Why stay out so long?

You hear the complaint quite frequently; Why do you have to talk about being gay all the time? Can’t you just leave it be?  You can see the point in theory: Who would need to announce to virtual strangers that they were any kind of ‘minority.’ Isn’t that just inflating a point and shoving it into people’s faces, which can increase existing or potential resentment?

We could argue that even needing to ‘be out’ and admit to being gay isn’t necessary and causes negative-attention, but if this is your observation think on this: Everyday people get out so that others can, causing a chain-reaction, until eventually, what was once considered unnatural, is considered natural. That’s because exposure to things that are unfamiliar, resolves underlying anxieties more than any academic discourse achieves.

I am often asked: When you can’t physically hide being a ‘minority’ you have no choice,  and if you do have a choice, what’s wrong with taking it? I lived in the closet on-and-off for a variety of reasons for several years and got so used to not being harassed and tormented that it became a false comfort. It resolves nothing and the shame when you understand the absence of honesty, runs deep. Change comes from a desire to engender change, in the words of Eckhart Tolle: “To love is to recognize yourself in another.” Gays need to exist openly to give non-gays opportunity to see we’re no different.

When we look at racism, studies show racism actually reduces when African-American’s moved into previously exclusively white neighborhoods. But it didn’t happen immediately. The immediate response was one of resentment, anger and prejudice, and white Americans resented the influx of African-American’s initially. But in time, that resentment gave way to acceptance and even integration. It took the courage of those black families deciding to move into neighborhoods that didn’t warmly welcome them, it took the courage of their staying put and not letting prejudice run them off, to effect change.

Much of this is about gays being able to hide, whilst other minority groups like African-American’s cannot. There is a reason why gays should not hide, because in hiding we are one less face fighting the good fight. Why a fight you may ask? Because if a gay person were to really ask for equality they still would not get it, if gays were to ask to be accepted for who they are, some would, and some would not. And as long as that inequality exists, our voice must protest its existence or nothing changes.

As gays we may not run the risk being led-away in chains in the US today, but go to another country and there’s no guarantee. It doesn’t mean as gays we can walk the streets proudly without fear of reprisal, and that would include any city in America. Sounds a lot like Benjamin Franklin’s famous perspective: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In other words, we should ask: Is it brave to hide and weak to protest? And if so, when did that become normalized?

As long as any type of inequality exists, all gay people remain a minority who have somehow to justify ourselves. People roll their eyes, espouse that we should shut up and stop talking about it and things will surely get better, but as history tells us, this rarely happens. For example, every time women make this choice, they take a step backward, same with any minority. Exhibit a; the increase and normalizing of pole-dancing to keep husbands content. Would the original Women’s Movement of the 1970’s have approved or thought this progressive?

If you are not convinced, look as the relative silence of Hispanics in the US as a good example of why they do not have the voice of African-American’s despite being in greater numbers. If you don’t speak for yourself, who will? If you don’t believe in equality for yourself, who will? And most of all, if nobody will defend you, who is left but yourself? I think of the quote by Jiddu Krisnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well—adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Better by far, to change what ails, surely?

Ask any Hispanic in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about a necessity for equality, ask any Jewish person in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about the Holocaust. When did our society become so intolerant to historical truths? Perhaps it’s the old adage, those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it? Our lack of patience for realities, past and present, says more about our lack of compassion. Is it because until we experience things for ourselves we cannot see the value of anyone else’s perspectives?

In an increasingly selfish society, change comes best when people see it and are forced to live with it. Parents of gay children, people with gay friends, tend to become slowly more habituated and tolerant of gays even if formerly anti-gay. But ask yourself, is it enough to be ‘tolerant?’ True change is where we stop seeing differences as potentially negative.

During the years, like many others, I’ve been told I’m a pervert, I’m psychologically ill, I’m a man-hater, I’m afraid of true relationships, I’m just reacting to childhood abuse, I’m in a phase, I’m disgusting, I’m obviously a child-molester, and many other things. I’ve had female friends who are afraid of me, thinking I will molest them, and male friends who want to “sex me up” to help me learn the value of heterosexuality. I’ve done things I never thought I would do just to be, who I am. So if we talk about having to explain who we are, it’s really the gay person who is pushed to justify why they are gay, especially as it’s still considered by many to be a choice.

Being gay has always existed. Penguins can be gay. It is one of those things you wouldn’t wish on anybody in the way it’s currently handled in societies throughout the world, but you can’t really say you would wish it away, because it’s like saying you wish you weren’t who you are. Even in this so-called-world of liberated values, gays are killed every week, in certain countries I would be put to death, in others I would be set upon, in others I’d be spat at, in others I’d be jailed.

