Created: September 17, 2013 18:38pm - Last Modified December 15, 2017 22:11pm
Sunday I let myself do something I usually try to avoid. I commented on one of those facebook threads where you know your differing opinion is going to ruffle some feathers. I'd had too much coffee and was perhaps feeling a tad aggressive. So, typa-typa-typa, enter.......regret. Anxiety. Frustration. Making me late for a family birthday party because my nerves were all frazzled. Why do I let myself get sucked in when I know it makes me feel so yucky? When I know I am very unlikely to change any minds? What can I say, I have a lot of religious friends on my newsfeed, and when something concering women goes viral with them, my blood pressure ususally goes up.
You're confused, but hang with me. Fast forward to later that Sunday evening, and me and my female family members piled into the car to go to the first ever Drag Queen Pageant in Utah County. You'd have to live here to appreciate that this was kind of a ground breaking event for one of the most conservative counties in America.
We got there late, navigated through the crowd till we found some seats. We'd missed most of the show, but got to see a few performances while the judges were tabulating their scores.
A beautiful, latin looking Queen with lucious brown hair and leopard print dress came out on stage and performed to "Who You Are" by Jessie J. (Seriously listen to it above, it's beautiful.) On the stage with her was a small table with a little mirror on top. The performer proceeded to slowly remove their drag costume as they lip sycned to the song. But this was no burlesque strip tease. More like a weary soul shedding the facade one puts on to feel okay, to feel beautiful, to feel accepted. First the gold chain belt, the jewelery, the shoes. Off came the wig, revealing a hair net over closey cropped hair. He pulled out the false booby pads and looked at them with a small shake of his head. When he pulled down the top of his dress it was a little startling to see his nipples, you had to remind yourself his pecs weren't culturally taboo. There was something very raw about his flat, male chest in contrast with his womanly attire. As his dress came off the rest of the way, his hip padding popped out. He pulled off his false eyelashes and tossed them on the table. Stipped of his drag in nothing but boxers, he stretched his arms out wide, as if presenting who he really was behind the ruse. Just a man. He then sat at the table and scrubbed off all his make-up and then hastily pulled on a suit. He was transformed into a clean cut young man you might see on any given Sunday as the music played in the background: "Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing, it's okay not to be okay. Sometimes it's hard to follow your heart. But tears don't mean you're losing, everybodys bruising, there's nothing wrong with who you are."
You couldn't help but be moved by the story his peformance seemed to tell. The bravery it takes for a young man to live his truth, to pursue his interests that are so counter-culture in a place like Utah. He was different, and he was beautiful. He was vulnarable, but courageous. He could be the dapper young man in a suit, or he could be the vixen in leopard and stilettos. Who was the real him? Do we need him to be one or the other to be comfortable, to enjoy his art? Or can we we look past the trappings of gendered window dressings to see the light within?
The morning after the drag queen show, my mind went back to that blog piece I'd been sucked into. The one that suggested that somehow, the cause of equality erases our differences, and ignores our gender indentity. I'll agree that there are real differences between the sexes, obviously. And even I can concede that some stereotypes about men and women can ring true. But if we become fixated on those ideas we risk becoming blind to the individual. We risk sending them the message that they should snuff out there light, buff off their unique edges so they can fit into our mold. There is arrogance in insisting our definition of their gender trumps their own self-determination.
Variations and contrast, the things that surprise us. Hot pink against gray, a flower growing through a crack, or a male nipple behind a leopard dress...that's where you find beauty, that's where you provoke thought. That's where the magic is.
Enforcing prescribed gender roles? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt with cap sleeves.
If I choose to be a mother, credit that to me, not my sex. If I am a good mother who is nurturing and loving, credit that to me, not my gender. If I am intuitive, creative, and thoughtful, credit that to me, not my biological parts. If I am catty and passive aggressive, that's me, not all my female friends. Conversely, if I am none of those things, if I don't want children at all, if you find my attitudes and beliefs to be uncharacteristic and unattractive for a female.....I am no less a woman. No less a capable human being who can contribute wonderful things. I am uniquely me, and I want the freedom and opportunity to be me. To realize my potential, even when it may contradict your expectation of my gender. That's equality.
Whether it's a boy who just wants to put on a dress and lip sync to Celine Dion, or a woman who wants to be part of the clergy in her church, it's not "sameness" they're after. It's freedom to be different.
