This has been an endless spring for showers and gray skies. Since retiring from the post office I don’t really give it a second thought. What used to either make or break my day, has now become little more than a clothing decision: do I need a raincoat when I walk Yoda or not? After spending thirty years enduring crummy drives and crummy weather, a rainy afternoon is of little concern to me. Yoda cares even less and so away we go…
He’s like a cop walking the beat on these afternoon walks. I keep the leash tight in my hand but I give him plenty of room to lead. He navigates to the same bushes, same fences, same tufts of grass every time. If he once met a dog he liked he will circle back and forever visit that exact location and look around with sweet anticipation. The concept of lightning striking twice in the same place escapes him. He is nothing if not hopeful. I so love this little dog.
On a recent walk, I saw something at the middle school that stopped me dead in my tracks. I looked up just as the digital banner in front of the school flashed a rainbow of color in declaring June “Pride Month”. What? Really? At the middle school in my working class town, students are celebrating pride? I swallow hard as I snap a picture. With photographic evidence I can be sure I wasn’t dreaming this up.
I’m 60. Middle school was “junior high school” back in my day. I could walk to school, buy a fresh apple in the lobby for a dime and be fairly certain that “gay” was not a thing to be spoken of, let alone, celebrated. I want to say how far we’ve come, because we have, but there are those in the world making damn sure not to allow any of us to feel too comfortable.
June always has a way of sweeping me up and transporting me back in time to locking diaries, smoking weed and fitting in. I just thumbed through my diary as written by my fifteen year old self and I can’t help but marvel at how small – how intense, my world was. I wrote about everything back then: girls, boys, wanting to be liked, wanting to be cool and all of the feelings I had that I couldn’t name.
I fell in love hard back then. I couldn’t really share about that with anyone, but I spent hours trying to work it all out on those tiny pages. I hid my diary in a new place every few days. I did the same with the tiny key. I guarded those secrets with my life. I feel so protective, even now, of that Bonnie Rae.
My teen years were full of angst and therapy. My parents forced me to see a psychologist, unaware of the encouragement I would find in that room. They believed therapy would “fix” me. What it did instead was help me to find something to love about myself. I became more defiant, not less. More open, not less. Only later would I understand that they really believed they might spare me a hard life if only they could change this one thing.
Appearances were everything back then. Where you lived, what you wore, how you spoke. How things looked meant far more than how things actually were. I think they agonized over the fact that my clothes were too boyish, my hair too straight … believing it drew attention to me, and not in a good way. Mom always wanted me to look more feminine. I remember mornings where she would wake me up with instructions to come downstairs before showering. When I walked into the kitchen I found all the fixings for a home perm. Mom was excited to try to give me curls. I was mortified. (It was a smell that to this day makes me anxious.)
We didn’t know each other back then. I only knew that what she wanted for me never matched what I wanted for myself. There is a much deeper story there and someday I hope to tell it. The short version is this: we eventually grew to be the best of friends. Our stories converged far, far down the road and today we are on a shared path.
As I dug through those diaries I wanted to discover some defining moments. I wanted to see the bend in that road and map the way forward, but it’s not there. Any good cartographer knows, a map needs scale and accuracy. It needs insight and attention to even the smallest detail. Back then, I could not chart the way forward. Growing into this new understanding of myself would be like learning like a foreign language.
Speaking with friends last week we touched on the subject of what it means for kids today to be different. In so many ways, issues around gender and sexuality are a non-issue in their circles. What they need is a safe place to be themselves. A place to celebrate their uniqueness. We can do this.
Imagine a world where love is what steadies us in the face of uncertainty.
(And those uncertainties are growing. The world is becoming a more dangerous place to be different. Six years ago in Orlando, 49 people were gunned down in a gay nightclub by a hateful 29 year-old man. That act gave rise to the (growing) deadly combination of hate and guns. Yesterday, in a move “part Handmaid and part Stepford”, a caustic majority on SCROTUS made a joke of our democracy. In just a week, this handful of radical judges expanded gun rights, took away a women’s fundamental right to choose what happens to her own body, further eroded the separation between church and state and suggested same-sex marriage was next on the chopping block. Where will it end?)
