Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Video

They told you in school about freedom
But when you try to be free they never let ya
They said "it's easy, nothing to it"
And now the army's out to get ya

Sixty nine America in terminal stasis
The air's so thick it's like drowning in molasses
I'm sick and tired of paying these dues
And I'm finally getting hip to the American ruse

I learned to say the pledge of allegiance
Before they beat me bloody down at the station
They haven't got a word out of me since
I got a billion years probation

Sixty nine America in terminal stasis
The air's so thick it's like drowning in molasses
I'm sick and tired of paying these dues
And I'm sick to my guts of the American ruse

Phony stars, oh no! crummy cars, oh no!
Cheap guitars, oh no! Joe's primitive bar... nah!

Rock 'em back, Sonic!

The way they pull you over it's suspicious
Yeah, for something that just ain't your fault
If you complain they're gonna get vicious
Kick in the teeth and charge you with assault

Yeah, but I can see the chickens
coming home to roost
Young people everywhere
are gonna cook their goose

Lots of kids are working
to get rid of these blues
Cause everybody's sick
of the American ruse

Well well well, take a look around!
Well well well, take a look around!
Well well well, take a look around!
Well well well, take a look around!
Well well well, take a look around!

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Travails of a Modern Day Writer

I minored in creative writing when I was in college. If you looked at my transcript, it would say English, but I was given the freedom to take multiple writing workshops. I wasn't asked to enroll in more than a few literature classes, which I usually enjoyed. My primary training was as a poet, a discipline I have set aside completely, since it no longer speaks to me. Poetry is consigned to a limited audience as well, which is part of the reason I no longer obsess about publishing a chapbook that will sell a total of 400 copies and no more.

My most current frustration is with the process of publication. One particular literary journal likes a particular short story, but has insisted upon a full year's worth of revisions. The topic is a first-person account of a transwoman. What I have crafted is entirely fictional on one hand, but I've relied heavily on the personal anecdotes of other transfolks I have met over the last several years. I've always envisioned writing fiction as a means of taking truthful bits and pieces of a life and creatively putting them together in whichever order best suits them.

The editors and readers are of a very different generational and political mindset. Transsexualism in any form is foreign to them, and I've had to excise whole portions of the manuscript that I would much prefer to keep. I have, as of this moment, minimal cache as a writer. The editors hold most of the power and I have no choice but to make the changes they request. I don't think I'm being exploited in any way, rather that what I write is too foreign and remote for some.

I've removed the first two pages with reservations. I want my main character to feel guilty and remain partially closeted from start to finish. If I had a greater publication name, I'd be able to keep those sections intact. Still, I have to admit that most literary journals and publications would have cast me aside without a second thought if what I wrote didn't fit their needs. What I dislike is that the date of publication has now been moved back to August, since most periodicals publish only twice a year.

For aspiring short story and memoir writers, my advice is to develop patience. The largest unwritten rule is that every publication has a particular style and subject it favors. Knowing that, one can try to write in accordance with their guidelines, or recognize the futility of the gesture. The latter is true for me. I've been able to rule out several publications who will never accept my style. I'd rather be myself than try to mimic a particular format.

I took several journalism classes during undergrad and found the grammar and rules to be restrictive of creativity. Once, I recall being required to write a standard newspaper lead, a fairly basic assignment, which I did in a very unconventional sense. The professor liked the finished product, but noted that he would never be able to teach the way I did it. Even in an electronic content era, I think there will be always be a need for people who have mastered specialized formats.

I am not one of those people. This is why I didn't take more than a handful of mass communication classes. I found the theories fascinating, but not the work that went into it. If creative writing has a tragic flaw, it's that it claims to encourage original voices and new directions, but it is instead under the control of picky people with very specific parameters. I've found that beginning creative writers are often under the delusion that anyone can write and that eventually someone will notice their genius.

Unless a person has substantial solid connections, luck is as much a factor as talent. Much like attorneys, there are too many writers and not enough slots to fill. The process resembles applying for jobs in a challenging and competitive market. I'm thankful for what I've achieved already, but it's only a fraction of what I thought I could achieve at the outset. I wish this wasn't so.

I have confidence in myself. I know I'm a good writer, but the problem is that I'm surrounded by many other good writers. As mentioned above, I don't have the kind of elite academic credentials that are an inside track to greater success. If I hadn't gotten severely sick my last two years of high school, I would have been on track to go somewhere prestigious.

I'm almost exclusively self-taught at this craft, and my college classes have been minimally helpful. I've had to learn a brand new language without anyone holding my hand along the way. It gives one a degree of pride to be a literal self-made man, but a substantial feeling of resentment in the process. I had to make every ounce of this myself, from scratch. No one gave me anything. That recognition and grudge keeps me working hard, even if it encourages biases that may be unfair to their audience.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Poster Child of Gender Dissonance

Because I'm feeling a little emotionally vulnerable due to medication withdrawal, I'll risk a topic I usually consign to the proverbial recesses of my mind. My bisexuality is only one aspect of my identity, mostly processed and put aside, but gender identity is still quite tender, not entirely resolved as yet. I have to thank feminists of my own generation for their hard work in publicizing transgender topics and raising their voices for the sake of fairness. They allowed me to find myself in the midst of tremendous confusion and self-loathing. For a long time I thought of myself as hopelessly eccentric, unable to achieve normality for reasons I could not understand.  

Today I feel stretched, my notion of acceptable physical self expanded beyond previous boundaries. I found a website yesterday that showed real, authentic transgender pornography. Maybe it's not that odd that valuable lessons can be learned from visual representations of sexual contact. One particular site focused almost exclusively on transwomen. I looked on with a combination of fascination and a very guilty arousal. Though I established for myself a while back that transition was not what I needed, the video I viewed allowed me to recognize what I would have become if I did.

I'll say this. It seems like a tremendous amount of work, especially for someone like me who presents in such a masculine fashion. Due to borderline high blood pressure, I have an EKG done every six months at the cardiologist. In order to get the electrodes to stick to my chest, a certain portion of my chest hair must be shaved first. When I was in college, I often frequented drag shows at the local gay bay. I saw the diligent work done by each performer to remove body hair and pass for female, knowing how time consuming it would be for me. What we might call high femme (traditionally feminine) cisgender women think nothing of taking hours to make themselves up immaculately, and to an extent the same was true here. 

