Your Holiday Mom: Supporting LGBTQ Children

This month has been a hard one for me.  I’ve pushed my body way beyond its limits without giving it any chance to recuperate.  Unfortunately that has meant that blogging has been the last priority on my list of things to do.  With that in mind I’d like to share something I shared last holiday season.

Your Holiday Mom” is a website dedicated to providing LGBTQ children with loving and caring messages from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Everyday women come together to write letters to children who may not have family support and affirmation.  They virtually invite these children into their homes, their families, and their hearts.  It’s beautiful and encouraging.  I encourage you to check it out and share with anyone who may need a little extra love.

“There is no woman in the world who needs you to cut her down”

This is a reblogged post from Esther Emery’s site.  It showed up in my news feed yesterday and I’ve reposted it with her permission.

Check out her website, she’s got a lot of great posts, including another one of my favorites, “The Really Scary Thing About Gay Marriage.”

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Letter to a Woman Called to Leadership

I don’t know exactly who you are. Maybe a young woman, just now stepping out into your life. Maybe a mother or a crone, entering a new phase of your authority. Maybe just my beautiful dominant four-year-old, who is ready right now to start setting the world to rights.

But I know something. I know this. You are called.

You are called to stand up, speak up, use your voice. You are called to the front of the room. You are named. And you are called.

Rise up.

The darkness does not want you to use your voice. You are so full of light. The darkness will tell you that you are too much.

Too loud.
Too greedy.
Too masculine.
Too angry.
Too emotional.

Sometimes you will believe this. Sometimes you will try to make yourself small, and quiet. Sometimes you will hurt yourself trying to be small and quiet.

Do this with me. Walk outside and look up to the sky. Reach your hands up to the wide, expansive sky, far above the crowdedness and the jostling. There is room for you up there. There is room for every bit of you up there.

That place is yours.

There is enough space for all of you. I swear there is, I promise. Even or all your noise, opinions, intelligence, even for the pure size of your frame. Even fir your passion and force of will and love of justice.

This fight, to claim your right to be, is on the inside. But when you are a woman who leads, the world will try to tell you otherwise.

Oh, sweet girl…I could wish for you an easier path than this.

You will not often be the pretty one. Pretty is one part what you actually look like and two parts not being a threat. Learn to wear your beauty like a lion, or a tall tree. Learn to wear boots, and jackets. Learn to wear whatever you want.

You will not always know what you are doing. You will lead in the dark, with your eyes closed. Sometimes your mistakes will cause harm, and that will make you question your calling. Don’t. Don’t question the calling. Question your skill. Get better. Work harder. Learn to do your work well.

You will have trouble with friends. Sometimes this will be your fault. You will practice power instead of leadership. This is a trick of the darkness. You will have to learn to trust without controlling.

Sometimes it will not be your fault. A strong woman will be threatened by you. A weaker woman will betray you. Someone that you care about will tell you that you are being selfish. This will hurt like hell, and there is not a darn thing that I can do about it.

Baby, I am so sorry.

But it will help you to understand this, and this is maybe the most important thing of all. There is no woman in the world – I don’t care how brave, how beautiful, how wildly fortunate, or how questionable her values – There is no woman in the world who needs you to cut her down.

Please, lean in to other women. We have heard that we women aren’t very nice to each other, that it is our nature to cut and compete. If so, it is only from living in too-small boxes, and competing for too-small parcels of air. It doesn’t have to be that way. Make it not that way.

It will happen, too, that a man is at your side to help you. Look for that. He might be there when you are just about to lose control of the wheel and you are also trying to hold a crying baby. Listen to me, now, this is important.

It is okay to ask the man to hold the baby. 

Listen to this, too. You may find that someday you need to leave your babies in someone else’s arms. Probably this will hurt you. But beyond the hurting there is a darkness, too, that tells you this is wrong. It tells you that you should feel ashamed. Resist it. Don’t let that darkness drown out your call. Like the Buddha, turn your hand to the earth. They are all your children.

And you will see your own children soon. Again and again, you will be called back home, like Ulysses, in your time. There will be time for Sabbath, when the call is quiet and the task is rest. You can rest from the world. But you can’t rest from yourself.

