Dec 312011
 

Sitting here on the last day of 2011 I’m sitting here speechless at what a huge year it was for Kicked Out.  This little book was a tremendous labor of love not only for me, but for each and every contributor whose relationship to this book was deep, and raw in a way I’ve never witnessed with any other anthology I’ve seen.  It’s been a humbling and awe inspiring year to witnesses and be part of.  When I first began working on Kicked Out I’d hoped to reach a few people — I couldn’t even imagine how many lives this book would touch, nor could I have pictured the year we would have.

2011 brought two honors from the American Library Association marking it as  a top 11 book for LGBTQ adults, and another which recognized it as a top 10  book for LGBTQ youth. Then there was being a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. The experience of being there at those awards and seeing my baby’s cover projected multiple times my size brought me to tears and served as a poignant symbol for how much bigger than me and my story this book became.

As 2011 draws to a close, I’m thinking about all the incredible people i’ve been privileged to connect with literally all over the world.  People who’ve reached out to me after reading or hearing about Kicked Out who previously had felt alone, but because of the stories alive on these bound pages for the first time felt like they were seen and understood and had community.  I’m thinking too about the incredibly brave folks who have put pen to page and told their stories — Asheville, Portland, San Francisco, New York and other places.  Having the privilege of witnessing the creation of stories matters as much to me as any honor or award. It’s the starfish moments that ultimately make this work meaningful to me.

In addition to the awards Kicked Out received this year, I was shocked to receive an honorable mention in the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund for Fiction.  When they called to tell me, I nearly dropped my phone. Let me be real, I’m a primarily self-taught writer. I don’t have an MFA (nor do I plan to get one). I can’t diagram a sentence, I didn’t start writing until I was 17 and homeless. I’m dyslexic. I have no idea why what I do works, but I’ve learned to accept the magic and innocence of how writing works for me. 2011 was a year of having that seen, respected and understood in ways that continue to blow me away.

This past year was one of growth and excitement. I also spent a tremendous amount of time writing. 2010 had been about finding my voice and rediscovering my love of writing after the stress and pressure of actually seeing Kicked Out through the publishing process.  2011 was about accepting and falling in love with the novel that had me in a chokehold.  ‘Roving Pack‘ is not the novel I expected I would write, it is certainly not what I planned as a sophomore book but it is the story I needed to write.  Sitting here on New Years Eve with a manuscript for this upcoming novel (don’t worry way more details to come in 2012) I’m thinking back to the horoscope I got a few weeks ago:

“you have a sacred duty not only to yourself, but also to the people you care about, to use your imagination more aggressively and expressively as you contemplate what might lie ahead for you. You simply cannot afford to remain safely ensconced within your comfort zone, shielded from the big ideas and tempting fantasies that have started calling and calling and calling to you.”

I don’t set new years resolutions, and I’m not super into woo woo astrology,  but these are the words left me shaking and speechless when I read them.  They are the words I’m using to guide my actions and work for the next year.  I’ve got a good feeling about 2012. I can’t wait to begin aggressively using my imagination, and take the creative risks I feel deeply called to.

 

 

Dec 202011
 

I first posted this last year right about this time……

Credit for the inspiration behind this post goes to my friend and unofficial ‘Kicked Out’ fan club president Kelli Dunham who commented on my facebook this weekend suggesting I make a blog post about reclaiming holidays and saying “You are an expert on that. Beyond an expert. You’ve made it a damn art form.”  I don’t know about all that, but Kelli’s comment got my blogging gears in motion because I LOVE holidays and by all “logical” reasoning’s I shouldn’t.

Growing I had moments of enjoying various holidays but on the whole dreaded them. The holidays were filled with fighting (more than usual) drunken misbehavior, and usually violence. They were pretty consistently more stressful than joyous.  When I was kicked out as a teenager the holidays continued to be far from my favorite days of the year, and were (like they are for so many other homeless and formerly homeless queer folks)  pretty depressing. Everyone from the cashier at the drugstore to the commercials on the radio seemed hell bent on reminding me that unlike seemingly everyone else I didn’t have a family that loved me, and would not be “going home” for the holidays.

I spent a couple years on my own struggling through holidays before reaching the realization that I was not willing to let my biological family take one more thing from me, and goddamn it all I was going to find a way to take the holidays back, and I was going to make them my own and have a damn good time in the process.

Here are my five tips for reclaiming  holidays*

1. Caller ID- your cell phone likely has it built in, it’s there for a reason, use it. This is a little tip that in my experience can be applied to any day of the year but is especially useful on holidays of all kinds (birthdays absolutely included).  Know whose calling, and decide if speaking with them (even briefly) has a chance of ruining your day. If it does? Well, that’s what voice mail is for.  If you know your grandmother is going to call and lay on the guilt about how you are breaking her heart by not coming to spend thanksgiving with her and your abusive parents, don’t pick up the phone.  If you know your mother’s number showing up means she’s drunk, don’t pick up.  It’s your phone, your day, and you have the right to not subject yourself to abusive, or manipulative people or conversations.