Some time ago, I hooked up with a man I met at a club. I hope you don't mind, he said, but I do wear panties. I knew his own shame and I remember I even smiled at his honesty. I took great relish in informing him that I did the same thing myself. He relaxed, instantly. I'm a movie buff, and it saddens me to see how many pejorative references there are in films to men wearing women's underwear, scornful language reducing them to emasculated sissies, not fit to be called men. For reasons like these, I never have felt comfortable identifying as male, though I know I do present as such based on how I was socialized and how I looked upon exiting the womb.

With the anecdote I've just mentioned, I have to say that the experience we had together was sexually underwhelming. Even so, recognizing that I was not alone meant more to me. The two of us had an informative and comforting conversation afterwards that I never expected to have with any other person. Gay sex is another target of male homophobia, the basic concept being that being penetrated in any form is only for women. Men shame each other in certain ways and I've learned, also from feminists, that women gender police themselves in many other ways. 

The only thing that bothers me about transgender issues as currently presented is that they are rather limited in scope. I'm comfortable among white, well-educated, middle class people like myself, but this is very much the status quo. I have to say I wonder about the transwoman or transman who has no clue what terms like gender non-conforming or gender dissonance even mean. They may not realize that surgery is an option, provided they can afford it. They may not have a comforting set of vocabulary words at their disposal. And if they are of a racial minority or religious minority, they may incorrectly assume that they're the only transgender person of color or of faith out there.

I bet not all of the readers of this post understand the complexities present here. It has to start somewhere, but knowledge must eventually reach marginalized people. Sometimes this happens in a very natural, organic sort of way, but sometimes exclusionary attitudes are never challenged. Sins of omission characterize most people who seek to do good but fall short. Sins of commission, by contrast, are often those of intolerance, but they are easier to identify and attack. Let us always challenge ourselves to be better allies, so that enlightenment is not only for the well-informed, privileged, and highly educated.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winning Friends and Ignoring the Rest

Earlier last week I wrote about a Quaker resource center in DC, William Penn House, under threat of closure. Since then, it has been established that the real culprit here is a local government bureaucrat with a grudge. Four years ago, William Penn House won a ruling against him, and he is now bitter enough to force round two. Thankfully, the basic functioning of the center will not change and most will remain as is.

An unscientific survey of the comments and words of advice I received was quite telling. Half of them supported our cause. The other half felt that we were benefiting from an unfair standard, that we were somehow gaming the system for our own advantage. This is worth further analysis, because the roots of these strong opinions reveal more than one single Quaker House fighting for its property tax-exemption.

Some of the people who commented or sent me e-mails resent the taxes they already pay. This is the case either for themselves and their families individually, or perhaps even for a business they own. Many don't believe that any house of worship or faith group should receive tax-exempt status. As is so often the case, those of us who are religious liberals have to try to find some way to counter the sins of religious social conservatives.

The behavior of televangelists and hypocritical bigots, in particular, have soured many people. I know of a particular ex-Catholic who harbors such contempt for the Roman Catholic Church that she has gone as far to have her baptism revoked. Likewise, some conservative churches and faith groups have made no pretense to be non-partisan in their services and programming. But this resentment goes a level deeper than that. Many Americans are soured thoroughly with organized religion, seeing only its worst qualities. This breaks my heart more than any of the minutia and the petty politics.

If we as Quakers do not conduct our business in a thoroughly religious, spiritual fashion, then our critics have a point. We don't deserve tax-exemption. But to eliminate that discrepancy, we must eliminate the squeamishness we have as a faith group about outward, public displays of religiosity. In some ways, we're in a bit of a double bind. If we use the language of God talk, we're bound to have certain hearers make incorrect, negative assumptions about us. But if we are too private about our religious beliefs, as we often are now, we risk being misunderstood or, even worse, reduced to irrelevancy.

And this is where the situation lies at the moment, frozen into paralysis. There is, sad to say, a limit to what anyone can do. The bitterness that results from polarization and gridlock makes it seem that caustic defiance is the only sensible point of view. Our course of action is to look beyond, to know that pessimism and optimism are both truths with a lower-case t. Furthermore, the cynicism of our times, as I have mentioned before, is really a kind of spurned romanticism flipped inside out. Causes and systems of belief have broken our own hearts as effectively as any former lover.

Leading by example is the only real option that remains. We are the sower of Jesus' parable. Some seeds land on rocky ground and go no further. Others come to rest in soil that is not deep enough to sustain further growth. And some, as we will understand from our hard work, are lucky enough to grow into strong, supple plants.

This application is true for any group motivated by idealism, but easily led into frustration with hypocrisy and injustice. Those who grab hold of our message and remain in our company are often relatively rare, but we should always set a table of gratitude and welcoming attitudes before them. We should see them as they are, fellow pilgrims.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quote of the Week

"I conceive of God, in fact, as a means of liberation and not a means to control others."-James Baldwin

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Obligatory Snow Picture

And a few more.

A Life of Quiet Desperation

At every corner handkerchiefs drop, fingers beckon, eyes besiege, and the lost, the lonely, the rapturous, the mysterious, the perilous, changing clues of adventure are slipped into our fingers. But few of us are willing to hold and follow them. We are grown stiff with the ramrod of convention down our backs. We pass on; and some day we come, at the end of a very dull life, to reflect that our romance has been a pallid thing of a marriage or two, a satin rosette kept in a safe–deposit drawer, and a lifelong feud with a steam radiator.

O.Henry, from "The Green Door"

Saturday Video

And the sky was made of amethyst
And all the stars look just like little fish
You should learn when to go
You should learn how to say "no,"

Might last a day, yeah
Mine is forever
Might last a day, yeah
Well, mine is forever

When they get what they want
They never want it again
When they get what they want
They never want it again

Go on, take everything
Take everything
I want you to

Go on, take everything
Take everything
Take everything
I want you to

And the sky was all violet
I want it again, but violent, more violent
And I'm the one with no soul
One above and one below

Might last a day
Mine is forever
Might last a day, yeah
Mine is forever

When they get what they want
Well, they never want it again
When they get what they want
They never want it again

Go on, take everything
Take everything
I want you to

Go on, take everything
Take everything
I dare you to

I told you from the start
Just how this would end
When I get what I want
I never want it again

Go on, take everything
Take everything
I want you to

Go on, take everything
Take everything
I want you to

Go on, take everything
Take everything
I want you to

Go on, take everything
Take everything
I want you to
Go on take everything

Take everything
Take everything
Take everything

Friday, February 20, 2015

Death before Dawn, Part Two

What follows below is a short story in progress. I wrote Part One earlier in the week and have added Part Two today. This is about the best I can do until my medication situation stabilizes.

