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Same-sex and Same Rights

Earlier today I got an annoying message on Facebook from a HS acquaintance who wanted to correct me for the stance I have taken on gay rights and specifically same-sex marriage.  I posted my response to my feed there but I decided that I wanted to take it a bit further and just keep saying it loud:

Obviously we need a reminder. Let’s be clear, I am a supporter of same-sex marriage. I am an advocate for equal rights for all people. And so I don’t react well when someone wants to “take me to task” for my beliefs.

For all the people trying to make this a religious argument–that marriage is a “religious act” that government should have no part of, then I highly suggest you make your actions match your words and reject any and all government benefits you receive for being married. I challenge you to file your 2012 taxes as “single”, to divide your property according to contract law and purchase your own insurance instead of benefiting from your spouse and to be subjected to a custody evaluation to ensure that you are fit parents for your children. Go out today and make a will that doesn’t rely on presumptions of law. Hire an attorney to draw up any powers of attorney you might need in the event of an unforeseen disaster. Oh and be sure that if you are asked to testify against your spouse in a court of law that you don’t invoke spousal privilege or marital immunity. Go on. If marriage is only a religious rite/right then this should be no problem…rejecting all the ways in which your marriage is entangled with government and getting government out of the way.

You can’t have it both ways.

If you’re unwilling to to give up your benefits for the status of your relationship then you better be willing to extend those same benefits to everyone else who has made just as sacred a commitment to their spouse as you have. They are prevented, by law, from obtaining a marriage license in order to have the same legal recognition as you. Why? Because of the gender of the person they have felt compelled to pledge their life to. A simple matter of gender and that somehow is enough to restrict their ability to enjoy the same benefits and certainties as you. Sorry, but marriage is not a private matter, not when so many governmental treats flow from that change in status.

The God I believe in loves unconditionally and blesses each of us unconditionally. You lose nothing in this deal except the peace of mind that the peculiar combination of your boy parts and girl parts make you special in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of God. Just like colleges, businesses and clubs were forced to open their doors to women or to men and women of color, you wrap your institutional identity so tightly around this concept of “specialness” that you feel you might lose your identity if others are allowed into the club.

Stop acting so persecuted and petulant. Recognize the privilege you have and extend that with grace and compassion to others.

Read the rest of this entry

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Several years ago I was working with students at a local low-income middle school who were aiming to make something more of themselves.  When asked who Martin Luther King, Jr. was they responded uncertainly with “he freed the slaves?”  I wasn’t quite appalled, because it’s not surprising that most kids don’t understand the impact this man and those who have been inspired by him had on their everyday life.  They know he did something important, but they just don’t understand how significant that impact is on them.

He has been an inspiration to me since I was in 4th grade.  We were required to find significant quotes from him and create a poster with those quotes.  While I was indeed inspired by the “I Have a Dream” speech, that wasn’t the one that stood out for me.  Instead, what I was drawn to were his speeches about love.  I may have been the only one that year who used this quote.  Later in college he was assigned reading for my philosophy courses.  And his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is still one of the most influential pieces I have read.

We owe it to ourselves and our communities to not just honor this man today, but to actively continue his work in each sector of life.  To forge peace in our relationships with our loved ones.  To recognize the interconnectedness of humanity in our dealings in everyday society. And to require of our leaders and policy-makers to reflect these values with each decision they make.

So say we all:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” Strength To Love, 1963

You are a guest here…

Last night a bit of a debate erupted over my post about the Focus on the Family ad during the Broncos-Patriots play-off game last night.  While I thought my small opinion might be controversial what I didn’t expect was that two people so unlike each other would get into a snarky religious battle in the thread that I’m sure making people on either side of the issue uncomfortable.  Okay, maybe I did foresee that just a little. But there I was at 2 am ready to settle in for some sleep when I finally checked my notifications and saw it.  So after I woke, I updated my response and share it with you in every form I can imagine:

