Saturday, November 8, 2008


(Protest at Mormon Temple, Los Angeles, 6 November 2008; Photo by Meghan Quinn for The Advocate)

In follow-up to the excellent post by Minstrel Boy this week concerning the blow to lesbian/gay rights in California, as well as my addendum and especially all the excellent comments and discussion which ensued, I'm copying in here a letter I just received from Kathryn Kolbert at People For The American Way. She urges all of us to not resort to racism in our efforts to understand this defeat and strategize about what to do next.

Let me be clear: Lesbian and gay people in this country are not any whiter than the general population. African Americans who are not gay are no more likely to vote against lesbian/gay rights than white non-gays. Yes, it was definitely people who voted for Obama who also voted against lesbian/gay rights in California, in Florida, and elsewhere -- but to assume those voters were primarily African American is racist, folks. And, it is falling prey to the deeply pathological lie that we are somehow not all in this together, that we must fight over who gets a piece of the pie.

To my lesbian and gay comadres, I'll say again what I've been saying for decades -- racism is as much our issue as marriage rights. If you don't have a multi-issue approach toward liberation, you are in trouble from the outset and you will not have my support for your endeavors.

The reality is that our human rights have been the flashpoint, the money-maker, the grease on the wheels for the Religious Right for decades now. The Advocate states "the Mormon Church raised, depending on estimates, anywhere from 48% to 73% of the money behind the effort to pass" Proposition (h)8. So, if you want to take an effective stand, get on board the effort to have tax-exempt status stripped from the Church of Latter Day States. One website explaining this option, to stop taxpayer subsidies of intolerance, also has a petition you can sign. The United Kingdom has taken preliminary steps to strip the church of its tax-exempt status. You can support the courageous stance of Mormons For Marriage, who are publicly opposing their church's oppressive behavior. You can join those who are organizing protests outside Mormon temples, as reported in this Advocate article.

And, as Minstrel Boy told us, by clicking the links below you can donate to
Lambda Legal Services
National Center for Lesbian Rights.

To this list, I'm now adding:

The National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black same-gender-loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The Coalition works with our communities and our allies for social justice, equality, and an end to racism and homophobia.
The Audre Lorde Project, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit and transgender people of color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area. Through mobilization, education and capacity-building, ALP works for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, ALP seeks to responsibly reflect, represent and serve our various communities.

The letter from Kathryn Kolbert:

"Yesterday, I sent an important edit memo to our partners and members of the media. Similar to the finger-pointing and back-biting going on in some Republican circles over their electoral defeats earlier this week, our side has been engaging in a bit of the "blame game" over the painful defeat of marriage equality in California. With passions inflamed and many people feeling understandable frustration, we must be careful to take stock of strategic missteps and areas where we need to improve the equality movement in a constructive manner, and not engage in destructive scapegoating.

"Here's an excerpt:

"The past 72 hours have brought an extraordinary range of emotions -- great joy at the election of Barack Obama and defeat of John McCain, and sadness and anger at the passage of anti-gay initiatives in Florida , Arizona , Arkansas and California . That sadness has turned to outrage at the speed with which some white gay activists began blaming African Americans -- sometimes in appallingly racist ways -- for the defeat of Proposition 8. This is inexcusable.

"As a mother who has raised two children in a 30-year relationship with another woman, I fully understand the depth of hurt and anger at voters' rejection of our families' equality. But responding to that hurt by lashing out at African Americans is deeply wrong and offensive -- not to mention destructive to the goal of advancing equality.

"Before we give Religious Right leaders more reasons to rejoice by deepening the divisions they have worked so hard to create between African Americans and the broader progressive community, let's be clear about who is responsible for gay couples in California losing the right to get married, and let's think strategically about a way forward that broadens and strengthens support for equality.

"Others have taken on the challenge of looking at the basic numbers and concluded that it is simply false to suggest that Prop 8 would have been defeated if African Americans had been more supportive. The amendment seems to have passed by more than half a million votes, and the number of black voters, even with turnout boosted by the presidential race, couldn't have made up that difference. That's an important fact, but when African American supporters of equality are being called racist epithets at protests about Prop 8, the numbers almost seem beside the point.

"Republicans and white churchgoers, among many other groups, voted for Prop. 8 at higher rates than African Americans. There are few African Americans in the inland counties that all voted overwhelmingly to strip marriage equality out of the California constitution. So why single out African Americans? Who's really to blame? The Religious Right.

"Please take a moment to read the whole edit memo here.

"I won't give up on equality and I know you won't either. People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation are already developing the strategies that will make our movement stronger. And we'll need your help. There will be several opportunities in the coming months and years for historic gains in LGBT equality and I know I can count on your support in the fights to come."

-- Kathryn Kolbert, President

(Video from protest at Mormon Temple in Los Angeles, 6 November 2008)

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]


Friday, November 7, 2008


Tribade toast
Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

November 2014

After three days in Chicago with Myra, Allie and Edwina came home while Ginny flew to join her, not yet rested from her recent painting. They rented a car and drove to Myra's readings in Iowa City, Lincoln, Lawrence, and Denver. The weather was becoming steadily worse, and Myra was relieved to finally reach their hotel in Denver. They had two days to visit with Cathy and her family, then Myra read in the early afternoon before she and Ginny caught a plane back to Seattle.

When they came into their house from the airport shuttle, Myra thought it smelled odd. She finally identified it as “unused”, without linseed oil, recent meals, brewing tea, or baby diapers giving clues as to who had been here. A long note for Gillam was on the kitchen counter, saying Margie was arriving the day before Thanksgiving but Frances had to work through Thursday night, Mimi had a cold, he and Jane had done a grocery shopping for them and put it in their fridge, and he wanted to host Margie's birthday party the day after Thanksgiving at his house.

Ginny played back messages and made notes while Myra opened their suitcases in the front sitting area to pull out dirty laundry. After she started a load, she carried the bags upstairs while Ginny went out with a flashlight to check on the pond and garden. They met again in the kitchen, Ginny carrying a basket of about-to-bolt broccoli and burly purple carrots.

“There's dust everywhere” Ginny commented. “I'll wipe and vacuum if you'll make us soup.”

“Deal” said Myra. She sliced the carrots thin and put them in the steamer while onions, celery and garlic sauteed in the All-Clad dutch oven. Once the mirapois had caramelized, she added chopped broccoli for a few minutes, then frozen chicken stock she defrosted from their freezer. She didn't find potatoes in the crisper, so she tossed minute rice in with the stock, a leaf of basil and sprig of thyme, and a handful of peppercorns. She mixed a tablespoon of frozen orange concentrate with one each of Ginny's brown mustard and melted butter as a drizzle over the steamed carrots. She sliced the loaf of rustic bread Gillam had bought for them and toasted four pieces, putting them on a plate with an artisanal cheese made on the Olympic peninsula. She poured half the simmering soup into a blender and pureed it, making a thick pale green cream that she added back to the soup for a final mix and heat-through.

“Oh, god, home food” said Ginny appreciatively as they sat down across from each other. Ginny got up an instant later to light a candle, saying “It's supposed to maybe freeze tonight. We'll find out how well the pond heater works. Which reminds me, I want to invite Kip to do Thanksgiving with us.”

“Good” said Myra. “Annie's joining us, and Nika.”

“One of the messages was from Thad, he wants to eat with us as well. I couldn't tell if he understood we cook first, I'll ask Jane tomorrow.” Ginny was using the serving spoon for the soup to eat her own bowl, instead of her soup spoon. It went down faster that way, Myra figured.

Over the next few days, Myra made bread, updated her blog, and babysat Mimi who was cranky and congested. Ginny transplanted new starts, packed some rows in mulch for cold weather, mopped the entire house, and met with her agent twice about income arriving from her show's sales. They had a session with Nancy, took Beebo for his annual shots, and met Allie at the bank to open an education fund for Mimi with the checks they had all three received from the publisher who was about to print their Poppyseed children's book.

Cathy flew in from Denver on Tuesday night, and the next morning Margie drove up from Portland. Myra had located a manufacturer who could replicate the seats originally made for the Cerebellum, and as her and Ginny's birthday present to Margie, her car was getting all new upholstery in a fabric of her choosing. Margie dropped the Cerebellum at Sadie's and went with Myra to a last minute shopping run at an extremely overcrowded Pike Market.

Back at the house, Jane was sitting with Ginny and Cathy while Mimi crawled around the floor. Margie abandoned helping Myra put away groceries in favor of joining Mimi. Jane gave her a lesson in using a bulb to extract snot from a protesting baby's nose, which Margie faced bravely and with necessary humor. Ginny got up to help Myra, saying “We need a nap this afternoon before going to make pies.”