Part One can be accessed here. Below is Part Two.


A work of fiction.

If it had been me, how would I have responded? I know the secret language of winks and nods, but felt more comfortable where I was reasonably sure my audience was responsive. And I never chased straight boys. I’d run across a few bi-curious types, sure, but they always sought me out first. Midway through, one of them changed his mind and ran to the bathroom to vomit. He’d doped himself up on something or other to quell his nerves, a red flag, but not knowing any better I'd proceeded as though all was well.

What had happened with Jason was different. It was sexual assault, pure and simple. He was the envy of every girl enrolled in art school, and many boys. I saw their eyes as he passed by, full of longing, utterly unsure how to make the first move. I wanted the same sort of attention for myself, but knew I could not compete. I was not a pretty boy like him, the kind of person who could beautifully sketch a model on only two hour’s sleep. One saw evidence of his work displayed outside every classroom, and the mostly un-closeted gay instructors gave him extra time for projects or even inflated grades from time to time.

And he knew it. He used every advantage at his disposal. Attractive people are held to a different standard, male or female. In high school, he’d been the head of his own cult of personality. Jason never liked to be challenged and insisted on getting his way. He preferred to be in charge, but I was one of the few people given the privilege to call him out. Unsurprisingly, the same cult of personality was in force here as well.

I always wanted to be around equals and had little patience for those not as creative and not as intelligent. Jason mostly wanted sycophants who asked no questions. He could be mean and his temper was legendary, but most people gave him the benefit of the doubt. He didn’t deserve to be treated like a demigod but he was. Had the news gotten out about the assault, those who had been privately and publicly insulted might have said that chickens were coming home to roost.

I’m not sure I’d be that callous. He was, after all, a friend. I was not under his sway like so many because, though even I had to concede he was good looking, his anger eviscerated anything more than a cursory sort of attraction. I’d made mistakes before with angry men, my fatal attraction, and I knew I deserved better. My upbringing had been full of confrontation and while I was familiar with it, I knew the man for me would be laid-back and kind. Now I only had to find him.

Jason had a long way to go. If he wasn’t such a good musician (and yes, physically attractive), I wouldn’t have stayed around as long as I had. I’m not made of stone. I didn’t want to like him that way but he could be quite charming when it was to his advantage. But I built some bomb-proof boundaries around myself when in his company. My childhood isolation transformed me from a lonely child to a lonely adult, which is what made me dependent on others, especially those to whom I was attracted.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Quaker Center in DC Under Threat of Closure

The William Penn House has been a crucial hub of Quaker activity in Washington, DC, since 1966. It is a combination of watering hole and resource center where many of our local activities are scheduled. William Penn House, named after one of the most influential Friends ever, has been a Friendly presence only blocks from the Capitol.

The House, as it is informally called, serves a variety of functions. One of these is as a hostel, though most of the beds are taken up by fellow Quakers visiting Washington for conferences, meetings, and other activities. William Penn House can afford to operate in a historic home on Capitol Hill due to the fact that it is exempt from property taxes.

Or at least that was until recently, when the DC city government informed WPH that it would now need to pay $18,000 a year. The decision was contested immediately and the news media was informed. Channel 4, the local NBC affiliate, did a story on the center earlier in the week. The director of the House, Byron Sandford, stated his organization's position directly to the camera. The timing of this move is suspect, as is the amount due.

In the process of making sense of the problem, we've discovered that other houses of worship and religious groups are being targeted. Quakers, as a pacifist Peace church, have close ties with Mennonites. Mennonites have had their property tax-exemptions status revoked as well.
While nobody disputes the Quakers hold prayer services and do ministry work from the house, the district says the vast majority of the building is a hotel because they rent out beds. For $35 a night, you get a cot and breakfast.
It’s not a typical Capitol Hill hotel, and Sandford said it’s different from hostels, which do pay property taxes, because the vast majority of people who rent the beds are church and school groups in D.C. to do charity work as part of their education or ministry, which is exactly what Quaker houses are meant for.
No one is entirely sure why these taxes must be collected now. A variety of competing motives have been voiced. Some favor the city, thinking that the decision was an attempt by the District to fairly collect taxes. Others believe that someone wants to buy the building, which is a choice piece of real estate, and that collecting property taxes is just an excuse. Both motives could be true, and also neither.

This matter will be resolved based on whose presentation of facts will be believed. Though it is true that in some ways the William Penn House functions as something close to a hostel, it holds a daily Meeting for Worship and is not used exclusively as a hotel. It depends on what your definition of is is. If pro bono legal work is available, it will be pursued, because the House cannot afford to pay an attorney.

DC residents have a mixed relationship with their government. In some ways, it is remarkably progressive. But it can be rife with corruption and cronyism, which partially explains why the last two mayors only served a single term in office. It has been suggested that the DC government is broke and searching for revenue streams wherever it can find them. But in fact, the District continues to grow, to gentrify, and makes lots of revenue from tourism. In a nation still dealing with the effects of a severe recession, American families have visited Washington, DC, in record numbers, because it makes for a cheaper vacation for them.

So why now? We may well soon learn, or not. Otherwise, please consider helping us out. Contact Eleanor Holmes Norton, the closest thing we have to a congresswoman. Nothing could be more American than religious freedom and the individual's right to worship as he or she pleases. We are members of the Religious Left and do not have the same funds and organization as the Religious Right. $18,000 a year would tax the budget of many smaller faith groups like ours, which would effectively price us out of the District the way that gentrification already has with homeowners and renters alike.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Death before Dawn

A work of fiction.

I'd been lying on the couch for most of the evening, which had now become the early hours of the morning. We'd played music for hours and taken part in some genuinely marathon conversation sessions. I was under the spell of pot so strong that, at first, it riveted me to my seat and rendered me mute for a whole hour. Marijuana had an unforeseen side effect, removing the fear and anxiety I'd always had around other men. But as it liberated, so did it isolate.

Jason was talking with his former long-distance girlfriend, now living in town, a Bulgarian exchange student. These calls usually lasted for an hour or longer, enticing me to make lusty, but stealthy glances at his lean body now stretched out across the carpeted floor. I had learned, as many of us do, the most effective way how to cut my eyes at the precise moment before detection.

Maybe it was chemical substances, but I couldn't help but take in his beauty, the grace of those long legs. I kept thinking to myself, You can't do this. You can't do this. As feared, he saw me, eventually. Like a startled deer, he rose to his feet suddenly and ran for his bedroom. I hoped he wasn't going be angry at me the next morning and was praying he wouldn't mention it.

