LyKra, Alex’s alter ego, entered a Drag Battle at a local gay bar. We have only just begun to take our drag out in public. It started just a month ago. We began going to a local Open Drag night. LyKra was well received. She has gotten several offers to perform more. Alex and Max are making costumes out of anything we can find, on a budget of nearly nothing.

I have a new appreciation for gay bars after this weekend. Anyone who walked in and paid that $3 cover was taking a silent stand that we wouldn’t let fear keep us from enjoying and being ourselves. Our reward was one of the best local drag shows I think I have ever seen. The theme was 80s, and LyKra killed the runway in an interpretation of Sigourney Weaver’s Zuul from Ghostbusters. The costume featured a Stay-Puff Marshmallow purse. For the talent portion, LyKra was dressed as Thundercat’s Cheetara performing Patty Smyth’s “The Warrior.” She did baton work with Cheetara’s staff and paused in the middle to recite Jane Fonda’s “warning to consult your doctor before working out” message from her 80s workout tapes. The audience lost it.

At the end of the night, LyKra took second to a queen who had mashed a chocolate cake in her face while she lip synced Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” For the final battle, the six contestants had to pull a card out of a bowl. The two with “battle” written on the card had to lip sync to Stacey Q’s “Two of Hearts.” When the two girls with the battle card were asked to come forward, LyKra was one of them.

I became extremely nervous. I kept yelling, “Oh, my God,” and grabbing Max’s shoulder. I was confident in LyKra’s abilities, but my heart pumped a mile a minute. I had nothing to worry about. LyKra, and her 400 lbs of gloriousness, killed it! The other queen kept looking at her and trying to copy what she was doing. LyKra didn’t miss any beat, she crawled on the floor, she danced up a storm, and in the end the audience couldn’t help but show their appreciation.

So, keep doing you. That is the best way to get over these senseless acts of negativity. Share your voice. Share your gifts. Be yourself. Spreading the light of love is fun and is the best way to confront darkness.

 

Contact your local representatives by clicking on the following link.

 

Spiritual Bad-Ass

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Recently, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by author Debbianne DeRose for her new Spiritual Bad-Ass Tv YouTube series. The series highlights a bunch of Spiritual Bad-Asses who have a lot to say in how we can all get in touch with our Spiritual Bad-Ass selves.

The interview was a chance to really put the message of this blog in a nut-shell. Being diagnosed with cancer is an opportunity. For me, it was a catalyst to discover who I really am and make a choice to live a more authentic life. In the process, I discovered self-love, self acceptance, and got in touch with my creative self – through the healing art of drag.

Please check out the video and podcast via the link below on Debbianne DeRose’s website:

http://spiritualbadass.tv/mimi-mackensie/

Women’s Festival

It is the season. My mom used to take me to our local women’s festival during my tender tween years. We would go to psychic seminars and almost get kicked out because our social anxiety manifested into giggles. It is one of the few positive mother daughter activites that I remember now that she is deceased. My little sister was always a little bitter because she wasn’t allowed to come.

This pic has my 13 year old self (fat, pudgy, and nicknamed “Titanic” by my classmates) eating a piece of World’s Finest Chocolate. My mom would have never had her palm read. She would have despised a stranger touching her, but it is symbolic of the experience. There are little lesbian shout outs because that is probably the first place I saw any. My mom made sure to point them out and let me know how she didn’t approve.

Lucky for me, I was able to figure out the truth for myself. 

 

Sneaking In Some “Me” Time

 

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“Oh my god,” I finally breathed. “Everyone is out of the house.”

It is a rare moment. My father is out with my brother-in-law, and my sister has just gone out for what I figure would be a 20-30 walk with the hounds. The house is mine!

Being that my father is retired, and my brother-in-law and sister happen to be disabled, they almost never leave the house all at one time. It is time to have a little me time. I peer out of the front window to make sure that my sister is down the road. When I determine that the coast is safe, it is time to quickly squeeze in some good old fashion self love.

I run to my bedroom and close the door. Just in case, I lock it and shove a book bag in front of it. I walk to the bookshelf from across my bed and light an amber scented incense stick. With it aflame, I gently light the tea lights in my altar. One sits in a Buddha’s lap and the other in a rose quartz rock. They are surrounded by all sorts of other crystals I have collected over the years. Amethyst, obsidian, lapis, quartz of all kinds…designed to bring creativity, love, abundance, and protection. I light them to honor this special time. It brings a sort of holiness to the whole ritual.

I lay a towel on my bed, sit down, and reach under the bed for a special box. I take off the lid and pull out my good friend. It is a “Magic Wand.” I pause as I hear a car drive by; I am still a little weary of anyone arriving back home unexpected. I reach for a small bottle of lube and put a dime size amount on my fingers. I lay back and rub it towards the front of my vulva, right over the clit.

I look around my room. It is the tiny bedroom I spent my entire youth in. I can remember the cut out letters my mom stapled onto one wall when my kindergarten teacher told her that I didn’t know my alphabet. They had stayed on that wall until I graduated high school. I never thought I would be living in this room at the age of 38. I had left the coop and lived in Spain and Chicago, I had even bought a house in Kalamazoo, but the economic downturn circa 2008 mixed with fighting uterine cancer left me with no choice but to start over.

