Tales of a wandering lesbian

Posts from — May 2010

Sovereign

I think Salem has one of the strangest, and perhaps ugliest, perhaps prettiest Capitol buildings ever.  The outside is strange, the inside is strange.   It’s just strange.  And totally Oregon.


I’m sitting in the House chambers right now, where the floor is covered in carpet adorned with images of the White Pine, Oregon’s state tree, and the wall behind the podium is covered in a mural showing the state’s organizational meeting – the first “Wolf Meeting” at Champoeg.  When they recarpeted the building, people bought sections of the old stuff to hang on their walls.  But it’s the doornobs I love.


I’m here for one of my favorite events:  Tribal Government Day.  It’s one of the big three food days that happen at the Capitol.  The other two are chicken day (poultry lobby) and beef day (beef lobby).  As a state worker, you become plugged in to what is going on in “the building,” especially when it involves free stuff.  And when it comes to free stuff, Tribal Day is the pinnacle.

Here’s how it works:  the tribes and confederated tribes of Oregon come to the Capitol for the day.  They set up information booths and give away things.  Info pamphlets, pencils, brightly colored shopping bags emblazoned with tribe insignia, playing cards, etc.  Most of these booths have upright displays, whether it’s poster board with pictures of tribe members walking, and hand-lettered captions like, “exercise!”  Or an enlargement of an 1855 unratified treaty.  The tribes may be sovereign, but they’re not missing out on the commercialism that plagues the nation as a whole.

At the same time, the Casinos set up spectacular food displays, usually including ice or butter sculptures, and great trees of chocolate-covered fruit kebobs.  White-jacketed catering staff replace plates of melon, while ice cream scoopers work the line of hungry state employees, doling out tastes of the huckleberry/hazelnut ice cream that Umpqua  dairy makes exclusively for the casinos.

The food is great, but my favorite part has always been the performance in the house chambers.  With the entire legislature seated in the chambers, and the galleries packed with visitors, the morning session is opened with the drumming and chanting of tribe members.   Seated around a large drum, beautiful people bless the proceedings.  I cry every time.  With the legislators sitting at their desks, their seats of power, little American flags standing sentinel over their day’s agendas, the tribes bless the chamber, bless the state, and bless the working relationship of those who make the decisions for the state.

The tribes and confederations are recognized as sovereigns.  They have the right to govern their lands – the ones covered by treaties – for the most part, and to protect the health and welfare of their people.  (I know this is a super-simplified statement.)  Once a year the tribal leaders are invited to stand at the head of the legislature, symbolic equals.

In years past I’ve heard the governor and the senate president speak eloquently about the tribes and the relationship between the Oregon government and the Tribal Councils.  I’ve seen beautiful performances by high-school students proud of their heritage.  I’ve heard tribal elders speak about the tragedy of high-school drop-out rates.  I’ve watched as people queue up to get their free bag and pack of cards, and wait for an hour to walk past the butter sculpture.

It used to be called Tribal Information Day.  Now it’s Tribal Government Day.  I wonder if next it will be called Casino Food Day.

This year is an off-year.  The legislature isn’t in session.  I’ve never been here for Tribal Day in an off-session year.  I came for breakfast, walked through the smaller than ever information area, and came into the House chamber to sit and think about the years when I’ve been inspired by the spirit of cooperation demonstrated here.

The truth is, I’m here for the food, and the speeches, and the performances.  I’m here to feel hope that all peoples can come together and work toward the good of all members of all societies.  I’m here to feel a little better, knowing cultures as beautiful as those on display today aren’t completely erased.  But I don’t know how to do more than watch.  How do I talk with a woman about tribal health centers?  How do I start a conversation about unratified treaties?  How do I acknowledge my privileged guilt without letting it hobble me?  There are no pretty speeches to distract me this year from this question.

Now I’m off to listen to this year’s performance, and to seek out  my other favorite part of Tribal Day.  It’s a tad cliché.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.  It’s the fry bread.  If you keep your eyes open, there’s usually a spot in the corner of a table of casino food where authentic fry bread hides.  Sometimes it’s paired with fresh marionberry preserves.  This isn’t from the casino.  It’s from members of the tribes.  It’s made by families and shared lovingly.  If it’s an extra lucky year, someone will have brought smoked salmon.  The real deal.  Caught in our rivers and smoked by hand.  You have to look carefully, or it’ll slip by.  A mess of fish and bread out of character from the polish of the ice sculpture.  But for those who know, it makes the hour-long line worth every second.

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May 14, 2010   1 Comment

Let’s talk about sex

WARNING:  This post contains explicit language.  If you don’t want to think about me in compromising situations, please go look at pictures of kittens.

Questions about sex are the ones asked most often.  They’re also the questions that don’t get asked.  They linger under the surface in the too-long silence after I tell people I’m willing to answer any questions they have about the gayness.  It’s kind of like in elementary school when we all wanted to ask, “how does an astronaut pee if there’s no gravity?”  Nobody wanted to be the one to put their hand up, but we were all thinking it.

Just last night I was asked, “when does it become sex?”  My answer then was, “don’t worry, honey, we’re not there yet.”   Still, it’s a good question.