“Hear, hear” said Myra. After lunch, they excused themselves and curled together under a quilt on their bed. Cathy followed their example, but Margie opted to go back home with Jane and Mimi.

Jane sat out of the cooking duties of the next 24 hours, not only to hold Mimi but also because she felt like she was coming down with Mimi's crud as well. She was deft in keeping Mimi from being handled too much by strangers. Margie strapped the Snugli to her chest and declared she and Mimi to be the pie-serving team behind the counter. Carly positioned himself beside them as “Whipped Cream Uncle”, and a photo of them dispensing dessert while trying to keep Mimi's hands out of everything in range was destined for the wall over Myra's desk.

The next morning, Myra slept in an extra half hour but forced herself up because it was Margie's birthday. However, when she got to the table, she was told Margie had borrowed one of their cars to pick up Frances at the train station. Ginny was making tribade toast, and Allie was grinding coffee beans.

“We going to eat over at Jane and Gillam's” Allie told her. “Put on your outside clothes. Carly and Eric already over there.”

Myra changed and grabbed a Coke from the storage room before walking alone to the back gate. From there on, she was escorted by Beebo, who smelled the package of maple-cured bacon she carried. Mimi looked and sounded much better, but Jane was having to blow her nose frequently, and every time she did, Mimi laughed gaily.

“Margie still not here?” said Myra.

“Yeah, I'm thinking there must have been a delay with the train” said Ginny. Myra arranged bacon on the microwave tray and set it to cook. There was also smoked salmon and home fries in warming trays in the oven. Edwina was juicing oranges while taking sips of fresh coffee.

An hour later, Myra was about to go call the train station when Margie and Frances finally came in the front door. Frances looked very tired, and Margie was tense, Myra could tell immediately. Ginny lit a candle atop the stack of tribade toast slices and Margie smiled as she blew it out, but her shoulders remained squared off.

They served themselves buffet style and sat down at Jane and Gillam's newly painted table to eat. Gillam was sitting sideways in his chair to keep Mimi's hands off his plate. He looked at Jane, they communicated something between them, and he cleared his throat.

“We've decided this is going to be the first day Mimi gets to eat real food. I mean, real besides what Jane's been making for her. At our dinner tonight, maybe we can put our heads together and decide what's appropriate for her to sample as her first excursion in the gastronomic cornucopia that is this family.”

There were exclamations, and Myra said “I was thinking about making a pumpkin custard. If I use only a tablespoon or so of molasses, no sugar, will that be all right?”

“You know as much as we do about it” said Gillam. Ginny nodded and said “It's consistency that matters most. We could puree spinach, maybe with some of this hand-made mozzarella that Frances brought, and that would be safe for her, too. Add a strained fruit and she's covered.”

“She'll be in ecstasy” said Gillam, craning sideways so he could catch Mimi's eye and grin with her. “At least, we're hoping for it. Because the bad news is, Jane is also going to wean her beginning tomorrow.”

“What?” said Myra and Ginny in unison. “Not so soon!” continued Ginny. “I thought you wanted to go a year, not six months.”

“I did. But other factors have intervened” said Jane froggily. “I need to conserve my nutrients for another life just commencing.”

It took them all a few seconds to decipher this statement. It was the look on Gillam's face that tipped off Myra as much as Jane's words.

“You're pregnant again!” she shouted. “My god, even while nursing her full-time?”

“Yep” said Gillam with rueful pride. “We got chemistry, apparently.”

“Bates fertility” responded Myra, looking at Ginny. Carly had leapt to his feet and was doing a cheer sans pom-poms, to Mimi's utter delight.

“You been tested yet?” asked Allie.

“Just the pee-stick version” said Jane. “Our best guess is that I'm, well, likely to deliver around Mimi's first birthday.” She reached out her hand to cup Mimi's cheek.

“You – you can't be serious” said Margie, her tone cutting through all the glee. She stood, also, looking down at Gillam with a scowl. “You couldn't even fucking keep it zipped for a year, to give her a full year with her mother?” She reached for Mimi.

Gillam's face was stunned. Unconsciously, he pulled Mimi away from Margie's reach. It hit Margie, and everyone else, like a blow – a blow in answer to her harsh words. After a few frozen seconds, Margie strode out the back door toward her mothers' house.

Ginny looked at Frances and said “What the hell just happened here? Do you want to go after her, or shall I?”

Frances looked extremely uncomfortable. “I – she won't want to talk with me right now. Not after – the owners of Simpatico last night offered me a chance to buy into the restaurant, become a partner. I waited to tell her until she picked me up. We've been fighting about it, only stopped because we knew you were here waiting on us.” She ran a hand through her sweat-stained hair.

“Ah” said Ginny. She said to Gillam “Doesn't excuse her crapping on you, but it is her birthday. I'll be back.” She went out the door after Margie.

Myra saw pieces falling into place on the faces of others. Except Jane, who said thickly “So, what? She's blaming Gillam for being born in the first place, and insinuating he's dissing Mimi by having more than one child?”

Allie stood and lifted a very still and silent Mimi from Gillam's arms. “We going upstairs to look at the mural and tell stories” she announced. Mimi's uncertain expression melted back into gladness as she strolled away with Allie. Gillam watched them head upstairs and said quietly “I didn't notice how...I'm sorry, I was focused on my own shit.”

Myra said to him “It's always going to be Allie who looks out for the babies first. It's her gift. But we'd have been on it in another minute, don't beat yourself up about it.”

Carly said to Frances “What was your fight about?”

“I want this chance. We can still open another restaurant in a couple of years someplace else. But it means committing to life in Portland” said Frances.

Portland's better than L.A. or New York Myra thought to herself. Everyone was trying to sort out the implications and there was a long silence. Misinterpreting this, Frances said “You know what? I need a break. I'm going for a walk, to clear my head.” She started for the front door.

“But it's raining” said Myra. Frances grabbed an umbrella from the stand by the door and didn't pause, shutting the door behind her a little too emphatically.

“Peas in a pod” said Eric not quite to himself. Carly stifled a laugh. Myra said to Gillam “It's not about you and Jane. She's attacking your actions because it's easier than facing her own.”

“What else is new” said Gillam with residual bitterness. He faced his plate directly and began eating. After a few seconds, everyone else followed suit. Edwina finished most of her portions, stood and said “I'm checking on Allie.” In a few minutes, they were back at the table with Mimi, who sat in Edwina's lap while Allie ate. Conversation was not quite normal, although they were all trying. Allie kept leaning toward Mimi and saying “You gonna eat tonight. Chew and swallow. Never gonna be the same, baby girl.”

They cleared the table together, saving three plates in the fridge. Gillam looked at Myra and said “Now what?”

“She'll need to come apologize to you, I think” said Myra. “I'm going home to check in. And make baby pudding.” She looked questioningly at Cathy.

“We going with you” said Allie. She turned to Jane and said “You get some rest. We bringing ribs for dinner, let everybody else do the work.” She, Edwina, Cathy and Myra walked back through the slackening rain to the second house. Once inside the back door, they could hear a murmur of voices from upstairs, in Ginny's studio. Myra called up the air well “We're home.”

Margie's face appeared above her. “We're still talking. Where's Frances?”

“Out in the rain somewhere” replied Myra. “Come down when you want to be with us.”

Allie and Edwina went into the kitchen to begin assembling a rub for their ribs. Myra joined them to cut apart three small pumpkins for steaming, while Cathy made a pot of tea. Myra said “I guess Poppyseed is going to have a little brother or sister. I'm going to name this second character Cotton, I think.”

Edwina laughed. “She got parents, our Poppy?”

“Yeah. A traditional pair, named Flax and Cara Way respectively. Allie, you draw an idea of what Cotton looks like and I'll use that as my blueprint for describing him or her.”

Allie had returned from the pantry with a jar of Ginny's tomato paste and said briefly to Edwina “I'm thinking wet sauce as opposed to dry rub.” She leaned toward Myra and said quietly “They gonna break up over this?”

Myra thought for a minute. “No. If they were, they wouldn't be so sparky. They fight things out, it's how it works for them.” She saw relief on Cathy's face.

“She'll fall in love with the second baby just as much” predicted Edwina. Allie and Myra looked at each other. Myra wondered if that was true.

“They gonna have two in diapers at the same time. Two needing to be mostly carried everywhere, fed, most things done for 'em” said Allie. “And Jane's body pushed to max, no matter what kinda German farmer grit she come from.”

“A golden opportunity for Margie, if she gets over her crap” said Myra, following Allie's train of thought.

