Friday, December 4, 2009

Too Young to Be Married

Although we can still improve things, we have come a long way as regards children. At least in western culture. I've been reading a little about roman and medieval culture. Back in those days girls as young as twelve were being married. Today we consider this rape.

My recollections of being twelve are vague at best. But I have a child of thirteen, and trying to imagine this person being married is beyond my ability. It doesn't fit. I watch the children come out of school and I do not see young women and young men. I see girls and boys. How can someone look upon these children and become aroused? They're so young and innocent (to my eyes). And maybe that's what pedephilia is all about. The destruction of innocense.

Granted, back in medieval and roman times marriage was not generally based on any kind of love feelings. It was based on money and/or political strength. Children were just another piece of property to be used for selfish gain. And as everyone was doing this nobody saw it as wrong.

I wonder how it managed to change.

The concept of young marriage makes world building difficult. Especially in a culture which has become acutely aware of predator adults preying upon children and using sex as their weapon. But there are those in our own society, today, who feel that even eighteen-year-olds are too young to be married.

Some believe that the ability to produce children is proof of marriage readiness. I don't see how that can be true. Not in our society, at least. I have heard of girls as young as twelve being raped and bearing children. I think it may also be around that age that boys begin producing sperm. That's about the age of puberty. It varies from person to person, and it's more of a process than an event, I think.

I guess I am too caught up in modern thinking to accept - or create - a culture in which twelve-year-old humans are married. I look at my own child and think that would be sick. They're not ready.

But when could they be?

I wonder if in a simpler culture younger works, while in a more complex culture it doesn't. Part of being married is surviving together in the world. Western culture is fraught with so many predators of varying kinds that the only way a young marriage could work would be if they lived at the home of one or the other's parent/s or guardian/s. For protection.

I kind of use that approach in my worldbuilding. Sometimes. When I have a culture which allows young marriages, sixteen or seventeen, it is because the couple will continue to live in the home of either the bride's or groom's parents. But I suppose I am still affected by modern thinking because I never have thirty-year-old men marry sixteen-year-old girls. For the most part, I have my marries fairly close in age.

And yet that was not how it was done in real life. But that was a different culture in a different time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who Decides, And Upon What Do They Base Their Decision

In case anyone failed to notice I haven't posted anything in a while. That's because I haven't been in the mood for public display. Also, I haven't had anything even I thought was interesting to say.

I was inspired to write an erotic love-making scene this morning. Not sure if "love-making" is a proper term, considering the relationship was incestual. Not sure why I was inspired to write about incest. That's one of life's miseries to which I have not been subjected to.

Perhaps it's because I have been thinking hard about a world, or reality, if you will, in which many of our current moralities do not exist. What are the moral reasons for refusing to allow siblings to marry? Biologically, we know brother-sister unions are frought with the risk of congenital disorders in the children, particularly as they affect the brain. Where I grew up there was a family which kept mostly to itself. There was a mother, father, and two children: boy and girl. I never saw the father, and only vaguely remember the mother, but both the children were - and forgive me, because I do not know the proper word for it - retarded. Or something like it. They had great difficulty in learning and were placed in a special education classroom with others of a like sort. Back then we hid people like this away, so the so-called normal people wouldn't have to look at them.

The parents were rumored to have been brother and sister. I don't know if the rumor was true, but even adults persisted in it. Adults who seemed to know them. There were a LOT of first cousin marriages in the area. (If you're wondering, my parents were not one of these pairs. We had emigrated to the community from someplace else.)

I will say that the community's overall academic level was pitiful at best. It took virtually no effort for myself and my siblings to rise to the top of our grades - grade wise.

But if the danger of birth defects could be overcome - would it still be immoral for siblings to marry? And what about gay and lesbian relationships? Until such time that our science improves sufficiently, two women are not going to produce a child. Neither are two men. So would it be immoral?

For those who say all forms of GLBT are abnormal I suppose so. But we're learning new things about that all the time. Even from a religious perspective.

