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!