Dear friends…I am not going to get too involved in this at 2 am. However, if you have been on my list for any amount of time please let me remind you quite clearly that: 

a) I believe in equal rights for all, including homosexuals, bisexuals and trans men and women, including but not limited to those who seek to engage in same sex marriage and non-traditional relationships;

b) I have spent the majority of my life defending those rights and fighting the injustice of those who would seek to undermine equality;

c) I believe that God creates us as true perfection and loves each of us with infinite wisdom, innate goodness and unconditional love and does not require the exclusion of anyone from the fullness of oneness with the divine;

d) I believe that freedom of consensual sexual expression is a fundamental right and indeed a gift from the divine meant to express connection to others and provide a greater experience of our shared humanity;

e) I respect the right of each individual to experience and share their experience of faith in an equally respectful manner including but not limited to Athiests, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics, Pagans, Taoists, Jewish and so many other traditions…I welcome all faiths because I find your journey fascinating;

f) However, remember that you are a GUEST in my space amongst some of my most intimate and respected friends and I ask you kindly treat it as such;

g) As the host of this page, I am unilaterally and unequivocally allowed in MY own space to share my opinions, ideas and observations and will attempt to do so solely as a reflection of my own experience and research;

h) I spent most of my young adulthood studying the bible and later working my way through some of the apocryphal writings and have concluded during my journey that there is not only one way to God, the divine or universal oneness, but many paths that lead in the same direction;

i) If, by some chance the god of love that I have personally experienced in my upbringing, research and my Calling does not exist and is indeed such a vengeful, jealous, emotionally needy, and fearful being will sit in judgment of me upon my death, I will happily risk exclusion from heaven to stand proudly by my beliefs hopefully having spent my lifetime lending my power to those whose voices have been shamed into silence by needless and destructive emotional, physical and spiritual violence condoned by their earthly brothers and sisters;

j) As an attorney and political activist I believe strongly in a separation of church and state…something many of our politicians should remember when accepting donations and our churches should stop trying to exploit through the historically blurred lens of religious freedom,

and finally…yes, finally, I believe in treating others the way I want to be treated.

You are allowed to disagree, you are allowed to debate, but understand quite clearly that I identify as an active and compassionate member of the LGBTQ community and deeply spiritual woman. Because I choose not to remain ignorant of either the Catholic faith I was raised in or the moral abundance of teachings from other sources, I cannot be swayed by arguments solely comprised of scripture. I am an intelligent, queer, cisgendered woman who has spent over 20 years healing the fractures left in human souls by the improbable demands of religion and the social fear manipulations surrounding among other things concepts of sexuality and gender.

Pray for me if you like…but when you have lived my life, borne witness to the messages on the hills of Podbrdo and Krisevac touched the hearts I have and loved as deeply and as fully as I have…then judge not.  And I pray to the god, goddess or entity of my choosing that upon your death you will be greeted by a divine presence who is actually IS unconditional love made manifest through each of us.

I expect this message to suffice for the time-being.  Defriend me, block me, rally against me.  “Like” it if you wish, re-post and share as needed, but do not presume to teach me about my own faith and my god-given life experience any further.  I do reserve the right to limit further commentary in my space.  My inspirational playground, my rules.  A clear statement of healthy boundaries that I expect you to respect. 

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Lessons in the Truth

I believe in honesty.  I believe in truth.  When I have been on the receiving end of deception it hurts.

I know that there are plenty of reasons why people lie and hide the truth, particularly from themselves.  Almost all of those reasons stem from some form of fear.  Not malice really, but fear.  And that fear appears as manipulation to most, but it is less of a deliberate, cunning ploy and more like the actions of a scared 6 year old who believes that the truth will get them into trouble.

Conversely, I have known plenty of people who relish in giving others “THE TRUTH” as more of a hammer of justice.  They think they are doing a public good and in that respect, I can understand where they are coming from.  But the arrogance of thinking that your version of “the truth” matches the receiver’s experience of it is often what adds insult to the injury of having to be lectured to by a grown-up.  More often than not the receiver already knows of the issue that this person is hammering them for.  Maybe they’re not facing up to it. Maybe they do need to see it from a different perspective, but awareness is rarely the problem.  And shoving “THE TRUTH” in their face isn’t always going to garner the best response.

Both of these are defense mechanisms but in very different ways and yet they both stem from a place of fear.  One is passive and the other aggressive.  Both are fueled by this similar sense of loss.  In the first one, if the actor doesn’t tell his beloved the truth or lies to cover it up, he is doing it to avoid the consequences for the truth coming out.  In the second instance, it’s preventative.  Instead of facing their own harsh realities, often the actor is projecting their issues onto someone else.  The more disparate the observation, the more projection that is being imposed.  Both are from a place of fear.  And both work to avoid resolving conflicts with one’s inner truth.

Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of the truth.  – Mahatma Gandhi

I started writing this post just after the beginning of September.  My life was in chaos at that point.  Not only had I quit my job, but I was actively trying to re-engage with my ex and trying to figure out the best place to be in his life.  And here I am three months later and still contemplating this issue of honesty and how to best integrate it within the chaos that still surrounds  me.