2.  Go Traditional- I know this sounds a little funny especially coming from me, but stay with me.  One of the things I remember very clearly about growing up were these very classic things that my family was either too dysfunctional to do, or had no interest in.  As I began reclaiming the holidays something important to me was looking at these things that hadn’t been possible growing up and recognizing that now they could be.  For me as silly as it might sound this included things like sending holiday cards every winter, cooking a huge feast on Thanksgiving (although we do subvert this by making an unturkey and having everything be vegetarian), setting up and decorating a Christmas tree, nonstop Christmas music, baking and decorating cookies,  etc. etc. etc.

3.  Invent your own traditions- I think one of the best or most empowering things about being queer is having the freedom to disregard expectations and build a life the way that works best for you.  I think that this can be especially important around holidays which may be steeped in tradition and expectations that leave you feeling stifled, abused, or left out.  For example one tradition my partner and I have is most years we go to the zoo on Christmas Eve day.

4. Share – I’ve found that the holidays are a lot more fun when you spend them with people that you like, people that respect you, and don’t put you down. I encourage spending holidays only with people who will think that you look handsome or beautiful in your outfit of choice, and who don’t spend belittle you across the dinner table. Invite other orphans to dinner, make silly gifts, send letters. For me it’s all about finding ways to reach out to folks who I like/love/adore and sharing a little bit of the sparkly magic that this time of year brings.

5. Feed your inner child - I saved this one for last, but for me this is perhaps the most important aspect of reclaiming the holidays.  Don’t be afraid to let out your inner five year old.  Go to the library and check out a huge stack of holiday themed picture books, make ornaments (the more glitter and glue the better), create a paper chain to count down to Christmas, write a letter to Santa, decorate cookies, sing carols really loudly.  I think this can be especially fun and freeing for those of us who grew up quickly, or for whom childhood was at times traumatic. I know this has made all the difference for me with reclaiming the holidays.

For me, more than anything the holidays are about home, family, and community – all of those things chosen, built, created and not connected to family of origin.  They are about being unabashedly queer, about not apologizing for my life, how I dress, who I love, or what our life looks like. For me the holidays are a time of celebration, I spent 17 years in my mother’s home watching holidays be crime scenes, I spent another couple years with holidays being some of the most difficult days on the calendar and I flat out refuse to give my family of origin that kind of power anymore.

* I celebrate secular Christian holidays so my tips (some more than others) are based in those traditions. I know other folks are great experts at reclaiming holidays from other traditions and I would love to hear some of your suggestions in the comment section!

Dec 122011
 

This weekend i unexpectedly had the chance to catch up with one of my oldest buddies. This was someone who I was closest to as a crusty punk, pseudo-homeless kid. Back in the day we hung out almost everyday and even lived together for a while in a studio apartment with two other kids, dogs, cats and other assorted critters. We had floggers and ballgags hung on the wall and he was an interracial part of the gutter punk leather community that turned me out.  The leather community that I’m surrounded with here at this time and place in my life is wonderful, but it’s also a world that can be full of flash and posturing and not the gritty realness of that leather community we built for ourselves.

My buddy and I fell out of touch years ago, but he’s someone I think of often.  This weekend as we talked of where we’ve each been in the past few years the text message conversation shifted to how writing and leather have been the constant tools that we’ve each continued to use to understand ourselves and make sense of our lives. It was really great timing for me to have this tender moment of shared memory and connection as I excitedly prepare to go and facilitate my Leather Storytelling workshop this Friday night at NYC’s Lesbian Sex Mafia!

Leather Storytelling is about taking ownership of why we find solace, and pleasure in the things that we do, and coming out of the shadows to make our voices heard. This workshop is designed for all variety of folks who find leather to be a driving force in their lives regardless of context or dynamic(s). The workshop is not specifically about writing porn/erotica though of course sexually explicit themes are welcome, but rather this is focused on telling the stories of our dynamics, of our communities, and of ourselves. Leather Storytelling is focused on exploring what it means to tell our stories when as leather folk we are often silenced, and pushed out of even the most progressive spaces who deem us as inappropriate or obscene. Through guided writing exercises, workshop participants will discover the transformative power of storytelling and how it can be used to break down divides, foster and preserve community, and build coalitions within leather community and beyond.

I hope that you will join us to explore the power of storytelling in your leather life. more info here 

Where: LGBT Center, 208 West 13th St. (7th/8th Ave)
When: Friday, December 16, 2011; 8:00-10:00PM
Cost: LSM Members: Free admission with grab bag gift ($5 max). Non-members: $5 with grab bag gift.