While on my back, I slipped the wand down my underpants and turned it on its lowest setting. As I start feeling the vibration, I work to relax. I had never successfully masturbated until I was in my thirties. My friends, wanting me to put myself out there, encouraged me to try to hook up with some guys after I had lost 60 pounds. In one weekend, I doubled the amount of people I had ever slept with. Bringing the total to a robust four. I slept with two guys in 24 hours, and I wasn’t really that satisfied. I felt like I was trying to accommodate them the entire time. I endured one guy titty fucking me, and another guy trying to forget he was in bed with a 300 lb woman. I became so frustrated that I decided I had to figure this whole masturbation thing out. I read internet articles, attended Pure Romance parties, and tried to peruse adult toy shops. I never felt comfortable talking with anyone else about my dilemma.

Eventually, I won a small bullet vibrator from a Pure Romance party. It laid dormant in my house for a while until I got so frustrated that I threw in some AA batteries and decided I had to figure this thing out. A friend once told me that she could only really orgasm from clitoral stimulation. At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about and I quickly changed the subject to something benign. Maybe she was right. I had played with fancy dildos that vibrated and had all kinds of things going on in them, but it didn’t do anything for me. Eventually, I decided to find this “clit” thing.

I tried going up and down the vulva until I figured out that something was going on when the bullet was at the very top. I felt so dirty trying to figure this out, and filled with so much self-hatred and self-judgment that I often stopped well short of orgasm. I didn’t even know what orgasm was still. Upon further exploration, I discovered that I felt I was driving up a cliff and about ready to jump off. I would get so scared that I would stop just before lift off. What if what I was doing was wrong? Was I going to hurt myself? I read some more articles that kept saying you have to relax and ride the wave.

Finally, one afternoon, I rode myself up to the cliff and against my better judgment, I jumped. My body lit up in ways I had no idea it could. I felt like I just plugged myself into an outlet and I was short-circuiting. Tingles and sparks flew through my body, tears came out of my eyes, and my crotch became warm and wet. More than wet, I felt like I had peed myself completely. I immediately stopped. What had I done? How gross?

Already embarrassed, I threw all my clothes and bedding into the washer and threw myself in the shower. I felt ashamed. It wasn’t until I conducted some further research that I realized that girls could cum too. It wasn’t “pee.” It didn’t smell like it. It was something else, something even the scientific community didn’t even understand.

I was proud that I finally figured out how to masturbate. I probably spent a few weeks doing it at every conceivable moment I could. I quickly learned that AA batteries were expensive and only good one or two times before I required more power. The “Magic Wand” was an investment. An investment in myself and a guarantee that I didn’t have to hold out til my next paycheck or raid my remote control for batteries to get me through.

As I started to warm up my body, I began to rub my hands over my breasts and play with my nipples. My skin is so smooth and my flesh is soft. I started to pinch my areolas as I worked my thighs together and apart. It felt good, but I was still a little too worried about my session being interrupted. You can’t rush it. I take a deep breath and switch the wand up to high. I start to tickle as the hum starts to match the vibration of my own body.

I begin to vocalize with the hum. As I feel the ripple of waves of exultation, I continue to grunt and sing out. My toes begin to curl with anticipation, and before I know it I am overtaken by the crash of magical, mystical, energy. I scream til my lungs empty of oxygen and ride the ride until I can’t take it anymore.

I immediately turn off the wand and pant. My body starts to calm, but it is hungry for more. I eagerly give it what it wants. I turn back on the wand and ride it. Over and over again, I ripple and scream with pleasure until I am drenched in my juices and exhausted of my desire.

I lay back and rest. I feel whole. Before I can fully enjoy the moment, I remember that I am on borrowed time. I quickly clean up my wand and put my toy box away. I throw my clothes and towel in the hamper and run to the bathroom. As I stand under the warm water, I know that I am safe. I take a long shower, gently caressing every area of myself. I try to love ever bit of me. My belly broken into three rolls, the saggy skin under my upper arms, my thick legs, and my flat ass. I lotion up and towel off. I slip on some fresh underwear, clean jeans, and a t-shirt.

I come downstairs and sit on the couch, beaming with renewed energy, smoking a cigarette, when my sister reenters the house. As she starts to recount all that occurred on her walk, I take a deep drag on my cigarette and know that I can handle it. I have taken care of myself. Today will be a good day no matter what.

Pride and Prejudice

June 26, 2015 was a tremendous day. I finally had enough money to secure car insurance (no small feat when you have been uninsured for 5 months), renew my driver’s license, and my car’s registration. My income had been reduced since the Spring college term ended, and I knew money would be tight. A series of errors in my payroll check for my summer gig at another community college made it even tighter. I knew I was going to have trouble paying. I knew I had to ask for help.

A week or more prior, I woke up one morning and put on my glasses. Unfortunately, they snapped and the left lens came flying on the floor. My father witnessed the aftermath and offered to buy me new glasses on the spot for my birthday. It was generous and was offered without the type of grumbling I am accustomed to dealing with in such matters. As the date of my birthday continued to draw near, and I continued to deal with payroll issues, I realized that I would not be able to pay the Secretary of State.

The boys suggested that I skip the glasses, wear contacts, and ask my father to spend the money on car insurance. It was logical. It was practical. I had an appointment at the optical department at Walmart the next day. All I had to do was tell my Dad and cancel it. When I woke up the next morning, I tried to build the courage to have that conversation for an hour and just couldn’t. I went to the appointment with my father and got glasses.