Just think about that for a moment. When it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry those that did get together, had children who were shunned by both groups. How is it very different for gays who continue to lie to families who would otherwise cut them out of their lives, or lie to their employer so they would not be squeezed out? Or are unable, despite the length and value of their relationships to marry, whilst heterosexuals who have just met, can marry at the altar of Vegas.

Being gay isn’t all hunky-dory just because there are some laws that protect us. In fact often after the passing of a law, anti-gay sentiment rises up, out of frustration. See France as a recent example of this and the anti-gay under-current that exists in relatively liberal Canada. For every step forward, there are many steps back. Think how it would feel to know mass protests occur because people hate you and think you are unnatural? In many countries and states, gays cannot legally adopt, we are treated as inferior, unequal, unnatural and still can’t be the normal we know we are.

Even those who profess to be comfortable and accepting, often aren’t quite so and this makes it very hard to trust people and know how much you can share with them. I didn’t sexually desire my female friends, and most gays aren’t more lascivious than anyone else but if you watch the news, most anti-gay rhetoric labors the point that gays can’t be Boy Scout Leaders because they are sexual deviants and other stereotypes that are so wide-spread as to be commonly accepted by the majority. Usually gays suffer higher rates of depression due to these subtle undercurrents that undermine personal value and security.

Ask yourself; if you were gay would you feel comfortable walking hand-in-hand or kissing in public as you would if you were heterosexual? Let’s not forget when everyone’s relaxed, how funny jokes are that involve gay-themes, but imagine how those jokes would be received if they were racist? Why is one widely accepted and the other not? What is difference in the root of prejudice of both? Not having equal rights under law, is like the law saying you are not worthy of equality, and as the Supreme Court when reviewing gay-issues recently questioned, maybe it’s too soon for equality for you! Since when is equality ever too soon?

It is just as hard being a person of color, being a woman, being disabled and a plethora of other things, but few would feel it were justified to say a black person had no right to bemoan his or her inequality, and if they did say that, there are laws to protect that person and labels to explain their prejudice. Few would be proud to admit to being racist, but many would think nothing of being labeled a homophobe, it’s almost a badge of honor.

That said, many inequalities exist, and that does not justify the existence of any inequality. I am often told, well there is still inequality for people of color and women, as if somehow that justifies inequality of any type. Surely like any chain-reaction, equality should come from every sector and merge together to create a strong river of change. That’s one reason all minorities should see the value of others.

Let’s not forget people who worry, equality for gays will open the door to equality for polygamists, pedophiles and other deviations. They argue that such predilections could be eventually sanctioned on the same basis as gay equality. I disagree on the grounds that being gay does not harm anyone and multiple marriages can.

We could argue this forever, but ultimately it comes down to the validity of a harmless relationship versus one of unequal power. Yes all relationships are subject to abuse and we’re going to see negative portrayals of gays, things we’d never sanction, but that’s no different to the negative portrayals of heterosexuals and speaks more of human fallibility.

Currently there are no laws to protect gays. We can be fired for being gay, we can be imprisoned in certain countries for being gay, we can be thrown out of our house and lose everything including the right to make medical decisions and attend the funeral of our partner. This happens, it happens far more than anyone realizes.

When the family of one gay person is anti-gay and that person gets sick and needs constant care, the family can remove that person and deny access to their partner, no matter how many years they have been together, this isn’t protected in those places where gays are not able to marry or have a civil union. Should we really be grateful for some equality when the only equality that truly matters is full equality?

I ask that if you can’t see why equality doesn’t yet exist and should exist including all forms of equality (such as being able to marry in a church regardless just as blacks have demanded the same rights in marrying in formerly racist churches or ones who would not permit interracial marriages) adopt and many other things, you consider now.

Initially I saw no reason to ‘force’ churches to accept gay marriages because I felt they had the right to choose whom they wanted to marry. I realized that if I were a black man wishing to marry a white woman it would be wrong for a church to turn us away, and validate the negativity of prejudice, and that’s why the law protects such racism. Surely this must equally apply to gays or we’re saying our right to avoid prejudice isn’t as necessary.

We can’t stop with just the first step of equality; it has to exist as much as for you, and you, and you. For all of us. For all those who will come after us, so one day a child is born into a world that hopefully doesn’t know what inequality is. Yes at times that will be repetitive, even boring, but it’s necessary in every struggle for equality, and if we make it fashionable to keep our mouths shut and just hope for the day things change, we will be waiting a very long time.