Half an hour later, Myra had pulled out one of her mother's cookbooks and was reading out loud what it had to say about making crackers for babies. “I could adapt this to whole grain” she said. “Give Mimi something to gum. If I use rice syrup, I could skip any other form of sugar to activate the yeast, I bet.”

The front door opened and beyond the counter they saw Frances coming toward them. “We're talking about bread for babies” said Myra. “You need something hot to drink? Your cheeks look chapped.”

“I'll get it in a bit” said Frances. “She here?”

“Upstairs with her mom, go on up” said Myra.

“Don't forget about durum” said Frances over her shoulder. “Full of protein.”

A few minutes later, Ginny joined them in the kitchen. “They're in the spare bedroom up there” she said.

“It's not soundproofed” commented Myra.

“We'll put on music, if need be” said Ginny.

“Anything you can share with us?” whispered Edwina.

“Nothing you won't have guessed” said Ginny. “She's already sorry. One interesting thing, she said she's got more friends left in Seattle from ten years ago than she's made in Portland. Why is that, I wonder? She never had trouble making friends before.”

“Being a grownup means making youself as vulnerable as the folks you ask to love you forever” said Allie. “She keep dancing on that fault line.”

“And now it's come up with Mimi” said Myra. “Gillam says when they talk to her about Aunt Margie, Mimi sometimes makes the sign for 'more', like, you know, 'Where the fuck is she? Produce her, please.' I think that's really unusual in one so little.”

“Babies are black holes” said Ginny. “They suck up everything you can give them and still want more.” Cathy laughed abruptly and said “They should print that on receiving blankets.”

Ten minutes later, they heard footsteps on the front stairs. Margie called to them from the front door “We won't be here for lunch, see you later.”

“Well” said Ginny. “That was quick.”

“Or maybe they want privacy to duke it out” said Cathy. Ginny asked “How do Nate and Noah handle things in their relationships?” They began comparing notes.

Because Cathy could never get enough West Coast seafood, Ginny steamed clams and mussels for the birthday potluck. Sima and Chris brought salmon, and Myra knew Carly and Eric were making jerk chicken. In addition to the pumpkin custard, Myra made mashed potatoes and braised brussel sprouts. Frances had insisted the cake be left for her, but Myra baked a blueberry pie on the side.

Just past 4:00, Margie called to say she and Frances were next door and dinner prep could begin in earnest. Ginny asked her if she had made up with Gillam, and Margie said “Duh. Where am I calling from, again?” The older women walked over through the now clear air, burdened with pots of food and presents. Thad, Davonn, and a few of Jane and Gillam's friends were there, with loud music playing and Mimi sequestered in the bedroom for a nap.

Frances was beating eggwhites in a copper pan. Margie said “Can you take a break?” and Frances shook her head, saying “Let me get the batter into pans first.” Myra noticed not just a renewed connection between them, but a buzz of excitement. She moved her chair to sit next to Ginny.

A few minutes later, Frances emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands. Myra said “Could we turn down the music, please?” Gillam switched off the stereo as Margie stood beside Frances, both of them grinning.

“Well, not to steal Jane and Gillam's thunder, who apparently are making a tradition of momentous announcements on my birthday” said Margie, her tone sweet enough to reassure everyone no sarcasm was intended. “But we have news, too.”

She looked at Frances, who said “It's yours to say, I think. At least, to begin.”

Margie slid her arm through Frances' and faced them. “Okay. I...I don't want my niece – niece and nephew, or nieces, whatever it turns out – I want them to grow up with me around all the time. I don't want to buy a house in Portland, I don't want – I need my family. I'm sorry it took me so damned long to figure it out. And – well, Seattle is one of the most highly regarded foodie cities in America, especially for seafood. And Capital Hill needs exactly the kind of Italian cuisine Frances can provide. So...we, well, Frances found out today that Aux Delice is about to be put on the market. The old man who owns it wants to move to the Bay Area, and none of his children want to take over the business. We're going to make a bid on the building, which will have the first Carminati's on the ground floor and our apartment on the second floor. If it goes as we hope.”

The screams were loud and sustained, making Margie gloat with happiness. They talked over each other for a long time, pulling from Frances the story of how, once she had cooled off, she'd stopped in at Aux Delice for a cup of coffee and got into conversation with the owner who had to work that day, filling in for staff off for the holiday. She and Margie drew an outline of the building as it was now, then a second sketch of Frances' planned renovations. Eventually Mimi woke up from her nap and joined them, and shortly afterward the timer went off to signal the cake being done.

Myra sat pressed against Ginny, who had not stopped trembling since Margie's announcement. Once Ginny murmured “More than a birthday” and Myra nodded at her. When the group cooking effort began, Myra stayed with Ginny. They joined Jane on the couch, passing Mimi around and silently trying to absorb this shift in their family's configuration.

Allie came to them to ask about pureeing spinach for Mimi. She whispered “This means no more Imani. I can see it on Margie's face.”

“Indeed” said Myra.

At the table, Margie asked if she could be the one to give Mimi her first spoonful of food. Gently, Gillam said it needed to be Jane, to retain her as the provider of sustenance for Mimi with the end of breastfeeding arriving the next day. Mimi was allowed to hold the spoon for herself before any food was loaded on it. She waved it around dangerously and dropped it several times in her excitement, a small treasure Gillam had bought for her with a fat handle in the shape of a giraffe. Eventually, Jane scooped it into the pumpkin and helped Mimi guide it toward her mouth. Her face registered utter astonishment as the taste hit her tongue, and orange slobber cascaded over her chin. They laughed nonstop as she struggled to get as much of the new wonder inside her body as on it. She approved of the spinach and the applesauce just as vigorously. Eventually Gillam took a turn feeding her, handing the spoon to Margie for a couple of forays.

It was a giddy meal. Carly videotaped much of it, swearing he could use the footage to blackmail Mimi during her adolescence. After cake and presents, Ginny looked over the formula options Jane had amassed in the cupboard while Gillam burped Mimi and blanched a little at the new colors and texture of her urp. “Her poop is going to change smell, too” warned Myra.

“The fun never stops” replied Gillam, as Margie got up to dance with Frances, handing Mimi over to Cathy.

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.

Once a month treat, and also requested by the kids for birthday breakfasts. Serves 4.
Loaf of unsliced bread -- leftover challah is great for this
2 brown eggs
1/2 cup raw milk
Teaspoon of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 bananas
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup butter
Apple butter or confectioner's sugar
Cut the bread into 2-inch thick slices. Carefully cut into each slice from the top to make a pocket big enough to hold half-pieces of banana; do not tear all the way through.
Peel bananas and cut each into half. Cut each half lengthwise into 2 slices. Stuff two slices into each bread pocket.
Beat the eggs together with the milk, cinnamon and salt.
Heat oil and butter together in a non-stick skillet to medium heat. Dip each bread pocket into the egg mixture, then place into the skillet. Cook for one minute or until golden brown. Turn and fry the other side until done. Put on plate and spread with apple butter or, as a rare treat, confectioner's sugar.


Thursday, November 6, 2008


David Letterman with his son Harry
Letterman On The Election

As Evan Robinson at Group News Blog and I have remarked before, you do not trifle with David Letterman. (Trifle is not the particular word Evan used, but it carries a cultural punch here in the South that works just as well.)

I was looking forward to Dave's take on the election outcome. Sure enough, he was ON FIRE. You can watch his monologue for November 5 here, but below are my favorite lines from it:

"Welcome to the Late Show. Attention, passengers: The Straight Talk Express is no longer in service.

"Ladies and gentleman, Barack Obama is our new President (waits for wild applause), yep, and I think I speak for most Americans when I say, Anybody mind if he starts a little early? Would that be a problem? (More wild applause and laughter, and Paul Schaffer shouts "Not at all!")

"I would like to say one thing to Senator John McCain: Listen, Senator, you don't show up for me, America doesn't show up for you.

"And then at the end of the evening, the electoral vote count was 349 for Obama, 148 for McCain, or as Fox News says, 'Too close to call.'

"Republicans had a bad night all around, everywhere you looked. Even the crooked voting machines in Florida broke down. That was tough.

"Right about now, Joe the Plumber is meeting with his transition team. They're going to help ease him from obscurity back to oblivion.

"Sarah Palin, right now on her way back to Alaska...And I'm thinking, whoo, I wouldn't want to be a moose now.

