Oct 292011
 


Last week Kestryl and I thought we were going grocery shopping instead our attention was diverted to one of the rescue vans that regularly parked in downtown Brooklyn. In the lower center crate curled up was our girl, Charlotte. She’s  a beautiful Shepard mix and she grabbed our hearts hard. We left our granny cart and empty shopping bags on the sidewalk and walked into the rescue van. it was full of cute dogs and cats, but we were transfixed with her.  This summer Kestryl and I had spent several months planning and talking about adding a puppy to our lives sometimes in the autumn, and here she was.

 

I’m not a big believer in love at first sight, but we took her for a walk, and were instantly in love.

 

When we moved forward with the adoption, we learned more about her story. At just a year old, she’s already been through a lot.  A rescue organization pulled her and her four puppies from the gas chamber at a shelter in South Carolina. She was emaciated but the great folks with the rescue got her to New York and got her into a foster home that was able to nurse her back to health, and get her ready to join our family.

 

I’ve talked before on the blog, and certainly in my own story in Kicked Out about the important roles that dogs have played in my life. They are what saved me, they are the reason that I finally left my mother’s home to save myself, and in the end,  loosing them because I was a homeless teenager when my dog trainer threw me out for being queer was the most difficult part of my experience.   My dog trainer kept my younger dog Flash, and my older pup Snickers went with my maternal grandparents who I have minimal contact with.

 

When Kestryl and I got home with Charlotte last weekend I was heading upstairs to get Mercury (our other dog) to bring him down for introductions on the sidewalk and I happened to stop and check the mail. There was only one thing, a letter from my grandmother.  A couple hours later with Charlotte curled up at my feet on the living room I opened the letter and learned that Snickers who by now was a very very old dog, had died.

 

I was immediately in tears. Though this week the pain of loosing him has been different and less sharp than I imagined it would be. I’ve realized that in so many ways I mourned his loss a decade ago when I rocked myself to sleep on strange couches and leaky basements clutching a pillow and imagining that it was him. It was then that I was faced with the loss of my best friend, and also how intertwined the loss of him was with loosing everything else – home, family, community/dog sports as well.

 

Over the last week i’m just in awe at how Charlotte has fit into our home and family. She’s an incredible girl whose

Mercury showing his little (big) sister the park!

already extremely bonded with all of us, and us equally so with her. She’s wicked smart already knowing nearly a dozen words/commands and even her issues like uneasiness with strange dogs on the streets and an inclination to chase kitties has improved in ways I never expected to see this fast.  I’m not one to talk about woo woo stuff in general and especially publically,  but when I think about how she came to us, how we were stopped in our tracks on the street, and then to receive the news about Snickers right when we got home with her, there is no doubt in my mind that this was meant to be, and that it was Snickers that brought her to us.  I couldn’t be more grateful.

Oct 272011
 

Photo by Syd London.

It’s time for the Fresh Fruit Festival!  Director Drae Campbell and I have been working hard on RADCLYFFE, and we’re ready to open tonight!  I’m so excited to perform the first fully staged version of RADCLYFFE.  It will be up tonight, 10/27 at 7:15pm,  and tomorrow, 10/28 at 6pm, at the Workshop Theater (312 W 36th St, 4th Fl.  NYC).  Running time for the show is about 45 minutes, and we will be starting on time– so please don’t be late, or you’ll miss it!

Tickets are $18, and you can buy them in advance from http://freshfruitfestival.com or at the door.

Hope to see you tonight or tomorrow, I can’t wait to introduce you to Victorian England’s second most notorious invert!

Oct 232011
 

photo by Syd London

I first met Toni Amato through his words. I was a crusty punk kid living in Portland, Oregon and some friends of mine had heard about a new book called ‘Pinned Down By Pronouns’ which he co-edited. I was the only person in my circle of friends with a credit card, so I purchased the book and was utterly smitten.  I had no idea that nearly 10 years later Toni would have become a dear friend, trusted colleague in queer story facilitation, an invaluable mentor in my own writing, and most important of all a beloved member of my chosen family.