One such man was not similarly inclined to use evasive maneuvers. I saw him greedily take a look at the attractive backside of Jason as he exited the couch for the kitchen. He flashed me a guilty glance because he knew I had seen the whole thing, though I would have never admonished him for it. I didn't make a big deal of it, but his secret was not necessarily safe with me. I regret not acting sooner, but when I did finally open my mouth I wish my concerns would have been more persuasive.

This johnny-come-lately bought access by way of what would seem like a generous gift, an expensive condenser microphone that likely cost several hundred dollars brand new. Now that gave him the liberty and access for close company with the man of his fantasies, playing keyboards astride the demo recordings we were rapidly accumulating as a band. When we had enough money, we'd buy studio time and put polish on the rough and raw.

I've trained myself over the years not to make immediate eye contact with other men. This is a means of protection as much as anything else. Like many women, I never allow my gaze to linger longer than a fraction of a second and I never glance at men when I know they are looking back. Most of us reserve full eye contact for relationship partners alone, or in queer-friendly spaces, and only the most courageous or foolhardy defy social protocol. Unlike women, being caught red handed, even momentarily, by the object of one's attention holds a strong risk, even in these liberated days.

Some respect boundaries and some do not. This is a fact that is true for men as much as it is for women. One evening, I was told that our new keyboardist had recently forced himself on Jason. As the story goes, he fed my friend some Ecstasy tablets, which only made the latter sick, then once they took hold, intoned vigorously that he was really gay. You know you're gay, Jason. You know you're gay. Hearing the news, days later, I wish I'd told my bandmates what I had gleaned earlier from my own observation, but decided against telling the wronged party. What could I have proved? Would it have mattered?

He was feeling somewhere between disgust and fear. The treatment had even made him question his sexual orientation. I tried to convince him that what had happened was wrong and he didn't need to question who he was. Jason was already afraid of sex and intimacy, usually in tandem. He was one of the few men I knew who spoke negatively against sexual conduct of any sort. He'd confused what this phobia really was, insecurity, for some supposedly long-denied fact now called into question. It was a great lie placed upon another great lie, all somehow about what he had never before acknowledged. I could have used this as my opportunity to make a move, but unlike some I have integrity and ethics. Even if he had he asked me, I would have flatly declined.

I asked him if he wanted to report the crime, but he declined. Consent had been broached. Drugs had been administered. Intent was present. Reporting sexual assault was for women, he said. He had a case, but was unwilling to pursue it. With time, the condenser microphone disappeared mysteriously, which seemed fitting based on the way it had been gotten. We went back into the studio the next day, blazingly high like normal. Jason seemed chastened and distracted, and we worked on one of my songs for until we ran out of time. Studio time is expensive and the meter starts running the minute you get levels and tune your instrument.

Everything Hits at Once

Early last week, depression returned. As is often the case for psychiatric ailments, there were no warning signs beforehand, nor any reason for why it came back. People, including my therapist and my psychiatrist, have asked me multiple times if something's happened, but my response is a resounding no. Situational depression doesn't happen with me. Instead, the effect is always biochemical in cause. In stressful or traumatic settings, I tend to be a bundle of nerves and neuroses, sometimes seeing invisible enemies, sometimes a little paranoid, but thankfully not depressed.

Psych meds sometimes lose their effectiveness over time. Doctors aren't sure why. I've been taking a medication that is a relative dinosaur, first prescribed in 1961. Its generic name is Clomipramine, but it is sometimes called Anafranil. It happens to be the strongest of a class of drugs called tricyclic antidepressants that were in vogue in the 1960's and 1970's. Over the decades, TCAs have mostly been discarded in favor of newer treatments: SSRIs like Prozac or SSNRIs like Effexor or Cymbalta.

I'll spare you the lecture on psycho-pharmacology. I've been on twenty separate medications since my illness was first diagnosed when I was sixteen, eighteen years ago. In the beginning, nothing helped. Eventually, which much trial and error, I found a combination of medications that worked most of the time. I've taken Lithium daily for the past eight years, and aside from an annoying side effect of uncontrollable hand tremors, the effects have kept me out of mania. Should I ever be tempted to enjoy or encourage my manic episodes, which are usually pleasurable at the outset, I know that the end of one is always the beginning of a deep and severe depressive episode lasting months.

Lithium is a powerful medication with well-documented side effects. Combined with Seroquel, itself a very powerful drug, the corrosive effect has created two other medical conditions, one being a severely overactive bladder that required surgery to correct. The second is hypogonadism, or abnormally low levels of testosterone and with it an inability to regulate testosterone and estrogen. Both require individual treatment with a specialist and I know that, in time, I will likely show evidence of other ailments.

A proposed new treatment is an MAOI skin patch known as Emsam. The maker of the drug named it after his children, Emma and Sam. It is one of the few drugs I haven't tried. MAOIs have severe food restrictions, and having been on them before, I never ate cheese for four years. The skin patch versus a pill means that it's less likely for food interactions to occur, because the drug is distributed through the skin, rather than the GI tract. These reactions are still possible, so I will once again watch my diet closely, if not obsessively.

I have no idea what the next 2-3 weeks will produce. In order to get off of Clomipramine, I have to taper myself down to zero. Once the first medication is entirely out of my system, which is a minimum of fourteen days from my last dose, then I can begin the patch. Consider this your warning. I will be as productive as I can manage, but if updates from me are sparse for a while, then you'll know why. I'm rushing through assignments in need of completion, trying to be as productive as I can be when I still feel up to it.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Quote of the Week

"I'm always making a comeback but nobody ever tells me where I've been."-Billie Holiday

Saturday, February 14, 2015

How True, How True

(Click to Embiggen)

Saturday Video

Hooked up on a fishing line,
Looking for the break of day
I've never been here before anyway
Its the line in my feet that's to blame.

Settled down in the mud
Giving everybody blood
It's not such a beautiful thing to do.

Left the castle in Spain
In an ambulance all the way
Could it be that the clock's really stopped?

Hello there.
Everybody, when's the next train out of here?
I'm sorry, but I'm much too young for this
I'll come back again next year.

He came to lend a helping hand
To the miller and the butcher's men
Someone took the tuba for a pony ride
And the music sounded so much better.

