Monday, January 25, 2010

In Circles

I took a class in college called Psychology of Women and Gender. I recently remembered that our class put together a book of our own personal writings called In Our Own Words, and realized that my 2003 contribution is incredibly relevant to my upcoming 2010 adventure! Of course it is. My 28 year-old self smiles upon my 21 year-old self:

Love is All You Need
Jennifer K. Luu (Version 2003)

Am I any less of a woman because I do not fall in love with men? I have never asked myself that question until just now. Am I any less of a woman because I do not wear dresses except for on special occasions? That seems like a silly thing to ask. But I think it brings up a good question: what does it mean to be a woman? What defines womanhood? People who consider themselves to be open-minded in our society strive to do certain things:
  • They strive to blur the connection between masculinity and manhood, and the connection between femininity and womanhood. (Some men can be feminine and some women can be masculine, after all.)
  • They strive to blur the lines between sexuality, gender, biological sex, femininity and masculinity. (Some men are straight; some men are gay. Some women are straight; some women are lesbians. Some men and women are neither gay nor straight. Some lesbians are feminine; some lesbians are masculine. Some straight men are feminine; some straight men are masculine. Some people feel like they are women, but they have penises. Some people feel like men, but they have vaginas. You get the point.)

So again, I return to my question: what does it mean to be a woman? In my life, I strive to acknowledge differences, embrace differences and celebrate differences. What makes me different from a man? Should that question be considered invalid? Are we all just one big pot of genderless, raceless individuals with no inherent differences among us? Are all the differences we consider as a society to be "inherent" really just conditioned by an elaborate, complex, huge societal system that has been in place too long for us to notice it? Bleh. These questions are big, and ones that I will make no attempt to address here. Because I'll tell you one thing that makes me, personally, different from a man: I can have babies. A man cannot.

I enjoy children very much and I have seven nephews and nieces who are the gems of my life. I love them more than they know. I am a romantic lady and I am a lesbian. I am a romantic lesbian. I want to fall in love with a lady and make a baby with her. The thought of falling in love with a lady, giving her me, and getting to experience her in all of her entirety and beauty, in our lovemaking, and creating life from our love, is pretty much the most beautiful thing I could ever imagine. I mean, creating life from love. Wow. The problem is, I cannot do that. It is physically and biologically impossible for me to make love to a woman and for either of us to become pregnant. Sigh. This fact has caused me a good deal of strife in my life.

When I was 15, my then-Mormon sister threw argument after argument at me as to why homosexuality is evil. One of them was simply, "the parts don't fit." "True," I thought, "...if you believe that the point of sex is to procreate." I do not. A lot of parts of Genesis in The Bible do. I do not. I believe that making love to someone should be the ultimate realization of your love for him or her. If a baby comes out of that-- beautiful. The thing is, babies do not always come into the world under those conditions. People abuse this gift they have been given-- the ability to procreate-- and it pains and frustrates me. Just because I cannot create life out of my love for a woman does not mean our love is wrong or evil. The ability to procreate does not validate our love. The ability to procreate does not validate a heterosexual encounter. There is rape and there is procreation as a result of pure lustful sex for pleasure. Are those acts not wrong? I think they are.

The underlying thing in any sexual encounter that makes it beautiful and, to use the overused Western word, "right," is love. I want to make a baby with my lady and I can't. I physically cannot. That is too bad. But that does not make us wrong. Heterosexual people can make babies with or without love. That does not make it right. A baby created from love has only good things in store for it because it will be loved for the rest of its beautifully wonderful life. My ladyfriend for life will not make me pregnant and I will not make her pregnant. Women worry about how they are going to balance careers and lives with motherhood, and so do I. But I also worry about how my lady and I will even bring a little one into our lives. It is a decision that is a long way off, seeing as how I first have to find a ladyfriend who can tolerate me for the rest of her life. But when I stress out about this, or people challenge my life and being with their views-- religious or otherwise-- I always come around and know that I will be OK. I know that I will be OK because I love. And in the end, for me, love is all that matters.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Train In Vein

I don't know. There's too much goodness in my life and I don't really know how to explain it or really, how to even experience it. I need time to process things! And lately, there's been this pattern in my life where one AMAZING thing that I am so incredibly grateful for happens that I can't hardly believe is happening to me and then WHILE that thing is happening, ANOTHER equally amazing thing happens! What is this?! All of this stuff to be thankful for is too much for me to handle! I'm going to explode with gratitude!

This blog is called Advance Directive and I've never officially stated the inspiration for that. It largely/entirely revolves around the Pixar masterpiece WALL-E in which an adorable old-school robot falls for a new wave, shiny robot. As robots, they all have their personal directives-- the thing they were made to do in the world. Their mission, their purpose, their reason. Much like us non-robots. So I started the blog and called it Advance Directive because that's what I want for the world. I want to advance my own directive and I want you to advance your directive. Through the individual advancements of our own directives and the collective advancement of the collective directive, love and humanity shall reign free. Or something like that. The acts of sharing and writing are part of my directive. Plus, the term conjures an Advance Medical Directive for some, (like for those of us that have worked in a doctor's office for four years), which is fine by me because I like the idea that the people left should consult these words once I'm gone.

As previously stated a little differently in other cyber locations, one of the many gifts that the Universe gave me last year was that I learned about something called Equality Ride from my television. Turns out that it is a bus full of amazing people that travels around the country to Christian institutions of higher learning with discriminatory and/or dangerous LGBTQ policies and climates, to engage hearts and minds about oppression of varying shapes, colors and sizes. LGBTQ oppression is the hand we're leading with to feel around in the darkness of prejudice people justify with Christ, but all oppression is inextricably linked-- a concept called intersectionality. And so my blog post has begun. The reason why I'm starting to blog about Equality Ride now when I don't leave until February 25th is that I've just returned from a training week in Austin, TX. It was-- how do you say-- off the freakin' chain.