I felt horrible that I couldn’t do it. I was embarrassed and afraid. Eventually, through conversations with my sister and the boys, I realized that I had to come clean to my father. We had a brief private conversation where I told him that I didn’t want him to perceive that I was just trying to mooch off of him. I felt horrible about asking him for anything, inconveniencing him, but I needed help. Being honest and vulnerable was the only way I was going to get the help I needed. With minimal grumbling, my father helped out with funds.

So, I was sitting at the Secretary of State when the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage was announced. I knew it was coming, but was surprised to see that it actually happened. It was hard to maintain my composure. With so many people around me, did they know? No one talked about it out loud, but I furiously surfed Facebook and news websites for the details. I was so consumed that the hour and a half wait seemed to take only 5 minutes.

I went to hang out with the boys for the day. We were going to celebrate my birthday. I could tell that they were a little off. We didn’t talk about it for a few hours. When it was addressed, it was related to posting a line of the doxology in a comment to my former pastor’s post embracing the same sex marriage ruling. The boys thought it was inauthentic of me to post, “Glory be to God from whom all blessing flow,” because my current religious positioning was less than traditional doctrine. I told them that I thought it was appropriate because it was a very Presbyterian thing to do in response to a big decision, the election or church leaders, offering, etc.

What this started was a catalyst to talk about needing to be open. I have a side of me that was raised Presbyterian. I have a side of me that sees my home church as a second family, but I rarely have talked about this with them. It is like I categorized things in my head, and if I wasn’t in that section…I don’t normally share it. It is not intentional omission. It does sort of feed the concept of being different things to different people. That is where the struggle is real. You build relationships with people at work, at church, at the bar…..but what happens when those people come together? Who knows the real you? I know it is possible to be authentic all the time, but I hadn’t lived my life that way until recently.

The boys also seem to point out that I was more excited by the day’s ruling than they were. I was flying the pride flag, but I didn’t mention that I was also part of the LGTB community. I had thought about posting something earlier in the day, but waited until we would be together to do it. I had even done a draft of what it would be. We shaped the final draft together, talked about the pros and cons to posting it, and eventually I cut and pasted it into a status update. It was the moment that I had fully come out as a lesbian on Facebook.

We went swimming for an hour. We found a way to toss each other up and out of the water several times, sending massive amounts of water out of the pool. It felt great. It felt like a celebration. I felt weightless for a moment in time. When we came back, several people had liked the post and some left sweet comments. I felt a ton of love.

The love continued over the weekend. Several people sent me lovely birthday messages, my father said he was proud of me and loved me, and I even got to go to my favorite pizza pub and eat my cake too. It was a great birthday weekend.

On Monday, I felt like I was riding the wave until the boys shared with me that Max’s sister’s fiancé had posted some anti-gay stuff on his Facebook page. He even added an American flag filter to counter the pride flag filters that people were adding to their profile pictures. Knowing that Max’s sister had talked to Max on the Friday of the Supreme Court ruling, asking if Alex and Max wanted to get married with them on the same day the following week, at the same ceremony, because now they could, they felt compelled to bring it up to her. She immediately said that she couldn’t take sides, brought up a stupid free speech argument, and ignored any discussion with her brother, even though he was hurt. She did have her fiancé take down the post, but he just replaced it with a picture of a flag transposed over a wave at the beach scene. Whatever.

It would have been left there, but the next day she decided to post an article on “Jesus’s Response to the Gays” with a comment that thanked her fiancé for showing her the “real truth.” In the article, it clearly stated that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Alex was compelled to respond, asking if she really thought that his relationship with her brother for the last 14 years was sinful and what was he supposed to do as a gay man in the situation. I took another tactic. I told her that before she decides to start pointing out the sins in others, she might want to look in the mirror. Last time I checked, she had a long laundry list of her own sins that would keep her busy. I also made mention that her value system seem to shift as often as the weather. She was neither better nor worse than anyone else.

Max’s sister replied to the comments from Alex and me. She mentioned that she had only posted the article and wasn’t pointing fingers at anyone. That provoked another response from Alex and I. Alex offered nothing but love and I offered her a “bullshit.” Later that day, a call between her and the boys confirmed that she did think they were sinners and that marriage should be between a man and a woman. She played the victim. Why couldn’t she exercise her right to free speech? Why couldn’t they come to her church and confess their sins? Why were they always trying to put her on the spot and cause drama?

The boys tried to calmly explain that she was the one posting this stuff. Shouldn’t they have a right to tell her, as her brothers, that it was hurting them? Other people read this stuff, and it didn’t reflect well on her. When confronted, all she could spew was her recently acquired opinions that she had been taught or nothing at all. She couldn’t take responsibility for her words or her actions.

While the boys were going back and forth with Max’s sister, I was burning a little. I was glad that I had a chance to voice my opinion to her but it didn’t feel right. Max and Alex deserved better. They have always been “out.” Max’s sister knew this about him. For years, she had been vocal about supporting him. She would share that her brother was gay and that others should be tolerant. Now, all of a sudden, she was singing a different tune.

I contacted some friends privately on Facebook, and asked them to send Alex and Max a love note. They did, and I think it did touch them. I was often included in them, and was really moved by the love and support. I tried to take a nap to forget about it. I tried to get lost in an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance,” but the momentary relief was replaced by a nagging feeling once I left my mind unoccupied.

I texted the boys to see if there was anything else going on. Apparently, she blocked them from her Facebook. She also defriended me. The boys seemed okay. In a way, it gave Alex fuel to proceed with his drag queen career. If he feared that others would throw similar fits, and this was what it was like, than proceed ahead because he knew he could handle any bully. It feels better to live an authentic life instead of caring how others perceived you.

