So clearly I took a European style vacation from blogging (read: eight weeks long), during which time I managed to accomplish a life-long goal of mine and became a fully professed member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. For those not in the know, the Sisters are an international non-profit organization whose mission is to expiate stigmatic guilt and shame, while promulgating universal joy through habitual perpetration. A mouthful, huh? We do a lot of fundraising for charity and social activism work, along with providing spiritual ministry to the community.
For more info you can check out Wikipedia or our local chapter’s website.
I have wanted to be a Sister since I was about four years old. My family used to attend the Lily Street Easter celebration, the pre-cursor to the event the Sisters now hold every Easter in Dolores Park. I remember seeing the larger than life Glamazons, in their glitter and jewels, wielding towering headpieces and thinking, if only one day I could be one of them….And the time has finally come!
The process of becoming a Sister is very involved. It takes at least a year and a half. Because I am special, I took over two years. I started loitering around them in April 2010. The Sisters don’t recruit members, in the same way the Jews don’t prosletize, by which I mean they make terribly hard to get in and come off as insular and possibly hostile. I kept waiting for someone to invite me into the group or otherwise instruct me me in joining. They don’t ask you to join, you just have to state your intention of doing so publicly at one of their meetings. It took me seven months to figure this out. Seven months of attending meeting and events with them and no one mentioned this to me. That’s Drag Queens for you.
But I kept at it, and they became friendlier with time, and now I can say that at least a few have tempted towards heterosexuality on my account. Okay, probably that is an overstatement, but I do like to joke that I am a conservative plant sent on a mission to convert them. No luck so far, but I’ll keep trying…wink wink, nudge, nudge.
The journey I’ve taken with them over the last two years has given my life here in LA additional meaning and has made up for some of what I’ve otherwise lacked (adoring fans, flashing bulbs, chances to wave to crowds). My mom always says to find things that are both selfish and altruistic. I like saying that I do a lot of volunteer work, when really most of takes place in bars. It allows me, as Queerspawn to maintain a relationship with my community. That’s one of the tricky things about being a grown up child of gay parents, especially if you are straight yourself. How do include yourself in the Queer world? The Sisters have been my answer and I am very grateful they welcomed me in.
On the slight chance you are wondering how it is that I’ve gone this long without previously mentioning them herein, I can blame their rigorous and dense policies and procedures that state that as a novice or prior I could speak publicly about the Sisters but not as their representative. This precarious protocol scared me enough to wait. When you’ve wanted something like this for as long as I had, you don’t take chances. But now that I am a member…HAHHAHAHAHAHHAHA! I thought that the moment I was a Black Veil (what fully professed members are called) I would want to race out and misrepresent us, but so far the idea of putting on all that make-up in the heat has stalled me. I like white face better in Winter.
Greetings from the future! Ms. Bolick, I am a representative of what’s to come…
I can’t help but think that being raised by lesbians put me ahead of the game. Having just finished reading Kate Bolick’s tremendous article in Nov. 2011’s Atlantic Magazine, I was struck by the differences and similarities in our perspectives. I, too, had spent my mid-twenties in a long-term relationship (disclaimer: I got dumped and probably would be married right now if it had been up to me).
Still, I’d often reflected on the institution of marriage and struggled against the notion of “settling down.” I, too, had been raised by second wave feminist(s )who encouraged me to wear Osh-Kosh overalls and play with Tonka trucks and assured me that I could do anything I set my mind towards. And while I am almost a decade younger than the author I have also considered at times whether I have missed my chance at true love. Heck, I wrote a memoir to investigate whether I might have, that’s how much I’ve considered the idea. But I’ve found redemption from my heartbreak thanks to the facts of my upbringing.
I was raised in what might be fancifully described as an “Amazon Shangri-la,” a universe largely devoid of men but filled with intelligent, resourceful and colorful women. The particulars: In 1981, my mother gave birth to me, at home, in the company of a midwife, her lesbian lover and her best friend. When she and the lover broke up, they continued to parent together. When I was five my mom married (in a legally non-binding but lovely ceremony) a women she would then be with for the next fourteen years. When teachers asked me how many moms I had the answer varied depending on whom I was counting, which various ex-girlfriends I threw in the mix. Nowadays I stick to the number four, since four women have continuously supported me since childhood. Lots’ O’ Mamas!
That abundance mother-wise contributed to me having what I see as the perspective of the future Ms. Bolick imagines; the one in which women communally parent and support each other. My life has made clear that women don’t need men around to raise children and that an all female household can create a healthy environment for child rearing. I have never ascribed to the idea that family needs members of each gender to create balance and I grew up aware that marriage was an option not an obligation.
