Because I am an activist. And because my Black Life Matters.

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What saddens me the most about this week, is the number of White people I called ‘friend’ who have, both in word and deed, proven they are not ‘friend’s at all.

And, before you say it, I didn’t send Facebook requests to any of them. They all sent them to me. Every single one.

And, to a man/woman, they are saying they aren’t racist, yet feel justified in spouting birther nonsense, claiming our duly-elected President can’t possibly be because he’s Black but not really, and shouting “All lives matter” in the face of evidence that clearly shows they don’t, especially the not-White ones. One or more has had the audacity to call me racist when I’ve pointed out the hypocrisy and bigotry inherent in his words.  Right after he said, “You know me, I’m the least racist person you know.”, then quoted Public Enemy lyrics (out of context, of course) to prove he was down with the cause, with the expectation that, because he knew the name of a Black cultural icon I should listen to his nonsense.

I’ve been an activist for many, many years, for many causes I care about. I’ve spoken out against income inequality and stood up for women’s rights, the rights of the disabled, mental health services for veterans, and others. I’ve marched for LGBT equality and accused of being a lesbian (like that’s an insult) because I did; I’ve stood in front of an abortion clinic that had received bomb threats and dared an elderly White woman to prove she really gave a damn about the unborn children she claimed she was there to protect after she made a nasty comment about ‘welfare mothers’. I stood there even after her son raised his fists in my face, implied he had a gun on him, and threatened to kill my ‘nigger ass’ for having the balls to call him an ignorant redneck and put my arms around to protect a 14-year-old Latina rape victim from his ugliness. And his eyes, in which was clear that, give the right circumstances and nobody else looking, he might have been her rapist. And yes, I’ve stood up for rape victims, including the one I held her step-father at bay and out of her ER exam room for until the police came. He was trying to take her home. She was too afraid of him to tell the police he was raping her. She was 12. I had to tell them, and her mother. Because she told me.

I’ve worked suicide hotlines for young LBGT men and women who couldn’t take it anymore, and I’ve sat beside AIDS patients as they died, because otherwise they would have died alone. I’ve stood between trans-men and -women and provided a barrier between them and the thugs who were so god-awfully afraid of them their only choice, their only recourse, was to destroy another human being who, up to the point they suddenly got harassed, had no idea their harasser even existed, or that their presence was an offense. I’m standing up today for young Black men and women who can’t walk down the street without fear they may never make it home, and their murderers with a uniform and a gun will never see punishment.

I did this, because all lives do matter. They matter to me, as they should matter to each and every one of us.

Now,

I would never, EVER dream of saying “All lives matter” in the face of someone who said, “Trans lives matter”. It’s unconscionable.

I would never, EVER dream of saying “All lives matter” in the face of someone who said, “Latin/Hispanic lives matter”. That’s unthinkable.

I would never, EVER dream of posting the video of a Black woman who clearly has no idea she’s part of the problem when she rails against her own people for standing up for their rights as American citizens when I know my Black “friends” will see it and claim that, as a White person, she vindicates my point of view because, well, she’s Black isn’t she? That’s the worst kind of ignorance, and she should be ashamed of herself for spouting it. My White ‘friends’ should feel ashamed for promoting it.

But White people seem to think it’s okay. And they seem to think I have no right to protest against that ignorance. Because I’m Black.

And … to them … my Black life … doesn’t really matter.

So, why did they friend me? Were they really that much in need of a token Black friend to make themselves look not-racist? Or was it, instead, out of a need to blind themselves to who they really are; racist … bigoted? All of them are now fully aware of the folly in that line of thinking.

Some of them would say, “I friended you because I remember we were friends in/at {fill in the blank space in time}.” To those, I would say, “You were never my friend then, as you’ve proven you are not today. I cannot, and will not stand by and watch you belittle my existence, then tell me I should just be okay with that because, well, it just isn’t something you can understand, but you don’t think you need to put the energy into finding out what’s really happening because it makes your head hurt. And I shouldn’t keep making you think about it when you don’t want to because you just can’t stand feeling like you’re the worst kind of human and, well, “all lives matter”. It’s time you felt something other than comfortable being what you are. And if you think for a minute I should now apologize because your feelings are hurt, fuck you and the horse you rode in on … friend”

Funny, though;

I’ve been accused of defensiveness twice today. Ok, but why? Because your racism/homophobia/misogyny/self-righteous religiosity/bigotry/overall ignorance is now the cudgel with which I’ve slapped you? Or is it, again, because I’ve exposed you for who you are, by showing you to be the worst kind of ugly?