There was a question of whether or not we would attend the wedding. After the initial confrontation, the boys felt like they were going to go so she couldn’t throw it in their faces latter. Now, I am not so sure where they stood. Why would you want to go when she has gone out of her way to make you miserable? For someone who repeatedly plays old tape about how the men in her life keep abandoning her, she really tries to throw a fantastic fit so life follows suit. Why wouldn’t she vow that love is conditional? In order to be worthy of love, you had to fit all the conditions in her world. That is all the love she feels she deserves. Needless to say, we ended up not going.

I thanked the boys for handling the situation with such dignity and class. They confronted her with love, even though she couldn’t handle it. Instead of getting swept up in hurt and disgust, they made peace with the situation and forgave her, knowing that she was fighting her own demons. Less than a week ago, I feared that I might have gotten such a response. Seeing them actually get one, made me feel that I could handle it too, so I need not be afraid. I blocked Max’s sister so I never had to see her words again.

I woke up today hoping that I had finally shaken the bad vibes off. For the most part, I had. What was odd was that she hadn’t deleted my sister as a Facebook “friend.” My sister noticed some alarming things on her news feed. I told her to not show me, but I couldn’t resist. There were six stupid posts inferring that we were “intolerant,” “assholes,” and “judgmental.” I told my sister that she was never to tell me about any of her posts again. I went to my room to get ready for work. When I came out, my sister told me that she had posted some things on her news feed, mostly clips about how the Bible shouldn’t be used to beat people with and that the most important commandment was to love your neighbor. I smiled. It was sweet. My younger sister, one of the most devout people I know, was defending her lesbian sister and her gay sudo brothers. It goes to show that there is more love out there than hate, and siblings can get along….even on Facebook.

Love Wins!

Today is a watershed moment. As little as a decade ago, I didn’t know if I would see this moment in my lifetime. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld what I have always known was true. Gay people are human, and we deserve equal rights as citizens of the United States.

Today marks a new history. Although there are many who still cling to the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness, a new generation of children will grow up never thinking that gay people getting married is an issue. Just maybe, gay won’t be wrong or weird, just normal. Children can grow up and not be ashamed of who they are attracted to. Dating the same sex may be normal; it could be a nonissue.
I don’t know how my life would have been different if this was the case. It took me 36 years and a diagnosis of uterine cancer to finally come to terms with my truth. I still fight feelings of not being worthy. I am still afraid to fully express my sexuality. I know that just holding hands with a girl in public could still provoke negative reactions or physical harm. Even being a gay teacher could cost me my job.

As I celebrate my 38th birthday on this planet, thousands of couples will be able to finally marry those that they love. Loving couples who may have already been married will finally have their unions recognized, and thousands more can at least contemplate the option of getting married to someone.

I am grateful to be given the hope that maybe, just maybe, one day that person will be me.

Workout

I have recently started taking a Livestrong class for cancer survivors to rebuild strength after treatment at the YMCA. A group of ten of us, I am the youngest by a decade, workout twice a week with a half-a-dozen trainers. Normally, I get there and jump on an elliptical machine for twenty minutes, do some weights, and end with the group in a small classroom to do exercises to strengthen the core. Today was different.

We were gathered and sent to the small classroom to sample a class. Shareese, a beautiful black woman in her late 30s or early 40s, was going to lead a class of Bowka. I guess it is a group fitness class with South African roots where you spell out letters with your steps, less about dance moves. As Shareese describes the format, she takes off her bigger black t-shirt to reveal a tight hot pink tank top over a black sports bra, which stops right above her bum wrapped in tight black yoga pants.

On the first day of class six weeks ago, I felt myself completely intimidated by Shareese. She is short, about 5’6”, but she looks like she could take on anyone. She is super thick, plus size by any fashion industry standard, but she is incredibly toned and muscular. She has a huge chest suppressed by a couple of sports bras and tight shirts on top of that. Her butt is huge and round. Her thighs look like they could crush walnuts. She radiates strength and power.

I find it hard to take my attention off of her. I didn’t even realize how much attention I was paying her until I recounted a story to the boys about how she asked me what I was listening to while I was doing my cardio the previous week. I was afraid to tell her. Oh my god, I am at the YMCA. I am pretty convinced all those old men are preachers in between sermons. Nonetheless, against my better judgement, I tell her that I like to listen to Abraham Hicks. “It is like the law of attraction,” I stumble. “Have you ever listened to The Secret?” She quickly told me that she loves listening to that kind of stuff, and I turned red as a tomato.

She ended that workout by showing us how, in a downward dog type position, she could swing her leg up to be perpendicular with the ceiling, swing her leg back around until her knee was to her chest, and kick it back to the floor. I, and the rest of the class, were stunned at the display of athleticism.

Within the first few moves, I knew this was going to be one hell of a workout. As I saw sweat begin to bead up on her perfectly toned shoulders, I knew I was going to be in more than just physical pain. Immediately, I felt like I had to do well in order to not be perceived as an idiot by her. I am the largest person in class by around 100 pounds. I still thought I could put in a good show.

She begins teaching us combinations, and I immediately kick off the shoes and watch them bounce off the wall behind me. The pain running up my calves and inside my inner arch was excruciating. I tell myself to fight through the pain. I quickly pick up the moves and keep watching her.