Be true to yourself.

And, women, there may be a hard thing about food. If you are a woman who leads (or any other woman…or some men), you may find it hard to feed yourself. If that happens to you, please, look for the friend. She is the friend who shares her French fries with you when you won’t order food of your own. He is the assistant, or the husband, who rolls his eyes and says, “She never eats when she’s working.” She is the midwife who brings you peanut butter toast after you have given birth. She is your sister, your mother. She will save you. Please, let her feed you.

Sweet girl, I will not tell you that this road is easy.

But one day you will slip into your skin like it fits you, and you’ll look around and you won’t know what you were fighting all those years. I can’t wait to see it. I’m going to be so proud.

via Letter to a Woman Called to Leadership

Fear Poem

By Joy Harjo (emphasis mine)

I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear. I release you. You were my beloved and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
as myself. I release you with all the
pain I would know at the death of
my children.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the white soldiers
who burned down my home, beheaded my children,
raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the
food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold
these scenes in front of me and I was born
with eyes that can never close.

I release you
I release you
I release you
I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black.
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved,

to be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t take you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eye, my ears, my voice
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart my heart
But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid
of dying.

Not a Novelty but a Love Song

Just over a year ago Mary Lambert went onto youtube to look for a cute music video to watch that expressed the love she was feeling.  The only problem was that she couldn’t find a single one; nothing that reflected her experience or love for her partner.

Many people already know Mary Lambert from the chorus of “Same Love,” a ground breaking song done by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.  On her blog she talks about how she was approached at just the right time in her life to write and sing the chorus to this song.  She worried about using the pronoun she and how it would be received.  She was amazed to find not only men but women singing along to the song.  They didn’t have a problem with it and she was inspired.

She decided to expand the chorus and produce her own music video that reflected her experience and love for her partner as a lesbian woman.

“This music video is about love and it’s about visibility.  I could be wrong, but I’ve never seen a relationship like mine accurately portrayed in a music video.  I’ve seen women rolling around in lingerie, bisexual love triangles, women cheating on their boyfriends with a girl definitely.  So this is where I need to say one thing explicitly: gay relationships are not, nor have ever, been a novelty.  My love is valid, equal, and beautiful.”

via IT’S HERE! IT’S QUEER! IT’S CUTE! I’M CRYING!

This song is equally, if not more important than “Same Love.”  For women who do not see their experiences and love reflected in mainstream movies, stories, songs, or other forms of media this song does exactly that.  A lesbian relationship is not being appropriated to push a message about equality.

It is a love song, not a political statement.

 

Related posts from Mary Lambert’s blog:

Related Articles:

 

Mary Lambert, She Keeps Me Warm

What About the Boys?

So much of the anti-violence movement focuses on violence against women. That is often what we hear more about and statistically speaking women are more likely to have experienced violence. That doesn’t mean that we can forget about the boys and the men who have also experienced violence. This post raises some great questions and issues. I highly encourage you to check it out. It is written by a professor from my alma mater and a brilliant one at that. Also check out her blog: http://mamaunabridged.com/.

Mama Unabridged

In Quaker-speak, we have something called a “concern,” which is basically a deep-felt divine prompting to attend to a particular need. Although I’ve long felt a general sense of “concern” about injustices related to gender and sexuality, when I wrote that article about Don Draper being raped, I thought it would be a small foray for me into the issue of sexual violence against males. My main goal was to raise awareness and perhaps motivate others to speak out on their behalf.

But I can’t seem to look away. This issue of boys being sexually assaulted and shamed into silence is increasingly feeling like a “concern.” Writing that article opened a Pandora’s box for me, a box full of horrifying statistics and heartbreaking accounts of abuse. Most of the people who responded to me personally after the article came out were male survivors. Many of expressed variations of the same…

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Survivors Reclaim Body Parts

People in abusive relationships are taught (and shown) that their body is not their own, it does not belong to them.  It becomes another thing that their partner uses against them.  It can be vulnerability they weren’t prepared for.  The body can also carry memories of the abuse long after the relationship ends.