We talked a lot in Austin about The Bible and how it is used in ways that encourage a culture of inequality. There was a lot about Bible verses being taken out of context through truncating the story, thus the meaning, and the fact that The Bible has been translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, thus also muddying the meaning. It was also written by a bunch of people that weren't Jesus or God. Not to mention the fact that there are multiple versions/translations of The present-day Bible. What you find in The Bible is determined by what you're looking for and how you hold it once you find it. Here's one of my favorite citations (truncated, to be fair, so if you take issue, let's talk about it) that pr/teaches love, justice and equality! Maybe even an Equality Ride? Imagine that! "Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. Again, if you do good only to those who do good to you, what credit is there in that? Even sinners do as much. And if you lend only where you expect to be repaid, what credit is there in that? Even sinners lend to each other to be repaid in full. But you must love your enemies and do good, and lend without expecting any return..." [Luke 6:31-35] Also, I just opened my Bible to a random page and found this: "Awake, awake! Arm of the Lord, put on strength; awake as you did in days of old, in ages long past. Was it not you who hacked Rahab in pieces and ran the dragon through?" [Isaiah 51:9] Clearly, Jesus and God want all of us to wake up, hack Rahab in pieces and run the dragon through! And lastly, an amazing thing that our Bible trainers reminded us of is that Jesus was about as radical as they come. People pretty much thought he was batshit crazy back in the day, and there he went with his 30-something year-old self, preaching love and healing people like a champion. Dude was a serious renegade.

So now back to intersectionality and systems of oppression. If, as a member of an oppressed group, I take a stand against that oppression and decide that I will work against it, it doesn't make any sense to work only for my own personal interests. It doesn't make any sense for me to only fight for marriage equality when there are other queer people losing their jobs for being queer or killing themselves for being queer because THAT'S how much they hate themselves. (If you are unfamiliar with my usage of the word "queer," it goes like this: "queer" used to be a derogatory term aimed at LGBTQ people. It has since been liberatingly reclaimed by LGBTQ people to generally refer to that which is not heteronormative. The non-heteronormative part is why I like to use it-- it's shorter than LGBTQ and also rhymes with "cheer.") The people within my oppressed group that are more oppressed than I are more oppressed for reasons that inevitably have to do with issues of money/class and race. That is how I understand intersectionality. It's all connected. And it doesn't make any damn sense to forget about other oppressed peoples while I work my own way out of oppression because that doesn't do anything to end oppression-- it only ends MY oppression. It only moves oppression around-- shifts it from one group to another. Meanwhile, the dominant group stays dominant while the system they sit atop says, "suckeeeers!!!" And by forgetting and/or not recognizing the other oppressed, I become the oppressor. I'm not down with this. This is what "no one is free when others are oppressed" means to me. No one is better than anyone else.

So yeah. We talked a lot about intersectionality and systems of oppression. We watched The Color of Fear. We had a guest trainer named Paula who works with two organizations in Austin, INCITE!: Women of Color Against Violence and Mamas of Color Rising. I developed a pretty substantial crush on Paula in the two hours that I was with her. After those beautiful two hours, I thanked her for coming, told her she was great, shook her hand and gave her a hug. She told me I was great. Now if only I can find a woman who isn't in a committed, child-bearing relationship and who doesn't live in Austin, TX to have an interaction like that with, I'll be all set! Talking about oppression messes me up. It generally leaves my chest tied in a large, knotted lump. Work around general societal oppression to include racism, sexism and classism is mindblowing, earth-shattering stuff that I was exposed to for the first time in college. So experiencing it again this past week, I thought of who in my life I could discuss, share and explore it with. It really became evident to me how much I want/need it in my life more regularly and how I want/need people close to me to share the experience with. When it blew my mind and shattered my earth in college, I didn't really have anyone to do that with. Boo. Overall, the pervasive theme for me as I dealt with these issues this intensely for the first time in so long was a constant consciousness of how privileged I am within our country's systems of oppression. I am one lucky bitch.

And I officially join the movement towards equALLity. The 2010 Equality Ride will be visiting 16 schools. Each rider is assigned to a school to envision and implement what zh/s/he wants hir/her/his stop to look like. My partner for the ride is Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX! Several riders have also been tasked with creating presentations for the various schools to choose from. I am one of the several. The tentative presentations we are offering are: "LGBTQ Myths and Truths," "Christianity and Justice" and "Bridging the Gap." And lastly, all riders have roles that they will be living on the bus. I have been deemed Media Director! Yikes. Any and all ideas, suggestions and resources are welcome.

Thank you for reading this now and thank you in advance for following along in the months to come. Holy shit.

P.S. While in Austin, I got to ride in a 2010 Honda Insight to a place called Sao Paulo's where I enjoyed a delicious Brazilian dinner with a new Equality Rider friend, his dear lesbian friend who is with child, Dear Lesbian Friend With Child's partner and Amazing Pregnant Lesbian Couple's other friend. I don't know a lot of lesbian couples that are pregnant and shacked up, living the creation of a family in such a gorgeous way. Actually, I didn't know any, prior to meeting this one. It was indescribably rewarding for me to see such a shining example right before my very eyes. And I ate with them! I know that they really exist because I saw them eat food! Across from me! That family has no idea how much their mere existence means to all that is me. Life is beautiful.