What kind of underwear is she wearing? I see no panty lines? Do you think she is wearing a thong? What thick sister in the middle of a workout is going to wear a thong? How does that seam line run perfectly down her crack. Oh my god, stop staring! She is going to realize that you are staring.

When she tells us to add a noise, I abid. If we were instructed to add some flare, I added flare. I picked up the steps quickly, even if I had to take a break every few minutes to try and soften up my cramped calves that are refusing to cooperate. She acknowledges me at some point and I turn beet red and crumple up a little.

I would see her get frustrated with an old guy who was only doing this to support his wife. He clearly had no rhythm. She wouldn’t quit until she saw him do it right at least once. Her face would show her frustration, but she kept at it until she felt satisfied. Even breaking a smile. Her brown eyes were so dark and delightful. I loved her dark cafe colored skin next to her eyes. Her hair was natural and up in a frizzy little puff of a bun. I would imagine that she would have the cutest kids.

I continued giving it my all, well beyond my usual level of exertion. I would be distracted by watching her shape move, than going through all the reasons why I would never have a chance. I watched my tall frame in the big mirror. The weight lifting was making my décolletage look great. My curly mass of unruly hair was trapped underneath a brown and white patterned train conductor’s cap. I had a good chest, but my belly. God, what a miserable belly! Besides that, I am a smoker. I am fat and a relative cousin to the beauty of Fortune Feimster. I don’t even know if she is gay, is married, has kids, etc.

After an hour of this torture, she quickly hands over the group to another instructor to lead us through some core exercises. I miss her absence as I am trying to hold my 340lb frame in a plank off my knees. I can’t even contemplate some of the other moves and find myself laying flat on the floor, cursing my inability to even raise my knee to my chest for a stretch.

We are released and I start to pick up my gym bag and shoes. Shareese smiles at me and complements me on my good energy. I barely could pull it together to thank her and smile back before I start to bust out of the door. I am so embarrassed. Just as I hit the entrance, another trainer catches me to tell me how great a dancer I was. I thank them, just as shyly, and run to my car.

I can see my pink face in the rear view mirror and feel the excitement and horror of being “seen” coursing through my veins. I completely don’t know what to do with myself, tearing up because I feel so foolish. I vow to stop and get a cupcake on the way home.

PRIDE

I remember the first time I went to our local Pride. The boys and I drove up to the site seven years ago to find the place empty with a dozen trash containers sponsored by Astroglide. It has since grown from an afternoon event to a two-day extravaganza drawing a crowd over 14,000.

At first, I went as an ally. I wanted to support Alex and Max and have a little fun out of the house. Usually it was just a time to see some old friends and people watch. I was always a little nervous around the girls. I didn’t want to get hit on. I would often hide behind Alex or Max.

A few years ago, the organizers was able to secure RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, Pandora Box. As huge fans of the show, the boys and I were stoked to see her. It was a moment that shifted Pride from being a place where this fringe group of eccentrics partied to an actual event.

Corporate sponsors began backing up the festival. Our local brewery brewed an exclusive beverage for the event. Food vendors started setting up shop, and families began to bring their children down.

Last year, I had come to terms with the realization that I was a lesbian shortly before Pride. Although I had gone several times, I was so nervous to go as a lesbian. I don’t know what I was so nervous about. Manilla Luzon, another one of RuPaul’s girls, came out to host our own local drag pageant. I decided that I had to go, but Max was busy at a musical rehearsal and Alex was in L.A.

I went by myself and texted Alex all through the show. I gave him short videos of the performances, updates on the costumes and music, and even scored a photo with Manilla, herself. I was convinced that Alex would wipe the floor if he were there. After the pageant, a band was set to perform but I began to get a little nervous. I left and came back with Max the next day.

We went from booth to booth. There was representation from AIDs organizations, health clinics, sex shops, churches, and some trinket vendors. I actually had a good conversation with a person from a Quaker church. Max told them I was a lesbian. It was the first time I had heard a third party say that to someone in my presence and it still felt odd.

This year, Alex was with me to see the drag pageant. Lady Bunny, a legendary queen, was the Master of Ceremonies. After you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, your expectations for what a drag queen can do is elevated. Alex agreed with me that could definitely join the ranks of these other queens and quickly took mental notes of what was and wasn’t working.

I took in the crowd. I didn’t have the same anxiety as I did the year beforehand. I looked at the girls. Several of them looked like me, an overweight Girl Scout with a penchant for sweets. Still, there were several that fit other lesbian stereotypes or none at all. I felt in a way that I sort of fit in.

Alex determined that he wasn’t a “festival” person. He felt like he could be doing something more fun or productive somewhere else. Max and Alex reluctantly agreed to come back the next day with me. The only real reason we did was because I had bought us all two-day passes.

The next day, I felt a little different. I had only gone out the previous year with four or five girls, but two of them were present. One was particularly focused on following me around with her new girlfriend in tow. She told me while we were together that she wore a corset to the previous year’s Pride to make a girlfriend jealous. It was clear that she wanted to repeat the performance.

I was actually relieved to see her with another girl because it meant that she was hopefully over me. As I saw her and her girlfriend dressed up in matching boys clothes, I understood that we were never meant to be together. As much as I was over her, they must have followed me for an hour.

Again, I stayed close to my boys. Manilla Luzon was back for the second year in a row. Alex enjoyed getting to see her live. The last band of the night was an Abba tribute band. All three of us were fans of the music. In order to last long enough to see them, I went to buy us some corn dogs.

