Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Girls Together Are Okay, Right?

“I don’t mind two girls together, but a dude and a dude --no way! It’s gross.” he said, as he puffed on his cigarette, continuing to talk about his recent sexual romps with these “hotties” from the nightclub. I listened to my friend, trying not to make a fuss of it all. I knew where his heart was. Within minutes, he began to speak about religion and how it is so important to go to church, to which he felt bad that he hadn’t attended in three whole weeks. I interjected and said, “Well, there are some people who sit in a church pew every single Sunday like clockwork, yet they don’t even know God personally. It’s just a routine for them. I think it’s better if someone has a personal relationship with God, rather than to pretend they do.” He nodded his head in agreement, “Absolutely!” ...He had no clue. It was no use. He went back to talking about his sexual escapades. I then had to ask him what he thought about promiscuous heterosexuals vs. a monogamous loving male couple. He had no logic whatsoever. He began to talk about how “sinful” it was and how gay men are the only ones spreading AIDS around the globe.

“Have you been safe with the recent girls you’ve been with?” I asked.
“Ah, well, you know, sometimes yes and sometimes no," he said, blushing - knowing fully he was at risk, “I got checked though, so it’s cool.” I didn’t want to push his buttons and go on about how he has to check every six months to know for sure that he is in fact, safe. The HIV virus can remain in a person’s body for months, even years before finding out. It just makes me sad how hypocritical and so judgmental people can be without taking any accountability for their own actions whatsoever. How can someone sit there talking about how “gross” and “sinful” people are, while they’re doing something worse off? Heterosexuals are just at risk for HIV than gay men are. What bothers me most about certain straight guys who have this obsession or fantasy about two girls being together is that they seem to think being “gay” is okay, only if you’re a female. To make matters even uglier, they cringe to even see two butch women together just as they would with two males. I totally understand their madness, but this is the very thing that enables their own children to become bullies. Being that my friend has a few kids of his own, I wonder how they’re being taught at home. Tolerance begins at home.

While growing up, my mother used to tell me such wonderful things about her cousin Anthony, who was a gay transvestite. He taught my mother how to do her hair and makeup and always made her laugh. My father adored him as well and oddly as this sounds, his own mother (my mom’s aunt) never knew about Anthony being gay or even a transvestite. I think it was more of a long-term denial phase, but she loved him nonetheless. He sadly died from AIDS eventually. From a very young age, I was taught to respect people of differences and appreciate their uniqueness. Even though my father was an old fashioned Italian “Archie Bunker” Brooklynite, he always welcomed anyone who was homosexual or just ‘different’ into his home. His ‘tough guy’ attitude would lightly mock upon those who were “light on their feet” or perhaps, those who were “fairies”, but never said, “Oh how gross and sinful!” One day while he was watching part of the gay pride parade on TV, he blurted out, “Wouldja look at dese’ fairies?” He chuckled and kept watching. I immediately asked, “Dad, you have four daughters, three of them with men. Don’t you think one may slip from the norm?” He took a deep drag from his unfiltered cigarette, stared at me and asked, “Why whadday tellin’ me - you a fairy too?” My life flashed in front my eyes. “...Yes.” 
I remained silent as he kept staring. “You dating that nice Puerto Rican girl?” he asked as he channeled in the Archie Bunker spirit. “Yep.” I replied. And out of nowhere came the least expected thing I would ever hear from his lips: “I love her! Good for you! I ratha’ see you with somebody nice like her ratha’ than some schmuck dat would treat you badly. Good for you!” he said, nodding his head approving of my new relationship.

From old school types of mindsets to current bigotry in any type of form can vary from one person to the other. In my personal opinion, the worst of all are those who are preach about sinful acts of homosexuals, yet practice unsafe promiscuous heterosexual sex. (Quite the tongue twister there.) I knew where my dad was coming from. He means no harm when he says “fairy”, but to some it may be hurtful. To me, I knew better because he wasn’t being a hypocrite. For those who only prefer to see female homosexuals yet detest gay male couples makes me wonder if it’s more about the hidden homosexual in themselves or just hatred in their hearts in general.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All in My Head...