Today is a celebration of love. Today is the day we strengthen our resolve by choosing love over hate and hope over fear. Today we begin to take back our precious lives.
This government of the people and for the people needs to be rescued BY the people. It’s time. To begin, we must only begin … are you ready?
The sun is out. It is a new day. RISE UP!
Beautiful. Steadied by love. You are such an inspiration. Pride every day! I love the kitty shot the most. 🙂 And thinking that “Science is real” and “Earth is round” has become something that needs to be highlighted, makes me want to throw up a little.
Omg, yes! I am embarrassed these days by those who say the US is the greatest country in the world. There are too manycwho have given their minds over to a small majority exploiting the hell outta them. It boggles the mind. Still, I have this fierce belief that love will ultimately win. It has to.
You and I came of age at the same time. I remember how it was. I’m glad you found yourself and your way, and that you have been able to connect with your parents while being yourself. My birthday was June 24, and I’ve always enjoyed celebrating Pride Day. But Friday was somber and heavy. The reality of this loss scares me. For people who can get pregnant, for the potential other decisions that will come from this court.
Yes, Kathryn, the reality of this loss is like a freight train heading straight for the safe house. I’m scared and hopeful, angry and emboldened. Our generation must be saved by the one that follows us. I believe they are up to the task.
This is just perfection. I am grateful that the Bonnie Rae’s in the world made my late-to-the-party coming out so much easier, possible even. That there were readily available safe places. And grateful that my coming out at 40+ made my daughter’s coming out easier within her family.
I had to laugh at your diary, and how you changed dates rather than skipping pages, as I did. Haha.
And now I’m going to little, conservative, Centralia’s student-planned Pride gathering. Support and celebrate the courageous, cuz that’s what we do. The week has proven we must never be complacent. The work will never be done. It’s maddening that we must work again at what was settled rather than move on to so many other big things.
Thank you so much for your courage and your words. We all have our work cut out for us and I know that we will rise up and stay true to the promise that we all silently made to leave a better, safer world to those who will follow us. We are strong and fierce and not about to let a handful of radicals make any woman, any child, any decent human, feel unsafe in the world. Thanks for being here. Now, let’s all get to work!
You touch my heart and soul with these words. Tears this morning bring some relief after the very dark day of yesterdays actions. 🙏 💜💜
Oh, Cathy, we’ve seen some times, haven’t we? Without your love and support and guidance I might have chosen a different path. I am forever lucky to know you and this new connection is, well … everything. Dark day yesterday but we know what we need to do. We need to love and fight with equal ferocity 💜🙏💜 Thanks for being here*
Oh Bonnie Rae, I love everything about this. The tender adolescent you, the person who fought and who still fights. I don’t remember that there were any gay kids at jr. high, which just underscores how underground they had to be to get along. I wish I’d known enough then to be more generous, to be an ally. But I was fighting my own self-centered battles. Wearing my boy clothes for me was a statement of some sort but there was not the extra layer of shame or fear, just defiance and exhaustion.
And, I do hope we get to explore those 15 year old diaries some day! Sending love and pride.
You are so right about all the battles fought as adolescents. To be ourselves is hard enough without reasons to be so afraid. It was hard for all of us. What’s happening in the country now is shocking. I’m still waiting for Congress to show some outrage. There is a horrible crash blocking the high road. Time to buckle up and go around it!
Thank you Bonnie Rae! This is a tough morning and I’m glad I read your tender, fierce and inspiring post first! I love your photos (the jellyfish brought me here!) but your writing keeps me here. You’ve been a writer your whole life. I do not have a regular writing practice but during some tough times, journaling kept me sane. Sounds like it was one of the tools you used. Thank you for this post!
(And you brought back the scent of Lylt perms my mom gave me! Ugh!!)
Thank you so much, Bailey 💜
I think that for so many of us, writing is like a life raft when the seas get so choppy. We need to muster our outrage, write to save our sanity and then we must act. WE MUST ACT.
(Oh my … Lylt perms!!)