The huntress

yes

She

knows her power

heaving out of her like

red clay forming stars

the power it has on

those who watch

unable to quit her

imperfection as much an aphrodisiac

as those fine lines converging into

her thin bones

drawn tight and ageless

she smiles a drowsy grin

down turned eyes glinting

the thin shake of her hair

sharp curve in high cheeks

noble and unrepentant

she has more confidence than you

with your excuses and your fumblings

could ever possess

if she’d taught you, she’d have said

no, no, no you’re doing it all wrong

if you want that woman to like you

be cold, be indifferent

and occasionally, throw her a scrap

don’t ever show her your full regard or

the depth of your eyes

heft her over your shoulder when the time comes

take her to a dark place and without apology

do what you must, thinking nothing of her

she’ll be crazy for you and that’s how it’s done

you know that’s so, because you’ve seen it

every weak knee’d soul who begs for her

underestimates her lash

only small, seemingly weak

her fierce nature, a molten thing

she has them on their damn knees

it’s not even a look, a word, a sign

it’s the power exuding from her focus

she believes in herself totally and knows

if she slips even a little, they’ll eat her for dinner

feast on her failure like the hungry things they are

I want to be like her one day

I can wear short skirts nearly as well

but as she tutors me in the act I know

it’s a parody, a puppet act compared to her art

I may look the part, even when drunk

act a little like her

but she’s used to the taste of blood

and I don’t know how to eat it raw

sometimes I think of her and why

she’s the kind who defies all the rules

charging that opposites

and only opposites must attract

when she could be my cousin and yet

I want her, despite myself

I want her to want me and that’s the rub

she wants nothing of anyone and never will

hers is an icy indifference

cool queen of thorns and calm

she controls the game, for it is a game

by moving through this life without letting yourself slip

requires poise and balance only artists of the tightrope possess

I am filled with trembling emotions

impossible to blot out or walk in a straight line for

I see my error in my every move

she wasn’t interested, because she saw me coming a mile off

an unsteady shadow cast on her savvy wall

canny enough to smell, the scent of desperation on my breath

I learned from the huntress

and failed my exam

she makes mouths turn dry and water

by just being everything we cannot

remorseless, pitiless, without guile or guilt

somewhere inside of her there is a girl

we want so badly to take as our own

if only for an hour

and without seeming to try

she holds herself apart, unreachable

closes each desire with her little hands

gazing into our disappointment

with a small smile

there is a sadness in her winning

it shows in the day time

when the light hits her eyes and they

despite their great beauty

look ancient

Protected: Des souvenirs fantômes

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SMITTEN authors share their favorite poems in SMITTEN / Susi Bocks

susie bocks clementineAlthough there were so many great poems in SMITTEN to choose from, “Please like girls” by Clementine, took me back to the early years of discovering my sexuality. Each time I met girls who got my attention, there was this feeling of mystery surrounding our interactions, and it was hard to talk openly about desires.

Same-sex attraction just wasn’t spoken about in those years. This poem highlighted the trepidation and angst I experienced during the teenage years but also my interest in the same sex which remained unspoken until I became a woman.

Remembering those feelings that I dared not speak about is a powerful reminder how important SMITTEN is to the next generation. I’m so glad to be a part of the energy of this sex-positive culture. #LOVEISLOVE

We were very honored to have Susi’s poem in SMITTEN she’s an extremely talented writer. Susi Bocks writes a wonderful blog of her own on WordPress called I Write Her and also is Associate Editor and Barista Author at Fictional Café

Susi’s work can be purchased via Amazon you can also catch her thoughts on Twitter 

To read more SMITTEN poets purchase a copy in time for the holidays and share this incredible project with someone you love. SMITTEN is available via Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Ingram for any independent bookstore. Consider supporting SMITTEN each purchase COUNTS and lifts up the visibility of 120 incredibly talented poets and artists who created this beautiful collection of poetry and art. 

Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Hoda Essa

Hoda Abdulqadir Essa is a New Orleans native with roots hailing from East Africa. Hoda is a maker, writer, lover, shapeshifter and soul traveler, searching for heaven or hoping to construct it with her own bare hands.

How does being a poet inform your views on expressing emotions through writing? 

As a poet, I’m consistently working from a place that many people call “emotional intelligence” – in other words, I am dreaming out loud when I open my mouth or put pen to paper. So, for me, being a poet comes with a subtle responsibility to always tell the truth. Poetry is not a soundbite nor is it a news-clip. To me, poetry is the rhythm that lives in each person individually. It’s important to express that and writing is a powerful medium to do so.

When you found out SMITTEN was about women who loved women, without the emphasis on erotica that is usually the case – could you immediately think of ways to express that love through writing? 

Absolutely! My friend and I talk about bringing intimacy to life and to me that is what art is. No one has ever written ballads about an intellectual conversation they’ve had but we pause to capture the gentleness of a lover’s brush against your own skin – to me writing is a way at grasping moments that we ultimately have no language for. The erotic, especially, can be more greatly understood as we wrestle with it on the page.

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work alongside other women who love women? 

To me, this is a declaration of the time’s we are in. Standing together in creativity unity is the most empowered place for many women, myself included. It means to me that I have graduated into a time space reality that is being carved out by the very people writing and experiencing love for and from a woman.

Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on? 

