Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Supporting Our Soldiers

Once upon a time I joined a list serve, founded by Code Pink, that was keeping folks abreast of anti-war organizing taking place around the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Once the invasions took place and the wars in full swing, the focus of the list serve changed to combating the use of unmanned drones that have made some egregious errors costing many civilians their lives. The focus switch of the list serve happened and folks weren't asked to opt in.

For the most part, I never read anything on the list over the last several years. Until this morning when an email caught my eye that said that all soldiers are cowards, followed up by an angry U.S. resident of Afghan descent that, when facing folks pushing back against the statement that all soldiers are cowards, said, "Enough with making excuses for soldiers aka guns-for-hire. ENOUGH!"

That pushed me over the edge. Here is my verbatim response:

Message flagged
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 8:13 AM
Can someone let me know how to remove myself from this list? The straight up ignorance around the poverty draft and other intentionally socially engineered policies that create real situations where many young people of color and rural poor whites see or actually have only the military as an option to escape cyclical poverty, the drug war, or urban violence is really too much. And it smacks of some serious unexamined privilege. Let's talk about the root causes of why the overwhelming majority of recruits join the service. It has nothing to do with privateering and patriotism, it has to do with a paycheck and a way out of wherever they came from. Those aren't excuses those are the reality of this capitalist corporate state. How about this, Fatima, you go into the hoods and counties where these children are drafted and cut them a check, pay for their education, give then a home, and remove them from the violence and poverty of the places you find them in. Support their families as well. Until you can do that while also eradicating the systemic oppression that created their circumstances, you are just as much a part of the problem as they end up being.

To denounce folks for taking what appears to be their only option to have a better life at the risk of their own lives, no matter how misguided the choice may have been, is an act of cowardice. Especially from behind a computer screen.

I am no fan of the military industrial complex. I do not believe in the United States' hegemonic neocolonialist policies. I despise the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the secret invasions that we stage all the time. But I also know that when my little brother and little sister joined the military it wasn't for some love of having to go to war against people that look like them. Neither did my Father or my Uncle or my Great-Uncle who fought in Korea and WWII. They joined because they felt it was the best option to get them to the place in life they wanted to be and whether from rural Minnesota or rural West Virginia, the options were limited. My great-great Uncle Lieutenant Colonel William Harrison Carey was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt's and rode with him during the colonization of Puerto Rico. Another relative of mine was with General Eisenhower in France and was the mapmaker that laid the literal plans and map of the D-Day invasion. Am I proud that one of my relatives participated in the colonization of Puerto Rico? No. Am I proud that another helped set the stage for the liberation of France and the fall of Hitler. Hell yes.

I support my family. My sister Shannon was named NCO Officer of the Year for the United States Army last year. My little brother has lost handfuls of friends to the war in Afghanistan and struggles with that on a regular basis. These are not mercenaries...these are my family. I may not support the military as an institution, but I support and love these human beings that have been my friends, allies, and loved me through some hard shit. I am proud of my family and the service they have given.

And anyone that calls them a coward to my face is likely to get my foot placed squarely in their ass. Check your fucking privilege...I am so done with arm chair activists hiding behind computer screens making broad declarations about shit they know nothing about.

Get up. Get out. And do the work necessary so that not a single one of our beloved family members and friends ever have to choose between poverty and violence and the risk of going to war in order to live a better life. Dismantle capitalism...erase racism....and abolish poverty....and then come talk to me about folks that join up. Until then. Shut the fuck up.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Creating Change 2012 First Entry

At this very moment, I am on an Amtrak train hurtling (or chugging---chooo choooooo) towards Baltimore for what would be my 14th Creating Change since 1998 if I hadn't missed a couple, but is instead my 11th. But still...DAYUM!

I will never forget my first Creating Change...picking up Erik Christensen in Coya Artichoker's car and driving from Minneapolis to Pittsburgh with a brief stop for a very expensive speeding ticket just before hitting P-Burgh.

How very much my life, organizing, and work has changed since 1998.