I cannot speak highly enough about Toni and his work in the community.  There are few people I’ve met who truly walk what they speak, who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, and who truly commit themselves fully to those amongst us who are wounded, freaks, and other outsiders.

Because of where I’m from and what i’ve survived trust isn’t something that comes easily to me. I can count on less than one hand the number of people in the world that I truly and completely trust.  Toni is one of those people.

Toni has been one of the biggest supporters of Kicked Out and what it represents in terms of the power of storytelling for marginalized queers and the importance of created families.  In the past year he and I have worked together very closely as I’ve worked on creating an initial draft manuscript of my novel, and quite literally helping me to find my voice again and remember why I find so much joy in writing.

Toni is someone who sees all of me and in his own patient quiet way has helped me to believe that there could be a place for religion/spirituality in my life because i’m a freak, not in spite of it.  Even if I find it through picture books.

After battling major health issues for the last two years Toni is taking a medical sabbatical to heal and recover. As a self employed writing coach and activist Toni has no employer benefits or the financial resources to take the time he needs to recover.  I’m so honored to be part of the community that’s rallying around Toni to support him with his work/ministry.  Our goal is to raise enough money ($10,000) to cover his living expenses for the rest of the year, and access to occupational health and medical therapies into 2012.  There is no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today  were it not for my relationship with Toni, and I cannot speak highly enough about his work.

Please help spread the word about Build Right Here, Right Now to folks you know in the writing and LGBTQI activist worlds, follow us on Facebook or Twitter –   Toni has given so selflessly of himself to our community, it’s time for us to take care of him so that he can rest and recouperate.  That’s what family is for.

Oct 112011
 

I can never ever forget how powerful it was for me to see out queer folks when I was a  closeted teen. They were risking safety and livelihood  to be out in that conservative county I was raised in. I fed on their bravery. Seeing them was food for my starving soul. I would count the long weekend hours until Monday morning when I would see the dyke teacher at my high school. Just seeing her swagger down the hallway in doc martins and faded jeans gave me hope enough to make it through another day.

Coming out for me, like so many others was incredibly dangerous. The price for queerness was extremely high – it cost me my home, family, and the community i’d grown up in.  And yet, queerness has given me more than I ever could have imagined in those dark closeted days.  Being out has afforded me a loving chosen family, work that I truly feel called to do, and so much more.  For me, there has been no greater freedom than being out, but I say that knowing that  I have and continue to be incredibly lucky. For far too many, coming out means falling through another set of cracks of  systems not designed to support our kids, and a community not ready to take them in.

 

Last year, for the month of October we started an online storytelling campaign called ‘Come Out, Kicked Out’ designed to provide an opportunity for folks in the community to write, draw, take a picture, or make a video coming out about their experiences with queer teen homelessness, and for allies within our community to stand up in solidarity with current and former homeless LGBTQ youth to talk about how they have seen this epidemic impacting their community.   Every day of October a different story was shared on our website with the idea of putting more faces and stories to this epidemic and to break down the profound stigma that still exists within the LGBTQ community about owning a history of teen homelessness or biological family disownment.  You can find all of last year’s incredible stories here.  If you find yourself inspired by the incredible stories shared last year we’re always looking for guest posts. Email your stories to kickedoutanthology@gmail.com

 

The thought I’d like to end with on Coming Out Day is the hope that when we as queer folks shout COME OUT! COME OUT!  we must be sure that we as a community are prepared not just pay lip service to welcoming those youth into our “family”  we must truly be prepared to open our  homes, wallets, ears and hearts to ensure that the youth who pay a heavy price for heeding our call are not abandoned by the very community they have lost everything to be part of.

 

Oct 052011
 

A couple of months ago several Kicked Out contributors and I sat down with the fantastic folks of make/shift feminist magazine to talk about queer youth homelessness and creating families.

The article is a roundtable conversation between myself, and anthology contributors Kay Ulanday Barrett, Kestryl Cael, Lucky Michaels and KJP.  We talk a lot about what being part of the anthology and the community that has been born out of it has meant to us, what we see for the future of homeless queer youth, and the power and need for creating families.

We’re a feature article in the new winter issue of make/shift which just hit independent bookstores near you!