I’m like that myth about the sculptor who so loved the woman he sculpted from marble that the gods granted her life – only the opposite. I’m not stone becoming human, I’m human becoming stone; and as my flesh grows cold and hard I fear your love too will diminish instead of grow. Perhaps in this version of the tale it was a divine punishment, not a blessing, which set these events in motion. Did I so offend some goddess of love that she would curse me to never experience the kind of desire one expects from their beloved? Is it justice, this lacking which alienates me from the rest of humanity? I would not wish this affliction on anyone, so perhaps this is indeed a retribution I deserve.
I have watched the moon rise over blue-white mountains
and the sun set in a pool of glittering fire
yet still you are most beautiful
I have listened to water falling through green canyons
and thunder quaking in the bruised sky
yet still you are most beautiful
I have tasted cold, clear water fresh from glacial streams
and ripe blackberries warmed in the sun
yet still you are most beautiful
I have smelled the sharp salt scent of low tides
and the perfume of apple blossoms on the wind
yet still you are most beautiful
I have touched the rough bark of ancient redwoods
and stones formed deep in the earth’s core
yet still you are most beautiful
yet still you are most beautiful
wife slumbers in peace
between us the curled cat purrs
I know you wonder whether I miss how things were before, whether I would go back to the time when you were merely a concept, a theory, an idle wish during long, lonely nights. You think it must have been better when my imagination shaped you into whatever, whoever, I needed in the moment, when you were so abstract I could hang no real expectations or desires on your shoulders. But darling, that makes no sense. Can I hold a concept during thunderstorms? Can I nap on the couch next to a theory? Can I laugh or cry or sing with a wish? No, no; nor do those things have freckles and favorite foods and a Harry Potter obsession. They didn’t write letters to their own concept, theory, lonely late-night wish and they didn’t reach across the gulf of cyberspace to take a chance on a stranger. Those years of longing shaped me, yes, and I would not trade them away easily – but neither would I forsake you to return to them, not when you are where they were leading me. I would not trade our present or future for anything in the world.
Odd Woman Out, or: Sex-Repulsion and Queer Media
If you spend any time around me, either online or offline, you know I am out and proud. I wear a rainbow bracelet every day; my purse has a button that says “crystal queer” on it; I wear flannel as much as humanly possible; I have a sidecut; and you can bet I’m going to mention my wife at every possible chance. Online, I’m an avid Creampuff, Fannibal, and Amedot shipper, and I run my own asexuality blog. Hell, even my Twitter name is “Queer as Hannibal”. What I’m saying is, you can sense my queerness from a mile away no matter how you encounter me. And that’s on purpose. I don’t want you to have to see me holding my wife’s hand to know I’m queer – I want my very self to radiate so much queerness you can see it from space. It’s an important part of my identity and I spend a lot of time keeping up on trends, issues, and news in the community. I try to spread positivity and inclusiveness, and to learn how to be a better ally to my fellow community members. In short, I am all about queer pride.
I say this so you have some understanding of why I feel conflicted about queer media. See, I’m asexual and definitely vary between sex-indifferent and sex-repulsed. I’m sex-positive in the sense that I think two or more consenting adults can do whatever they want with each other, but I don’t really want to see or hear about it. However, I’m also part of the wlw (women who love women) community, and I feel incredibly invested in positive representation of queer relationships. I’ve been reading the webcomic Band vs Band as long as it’s been running and was dying for the two main characters to get together. Likewise, I watched The Legend of Korra with a hungry eye for anything Korrasami, and always swoon a little when Laura and Carmilla waltz or flirt. As for Steven Universe, well… Amedot is the hill I will die on.
In short, I absolutely put my attention, money, and support into queer relationships in the media and will always defend narratives that help broaden our understanding of relationship diversity. And yet, when my wife warned me there’s a sex scene in the Carmilla movie, I sighed a little in my head. See, being asexual/sex-indifferent and also a part of the wlw community can put me in an uncomfortable position because I tend to lose interest in a fictional relationship when it becomes sexual. It’s not that I think sex is immoral – it’s just not something I can totally connect with, and so it feels like I’m being alienated by something that becomes the focus of the relationship. I love Laura and Carmilla, but there are times in Carmilla season 2 when I get a little uncomfortable with how often they make out. Same with Band vs Band, even though the interactions are chaste and, for heck’s sake, just drawings. Yet while I know that response isn’t logical, fair, or healthy, I still feel this weird twinge of… something. Jealousy? Disappointment? Resentment? It’s hard to pin down, and I usually feel too guilty to examine my emotions.
Therein lies the problem. See, the closer to a sexual relationship two characters get, the less comfortable I am. However, I also know how important representation is, and so at the same time I’m cheering for this couple and what they represent in our changing culture. It leaves me in a weird gray area where I feel like I’m the bad guy for wanting a relationship to remain chaste, but not because I hate queer people being sensual or sexual; I think I just want to see more people like me, and it’s hard each time to lose a connection with a character once they become canonically allosexual. I know a lot of my own issues are wrapped up in this conflicting feeling – my longing to be a “normal” allosexual queer woman versus my simultaneous desire to stand up for people like me – but that doesn’t make the burden easier to bear.