Well, fine. Call me defensive.  I’ve been defensive for many, many years.  It’s part and parcel of activism.  But be aware: the term isn’t pejorative, not for me.  Nor is it an insult from under which I will ever struggle to climb.  Because, when I was defending all those other lives … that mattered … ?

I was defending yours, too.

On the occasion of a broken heart

My sister chose to end an important relationship this week.  The reasons why are hers alone to claim, although I have my suspicions about what they may be.  My feelings on the subject are less than unimportant right now, though.  She’s bereft, in deep emotional and spiritual pain, and I can’t do anything at all to make it better for her.  She’s not alone in this, but I know she feels as though she is right now.

It seems as though everyone who is anyone is rushing to express to her their support (at least a couple are there for curiosity’s sake and nothing more, substantially).  That’s how it is, when these things happen.  People give you their words, their condolences, their support, their love, their understanding that comes from having been there and their knowing that it will get better, because, ‘Time heals all wounds’.  I can only offer the same, and hope that she is able to someday find meaning in that.  But, for the one bleeding from the hemorrhaging wound of a suddenly-severed affiànce, none of it means anything when the truth is to be spoken.  This I know. All too well.

It’s all well and good to have those sentiments, but they are just that … sentiments.  Shapeless, formless, amorphous … thought things.  And those things are like dry-rotted bandages on the lacerated, suffering, broken heart.  We have been socialized to give them out almost as a requirement in order to be viewed as decent human beings, regardless of the probability that they may not help at all, and may in fact exacerbate the situation instead.  Sometimes, silence and presence are more precious, and a held hand says more than the most well-intentioned words.  Because, after all, those … things … are more for ourselves than the wounded one.

Not that having those sentiments is a bad thing.  Not at all.  When enough time has passed, enough processing of the event has taken place, and the cascading noise of an anguished, heart-killing voyage through the emotional theatre of war that is love vs. life has begun, at last, to fade to a dull roar, the sentiment is there as a reminder that someone, somewhere, was willing to absorb some of that desolation on one’s behalf to try and make it easier to cope, knowing all the while that they were helpless to do anything at all.

I want my sister to know that I’m here for her.  I want her to know that I love her, I value her, and I understand what she is feeling.  I also want her to know, that I understand my words are worthless right now.  We are the length of a large state apart, and my hugs and offers of hands held will have to wait until the next holiday or family gathering.  Nonetheless, the meaning inherent in those words is now, and shall forever be, real.

For now, I will sit in silence and transmit my loving presence to her as best as my big-sister radar can do.  And I hope she can receive it sometime soon.

Ms. Audrey

On the subject of profundity.

Someone told me recently that they “can’t wait to read” my posts because I am a “person who, even when they are obviously being silly, is always teaching, always profound in her speech”.

While I appreciate being labeled a ‘Fount of Profundity’, what he said made me feel as though I was being eulogized.

Which made me think back to a time when I and a group I was in was asked, “If you died today, and if God exists, what is the one thing you would want most to hear from the Creator?”. I really didn’t have to think long to come up with my answer, “Well done.”. If I were to die today, this is what I would want printed on my headstone or, since I would prefer to be cremated than buried, on my urn.

ON THAT NOTE: Truth be told, I would prefer to be buried unembalmed, without a casket, in pieces spread across the earth, with a native seed or sapling tree planted in the dirt above my respective remains, and those words carved into the sign hanging from the branches in such a way that, as the tree grows, the sign becomes embedded in the trunk. That is my wish.

Much Love
Ms. Audrey

Civil Rights, DoMA, and Barack Obama

When Barack Obama was first elected, I supported him without reservation.

