Monday, June 14, 2010

Because We Can

First of all, I want to discuss what my wife and I are doing tonight. We are going to a rally in Union Square for the Ali Forney Center in Queens, which provides housing and support for homeless LGBT youth. The Forney Center was recently vandalized, a double blow for kids who've already been told they're unwanted. If you're in the area and read this on time, it's at 6 pm tonight. We didn't march in the Brooklyn Pride parade on Saturday night because we were tired and my knee was tweaked, but this is non-negotiable for us. The cause is close to our hearts.

Some LGBT kids become homeless or enter the foster care system for the same reasons other kids do. But there are special problems that LGBT kids go through because of other peoples' responses to their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender presentation. Sometimes kids in the system have a hard time finding a forever home because foster parents freak the hell out about their gender-atypical behavior or sexual identity. Sometimes kids have their parents make their lives so intolerable--like cutting them off from their friends and making them go to ex-gay ministries, or beating them--that the kids feel they absolutely have to rabbit as soon as they have the chance. And then there are the parents who literally throw their children away. I'm not going to write lots about this because it makes me cry and it's not really my story to tell and I was asked to keep it very brief. However, L'Ailee was one of them, at age 17. This happened shortly after we met. Her parents were abusive to begin with, and then they ended up being the last in the neighborhood to find out she was lesbian. They told her to change or leave. She left.

She didn't have anything like the Forney Center. She had friends, older and her own age, several of whom let her couch surf until one finally let her stay for the rest of the school year. She had teachers who cared for her. One is a friend of hers today. I don't care for the woman, and she hates my guts, but I always have to be profoundly grateful to her for her role in saving the girl who would become my wife's life when she needed help. My wife was fortunate, resourceful, and intelligent enough to help sew herself a patchwork quilt. Some kids just get patches, if that. So we donate a bit to the Forney Center, and we're showing the kids support tonight.

If you're interested in other organizations that help LGBT kids, the Point Foundation helps college students who have been marginalized (basically, cut off by their parents or rejected by previous sources of money, such as religious-based scholarships) get scholarships. I just learned about A Thousand Moms through Twitter. It helps LGBT teens in the New York State foster system find assistance and forever homes. You know how Pepsi is donating money to organizations based on web votes? (Well, I do 'cause I drink tons of their diet sodas.) A Thousand Moms is in the running, so if you don't have money, you can still click here and help them get some of Pepsi's money. Kicked Out, the book and the blog, tells stories of other LGBT kids who were thrown away by their parents and suggests ways to help. I'd love it if there was absolutely no need for any of these organizations. But there is, thanks in part to the shrill voices and hateful words of activists who claim to be "pro-family" and want to "protect children."

But there's tons of other depressing stuff to think about, isn't there? Like, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster! (I still don't know what to call it. "Spill's" too damned mild by half.) I'm usually vegetarian and have absolutely no problem avoiding meat. There's so much other wonderful stuff in the world to be eaten! That said, when I do get a meat craving, it's usually shrimp. We know what's happening to the US shrimp supply right at this very moment, don't we? I decided to eat my first meat in over a year by indulging my craving for salt and pepper shrimp during the race yesterday. It's not like they'll be making tons more anytime soon, at least not at a price most people can afford! I also made shrimp tacos for everybody.

Most people who come to our house to watch the race are omnivores, and the vegetarians, like me, aren't the nasty preachy type who holler at people for eating hamburgers. It was funny, though. The cats hung around just waiting for something to fall off our plates. When I was about to take my first forkful of salt-and-pepper shrimp bliss, everyone, including my wife, stared at me! You'd have thought I was fixing to eat panda meat! "Come on, y'all, let me enjoy it while I can," I begged. Then everyone returned to watching the race and minding their own plates. I guess people get used to their friends and loved ones acting a certain way, and become disconcerted when they do something different, even if it's simply eating the same thing they are for once. It was really delicious, though, and so was the shrimp taco. I wished it didn't come with the sad, angry aftertaste.

Tonight won't be the only evening I'm out. I'm shocked given the gyrations the market has gone through in the past few weeks, but I got another interior decorating job. He works into the evening, so it suited him just fine to let me send contractors and delivery people over on weekdays, take a look at the progress during lunch hour, and help work on the place for a few hours myself after my day job, mostly freeing up both of our weekends. Primarily, I'm gonna paint! I *love* painting. Many full-time interior decorators don't do this, and the super-expensive society ones really don't. But emerging decorators--that's the polite term for "starting out without a lot of advantages or connections in a bad economy"--like me do tend to pitch in on the actual work.

Sometimes we get our spouses to do it, too. L'Ailee said, "You always look so happy and sexy when you paint!"
"You can come see me in action," I teased. "Come help me out one night, and we can go get dinner together after."
"Oh, that's all right..."
"You can earn your Watkins Glen ticket." Yes, we decided to go to the Watkins Glen race as well as donate some money to charity and save the rest.
"Excuse me?"
"You look sexy when you paint, too. Especially from the back."
"That is the part you should look at, because I will not be happy." But she was smiling. Can't wait!

I am so grateful for her and for our life together. I'm grateful that we can watch the race and eat shrimp tacos and tease each other. I'm grateful that she has room in her brain to get upset that the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and be happy that Kevin Harvick is still on top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings. I hope that the kids being helped by the Ali Forney Center grow up to have that someday.

Links, links:

Lots of people are watching the World Cup. I'm not 'cause I just can't get into it. Last night, my mom talked about how sick she was "soccer being shoved down our throats." I've heard other people, mostly conservatives, get downright angry about it! This piece attempts to explain why. By the way, even though Dave Zirin doesn't have much to say about racing or hockey, I like his approach to covering sports.

But Glenn Beck also provided us some comedy, even though it wasn't on purpose. Read these excerpts from his new novel, if you dare. (Twitterers will understand where the #DontTeaseThePanther hashtag came from afterwards. If you don't, savor this moment--you'll miss it once you click the link.)

Being 50/50 bisexual, I could as easily have ended up with a man as a woman, but I always felt queer even with a man. This is a terrific article by a queer woman sharing her experiences of loving a man.

Finally, Mental Floss offers a great history of NASCAR advertising. Comment warning: NASCAR pisses some people off, too, as I reminded my mom last night.


Raven said...

That is awesome that they have places for LGBT youth. I had no idea there even was such a thing.

I couldn't imagine every turning out my child because I found out she was lesbian or whatever. I've never understood that prejudice at all. Probably because I'm also bi, so I understand that it's something you can't change and that it's not something wrong or immoral. It's really tragic that people do disown their kids though for that reason.

Have a wonderful day.

Jude said...

Thanks for the Pepsi link...I went in and voted.

When I do the safe space training at work and get to the part about the LGBT youth having the highest suicide rate, there's usually a lot of discussion around that point. Most of them can't understand parents throwing their kids out into the streets. Sad but true.

alan said...

It's hard to survive childhood even with the support of family; no one should have to do it without, yet so many are thrown to the wolves...

Thanks for caring!


MoonRaven said...

Thanks for writing this and for going to the rally. It is so sad that there are parents that reject their kids because of their sexuality or gender identity. Everyone should be accepted for who they are, but unfortunately, it often isn't true.

I appreciate you sharing L'Ailee's story. I am glad that she had friends and teachers who supported her when her parents didn't.