But even people who turn their backs on conventional religion generally are not in favor of sibling marriages. Why? Beyond birth defects, is there a reason? What is morality anyway?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

They Wouldn't Have Hired Me Anyway

I haven't posted in a while. It's hard to think of something wise and profitable to say. All I have are feelings. There is no real wisdom to impart.

I thought about applying for work at one of the nearby GLBT (I don't know the correct order) newspapers. I hesitated because, technically, I don't fall into any of those groupings. I'm just kind of confused about myself. That's why I refer to myself as "genderqueer".

So I hesitated to apply for any kind of work. (Even paper hanger.) But this past week I did some online searches for which papers were nearby. I had a friend who had gone to work for the one. But that one seems to be out of business. In fact, so many of them are. Ultimately, I wasn't able to find any. But then I have a hard time finding anything online. I guess there's a smart way to search for things, but I've never figured it out. It's hard for me to find any kind of publishing place which would accept fantasy stories about lesbian love. I guess that just proves how much I don't belong, although I wish I did.

Specialty papers all over are going out of business. I've read some articles distressing over how the entire GLBT publishing industry has taken very hard hits over the past few years. Few of them had the financial resources to withstand the economic downturn. The small are usually the first to go. Even when they have something important to say, or serve a very useful purpose.

Everyone needs a voice. Sometimes that voice comes through someone else's writing, or music, or performance, or speech. That's when another person agrees with our position, but while we're unable to speak for ourselves, they can do it for us. They say what we want to say, or would say if we could.

But sometimes we need to speak for ourselves. That isn't always easy. And with fewer places to publish, it's even harder than it was.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Story Time

Episode 1006

“What are you thinking about, Paran?”

“Not much. Just the village, and how everybody probably reacted to our running off like we did.”

“Are you sad you left?”

“No. Not really. I mean, I miss my family, and Old Conway, the butcher. He was funny. But as much as I miss some I am glad to be free of Kerr.”

Elon shuddered. “I should say so. He’s such a brute.”

“Not your type, huh? Well, I shouldn’t worry. I expect your father would find someone much more suitable for you than Kerr. Now, let’s see, who would be good for you? How about Clement? He’s a nice, gentle sort. He would make you a fine husband, don’t you think?”

“I don’t want Clement!” Elon hated it when Paran teased her about husband possibilities. For one thing, she never suggested the one person Elon would be thrilled to have. But then, nobody ever did. And Elon didn’t dare tell anyone. So she knew that one day, like Paran, she would have been faced with the decision to either marry someone she didn’t want, or flee to freedom. It was better to leave now with Paran than to wait and have to escape on her own. Paran was right: she wasn’t that great in the woods. But she knew she could be great in the house. The implications of that thought made her smile.

“I don’t think you know who you want,” said Paran. “But no matter. It wasn’t a decision likely to be made any time soon. Or at all, if I don’t find a way to get you home.”

“Home! I’m staying with you.”

“For now, yes. But what about later? I don’t think your father is going to quit looking for you until he finds you.”

Elon smiled. “Or Aricin, until he finds his pony.”

She was glad that Paran laughed. Laughter was the best way to get Paran away from troublesome talk. She knew Paran was probably right about her father and brother, but she would deal with them when the time came. For now, they didn’t know where she was. She was safe. She was with Paran.

Paran sat up.

“I’m thinking maybe we should get some sleep. It was a difficult walk today and I’m sure you’re as tired as I am. Do you want the bed? Or should I take it?”

Elon glanced at the bed, beckoning to them from the shadows.

“I shouldn’t think the bed would be a good idea tonight. Let’s wait until daylight and see what kinds of things have made a home in it.”

“Hmm. Good thinking.”

“Told you that you needed me along.”

“So you did. Then I guess we sleep by the hearth, if that’s all right with you?”

She lay back down, head near Elon’s. Elon sighed wistfully. It didn’t have to be like this, did it? Never certain on how Paran would respond, she was hesitant in her offer.

“You can lay beside me – if you want.”

Paran rolled over onto her stomach. Her eyes were searching, though for what Elon wasn’t certain. That’s the way Paran was. You could know everything about her and still not know what she was thinking.