Do we need men? No, but I sure like them. Even the deadbeats and players on occasion. The words, “overcompensation,” have been mentioned in conjunction with my healthy sexual appetite. My attitudes towards sex are more progressive than most thanks to the sex education I received that emphasized that my body was mine to do with what I pleased. My mother’s sex positivity is reflective of the gay community’s stance as a whole and I credit my sense of sexual empowerment to having grown up in it’s bossom, so to speak. They (the gays)have a healthy perspective on sex- sometimes you sleep with someone and something comes from it, sometimes you sleep with someone and zilch. Both kinds of sex are fun. There were multiple points in the article that led me to think sex positivity is the hinge on which women successfully navigating the future swings.
I know in my own experience, that I have profited from my own sexual hedonism. The article posits that “hook-up culture” is something modern college women endure, with 80% of them generally bowing out of the race in response. I was one of those 20% of women who were actually having sex and it was GREAT! The prudes on the sidelines have only themselves (and their parents) to blame. The assumption that casual sex rarely leads to enjoyable, if not necessarily monogamous, relationships is one I’d like to challenge as well. Almost all the serious relationships I’ve been in, even the monogamous ones, started out as hook-ups.
And while the line “Or is it that pornography endows the inexperienced with a toolbox of socially sanctioned postures and tricks, ensuring that one can engage in what amounts to a public exchange according to a pre-approved script?” really resonated with me, I couldn’t help but think that so much of life is a performance and it’s feels good to have a lingua franca, even if a flawed one, to start out from. We may have to work towards sensuality. Sensuality is intimate. We may have find balance between freedom and callousness cross gender when it comes to sex. But our era of “heady carnal delights” I think need not be stifled.
However if 80% of college kids disagree with me, it would be in their hands to change it- like Gandhi says, be the change you wish to see on the world. Virgins continue to be hot property through their early twenties at least, so they aren’t taking on that big of a social liability. Wear your purity ring and I’m sure your prince charming will arrive. Just don’t bother the rest of us over sleeping around. Live and let live should be the sexual standard and then things would work themselves out. I am sorry for all the young women who have had less than satisfying sex lives but I can’t help but hold them partially responsible for their own malaise. Sexual satisfaction thrives on communication and I doubt these women are being honest with themselves or their mates about what they desire. The women who are upset are as I see it holdover of the days in which catching a man with one’s virtue was commonplace. If one views sex as a bartering tool for commitment, times are tough. But if one views sex as a mutually pleasureable bonding activity that exists for its own sake, things aren’t really that bad. Lots of men are happy to have sex, that is generally not a problem, and personally I want any commitment to be based on desire not blackmail.
There are compromises to be made in the marriages of the future, perhaps some in terms of expectations of monogamy, but honestly, humans have never excelled at that (See: Sex at Dawn, great book!). Regardless, there are many alternatives to the current norm. The prevailing insistence on getting married at a standard age and in standard fashion I ascribe to the conformist instincts of humanity. The sister heroes of yore: Ms. Millay et al. were artists on the fringe of society and artists are non-conformist by nature. I have been shocked to find that as much as I thought of my liberal girlfriends as progressives, even radicals, they’ve all lined up for relatively conventional lives. Maybe they’d have home births, although so did their mothers, maybe they’d take pole dancing classes and proudly own vibrators but they would get married, stay monogamous, bare children and balance careers with all that. They would try to live up to standards set up in the media and when they failed they would berate themselves. The single ones all admit that if they only could find the right man to settle down with, well then they’d be happy. Our culture is so pervasive, it can force us all to “swim upstream.”
Our generation(s) has been led to believe that somehow between 25 and 35 we are supposed to jam building a career, finding a mate and starting a family. All while looking good and keeping a clean house. It’s stressful just summarizing that. The truth is we each prioritize in a slightly different manner and our lives show the results. Despite the gains made by our second wave mothers many of us still intertwine our sense of identity with our success in maintaining a mate and family. As much as we may value the idea of career it is generally secondary, as it often was for those who raised us and endowed us with their dreams. Even my lesbians hold their personal accomplishments above their professional ones. They would all say they are most proud of being my mother. They would argue feminism wasn’t an attempt to devalue the domestic sphere as much as one to elevate and redeem it, coupled with an expansion of the possibilities available to women outside it.