At the time I was still in college...a junior/senior at the University of Minnesota and wondering what the Hell I was going to do with my life.

Today, I am living in New York, working for Queers for Economic Justice, a published author, HIV positive, a sometimes hot mess, but loving, living, and dreaming big and in ways I never knew possible those 14 years ago.

I am always skeptical when I am heading to Creating Change, but this year it seems that most of my favorite people ever are going to be at the conference. I am re-plugged in to the conference in a different way, and I am filled with a ton of optimism. We shall see what we shall see.

This year I am faculty in both the Economic Justice Institute and the Sex Justice Institute as well as participating in two workshops, one on the future of sexual orientation and the other on reclaiming sexuality for people living with HIV and disabled folks. I get to work with folks like Amber Hollibaugh, Carlos Blanco, Sebastian Margaret, Kenyon Farrow and so many other transformative and amazing human beings.

My life is blessed.

I am definitely looking forward to this conference, reconnecting with so many of my beloved community/family members. 2012 is the year.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Year's Intentions

So my friends Damon and Jaime have posted on Facebook, in the last couple of weeks, their intentions for 2012. I was struck by the fact that they framed their overarching personal goals as intentions as opposed to resolutions. Intentions are long term achievements towards which progress can be made even if it takes longer than an arbitrary year's time to realize the place you intend to end up. Intentions also leaves space for learning and growth and for the trajectory of your intentions to change in relationship to yourself as you change.

Resolutions are just that...clear cut commitments, finite (usually) in nature (though they sometimes have long term impacts), and there is no, as Yoda would say, "Try. There is only do or do not," when it comes to New Year's Resolutions. Resolutions require perfection. I will lose 20 pounds. I will write the great American novel this year. I will never drink too much. I won't relapse. I will walk on water.

See...the problem with resolutions are that if they are truly things that are important and impactful to you spiritually, mentally, and physically...then when you fail...when you gain the weight back...when you relapse...when you have a hangover...when you fall into the East River....then not only all that matters is that you failed...it's a resolution...not an intention. An intention (with firm goals, benchmarks, and measurable outcomes) is a growth tool. It allows you to set for yourself the place that you would like to be but it also allows you the space to celebrate the progress you made EVEN if you ultimately did not reach your end goal within the time frame originally specified aka the year 2012. Maybe I relapsed but only for three days instead of two months as in the previous year? Perhaps I wanted to lose 20 pounds and lost 15 instead, and maybe the water was just being bitchy and jumped out of the way whenever I showed up.

In this life, and in this country, there is this idea that in order to be loved, accepted, worthy, valued (besides being white, male, rich and able bodied) is to be perfect. We are given the image of what a perfect child is and how she behaves, the perfect church goer, the perfect student, the perfect wife, the perfect lover, etc. For those of us that grew up with some level of privation (or lots of it), the one sure way to stand out, without ending up in juvie, was to excel in school/sports/arts. And our school system and the broader society whose values it props up, teaches us that we are only as good as our last A, our last novel, our last game, our last recital, our last whatever. As soon as we slip up or mess up grandly, even when the folks around us remind us constantly that a mistake doesn't discount all of the complicated awesome each person is, the culture of perfectionism dictates that until you are perfect again, despite any progress especially over larger arcs of time, that progress and your value and worthiness are attached and defined only by the next new big wow.

So when we mess up, the majority of us try to hide it, minimize it, or do advanced damage control. Instead of seeing our mistakes, owning them and figuring out a strategy to reach the goals we've set, instead, and I will use an I statement here, I internalize every failure and instead of being able to see, learn, grow and move on...I/we either shut down completely or take our already fevered pitch attempts at perfect to whole new levels of crazy town.

So this year, I have decided to set my intentions. I am sharing them with you, my community, because these intentions are important to me, and I am asking for your active help in providing support in reaching the benchmarks and measure that I set out for this year with each intention. And, also, if we can't model with each other what it looks like to see where we are ( and love it no matter what) and then dream where we need to be (and ask for help getting there) then we all stay stuck....falling off of the treadmill after only three weeks...just when you are able to get through your daily workout without considering having a defibrillator implanted in your chest.

