made real

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Jun 072011

Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

- Margery Williams ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’

This past weekend I sat with one of the most talented artists I’ve ever seen and had him hammer ink into the tender skin of my inner forearm.  It’s a tattoo that I’ve been planning for a long time, one that has called to me, and now that it’s nestled into skin feels so very at home. I believe that in a world that does not love us, that does not want us, that has hurt, and abandoned us, the most radical thing we can do is love one another. I also believe, like the Skin Horse tells the little rabbit, love is what makes us real.

For me, this tattoo was about claiming my own Realness,  and honoring the path that brought me here, especially chosen family past, present, and future. It is those queer folks spread about the country that I’ve built family with who are responsible for having  loved me into realness.

For me, family is a stitching together of lives, a bond that must be claimed not prescribed. I was plucked from destruction and raised into queerness by dyke moms, I have brothers spread from Portland Oregon to Portland Maine- one is the first also kicked out person I’d ever met, and the other is in so many ways the spitting  image of the crusty punk boi I was nearly a decade ago, and a sister with who i share spooky similar scars and deep connection. I have  an uncle  who fosters my stories and sees me more fully than most, and a partner for more loving and nurturing that I could have ever imagined. This is the kind of family I used to rock myself to sleep dreaming of, but never believing I would actually find.  Family, this family, is what has brought me into myself again and again, and ultimately what has made me real.

This morning I awoke to a facebook notification telling me that my little brother had listed me as his sister and would I confirm that family relationship. I was,  pleasantly amused to realize that I’m now listed as the sister of one person, and the brother of another.  This is what my family looks like.   I take great pleasure in knowing that for us, there is nothing strange about these seemingly contradictory realities.

Jun 052011

Sassafras: I’m sure glad you’re home.

Kestryl: Yeah! A week ago I was on the world’s longest flight inside a leprechaun.

Sassafras: Well, it was AerLingus!

Kestryl: I hadn’t expected it to be completely green inside…

Sassafras: I can’t handle how dirty this is!  Well I can, but I wish I’d been there.

Kestryl: It does suck when we have to travel alone.

Sassafras: But it does mean we have good stories to tell each other later!!!

Unfortunately, family cannot be stowed in the overhead compartment.

For this week’s installment of our couple’s blog series, we’re going to talk all about keeping it hot while you’re far apart. As touring artists, we spend a significant amount of time away from home, and often away from each other. It can be a challenge for any couple to find ways to stay connected in the busy world when you’re off doing the awesome work that you do, and still wanting to be awesome to your significant other(s).

One of the most important keys to staying connected to one another is being clear about what that connection looks like.  As stereotypically lesbian as it sounds, we make a point of communicating about our communication, especially around travel. There is nothing worse than being away from your partner(s) and discovering that you have completely different expectations for what “staying in touch” looks like for the days or weeks that you are not together. For one person, staying reasonably connected might just look like a daily text message, while the other wants phone calls every morning and night. It’s better to figure this out ahead of time and be able to negotiate something that will make both (or all) of you feel connected– so you’re not dealing with melt-downs in hotel rooms when you’re 3,000 miles away from each other with bad cell connections.  Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it also makes the fights more volatile.

Kestryl: You like talking on the phone a lot more than I do.

Sassafras: …which makes me really appreciate the effort you make to call me when one of us is on the road.

Kestryl: It really helps now that I have a hands-free thing and I can be doing other stuff while we talk.  I have trouble just sitting on the phone.

Sassafras: It’s sort of a game for me to guess what it is that you’re doing while talking to me- dishes? Walking the dog? Eating? Sometimes I’m not sure.

Kestryl: I’m better with text messages.

Sassafras: Really? I think I text more than you do.

Kestryl: I wasn’t’ saying that I texted more, just that it’s what I prefer.

Sassafras: I like to send you texts about everything I’m doing on the road, sometimes with pictures.

Kestryl: And I appreciate that more than phone calls.

Sassafras: I just don’t want you to miss anything!!!

Kestryl: Trust me, I don’t.

Sassafras: I know! Because I document all of it, right down to my national search for  the worst pad thai in America.

A particularly important part of communicating before travel for people in poly relationships (though maybe monogamous folks could take something away from this too) is to specifically negotiate boundaries for while you are apart.  Even if your boundaries are  long-term and set, it can be good to check in and revisit them before heading off for a trip. Some couples have different boundaries for out of their home radius (the “hundred mile rule” for instance) and others have different expectations for disclosure relating to any sort of making out or hooking up that happens on the road or at conferences.  Even if you’re not expecting to meet someone hot while you’re off being fabulous, it’s always better to be prepared.

Kestryl: I knew I was going to be looking up the queer scene in Utrecht and wanted to be particularly clear on what our boundaries and expectations were around international flirtations.

Sassafras: You were going to the underground queer disco, of course I knew you were going to be cruising.

Kestryl: All I’m saying is that Utrecht has some damn fine queers.

Sassafras: That’s all your saying because you’re a gentlemanly sort of butch.

Kestryl: I don’t believe in locker room talk!

Regardless of if you’re “making new friends,” or pining away until you get home again, it helps during travel to plan little things for your sweetie(s) back home to keep you feeling connected.  It’s equally as important to make an effort to do little things for the person on the road away from home, pets, and all other comforts of your daily life together.  Once before a particularly difficult tour, Kestryl made a multi-part nested love letter for Sassafras with each day’s installment sealed up inside the previous day’s.  Doing little things doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, or be extravagant.  It’s more about an attention to detail and knowing what will make your partner(s) feel loved and connected to you.

Sassafras: You did lots of squishy things for me when you were in Europe last week.

Kestryl: You always send me off with surprises in my luggage that make me terrified that the airport security is going to do something with it. I’ve learned to say no one has tampered with my luggage because I’ve decided that you don’t count.

Sassafras: Do crayon and glitter covered notes count as “tampering” anyway?

Kestryl: Fair point. But it’s always fun to explain that the metal showing up on the scanner is JUST glitter.

Monster preparing to fly!

It doesn’t have to just be notes and surprises that you plan beforehand either. Before Kestryl left for Europe, Sassafras gave hir a monster finger-puppet (it was part of a larger thank you to the three folks who have been instrumentally supportive of hir around the Lammys). Kestryl then decided to photodocument the monster’s tour of Utrecht and email daily photos back of the finger-puppet checking in at the airport, looking out the airplane window, meeting gargoyles, and visiting canals. Things like this are sweet reminders that even if we’re not together, we’re in each other’s thoughts.

Jun 032011

This has been a dream of mine, and when all the details got hammered out yesterday I teased my facebook friends that something exciting was coming….. I can’t keep it a secret anymore.  I am absolutely thrilled to announce that this summer I will be partnering with Queers For Economic Justice to offer a 4 week storytelling workshop for homeless queer folks, culminating in a fantastic community reading!!! The community event/performance/celebration will be Friday August 12th — more details coming very soon, but mark your calendars now!

What if everything we’ve been taught about writing is wrong? What if anyone can do it, and have fun?! This summer join Queers for Economic Justice and queer author Sassafras Lowrey for ‘Queer Shelter Project Stories’ where we will bring our everyday experiences of queerness, homelessness, survival, and desire to the page.  No prior writing experience required!