Being sex-repulsed or sex-indifferent in the queer community can be a very fine line to walk. We want, and deserve, more representation and yet we have to be so careful that we don’t come off as sex-shaming or heteronormative. But with so little representation currently, it’s no wonder those misconceptions are rife in our community and so easily cause little sparks to rage into huge fires. Queer people have always been shamed for acting on their sexuality, and that will never change unless we normalize all forms of consensual intimacy. We just need to also remember that for many in our community, sex isn’t what makes them queer – and that’s just as valid. The more we vary what “real” relationships look like, the more everyone in the community will feel comfortable with who they are and what they want.
I, Elyssa, take you, Chriselle, to be my wife, my best friend, and my love. I vow to encourage you and to support you; to hear you and see you. I vow to make you laugh when you need to laugh and hold you when you need to cry. I love your determination, your immeasurable patience, and your unapologetic geekiness. You bring out the best in me and embrace the worst. Together, we make a very weird, very beautiful little family. I am yours in all things. This I vow to you.
Fifteen years ago, when I was just fourteen and in 9th grade, I first listened to Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer and imagined… someone. A girl, nameless, faceless. We held hands in my daydreams, maybe danced together under twilight skies and string lights. I wasn’t sure who she was or what I wanted from her – I wouldn’t know for another eleven years, but in all that time she never left my thoughts.
Just yesterday, I walked down the aisle with that girl to this song at our wedding. Why I am so blessed to have found her I will never know; all I know is that I have been given the chance to share my life with her and will do everything in my power to make our shared life something beautiful. I never imagined myself dating, let alone getting married to my soul mate and building a weird, loving little family together. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know we’ll face everything together with trust, kindness, and a dash of cynical humor.
Dua Bast, Goddess of Family and Home! Bless this marriage and keep safe the family we build together. Lend us the strength to be loving and kind even in times of turmoil.
Hail Inanna, Lover and Beloved United As One! Bless this marriage and help us to stand strong against those who would judge us. Lend us the courage to stand hand-in-hand for all the world to see.
Dua Wepwawet, Shepherd of the Path! Bless this marriage and guide us safely as we embark on this journey together. Lend us the patience to face whatever life’s road may ask of us.
Dua Bast! Hail Inanna! Dua Wepwawet!
Having defeated the second witch queen without a single scratch to any of the party, the companions returned to the capital city and rewarded themselves with a brief respite. The events leading up to the battle had been extremely taxing, both physically and emotionally, and they had all earned some downtime. Predictably, Remr’s concept of downtime meant spending her waking moments deep in the labyrinth of the castle’s library and records vault, exploring for the forgotten tidbits of knowledge which only a historian can truly appreciate. Had the rest of her party given it much thought, they might have found it odd that Remr hadn’t shown up even once to bore them with the fine details of something old and useless, but each was firmly entrenched in their own thoughts and could be forgiven the oversight.
For her part, Remr would barely even let herself acknowledge the lingering memories which nagged at her as she explored the musty vault. Each fragile, dusty scroll requiring dutiful analysis put another brick in the mental wall between the tiefling and the things she had thought, but never spoken, right before the battle began. She wasn’t Never, after all, who had a bard’s gift for persuasive words; nor was she Tarcella, whose speech may have been rough but carried the weight and power of a wounded heart. She was only Remr, skilled in the writing of academic papers and giving of long lectures, and she had known during the showdown in the ice palace that she should stay silent.
Still, it was difficult, even among the comfort of books and candlelight, not to imagine what she might have said, had she been braver – or perhaps more foolish. She sympathized with Gliss’ anger and grief, after all, and being inside the physical manifestation of the witch’s pain had touched her deeper than she cared to admit. I understand, she might have said. I know what it’s like to lose someone because they stop caring about you. It’s wretched. It made me want to hide too. You must have loved her very deeply. It probably wouldn’t have helped – they had already murdered Gliss’ sister, after all – but she had still felt compelled to say something. It’s not too late to move on, maybe. You’re a hot witch bitch with a palace, you can do better, or I could probably set you up with this weird elf chick I know, you might like her.
It was all moot anyway, of course. Her own ice pick had delivered the final blow to Gliss’ frozen heart. Was that ironic? Remr sighed, dislodging fifty years’ worth of dust from the clutter around her, and decided she didn’t care. Honestly, she’d love to take her ice pick to her own chest to chip out the cold little shard of jealousy buried there the past two days. At least Gliss had been unashamed to openly mourn the love she lost and still coveted. She was obsessed, yes, and most definitely evil, but brave nonetheless to bear her heart so openly.
Queer Club: I Wanted To Do The Thing, So I Did The Thing! (Is this how you adult?)
A few months ago, I was lamenting the lack of local queer meetups while my fiance and I were grocery shopping. Living far from major cities like Seattle and Olympia makes it hard to take part in queer culture – being on the wrong side of a toll bridge and in a town full of old people makes it even worse. I don’t feel unwelcome in my hometown of Gig Harbor, but neither do I feel like my queerness is necessarily nurtured here. Besides the occasional Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker or the cool Safeway checker with the queer pin, it’s difficult to identify and connect with my own kind.
This wasn’t the first time I complained about being too far from the queer city hubs, and I’m sure it also wasn’t the first time my fiance suggested I start my own meetup. Here’s what made this time different: When we got home I actually did it. I sat down and made a Facebook group and invited the few local queer friends I had. I posted on Craigslist and Tumblr and Twitter. And when we went grocery shopping the next weekend, I nervously asked the Safeway checker if she wanted to come. After just a week or two, we had a total of 15 members – not bad, considering I was pulling from what is likely a small pool. The group was a nice mixture of people I knew, people who knew someone else in the group, and people who didn’t know anyone. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the results.