2012 Intentions:


I have decided that 2012 is going to be the year of self-love. I love so many people so very deeply. In fact, there are people in this world that I love more than anything else...including myself. I am surrounded by love in so many ways and in so many forms but somehow, somewhere I was taught or learned or accepted that love was not for me....love was something you gave to others but not to yourself. But, in fact, unless you can love yourself openly, honestly, and gently, you will never be able to be open to the massive love that is all around all of us. For me this means:

1. Therapy: I intend to find and engage on a weekly basis an amazing therapist. While I do not believe that therapy is actually doing the work needed to heal, I do believe that therapy is the place where you go to lay out your treatment plan, its the spot where you identify possible complications that might occur along the way, and it's the place you show up to consult with the experts on how to best move forward.

2. Learning to respect, value, and honor the fullness of the body in which I walk including the flaws (BACKFAT!), the disease (HIV!), and the skin color (not-white)..all of which in tandem with the messages we receive day in and out about who/what/how we should be create a foundation for self-loathing that is inimical to self-love.

3. Loving myself enough to expect that I deserve true love in a partner...I intend to write out, fully, what I want from a romantic life partner. If you can dream it, you can have it.

4. Sex!!! Part of loving myself better will be to acknowledge, feel and explore my sex life and embrace, without shame, the things that make me feel good and feel GOOD about feeling good! If this means that I discover that dipping myself in Play-Doh and having unprotected sex with a Muppet on Grants Tomb is my ultimate aphrodisiac then I will welcome it. This also means that I will not engage in sex that is escapism or that devalues me, my body, or my spirit.

5. Friends/Family: I will prioritize spending real time with friends and family and continuing to build meaningful relationships. It is also my intention to be sure that no one in my life that I love ever has to wonder or question my love or their inherent worthiness to be loved. And for those of you (ahem Carter Klenk) that I haven't seen in over a year...be prepared to offer up your husbands butt as my pillow.

6. Exercise: I will continue to exercise, build a strong body, and create a healthy corpus. I will continue to challenge my body, push it, and build the body I want and not the one the media or anyone else says that I should have. My goal here is to compete in the Mr. Fire Island contest this summer.


1. I intend to finish revising Eden Lost and getting that to my publisher by the middle of March (March 15th....WARE THE IDES!).

2. I intend to have made significant progress (40,000+ words) written of the second book in the series that begins with Eden Lost by the end of 2012.

3. I intend to write and have published at least three articles for the Huffington Post.

4. I intend to reach out and secure at least one writing contract this year with the Advocate building on my successful November 2011 article.

5. I intend to continue to publish my blogs and look at ways to continue to increase the readership of My Feet Only Walk Forward.

6. I intend to honor my love of writing and the role it has held in my survival.


To continue to be the best possible staff person at QEJ that I can be and to offer myself in service to the work of social justice in the way that makes the best sense with the greatest impact.


I have a lot of intentions this year, but in the end, I want to love more, live better, be healthier, serve my community, and open myself to the real joy that is out there in this universe. My faith in God has always been strong, but now I need to have stronger faith in myself.

Happy 2012!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


There was a very long time in my life when I could not get angry. Even the things that should have made me angry, I shrugged off, ignored, or, most often, let pass deep inside of me, where I stuffed down the feelings, bottled them up, and sealed them inside of what I thought was a vault but, instead, turned out to be a pressure cooker.

There was a time when I saw rage and I fundamentally didn't understand it. I had moments when I felt what I thought was rage, and the first, and only time, I experienced intimate partner violence, my partner hit me and it triggered undiagnosed PTSD and I "redded out." The rage came on so explosively and suddenly that I had no memory of the time from when he hit me to when I came back to myself, sitting on top of him and smashing his face into the floor while crying. That was in 1995.

Since then, I have learned to let myself feel anger. In general, I now am able to get angry, address the source of the anger directly and then let it go. I have never held grudges, and I don't understand people that do. If I am in community with you, and you piss me off, then it is an act of love to confront you about your behavior (or be confronted) and then give or be given the opportunity to make amends and change the source of the behavior that triggered the anger.