“You nervous about the place? And why they left?”

It was as good an excuse as any.

“A little.”

Chuckling, Paran got up with her blanket. She made Elon scoot to the side on hers and lay facing Elon’s back. She pulled her own blanket over them, draping her arm over Elon’s side.

Elon smiled contentedly. This was how they had slept the past three nights. Paran said it would keep them warm in the night. It did give a warm feeling, thought Elon. Inside and out. She took Paran’s hand and clutched it close to her heart.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Story Time

Episode 1005

Paran stared into the flames. “I’m not sure. The original plan was to travel all the way to Littoral Haven. But our detour makes that more difficult.”

“Why did we detour?”

A shrug. “Just a whim. I just had this feeling it was time to get off the ridge.”

The quiet was inviting. Elon mustered up her courage.

“What about staying here?”

Paran’s head turned. “Stay here? Elon, we don’t even know there’s water. And what will we eat?”

“There has to be water, Paran. Who would stake out a farm without water? That field certainly has tasted the plow. As for food, we have some things left that we brought. And there are plenty of wild things in the trees. And you have you bow. Can’t we at least try? This seems such a nice place.”

Paran turned back to the fire.

“It isn’t that I’m against staying. We just have to be sure we can survive here. You’re right about the water. There must be some nearby. And if we have to eat squirrel and rabbit and mountain herbs for a while that should be fine. But I think before we decide anything for certain we should have a look around come daylight. We just might discover why the previous tenants left. Sound good?”

“Sounds good.”

Elon smiled. That was another thing about Paran. She didn’t like jumping into things. She weighed out the risks carefully. But putting aside anything horrible, it was likely she would relent about the farm. Paran didn’t let pride interfere with her judgment. Not usually.

So what had it been when she had agreed to let Elon accompany her on this escape? Surely she must have thought it out. Of course, at first, she had argued against it, as she had in taking the pony.

“Don’t talk crazy, Elon. You’re not coming, and that’s final.”

“But why?”

“For one thing it only guarantees someone is going to come after us. Your father will lead half the village on a recovery mission. For another, you’ll just slow me down.”

“No, I won’t.”

“You will. You know you’re not nearly so good in the forest as me.”

“But you’ll need someone to take care of you. You weren’t even going to bring much for provision. At least I knew to bring Amos.”

“And that’s another thing. Do you think Aricin isn’t going to mind us taking his pony? And if you’ll slow me up just think what a pony will mean.”

“I’m just going to follow you, Paran. You know I will.”

Maybe it had been that final threat which made Paran finally concede. Or maybe she was feeling the pressure of time. Elon only dared hope in the quietest place in her heart what could have been why.

For three days now they had walked the ridge. The fear of pursuit was always there, but Elon was happy. She was with Paran. What did the future matter as long as that was so?

She glanced at Paran, still staring into the flames. What did she see when she was seeing beyond what was here? Even to Elon, who considered herself to be Paran’s best friend in the world, Paran seldom revealed her secret dreams. But Elon knew a lot went on in that head. If only she could reach it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Story Time

Episode 1004

“Let’s bring Amos to the cabin and unload our gear. Then I’ll make sure the paddock will keep him in place.”

The door opened to the south so seeing into the cabin was difficult. Elon waited at the door while Paran put Amos in the paddock. While she did she chanced to see the remains of a wood pile. There wasn’t a lot there, but there was enough to see them through a night or two. Paran’s joy over the discovery only made it better.

Paran entered first, holding a large stick she had picked up for protection against anything that might have decided to use the cabin for its home. There was nothing. So they brought in several armloads of wood and started a fire. Soon, a warm glow was taking the chill out of the air and their bones.

The cabin seemed larger on the inside. Elon saw that was because it was longer from north to south than from east to west. It was all a single room, with a loft area accessed by a ladder attached to the east wall near the fireplace. A rustic table stood in the middle, with four chairs, equally non-impressive in appearance, but sturdy in workmanship. There was a pantry, a wardrobe, and even a large tub, complete with a drain leading out a hole in the floor near the wall. A bed was against the far north wall, it’s straw mattress an inviting vision after three nights on the cold hard ground.