"And did you see the concession speech last night? John McCain was generous, he was gracious, he was statesmanlike...And I was thinking, well, he should have tried that earlier."
Obama supporters at rally with Michelle Obama in Las Vegas, New Mexico on 29 October 2008 (Photo of supporters at rally with Michelle Obama in Las Vegas, New Mexico on 29 October 2008; photo by Adrienne Booth)


Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Here's the crunchy, whole-grain, ever so organically sweetened nuggets of the people's roar from November 4th. We'll talk more analytically another time. For today, wear your grin like a lapel button and relax in the arms of the goddess. We be okay.

Good News:
~South Dakota voted against the proposed abortion ban.
~Jeanne Shaheen has been elected Senator from New Hampshire (I got to meet her daughter at Netroots Nation!)
~Mark Warner has been elected Senator from Virginia, a win that puts Democrats in both state senate seats for the first time since 1970.
~Kay Hagan has been elected Senator from North Carolina -- buh-bye, Liddy Dole! (Trotting out last-minute racism did NOT work here.)
~Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer won a second term in Montana's gubernatorial race
~New Hampshire Democratic Governor John Lynch nails a third term.
~Democratic State Treasurer Jack Markell has won the governor's seat in Delaware. Markell could replace Sen. Joe Biden when he becomes vice president.
~South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson (D), who missed most of 2007 while recuperating from a brain aneurysm, was re-elected to the Senate.
~Connecticut Republican Chris Shays, New England's last remaining Republican Congress member, lost to Democrat Jim Himes.
~Colorado Democrat Mark Udall defeated Republican to take Senate seat
~New Mexico's Tom Udall, Democratic congressman and a member of a quasi-dynasty of Western environmentalist politicians, claimed the Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Senator Pete V. Domenici.
~Jay Nixon returned Missouri's Governorship to Democrats.
~Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu claimed a third term despite Katrina-caused loss of Democratic base.
~All three of New Mexico's House seats -- two held by Republicans -- will now be held by Democrats.
~Colorado voters rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution which would have defined a person as "any human being from the moment of fertilization."
(From Indexed.)
Bad News:
~Mormon money helped insure California's attempt to award equality in marriage to lesbians and gays was defeated (again).
~Arkansas passed a ban on lesbian/gay adoption.
~Proposition 2 in Florida passed, an amendment to the state constitution to ban lesbian/gay marriage. What fucking morons.
And -- doesn't this mean that a lot of people who voted for Obama in California and Florida also voted to deny human rights to (some of) my people?
~Susan Collins held onto her Senate seat in Maine.
~Indiana's Republican Governor Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. won a second term, defeating former Democratic congresswoman Jill Long Thompson.
~Texas hopeful Rick Noriega lost to Republican John Cornyn for the Texas Senate. (Damn, damn, damn.)

Unusual weather we're having lately, ain't it?


Tuesday, November 4, 2008


All Is Well poster by Alvin Blair
Maybe. I don't know.

Can you repeat the question?

You're not the boss of me now, you're not the boss of me now, you're not the boss of me now, and you're not so big.

Life is unfair.

It appears that the middle school approach to governing (and choosing our elected officials) is an experiment coming to an end. For two weeks now, people have been engaging in an activity which expresses their preference as to who they want to make decisions for them. Today we'll do it in massive numbers. On a fundamental level, this is a yes-no decision. The right to say yes or no is one of the earliest behaviors we learn and one of the earliest we have taken away from us.

We assume parents limit their children's autonomy for reasons of safety and well-being. Much of the time, that's an accurate assumption. But we, as parents, are also regularly handing on our scar tissue from how our own yes-no power was unjustly fucked with.

When my daughter was around four years old, she discovered she could collect spit in her mouth and make interesting sounds with it. She quickly became enamored of this activity. Just as quickly, I realized I could not tolerate it. If we were trapped together, say in a car, I simply told her to stop. If we were at home, I forced her to go to her room or outside "to do that". I don't remember offering an explanation beyond "Because I don't want to hear it" or, even more likely, "Because I said so." (Translation: I have power over you, and I'm exercising it without any recourse on your part.)

If I had been interrupted by someone I trusted, I might have been able to come up with a reason for my visceral reaction and aversion. If I really, really trusted them at that point in time, it's remotely conceivable I could even have told them the reason: My teenaged older brother used to torture me and my little brother, 8 and 11 years younger than him respectively, in every manner he could imagine. One of his favorite tactics was to hold us down -- he was a high school quarterback -- and let spit dangle from his mouth over our faces, closer and closer to our own mouths, until either he lost control and it fell on us and/or we vomited. Begging for mercy made no difference. The ultimate goal was to make us retch at the merest hint of his saliva.

Now, after years of therapy focusing on my childhood abuse, that particular button doesn't make me instantly crazy -- I can listen to a child engaging in this rite-of-passage self-exploration for a few minutes before, politely, asking them to find something else they can do with their mouths. I've wiped my share of drool and snot, and although I'm still a sympathy hurler (I can't watch one segment of The Meaning of Life, for instance), I don't have a glass stomach. But I'm still carrying damage from that early denial of my right to say no.

When I look at our culture, I see us as all carrying damage with regard to yes-no judgment. One feminist precept states that you cannot claim to have the freedom or judgment to say "yes" if you cannot also so "no" without major consequence. Notions of consent are predicated on this. And under conservative rule, consent has been under constant attack and abridgement. We are, in many ways, more confused about consent than we were three decades ago.

I write this as an initial effort in the task before us to clear our cultural confusion and regain yes-no clarity. The main body of this task will begin after the election, after we have not only won the Presidency but swept government. We the People are profoundly angry as a result of our growing comprehension of how our consent has been manipulated, stolen, and taken for granted. We may be confused, but we still have a "no" in our grasp and I believe we are going to use it in landslide numbers.

In a recent conversation with Jesse, he said he thought the erosion in our yes-no judgment arrived in full force with advertising. Advertising comes at us without our consent, and we are not able to engage in a two-way conversation with it. Each decade growing up under its influence creates a more passive response to the world, a passivity which finds solace in authoritarianism and xenophobia. (Not to mention porn, fast food, uniforms, and shopping, all of which encourage avoidance of actual thinking about your actions and taking power.)

I see a prior-to-advertising cultural predisposition to denial of autonomy, however, one whose coattails advertising rode in on. Some days I can see an enormous blueprint for it -- totaling, of course, to the number 42. Other days, it's mostly the reality of all the denials of no that I bump up against as a woman.

As a woman, I was raised to not say no. I was raised to avoid, defer, deflect, flirt, make a joke of it, pretend, charm, parse, diminish, or barricade any "no" I might have in response to a male approach. On the average day, the average woman dances around "no" dozens of times, because to do otherwise is to be accused of not being a real woman. It is the grammar of our female syntax, how to imply "yes" without landing in a snare. (The root word of glamour is grammar, a spellbook.)

I come from a generation which dared allow ourselves to see the skein around us which tells us plain boiled "no" is not an acceptable answer. It's a stark vision. To a lesser extent, I've also learned to notice how people of color are forced to say "yes" to anyone white. Children of color are carefully taught how to not deny a yes to white people. Don't be confused by its flipped version, the angry/defiant immediate "no" which so upsets white supremacists: The flip side of a coin is still a shape accepting the stamp of a metal hammer.

This election has brought out in the open, in a new way, our pathology around who gets to say "no", and who does not. I believe the results of today's voting will be, at its most basic, a reach for the right to say "no" by those who have not done so, not reliably and as clearly, in the past. It is more than a "fuck you", it is an energizing, often exuberant "no". No as the cornerstone of a new discourse without lying. No as honor.

Or, as it was perfectly said by Adrienne Rich in her 1977 essay "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying":

"Truthfulness anywhere means a heightened complexity. But it is a movement into evolution. Women are only beginning to uncover our own truths; many of us would be grateful for some rest in that struggle, would be glad iust to lie down with the sherds we have painfully unearthed, and be satisfied with those. The politics worth having, the relationships worth having, demand that we delve still deeper.

"The possibilities that exist between two people, or among a group of people, are a kind of alchemy. They are the most interesting thing in life. The liar is someone who keeps losing sight of these possibilities.

"When relationships are determined by manipulation, by the need for control, they may possess a dreary, bickering kind of drama, but they cease to be interesting. They are repetitious; the shock of human possibilities has ceased to reverberate through them. When someone tells me a piece of the truth which has been withheld from me, and which I needed in order to see my life more clearly, it may bring acute pain, but it can also flood me with a cold, sharp wash of relief. Often such truths come by accident, or from strangers.

"It isn't that to have an honorable relationship with you, I have to understand everything, or tell you everything at once, or that I can know, beforehand, everything I need to tell you.