Attention: People With Body Parts is a body positivity movement started by Lexie Bean.  She started out collecting letters that friends and family members wrote to their body parts.  She’s about to publish an anthology* filled with letters survivors have written to their body parts.  Body parts that hold secrets, visible scars, and invisible memories.  Letters that focus on reclaiming those body parts and denouncing their partners control over their body.  I love this idea.

An abusive partner often takes control of the other persons body.  This can look like forced physical contact or sex, hitting, pushing, choking, and other forms of physical abuse.  It could be forcing a woman to become pregnant or to have an abortion.  It could be restraining their partner or blocking them from leaving.  Hiding birth control.  Telling their partner how to look or what to wear.

Boundaries are healthy.  Everybody has some sort of boundaries when they start a relationship.  They can change and evolve overtime as a couple gets to know each other and becomes more invested in the relationship.  In an abusive relationship those boundaries are often eroded over time or stripped away at the whims and desire of one person.  There isn’t conversation about how this will happen.  There isn’t consent.  It can be sudden and violating or it may happen slowly over time with manipulation and increasing pressure.

These letters recognize a part of the healing process that I don’t think is talked about enough.  They also recognize that people heal at different rates and that there are many layers to these relationships.  I thought I would give it a try for myself.  If anyone else would like to write a letter to a body part I would love to publish them.  Please use the contact page to send me an email.

Dear Hands,

You have become strong these past few years though I know their was a time when you felt neglected; often reaching out for comfort only to find empty space.  You protected me when you could and soothed injuries when you couldn’t.  You worked tirelessly to pacify his mood swings and write letters declaring love and loyalty.

I remember that day when he stopped noticing you.  He treated you like a nuisance instead of a comfort.  His hand reached to you, but only in secret while the other reached for another woman.  But you are strong now.  You work not only to protect me but to protect others.  You reach now not for him but to be an anchor for others.  Through you I know that they understand.  We are of the same breed.  We are survivors; you, me, and the others.  Through you I can give them comfort and show them they are not alone.  Through you we will change the world.

You survived.

Thank you.

Much love.

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*The anthology is called Portable Homes and is due to be published on December 10th of this year.

Read the original article where I heard about these letters here.

There is Power in Storytelling

I facilitate a weekly support group for the women I serve who have experienced intimate partner violence.  Often times all I do is pose a question or topic and it takes off from there.  I am constantly being surprised and touched by the women in this group and what sticks with me the most is the power in their storytelling.  First of all it allows each woman to see and hear the similarities in each others stories.  They know and connect with other women who have been in violent, unhealthy, and abusive relationships.  An abusive person often keeps his or her partner isolated from their friends and family.  Sharing what they went through helps to break this isolation.  They learn that the relationship they were in was not normal or healthy.  They hear their experiences being spoken in another woman’s voice and they feel connected to something bigger than themselves.  Through sharing they help to break the silence surrounding intimate partner violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) and this week is the Week Without Violence at my work.  For this we decided to participate in something called The Clothesline Project.  This is a project that was started in Massachusetts in 1990 to address violence against women.  It is a way for *women who have been or know someone who has been affected by violence to share their stories by decorating a t-shirt.  After the t-shirts are finished they are hung up on display as a testimony to these women and their stories.  Originally different colored t-shirts meant different things.  For example, a white t-shirt symbolized a woman killed by an intimate partner, blue for sexual abuse and incest, purple for women who were attacked based on their sexual orientation, etc.  But it has grown from there mostly based on availability and economics (white shirts come in larger packs…).  The project has also grown to a world-wide one.

Last week during support group I explained this project and we painted t-shirts.  The experience was an incredibly moving one.  Mostly we painted in silence; each woman lost in her own memory.  But as they began to finish they began to share about their t-shirts.  There were a lot of tears, hugs, and nods of understanding.  This project served to connect this group of women in such a powerful way, more so than the rest of the groups we had done in the weeks prior.