Taking turns having fun
When there's not enough sun
It was midnight when the chorus came
Then the piano collapsed in a heap on the grass
And they blamed it on a rock 'n' roll song

Hello there.
Everybody, when's the next train out of here?
I'm sorry, but I'm much too young for this
I'll come back again next year.
Yes, I'll come back again next year.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln

Today is Abraham Lincoln's 206th birthday. Those of my grandparent's generation celebrated this holiday with unflinching loyalty. Now, the day goes by scarcely noticed. Wall calendars neglect to note the holiday. Businesses fail to enshrine and validate the day as only they can, with a big sale. Since the tide began to turn in the 1980's, we are now inclined to observe a catch-all holiday in February devoted to all Presidents, regardless of their effectiveness in office.

This is very unfortunate. My two favorite Presidents are Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, and I cannot decide upon a favorite. As for Honest Abe, scholarship has remained consistently favorable since the assassination, which is more than can be said for other strong executives like Woodrow Wilson once held in high esteem. This is not to say that Lincoln escaped scorn from every corner during his time in office.

Black Americans have long remembered the rail-splitter from Illinois as the man who freed the slaves. This is a deserved accolade, but Lincoln began his first term as a moderate on the slavery question, not an abolitionist. He became a war President due to circumstances beyond his control. The South needed no excuse to secede and read exactly into Lincoln's election what they wanted to see. The paranoia present in what would become the Southern Confederacy was firmly in place before the Presidential Election of 1860.

History is full of ironies. The South's worst fears would be realized not during the war itself, but following it during Reconstruction. Radical Republicans, the true enemy of the South, would divide the defeated region into military districts and forcibly occupy them for years. Lincoln, to his credit, never formally acknowledged the states in rebellion as a nation of its own standing. Lincoln was willing to forgive and forget and offer generous terms to the defeated enemy, but his death prevented full implementation.

As a Quaker, I have long respected Lincoln for his skill at oratory. Our ministry is supposed to speak with as many words as necessary, but as few as possible. I've taken this to heart when I feel the stirrings of God and the Holy Spirit to rise and give ministry during Worship. The Second Inaugural Address is as well-known for its eloquence as its brevity. I consider it a masterstroke of rhetoric, and appreciate its economy of language.

These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.

Since then, in some corners it has become fashionable to say that the Civil War was not fought over slavery, rather it was waged on the crucial issue of state's rights. This is an untruth, but some untruths have a way of standing the test of time. States' Rights as a political cause has never gone away. One sees it today in the rhetoric of the Tea Party and the conservative veneration of the Tenth Amendment. The phobia of big government inevitably leads to the same fear of Washington, DC, and with it abusive centralized power, whether real or imagined.

Lincoln leaves himself open for justified criticism for circumventing Congress and suspending habeaus corpus. But as he saw it, concentrating power in his hands alone was absolutely necessary. Americans are peculiar in that they deify strong executives after the fact, but resist them while they are in office. And yet, even with this blight on his Presidency, Lincoln's greatness has never been questioned.

It is unfortunate that it took not one, but two Reconstructions (the second being Civil Rights) to give blacks the franchise to vote. We will never know what a Lincoln Reconstruction would have looked like and whether it would have succeeded. Some have argued that a defeated, but defiant South would only have changed its mindset for good during a lengthy occupation, one that would have lasted years. By then, the North was weary of war and impatient to see its soldiers come home.

Lincoln's legacy as a great President was cemented by the dismal failure of those who held the office after him. Andrew Johnson, who as Vice-President took the oath of office following Lincoln's April 1865 assassination, was more concerned with punishing the wealthy landowners who had put him down as a rural Tennessee poor white. War Hero and Lincoln favorite Ulysses S. Grant's two terms were blighted by massive government corruption, though Grant was far too honest a man to indulge in graft and greed.

War is a paradox. When hostilities are declared, everyone rallies behind a common cause. But as battles rage and soldiers are killed and wounded, they quickly lose favor. Peace has its time in the sun as well, especially following war, until we forget the horrors of combat and summon the troops once again. Abraham Lincoln rose to the occasion in the way only God and fate in tandem can provide. Sometimes the right person at the right time appears before us, though it may take us years to realize how good we had it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Marriage Equality Comes to Dixie

For those who do not live in blue enclaves as I do, it's easy to forget that once every American lived in very homophobic times. Among people of my generation, the forty and below set, being LGBT is not a problem, and is hardly even an issue. I admit that living where I do now, in a very blue city, makes life much easier. The area of town where I worship was once a gay ghetto and has since become gentrified. Strength in numbers once mattered very much.

I really envy the kids who grow up today without similar angst and rejection, knowing in a different time that there was much to keep hidden. A while ago, I relayed here my own story of coming out as bisexual to my parents. Though it is not nearly as intense as the account to follow, it involved fits of temper and very hurtful remarks from both parents.

Though I recognize now that the fighting could have been much worse, our quarrel was still awful and wrenching. I'll never feel free to mention my sexual orientation around the both of them, though I have gathered by indirect channels that they've come to terms with it themselves, somewhat. I think they would prefer to forget.

To get you up to speed, a court ruling last week struck down my home state of Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage. Couples who have waited for years to tie the knot legally are doing so as has been the case with other states. I find it incredibly hard to believe that this day has really arrived, but I am overjoyed that it has.

From my own home state's newspaper, I'd like to share a story. A highly educated liberal living elsewhere may find this account hard to believe. I don't. This wasn't my life, gratefully, but it was the life of some I knew growing up. Those of us who were out, and often those who weren't banded together for protection in the same part of town, a silent gay neighborhood that only those in the know were even aware. So while I always encourage us to look forward, it is often instructive to look back from whence we came.

Stories like these were once the norm, not the exception.

"I feel much more protection legally," Sherry Tonini said as friends celebrated both the wedding and Sherry's birthday. "We're pretty conservative, ordinary people, but this gives me courage to allow our story to get out there."
In fact, Jessica and Sherry are so conservative, religiously, that they didn't have a word for the electric connection between them when they met in 2005. Jessica and Sherry could not admit such an outlandish idea to themselves, but the people around them knew. Within a year, both lost their jobs at a large church when fellow staff members decided that something was "unbalanced" about their intense friendship.

Let it be known that my presence in conservative religious circles was short-lived. The right-wing church I attended was more theater than confrontational in its theology. It certainly wouldn't have meddled in the personal lives of employees. Rather than engage in discussion about homosexuality or same-sex marriage, churchgoers most likely would prefer to change the subject. I was never told I was going to hell. I think it's easy to overstate the worst case scenario and not relay the passive-aggression that is more commonplace and usually suffices for conflict in instances like these.