"It means that most of the time I am eager, longing for the possibility of telling you. That these possibilities may seem frightening, but not destructive, to me. That I feel strong enough to hear your tentative and groping words. That we both know we are trying, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us.

"The possibility of life between us."

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]




Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.


Monday, November 3, 2008


Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC
Here's another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.

Late October 2014

The following day, after checking in to their hotel, Myra and Margie went with Ginny to the Corcoran to help with hanging Ginny's paintings. Myra was tired, and after an hour, she went back to the bistro in their hotel to try working on something original instead of thinking about the book just published. The three of them had a late dinner with Ginny's agent. At one point, Myra asked Margie “Are you going to call or see Mark the Spark while you're in town?”

“ Hadn't even really thought about it, actually. Did you know, he sent Gillam a silver spoon as a gift for Mimi's birth?”

Myra and Ginny were both startled, Myra mostly because Gillam hadn't mentioned it.

“No. How did he know about it?”

“Gillam included him on the announcement list, I gather. I really don't know how to think of the guy. I don't think Gillam did, either. He said the spoon was engraved so he couldn't sell it on eBay, but he doesn't think of Mark as being part of Mimi's lineage. They eventually packed it away somewhere, he said.”

The next morning, Margie woke them up at 7 a.m. by dumping a stack of newspapers on the end of their bed and saying “I'm ordering room service. I have an hour and a half before I need to catch a cab to the airport to meet Aunt Cathy. Wake up and read the reviews of your book, Mama.”

Myra went to pee before returning to bed. From the bathroom, she heard Margie on the phone, saying “Yeah, over medium for those two, but the second order should be scrambled with either Gruyere or feta, if you've got it. A stack of cakes – do you have whole wheat? Buckwheat will do. Plus a bagel with lox and cream cheese, three orders of yogurt, a large fruit salad, and – what kind of sausage to you have? What about ham? Smithfield will be fine, that's with the eggs over medium. Blueberry muffins, a pot of coffee, a pot of mint tea, a pitcher of orange juice, a glass no two glasses of milk, and – add on a large Coke.” She heard Ginny make some comment. “Yes, that's all for now. Thanks.”

When Myra returned to bed, Ginny had the New York Times Review of Books open. Her face was excited as she said “Oh, it's a rave, lover! Let me read it to you, okay?”

They basked in what was almost universal praise for Myra's breakthrough work as they slowly ate almost everything the burdened cart brought to their room contained. Myra said “Well, I'd have been worried if Paglia had liked what I wrote” as she used her forefinger to wipe a last smear of maple syrup from the pancake plate.

Margie had begun brushing her hair. Ginny set aside sections of paper to save and said “Now, don't leave that airport without her, no matter if there's some problem with her flight. She's gotten scared of flying these days without Michael. If your aunties don't want to wait, send them on back here without you. Okay?”

“I know, Mom. You'll be at the gallery, yes?”

“Yeah, but I'll stay here at the hotel to get you them checked in” said Myra.

Ginny made it back to the bistro by 2 p.m. for a late lunch with everyone, walking the five blocks and arriving with bright red cheeks. She changed before they returned to the Corcoran, allowing Margie to mousse her hair in front and wearing all of the bracelets Sima had made for her.

It was the best show she'd ever had. Myra kept whispering to her “You're in your PRIME”. Myra followed Ginny around simply to hear what Ginny had to say about her own work. At one point, Ginny declared “My partner is a storyteller, our live is filled with story, and that's slowly altered my approach to filling a canvas. It's not just an evocation any more, it's becoming an ongoing saga. Not strictly chronological or even logical, necessarily, except to me.” After that reporter walked away, Myra murmured “You've now unleashed the art critic hounds. They're going to be looking for the saga.”

“Let 'em try. They miss everything else, they won't see it” said Ginny, grinning.

Later, Ginny was deep in conversation with a well-known muralist, Margie shunting questions to each of them as a wide knot of others listened in. Ginny said “It wasn't until I began painting furniture that I realized one of the techniques I'd learned for murals, how to make a straight line on an unyielding surface, could be adapted to canvas if I adjusted the tension I stretched them to. Each of these paintings in this show has a slightly different canvas 'give', so I could try out variations on line structure.” She began walking around to point out examples, her arm linked through the muralist's, creating a kind of comet tail behind her. A photograph of this headed the next day's review of the show.

Cathy and Margie returned home the morning after the show, catching a cab to the airport together while Ginny was interviewed on Washington television. Two days later, following Myra's book signing at Lambda Rising in DC, the six friends went out to Cafe Atlantico, which was becoming their favorite place to eat.

“What the FUCK?” said Myra. “Is it going to be like this at all my readings?”

“You could eliminate the Q&A sessions” said Ginny, tight-jawed. “Or better yet, only take questions from people who've actually bought your book. That'll weed out the troublemakers.”

“Not to mention the low income women” said Myra, looking at her reprovingly.

“Okay, as soon as it was out of my mouth...” said Ginny. “But have you noticed they all parrot the same things?”

“They do that online, too” said Myra. “All the shit they claim about our generation, that we were closed to new ideas and punished nonconformists, that's what they're actually running themselves. I can hardly believe it.”

“You're pointing out their emperor has no clothes” said Chris.

“But I'm not, actually” protested Myra. “I simply made available the publications themselves, in an easily searchable format, so you can find out in a matter of seconds who said what. Or whether a certain issue was as big as the mythmakers claim it was.”

“Same difference” said Sima.

“They time is up, and it still gotta be our fault” said Allie. “Mama to blame, always. They tried the same suck-up game the Democrats did for 20 years with the Republicans, and it don't work, don't never work. Conservatives who hate the notion of feminism itself sure were ready to believe we're all either L-Word femmes who fuck men on the side or unhappy butches who really just want surgery so we can be mens too. Now that those options aren't cool anymore, either, we back to square one. Big surprise.”

“Back to your earlier question” said Edwina thoughtfully. “Yes, it is likely to be this way at all your readings. You're challenging a sacred cow, one that careers and frustrated movements have been based on. And you're getting a lot of press. Even more now that they're linking Ginny to you. This will last another month or so, I think.”

“Damn” said Myra.

“If you can stay away from being defensive, stay funny and don't fall for their straw man arguments, it'll be an easier ride” said Edwina.

“It'll be like the old days of the lesbian speaker's bureau” said Chris, grinning. “You could insert one of those old slides, showing female anatomy and how it is that dykes actually have sex, remember?”

“That's a fabulous idea!” laughed Myra. “Could one of you artists sketch it for me? I'll add it as comic relief in the middle somewhere.”

“I'll leave that to Ginny” said Allie, winking at Ginny.

The waiter reappeared and they opened their menus, but it was a foregone conclusion that Ginny would be getting conch fritters and Myra the feijao tropeiro, with a large order of guacamole made at tableside as appetizers for them all. Once their ticket was in, Myra excused herself and went to the bathroom, where she took a long time washing her face and looking at herself in the mirror.

Back at the table, Ginny took her hand and said “We had a talk while you were gone, and we have a proposal for you.” Ginny looked at Allie, who said “Me and Chris gonna stay in DC with ya'll for the next few days while you here, then ride the train to New York for your reading there.”

“Really? What about you, Sima? And Edwina?” asked Myra.

“I need to get back home” said Sima. Edwina added “This'll give me more time with Mimi without you grabby grammas around.”

“Are you like my bodyguards?” Myra asked Chris. Chris snorted.

“No. We just want in on it. And I could really use unlimited hours at the Smithsonian” said Chris. But Ginny's hand squeeze at the word “bodyguards” had answered Myra better.

“Why don't you move into our room after Edwina leaves?” Allie said to Chris. “We got a great view and we on the corner, it quieter.”

The next several days were idyllic for Myra. Ginny went to another art interview the following morning, came back to the hotel and began a painting. Myra split her time between going through museum artifacts with Chris, acting as her notekeeper to gain equal access with Chris, or digging in archives with Allie. The three of them had dinner together and then split up, Allie and Chris often going out to movies or entertainment while Myra went back to the hotel room with take-out for Ginny and wrote until midnight.

By the following weekend on the train north, they were all feeling productive and ready for hijinks. They tooled around New York for a day. That night was Halloween. The next day, Myra called Gillam to see how everyone was doing. She could hear Mimi crying in the background.

“What's bothering her?” she asked. “Naptime – no, it's too early for that there, huh?”

“She's been raw ever since last night” he said tiredly. “Not a good holiday for her, at least not yet. We avoided a regular costume because it seemed a little weird to dress her up without her knowing what it was all about. But Jane had found that brown velvet onesie that Mimi actually likes wearing, with a hood, you know? So we called her our Little Potato.”