I was ready with facts and figures for the inevitable naysayers who gave every reason, most of them erroneous, as to why he should never have been elected, let alone sworn in. I was also ready, and still am ready, to fight alongside this country’s first Mixed-Race leader in the ensuing struggle to make his agenda real. A man who was not White, not a member of the establishment and who had, in fact, worked against the powers-that-be for his community and for others early in his career.

I said early on in the 2012 election that Mr. Obama would win a second term. I said that, barring an unforseen reversal of fortune by the Republican Party and based on my observations of the candidates in line for that party’s nomination, there was no way in hell that Mr. Obama could possibly lose. I was correct, on both predictions.

I am not now tooting my own horn, here. In the nearly five years since the 2008 election, I have been upset, disappointed, and saddened by many of the mistakes President Obama has made, and many of the stances he has/has not taken. His seeming inability or unwillingness to just tell his opponents to shut the hell up and get to working with instead of against him left me shaking my head on more than one occasion.

My support for this man has, nevertheless, never wavered. His is not the easiest job to do daily, and is a 24/7 job in which his every move is scrutinized and negatively reviewed. I wouldn’t want to do it, and I know personally of no-one else who could do it, let alone do it better. I didn’t expect perfection, and didn’t get it. My disappointments are my own, and based on expectations that were, perhaps, unreasonable. I would say the same for anyone and everyone else who has suffered the same disappointments.

When President Obama finally ‘came out’ in support of LGBT civil rights and in favor of same-sex marriage I cheered, as did many of my friends in that community. Still, few thought, based upon his challenges up to that point, that there would be much more movement for the movement. I didn’t think much more would happen either. It’s been nearly two years since he made that pronouncement and, today, President Obama had the honor of being able to publicly acknowledge (albeit unintentionally) not just one, but two giant leaps forward for LGBT Americans who had been horribly mis-represented by the government they pay taxes to, as their Civil Rights were codified by that government. The government he now heads.

It is the positives that keep my support alive. I still, regardless of his all-too-human failings, support the man without reservation. I believe that history will again prove me correct in my current prediction; that the 44th is one of the greatest U. S. Presidents, ever.

I am 48 years o…

I am 48 years old.  Just turned.

I am terrified of just about everything.  I don’t know how I get out of bed some days.  People terrify me, things terrify me, being outside terrifies me, as does the idea that I might become a hermit because I’m afraid of being outside.  I can’t bring myself to go to new places and meet new people because I’m terrified something bad will happen.

I learned young that the person I was inside was not acceptable to anyone, especially my family.  I began separating myself from them emotionally as circumstances conspired to prove my suspicions correct.  I was completely unlovable, and the one mistake God was allowed to make was wasted creating me.  These are the lessons I was taught, intentionally or not, as I developed.  I got used to my thoughts being invalidated, my every idea shot down by the people around me, my family.  If something was not right, it was my fault, always, regardless of if I had anything to do with anything or was even there.  The overarching lesson I learned: the person inhabiting this skin wasted it.  I”m told that this notion of how I was raised is inaccurate, a figment of my imagination.  That I took the wrong lesson from my childhood.  I’ve always countered with, “Children only know what they are taught.”

I learned early to conform, to not be different from everybody else.  No matter how unproductive someone else’s behaviour was, I was wrong for not emulating it, and, “Who do you think you are?  You’re not better than everybody else!” I heard frequently.  Something else I learned early on: if I wanted something, I had to work for it, no matter how deserving I might have otherwise been.

Ok, so now it’s several months later, well into the next year in fact, and I’ve just re-read that.  I must have been having a very bad day that day.  It was the first anniversary of Eric’s death, so I must have been on a downward spiral.  That I never managed to finish the post pretty much confirms my frame of mind that day.

So, where am I today, months after I started this post?  Having finally let permanently go of a toxic relationship, facilitated by a move back to my hometown, I am certainly much lighter in spirit, as well as in pocket.  I’ve begun a few new business ventures, none of which is yet profitable, but everyone has to start somewhere.  It’s much the same, other than that I am finally in a better position to move forward.  The problem is, I’m not sure I am moving forward.  I feel as though I am in a holding pattern, waiting for air traffic control to give me the okay to either take off or land.  In the meantime, I’m not sure if I’m circling or taxiing.