And then I realized I was in charge and would have to plan the first meetup, and I panicked.
Okay, not quite. But I was definitely SUPER nervous as I waited for people to arrive at that first meeting. I had a million worries buzzing in my head. What if no one came? What if no one knew what to say and it was really awkward? What if I forgot someone’s name or pronouns or didn’t have anything for a vegan to eat? What if everyone liked everyone else except for me, and they decided to kick me out of my own group? What if we just didn’t really have anything in common and the group fell apart immediately and I never tried to do anything like it ever again and became a recluse and my fiance had to cover all our windows with newspaper? You know, the usual fears of a totally normal person.
As you can probably guess, none of those things happened. The meetup went better than I could possibly have expected and people stayed until after midnight (for reference, I’m usually in bed by 8:00 PM). After our guests had left, I was too exhilarated to sleep and practically bouncing off the walls with relief and happiness. I had made a thing! That people had attended! And had liked enough to make plans for the next one (and to form a D&D group)! I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, I had managed to gather together a group of local queer folks who were all amazingly nerdy and hilarious. I liked them all. They seemed to all like each other. Was this how you made friends? Who knew it could be so easy!
I have no idea what the future holds for Queer Club – honestly, I didn’t plan past “make a Facebook group” so I’m 100% playing this by ear. It seems to be going well so far, though, and there’s already talk of attending SakuraCon together, so I’m feeling hopeful. At the very least, Queer Club is an excuse to get myself (and my fiance, who’s along for the ride) out of my antisocial comfort zone and interacting with, well, anyone. If I can help create a little network of local queer folks for attending prides and playing D&D together, even better.
We’re an open group and love meeting new people. If you live in the south Puget Sound area of Washington state, consider stopping by one of our meetups! You can find us on Facebook under the name “Gig Harbor/Kitsap Queer Club” – and no, you don’t have to live in those areas specifically. Anyone who identifies as being somehow under the queer umbrella is welcome, along with significant others of whatever definition. :)
Do you ever experience a piece of media – a book, a song, a movie – and get hit with the knowledge that this thing would have totally spoken to your younger self? That if you had experienced it at, say, sixteen or seventeen, who knows how it might have changed you?
Flashback to myself in high school, circa 2006. I hadn’t yet discovered asexuality and assumed, for all intents and purposes, that I was straight (despite having zero interest in dating). If you had asked me then why I so adamantly adored Elizabeth Hurley in Bedazzled, Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil, and Clea Duvall in The Faculty*, I would have said it was because they were so cool, so badass, so confident. I might have said it was because I wanted to be like them in some way, or just tag along on their adventures.
Um. Yeah. I was pretty oblivious to things. In my defense, though, my peer group didn’t use labels like sapphic, homoromantic, or really anything besides the L, G, and B. I didn’t know it was possible to like girls without, well, LIKING girls, so I never analyzed the feelings I was having at the time. Even after I learned about asexuality at the age of nineteen and officially adopted the label for myself at age twenty-one, I still spent several years agonizing over what my strange attraction to girls meant. It wasn’t until I was almost twenty-six that I finally opened that door a crack – just enough to let in the girl who would become my fiance.
I say all this with a purpose, I promise. See, a couple months ago I started a local queer meetup. We happen to all be in one way or another attracted to women, so when we held a movie marathon last week, we watched sapphic movies. One of these, But I’m a Cheerleader (BIAC), was a late 1990s comedy featuring Natasha Lyonne as a closeted lesbian sent to a conversion therapy camp by her parents. It’s a very silly movie with an undercurrent of dark realism that makes the friendships and romances all the more poignant. It also, to my embarrassingly giddy surprise, features a Clea Duvall who looks exactly like her Faculty character Stokley. On whom I have had a raging crush since high school. Oh, and should I mention this is a movie where you get to watch Stokley make out with another girl? How the internet didn’t let me know this movie existed sooner, I will never know. And I will always be bitter about that. You let me down, Tumblr!
Anyway, all this is to say that the ending of the movie made me cry. Not Carol, which we watched first, oh no. BIAC made me cry. Why? Partly because the ending is so sugary sweet (a sapphic movie with a happy ending? yes please!), but also partly because I watched the whole movie thinking This came out in 1999? I could have watched this as a kid? As a confused teen who had no idea why she got so mad that Stokley wasn’t a lesbian after all? You mean I could have had an actual queer Stokley to obsess over all these years??
I’ve read and watched a lot of queer media since I was a teen, but none of it quite hit me like this movie did. I sincerely think that if I had watched BIAC as a teenager, I would have known ten years earlier that I was sapphic. Ten years! Ten years I could have spent learning to embrace my identity, instead of agonizing over it. Ten years I could have spent making friends with other queer people, instead of feeling unwelcome in those circles. Ten years I could possibly have spent dating and exploring my desires and boundaries. Ten years of angst and loneliness that could have been ten years of friendship and pride parades.