Our thoughts sometimes can prevent us from having healthy friendships and relationships on various levels. Insecurity plays a huge role, so the more self-conscious someone is, the more they may withdraw at times. I can even relate to this because this happened to me. I didn't like myself very much. With that being said, it had a negative impact on my outside relationships. I would immediately think someone didn’t like me because of ‘this’ or ‘that’, but in reality, my mind conjured up all of these false pretenses with no factual basis; just generated from self-deprecation. It was just a “feeling”. How could I love anybody else if I didn't even like myself? If I walked into a room full of straight people with my partner or perhaps, a room filled with family and friends, my mind would immediately rush into panic mode: “Are they staring at us because we’re gay? Am I too ugly? Are they not talking as much because they don’t like my partner? Do we look too much like lesbians?" All these negative thoughts drove me insane, and eventually drove me into somewhat of an isolation with certain people, only because I didn’t know them well enough, and perhaps didn’t give it much of a chance to let the relationships develop. It was all in my head.

A friend of mine & blogger named, Dawn had asked an interesting question on her facebook status the other day: “What would you do differently if you knew no one would judge you?” I thought about it for a while, although I didn’t comment on her thread. I thought, “I’d mingle much more and meet more people. I’d visit family more often. I’d open my door, even if I was in my pajamas with no make up on. I’d go to church and sit among everyone believing in the same God that I do. I’d join more groups and become more active in my community. I’d say yes to almost every invitation. I’d pick myself up off the floor each time I’d get a rejection before the depression sets in. I’d bring the garbage out in my sweatpants instead of putting on jeans and a nice shirt. I’d probably wear sneakers all the time, but I feel like I’m too short, so I need the three inch heels to give me a little height. Although I know I’d always do my hair and be presentable just to make myself feel good, I’d probably be calmer about the make up situation and become a bit more natural." All these thoughts - all in my head.

I believe our mind is our worst enemy. We worry about our age, our looks, our integrity and statuses in life. I also find that people who make fun of others, whether appearance-wise, lifestyle jokes, etc., are the ones that are the most self-conscious. They say that people who mock others upon every chance they can get are the ones that want to “look better”, so they don’t seem like the oddball out. I remember a friend of mine back in high school would make fun of every. single. kid. in our school. Funny, because he had obvious birth deformities and was seen as the “joker”, instead of the cute boy who all the girls liked. Although he was funny and humorous, he also made others look extremely bad in order to make himself look better. I always psychoanalyze people who make fun of other people’s appearances. Look deeper into it next time you see someone teasing another person or gossiping badly about them. Look deeper into their lives and you’ll most likely see a very unhappy person trying to “fit in” and look better than the person they’re speaking about. Or maybe do you think it’s all in my head?

What would you do differently if you knew no one would judge you?
What would you do if you loved yourself more?

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Why Can't I Be Me?"

(The photo above is me around the age of 7.)

“Why can’t I be ‘me’?” I always heard these words in my own mind while growing up. And at times, I even heard, “Why can’t I be him?” A close friend of mine yesterday, Marlo Bernier, a wonderful filmmaker explained to me that she used to ask herself if wanting to be another gender was ‘coveting’ - although she knew better. It was just a rhetorical question that mimicked what some may have suggested due to religious standpoints. She knew who she was even when she was physically a ‘he’. Today seems to be much different. There are many more options available and a slight bit more acceptance, however you’d be quite surprised how 2010 isn’t much of a progression; it’s only by means of available hormones and surgical procedures that makes this manageable on some levels, both emotionally and physically. I can relate to praying at night, wishing I’d wake up a boy...with boy parts. I wanted to be a straight kid - a straight boy into a straight man. I didn’t want to be a lesbian. I wanted to be what all the straight girls wanted: a boy that looked like a boy. I wore boy clothes, had short hair and everything in my life was male-oriented from motorcycles to boy games, toys and such. Hell if I was gonna wear a dress. My mom was okay with that. She brought me into boys’ clothing stores and said, “Pick out what you want”, then proceeded to explain to the store owner how I was just going through a phase.