On my way to the food court, I was stopped by the last girl I had a date with. We had a lot in common, but our date went sour when she convinced me to leave a coffee joint to join some board meeting for a local gay hippie theater group. I felt really uncomfortable and started to resent the fact that she had obviously forgotten her commitment to go to the meeting and thought she could do both. She said hello and we bantered for a few minutes. I was uncomfortable and made an excuse to get going as soon as I could.

With a snack in our system, the boys and I were able to enjoy the music. We danced and took video. Alex even caught two freebies thrown from the stage, a little stuffed tiger, and a CD.

Like Alex, I am probably not a “festival” person. I don’t know what I wanted to feel while I was there. Was I hoping that I would find someone to date? Often, I go to a lot of these festivals out of boredom. I thought if everyone else was there, maybe I should be too. Alex and Max don’t need a festival to feel comfortable with their sexuality or their choices. Even though they are gay, they don’t always feel like they need to be plugged into the “community.”

I don’t know where I am in the whole scheme of things. I am more comfortable with who I am, but is that because of events like Pride and positive portrayals of gays in the media? Honestly, I think it is just because I trust in the love and guidance of my boys. Maybe we don’t need to seek support from such events. I think the boys have taught me that you need to search for what is right for you and release all the boxes or categories someone might pin you in.

Still, I am proud of the event my city has created. I am proud that so many people were willing to attend it. And if nothing else, maybe it is just what someone needed to come to terms with how to be themselves.

Who Am I, Really?

A big part of this last year has been trying to get real with the real me. Up to 2012, I was a miserable single lady. I felt so left behind by my friends who married and had kids. I didn’t want it, but at the same time I felt undesirable because I wasn’t a part of it. For decades, I repressed any sort of sexuality. At first, I thought I was too fat or unpretty to be hit on. I then convinced myself that I couldn’t force anyone to love me so I should focus on only that which I could control. I overbooked my schedule and worked myself to death to avoid sitting with the real me.

I believe with all of my heart that my cancer is directly related to my dis-ease with my sexuality. I repressed every urge. I shied my eyes away from anything sexual. I took comfort in knowing that porn didn’t turn me on. In some ways, I just thought I was above such desires. The life of a nun looked interesting. I didn’t have to submit to anyone. I wasn’t caught up in a wash of confused emotions related to pleasure or sex because it wasn’t even on the table. In the end, I was just miserable.

I don’t know why sex was such a negative topic for me. I grew up in the church and knew that good girls didn’t do that. I believe my mother was abused. She instilled in me a level of distrust in men…which I didn’t really believe, except when it came to sex. I scared myself silly about STDs. I vowed to never get accidentally pregnant, because who wanted to deal with that?

Even though, I heard that sex was supposed to be awesome, my first time wasn’t really anything to write home about. I kept thinking, “Is this what everyone is in such a hissy about?” I was relieved to not be a virgin at 19, but then I was concerned that it was a slippery slope to slut hood.

This whole time, I strived to be a lady. I traveled around the world. I bought clothes, shoes, and make-up to try and be prettier, more presentable. I went into debt trying to buy things to fix me. I never understood why I couldn’t stick to beauty regimens. I got tired of trying to make myself look pretty, because it was never going to happen.

In reality, the only thing in my way was poor self-esteem, or was it?

Now that I am bald, I have actually not worn wigs a lot. I do like to put them on occasionally, but I prefer a hat or a hoodie. I don’t mind dresses, but I gravitate to pants, t-shirts, and hoodies. My excuse for not having a more diverse wardrobe is money, but it really isn’t that at all. I like the comfort of what I am wearing.

When I flipped the switch and came to the conclusion that I am attracted to girls, I immediately thought of myself as wanting to be more of a lipstick lesbian. How cute is it for two girls that look like girls to be into each other. As I looked through lesbian profiles, I saw more manly girls and felt instant disdain. If I wanted a boy, I would just go for a boy.

Being bald, people just look at you differently. Immediately, they assume that I am a boy. I have been called “sir” more times in the last month than I could care to admit. It doesn’t feel good. First, I attach it to looking ugly. I must be a “handsome” woman. Secondly, I feel that mistaking me for a man must immediately make someone believe that I am transgender. I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to grow a beard. Whatever! I have been sensing a feeling that the boys suspect some level of gender bending in me. I feel they are intently listening to me to find an “a-ha” moment..

Some how, the topic of going to a strip joint came up. The boys thought it would be a learning experience to take me to one and get me a lap dance. I felt myself immediately throw up walls. A girl can’t go into one of those places. I would be so embarrassed. I feared the boys would get off on my embarrassment and ride it for entertainment. What if I wasn’t attracted to them? What if I was? Instant fear shut down my entire system.

It leads to a very interesting conversation. What am I afraid of? Do I think strip clubs are morally wrong? No. Do I think the girls are skanky or sluts? No, actually, I think I admire them. I love dancing. I love the female form. It is like a show with beautiful topless women in it. Alex downloaded pics of the club; it was plush, dark, and full of red velvet. I actually love that esthetic. Alex and Max could visualize how awesome this could be for me, and I instantly wanted to hate them for it. They offered to hold my hand, come in with me; they promised that wouldn’t push me past my comfort level. Something in side of me was just fuming. I was facing meltdown. I could see exactly what they were seeing, and totally agreed with it, but there was another part of me that was grossed out.