That thought kinda hurts, to be honest. I’m in a good place now – proudly ace and proudly sapphic – but I wasn’t for a long time. I struggled, especially in college. There are songs I can’t listen to because they’re just filled too much with that old longing. When I see queer representation in media these days, especially in shows like Legend of Korra and Steven Universe, I feel simultaneously joyful and jealous. Joyful that representation like this might save someone years of hurt; jealous because I could have used that representation, too. As a kid, I was too deeply in the closet to even think of seeking out queer media. I can’t imagine how much seeing queer relationships in “regular” media might have opened my eyes. I know being a queer kid today isn’t easy, but I’m still so happy to think that even one kid might be saved the emotional bog through which I had to wade.
*and Michelle Rodriguez and Gong Li and Fairuza Balk…
numbers betray me:
the number of ways in which I have
or have not
the number of ways in which I will
or will not
the number of ways in which I am
or am not
the number of ways in which I can
or cannot ever
to a perfect integer
I used to wonder, late at night when I wandered between streetlights and shadows on a chilly, quiet campus, what it would be like to sing with you. Listening to the songs that conjured your spirit, if not your presence, I wondered which part you would take; would your voice be higher than mine, light and lilting, or would it reach even deeper notes than I could? I’d sit on cold stone steps and imagine you huddled against me, us sharing scant body warmth as we watched our voices drift away in ghostly breaths of melody. You were for so many years a siren calling to me from third-hand sources, and I the lost sailor traveling sightless in the hopes of finding you at the end of my journey. What I did not know I heard in this music was my willingness to break upon the rocks, should that be my only way to glimpse you. The lyrics did not speak this immutable truth; the notes did not spell it on their staves; yet I absorbed it nonetheless. Thus when you did finally find me, I came to you as the sailor longing to wreck, as the tower maiden eager to jump, as the innocent girl who wanted never to find her way home from Wonderland. And you? You remained as I had imagined you: the siren calling, calling, calling in the dark for the only one who could hear her voice. Now I know exactly what our voices sound like blended together, and all the words in the world can’t describe such beauty.
There are a lot of queer meetups in the Puget Sound, but most of them are in big cities like Seattle and Olympia. I want to create a casual queer group that meets in the Kitsap/Gig Harbor area for the folks around here who don’t want to or can’t drive that far**. I envision this meetup as being very casual and maybe focusing on sharing queer media (books, movies, TV shows, music, etc), doing fun activities, and being a general safe space for local queer folk. Also, if we meet at my house, you can rub my cat’s amazing tummy.
This will be a group for anyone on the queer spectrum (no gatekeeping allowed!) and their partners/family/whomever. The socially awkward and/or neurodivergent are especially welcome, as are people of all faiths, nationalities, etc.
You can find us by searching “Gig Harbor/Kitsap Queer Club” on Facebook; the group is closed but if you send a request to join, I’ll add you ASAP. We may grow big enough to warrant a Meetup.com group or something beyond Facebook, but I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. We’re at 9 members already, though!
**Tacoma folks, you are more than welcome too; I’ll try to make up the bridge toll in snacks or something. :)
Holy Shit My Girlfriend is Awesome: An Essay
It’s February, which means Valentine’s Day, which means an overwhelming amount of heteronormativity being shoved in our collective queer faces. What better time, then, to write about the woman I am fiercely, ecstatically in love with? This is the classic story of awkward-asexual-girl-who-has-never-dated meets awkward-bisexual-girl-who-has-dated-too-many-bad-eggs. On Craigslist.
Our story doesn’t actually start in May of 2014, when Chriselle and I first started communicating via email. It starts years before – in early childhood for Chriselle, and early high school for myself. Being the budding queers we were, we found ourselves unknowingly following the same path to self-discovery. She habitually wrote letters to a mysterious figure she called her Stranger; I wrote longingly about an undefined girl I called Shakespeare’s Sister, after Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Years before Chriselle and I ever met, we both imagined this perfect person whom we wished would come into our lives.
Fast forward to 2014. After years of internal sapphic angst, I woke up one morning and thought fuck it, I’m going to post something on the Craigslist w/w forum. So I did. It was super vague and focused more on my search for a writing buddy than a romantic tryst. Chriselle answered and we hit it off immediately. We flirted, bonded, and eventually I asked her out – with about a thousand butterflies whirling in my stomach. From there, the story follows the lesbian U-Haul cliche embarrassingly close. We bought matching rings on our second date, were talking about marriage by the second month, and had rented an apartment together by the ninth. 44 months later, we’re engaged and planning an October wedding. Gross, huh?
I think I would love Chriselle no matter what, because of fate and soulmates and stuff, but she also happens to be someone who deserves to be loved for a thousand different reasons. She is passionate, altruistic, and unfailingly honest. She is intelligent, literary, and refreshingly open-minded. She is sarcastic, unapologetically queer, and one of the biggest geeks I have ever met. She is a dedicated daughter, a loving sister, and an extremely patient aunt. She is a beautiful, curvy, brown-skinned immigrant who is tough as nails and won’t back down from a fight (physical, emotional, or moral) she believes in. She works a job where she watches animals die every single day, and yet she always goes back because she can’t stand to not do something for them. She is more confident than she knows, and more capable. She is, above all, a truly good person.
But there’s more. Those are some of the big, overarching reasons why I love this girl so much, but some of the smaller, more specific reasons are just as important. I love the way she cackles when she kills someone in Assassins Creed. I love how irrationally angry she gets when I mention Paul Revere. I love how she can quote the Harry Potter movies by heart. I love how she calls her beanies “bonnets”. I love how she supports my various weirdnesses. I love that we can have long, in-depth discussions about anything from morality to Lord of the Rings. I love how she gets super loopy whenever she is sick or has taken pain killers. I love that she puts like a million sugars in her tea. I love that sometimes she forgets the English word for something, and only remembers the Tagalog one. I love that she drinks soda instead of hard liquor when she’s had a bad day. I love that she cries if you give her a gift for her dog. I love her freckles and her wavy hair and her callouses. I love her tattoos and her piercings and the little scar on her eyebrow.