My first slap of reality was at the age of thirteen. I had a terrible crush on my friend who lived nearby. Before my first day of middle school, she did my hair and suggested for me to try wearing dresses. She warned me that I would be mocked for looking like a boy. I was so gaga over her that I did. just. that. The first day of school, I walked over to the bus stop like a first time drag queen, tripping over my pumps and shifting my skirt, while she stood there staring at me in awe. I remember her words clearly: “Oh...muy...GAWD! I never thought I’d see the day. You look beautiful, Deb!” It hit me like a on of bricks. "I look beautiful?" This is what women like? I thought they liked how boys looked. (Even though she was complimenting on a friendly basis, my mind took it to another level.) I thought, if she liked me like ‘this’, I’m going to look like this forever. And so, I became a feminine lesbian. My sexual orientation never changed, although I had to go through some pseudo hetero relationships to make people believe I was “normal” - I was ‘me’ all along, still wishing I was the boy who was dating the friend who called me "beautiful". On many levels I went through emotional torture because I knew I had to keep this all to myself - a big secret that I would probably carry along with me for the rest of my life. Faking it was extremely hard. There were many nights my pillow was sopping wet from my tears.

As I got older, I started working at a medical firm along with my sister. I soon found myself in love with one of the managers. Oddly enough, she liked me too. I couldn’t believe there was another person out there like me who liked women. I was only 18 years old at the time and she was close to 30. We had a few dates here and there, but eventually she broke my heart since she was bisexual and only wanted to date men seriously. That was my very first heartbreak -- my very first knife in the heart. Hey I was a kid, what could she have wanted seriously with an 18 year old anyway? I started feeling a lot of guilt because I was brought up to be Catholic. I eventually went through this phase where I found myself sitting in a confessional booth discussing my sins with an Indian priest. (Clears throat.) While telling him how I felt so much guilt for being with another woman on an intimate level, he stopped me in mid-sentence and asked, “Well, what exactly did you do with her?” I explained that I was intimate with her like a man and woman would be when they’re in love. I thought that would have covered all “awkward discussions”, but he wanted to know specifically. He even went to make suggestions about oral sex and other sexual options offered for lesbians. I stared at the mesh cover trying to see if there was some whack job playing a joke on me, but there wasn’t. I saw the white little square collar. It was the new Indian priest getting off on my story. I walked out of there with a few “choice” words for him, and then made the sign of the cross before I left like a good Catholic girl should.

You may have heard some of my stories before, but today I felt the need to get this all out there. I’ve been working on my documentary, and while reviewing them as I’m editing, I’m finding that these wonderful women who I just recently interviewed had gone through similar things. It’s comforting to know that there are people who have went through the same things as I have ---perhaps on different levels, but nonetheless, they know what it’s like to be either mocked, bullied or pervertedly spoken to just because they were lesbians. On a religious standpoint, we all have been battered with the holy ruler and told, “No! If you go with other women you’ll go straight to hell!” The guilt brought on by religious society and parents who desperately want their kids to ‘have the best life possible’ has wreaked havoc in most cases. Some parents will speak so negatively about gays and lesbians, that their own kids go out in society bullying them, because hey -- their parents taught them to be intolerant. It’s not right to be gay, so let’s go out there and bash em’. In not so many words, their parents gave them permission. God forbid a boy looks like a girl and vise/versa.

I’m thrilled to be doing this documentary just to help those who are feeling tremendous guilt for who they are or what God they worship. I am putting my heart and soul into this, with the help of some truly amazing people who have willingly shared their stories with us. The video below shows two segments that features Mimi Gonzalez and Elizabeth A. DeBella. There are many more wonderful and inspiring people that have joined our project and we are still seeking out other people who want to share their story too + opposing sides. Please contact me if you are going to be in the New York area and want to be apart of our documentary.

If you cannot view this video on other websites that my blog may be mirrored on, please click here.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Repressed Homophobes

If I have gained any perspective about homophobia, sadly enough I’d have to say I’ve learned an awful lot this past week in Provincetown, MA. This small town is one big gay mecca for those who want to be themselves without any judgments or ridicules of their sexuality by those who are ignorant or perhaps, homophobic. For the past decade or so, my wife and I have been visiting this town in confidence that if we decide to hold hands walking down the narrow streets filled with shops, cafes and art galleries, that we would not be mocked for being lesbians. We’re typically not the PDA types (public display of affection) and we don’t go around putting our relationship in other people’s faces, however it is a very liberating feeling to be in our element with people alike, and those who aren’t judgmental. To be “ourselves” in our own hometown would be like seeing a nun and some burly man kissing on the side of the road. (Of course you wouldn’t see that because nuns are usually lesbians anyway.)