The biggest emotion was embarrassment. I was embarrassed to be a girl liking girls. I was embarrassed to think that I would be in a situation with such sexual stimulation, that I thought I would get overwhelmed and just die. I didn’t want witnesses to see me meltdown and be so vulnerable. It was so polar opposite to who I thought I once was, or who I once tried to be. There was immediate shame. The emotions were almost enough to shut me down completely, but I was used to this pattern of behavior. As I was internally freaking out, I felt like I stepped back and try to examine the meltdown in progress. I could hear Alex and Max, but I refused to look them in the eyes. Still, I held open a doorway to hear the truth.

In reality, it is a perfect idea. No relationship commitments. No touching them. Dark. Visual. As Alex called it, it is live action porn. As much as I love scantily clad women dancers, I am positive I would enjoy the experience. I understood that it was a great idea, I just couldn’t bust through all the baggage. Part of me had never thought of it before, and was in denial that it was even a possibility. It was like a whole new world had sprung open. Another part of me felt all the shame, damage, guilt, immorality, and embarrassment of the situation.

Obviously, these same hang-ups must have an impact on my ability to find a girlfriend. In some ways, I have confronted so much and am open. In other ways, I am still completely pinched off from my sexuality. Thank god I learned to masturbate. I have a prescription to do so at least twice a week from my radiation oncologist to help combat the collapse of my vagina from the radiation. I think a bigger part of the problem is that I still don’t know exactly where I fall on the spectrum.

Abraham Hicks says that the first part of the Law of Attraction is that we send off rockets of desire every minute of every day. Just being in our environment, we can’t help but log our desires. The difficulty is in the allowing. We create so much resistance, that our grids can’t fill in. We can either choose to allow what we are attracted to in our lives, or we can revel in the absence of what we want. The Universe is just waiting for us to soften our resistance.

If I take out immediate judgment, whether it be my own or that of others, an interesting pattern emerges. There is not any really new information, I have known this for some time, but there is openness to the information and an understanding if I can keep the judgment at bay for just long enough to get a clearer picture.

I have always been attracted to boy stuff. I have always been a sort of tomboy. I grew up through the late seventies and eighties. Nerdy boys had so much available to them. I always asked Santa for Matchbox cars, or the entire catalogue of Star Wars toys. So many times, my efforts to lay out these desires ended up with a pink radio in the exact same model as my younger sister. My hair would be matted. I wouldn’t sit still for my mom to brush it out. I loved playing soccer with the boys at lunch during elementary school. When I asked to play in a league, my mother instantly shot it down.

These preferences continued as I got older. My best friends were often boys. I was always considered “one of the guys.” I relished blowing people’s expectations of girls out of the water. When a guy at a retail job that I worked at mentioned that girls weren’t strong enough to start one machine, I instantly proved him wrong. I like tools and am interested in DIY shows. I sat in a circle of all men in Japan, at my brother’s wedding, and drank brandy along with them. I have always been interested in a man cave. I have an affinity for the image of the old bachelor in “My Fair Lady.”

Still, I have no desire to cut off my tits and take testosterone. I love to get gussied up as a pretty girl on occasion and flirt. It is like a cat playing with a mouse, killing it, and not eating it. I could see myself golfing. I love Seth MacFarlane. Family Guy is a comedy treasure. I watch “Jackass” movies on opening night. Seth Rogen and I could hang. I even loved the movie “Ted.”

Again, none of this is shocking to me. I have known it all of my life. I guess the problem lies in the fact that I have been judging the fact that I have liked it all of my life. I realize that my concept of what is expected from a girl is different. I fear being judged as an ugly but not enough to repress it as far down as my sexual identity.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do. Really though, is there anything I am suppose to do? I think it is just another layer of understanding. It is the peeling back of another onion layer and reminding myself that I am perfectly okay just as I am. I don’t have to worry about slipping off some slippery slope. Getting real with myself doesn’t mean that I will put myself in any actual danger. The Universe has my back. Nothing in this life is meant to hurt me or punish me. I don’t have to define myself by the stereotypes and judgments of others. The only person I really have to listen to is myself.

I don’t have to do anything other than follow what comes with ease and joy. Life is too short to live like a zombie. Maybe that is why there are so many zombie things. Don’t too many people medicate and choke down what they thing they are suppose to do every day instead of just living true to themselves? I refuse to live in autopilot because it is safe. There is so much more to this existence if we can stay true to who we are.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

I am 36-year-old woman who has only been in one semi-significant relationship, and that was with a man. I can count the number of times I have had sex on one hand. I have felt fairly pathetic for the entirety of my reproductive years. I was convinced that by society’s standards I was subpar.

Coupling always seemed like it is the next maturation step that I never got. As a pre-teen, I longed to be asked out. I dreamed of what it would be like when I met, “the one.” Through school, I felt pinched every time those stupid Valentine’s carnations were delivered to our homerooms. I knew there would be none for me.

I was pretty fat in middle school and that was an understandable excuse in my world for not receiving a side-glance from anyone. In college, I was thinner, prettier. I was convinced that when I moved to Chicago and got settled in, I would find “the one.”

That didn’t happen. When I moved back to Michigan, I got tired of waiting and bought my own house. I figured that if I kept busy, things would sort themselves out. They didn’t. Enter Max and Alex. They pushed me to get out there. I discovered that it is pretty easy to find a guy to date or to fool around with. I dated a few nice guys, but I didn’t feel anything when I was with them.

There were a million reasons why I could point to not having a guy. I hated being single, but I loved not being in a relationship that I regretted. As I watched others take on new marriages, I could see their pain when they were not matched well. Jealousy, verbal abuse, and neglect seemed common. I hated how some of my friends felt controlled. They became zombie noodles.

