Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Take me back oh hills I love

I've decided that being buried is really just a way of punishing people who love you. If your descendents don't give a hoot about you, they let your grave go to seed and never have to deal with your remains again. The only people who suffer are the ones who actually care enough about you to buy you an expensive rock and maintain your final resting place indefinitely. It's even worse in the crowded graveyards of Denmark, where people have to pay a yearly fee so their dearly departed don't get dug up and replaced with the more recently expired.

In other words, the group spent the weekend in very rural Lancaster, PA doing maintenance on an unused Quaker meeting house and the accompanying graveyard behind. (I felt kind of guilty running a weed-whacker all morning while the Amish guy next door ran his push-mower over his immaculately kept lawn. I stopped feeling bad after lunch when he got out his weed-whacker. Not sure what that was about.)

It made me really determined never to be buried so I'm not a bother and an expense to people who care enough to mow the poison ivy from my grave. Quaker graves are especially weird, since the simplicity testimony at one point had folks measuring each other's tombstones to see if anyone was getting too worldly. Thus the guy who founded the meetinghouse is under a very unassuming marker with only his name, while the much larger stone for "Our Son Georgie" obviously came from a less Quakerly family. I think I'll be super-Quaker and have my ashes scattered someplace so no loyal cemetary-maintaining descendant of mine winds up with poison ivy between her fingers and on her ear like I currently have.

On a more positive note, spending time in the country turned out to be the remedy for the lack of relationship to this country I was feeling around the Fourth of July. Watching the sun set over the curves of cornfields and forest was exactly what I needed to fall in love with this land again. The Danish word for "nation" or "country" is just land, which feels so much more accessible. Even if I can't always respect my country, I can always love this land.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Why I'm becoming a fag hag

Early in this program a friend said he was thinking of asking people to use gender-neutral pronouns with him to raise awareness, so the burden wouldn't always be on intersex and trans people to teach the rest of us. I was amazed, since I had thought of him as pretty square before - "Wow! I never thought I would hear a straight guy say that!" Once again demonstrating my amazing lack of gaydar.

The more I think about who's actually on top of this gender stuff - both more traditional feminism and the added complexity of fiddling with the gender binary - the more ticked I get at straight cisgendered men. I used to think I liked being around gay men more than straight ones just because they felt safer. But that doesn't explain bi men, who I still find more fun to be around on the whole. Now I think it's that queer and trans men are the only ones I know who have actually considered our society's silly gender boxes and aren't interested in being in one. And they're not interested in putting me in one, either.

White guilt used to agonize me until I accepted that no amount of feeling bad will do anything to end racism. I can't change who I was born, but I can educate myself and change how I act. Likewise, I'm not going to assume all straight cisgendered men are doomed from birth to be ignorant oppressors, because they have the same chance we all do to better themselves. So why isn't that happening? The only guy I know who's my age and not trans and not queer who's worked through any of this stuff was one I led by the hand through most of it. (Today I was gratified to hear that my having made him learn to cook is serving him well.) I'm currently leading my dad kicking and screaming through it. It seems that nobody deals with this stuff unless they're whacked over the head by their own identity or someone else makes them think about it. What is wrong with you guys?

We'll save the question of why women, trans people and queer people seem to hold the monopoly on vegetarianism for another day.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Loving the invisible

When no one is looking and I want
To kiss

I just lift my own hand

- Hafiz

Today I was introduced to a man who feels like an old friend - Hafiz, a fourteenth-century Persian poet. He presents God as lover and beloved, as friend, as present in everyone around us. I'm so lost in his work I forget that I can't usually manage to believe in his lover. It's so seldom I feel close enough to the brink of believing that I can send anything out to God - but tonight I can, and I'm hankering to reflect some of that light back out into the air. I feel like I'm mailing a letter with no one's address written on the envelope. But it feels good to mail the letter.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

Dear America,

I'm not sure if "dear" is the right word, actually. In fact, I'm not sure I even want to be talking to you. Today I almost wish I were somplace else, someplace I didn't have to look at this holiday. A day when we celebrate the beginning of a war, when we eat meaty foods and gather in obese sweating herds to listen to bad music and watch beautiful lights in the sky and say we love our country.

I used to love riding into Philadelphia and seeing your gleaming prismatic towers. I was proud that this was my city. I don't feel proud anymore, knowing how many destitute live here. In Copenhagen even the homeless had healthcare, and people lived with trust that the country was there for them. Americans don't live with that trust. I used to be proud that at least our nation was a beacon of some sort of democracy and well-being, even if an imperfect one. Now I wonder why we've twisted all we had going for us into a beacon of what's grabbing, wasteful, and blind. I'm wondering why on this day there's no mention of the economies and peoples we hold in sway as surely as any redcoat ever held a musket to a colonist's back. It makes me feel sad and sick to be an American today.

But much as I want to not belong to you, this wouldn't all hurt so much if I didn't. There's no point in going away because wherever I am, you are in my blood, in my skin, on the tip of my tongue. Your mountains and cities are my home, your heartbeat my music, your people my people.

For better or for worse, your daughter

Monday, July 03, 2006


Even in what is (in most ways) the safest of environments, I'm aware as I never have been before of the ways people are out or not about our identities. We've been coming out about our race, our sexuality, our gender, our experiences. For the first time I'm regularly outing myself as nontheist in a religious setting, which is harder than I would have thought.

Of course, that difficulty in me is nothing compared to what it takes for some people. I had never realized what a moving experience it can be when someone comes out to you. I had never appreciated what an act of faith it is - like a bird landing in my hands, trusting I won't crush it.