Time flies when you're working your ass off on an unreasonable deadline, thus my absence. Last week I posted on Coming Out day, and now I am posting on "Wear Purple" day.... is this an actual day? I hadn't heard of it before, but then I didn't pay much attention to issues of gay rights when I was still focused on being straight. Is this a newly instituted day to call attention to the teen suicides? Or is it a coincidence that the two things are close, chronologically?

Either way, it's a day when I'm supposed to wear purple, but I'm trapped in Boston without a change of clothes and even if I wasn't, I don't own anything purple. Maybe that makes me a bad gay. I don't know. I'm wearing my pride bracelet.

It is Wednesday which means my project ought to be done and is officially off limits to me, though I don't present till Friday, which means I have nothing to do. Hence the post. Hence hence, I am sitting in Starbucks clicking around on Uno's wireless wifi (because starbucks hates the internets) investigating symbols of gay pride/power/identification. I am doing this because a) I can, and b)I thought I should change my facebook avatar at least, since I can't change my clothes.

I have settled on the purple hand.

I like the story behind it, and it appeals to my fascination with turning tables. If you don't know about the purple hand, here is the story. In 1969 a bunch of gay rights activists held a protest in front of the San Francisco Examiner in response to a series of anti-gay articles being published. Employees of the Examiner dumped purple ink on the protesters from the third story, and the protesters proceeded to use the ink to stamp purple handprints on the building and other places in the city. The protesters were subsequently set upon by police.

Gay rights have really come a long way since 1969. At times like this, when gay teens (or perceived to be gay teens) are killing themselves, it's hard to really know where we stand. For some people, death seems like a better alternative to life as a gay person. I can't even imagine what life must be like for those people, and I know that there are all kinds of factors that play into that. For others, life as a gay person is happy, something we almost take for granted. Living in the northeast, there are almost no circumstances where I experience difficulty due to being gay. I know that it's far different in the midwest, or the south.

It's easy to forget, living here, how hard it is for others, living elsewhere. It's easy to forget how hard it used to be to hear my family uttering ignorant statements about gays, hearing my condemnation from the pulpit, keeping my secret and feeling separated from everyone I loved because of it. There are people right now contemplating suicide and I don't know who they are. If I did, I'd do my damnedest to tell them that they can live a happy healthy life surrounded by people they love. I'd do everything I could to convince them that god doesn't hate them. Since I don't know who they are, I hope they can get a glimpse of the "It gets better" campaign, and that it'll seep into their consciousness and keep them alive long enough for them to find whatever they need to be happy.

It's also easy to forget the people who fought so hard so that I can walk down the street hand in hand with my girlfriend. The people who got ink dumped on them, their teeth knocked out by police officers, people who've been arrested and beaten because they weren't content to keep their secret and toe the line. I owe my freedom to those who have suffered and sometimes died in an attempt to change the world into one where it is safe for everyone to love who they love.

So I guess today is bittersweet for me. My project is done, but not done. And gay rights are good, but not good. And I am happy for my freedom and sad for the pain of those who haven't found it yet.


Coming Out

I suppose the appropriate thing to do on Coming Out Day is write a blog post about how you came out.... yes? Either that, or actually come out to someone who doesn't already know, but I don't want to do that.

My story is not spectacular, but that one moment continues to affect me and my relationships with my family in ways that are sometimes painful. I haven't lived near my family for a very long time. At the time I came out, I was living in a different province and only saw my family maybe twice a year, generally Christmas and some time in summer, possibly an additional visit if circumstances allowed. So I had a hard time figuring out what would be the right thing to do. I couldn't "ruin christmas," but really I visited so seldom that I didn't want to "ruin" any visit. I say ruin because my family are evangelical christians. That's not entirely true. My parents are divorced and both remarried. So my father and his wife are not evangelical christians, but my mom, her husband, my three sisters and all their husbands are.

What I didn't want was to find myself in a room with eight adults jumping down my throat and making demands that I somehow explain, repent, and change my ways. I didn't want to be put on the defensive, I didn't want to fight, and I didn't want to be exorcised. Some people say it's the sort of thing you need to say in person, out of consideration for the people you're telling. I decided to try to be considerate of them, but to protect myself first, and so I wrote them a letter. I wrote the gentlest letter I could write, and I tried to explain that I had always known or suspected that I might be gay. I tried not to apologize for being gay. I wrote a little about what it had been like to be so afraid of what they would think, and how lonely it had been growing up.

They respected my wishes and waited a week or so after receiving the letter to call me. Initially, things seemed to have turned out okay. My mom cried, of course, they wanted to know about the boys I'd dated. They wanted me to know that they still loved me. It seemed like a best case scenario.

Until they started suggesting reparative therapy. They wanted me to talk to someone who was ex-gay. They wanted to know.... do I WANT to be gay? They sent me CD's about how I'm gay because of my home life, and if my psyche was only healed, I could move towards a healthy hetero life again.