Honesty and truth had a lot to do with the fall of many of my relationships.  It wasn’t always about deception, but deception was usually revealed.  It wasn’t always about not being receptive to the truth, but often the truth was used as a hammer of justice by both me and my loved one to injure and disable within arguments.  It’s not something I’m proud of, in fact, I often look on it with worry and guilt.

But I think that is more of the point about “the truth”.  I can admit that I was a dick back then…and still can be when it comes to the truth.  I can say that I do my best not to hide things from the people I love. I don’t always succeed.  However, one of the first things I ask for is a similar amount of transparency as I show to others.  When I don’t get that, I freak out. And that is my truth too.

In the past I’ve required such a massive amount of transparency that I then start panicking when I feel something is being kept from me.  Maybe this stems from some of my earliest romantic relationships: a boyfriend who was hiding that he was gay, a boyfriend who was hiding that he was cheating on me everyday with a co-worker for 4 months, a boyfriend who was hiding his drug use from me.  Because I had been so gullible and naive I had to fine tune my sense of truth.   I wanted to avoid being taken advantage of and being humilitated by the people I love. I am at a point now where I can not only smell out a lie (little inconsistencies here and there adding up to a bigger cover-up) but also sense when someone is bullshitting themselves.

Of course, this results in some false alarms.  Sometimes the little details that just don’t add up are because the person was drunk and honestly can’t remember and is trying to fill in those details as well.  Maybe they are bullshitting themselves about their own life because they have been taking steps to create something new after being in the dumps for the past 4 years and are trying to be more positive and self-assured.  In either case, my accusations of dishonesty don’t help matters. I often forget that people don’t have the same inner trust for honesty and integrity that I do.  Some of them still need these coping mechanisms and are possibly fighting a hard battle to confront them. Most simply feel that my honesty requirements are pushy and intrusive.

It doesn’t mean that I have to accept shabby or inconsistent treatment from the people I want to be intimate with.  In fact, if honesty is what I need for intimacy, then,  by all means, I deserve to receive it.  And I certainly don’t need to surround myself with people who will be careless about that need.

But I also need to recognize and remember that I am not perfect and can’t expect perfection from others.  I flub up.  I act impulsively.  I make up stories to explain my emotions so I don’t have to tell someone they are disappointing me or hurting me.  I also impose my own truth on people as well.  And I should apply that same lesson to those that have employed the hiding and projecting and recognize what is truly driving those actions. The same fear of embarrassment, shame, and loss as what has driven my own actions.  And the more I judge dishonesty and brutal “truth” the less I create a structure with which people can feel safe in sharing their full truth with me…which in the end takes me further away from what I truly want to create for my closest friends.

And much like Mahatma Gandhi mentions above…truth is truly within and individual to the person viewing it.  In order to act with my highest truth, I need to allow people the space to act with theirs; stop coercing them into adopting or conforming to my view of things, especially intimacy.

Open marriages: a mainstream reality check

Let me confess right now that I am not a celebrity watcher. Sure I keep up with the basics of the gossip, but i don’t let the temperamental and tumultuous relationships of celebrities define anything for the reality of my life.  Personally I believe any marriage exposed to such a magnifying glass is already starting out with more pressure than it can withstand.  But when I read that some gossipers are blaming an open relationship for the failure of Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, I think people are too quick to assign blame to the “new” concept of an open marriage instead of looking at the qualities and characteristics of the people involved.  And let’s be clear…none of us know Demi and none of us know Ashton.  So unless you are in the relationship itself, can you really assign blame to an open marriage or any other signular scapegoat?

In this article on HuffPo “Open Marriage: A Celebrity Solution or a Contradiction in Terms?” people continue to speculate on the disadvantages of an open relationship. What bothers me about the article is that it pretends to have an equal point of view where it intends to treat open marriages as an option, except it doesn’t really delve into the good realities of an open marriage.  It treats open marriage as if it is biohazard material which can only be observed at a distance or with heavy protection against its dangers.

Open marriage may seem sane to some as it allows for forgiveness on both sides if and when both partners give into the inevitable temptations and stray. The thinking is, “If we’re going to cheat, let’s at least be honest about it.” But it is not a real solution. I don’t have the statistics to prove it, and with today’s divorce rate, traditional marriages aren’t exactly stellar in the numbers department, but from a purely practical perspective, we can’t have it both ways.

I don’t think my marriage could stand up to this kind of pressure and I’m not sure that any healthy marriage could. I believe it prudent to intentionally keep things that are potentially damaging to your marriage away from your marriage whenever and wherever possible.