The consequence of living in an era post- women’s movement may be that at times I feel like good men are hard to come by. I have been kept sleepless on occasion, exhausted but strung out on visions of growing old alone or a future in which it will be me and a mass of aging lesbians, but in those moments my mothers lives act as a talisman, a reassurance that You are the only one who can make happiness for yourself. I have seen them manifest the lives they want to live. They keep their own company and enjoy their own eccentricities. They can be annoyingly self-satisfied. They are strong and rarely lonely.
My mothers reflect the modern woman. They are all four college educated professionals who have been leaders in their fields while maintaining warm and enriching personal lives. They are my heroes and my inspiration in life. They have opened my mind to all the possibilities both in terms of seeking self-satisfaction and forming family. Maybe I will marry, maybe I’ll stay single, maybe I’ll raise kids with friends. They have done all of the above and excelled at it.
Being raised by a quartet has allowed me to think critically about the merits of the nuclear family and I am intrigued by the alternatives. Why not take abundant advantage of the choices offered to us? My parents’ arrangement, four moms, two kids worked out well. I have ample friends in the gay community who might be interested in co-parenting. I agree that “there are many ways to love in this world.” I don’t think it behooves us to limit ourselves when it comes to love.
So my plan to navigate the new reality in which men are scarce and good men even rarer is- I plan to continue to sleep with men I am attracted to, in whatever organic time-frame that occurs and keep my mind open to romantic possibilities without too much concern for my age. My mothers’ lives assure me that sexuality is not defined by how attractive society finds you. My mom gets hit on all the time by members of both sexes and she’s in her late fifties. Sexiness is a state of being without an expiration date. I will get married if the right person presents himself and if not I will nonetheless live a full and happy life. I know that second part is mine to control and that makes all the difference.
In the continuing saga that is my fangirl relationship with Ms. Melissa Etheridge, I got to be a call-in guest on her Radio Show. It all started when post-bothering her at breakfast, I came home to see whether I might continue to bug her, preferably through social media. Though I was sad to find her missing from Twitter, some consolation was found in the discovery of her aforementioned radio show. Who knew she was a radio personality?
On the website for her show there was a contact form to fill out if you wanted to talk to her. They offered the chance to call-in to Melissa! Well, I pounced on the chance and filled out the form, explaining my run-in with her and how I’d love to talk to her about gay parenting.
In the end we did talk parenting a tad, but the gay part wasn’t mentioned. What happened was that they called me one morning and asked if I wanted to join in on a conversation about who I’d rather meet the president or a big celebrity. They mentioned that back in the day everyone would have picked the president but that it was no longer the case. I’d much rather meet Obama than Brad Pitt, but if it was Bush being talked about the story would be different. They said they’d call me back in a minute because the connection was bad.
I formulated some cool response about how it comes down to the impact people perceive either of the profferred figures had on their lives. Like people care to meet those that matter, that have somehow touched their lives. It used to be people felt the President, regardless of Party, had the greatest power over their lives. People might not feel that way as much these days given all the talk of corporate interests running things behind the scenes. I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to say all of that but I figure’d I could come across smart. They never called me back. I called them twenty minutes later, cold tea in hand, and they said they’d try to call a bunch of times but it hadn’t gone through. It happens sometimes, they said, and promised to give me a call again in the next couple of days.
I was bummed. But early the next week, as I was clocking hours at my own personal version of the office, aka the playground, who should call? The guy from the radio show. This time he asks me if I consider myself a patient person or an impatient person? I think I’m somewhere in between, personally, but since I was at that moment rather patiently following a two year old aorund a park I thought, let’s go patient. He asked if that meant that extended into my tech life- So I don’t pay the extra money to overnight things and such? I thought about my old-ass computer at home and how being broke really does train one patience wise. Yep- definitely not overnighting things. This time he put me on hold and when a few minutes later it reconnected, Melissa Etheridge was the voice on the line.
Hey, We’ve got Kellen on the line who says she’s patient and do I hear children in the background? Because kids will definitely require someone to be patient…We bandied about over the idea of patience being really tied to staying in the present moment and about how kids will force one to be present as well. She mentioned a line about the present being a gift.I said something about how I bet she was a great parent and she said, well, now you’re just being sweet. It was pretty sweet all around. Although, I didn’t get to mention meeting her. She has a real knack for framing short interactions gracefully, saying well, thanks for calling Kellen as she leads me off the line once I’ve given my soundbite on patience.
I call a mom immediately to brag about it. Afterwards a mother at the park tells me that she couldn’t help but overhear and did I really just talk to Melissa Etheridge? I’d say only in Hollywood folks, but I’m pretty sure you can call-in from anywhere.