It's been a long time since I felt rage. But I have been dealing with it, intensely, traumatically, shamefully and hurtfully for over a month now.

This is how it happened.

I was, I don't know what to call it, in some sort of intense friendship with someone that was fast becoming a relationship. To all outsiders, it looked as if we were in a relationship. On the inside, it felt like a relationship. The love was there, and it was intense. There was also a whole lot of hurt from relationships that we each had that had recently ended. We attempted to put on the brakes in a number of ways, but things still progressed. Certain committments were made, and so I moved forward, knowing that hurt was possible but truly believing that what this other had said was true. Until it wasn't true anymore.

Here is where I made my grand mistake. Instead of simply letting myself feel the anger that was obviously present at our break up that wasn't a break up and setting firm boundaries and excising the anger and hurt in a healthy way, I instead stuffed it down, let sadness take over. I knew better. It would have been healthier, right, and just for him and for him if I had just been honest with my anger and walked away then.

Its what the people around me told me I should do. I didn't listen. I was in love, and I didn't want to lose him. I thought it would be temporary. I still believed the things he had said. And I was believing the things he was still saying after the relationship adjustment. Except he wasn't in a place or space to be honest with himself in any way about where he was at in relationship to me or anything else. I am a smart human being and very little escapes my notice...its a survival technique....I kept in allowing myself to be yo-yo-ed. I was fighting him to want me and every time I had to go to war to get him to admit his feelings...a little more anger built up. Every time an I love you left his mouth and yet he pulled further away, a little more anger built up, and yet I kept sticking around. I kept trying to figure out how to be friends, how to console, how to be supportive yet stick to my own truth.

On Christmas eve all that ended in an explosion of rage. There had been one other rageful "text message" moment previous to this, but on Christmas eve my rage came out, it came hard, and it was directed at him. I set firm boundaries, to which he agreed. For about a week and a half all that worked out.

Until I had to see him again on a regular basis. And then all the angry and hurful things that I wanted to say...all of the things I wanted to verbally scissor into him so he would at least show some emotion and at best feel as hurt, wounded, and shitty as I feel gorged up in my throat every time I saw him. I couldn't sleep again. I had dreams in which I said all that I needed to say, and more than once on more than one occassion I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote out all of those things in a text message only to set it aside and delete it come morning.

I didn't find a way to excise the rage and so it continued to build, until last night, after copious wine and several cocktails I wrote and sent the text messages. Crueler. Meaner. Harsher. And more destructive than any I had written and deleted.

There was truth in them but it was truth meant to hurt as much as possible. It was ugly. It was rude. It was the dark side of the mirror that exists inside of all of us, and it is not who I am. It is not who I want to be. I have been hurt by words. I had been hurt by people I love, with intention, and I have made a committment to never spout that verbal poison out at someone I love.

And I did it. And it is shameful. I don't feel guilty about it. I feel shame about it. Shame is much much much worse.

Did the truth need to be told...yes...but not to him...to me. My rage and my anger are mine to hold and mine to excise. I did last night what I should have done six weeks ago. I deleted his phone number from my phone. I sent an email apologizing for my behavior. I am taking two weeks off of drinking to evaluate what that means and if it is something I need to look more deeply at (it isn't an excuse for my action only an enabler). But I believe in making amends and not just apologizing, so I am going to look at that. And, truth be told, since the break up that was not a break up...I have been using both alcohol and sex as ways to avoid dealing with how I really feel. Unhealthy combinations of both that have kept me off balance, in crisis, away from my feelings, and damaging in all sorts of combinations. That ends now as well.