“Oh, how fabulous!” said Myra. “You took photos, I hope.”

“Carly did. Jane and I rented a couple of costumes – I went as a steak, and she was salad, to go along with Mimi.” He began laughing with Myra, who asked “And what about Carly and Eric?”

“Eric went as Hiro Nakamura, you know, the time traveler on Heroes. So of course Carly dressed up as the cheerleader.” Myra was now in stitches, and Gillam waited on her a minute until she could hear him clearly again. “Anyhow, Mimi was fine with all that. She especially like Carly's pom-poms. But then children began arriving at our door dressed as scary things, and after the first two times of us carrying her to give out candy, we gave up on it because she was having shrieking fits. It got to where every time the doorbell rang, even though Jane had taken her to the back and Carly was entertaining her, the doorbell would set her off and she'd be looking anxiously toward the front of the house, as if those ghouls were going to get past me and come attack us.”

“Oh, poor baby” commiserated Myra, trying not to giggle.

“Yeah, so she's been jumpy ever since. I mean, it makes sense to me. It'll be better next year, I figure. I'll send you some photos in an e-mail if you want” he offered.

“I'd love that. Ginny and I stayed in and ordered an old movie on the hotel closed circuit. Turns out she'd never watched Them, and she actually enjoyed it.”

“What about Allie and Chris?”

“They went out to some older lesbian do in Greenwich Village. They came back sweaty from dancing and teasing each other about the swath they'd cut. Ginny looked disapproving but I bet Allie tells Edwina everything. Those two never worry about each other” said Myra.

“So, your reading is tomorrow?”

“Yep. Then Allie and Chris will fly back, and Ginny and I will get on the train for Philadelphia. Followed by Boston, Burlington, and Ontario in a five-day jog. Pretty intense, and not enough time with Liza. But we'll come back on Saturday night, so count on us for the next singing potluck.”

“Margie sent me an e-mail saying she and Frances are coming for Thanksgiving and wanting to know what our December plans are” said Gillam.

“Yeah, she wrote me, too. Her birthday is the Friday after T-day this year, you know. Do you have Christmas plans yet?”

“We're not traveling. I don't know if Jemima and Anton are coming up, but we're having Chanukah and everything else in our house with Mimi, we know that much” said Gillam. “It sounds to me like Margie wants to be here if Mimi is.” He chuckled.

“Well, I feel the same way, of course” said Myra. “Oh, here they come back with a deli run. I'm going to eat lunch, we'll call before we get on the train.”

Two weeks later, on Saturday afternoon, Ginny called to Myra in her study "Hey, Gillam's coming in the gate." She beat Myra downstairs, saying "Everything okay at your place?"

"Yeah. We wore her out enough to grab a nap. I came over to talk with you, though. About something." His face was serious. Ginny put the kettle on as Myra sat down at the table, motioning Gillam to the chair beside her. Ginny took the chair on his other side.

"I need to ask you a favor. It's about -- you know on Sundays, we go to Meeting and we split the hour for worship, each of us taking half an hour with Mimi in First Day School? Now that she's too old and verbal, in her own way, to be quiet through Meeting." He was examining his fingernails. Myra did know how they were handling things, having gone to Meeting with them recently. It was news to Ginny, but not surprising -- this was how many parents handled Meeting until their children were old enough to sit still and silent for an hour.

"Well, I -- I don't want to miss a full hour any more. I'm...I need more worship time, I guess you'd say. I need something more than what I'm getting, and -- it's in that realm. In fact, there's a worship group for young parents which gathers the hour before Meeting, and Jane and I would both like to attend. So...I can't believe I'm willing to do this, but I was wondering if I could get you two to take Mimi at least a couple of hours on Sundays? Not every Sunday, Carly and Eric would also step in, and maybe the aunties..." He trailed off.

Myra's brain was bustling, sorting all the meanings of this. Ginny didn't hesitate. "We'd be thrilled. And yes, I know for a fact Edwina would like for her and Allie to have a set alone date with Mimi. But count us in for at least half your Sundays. Right, Myra?"

"Absolutely. I'm impressed, Gillam, that you're able to make this step so soon. We took longer to -- well, set aside time for our personal needs. Spiritual or whatever." She put her hands over his, so he was forced to look up at her.

His eyes were troubled. "I feel like I'm skipping out on her" he said softly. "But what's going on inside...Don't get me wrong, I'm not suffering. I'm happy, is the thing. I'm happy every day, a lot of the day. My life is crammed, and tired as I am, it's a good tired. I simply don't know what to do with all the love and learning and...I don't even know how to express it. Except maybe in conversation with god."

"I know exactly what you mean" answered Myra, just as softly. He curled his hands upward, to link his fingers with hers. Ginny said "Every day, I wish you had your Zayde to lean on."

Gillam faced her gratefully. "Oh, Mama, so do I. He was right in the middle of figuring things out, you know. I mean, he had so much experience, but there were ways we were seeing things for the first time together. He'd have jumped at the chance to do what I'm doing. I hope you know that."

Ginny's eyes filled with tears. "I believe it completely when you say it, Gillam."

Myra let them gaze at each other for a minute. Then she said "I want to ask you to have us be the ones to sit with Mimi the first couple of times you leave. Because -- well, this will be the first time both of you leave her presence, right?"

He swung back to Myra, now frightened. "Yes. Are you saying that matters?"

"Of course it matters. Since she was born, she's had one or both of you with her, at every minute. You were there when she was born, so you represent continuity, a physical reality, that no one else does. And this will be her first break in that continuity. She hasn't yet learned that she can survive such a break, that reality can exist without her being in your proximity. She needs to be with people who can help her bridge that rupture. Ginny and I have already been through it, with Margie and with you in turn."

He was now panicked. "Oh god, Mom, then let's wait until she's older, I don't want her to be hurt by my selfish needs -- "

"Now, see, that's a mistake. Your needs aren't selfish, not if she's got other resources. And whenever you take this step, it will be profound jolt for her. But it's a precious life lesson. If she can find out that she's intact and safe even if you and Jane aren't in the house, well, that will last her the rest of her life. In fact, she'll use it every day. She deserves to learn it under the best of circumstances, and planned is better than unplanned -- like, if there was an emergency that tore you away from her. It's better that you go get a need met, coming back in noticeably improved shape, as part of this process. And developmentally she's at an age to learn the lesson. Although it won't happen with just one or two episodes, it will take repetition for her to grasp that you can both go away, come back, and everything's the same."

"Do you think she'll freak out?" asked Gillam, begging Myra for reassurance with his eyes.

"I think she will. You did. Margie did. She's as sharp and healthy as you two were. But this is normal, Gillam. She'll freak out, we'll help her through it, and she'll grow in a way she's ready to grow. It's a gift you'll be handing her."

Gillam looked at Ginny to see if she agreed. When he saw she did, he put his forehead in his hands and said "Oh, god. It's just one thing after another."

"Sure is" said Myra. "Which is why using all the help you can muster continues to be a brilliant strategy on your park, boychik. Do you want to start tomorrow morning?"

"I don't know. I need to go talk this over with Jane." He began pushing back his chair.

"Wait, I haven't made tea yet" said Ginny, signaling Myra with her eyes as she got up and went into the kitchen. Myra said to Gillam "I'm so glad we named you after David, in our own sneaky way. He'd be blown away by the father you are, but I think he'd also recognize how his continued courage helped bring the Bates line to this point in history."

"Can you imagine how nuts he'd be about Mimi?" said Gillam, relaxing back in his chair.

"Mm, and vice versa" said Myra, putting her arm over his shoulder. "I wish we had a baby picture of Rosa, I keep thinking Mimi looks more like her than anyone else. Except, you know, I see a lot of Jane in her, too. Not the coloring, but her hands, her legs, and especially how much she loves to laugh."

Gillam was extremely pleased. "You need to say that where Jane can hear it."

"I will" said Myra, as Ginny returned with tea and cups. They talked another quarter hour, and between the two of them, Gillam was given enough permission to cry a few minutes, his wide shoulders losing some of their tension afterward. He walked back home with a loaf of rosemary bread and a promise to let them know about the following morning.

To Myra's relief, he and Jane decided yes, which was yet another sign of how well they figured things out together, she thought. She got up, showered, dressed, ate breakfast, and started a pot of black beans in the crock pot by 9:30, when she and Ginny walked over to sit with Mimi. Jane and Gillam both assured Mimi earnestly of how much they loved her and that they would be back, until they finally assisted each other out their front door, pale and conflicted. Mimi was in Ginny's arms and looked brightly at the closed door for a few seconds, then extended her hand toward it and said something which Myra thought really was very much like "Dee?"