Okay I am 99.9% sure it was her. If it wasn’t and it was just some poor lesbian who looked like her having lunch at Hugo’s in Studio City, well at least I made her day with my enthusiasm. I didn’t have any lesbians with me to confirm her identity but I’m really good with faces and I’ve always kind of thought she looks a little like my mom, so as I said 99.9 %. Upon seeing her picture again i’ll even add .05% to it.
To set the scene, I was meeting a friend to get feedback on my memoir and it being LA, I noticed upon plopping down that Vanessa Hudgens (of High School Musical “I dated Zach Efron” Fame) was sitting at the next table over, with only a thin pane of glass between us ( we were seated outside). While I admit to reading gossip blogs, I couldn’t bother to be impressed by her- I know who she is but that doesn’t necessarily make her special. I have not heard good things about “Suckerpunch.”
So I went about advising my friend on her personal problems and neglecting the question of tense in my writing, and Vanessa leaves after kissing who assume to be Austing Butler? I think that her boyfriend’s name ? and towards the end of the meal once we’d finished our egg-white oatmeal frittata, which was better than it sounds even though it included kamut, who should be seated right in my eyeline on the opposite side of the glass but Ms. Etheridge out to lunch with a lady friend.
I about died- and that is why I think it was her, that instant heart based gut reaction. I immediately began to strategize how to approach her and what to say. A few minutes later I strolled into the restaurant with what I hoped was casual purpose and veered in the direction of her table.
Despite my planning, I believe I came off as a babbling fool and probably overwhelmed her. I approached the table, leaned in a little and said, “Excuse me, I hate to interrupt but I just had to say Hi, because I was so excited.” She took my hand and asked me to introduce myself, “I’m Kellen Kaiser and I’m Queerspawn and my little brother, who’s a decade younger than me, loved your songs so much as a little kid and at three knew every word to them, and used to sing them out loud in the car, and now he’s a frat boy at Long Beach State.” I’m not sure why I’d decided that was the most important thing for her to know but there it was. She smiled and said it was nice to meet me, her companion seemed amused at the encounter, like well, this is what happens to you when you’re Melissa Etheridge, crazy people approach you as you peruse the menu. Or at least that’s what I imagine she was thinking…. It’s funny to find out who you really are in awe of- She qualifies. She’s a Big Fish of Famous Lesbians. It’s like her and Rosie O’Donnell. I’m coming for you Rosie- watch out!
Zach Wahls has gone viral. The video of the handsome young man speaking to the Iowa legislature on the subject of his lesbian mothers has been viewed over fifteen million times. He has become the face of children with gay parents for a large part of society. He sat down with Ellen Degeneres, he’s writing a book. The response to the video has been overwhelming. Though it originally came out last year, in the past few weeks it’s been sent around the internet with the kind of fervor usually reserved for cat videos. I was sent it by at least thirty Facebook friends, each of whom must have thought upon seeing it- I know someone with gay moms, I better send it their way. Thanks guys- I got it.
Reading over what people posted in the comments section, I was struck by how many people’s minds were changed by the viewing, Marines and Baptists who, once devout homophobes, had been shown the light. There is something about the speech he gives that is so identifiable, so trustworthy and persuasive that it makes you want to vote for him,(many people have suggested he go into politics) or buy whatever he’s selling. The comments on the video lean heavily towards proposals of romance, from both men and women. If I didn’t realize that I’m ten years too old for him, I’d probably give it a shot. It’s no surprise everyone wants to marry him.
He’s just so perfectly American. Sweet, Wholesome, perhaps even slightly sanitized- though when he offered the Reddit community the chance to ask him anything he was refreshingly candid about his porn viewing habits. He comes across as hardworking, loyal and achingly earnest. If you didn’t pay attention to his being an engineer, you might assume he’s a farmer- he’s got a touch of salt-of-the- earth charm. I think it’s the line- “We’re Iowans. We don’t expect anyone to solve our problems for us. We’ll fight our own battles. We just hope for equal and fair treatment for our government.” In another moment he goes a tad Italian, his hands folded in front of him, a slight jersey lilt to his voice. Then he strikes a more preacher like tone, a man on a pulpit. He settles eventually into the stride of a natural orator, passionate but in control. He lists his academic achievements and tells the chairman he thinks he’d make him proud if he was his son.
He is the perfect representative for us, I just wish that we didn’t need someone quite so Perfect. We shouldn’t all have to be Eagle Scouts. Our families right to exist shouldn’t hinge on being well spoken, well educated and well behaved. We should allowed to be starving artists, rabble rousers and dilletantes like everyone else…
I also felt some concern with his ending. He says, “In my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple, And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero affect on the content of my character.” Because being raised in the gay community had a huge influence on who I am (check out my blog post for Inculture parent magazine, “Why Gay Parents are Superior”). Why are we back to pretending we are like everyone else?