It's an interesting twist that the two recently-married women identify as ideologically conservative. While LGBTs usually identify as liberal, the culture of overwhelmingly red states like Alabama influences the political views of queer residents. Though one might think that voting GOP would be voting against one's interests, many people I knew saw no inconsistency. Before we assume that a system of oppression brainwashes people wholesale both politically and legally, let's grant them the right to believe as they wish.

Narratives like these are too easily propagated and should be seen in proper proportion. That said, they are inexcusably intolerant and authoritarian whenever and wherever they occur.

"The leaders of the church told me they had been monitoring our private instant messenger conversations for some time," Jessie Seals said. "They wanted to protect me from the evils of homosexuality, and had a holy inkling that we were headed in that direction."
Homosexuality? Yuck. For Jessie, that was still one of the most forbidden, taboo and sinful temptations that a Christian could fall prey to. Filled with self-loathing, she cleared out her desk and took the church's offer of free counseling.

Aside from spiteful ex-husbands and ex-wives, it takes a tremendous amount of gall to invade a person's privacy like this. Intrusive behavior may have been excused under the auspices of keeping a person out of hell, but it is not justified. I mostly seek to keep this anecdote from reaching the status of hyperbole. I could tell several stories like this one and many others that were more peacefully resolved. One nightmare scenario is too many, but it should not speak for all.

Monday, February 09, 2015

A Life's Legacy

The Quaker pamphlet is completed, five revisions later, and now in the erstwhile hands of the copy editor. I learned a bit more about the full process of publication yesterday. From start to finish, it will take six months. This is pretty standard across the board, regardless of genre. I'm curious to know the sort of changes that will be desired of me and the nature of the feedback they'll provide. It's impossible to say yet.

If approved, the initial print run will be 700 copies. If a Meeting or group finds something worthwhile in it, they may order a few for themselves. I'll do the best I can to publicize its release and use every hard won connection for my own advantage. Confidentially, I'm not even sure I know 700 Quakers. Maybe a couple hundred at most. By means of comparison, I only have 155 Facebook friends at last count. Probably half of them are also Friends.

I have dreams of triumphantly celebrating the release at Meeting following Worship. One can be sure that I will be elated if I reach the final stage. Before I let my fantasies run away from me, I need to take a reality check. No matter how much faith I have in my own abilities, this effort is by no means a done deal. I've laid the groundwork, yes, but my own opinions matter considerably less now than they did at the time of composition.

My writing, based in activism as it is, comes across much rawer than the norm, though the norm has recently changed. The primary editor of Friends Journal, possibly the most influential Friends publication, is a professed Christian, as I am. He has given greater visibility to writings that reflect his personal religious views, which is his right as editor. I will be forever thankful for his tutelage because he reached out to me when I was just starting out as a writer. Achieving the editor job is a coveted position, and even among pacifists and the generally peaceful, rivalry and competition are prominent.

I'm riding a new wave of religiosity and I hopped aboard at the right time. At this very moment, there are somewhere between ten to twenty young adult East Coast agitators who write with proficiency. It's a good club of which to be a part, and sometimes I feel like we're making lasting change, though I do also wonder if our ambition exceeds our influence. Among the one-hundred or so regular attenders of my Meeting, I know I've made a difference, but beyond that, it is difficult to tell.

In the whole of North America, there are slightly more than 300,000 Quakers. If one factors in regular attenders who have not formally joined, there several thousand more to add to the rolls. My writings and creative efforts are probably only appreciated by one-third of that amount, since there are multiple branches of Quakerism, similar to those in Judaism. I would like to reach all Friends, but our theological and sometimes political views differ considerably. I know some Evangelical Friends would reject me because I don't believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

I've often wondered how many card-carrying feminists there are out there. I would speculate that there are probably more of them than Friends. I draw a line of distinction between celebrities who proclaim a feminist identity and those familiar with the discourse and the terminology. Like Quakerism, feminism has lost many members over time. Second-wavers enjoyed massive popularity, as women's liberation struck a chord with the women of that generation. Should Hillary Clinton run for President in 2016, they will be her foremost supporters.

It was my fate, and indeed our fate, to be born into a time of great transition. Every activist or agitator seems to be setting sail into a strong headwind. My working class grandfather spent most of his life within the same twenty miles of the place of his birth. Now, I have traveled extensively and communicated with others in an online forum that would have been impossible earlier in my own lifetime. At times, I wonder if the human brain was meant for this much stimuli and this much adventure, and whether we can truly keep up with it.

When I start counting fellow beings as an intellectual exercise, I recognize the challenges inherent in making my point. Among 3,000 people, I am something of a rock star, but I never let that go to my head. There are bigger tasks that need solving. If I were a purist, I'd be content to cling to my own cheering section where we might all think and act the same. And by the time I die, whenever that may be, I wonder what those who attend my Memorial Service will say about me. As I see now from time to time, I don't want to outlive my friends, to be only a name to generations younger than me.      

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Quote of the Week

"The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people— that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature."-James Thurber

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Saturday Video

Amazingly raunchy for 1928.

Loving is the thing I crave
For your love I'd be your slave
You gotta give me some, yes give me some
Can't you hear me pleading, you gotta give me some

Said Miss Jones to old butcher Pete,
I want a piece of your good old meat
You gotta give me some, oh give me some
I crave your round steak, you gotta give me some

Sweet as candy in a candy shop
Is just your sweet sweet lollipop
You gotta give me some, please give me some
I love all day suckers, you gotta give me some

To the milkman I heard Mary scream
Said she wanted a lots of cream
You gotta give me some, oh give me some
Catch it when you come sir, you gotta give me some

Hear my cryin' on my bended knees
If you wanna put my soul at ease
You gotta give me some, please give me some
Can't stand it any longer, you gotta give me some

Seeper called to Pele-Mele, sugar lump
Said I'm going crazy about your hump
You've got to give me some, please give me some
I can't wait eight days, you gotta give me some

Jay bird said to the peckerwood,
I like to peck like a pecker should
But give me some, yes give me some
I'm crazy about them worms, you've gotta give me some

Friday, February 06, 2015


The crowning achievement in my life has yet to be realized, but I can point emphatically to my absolute worst moment. I was in the midst of a manic episode severe enough that I believed in obscure conspiracies of my own creation meant to do me physical harm. The cops, two of them, showed up within minutes at my door. One handcuffed me upon arrival to the kitchen, where I was seated. The other made sure I was neatly escorted out the door. I did not resist. I did not struggle.