My parents’ relationship was not something I wanted to model my future on. They would get into vicious fights in my youth. I stopped looking forward to the weekends because they would get into a big fight and you would feel like you had to walk on eggshells. I began to see marriage as a trap. Who wants to sign up for that?

Still, I am a total lover at heart. I love the sappy Valentine crap. I lost my virginity to the first guy who gave me flowers. I loved the idea of love, but saw few models of loving relationships that really reflected this.

The best examples of a healthy relationship came from my gay friends. Alex and Max have been together twelve or more years now. They communicate well. They are each other’s best friend. Similarly, I have friends who are a lesbian couple. They equally have each other’s backs. Both couples spend quality time with one another. They seem to “fit.”

Through the years I have gone from being curious about relationships, to disgusted by them, to longing for them. The hardest times to be single are by far the holidays. Every merchant is sure to make you aware of sharing a special something with someone. This is compounded by all the inquiries from well meaning people into your love life. From work, to your parents, to aunts, and friends constantly asking who I have been seeing…you get sick of finding a tactful way to say, “nope, I am still pathetically single.”

As I rolled into my thirties, the pressure was immense. My aunt told me that now I would be considered a “mature” bride if I wanted to get married. Friends and siblings started getting married off by the butt load. I found it so painful to be a part of the festivities. I forgot worrying about my own wedding. I had already assumed it was never going to happen. My mother reminded me several times in my youth that I was not the “marrying” type. I never understood what they meant. Did they not want me to have a significant other?

Through my life, whenever there was a portrayal of an old “hag,” I felt squeamish. My father would recall all these women that he knew that didn’t get married. He couldn’t understand why. “She seemed pretty to me.” I felt that bucking the system meant a life of hardship: no one to provide for you, no children to take care of you in your old age. You’re on your own kid!

Still, I didn’t mind being on my own. I made my own schedule. I never had to answer to anyone. I had my own money. I could eat what I wanted. I didn’t ever have to share the TV remote. As much as these perks were nice, you can’t help having the nagging feeling that you are missing out. You start believing that you are so different. You must be a freak. How horrible can I be that I can’t find someone who might love me for me?

As the veil of my depression began to break, I started talking to a guy I thought was everything that I would ever want. He didn’t call after our first date. I was devastated. What did I do? No matter how much I touched up my hair, got dolled up, and even tolerated heels…I was still not attractive.

Then, as life tends to throw you a curve ball, I had the epiphany that maybe I wasn’t so crazy, maybe I am just gay. All of a sudden, in a matter of hours, I could see everything making sense. I never thought I had any real romantic entanglements, but I had, they were just with girls. No, I had only really kissed one…but I could understand now that my attraction to them was very similar to someone who would have a crush with the opposite sex. I had told myself that being gay was not a possibility and worked my whole life to repress it. I destroyed my sex drive. It doesn’t seem that far of a stretch to see why I developed cancer in an organ that is most strikingly female.

Once I figured out things, I began venturing into this new world. I actually dated a girl for a while, but then I got cancer. She was cool with it, but I couldn’t handle figuring out my sexuality and my new diagnosis at the same time. I even had a few dates before Christmas, but they were disasters. I was more than eager to have a dating break for a while.

In the New Year, Alex and Max tried to get me to start dating again. I was really reluctant. I really wanted to just worry about me. I was totally okay with this. As a whole, I have found this self-acceptance thing to be super difficult. How can you try to find someone when you still hate so much about yourself?

More comfortable with my single status then ever, I got to Valentine’s Day. I sent Valentines out to friends and family. I indulged Alex and Max with a shower of chocolates and goodies. It felt good. The next day I was to spend alone. I got super hungry and tried to go out to eat. Every restaurant in the area was packed. Low blood sugar fired a spiral of self-pity that I had not expected. Again, I felt like an outsider just looking in on a world that I am never suppose to know. I ended up spending the rest of the day in bed.

For me, I know my problem is still being okay with who I am. I judge myself for looking too boyish (especially with my cancer crew cut). I fear that I might find someone attractive, and everyone else in my world will think they are a complete dog. I am embarrassed to be with a girl that is too butch. I don’t want someone who can’t hold a conversation, or who will embarrass me in front of company. I am worried about someone being too clingy. I feel being yelled at, misunderstood. Maybe I am too selfish to ever share my life with someone. I don’t want to be the whole financial supporter of someone, but I question what I have to give in a relationship. I am scared shitless about lesbian sex. I am embarrassed to be so inexperienced at such a late age.

I am mostly afraid that I can’t trust my own judgment. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about themselves, and I really don’t want someone to get involved with me and then get hurt. I don’t know why anyone would want to be with me. The insecurity and inferiority exacerbate everything.

Alex and I talked about this past Saturday. He was like, “what do you need to get started?” He had me venture out to the dating sites again while he worked on something else. I clicked on a picture of a girl who I would have never clicked on before. We had a ton in common. She was kind of butch. Could I handle that? I guess you don’t know until you try.

So again, I continue to try. Not because if I don’t find someone that I will die lonely, but because I am just ready to stop listening to crap in my head and just try it. Put on my big girl panties and make some new friends. Don’t be so afraid. Don’t measure mine or anyone else’s worth on what someone else may or may not think. Grow some tits and just show up in this life. If I can handle cancer, I should be able to handle this just fine.