I have come to a clear understanding that not only can I not have him as a part of my life, I don't want him, anytime soon, to be a part of it...because of the trust lost but also because I can't have him in my life and have it be healthy in anyway right now. I love him enough to not want to hurt him and I love myself enough to let myself be hurt by him anymore. And because there is still rage, I can't trust myself either to make the best choices. Not until the rage is gone. Not until I figure out how to let it go. Not until I learn how to forgive him and not until I learn how to forgive myself.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

POEM: An Angry Love Poem

An Angry Love Poem
for him

I am tired of being beautiful
Ain't no sweetness left
Your mess has consumed
What you presumed was a never ending fountain
Of bullshit cosigned by my heart

Fuck you.

Your white privilege has protected you
And that pretty face
Race is front and center when a grown ass man of color
Chases after a needy toddler

How dare you say that you love me and then walk away
How dare you say you want me
and then leave me
Entitlement and white don't make right
Get it the fuck together, Heather
You have crossed the border from Heaven
And all Hell is about to break loose
The man that fucked you and left you aching
Except we were makin the foundations of this love
When your ass was his plaything

I am angry

You gone tell me your heart is broken
While breaking the love we were making
Forsaking what you admitted was your chance at having
For a bad dream, an uptight Indian pining for a virgin bride

Have some motherfucking pride

Fuck him too that broke you.
Took you and left you half assed and hurting
And rampaging through my life
How dare you love me so imperfectly
Loving me so sadly badly gladly
Taking what I offered
Taking away what you proffered
Softened my spirit
Filled it with so much hope
With a single kiss

I hate that I miss you like this

Yes, I said that I wouldn't be hurt
By your doubt but that was a caveat
Not a blank check
I was in it to win it and u
Said u were in it too
I believed you
Do you have any clue
What it means
For a brown man to trust a white man
Can you imagine what it took
How much it took
What it cost me
To trust that much
And have it thrust back into me
Like a machete straight through the heart
Do you understand that this man
Put all his chips on the table
Are you able to understand that when you folded
You ended so much more than us
Trust that
Because I can't trust anyone else

What a fucking mess

I guess I did this to myself
I guess it's better to have loved than lost
I guess but I don't know
How to let you go
How not to love you
How to forgive you
How to relinquish these feelings
Remembering the truth of being with you
In you
Can't do this any longer
Wish I was stronger
I wish I were stronger
But I don't believe in wishes any longer
Or happily ever after.

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's Time to Say I Do to the LGBTQ Giving Challenge

A few weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine, Bill Lyons, contacted me about a bold new initative. A recent report emerged saying that the average LGBTQ individual gives LESS than $35 a year to LGBTQ organizations. With individuals making up the BULK of giving annually, less than 2% of giving goes to LGBT causes. If we are at least 10% of the population, then the numbers just don't add up.

If we don't support our own organizations and work for liberation, then how can we expect anyone us to join us in our fights? If we don't prioritize social change work and giving (at whatever level...from $5-$5,000)....then we also do not have the moral or political ground to stand on to demand justice.

In this Recession, queer families, moreso than their straight counterparts, are struggling to make their ends meet. But we also know that in times of hardship giving from those that makes less than $50,000 a year INCREASES. In fact, most of the money given out in these several states comes from families making less than that amount each year...even in the best most affluentt times. Why? Because poor folks understand the need for critical social and political organizations that are often the only ones focused on the issues that most impact their/our lives.

It is time for LGBTQ indivudals to stand up and give up a month worth of Starbucks, two nights out at the movies, or three cocktails. It's time for those of us whose bills are paid yet we still complain about being broke to rethink our priorities and do something selfless (or, actually extremely self interested) and give and give until it hurts just a little...that level of giving is individual...I watched a homeless woman recently give a 50 cent tip to a worker at Starbucks...for her that 50 cents meant the world....for you it may be $50. But it is important that we support our community and thus ourselves. We are our own best saviors.

An easy way to start your giving is to take the LGBTQ Giving Challenge Pledge. Pledge to give at least $35 to one or more LGBTQ organizations this year. The organization for which I work, Queers for Economic Justice, is one of the organizations set to benefit from this pledge as are GetEqual, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, The Astraea Foundation, Transgender Law Center, and Faith in America. Find out more about each organization, the challenge,the pledge, and to make your committment today.

It's time to say I do to giving.