I’m not naive, and our relationship isn’t perfect; we have our share of struggles just like everyone else. At the end of the day, though, a lot of those struggles come from us loving each other too much, instead of not enough. And no matter how neurotic or disappointing or frustrating I can be, I know nothing will drive Chriselle from my side. We may be planning to say “for better or worse” in front of our family and friends next fall, but we already made those promises to each other three and a half years ago. We spent so many years searching for our Stranger, for our Shakespeare’s Sister, that we won’t let anything come between us now.
I find myself suddenly very bothered by the phrase “special snowflake”. I never liked it, nor the sentiment behind it, but I have recently been gnashing my metaphorical teeth over it. What bothers me is how illogical it is. In essence, a “special snowflake” is supposed to be someone who has many identities, aspects, and labels. This is bad, apparently. What is illogical about this is that we all have a long list of labels – the only difference is that we aren’t always vocal about as many of them. If I say I’m just a girl from Washington state, well, then I’m not a special snowflake. I’m “normal”. Yet if I make a list of even just a tenth of the labels that apply to me, then suddenly that’s too many and I’m just trying to be special. But it’s just a list. All of those things are true about me whether I say them or not. What difference does it make if I state them or leave them unsaid?
I decided to make a list of whatever personal labels I could think of off the top of my head. Let’s see how special snowflake I can be:
I am female, a daughter, and a sister. I am an Italian by descent, an American by birth, and a Washingtonian by choice. I am queer, asexual, sapphic, and engaged. I am a lazy femme, anti-makeup (for myself), and pro-leg hair. I am a feminist and a vegetarian; I am pro-choice and anti-Trump. I am lactose-intolerant, nearsighted, and a supertaster. I am allergic to salmon, kiwis, and oats. I am chronically ill. I am pagan, Kemetic, and a follower of Bast. I am anxious, obsessive-compulsive, and depressed. I am seismophobic and trypophobic. I am a Research Administrator. I am a writer and a reader. I am a nerd and a geek. I am a Fannibal, an Assassin, and a Ravenclaw.
That’s pretty impressive, but does it make me a special snowflake? I don’t think so. Anyone alive long enough to have formed a conscious understanding of who they are could make a list that long, or longer. We all have hundreds of identities, some we are born with and some we choose willingly. We’re all special snowflakes, whether we like it or not. Calling someone a special snowflake just makes you sound like you oppose having a full understanding of yourself, or using descriptors to define concepts that apply to you – in essence, “I hate that you’re using words to describe things”. Well buddy, I have some bad news for you: that’s literally what language is. Words for stuff. If you can’t get over the fact that people like to describe who they are, then you’re going to have one miserable life. Anyway. All this was to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a special snowflake, because all that means is that you’re different from other people, which is literally true for everyone on earth, even identical twins. The end.
You see only a soft housecat;
you forget I’ve yet my claws and teeth.
If you hurt me I will bite.
If you hurt me I will scratch.
If you hurt me I will hurt you worse
and your wounds will fester and weep.
You see only a soft housecat;
you forget I’m yet a beast.
December 31st, 2015, 5:29 PM
From your last letter, it sounds like you were nervous for 2015. 2014 was a tough year and you were afraid all the stress and darkness would spill into 2015. That fear was unfounded, though. 2015 was a wonderful year. Not without its demons, of course, but as of today I think the scales tip in its favor. So much happened! The year began with Bast knocking – or maybe hammering – at your spiritual door. I’m so glad you let Her in when you did; taking up Her path has been a wondrous, awesome experience. Of course, She came when She did because of Bruno, who was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer. He’s doing well and fighting bravely… I just hope he’s still with you as you read this letter. He should be sixteen, almost as old as Trouble was when she passed. The years are never enough, though, are they? Not for cats or dads. You dealt with that a little this year; I hope you continued to deal with it in 2016. It’s okay to miss him. It’s okay to talk to him. To write to him. To feel him everywhere around you. He’s there.
I was glad to see you hadn’t fucked things up with Chriselle. Hopefully you still haven’t. If everything went according to plan, you should be reading this in the house Mom bought and that you currently rent with the woman you love. Maybe there’s even a ring on your finger – but if not, it’s okay. No rush, right? Every second with her is precious. I wonder if your quirky little family is any bigger? Perhaps you’ve added a certain orange tabby kitten who, as of writing this, you’re currently worrying and waffling over? Take strength from that family, from what you’ve accomplished and created. They’re worth any sacrifice, any risk, any leap of faith. I swear it.
I don’t really want to make any resolutions, so I’ll just say what I hope 2016 has in store for me. Er, you. Us? Anyway. I hope 2016 sees the continued growth, strengthening, and evolution of your relationship with Chriselle. I hope you have continued your journey down Bast’s path. I hope you faced your fears in taking on more responsibilities at work, and that that has paid off. I hope Bruno is still with you. I hope having a house is everything you want it to be. I hope your connection with Tanim and Daren is still strong, even if They can be jerks. Most of all, I hope things are good. I’m sure there will be hard, painful things to face in 2016, but I know you can make it through with the support of friends, family, and the noncorporeal. You’re rocking the tattoos and sidecut – what more could we want?