Like in the heterosexual world, the answer to this question depends on the person.  Just ask Bill “is” Clinton.  Here’s the answer for me:  Penetration=sex.  Also, oral sex=sex.  Also, direct clitoral stimulation=sex.  Let’s break that down.

Penetration

Penetration with tongue, fingers or toy (dildo, etc) is pretty clearly sex in my book.  (Don’t worry, I know there are all sorts of questions out there about this topic.  I’ll explore this more on its own.)

Oral sex

If your mouth is on my clit, or your tongue is in me, it’s sex.

Direct clitoral stimulation

If your hand, mouth, or anything else is on my clit without something other than a safety material in between, it’s sex.

That’s what it is for me.  Believe me, honey it leaves lots of room for spirited disagreement.  For instance, does orgasm=sex?  Damn good question.  What do you all think?

Also, I want to be sure to say that I don’t want anyone using this post to argue with their significant other that what they did wasn’t cheating.  Cheating and sex are two totally different, if related, things.  One of my friends, when defining sex asked the question, “if your husband was doing that, would you consider it sex?”  Careful there.  If my husband was kissing another person, I’d consider it cheating.  I wouldn’t consider it sex.  Also, if my husband was kissing me, I’d wonder what the hell kind of messed up dream I was having.

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May 12, 2010   14 Comments

Presently

There are precious few moments I can point to in my life as times when I was completely present.  Yesterday I experienced one of them.

Sitting on the back porch of my friend’s new house, breathing the evening light, I found myself engaged.  One minute I was thinking about the nap I had meant to take, and the next I had drifted.  Without trying to be, I was there.  Peaceful and complete and aware.

I took in the soft light filtering through the clouds.  The hint of summer in my nose.  The wisteria blossoms.  And the lie of our legs extended out as we sat on the wood of the deck.  In that moment I was present.  Sitting silently.  Fully awake.

As my friend shifted closer, and her dog found my hand with her nose, I smiled, the awareness of this complete, beautiful moment rolling over me.  I had no memory of my lost nap, no concern for when we would leave, or if we’d return.  I had only the feeling of the little red house on my back, and simple, grounded contentment.

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May 10, 2010   4 Comments

Ready

“Honey, I think what you’re putting out there is, ‘roadblock’.”

I’d asked my roommates for a little reflection.  It’d been an interesting few weeks on the dating front.  I’d gone from nursing a broken heart, to not wanting to date anyone, to playing around with online dating, to realizing that I value the shared experience of a long-term relationship, to finding myself in a love triangle, on a date with a straight woman, considering dating women living in other states, and falling for a wonderful, but unavailable woman – all as I prepared to continue my personal journey on two other continents.  It was a bit much.

My poor roommates.  I love them so very much.  They’ve watched me through all of this.  And the roadblock comment seems pretty right on the mark.

I’ve been identifying my warning labels, sharing my limitations, and holding back the parts of me that might overwhelm.  Or pushing them forward as a kind of test to see if they will.  It’s like when I get someone a present.  Or make a fabulous dinner.  I lead with an apology. “They didn’t have what I really wanted to get you, so I got this…” “The onion isn’t exactly what I’d wanted, but I hope it’s okay…”  It takes the sting away if they don’t’ like it.  And it’s the same for me.

If I don’t give my full self, and I’m rejected, the other person isn’t rejecting the real me, so it’s not so bad.  If I overwhelm the person on purpose, I’m getting what I expected, so that’s not so bad either.  If I throw up a roadblock, or make sure there’s one in the way, it’s a bonus if I can find a work-around.  But it’s only what was expected when it falls apart.

I’m done with that now.

So here’s my statement to the universe:  I am ready.  I am ready to accept into my life adventure and passion and abundance.  I am ready to unleash the full me and to welcome with open arms all of the beauty that comes.  I am ready.  For a life of radiant love.  For a life of wonder.  I am ready.

Oh, and also thank you.

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May 4, 2010   1 Comment

Hearts and Minds Remix

A few years ago a local paper asked me to write a piece discussing the status of Domestic Partnership legislation in Oregon.  I was super excited by the opportunity.

I’d been working in the field of GLBT politics for a few years through some really tough times.  And I felt like I had a voice – something interesting to say.  I’d been writing on the topic for a political blog, discussing the ins and outs of what was going on with the legislature, the electorate, and the community.  And I’d been asking questions.

Ah, the questions.

It seems that people don’t always like it when you ask questions.  But I’m rather inquisitive.  And sometimes sarcastic.  In truth, I think the paper wanted me to write a piece, because I’d stirred up some stuff with my questions about the importance of language.

What they got instead was a discussion about the importance of humanity.

GLBT people have great love and compassion in our lives, regardless of how you label it. We would have to in order to keep our relationships intact through things like constitutional amendments and second-class citizenship. When we share that love we truly touch the hearts of others, because we share with them something fundamental—our humanity.

So here’s my question:  How do we move forward, in a context where the lives of GLBTQ people are considered political and language around those lives is measured, weighed and analyzed to such a great extent?  Is it more important that we consider our words carefully, or that we share our lives fully?  Or can we do both and remain authentic?

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May 3, 2010   3 Comments