Ginny was never one to beat about the bush. She walked to the door with Mimi and held it open so they could watch Jane and Gillam drive away, waving to them calmly and saying "Bye-bye! See you soon!"

Mimi gave it another 30 seconds before exploding like a volcano. Her terror and grief was gut-wrenching to witness. She remained inconsolable for the next three hours. Myra and Ginny passed her back and forth between them as they became affected by her tense, wailing body. After half an hour, she began pointing to the back of the house, and Myra understood she wanted to go to their house, to search for her parents there. She quietly walked Mimi over, explaining that Jane and Gillam had gone to Quaker Meeting but of course they'd go check anyhow. Mimi shrieked louder when the search didn't work, and again the two times it was repeated. They changed her diaper, walked her outside, fed the fish, offered her toys and books, but didn't force distraction on her. She was exhausted by the time her parents returned, her face a wreck, her nose so congested she had trouble nursing despite her great hunger for Jane.

After eating black bean soup with optional toppings of chorizo, spicy shrimp, and avocado/sour cream, plus corn fritters and broccoli salad, Jane lay down for a nap and Gillam leaned back in the easy chair with Mimi. They were all asleep in minutes, and Mimi stayed asleep for the entire time with Gillam. Ginny followed Myra upstairs to her study and said "That was brutal. I don't remember it being that hard with ours."

"Well, we weren't there for the worst of it. Allie was, and Hannah."

"She's got such a strong will. She just didn't want to take no for an answer" Ginny said appreciatively.

"May she never lose that edge" agreed Myra. "What are you going to do this afternoon?"

"I felt a painting hit while she was raging in my arms" said Ginny. "I know you're leaving tomorrow for your book signing in Chicago -- "

"It's all right. Allie and Edwina are going with me. I was thinking about making lemon sole for our contribution to the singing potluck tonight, I can make extra and leave it in the fridge for you."

"Sounds good. There's a new crop of kale and cabbage in the crisper, too."

"Maybe some version of colcannon?"

"Myra...I'm so relieved he's happy. It feels like luck that he turned out that way. Not to denigrate all the incredible parenting you did, but -- "

"We did. But yeah, it feels like luck to me, too. All any mother ever wants."

"Do you think Margie is happy?"

Myra thought for a minute. "Mostly. But not as much as she could be."

"I'm going to call her before I stretch a canvas" Ginny decided.

"I'll be in the kitchen for the next half hour."

© 2008 Maggie Jochild.


Sunday, November 2, 2008


A young supporter at a rally with Michelle Obama in Las Vegas, New Mexico on October 29, 2008 (A young supporter at a rally with Michelle Obama in Las Vegas, New Mexico on October 29, 2008. Photo by Adrienne Booth.)

Charlotte Taft is what I think of as a Feminist's Feminist. She is particularly well-known and respected in Texas because she founded the Routh Street Women's Clinic, the first feminist reproductive rights clinic in our state. Routh Street became known, under her leadership, as a place where the whole woman was treated, where abortion was approached as the complicated and life-altering decision that it is without judgment or denial. With her efficient pragmatism and creative humor, she managed to dissuade Operation Rescue and other hate groups from keeping Routh Street Clinic as its number one target. Her kind of feminism is MY kind of feminism -- never single issue, never stepping away from identity but not living entirely in its tent either, a feminism which is an ethos and a world view, not just a stand on a few issues.

(For more information about Charlotte Taft and Routh Street Clinic, I recommend the fascinating article about her in the 1995 Dallas Observor.)

When Charlotte's letter, below, was forwarded on to me, I immediately knew I wanted to post it for international distribution. It's brilliant and open-minded and compassionate in that bold way I associate with women leaders. What I hope from sharing this to expand upon Charlotte's intent to begin a discussion, long overdue in this country, about the real meaning of feminism and why we can't go forward without it at our core. We've allowed others to kick dirt on it for too long, and now, with the likes of Sarah Palin claiming to be some version of "feminist", enough is enough. Just as we are taking back liberal, I'm leading the charge to take back feminist. It means what WE say it means.

And if you are a feminist, you will be voting for Obama. With pride. -- Maggie Jochild

An Open Letter to my fellow Hillary supporters who are considering casting their precious votes for McCain/Palin.

When I first heard that there were former Hillary supporters --- women --- who were going to vote for McCain I thought it was a vicious and cruel hoax. Now I realize that it is true. I think we must be coming from very different points of view. I can’t imagine what underlying beliefs and values are most important to you that his candidacy appeals to.

I’ve read some of the web sites that express anger and resentment at Hillary’s loss, and the sexism that was to blame. I was very disappointed, too. I agree that there was sexism, but when it comes down to it she didn’t win enough primaries. It doesn’t make sense to me to blame Obama, who represents and shares so many of the beliefs that Hillary stands for. It is traditional and convenient to pit women and minorities against each other. But we have more in common than not. And I wonder who benefits when we who have had so little power are scrambling to blame each other. I am hoping that your consideration of McCain doesn’t come from something as sad as racism. Every one of us has grown up in a society in which race is an issue--some of us more than others. I’ve been fortunate to have less to ‘undo’ than some people. But I hope you will see that not voting for someone because of race is exactly the same as not voting for someone because she is a woman. As a adult you either continue that kind of thinking, or you challenge it in yourself and others. That’s up to you.

I think you already know what you want to do, and you are looking for arguments that seem to make it acceptable. Though you have every right to use your vote in whatever way you want, I feel angry that you may vote for McCain not so much because of how this will affect my life, but because of what I believe is at stake for the future of women, the country, and the planet. I’m writing this letter for myself. You can read it or delete it. I fear that nothing I have to say will make any difference to you.

I’m going to write about what’s important to me, and why I think this election is so crucial. But before that there are a few points I want to make. Some of the women writing as feminists say that the Republicans respect women enough to take them seriously. I must disagree!

1. This is the Party that killed and buried the Equal Rights Amendment -- the total text of which was “Equality of Rights Under the law Shall not be Denied or Abridged by the United States or by any State on Account of Sex.” Over the past 30+ years they have killed thousands of bills and initiatives for child care, family leave, increased funding or education, alternative energy, funding for poor women to have the choice of abortion, funding for birth control and requirements that it be covered by regular insurance plans, comprehensive sex education programs, international family planning assistance, peace through diplomacy, early childhood education, school lunch programs, after school programs, wildlife and wilderness preservation, comprehensive health care, violence against women programs, and so many other things that I care deeply about. I have never felt respected or taken seriously by the Republican party. Their choice of a female whose views are antithetical to all I hold dear does not make me feel any more respected.

2. Some of the writers are intimating that Geraldine Ferraro and Bill and Hillary Clinton are going to vote for McCain. Of course I can’t read their minds, but I think it is the height of arrogance and solipsism for anyone say that just because they are going to vote for McCain, they also just know that these other great Americans are going to violate and abandon everything they campaigned for and stood for and believed in to support a ticket that epitomizes the polar opposite. I don’t know what is attracting you to McCain. I doubt it is something I can understand. But at least just be honest and say you have changed your mind about what you value. You have every right to your beliefs, but don’t cloak them in the pretense that this is some kind of righteous feminist anger. If you actually knew what Hillary Clinton stands for and supported, the issues and principals that she has worked so hard for, it would be a cavalier betrayal to throw your vote to the farthest Right Wing ticket we have seen in this nation since Barry Goldwater (who was, by the way, pro-choice!) I happened to serve on the National Democratic Platform Committee in 1984 which was chaired by Geraldine Ferraro the same year she was nominated as VP. I didn’t have any problems recalling her candidacy -- I’ve heard women say, “We can’t let the Republicans be the first.” The Democrats demonstrated that they trusted women 24 years ago. Do you even know that both the Green Party’s candidate for President and for Vice President are women? Cynthia McKinney and Rose Clemente. If what’s important to you is to support women, wouldn’t you at least cast your votes for them who support much more of the issues that Hillary supports?