There was no stove. A fireplace crane appeared to be how cooking was done. That was fine with Elon. She had only brought one small kettle, but that was in hope of the future. They had no meat nor vegetables to eat anyway.

They lay head to head in front of the hearth. Elon on her left side and Paran on her right. Before them the fire danced and sang. Occasionally an ember would spit and jump, as if adding emphasis to the song. Most of the smoke found its way up the chimney, but enough wafted into the room to give a wholesome smell. Elon always liked the smell of burning logs. She liked it how the smells clung to clothing and skin, as ever reminders of a pleasant evening.

“Why do you think they left?” asked Elon.

“Don’t know. Could be any of several reasons. Maybe the water’s bad up here. Or maybe there isn’t any. I didn’t see a well. But I think whoever was here left in a hurry. Or they were killed.”

A stab of fear went through Elon and she rolled to her stomach to see Paran.


Paran seemed unconcerned. “Or something. I mean look around here. There’s a table. A pantry. A wardrobe. A bed. Even a soft chair.”

“So you think they died?”

“It’s possible, but I don’t think so. There’s only big stuff here. The wardrobe and pantry are empty. Someone took those things. So either those who lived here left without their furniture, or others came later and took their things.”

Elon glanced around the cabin. Everything was dancing in shadows. What Paran had said was true. A quick examination of things had revealed nothing small or easy to carry. Only the furniture pieces remained.

“But the furniture seems well made. I wonder why they left it.” She turned back on her side. Paran’s confidence in the matter was enough for now. However, Elon still couldn’t help feeling that she hoped they didn’t learn the answer to that question. She decided to steer the conversation. “What is our plan for tomorrow?”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Story Time

Episode 1003

They ate some jerky and some bread. Then Paran decided to scout ahead.

Elon sat close to the pony and waited anxiously. Her eyes constantly strayed from the rock slide behind to the path Paran had taken ahead. Time was an enemy. A threat. Every moment Paran was gone was another possibility that she wasn’t coming back. What if there was another slide? What if she had fallen and was hurt? What if Kerr and her brother were to show up, demanding the return of both the pony and Paran? What, what, what?

It was impossible to know how long Paran had been gone. Fear stretched moments to minutes. But the sun was going down. That wasn’t imagination. But finally Paran was back. She seemed happy. Elon was.

“You’ll never believe this, but I found an abandoned farm not far from here. There’s a small cabin for us and a lean to with paddock for Amos. Hurry. Let’s get him packed up again and be on our way.”

Amos seemed doleful as Paran settled the packs on his back. Elon caressed his cheek, thinking how soft his hair felt. It was like a fine flax. Or the tassels on the top of corn stalks.

The ground was sloping but not steep, so they made good time. Still, they were in the foothills, and the tall pines were quickly shielding them from the sinking sun. Shadows were long and deep. Then, they broke free to a clearing.

Elon felt herself gasp. It was a beautiful farm. Small, but nicely placed. The ground was mostly level here, for several acres. To the west it dropped off, but not without leaving plenty of room for crops. In fact, the earth still showed the scars from previous year’s work. The paddock was small, only large enough for two or three animals. A lean to stood against the hillside, providing protection from anything that might be falling down from above, such as rocks. Or snow. It even had a wind break on the paddock side.

There was a barn. Not large, but a farm such as this wouldn’t need a large barn. But already Elon could imagine what it must be like inside. A place for corn. A place for hay. A place to store their equipment, once they got some.

The cabin looked darling. It was also small. A chimney stack stood like an attached sentinel. Two shuttered windows flanked a single door. Was there a root cellar? She couldn’t tell. It was getting too dark. But there had to be. Down the slope and tucked into the trees was the shadow of an outhouse.

“Oh, Paran! This looks wonderful. Are you sure it’s abandoned?”

“As sure as I can be after just a few minutes. No fresh dung in the paddock. No smoke from the chimney. No light in the cabin. Whoever did live here is gone now.”