My advice to traditional Mormons who think these feminist protestors are off-base? Be glad these women still want to fight for their faith. Be glad they still want to stay engaged with your church, rather than just walking away. (Because this here heathen would tell them to do just that.)
"When women start to speak, it'd be nice if you'd realize just how silent they've been instead of complaining how loud they are." -@ferrethimself
Created: June 19, 2013 15:38pm - Last Modified December 15, 2017 16:41pm
The modesty police have found a new champion. Here's her video being passed around.
Created: April 24, 2013 23:03pm - Last Modified December 15, 2017 22:52pm
A friend of mine passed away today. Her children were almost the same age as mine. As I tucked my boys in tonight I was struck by how grateful I was to just simply do that small act. To kiss a boo-boo, sing a song to quiet a crying fit. To make them feel loved and safe and cherished. I thought about how often I am not present enough, either because I'm dealing with my own demons or because I just feel mentally bored with the routine. I take it for granted how wonderful it is to be there for the people I love, just doing the little things. I think of those little children who don't have a mommy tucking them in tonight and my heart breaks.
Created: January 22, 2013 14:01pm - Last Modified December 15, 2017 16:40pm
Recently I attended the funeral of my friend's mother. It was a bitterly cold, snowy day, and I remarked to Greg that I hoped my funeral was sunny. His opinion was that the weather seemed appropriate for the somber event. I didn't agree with that idea until I stood grave side, watching the family pay their last respects.
As I watched, I was keenly aware of the heat of my body, despite the cold. I was moving, crunching the snow beneath my feet, and looking down I could see the tips of the grass poking through. I could see my breath. I could hear the delicate chimes of the bells the grandchildren were ringing. I could see the soft and lush pink roses and the acres of glistening white snow around us. And my feelings were with my friend, as she grieved a mother and dealt with the roller coaster of emotions a funeral incites. I watched a family full of differences and disagreements put their arms around each other in comfort. It was one of those spiritual moments of presence, made vivid by the harsh reality of the cold, and of death.
As I gingerly made my way through the snow back to my car, I looked at the other gravestones, each one wrapped in its own blanket of snow. All those people once were moving about, creating their own puffs of breath, making their own heat, feeling the bite of the cold in their fingers. As I contemplated this, I could not regret the weather, because I could feel it. I could experience it. And I could know that the snow would eventually melt, and all that water would propel the beauty of a summer to come. A summer of color and heat and clear skies that I would get to enjoy. I hope that's what heaven is; and yet would summer be heaven if we didn't experience winter?
Death is sad, and always so near. But it's also a presence that walks beside us and whispers, "This too shall pass. Your time here is a gift." It is a testament of our feeling, loving hearts that we don't want to say goodbye. Our knowledge of death can make everything so much sweeter. Sunshine, glittering snow, good food, friends, family, a beautiful song. Every hug is a little tighter, every kiss lingers longer, every sunrise a ritual of celebration and joy and gratitude. All of it becomes so precious and not to be taken for granted because of the reality of death.
Of course these are my thoughts as an observer to the experience. I've yet to have death visit me in a way that has been deeply personal. I wished I'd had great words to comfort my friend. I wished I had the certainty to say I knew what lay beyond death, and that heaven was real and it was endless summer with everyone you ever loved. Without that certainty, life has become a beautiful and bitter sweet song, like an epic ballad with jovial parts and sad parts. High and low notes, discordant notes too. But a song all the same. And I'm so grateful just to hear it, and that the music of this friend has been added to the symphony.
A quote from one of my favorite books that says it better than I can:
"His voice [death] is cold at first, John. It seems unfeeling. But if you listen without fear, you find that when he speaks, the most ordinary words become poetry. When he stands close to you, your life becomes a song, a praise. When he touches you, your smallest talents become gold; the most ordinary loves break your heart with their beauty."
― Martine Leavitt, Keturah and Lord Death
Created: December 28, 2012 18:20pm - Last Modified December 15, 2017 16:39pm
Between parties, Christmas shopping, and getting strep again, I'm exhausted. The shooting in Connecticut knocked me sideways emotionally for several days. There were a few nights I had trouble sleeping, and watching Jack walk into his school under a flag at half mast brought me to tears. I have to try harder to stay in the present with my kids, to appreciate my time with them as best I can. It's not easy. They're not always adorable and easy to deal with. But we just don't know how long any of us will be here, you know? We can't protect our kids from everything. All we can do is love, love, love while we can. I'm trying.