Before I was placed in the backseat of a police car, I could see the first officer reflecting inwardly whether or not I needed to be cuffed. The second believed I was benign and I spoke to him non-stop on the twenty minute ride from home to the hospital. He doubted I was a harm to anyone but myself. I remember asking him if I was under arrest. "Technically," he said. No charges would be filed, but I had no say over where I was headed. My parents had exercised their last resort, making a telephone call to put the involuntary petition into force.

Since then, I wince inwardly when I pass a police car, afraid they are after me again. I live a block from a police station, a fact that usually makes people feel safer, not the reverse. My parents exercised the final option at their disposal, activating a legal method to have me committed to a psychiatric institution against my will. Back then, I was talking out of my head, just coherent enough to be understood. I spent three weeks in the hospital, emerging sane and clear-headed prior to discharge, but the traumatic memory of my departure from home has never left me.

This morning I read a tragic story about a young woman with bipolar disorder who was shot dead by police. Lest anyone coin a hashtag called #crazylivesmatter, fault is difficult to discern in this instance.

Kristiana Coignard walked into the lobby of an east Texas police station last month with a knife in her waistband and “I have a gun” written on her hand. After asking for help, she instigated a scuffle with police officers that ended in her shooting death. A few days later, police released a security video of the encounter as proof that the officers who shot Coignard were justified in doing so. She was 17 years old.
She also, according to her aunt, Heather Robertson, had been struggling with depression and bipolar disorder for much of her life. Robertson told ThinkProgress that two separate suicide attempts had landed her niece in the hospital in recent years but that Coignard had been keeping up with regular therapy and medication since December, when she came to live with her aunt in Longview, Texas.

I'd had to retreat to my parent's house, the last refuge when all other options have been extinguished. Mania gives one a deceptive sense of power and perception. At first, one seems superhuman, but this episode progressed from what is called a euphoric mania to a dysphoric one. I've struggled with a diagnosed anxiety disorder my whole life, and mania made me afraid of nothing. I could look people in the eye without flinching, without dropping my neck slightly, overwhelmed with fear and discomfort.

In support groups, I've known people who, in psychotic episodes, have become so paranoid that they've shot up their own homes. One person in particular reduced his front door to pieces with a loaded shotgun. It is fortunate for me that I felt no compulsion towards physical violence in any form. Prior to the arrival of the police, I'd wanted to play an open mic set somewhere downtown. My parents had insisted instead that I take a strong dose of an antipsychotic. I knew the medication would have made me drowsy enough to prevent me from playing, so I resisted.

I'm a mostly peaceful person. It's difficult for me to hold anger inside long enough to start a fight or some sort of lasting hostility. In my life, I've been in two or three fights, but I must admit I don't really have much heart for it. Once I tried to motivate myself enough to beat up the jealous ex-boyfriend of my girlfriend, who had been meddling in our affairs. I walked to the door of his apartment, knocked aggressively, and waited. He never showed and I left, frustrated, five minutes later.

By the time I was headed back to my car, the anger had left. It's fortunate that I am a large person with broad shoulders, registering slightly over six feet tall. I haven't had to start an altercation, which I know might have easily backfired on me. Now I'm a member of a pacifist faith group, where non-violent resolutions to crises are expected and preferred. That doesn't mean that people don't fight with one another intellectually, with words and gestures, which only goes to prove that violence takes many forms.

Coignard’s story is as tragic as it is tragically unexceptional. In fact, the recently peaked public interest in police brutality seems to have revealed Americans with mental illness as the population most vulnerable to excessive or unnecessary use of force by law enforcement.
While there is no official data on police shootings in the U.S., last year more than a dozen encounters between police and mentally ill civilians ended with the civilian being fatally shot—and those are just the deaths that made the news. This does not include situations in which the victim had a gun. In these cases, the person killed was either unarmed or wielding a weapon that would be no match against a cop with a firearm, like a screwdriver, a baseball bat, or a knife.

I don't own a car, so I take public transportation everywhere. Almost every day, I encounter a severely mentally ill person who is often homeless as well. The unmedicated schizophrenic who talks to himself is a routine occurrence. Though this is rare, mentally ill riders have responded angrily, lashing out for reasons only they understand. One of them demanded to be let off the bus immediately, a request that was granted, if only to immediately remove the risk to the driver and the other passengers.

A vast amount of misunderstanding is present in situations like these. Fear is present in equal quantities as disgust and pity. I was one of the lucky ones. Raised middle class, I was treated immediately after symptoms presented themselves. My father had specialized training to manage those with mental illness. I was raised in a family that treated my illness without shame, knowing I was merely unwell. The bus people I sit across from have not had those sorts of advantages.

It’s a relationship that Cochran has been working for over 25 years to improve. Back in 1987, when he was a lieutenant in the Memphis Police Department, Cochran was nominated to coordinate a community task force following the shooting death of a mentally ill man by officers who’d responded to emergency calls from the man’s family.
From that task force came the creation of what is now known as the Memphis Police Services Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, model. Part of the model is a 40-hour specialized training for police officers responding to emergency calls about people with mental illness. The other part involves partnerships between law enforcement, the mental health community, and advocacy groups.
Approximately 2,700 U.S. police departments have implemented the CIT model since it was first created in Memphis. And Cochran, who retired from the Memphis Police Department after 30 years of service, travels the country helping other law enforcement agencies execute his program.

Though this may be slightly cliché, mental illness is everyone's problem. A young white woman would seem like the least likely candidate for brute police force, and yet she lost her life. Though I could be justifiably indignant that a mentally ill person of color or a sexual minority has likely died due to aggressive police intervention, in this instance, whatever makes positive change is helpful to everyone.