To me they’re intermingled. You have to love a moment to be inspired enough to write about it. Erotic writing is being so in love with an intimate moment that you want to recreate it for others. The two are closely related as far as I am concerned.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry? 

I am smitten and often. As often as possible. And I love this word as the title for the anthology (kudos to you all) because that word encompasses how wistful it is allowing oneself to be overtaken by simply being fond of another. I’ve tried my entire life to bottle this feeling and give it to the world so yes! It is absolutely possible to summarize these feels in poetry, until we can market the sensation of course!

Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

I chose this poem because I was inspired by a woman who took my breath away. She was beautiful, inspiring, deliciously sad in all the right places and talking to her moved me. We never formally met but my hope in writing “WOMAN” was to zoom in on how explosive this connection was without any physical intimacy. I am not even sure if I felt romantic ideations towards this person up until this day – I just knew that I wanted her inner-flame to be safe. I wrote this poem to honor her fire; to protect it.

SMITTEN is available by ordering it in your Barnes & Noble, purchasing it online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or asking your independent bookstore to order it via Ingram. SMITTEN is available on Kindle and in print form.

For updates on SMITTEN visit the Facebook SMITTEN page.

This is a huge project of 120 female authors – an anthology that is testimony to the power of love and connection between women. Support SMITTEN by purchasing a copy for someone who supports LGBTQ equality, women or poetry.

 

 

SMITTEN

For the sake of SMITTEN, a project I believe in more than anything I have ever done before, I have asked close friends to take over my social media rather than close it down, so that SMITTEN can continue to flourish and succeed.

In my absence, due to my severe eye-sight-issues, my friends will be running the SMITTEN Facebook page and all SMITTEN related materials. Our goal is to ensure SMITTEN is successful in all ways. Sales are one way of legitimizing a project and ensuring its authors are HEARD.

Obviously LGBTQ projects are harder to sell than others, but it is my hope SMITTEN can continue its success through the rousing support of all those who believe in LGBTQ equality and the rights a woman has to love another woman. Please consider supporting SMITTEN – each sale helps raise visibility and gives SMITTEN authors another opportunity to share their unique and beautiful voices.

SMITTEN news and updates can be found here

SMITTEN is for sale at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you support local bookstores please ask them to stock SMITTEN using Ingram. If you cannot afford a Kindle copy or hard copy please ask your local library to get a copy of SMITTEN via Ingram. It doesn’t take much and it means everything to the 120 authors and poets of SMITTEN. Indie publishing doesn’t flourish without our support as a community!

Poets of SMITTEN Interviews: Erin King

Erin King lives in southeastern Pennsylvania. Interests include creating fiber art, jewelry making, and the outdoors.  She lives with her partner of eight years.

What made you interested in submitting for SMITTEN?

It was a incident of timing, really.  Like once a decade I’ll go on a poetry writing binge.  There’s this feeling that something is under my skin, that something needs to be expressed.  That’s when I write.  This coincided nicely with SMITTEN, and it’s such an amazing project.  I feel so fortunate to be included.
Since SMITTEN’s launch what’s your response been from others?
  Feedback has all been positive.  One of my male friends said my work was hot.  I’m not one to say hooray about the male gaze on lesbian objects but I didn’t mind; that’s what I was going for in these two poems.  
When writing were you thinking about the political implications of your work?
  When writing these I wasn’t thinking politically or even socially.  I was a woman lusting after another woman.  It was definitely a micro level thing.  No lofty aspirations here.
Why do you find it important to express yourself through poetry? How does it differ from other mediums? 
When I’m working on designing a piece of jewelry or layering an art journal page, things come a lot more naturally.  It flows more.  Poetry is more deliberate.  My ultimate goal is to introduce poetry to visual media like painting and art. 
Do you think there are many steroetypes of LGBTQ people and if so, do you think as a writer you can dispel them? 
I think there’s a lot of biphobia coming from all sides.  We’re fickle, we can’t pick a side, blah blah blah.  It’s all bullshit.  I’m not sure if I can dispel them, though I am happy to say I’ve been with my Margaret for nine years.
How did you get into writing and what do you get from writing? 
   I started writing when I was 12.  It was pure escapism, a reprieve from an abusive environment.  I would come home from school every day and write.  When my parents started barging into my room, I’d sit with my back against the door, physically creating a boundary when there were none.    It’s not so different when I’m 47.  It’s escapism in a different sense.  It’s sublimation, a channeling of energy.  
Consider purchasing a copy of SMITTEN and supporting this collection of 120 poets who are helping to increase visibility for women who love women. By your support we can do more projects like this and help bring awareness to neglected groups of people who need to be heard.
SMITTEN is for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and you can order SMITTEN as a hard copy or Kindle or if you are unable to support in this way, consider contacting your local library and requesting they carry SMITTEN by letting them know SMITTEN is available through INGRAM.