First, let’s agree that there are a few problematic terms here such as “stray”, “cheat”, “not a real solution” and “potentially damaging”.   The article is already stacking the deck against us. Open marriages for the most part don’t view outside influences or people as dangers that should be guarded against.  And frankly if someone decides to open their marriage with this perspective in mind, they might not have the right mindset to even start an open marriage much less sustain one.

Most open marriage start with the premise the honesty is mandatory.  No subject is off the table, no encounter is not worth sharing.  So, if cheating, straying or stepping out becomes an issue, it’s usually because a partner has a compulsion to deceive in a relationship, which I view as far more damaging in an open relationship because the fear of being honest, confessing an attraction to another person or god forbid flirting with another person has been managed and ideally eliminated.  Generally speaking, if someone cheats in an open relationship, they are a special kind of douchebag, often blaming the other partner for their lack of integrity and honesty instead of owning up to their compulsions and impulse control issues.  But in a traditional marriage, this might not come to light and would be blamed instead on that partner’s inability to be monogamous.

But to say that it is prudent to keep “potentially damaging” influences, people and situations away from your marriage is problematic.  If that were the case, let’s make sure we don’t open up marriages to children.  After all, the birth of a child could be potentially damaging to your union, causing among other things financial instability, mental break-down and a lack of sex drive.  Let’s also make sure no married couple takes on a risky business venture or has to travel for work.  Include too potentially erratic and damaging in-laws or friends.  Pets. Home remodeling.  Disability. Death of a family member.  Or anything that might cause stress. And most definitely let’s eliminate any threat of mental illness or chronic disease.

Do you see how utterly stupid that is?

Instead, why don’t we teach our married brothers and sisters how to deal effectively with a partner when facing these “threats” to their united bliss?  How do we deal with conflict?  How do we deal with disappointment and deception?  How are we playing out the tired and unsuccessful patterns of relating that we’ve learned from society and family in our married lives today?

But comparing an obsession with work and material success to the enrichment and fulfillment available when connecting with more than one human being is insulting.  That’s not to say that I haven’t seen marriages torn apart by the distractedness and self-centeredness of one of the partners.  For example, I knew of a couple that broke up because the wife spent most of her time scrapbooking or playing games online than watching her kids, leaving the husband to work 60+ hour weeks, risking his and the kids’ health.  But whenever the focus of a partner is rooted in the outside world, connection starts to wither away.  Focusing on bringing home the joys and rewards of those outside influences and allowing it to help replenish the couple so it becomes something they can share in together, equally and reinforce the connection.  But it’s easier when you’re bringing home the joy and bliss of a new connection.  Seeing your partner light up with pride and love at a fulfilling evening and having them share that positive energy with you is not at all the same as waiting up all night for your partner to come home from a long business trip only to have them barely kiss you or share the details of their trip with you.

Open marriages are just an invitation for sexy, exciting, thrilling and potentially lethal distractions. It’s inviting disaster, just like working crazy hours at the expense of yourself or your loved ones; playing golf more than you know you should to get away from your family; hanging out with friends more than hanging in, or out, with your spouse; and the list goes on.

Lethal distractions?  Really? Only if someone can’t control their jealousy.  But then again, I’ve seen people murdered for less.  And I would absolutely LOVE to divorce someone for playing golf (because I find golf to be an insipid, tedious and needlessly elitist “sport”—that is pretty much a deal-breaker to me). My husband’s distraction is video games.  The benefit he gains from it helps me too.  He is more relaxed, more able to talk about his day, more focused on my needs instead of just his.  And I have my distractions too.  I love kink. I talk about it, write about it and even study it in my spare time. (and belly dancing is a close 2nd) It has benefits for my husband in much the same ways his distractions benefit me.  So, I wouldn’t say that distractions are per se bad, but that it breaks down to the cost-benefit analysis of it all.  Does the benefit to the marriage outweigh the cost to it?

Additionally, is someone is seeking distraction to avoid the real dysfunction of the relationship or is it something that is enriching to their character and growth?  It’s only at the end of the article that the author even suggests that there might be reasons why someone is seeking distraction in their marriage.  And frankly, I don’t know a couple that doesn’t seek it to some extent.  So the question is why?  And frankly, we tend to knee-jerk quite a bit about this subject.  Could it be that this “distraction” is contributing positively to someone’s growth and journey?  If so, I’m all for it.