“I wonder why someone would leave a farm like this? It seems so perfect.”

“It is for us. We can put a fire in the hearth. No more huddling to keep warm.”

Elon swallowed the feeling of disappointment. “I didn’t mind.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Story Time

Episode 1002

"Paran, are you all right?"

Paran's face screwed up in apparent disgust. "Yes. My own fault. I thought I could quicken the pace. Serves me right. What about the pony?"

The pony was struggling to get up but the pack was making it hard. Elon began undoing the straps. Elon held onto the lead as the pony got to its feet. Paran examined it. After a few minutes she sighed.

"Well, he doesn't seem to be hurt. Let's find a place to stake him out so he can eat and relax."

Spring was still fresh, but it had been a warm winter and already most of the snow was already gone, even from some of the high places. So finding a place for the pony to eat wasn't hard. There wasn't a lot in any one place, but there was enough to satisfy the pony.

Elon went to Paran, who was examining their packs. She looked up the hill.

"Do you think they're coming after us?"

Paran didn't look up. "Probably."

The short answer felt like a slap in the face, and Elon nearly fell back. She shouldn't have said anything.

"You're still mad about the pony?"

"We've been over this a dozen times, Elon."

"But we really needed him."

This time Paran's sigh showed exasperation.

"Yes! I agreed with you. Remember? Having the pony meant we could bring more supplies. But you must admit that taking your brother's pony means we now have him to worry about, too. If it had just been Kerr we would probably be free now. I don't see Kerr traipsing this far just to catch a runaway bride."

"I don't know. Kerr is a bit of a pig head."

Paran laughed. The sound lifted Elon's heart.

"That he is. And father had the nerve to say I would be happy with him. Hmph! As if anyone could be happy with Kerr."

Encouraged by Paran's laughter, Elon sat down.

"I'm glad you ran away from him, Paran."

Paran must have sensed something in Elon's voice for she stopped what she was doing and turned. Her expression was comforting.

"You're still upset about the slide?"

Elon smiled. She could never fool Paran. Whatever her mood, Paran seemed to sense it and respond accordingly. It was one of the things Elon loved about her. She could be tough when she needed to be, but in her heart she was gentle and loving.

"I was so scared when you fell."

The two young women held eye contact for several minutes. For Elon, it was enough just to be with Paran. When she had learned of Paran's betrothal to Kerr she had taken sick. Then, when Paran had confided her plan to slip away, Elon had improved the plan (she felt). She had taken Amos, her brother's sturdy pony, and laden him with two heavy packs filled with spare clothing and food stuffs. She had even remembered to bring seeds for planting a vegetable garden. Assuming they could find a place to farm.

Suddenly, Paran smiled. Elon liked her smile. She didn't offer it often, but when she did it was like the sun breaking free from behind a cloud.

"You know, I should have made you stay behind. But I am glad you're here."

Elon felt her heart warm. "You need me."

"That I do."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Story Time

Episode 1001

The stones clattered from beneath the pony's feet and echoed down the hillside. This wasn't a good way to descend, but it was the only way it could get down alive. And it was bad enough they had stolen it without having killed it, too.

Elon put her hand on it's muzzle and spoke comforting words at it, letting it relax before the next effort. She looked at Paran, who was using the respite to test the animal's load.

"Should we go back?" Elon asked.

Paran glanced back the way they had come and shook her head. "It's too late for that. We're committed. Just try to go slow."

Elon nodded and urged the pony onward and downward. Fortunately, the route wasn't entirely made up of loose stones. There were enough places for them to stop and regroup their courage, and look down and realize how foolish they were being. At least they had had enough sense not to try this late in the day. At Paran's insistence they had camped up on the ridge, using the heavy pines as cover. Tonight they would be camping at the base. Assuming they were still alive to camp.

They made poor time, and when the sun rose high above them to laugh at their effort they were hardly half way. And the going only got worse as they went lower. Loose rock had to go some place, and that place was down. So the new pieces they were kicking joined the countless others already covering the lower slopes.

Elon wanted to complain, but what was the point? It wasn't as if Paran didn't already know. And what was to be done about it anyway? They couldn't go back up. Not now.