I know what I have to do (get off my ass) I’m just not doing it.  I can’t even bring myself to call all those people back that are wanting to be on the show, although I am dying to get it started again.  I only realized I’ve been on hiatus for two months two days ago, and that the choice to go on hiatus was not a conscious one.  I just stopped working on the show.  Just stopped, and I can’t remember why.  I’m not afraid of failure and really, how could I fail?  Everything I do is mine to do as I wish and with as I please.  The results, consequences and credit for what I do are all mine, no one can take any of it away, and I have no intention of giving it away.  I’m just not doing it.

Perhaps I need to up my meds.  More likely, I need to get up off my butt and get moving.

Alicia Banks

Woke up to bad news this morning. My cousin, Alicia Banks, passed away early this morning after a short bout with cancer. She has two children, and several grandchildren.

It’s important for me, because I grew up with Lisa and her siblings. Two of my aunts, including Lisa’s mom lived less than 500 yards from my front door for years. I watched Lisa become a crack addict, doing anything to get her next fix, and it went on for years. She used to tease me horribly when we were kids, because I was the one who never got in trouble because I always had my head in a book.

Lisa tried several times to get clean over the years. Nothing worked until she began a program that really reached into her heart and soul, and taught Lisa her own value. She has lead a mostly happy life since then, rejoining our family church and entering into a new relationship that seemed to be stronger than any other before. Unfortunately, the toll the drugs had taken on her body was already paid. She was sick a lot, mostly cardiac problems if I understand correctly, and she ignored the pain in her throat and chest until it was too late.

Oddly, I’m not sad. Not at all. All I can think of is that she beat the odds, and did not become a drug statistic, although I know that can be argued. She died clean, sober, and whole. I can’t help but rejoice in that.

Rest in Peace, cousin. See you on the other side.

Much Love
Audrey

THE END IS NIGH

I wonder how many people there are out there who were, like I was, raised in an “End Times” sort of church.

I have always wondered what was wrong with those folks.

Given the nationwide earthquakes yesterday, I know that church folk like those I knew as a child are highly agitated, even more so than usual given that such uncommon events are precursors of the coming Apocalypse they and their ilk preach about. I’m certain they are out there right now, trying to convert “heathens” such as myself to blindly (blithely?) follow some God; forcing them to “repent” of every sin imaginable, whether their intended convert committed any or not; brainwashing folks who were otherwise just minding their own business to believe that everything they do is punishable by death, eternal pain, and flames. Every Sunday, and any other day one goes to such a church, one hears the same sermon; We are living in the “end times”, “time is running out”, “sinners will suffer” “only the righteous prevail”. Every Sunday, the same message: If you’re not a “Christian”, you’re going to Hell.

The flaw in their thinking, for me, is this: If the “end is nigh”, and one has to make oneself right with whatever God there is so that one does not go to whatever Hell there is, shouldn’t that God know that one only went through the motions because one’s time was up? That the only reason for the effort was so that one could reap the rewards of righteous living that didn’t happen? Wouldn’t this God know that the effort was insincere? Wouldn’t an omnipotent God know better? And, given that this all-powerful God punishes liars, as these folks consistently say, wouldn’t the end result be that the convert would go to Hell anyway because they are liars? Since they only took God seriously at the last-minute, when it was too late to live a “saintly” lifestyle and fix their flaws?

More importantly if, as I seem to be arguing, this line of thought is wrong, doesn’t that mean that the Christians are wrong? What does it mean if this God can’t see through the lie? Doesn’t that also mean that there is something wrong with their god?

Therefore, I have to ask, why bother? Does it pay to fit into the box? What is this “righteousness” they speak of? If one is righteous, and righteousness is what is required to attain Paradise; if time really has run out, isn’t the saint gambling with their own opportunity to reach Paradise by encouraging the uninitiated to lie to God? Don’t they also risk exclusion from Heaven by being, in the end, the very person they excluded for so long?