So until you know these couples and what their individual and joint journeys are…it’s probably a better idea to look at yourself and ask what is so delicate about your marriage that you must avoid “danger” at all costs instead of allowing it to test your mettle and commitment, allowing it to alter your perspective and perhaps even enhance your life.   Through good times and in bad, right?

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you.”

– Dr. Wayne Dyer

Hiding in plain sight

When a friend showed me this article today, it was creepy how similar it was to my own experience starting out in the BDSM community.  I’ll excerpt a bit of it here for with my own commentary.

“I Never Called It Rape: Addressing Abuse in BDSM Communities” – by Kitty Stryker

When I start to think of the number of times I have been cajoled, pressured, or forced into sex that I did not want when I came into “the BDSM community”, I can’t actually count them. And I never came out about it before, not publicly, for a variety of reasons- I blamed myself for not negotiating enough, or clearly, or for not sticking to my guns, or I  didn’t want to be seen as being a drama queen or kicking up a fuss. Plus, the fact is, these things didn’t traumatize me, and I didn’t call it sexual assault or rape, because I felt ok afterwards. There was no trauma, no processing that I needed.
This was my experience too.  How horrible is it to be a new in this environment and have to just accept blame for actions that were never truly consensual and in any other context would have qualified as sexual assault?  But just like the vanilla world…we end up carrying that guilt and that burden because safewords weren’t honored, because scenes went too far, because my safety was not of the utmost concern to the dominant in the situation.  Somehow it’s my fault.  I wasn’t more clear when negotiating (stupid me, I thought “no paddles” meant no paddles would be used).  It’s my fault if I expose someone who treated me poorly because everyone else thinks he or she is an “expert” or Master of the craft. 
I had physical wounds.  But more importantly I had emotional and spiritual wounds caused by this type of disregard.  Submission by its very nature exposes a person’s vulnerability.  And the bad and dirty players exploited that vulnerability, betrayed my trust and worse blamed me for the results because I wasn’t “submissive enough”. 
This was traumatizing.  Make no mistake about it.  It would ruin my experience with the next dominant or top I met and make me leery of trusting myself much less ever trusting others.    As for the physical wounds, I had them.  But how do I identify the wounds I consented to and those I didn’t?  Unless it was a clear matter of “I didn’t consent to marks of any kind” how do you distinguish between a literal and unintentional “oops” and the more reckless “don’t give a fuck”? Read the rest of this entry

The beginning of our conversation

The past week has been challenging to say the least. Inspiring in some ways, truly horrifying in others.

As a parent, my sexual nature is often at odds not just with what society expects out of mothers, but with the nature of what we expect to pass along to our children. I mean many of us in this Christian nation of ours look for a Virgin Mary dressed like June Cleaver (is that reference too old for us now?). God knows the conservative, anti-feminist movement are doing their best to put forth this image that might as well be this. But it’s not just the rabid tea partyers, it’s our magazines, tv shows and media that glorify this image of the perfect mother.

I mean I think we all know there is no such thing. There is no such woman out there. We are as flawed as the next generation and instead of glorifying this image, continuing to perpetuate it in our national consciousness, maybe we should just focus on ridding ourselves of the ridiculous notions that are destined to repress, enslave and madden a new generation.

I love my family, don’t get me wrong. But I will always maintain that my family is better off with me living a full and vibrant life than they are if I’m home everyday ready with fresh cookies and milk. My family is better off seeing what happiness looks like than wondering when the mask will crack next.

So that’s why I write here. I may not write about my sexual exploits or prowess (although I might) but I do write about sexuality. Every human has it, shares it with another at some point and has an expression of pleasure and love that is uniquely their own. So I write here because for something we all share we have a lot of fucked up attitudes about it. We think it’s wrong, it’s shameful, it’s dirty. And we spend a lot of time prying into others’ sex lives because we can’t manage to examine our own.

This is nothing new to those of you who know me personally. I’ve been saying this for ages. What is new is the message here will fight against the mainstream, will challenge our notions of society and sex, sometimes with personal example, sometimes with intellectual leaps of faith.
But if there is any legacy I want to leave my kids, my culture it is simply this…

There is nothing wrong with sex.

Say that to yourself out loud. How many of you will read this in your cubicle or your living room and only mouth the words silently to yourself? Are you looking around for adverse reactions? What is so novel about this statement? If youre reading this blog, you probably agree with the statement. But my mission, my calling, my vision for the world is to make statements like this less groundbreaking and more…normal. Make it easier to say and hear these statements.

There is nothing wrong with sex.

So tell me…what have you been told that is wrong with it….and let’s start there.

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