3. I can’t let you think that we will not lose Roe v, Wade if McCain is elected, no matter what you hear. Better to acknowledge that you don’t care that much about it, or you don’t need an abortion, or birth control, or sex education, than to pretend to yourself that this will not happen. Currently 7 out of 9 Justices are Republican appointees. Three who have supported Roe v. Wade are older than Senator McCain and have been holding on so that the Court is not run by fundamentalists. Far Right anti-choice Justices like Scalia (who McCain has specifically cited as the type he would appoint) claim to be ruling based on Constitutional principles. But they never mention that abortion was legal when the constitution was ratified, and didn’t become illegal until the 1830’s. Many people don’t even realize that the court has already made significant inroads into legal abortion and access. The anti-choice Justices have been very clear in their opinions that they think Roe should be overturned -- as have Senator McCain and Governor Palin. McCain even says on his web site that he supports a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting abortion! When there is a vacancy on the court the President will be given a list that has long ago been made up. McCain has shown that the support of the far Right is so important to him that he gave up any shred of moderation in his choice of VP. He will have nothing to do but to appoint the ones who have been chosen for him. He won’t have a choice, even if he wanted one, just like the women of this nation. But I realize that is not your problem.

So what do I care about?

. The divide between rich and poor in this country is nearly as great as it was during the Great Depression. McCain’s approach to economics appears to me to be identical to Bush’s--to make sure the rich get richer and hope the money trickles down. It doesn’t work. The stability of our country is totally thrown off when we really don’t have a middle class. McCain has already said that he thinks middle class is anyone who makes less than $5 million! He doesn’t even know how many houses he has--so I think you can say he is out of touch with the experience of actual people. The government has gotten us into this mess, and Obama knows that the government has to take a strong role in getting us out of it.

. Choice--already discussed above. Just a tidbit-- our nation has cut off international family planning aid during the two Bush administrations. That doesn’t just make us fools, it means that nations that used to look for us to expand education and the rights of women now need to look elsewhere. Our teenagers deserve to have education about sexuality that provides them with information and assists them in making good, safe choices for their lives. Women of all economics have the right to reproductive justice. Obama will appoint Justices who truly respect women.

. We must have an administration that sees war as a last resort, not as an interesting sport or business venture. Palin thinks God sends us to war. Isn’t it a coincidence that the people we are attacking believe the same thing.

. The planet cannot afford another administration that fights and doubts and ignores the contributions of human pollution to the degradation of the climate. Thirty years ago President Carter sat at his desk in a cardigan sweater and told us that we were in a crisis and we needed to immediately invest in alternative energy technologies and stop our dependency on foreign oil. When Reagan was elected, he didn’t just ignore that, he actually used taxpayers money to have solar panels removed from the White House property. It is not an accident or coincidence that what was already a crisis now has us close to the point at which none of our efforts can be enough. This will take a bold vision and the total commitment of the nation. If you are in doubt, just look at the weather history. The number of hurricanes and tornadoes and tsunami is increasing every year. We don’t know how to protect ourselves from these natural disasters, because there is no protection save to embark on a bold move to curtail our CO2 emissions and begin to heal the planet. The planet needs our leadership. In nominating Palin as VP, the Republicans are telling us that it’s OK with them to have a potential President who lives in denial of the basic scientific facts. We literally cannot afford it.

. During this election season, many Hillary supporters saw sexism everywhere -- and they are right -- it was there. What I have learned is that Obama supporters saw racism everywhere. They were right, too. Our society has long pitted one group against another. And who do you suppose benefits? Looks to me as though the John McCain and George Bushs of the world do. I have great hope that the Obama Presidency will be a very important step in healing our nation’s old birth defect of racism -- as I believe Hillary’s campaign was an important step in healing sexism which has also been around since the beginning. I’m happy for Sarah Palin to be treated fairly, but it is more than a little ironic to me that the Republicans are all of a sudden the ones charging others with sexism. For me, Sarah Palin is to the Women’s Movement as Clarence Thomas is to the Civil Rights Movement -- a recipient of the benefits who carries none of the heart of the vision. Yes, feminism is about women getting to do what they want, but for me that is not nearly enough. For me feminism is also about enlarging our compassion for all people; about expanding both accountability and choice; about caring for the earth as if she were our mother; about becoming evolved enough to find peaceful ways to solve our differences; it is not just about having a bigger piece of the pie, but about baking a bigger pie so that all can experience their own importance and power; it is about valuing life so powerfully that we only bring a child into the world when we know that child can be loved and cared for, and that each woman is trusted with that sacred decision; it is about truly honoring ourselves and each other. For me feminism and fundamentalism are across the Grand Canyon from each other. That’s how far I am from McCain ad Palin. For me Obama’s campaign represents a feminist approach to the country that is more about values than it is about genitals.

. As a lesbian, I care a great deal about how those outside the accepted mainstream of society as far as their sexuality are treated, both legally and with regard to policy and attitude. I am so fortunate to have grown up after the years when gays and lesbians were institutionalized by their families; were denied employment on the grounds that we were abnormal, or else were security risks because we could be blackmailed; were marginalized and openly hated. I came of age during years when so many people courageously ‘came out’ to an often ambivalent public. I was a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit in Texas designed to challenge the antiquated ‘sodomy law’ that was used to discriminate against gays and lesbians in many of the same ways that Jim Crow laws had been used to legitimatize discrimination against Blacks. My lawsuit isn’t the one that changed the world for us--that came many years later. Our society itself has begun to come out of the closet because virtually everyone now realizes that they know or are even related to someone who is gay or lesbian or transgendered. That makes it harder for the hate to be legitimate, but we still have a long way to go.

For much of our nation’s history, racism made interracial marriage illegal in may states. In 1958, polls showed that 94% of whites were against allowing interracial marriage. It was not until 1967 that the Supreme Court declared that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional. Who really knows why no one thought of suggesting ‘domestic partnerships’ or ‘civil unions’ for interracial couples. I have been disappointed that all the major party Presidential candidates, including Hillary, were on the ‘play it safe’ bandwagon of supporting civil unions or some kind of contract, but not gay marriage. Yet that tells me that, Massachusetts and California notwithstanding, they all saw the marriage thing as political suicide. In terms of Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin, it is only Sarah Palin who is really opposed to even the most basic fairness in benefits, etc. You were very adamant that she allowed benefits for gay government workers. But you didn’t tell the whole story. When the Alaska Legislature passed a bill prohibiting same-sex benefits, Palin’s legal department told her she had to veto it because it would have violated a court order requiring such benefits. But note the second paragraph clearly demonstrating Palin’s disagreement with the order that benefits be provided!

"The Department of Law advised me that this bill... is unconstitutional given the recent court order... mandating same-sex benefits," Palin said in a statement. "With that in mind, signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office."

The statement added, "The governor's veto does not signal any change or modification to her disagreement with the action and order by the Alaska Supreme Court. It is the governor's intention to work with the Legislature and to give the people of Alaska an opportunity to express their wishes and intentions whether these benefits should continue."

So none of the candidates supports gay marriage, but there is a significant difference in attitude between the Obama team and the McCain team. The Democrats stand for an expansion of rights and civility, where the Republicans have over and over sponsored attempts to create Constitutional Amendments prohibiting gay marriage, and it is Republicans who have supported and in some cases passed, laws prohibiting gays from adopting children. This is truly astonishing given that our current Republican VP has a lesbian daughter who has said that she considers her partner to be her spouse. The two had a baby together, and they wanted to be free to make their own choices, and to have others see theirs as a private family matter. Just as with Palin’s teen aged daughter’s pregnancy the Republicans view their families issues as private, while at the same time supporting laws that restrict others’ freedoms. They want to live their lives as they see fit. Gee, that’s all the rest of us ever wanted.

. Americans are one of the few civilized societies in which working people often cannot afford their health care. What difference does it make to be technically advanced if people go bankrupt when they have a catastrophic illness--or if they choose an abortion because they can’t afford another child when they have one with a chronic illness--or when they have to pick between getting their medication and eating? Hillary tried so hard to tackle this one all those years ago. What Party do you think stood in the way? Who protected big insurance companies and scared Americans into fearing ‘socialized medicine?’

. If you were to get a job with General Motors today, you would be making less than someone who started in the same job forty years ago. Actual earning power has declined. Foreclosures haven’t even begun to taper off, gas is off the charts, huge white collar corporations have gotten away with hiding millions of dollars for their corporate executives and squandering the pensions for working people. I waited for the Republicans to apologize to the American people for the last eight years. As far as I know they didn’t.

. In the past 30+ years there have been many programs to lessen the incidence of rape and domestic violence in this country. Yet most of our attention has been on trying to help victims and get them to safety. It is time to focus time, energy, and resources on prevention. Among all the Senators Joe Biden has been one of the most active and vocal on these very painful issues that affect thousands of families every year.

These are the things I can think of. I’m sure there are more but it is late. ---Charlotte

Charlotte Taft is currently co-director of IMAGINE! retreats and workshops in Glorieta, New Mexico. Further information about the issues mentioned in this letter can be found by reading the 2008 Democratic Party Platform and Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]