This is the crux of the issues I have always had with Christians and Christianity. How can one live with a God who is so completely, totally imperfect, not to mention capricious? If the point of Christianity is to reach some sort of Heaven or Paradise, and if the only way to get there is by fitting into some sort of tightly limiting parameters that the righteous themselves cannot easily fit into if at all, what is the point of going through the motions? Nobody, not even the most Christian of Christians can get there. And isn’t that place pretty empty? It would seem that the God everyone is being pushed to worship can’t even get in.

Surviving without

I keep expecting her to call.

I know what that means.  I have not yet come to terms with my best friend’s death.  I don’t know that I ever will.  It hasn’t “hit me” yet.  I keep hearing that it gets better over time.  I don’t think so.  Not this time.

I loved her more than anyone else on this earth.  That’s saying a lot.  I loved her more than my family.  She was my family.  I love a lot of people, and a select few have a very special place in my heart.  In my soul.  She was one of them.  I’ve known that about her for as long as I have known her, and have been perfectly happy to just go on keeping her there.  Even when she hurt me, or told me something I did not necessarily want to hear.

I have felt sadness before.  I’ve known depression.  It’s my constant companion, never leaving my side for an instant, just sometimes keeping so quiet I forget it’s there.  Right now, both are screaming in my ears.  To the point that I cannot hear, see, or focus on anything else.  Some mornings, it’s all I can do to not just get out of bed, move to the couch, turn on the television, and sleep the rest of the day.  And that only to keep from crying all the time.  I’ve tried to ignore my feelings, and just move forward, but I can’t seem to manage.  I’ve begun eating again.  Eating and not giving a damn about what or how much.  Eating to the point that I feel like vomiting, but I can’t seem to do that either.  I just don’t care.

Perhaps writing all this down will help, but my fear is that it won’t, or that it will make me feel worse than I already do.  She always encouraged me to write, because she said she loved my way of stringing words together.  She was my constant supporter, no matter how poorly I did.  Writing is not my favorite thing to do.  The fact that I avoid doing it until I can’t any longer is probably a symptom of some other psychological issue that I wish we could have talked about.  I wish we could talk about something now.  Anything.  Anything at all.

Right now I’m rambling.  My thoughts are incoherent.  My mind is messed up.  I should go outside and do something other than spend money, but I always did that so I’d have something to tell her when we talked again.  I have the urge to do the things she would have done, because we always enjoyed the same stuff, but my body does not want to move in any of those directions, and my will is not powerful enough to overcome it right now.  Everytime I see something that I know I would enjoy I can’t help but think, “Cece would LOVE that.  I should call her and tell her about it today.”  Everytime.  And then I lose all interest and just want to go home and weep.

Sometimes, I take some comfort in knowing that there are others on this earth who have similar feelings about her.  Just knowing I am not the only one going through this is enough to get me on my feet.  Most of the time, it isn’t.

Except for the psychotherapy…

…you could be living my life story.

I have been a complete failure at dating and relationships as well. I’ve also heard the “You’d make a great girlfriend/wife/mother/fill-in-the-blank…” line thousands of times from friends and family. Usually, it came just before they tried to sell me a bill of goods on some single guy whose loneliness they decided I would be perfect to alleviate, without being particularly vigilant on the reasons why he was single. Truth be told, I bought into the myth that there is someone for everyone as well. For a while, that is.

In my early 30’s I feared that my someone was digging under a bush for grubs to supplement their diet of broad-leafed plant protein. Either that, or chucking a spear at some fast-moving ruminant on the savannah. My best girlfriend, who was at age 43 with the same man for 30 years, tried her best to fix me up with every single guy she met. Eventually, I just had to say it, “If you want to know if your friend is a jerk and/or complete jackass, introduce him to me, and suggest we date.”

I’ve been happily single now for quite a long time now. I say “happily” single because it took me a while to realize that I just wasn’t meant to be coupled. I was meant to be content, and I wasn’t going to find my contentment as long as I attached it to another person.

Bravo for you. For both of us.