What saddened me the most during our stay in Provincetown were two men maybe in their late twenties walking in front of us holding hands. (That’s not the sad part.) The sad part of it was, there was a man sitting on the bench with his friends in the center of town calling the couple faggots as they passed by. Whether they were visiting family or friends --or (gasp) local residents, this is quite rare in Provincetown. With all the homophobic rage going on lately, including a man being beaten in the bathroom of Stonewall in NYC because he was gay stirred up a lot of emotions for me. I was right behind this gay couple holding hands with my wife. Funny, they never said one thing to us. In fact, we got the opposite reaction - more of a catcall type of response. I guess it’s more accepted to be a lesbian than a gay man in a straight man’s eyes. Or is it something on a much deeper level? If these homophobes were so outraged by two men holding hands, why weren’t they outraged by us? Was their sexual orientation threatened? When a pack of wolves are together, they become “tough”. I wonder if it would’ve been different if this one particular man was sitting on the bench alone without his strong ‘tough guy’ friends.

Years ago I was hounded by a religious zealot who had offered me to stay at her home and go to her church if I would leave my partner and marry this “nice boy” in her congregation, as well as take my Christian-based book off the shelves. I was surprised at her offer, however one of the most saddest things to see is someone living a lie, and I certainly didn’t want to do that. Months later, I soon found out that this same woman was an ex-lesbian. Yes, you read that correctly ----an “ex-lesbian”---- a woman who used to go with other woman intimately but changed her ways once she met this Christian fundamentalist man who convinced her she was living a life doomed to hell. She called me “disgusting” and how I mocked God by claiming to be a Christian, yet spending my life with a woman. She compared me equivalent to those who are pedophiles, rapists and murderers. She even went as far to ask me to not call myself a Christian if I’m going to call myself a lesbian. The biggest sin is to turn someone away from God, according to the bible. This person was so full of hatred and rage that I began to wonder about her underlining motive. Repression is a huge motivating factor to mock someone who represents all you stand for, or secretly stand for. Repression makes people lash out in anger, rage and jealousy. Repression can be deadly. Why would a religious person focus on two people loving one another without harming anyone, and yet, not focus on the senseless murders that occur each and every day? 

Although our shocking experience in Provincetown was only a one time deal, it was an eye-opener - that no matter where you go, there they are. Nobody’s safe, not even straight people. Look what happened to Justin Bieber. He was at an arcade and was harassed by a 12 year old boy calling him “faggot” repeatedly. He’s not even gay. How are these kids being raised? The kid went to put his hand toward him, but Bieber pushed it away in self-defense. Now the kid’s dad is trying to sue. Think about it: some dinky 12 year old boy calling the cute & popular (and oh so rich) boy a “faggot”. Hrmm, does it spell out J*E*A*L*O*U*S*Y to you? People can’t stand to see other people happy or see people succeed in life. And for a 12 year old boy to be calling another kid a faggot is detestable and truly represents how he was taught at home in my opinion. His father should be sued for harassment if anything else. I guess I’m just sick and tired of jealous & hateful, repressed bigots giving other people a hard time just because they’re being who they want to be in life, not what they were dictated to be.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Tyler Clementi: Let's See It As It Is

As my wife and I were driving across the George Washington Bridge this past Saturday, I took notice of all the people riding their bikes, jogging, walking their dogs and looking so happy about finally having crisper autumn weather. I then looked over to my side at the rusty railing that was no more than three feet tall. I kept staring at it, as the illusion of it moving was simply answered by us traveling at 50 mph. I thought out loud, hoping Mad would understand where I was coming from, “How many times has that railing felt the desperate grips of somebody who was full of grief and hopelessness, ready to take their finally leap into the cold waters of the Hudson?” If you believe that objects hold energy, can you just imagine what that railing must be filled with? Tons of people have held onto that railing so tightly, so desperately, crying, and perhaps even feeling numb from all the emotional grief they have recently gone through. I started thinking about Tyler Clementi and wondered about his last thoughts. What were his options? Did he even give himself options? Why was this the end? It could have just been a bad experience that he could have moved on from. What if someone caught him before walking onto the bridge? What if someone showed him that this will pass - that this time is only temporary and that his problems today wouldn’t matter a year from now?