Thursday, February 05, 2015


I don't need no wheels
I don't need no gasoline
'Cause the wind that is blowing
Is blowing like a smoke machine

If I said to you
That I was looking for a place to get to
'Cause my neck is broken
And my pants ain't getting no bigger

I got a stolen wife and a rhinestone life
And some good ole' boys
I'm writing my will on a three dollar bill
In the evening time

All my friends
Tell me something is getting together
I got a beard that would disappear
If I'm dressed in leather

Now let me tell you about my baby
She was born in Arizona
Sitting in the jailhouse
Trying to learn some good manners

I got a stolen wife and a rhinestone life
And some good ole' boys
I'm writing my will on a three dollar bill
In the evening time

Matchsticks strike
When I'm riding my bike to the depot
'Cause everybody knows my name
At the recreation center

If I could only find a nickel
I would pay myself off tonight
'Cause nobody knows
When the good times have passed out cold

I got a stolen wife and a rhinestone life
and some good ole' boys
I'm writing my will on a three dollar bill
in the evening time

I got a stolen wife and a rhinestone life
and some good ole' boys
I'm writing my will on a three dollar bill
in the evening time

Don't talk to me
If you're looking for somebody to cry on

Don't talk to me
If you're looking for somebody to cry on

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

My Daily Diet

The Oversimplification of Islam and Terror

I first learned about Islam some years before 11 September 2001. During my senior year of high school, a religion class was offered as an elective, and I took it. Prior to the events three years later, Islam was a curiosity only in the minds of many, an interest for only a minority of Americans and my classmates. I memorized enough to get a good grade on a test, then promptly forgot most of it.

I was taught the basics, including the fact that as an offshoot of Christianity, Islam held Jesus in high esteem as an enlightened teacher, but not as Divine. I found the premise interesting, to an extent, but my understanding, I must admit, was primarily an intellectual one. Islam's reliance upon an utterly foreign set of beliefs and rituals was isolating, which kept me from learning more. I doubt I am alone in this regard.

The complexities and character of a religion practiced mainly thousands of miles away prevents many Americans from understanding it in totality. This is why it's been so easily to slander and libel the faith, to reduce the complex to easy bullet point headings based on fear and mistrust. Predictably, since 11 September 2001, a cottage industry has grown up to oppose erroneous and xenophobic beliefs. As I survey the Facebook pages of multiple friends, I see women following the existing cultural norms, wearing clothes with their head and bodies fully garbed.

Islamic studies are an academic discipline and a trend very much in vogue. Young, usually white, middle class, highly educated progressives in record numbers have packed up and headed for the Holy Land or the Middle East. They seek to correct the vast amount of misinformation raging back home, aware of how easy it is to exploit the waves of trauma that began nearly fifteen years ago. This issue is much bigger than they are.

We live in an era of terrorism, the scourge of radical Islam. This terror is nothing new, really. A generation of schoolchildren were taught to be afraid of the threat of Communism and the Soviet Union. When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, some Americans initially believed that the Russians were responsible. But, decades later, before we could get comfortable with the notion of being the world's foremost superpower, terrorism sprung up as our most formidable foe. I can't say for sure how long this period of time will last, but I do know that as it subsides, eventually something else will spring up in its place.

Easy sound-bytes and fear-mongering demagoguery is now our foremost concern. Because Islam is a complex religion, it's easy to use false facts to shade in the gaps in understanding and thus overemphasize the risk. Ours is a diverse planet. In the early part of the last century, Orientalism was in vogue, but its exploration of the Middle East was a romantic one, one more about novelty than true understanding. Now our superficial interest is transformed to a similar one of panic and fear.

I feel no compulsion to depart for a land very different than my own, regardless of my motives. That is my personal preference. Otherwise, I welcome an influx of Western interest in the region, even when it is only secured by a very small, privileged group with the economic means. For the foreseeable future, there will be much need for conflict resolution. As Americans, we have only begun to settle into the tenacity of terrorism and the combined effect upon our intellect and our psyche.    

The worst-case scenario has not been reached. Some defensive saber-rattling has been observed on both sides. Scaring people to death is a political tactic, whether it promises bombing or gutting Medicare. In that regard, we in the United States have much in common with our sworn enemy. We know how to make emotional appeals not rooted in fact, but which, on second case, might be true after all. We know how to manipulate and to cajole, though we usually don't strap bombs to ourselves and detonate them in crowded marketplaces. The first change begins with us.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Writing About Writing

I finished the Pendle Hill pamphlet ahead of schedule. The only two things that needed to be created from scratch were an introduction and a conclusion. Most everything else had been written previously for the Quaker online community known as QuakerQuaker. I had to revise a few things here and there, but mostly for continuity. My tentative title is "Healthy Confrontation and Meeting Discipline." That, too, may change before the end of the process.

Now for the waiting. A panel of four editors will meet to discuss suggested revisions. A copy editor will go through the text with a fine-toothed comb. As I've said before, I would be shocked if my first draft will emerge unscathed. The pamphlet, as originally visioned, contains ten separate but basically contiguous sections. One of them is probably too controversial and another will likely be judiciously gutted for the same reason. Fortunately, the maximum word count is 9,000 words, and pruning a few hundred or maybe a thousand words won't require much additional work.

I am rapidly approaching Professional Quaker status, if I haven't already achieved it. For those who are not Quaker, a Pendle Hill pamphlet is seen as authoritative and of uniformly high quality. Only five are published each year. Publication means that one can truly be considered a bonafide Quaker writer. Some see me this way already, but authenticity, not respect, is what I seek now. In case you were curious, the best known living Quaker writer is probably Parker Palmer.

My text talks generally about the fear of confrontation that create multiple problems for Quaker Meetings. Instead of getting ahead of an issue before it explodes, Friends are so averse to face-to-face contact that they ignore it until it can't be ignored any longer. I've contrasted it with my feminist work, which can be confrontational to a fault. Between the two of these, I could never be accused of not having an original voice.

My other writing project is going to require another round of revision. I wrote the first draft over a year ago, and have made every change required of me. This particular submission is a short story about the life story of a transsexual, using bits and pieces of my own gender identity and transgender individuals who are friends and acquaintances. One of the readers is a generation older than me and is entirely unfamiliar with transgender concerns in any form. This presents a problem.

If I had stronger cache as an author, I could dig in my heels and insist that certain sections remain. As it stands now, I am going to need to prune a couple pages from the final draft. The good news is that I've been told that only modest revisions are needed, but I have to wait another six months for the next writing period. Every reader had positive comments to make this go round, but it's evident they want the final draft to be completely perfect before publication.    

The proliferation of free content benefits publications, not writers. Without sounding grumpy, I'm going to need to compromise my original voice and vision a little because I don't hold the cards. I am not opposed to revision in the least. Posts like these go through an intensive period of self-revision, and I've been known to make up to ten separate changes before anything goes live. Writing is a very subjective discipline, somewhat akin to a beauty pageant. I noticed the same issue earlier in life when I was a struggling musician competing in contests.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Quote of the Week

"The young do not know enough to be prudent, and so they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation."-Pearl Buck