This, in response to an article I read this morning:

Embracing Single Life by Elliott Lewis

I am a walking dating disaster. Seriously. Here are my stats:

I’m over 40. Never been married. Never had a serious relationship. Never even went to my high school prom. I was well into my twenties the first time a woman ever spent the night with me. Now, I go out on a date about once a year.

And you know what? I’m actually pretty happy with my life as a confirmed bachelor.

I was never one who wanted to marry early. But like most people, I just assumed it would eventually happen. So as the years went by and it became evident that I wasn’t making any progress on the relationship front, I went into counseling.

My shrink suggested I would have been better off if I had been born and raised in a culture where marriages are arranged. Dating, she said, is how we weed out the field of potential partners. In societies where marriages are arranged, the extended family does the weeding out for you.

“You have several qualities that would serve you well in a marriage,” my psychologist told me. “You would be a good husband and father… But it’s the dating process that’s messing you up.”

She was right.

I had never been good at dating. I could play the game up to a point, but I couldn’t close the deal. And my repeated failures in that department had left a lasting impression.

The failures are with me still.

There are three women in my past who I considered to be marriage material. So much so that I would have moved to the other side of the earth to be with them.

But they were not interested. Not at all.

Oh, sure, women have told me that I’m easy to talk to (“You’re a good listener”), that I have a good sense of humor (“You crack me up”), that I’m a generally nice guy (“You’re a hard act to follow”). Blah, blah, blah.

But I’m not into contemporary notions of chivalry, and I tend to reject stereotypical gender roles. I don’t go to church because I am not religious. A cousin of mine says I am “too logical in my thinking” to be married. Apparently, I am not what most women are looking for in a boyfriend, either.

As my psychologist tried to explain to me, if I really wanted to fall in love, settle down, and start a family, I would have to make some changes in how I approached the whole dating process.

Dating is a sort of social dance, and I never learned how to perform some of the steps. I would have to learn them now, a bit later in life than most people, if I was ever going to be successful in finding a partner.

As my shrink made clear, the relationship skills that I needed to work on could not be acquired within the four walls of her office. It would take some practice. And the only way to get that practice was to date. In other words, I’d have to make a few more trips through the very fires that had landed me in counseling in the first place. Honestly, I wasn’t eager to take those steps.

That’s when I had to confront a basic question: How badly did I really want a wife and kids and all the rest of it? Obviously, not badly enough to make it a priority.

While it’s virtually impossible to summarize nine months of psychotherapy in a 900-word blog post, one of the things I learned through it all was this: It would be perfectly alright if I remained single. And that’s exactly what has happened.

My single life, if I may say so, is working out pretty well. I built a successful career moving from job to job and city to city, climbing the career ladder with each move into new territory. I’ve traveled all over the world, stamping my passport in nearly a dozen different countries. Two years ago, I up and moved again and started law school. In other words, I’ve had the freedom to do a variety of things I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if I were married. And I’m not finished yet.

Somewhere along the way, I became comfortable with my bachelorhood. While I am still open to the possibility of finding a long-term partner, I am not planning on it. When asked where I see myself in ten years, marriage and family are no longer in my extended forecast.

Are there days when I wish I was in a relationship? Of course. Just like a lot of happily married people have days when they wish they were single.

So if someone happens to cross my path and it seems like we could hit it off, I may still test the waters. But I am not interested in online dating, or being fixed up, or “putting myself out there.” Instead, I am focused on living the best single life I can.

It’s a choice that others have a hard time accepting.

“You know what I think your problem is?” They’ll begin, sincerely believing that they’re being helpful. “You’re picking the wrong women.”

“Just don’t give up,” they’ll argue. “There’s someone out there for you!”

Others are more blunt: “Are you sure you’re not gay?”

Oh, brother. Those of us who have embraced the single life do not want to hear any of this. If anything, we’d like a little reassurance that happiness can be found anywhere – yes, even outside of couplehood.

“I’ll make a deal with you,” I told one of my married friends. “I won’t try to talk you into getting a divorce; you don’t try to talk me into getting coupled.”

Silence.

“Maybe you’re just not looking in the right place,” he finally said.

“You still don’t get it,” I told him. “I’m not really looking at all.”