You know the path you’re supposed to take. If you have any fears going into 2017, just remember that; even blind, you walk a sure path. It’s okay to falter. If you need to stop and catch your breath, the path will still be there. The Wheel keeps on spinning. Let it spin.
P.S. Chriselle is still writing. You were watching her and she looked up and caught you staring. You can’t help it, though, she looks beautiful in candlelight. You’re so in love with her it’s overwhelming. Tonight you’ll sleep curled up next to each other in the bed you share, and that just might be the most wonderful thing in the world.
Except, maybe, for kitties.
I keep trying to write something to show you how much I care something so beautiful and heartfelt it rivals, no, surpasses that which touch communicates wordlessly. But look, already I’m falling back on grandiose phrasing, anxious to craft each phrase to perfection. You’ve said before my words are like strawberries and cream. Are these words that simple? Are these words that humble? I don’t think so. Why is this so difficult?
but it’s not going well I guess what I really want to say is: I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m one filament away from breaking from my body completely. I’m sorry it’s so hard for me to be present sometimes. It’s not you. It’s never you. It’s just me. Did the ancient oracles have such trouble drawing their minds back to earth? I don’t know. So, I’m sorry.
as you can see I mean, what I really want to say is that I think our love is perfect. It’s not so dramatically passionate or foolishly tragic that we’ll go down in history with Romeo and Juliet and all those other star-crossed lovers, but who wants to be star-crossed anyway? I like our life. I like the lazy mornings, the video games, the joking and teasing and cuddling
because none of these words are perfect What I think I’m trying to say is that I never knew love could be like this. I knew you could love someone so much it hurt, but I never realized love could also buoy you up, make you feel weightless and free. I never knew love could make you feel timeless, either, like you have always been and will always be living within that perfect moment.
and you deserve perfect. I guess I should just say: I love you.
“You Would Have Been 70”
In 2007, I missed telling you about my history classes.
In 2008, I missed you helping me buy gear for my fieldwork on Mount Rainier.
In 2009, I missed showing you the rock samples I collected in New Mexico.
In 2010, I missed seeing you at my college graduation.
In 2011, I missed introducing you to my new favorite band.
In 2012, I missed hiking in Yosemite with you.
In 2013, I missed introducing you to my girlfriend.
In 2014, I missed you helping me move into my first official apartment.
In 2015, I missed discussing Ray Bradbury with you.
In 2016, I missed showing you my engagement ring.
In 2017, I will miss you walking me down the aisle.
Moth: Darker, Realer, and (Way) Gayer than The Hunger Games
“Five years ago, I wrote a YA novel. Like all my novels, it had a lesbian MC. But this one was different from anything I’d done before. With this novel, I got an agent. It was put out on submission & every editor who read it said it was awesome. But. Well written. But. It was too controversial. Something that they said, and I quote, “American kids wouldn’t believe.” … I wrote it because I was angry. And anger, right now, is SO important. Anger will save us. Anger will give us strength, help keep us brave. I’m releasing the book editors said was too controversial. The book that made them uncomfortable. The book American kids “wouldn’t believe.” I told this story for all of us. For every pain I’ve suffered. For every pain you’ve suffered. Stay angry. Stay brave. Don’t fall asleep.” – S.E. Diemer
Back when The Hunger Games fandom first exploded, the books were recommended to me by my sister when I told her I was looking for more fiction with “badass women”. I read the books, mildly enjoyed the first two, and rolled my eyes through much of the third. I didn’t hate them, but they didn’t speak to me like they did to so many others. In the end, I think that’s because the world they’re set in, an unspoken but clearly post-apocalyptic-style future North America, didn’t feel realistic. The story was good – dark, but full of hope; real, but just fantastical enough to keep you reading – but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe Panem was once my America, and so the terrible future in the books never felt like a real threat.
Cut to the recent US election. Cut to the quote I shared above. Cut to Moth, a book about a future America where being black, queer, non-Christian, dissenting, outspoken, even just a little too rebellious can get you sent to re-education camps to be burned, electrocuted, and brainwashed (if you’re lucky) – or simply killed. This book, like The Hunger Games, is YA. It’s meant for teenagers, for the exact audience editors apparently didn’t think would buy its setting. Let me tell you – I buy it. Because this isn’t post-apocalypse, this isn’t mutant monsters, this isn’t crazy sci-fi technology and vast conspiracies…
This is North Korea. Now. Everything that happens in this book, everything our heroine experiences, has happened or does currently happen in countries across the world. It’s not impossible to imagine queer kids being forced to undergo traumatizing, sometimes deadly attempts to “fix” them. That happens. It’s not impossible to have a character whose father is killed just because his skin is dark. That happens. It’s not impossible to learn about an underground railroad ferrying kids up to Canada (the border of which is soon to be blocked by a giant “freedom” wall), nor that the European Union has cut off all aide to the country. Those things happen all the time, and have throughout history.
This is an America ruled by a dictator who claims to speak the very will of God. There are no mutants or science experiments here – just fanatical people who think the world should run their way because They Are Right. I don’t know about you, but these days that doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched future.