I spent a bit of time playing normal in the media myself. In seventh grade- 1993 – I appeared on CNN to speak about having lesbian moms. The soundbite chosen was very much in line with Zach’s perspective. I said something to the effect of, “We’re like any other American family. We eat dinner, they help me with my homework, we watch television.” The discourse centered around us proving our normalcy, as though that were the trade for equality. We promise we’re normal and therefore deserving of your acceptance. In the years that came after, I slowly changed my arguments in the media towards a perspective that celebrated the differences in our families instead of trying to downplay them. There is something frustrating and sad for me in the fact that twenty years later we are back in the same place dialogue wise.
That being said, I have always believed in dealing with what is instead of dwelling on how we wish things were and in that case Zach Wahls is the perfect person to convince middle America that Gays parenting people is alright. I am much less normal and it would be a burden to have to pretend otherwise. So thank you Zach, from all of us freaks. Fight on!
I was watching television. Nothing special, whatever was on when the power button got pressed. In this case it was an episode of Law and Order:SVU- the one with Ice-T in it. The episode was about a cop who’d shown up dead- and in the twists and turns of the show it turns out despite having dated Mariska Hargitay’s character, he was gay and HIV positive. His end came in relation to a circle of black men who were on “the down low.” When he fell in love with and threatened to “out” one of them, he got killed in response. Ice-T got the dubious honor of explaining the concept of “the down low” to the TV audience.He framed it like being out and gay in the black community was neigh impossible and so gay black men are undercover as a result. Then when he confronted one of them he threatened to “out” them blackmail style in order to get his cooperation and in the process, says something like- “you have sex with other dudes- that makes you gay- period.” And at home in the comfort of my living room, I thought well- that’s not entirely true though. I mean, I’m sure there are black men living a lie due to cultural pressure and all, but some of those brothers are Bi too, and that complex possibility wasn’t mentioned.
Hence perpetuating the misassumption that any man who has sex with men is gay and that bisexual men don’t exist. LAME.
I actually saw a headline on Nerve.com that claimed, “Bisexuality exists,” and was attached to some new scientific study. You don’t say….So I was a little sad to realize that something so obvious could be still up for debate but then again in some places we’re still arguing over evolution, when we share 98% of our DNA with a chimpanzee, so I don’t know why I’m surprised at all on another level.
Anyhow, my day was saved by the commercial that came on afterwards.
It was a Tide commercial, featuring a mother who’s got a child she can’t seem to keep clean. The outstanding part comes in that the child is a “tomboy” and the mom comments as to her acceptance of her child’s lack of gender normativity. It was something like, “She’s never going to be the kind of girl who plays with dolls and keeps her clothes clean and I love her the way she is.” That was the message if not the exact wording. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to being brought to tears by a detergent commercial. I might even forgive myself and switch from my hippie version back to Tide and finally have laundry soap that works. The point is- when did TV get so Gay?
In comparison to Cat Cora, Meredith Baxter did a much better job of looking the part. Think plaid shirt, short hair, blue jeans with earrings.
I was in the audience at a storytelling event and was thinking, man, there are a lot of lesbians in the crowd tonight, Ms. Baxter included. It made me feel right at home. I thought to myself with this many lesbians in the room I should know one of them and lo and behold- I did. It was very satisfying. I looked straight in front of me and saw the awesome ladies who own the land next door to the Ranch-way up in Ukiah, a full 600 miles to the north- but there they were. Wouldn’t you know it, they knew Ms. Baxter and so I got an introduction. It turned out they were on the cruise that served as her coming out party. The lesbian world is very small.
At the LA Festival of Books, I saw that she was signing copies of her children’s book, “A Suitcase Surprise for Mommy,” and so I tracked her down at booth #577. Introducing myself, I told her as someone raised by lesbians I appreciated her representing queer families in the mainstream.
I wondered if I shouldn’t perhaps have used the word queer-she had french tipped manicured nails. She seemed southern and polite. It was awkward.
Later I thought maybe part of the challenge of being a writer is making small talk with strangers- maybe she just didn’t know what to say anymore than I did.
So as i’ve mentioned, I write for an online parenting magazine- InCulture Parent and this month my column is excitingly titled “Why Gay Parents are Superior to Hetero Parents,” I hope this controversial moniker will inspire folks to check it out ! I don’t seriously think gay parents are better, just that mine are the best… but I do have some stuff to say about positive parenting that I associate with the gay community.