Hundreds gathered last night at Tyler’s vigil near the Rutgers University student center. Grief-stricken family and friends shared their sadness, as some students arrived not knowing Clementi very well, but still shocked and sad over the entire event that had taken place. You have to wonder what’s going through the minds of Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi and his friend Molly Wei right now. Are they sorry they did this? Did they think it would be just a funny prank and that it would just be long forgotten in a week or two? Why was Dharun Ravi so interested in Clementi’s intimate encounters in the first place? I keep asking that question, wondering about Ravi's own sexual orientation. If it were no big deal, it would have never been taped. Another thing that I wonder about is what happened the days before Clementi decided to take his own life? Were there any resolutions or attempts to make things better, or did it just get worse and worse? There is a lot within this story that’s untold. The facts are clearly evident, but the entire plot of it, the course of action, the day-to-day up to the event part isn’t quite clear. A friend of Clementi’s wrote a message on his memorial, “Tyler, I wish you called me...people were willing to talk.”

Between Ravi’s twitter messages, announcing he saw his roommate “making out with a dude again”, to the posting of the next available time slot of the peep show, are all signs of a kid desperately wanting to get attention from his friends. Maybe this was the only way people would find Dharun Ravi interesting. Kids don’t know what they’re doing sometimes and they certainly don’t think about the consequences of their actions. For instance, I know many adults who play around with people, torture them emotionally, never quite understanding that suicide is a possible reaction. When you assume you know somebody “so well” ...think again. Nobody sits inside the minds of others. Nobody sits in the pit of somebody else’s silent heartbreak. Nobody “gets” what’s brewing underneath that smile. Nobody. All the success and hopeful future does not guarantee suicide-free person. Anyone can fall that low...anyone, if pushed far enough. This was the final push for Tyler.

You can blame it on homophobes of Rutgers University, since there was a similar case of homophobic events that took place this past year, and you can also blame it on the pranks of Ravi and Wei, but you can’t blame Ravi and Wei for the suicide itself. Nobody can. That’s a self-inflicted death that was done by the choice of Tyler Clementi only. They want to place more charges on Ravi and Wei - but if you're going to throw more charges and jail time, then flip back into your archives and track down all the other kids in colleges all over the world who have pulled worse-off pranks than this one. What about hazing events? Those are absolutely mortifying sometimes. Many have made it out alive. It’s not that I don’t have sympathy over what has taken place - I just think some people are too weak to handle certain things. Yes, be emotional over it, cry all day and all night if you want, get through it, but please push through it. “Well maybe he feared his parents finding out?” As a lesbian, I feared that my old school Italian father would tie two cement blocks around my ankles and throw me off the GW Bridge, but he didn’t. He looked at me and said, “I'm happy for you.” I never once expected a positive response. In fact, I feared my life. Sometimes we have to wait it out. You might be surprised.

Life is full of pitfalls and bullshit, and yes a few asshats that’ll make your life a living hell, but the more you go through these types of idiotic events, the stronger it'll make you. Strength and endurance builds character. Before even learning that entire concept, I had to go through a ton, and I mean a ton of emotional bullshit from someone who was harassing me over and over again. There were days, nights, weeks, months where I would cry my eyes out over this one person who made my life an absolute living hell, but I pushed through it. Now, when somebody wants to take the place of that emotional torturer, my strength and endurance kicks in and blocks the penetration of any harmful outcomes. When you go through enough crap in life, your emotional well-being is like a muscle; it gets stronger and stronger and with that, more intelligent. It remembers what you’ve been through, and in fact, it psychoanalyzes every single person who tries to hurt you. Most of all, it all makes sense. You’re no longer a victim. You’re free. This is what I wish happened to Tyler Clementi. I wish he chose to go through it, so that he would have the strength the next time around to know better. And yes, some other event would have taken place----that’s life.

While many people will focus their anger on Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, let them keep in mind all the silly pranks they had done as a kid. Granted we didn’t have technology back then to broadcast intimate encounters and other private moments, but these kids probably didn’t realize the extreme outcome of what was about to happen next. We have all done something stupid in our lives, especially in high school and college. We have all regretted an action or two. What about a couple? One cheats, and the other commits suicide out of pure grief... Is it the cheater’s fault for the death? Of course not. This is a very sad event, but let’s see it as it is...

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Emotional Self-Preservation

"I'm Sorry." After the last couple of years, and whatever it is that you may be personally going through, it's especially ...