This book has its little flaws, like all books do, but no major detractors. More importantly, what it has at its core is the anger and fear not of someone looking into a possible sci-fi future hundreds of years from now, but someone living right here with us who sees a path our country could easily take. As much as we’d like to pretend democracy is unassailable, our form of government is as vulnerable to corruption and dissolution as any other. Will we ever become a totalitarian dictatorship in which we gleefully watch children murder each other for food and fame in gigantic stadiums full of technological death traps? Probably not. Will we ever become a theocracy in which dissenters are “re-educated” to fit the Christian model of good citizens? Maybe, yeah.
So read this book. It’s worth it.
(For those who need it, here are the book’s major trigger warnings: Homophobia, racism, physical and mental/emotional abuse, suicide, violence)
good for you, fang-face
and your happy fucking ending
and your hard-won heartbeat
no, really, I’m happy;
at least as a human you’re not a metaphor
for everything I’ll never be
cause man, how embarrassing it was
to know I feel less in this living body
than you did in your dead one
when do I get my redemption arc?
the ties that bind us
stronger than any metal
these rings symbolize
[ Hey friends! My girlfriend proposed and I (duh) said yes! ]
when the storm surges and the waves crash, I will be your rock, I say
and you reply, but rock erodes until it’s no longer recognizable as what it once was
I do not argue, because that is true; even stone is not eternal
but you forget I have studied the earth, its cycles, its processes
and so I know that while stone is not eternal, its matter is
and can neither be created nor destroyed
if your storms weather me, I will become sand on the ocean floor
and perhaps from there the earth will push me up against the land
or perhaps drag me deep beneath its melting crust
either way I will transform, become a mountain once again
and when the wind and rain and time begin to carve me away
I will welcome that change as I welcome yours
As the first wave of pain crashes over her changing body, her brief fourteen years of life flash behind her eyes like bursts of lightning. She sees herself as a young child, seeking the safety of her older sister’s room to escape Eldest Sister’s cruel torments. She sees herself comforted in her adopted mother’s arms one moment, a cosseted little pet, then fearful of her mother’s wrath just a few years later as the demoness grows tired of tending her fragile human daughter. In a flicker she is a teenager and her mother has just cast her aside, leaving her to face her fate like a lamb among ravenous wolves. As in the present she screams and writhes in pain, feathers bursting out of her flesh like razors, she watches as in the past Noah finds her just in time and tells her not to be afraid, that not all demons are as coldhearted as her mother. She watches her cousin spirit her away from that terrible world and into the realm above, leaving her to fend for herself among the angels. She relives the moment she is discovered by the orphanage and brought aboard the world-spanning train, and the unbelievable joy of being among other human girls. She closes her eyes to block out the horrible sight of her body’s transformation, and in the darkness behind her lids she watches herself fall in love, the kind only young women can feel for each other, deep and endless and passionate. But this memory is only days old and it flashes by too briefly, leaving her in the present where she trembles violently as her body rips and tears to accommodate the angelic metamorphosis. The tears running down her cheeks are partly because of the pain, but also for this fledgling love that now can never, will never, be. A tiny part of her mind wonders if it would have been better to let the demons devour her.
“What do you mean, you’re not coming back?” Anna stopped cold in the corridor, staring after her girlfriend as if not quite believing what she had heard. Jessryn turned back to see she had stopped walking, then took hold of her robe and pulled her to one side. “Are you telling me are?” she whispered furiously, keeping her voice low so as not to be heard over the sound of students moving between classes. “Of course!” Anna made no such attempt. “We have to!”
“It’s not our fight, Anna,” Jessryn glanced around, but no one seemed to be eavesdropping on their conversation. She moved closer to Anna and lowered her voice further, just in case. “My family’s going into hiding once the school year’s over. They want to wait for things to calm down, or fall out, or whatever’s going to happen. It’s not safe here anymore, not at Hogwarts and not in this country; I doubt even this continent. I don’t know where we’ll go, but you can bet it will be far, far away from here.” She cupped Anna’s face in one slightly trembling hand. “You should come with us. You’d be safer.”
“I’m not running away like a coward,” Anna stuck her bottom lip out, a stubborn expression Jessryn normally adored – now it only made her go cold. “So I’m a coward?” she asked, dropping her hand. Anna’s mouth fell open. “No! No, I just mean… this is our school. It’s been like a home to us the last six years. If it comes to a fight, shouldn’t we defend it?”
“Not if it costs us our lives,” Jessryn turned away, desperate to end the conversation. They rarely quarreled, and never over anything this serious; neither of them was saying what they really meant, or how they really felt. “I don’t want to talk about this right now. We’ll be late for Potions.” And with that she stalked off down the hallway, willing herself not to listen to check if Anna followed.
we’re foolish Pandora’s leery successors
secrets and lies squirming in our chests
but we swallowed the keys, we sealed the cracks
we won’t let any of it out
I remember taking refuge in a hotel bathroom in Switzerland because hearing on TV about a man who dressed up as a cop to murder children in Norway made me want to sob.
I remember feeling sick to my stomach in a Red Cross office as I learned about a man who had shot up an elementary school in Connecticut, killing adults and children alike.
And now I’ll remember laying in bed on a quiet Sunday morning, reading about a man who killed fifty people in a queer nightclub in Florida and wishing it was all a dream. I’ll remember rolling over to place my head on my girlfriend’s chest, wondering if there will come a time when I no longer hear her beautiful heartbeat; wondering if someone will shatter my family the way so many others have been shattered in the blink of an eye.