One woman had painted a scene with flowers under a sky that was half sun and half clouds.  She explained that the flowers were for her and each of her children, and that they were growing through what they had gone through.  The smaller flowers were for the children because they were still growing and had so much potential still.  There were both clouds and the sun because tomorrow is always another day.  They had the chance to run and start over, and they took it.  Another woman put what she called her “freedom date” on the shirt; the date she left.  Another women wrote, “I have rights.”  And still another wrote that “love shouldn’t hurt” surrounded by the initials of women she knew who had survived.  Another woman painted a heart with wings in a cage.  On the back was the same picture but with the cage door open.  Still others wrote things like, “Stop the Silence,” “Never Again,” and simply “I survived.”  Others painted a purple ribbon with the names of those they knew who had been killed.

As they explained and held up the t-shirts they shared their experiences.  They named their abusers.  It was powerful for everyone involved.  This week the t-shirts will be put on display with others.  I am excited to share these t-shirts and vicariously be a voice for the women I work with.  For me DVAM is about more than making those in the community aware about domestic violence, it’s about sharing stories and breaking the silence for those who may be in abusive relationships themselves.  It is about connecting survivors with other survivors and letting them know they are not alone.

Clothesline Project

If you ever get the chance to view a Clothesline Project in your community I would highly suggest that you do it.

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*Please note that the language I am using is reflected by the project itself.  Domestic violence can affect anyone and does not discriminate based on gender, sex, religion, economic status, or education level.

Be gentle with the childless on Mother’s Day

A post written by a dear friend of mine.  Read more about her journey on her blog, Walk With Us.

Walk With Us

Here it is, nearly Mother’s Day. Can’t believe how unremarkable the day is to me, nor how little I want to write about it. Almost as if, now that the pain of childlessness is mostly gone, I just don’t want to go there anymore.

So there’s a wee bit of hope for you, women with aching arms! One day the pain may subside. But today I write a post for those who ache still, who cower at this upcoming holiday that pours acid on their hearts.

Actually, I’m writing to all you husbands, parents, siblings, and friends of those hurting women. Because YOU CAN HELP. Here’s how:

But first, a disclaimer. Please use your own best judgment. You are the ones who love and know the women you’re thinking of right now. I write from my experience and personality. Ignore the suggestions that would be an obvious poor choice for…

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What is the Feminist Label Doing for You?

The following article was written by Abigail Rine, a professor at the university I went to.  I almost took a class from her.  Now I’m sad I didn’t.

The Pros and Cons of Abandoning the Word ‘Feminist’

“The term is great for rallying the converted. For everyone else, though, it’s a PR liability.”

By Abigail Rine

“When I was a senior in college and a recent convert to feminism, I bought one of those “This is What a FEMINIST Looks Like!” t-shirts, and it quickly became my favorite item of clothing. The lettering was pink—ironically pink, of course—and I liked to push that irony further by pairing the shirt with a skirt, and maybe even some knee-high boots with flowers embroidered around the top.

When I got married a year after graduation, I wore the shirt proudly on the first day of my honeymoon, while holding the hand of my new husband, our flea-market wedding bands gleaming. I enjoyed the confused looks from people who would stare at my shirt and then at me; I could almost see their brains whirring, trying to process the mismatch between the person in front of them and the shrill, angry, neo-Amazon that a feminist is supposed to be. I loved challenging that misconception, with almost evangelistic zeal.

Seven years later, I still have the t-shirt, but it now lives in a box of old clothes in the attic. I can’t bring myself to give it away, but I also can’t remember the last time I wore it. We are at an impasse, the shirt and I, and this stalemate mirrors another growing ambivalence of mine, one I have only recently admitted harboring: an ambivalence about the word “feminism” itself…”

Read the rest of the article here

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ABIGAIL RINE teaches literature and gender studies at George Fox University. She is the author of the forthcoming book Irigaray, Incarnation and Contemporary Women’s Fiction. She writes regularly at Mama Unabridged.

Gender in Advertising: Objectification and Violence

I know that gender roles in advertising gets talked about a lot but I wanted to share this video anyway.  It is done by a group of students at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.  I especially appreciated the role reversals towards the end.  Enjoy and don’t forget to think about what your mind consumes on a daily basis.

Representations of Gender in Advertising