This began to drive a wedge between us. Their doctrine tells them that our relationship has to have a disclaimer. "We love you..... even though you're gay." Love the sinner, hate the sin. It's an incredibly condescending and divisive tagline, and they don't seem to realize it.

When I finally told my stepmother the Christmas after I'd moved in with Astasia, she stated that she knew, her and my dad had discussed their suspicions about me, and it wasn't a big deal. She said she wanted me to be happy and she was glad I found someone, and that she'd tell my dad. He and I haven't discussed it since then, but then we haven't been speaking at all. That's a different story.

These days I enjoy being a part of Astasia's family. They include and accept me without disclaimers. Being with my own family feels strained and exhausting, but luckily I'm far away enough now that I only see them once a year.

So that's my story. I hope that one day my family can let go of their prejudice, accept that Astasia's an integral part of my life. I hope that when we get married they can be happy for me. I hope it gets better, with them.

Since then I've been trying to tell people as though it was no big deal. I've mentioned it to a few cousins, in the hopes that the gossip would spread. I've decided not to tell my grandparents at all. Partially because they're not my actually grandparents, but my stepsister's grandparents, but also because they're on the brink of death and I was thinking of waiting them out.

It shouldn't be a big deal. I shouldn't have to worry about how anyone's going to react. I should have to plan how I'm going to tell them. I shouldn't worry that they'll cry when I tell them I'm engaged. It's completely unfair, but I try not to dwell on it. Their religious prejudice may make them miserable, but it doesn't have to make me miserable. After all, gay means happy.


Weekend De-brief

Sometimes, it helps to write things out. Sometimes if I write something on a blog, I can finally stop thinking about it and move on to other, more cheerful things.

So I'm gonna try to write about this. I'm not sure yet if it'll work, as I'm not really in a writing frame of mind, but I'm gonna try anyway, because architorture school doesn't give you time to stay in a funk.

On Saturday morning I took the dogs for a walk in the woods. My two dogs, Abu and Puja, and Astasia's family's dog, Forest. It was a beautiful morning and a pleasant walk. We walked along the river bank and everyone was behaving themselves, and I was feeling upbeat and happy. I gave Forest a stick, and he excitedly ran through the woods with it. As I was watching him run, he yelped suddenly and limped back to the trail.

I assumed he'd landed funny on his paw, or tripped, and that he'd just need a couple minutes to favor it and then he'd be fine. He is old, and sometimes he hurts himself a little but recovers. When I arrived to check his paw however, I saw that it was bleeding. Profusely.

As I have done in the past when Puja sprung a leak, I grabbed some large leaves and tried to apply pressure until the bleeding stopped. For a minor wound, this would have worked. Instead, blood continued to flow. Blood was all over my hands. It was dripping off of them. I tried to wipe them off on the grass, but there was little grass and it was no longer wet with dew. I took off my sweater and then my tank top, then replaced my sweater. I wrapped my tank top around his paw as tightly as I could, to no avail. It was soaked with blood and continued to drip within minutes.

Holding the fabric to his paw, I somehow managed to get my phone and one-handedly dialed Astasia's sister, asking her to come with first aid supplies. I pulled the string out of my hood and used it to tie the tank top around his paw, then demanded he lay down so we could wait.

When the first aid supplies arrived, I tried to dress him. I would no sooner get him wrapped up than the dressing was soaked through. I wrapped him again, and again it was soaked through. I decided that the only thing to do was get him out of the woods as quickly as possible, and hoped he could limp his way out, but this only exacerbated the bleeding.

With no options left, I lifted him on my shoulders to carry him out. It wasn't long before his 70-ish pounds had me ready to collapse. Astasia's sister helped me by propping up his front end. Together we marched as quickly as we could, with Forest dripping blood all the way to the road. It was probably between a quarter and half mile.

In the end, we got him to a vet, and he is now bandaged and miserable with a plastic cone around his head, but he will be fine.

I, on the other hand, am getting frequent flashes of bright red dripping blood. I can see it pooling in my tank top, black drops of it on the grass, smeared and dark all over my hands, and finally, pale and diluted as it runs into the drain at the vet's bathroom. I am not a queasy person, I don't get ill at the sight of blood, but the memory of having so much of it on me, being scared for Forest, not knowing how I was gonna get him safe. Being alone and helpless, being angry with Abu and Puja for being playful and impatient.....

People go through worse trauma. I feel guilty for being as affected as I am by this. As though dog blood is somehow less scary than people blood. I feel sometimes that bad luck follows me, that freak accidents always happen when I'm around. My rational mind knows that I don't cause these things to happen. Still. My feelings are all over the place. I'm cranky and my muscles hurt and every time I think I've put it behind me I see blood.

So that was my weekend. How was yours?