Asexuality and Paganism (for May 2016’s Carnival of Aces)
Standing in the Kemetic section of Crescent Moon Gifts, I waivered. On the shelf before me was a beautiful statue of Bast, lithe form poised to accentuate Her curves and hint at the sensual, playful side of this goddess of felines and motherhood. I held it in my hand, turned it over, all the while feeling an internal pull that yes, this was what She had pushed me here for, this should be my first purchase as I undertook the journey as Her devotee. And yet, I waivered. Not because I was afraid of the commitment, or because I wasn’t sure She was the one I should follow. I waivered because of that sensuality. I wondered if I could kneel before a statue so obviously carved to portray a beautiful female fully aware of, and fully embracing, the attractiveness of her form. I saw the playfulness in it, yes, but also the undercurrent of raw sexuality, and it was at that I balked. Being at best sex-indifferent and more often sex-repulsed, how could I find understanding and kinship in a goddess of physical desire?
In the end, I bought the statue. The call inside me overcame my uncertainty, though I still had strong reservations. And thus my journey as a devotee of Bast began, and my journey to accept and embrace my asexuality evolved to the next level. I had never imagined the two could be connected, let alone inextricably interwoven. The last year has shown me my fears were unfounded; though as with all journeys, there would be bumps in the road.
The first thing I learned when I started working with Bast is that She not only did not judge me for being asexual, but loved me all the more for it. My initial fears that She would push me toward sex or brush me off for not being comfortable with that side of Her were quickly allayed. Bast’s presence always felt motherly to me, and while I acknowledged the sensual side of Her, She never forced me to interact with it. From the beginning She sent me feelings of love and acceptance, and because of this I firmly believe She stands for all sexual, gender, and romantic minorities. She celebrated with me when the United States finally gained marriage equality, and She comforted me when the subject of physical intimacy caused confusion and heartache in my romantic relationship. When I begged to be cured of my asexuality, She helped calm my mind so I could see clearly and remember to love who I am. While Bast is not the only one to thank for getting me through a very dark period, I could not have done it without the spiritual strength She gave me.
Currently, my romantic relationship is doing exceedingly well. My partner and I have found a comfortable balance between physical intimacy and non-physical intimacy, between giving and receiving pleasure and love in all their forms. We have both done an immense amount of emotional work to reach this point, and I don’t downplay either of our efforts. However, I know Bast had a hand (or paw) in this as well, and I honor Her for that. Sometimes when my partner and I are engaging in physical intimacy, I offer that act up to Bast as thanks for Her help. This is a rare offering, and a very sacred one for me to give, and I feel Her appreciation very clearly. I have even had visions of my partner and I as Kemetic priestesses, making love in an ancient temple. I understand those images to be Bast’s way of showing Her thanks and approval. So while there may be no historical basis for the popular rumor that Bast is the goddess of lesbians, She definitely embraces love in all its forms.
Even more importantly, I think, Bast has lead me to help others in similar situations. I currently run a Tumblr blog called Still-A-Valid-Ace, where I offer advice, encouragement, and support to ace-spectrum folks. The image below of one of my posts shows just how widespread the concern about sexuality and faith really is, especially in the pagan community.
Hundreds of people felt connected enough with this post to like or reblog it; some even have contacted me directly, asking how to navigate relationships with deities when you aren’t comfortable or interested in their sexual sides. I told them what I tell you now – have faith. Humans may discredit or discriminate against you because of your sexuality, but deities won’t. They want to form a relationship with you, and that relationship includes helping you love yourself. Whether you follow Bast, Inanna, Aphrodite, or any other deity who lists love and sex under their specialities, they will love you for who you are.
[ Post script: To those who find themselves under the attention of, or wanting the attention of, a sexual deity, please remember this – we’re never completely immune to fear. Even after the positive experience I have had with Bast, I still went through all the same reservations and “what ifs” when Inanna came calling, worried She wanted to disrupt my comfortable sex-indifference and make me into a more sexual being like Herself. Of course, She wants nothing of the sort, and I should have know that from the beginning. It’s okay to second-guess yourself, even when you think you should know better. Spirituality in any form is about the journey, not the destination. Your faith will stand by you even when your faith in yourself wavers. ]
When I first imagined her, only ever out of the corner of my eye, she was nothing like you. She was pale and fragile, like someone made out of glass and rose petals. I don’t know why I saw her like this, so demure and ethereal, when I felt no pull to that model of femininity. I suppose my subconscious had absorbed too many of society’s fairytale princesses with their skin white as snow and their lips red as blood. And that was fine for a time, to imagine her clothed in spider’s-silk and dew when she was something I never dared touch or hold. And how could I? I would have shattered her delicate form.
Sometimes I laugh, remembering her as I watch you. You could not be more her opposite, though you and she are one in the same. No fairytale princess, you; you are my warrior goddess, scarred and calloused, tattooed and pierced, muscled and curved. You’re not snow white or blood red, you’re black, brown, amber, bronze. No one could lock you away in a tower or fell you with one bite of a poisoned apple. You’d cut off your hair and use it as a rope; you’d trick the evil queen and defeat the huntsman; you’d befriend the wolf and run with him through the woods. You’re like nothing I ever imagined, like no one I dared hope for. My knight. My warrior. My goddess.
new home, new canvas
we’ll paint with laughter and tears
hang up memories