Just as she was beginning to think they might make it after all she felt her feet slip out from under her. She instinctively let go of the lead rope. That was a good thing, she hoped. At least she wasn't pulling the pony down on top of her.

The noise from her own fall made it impossible to know if either or both Paran and the pony were on their way down with her. And she was falling too fast to look. Fortunately, there were only fifty or sixty feet left before the ground leveled off so it wasn't long before she came to an unpleasant rest. Stones continued to rain down upon her and she warded her head with her arms until she was certain it was over.

She lifted her head and looked up the hill. Paran was trying to hurry the pony down at an angle. At least they hadn't fallen.

"Elon! Are you okay?" Paran called.

Elon got to her knees. "I think so."

"Move away from the debris field, in case we fall, too. I'm hurrying as fast as I dare."

"Don't. I'm okay. There's no need for you to come down like I did. I don't appear to be bleeding, apart from a couple of cuts, and nothing seems broken."

"Then find a place to wait."

The wait wasn't terribly long. In the end, Paran and the pony also slid down, but not nearly so far. The pony had fallen first so Paran came down on top. Also, the pack helped prevent serious injury.

Elon hurried over.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reflected Attitudes

The creative arts often have a huge impact on society and its social rules. This is particularly so of video, I think. I also believe the reason for this is that there are loads of people who would never think of picking up a book to read, but who will watch almost anything on television or in the theatre. Movie theatre. I expect the number of live performance attenders is similar to book readers.

Not that there aren't a lot of book readers. There are just more people who don't read book than who do.

But you can see the evolution of things by watching old movies and comparing them with newer issues. There was a lot of religious themes in the early films, although not exclusively. And when Christianity was portrayed it was done in overdramatic fashion. Other religions were put down. Homosexuality was not an overt topic in most Hollywood productions, although there were films to address it.

By the time the fifties came around preachers were almost always portrayed as crazy and/or phony. Gay and lesbian themes were kept in the background, couched with 'in' words and catch phrases that the general public would not understand.

In the sixties and seventies preachers were mostly ridiculous. And so were Gays and lesbians. Gay and lesbian characters were always overt, and always the source of one-line jokes. While this did bring the issue more out in the open, I wonder if it didn't also encourage 'gay-bashing'. I have read of small gangs who would seek out homosexuals in order to beat them up from before this era, so I'm not sure.

Gays and lesbians are still often the focus of humor, particularly on television sitcoms. But it's changing. As more and more people become public about what they believe and how they feel and want to live, society is being forced to acknowledge there are a lot more people who fall within the labels than previously thought.

That's video. What about the written word? What kind of an impact has that had over the years? After all, the written word has existed for thousands of years, while video is barely over one hundred years old. And talkie films are less than one hundred years old. So, how has the written word impacted social mores and such?

To be honest, I don't really know. I am learning through my online research that the subject has been written about for hundreds of years. I also expect there are a lot of stories written in which main characters were GLBT (My research has also shown there are a variety of orders for these letters. I use this order because it's what I'm used to.) Kind of like Abus Dumbledore in J.K.Rowling's, Harry Potter, series. According to Rowling, Dumbledore is gay. And yet the character never behaves or talks in a sexual manner. There are no hints of child molestation or adult affairs**. But then Dumbledore was also monogomous. But he is a natural character, and a favorite.

I expect there are a lot of characters in books which are of a like mold. Their authors saw them as gay, lesbian, or whatever, but didn't make it part of the actual story because that issue had nothing to do with the story. So the differences were subtle. Too sublte to be noticed by most of the reading audience, but probably enough to bring comfort to some. Comfort in the sense of familiarity. Of belonging.

Writing stories has evolved over the centuries. It's harder, I think, to get accepted by major publishers now, but it's easier to write whatever we want to write. And that is good for we who like to write.

** added later for clarification || I do not mean to imply that GLBT people are more prone to child molestation than others. However, it always seemed to me that that was how they were portrayed in the past. My point with J.K.Rowling was that she portrayed Dumbledore as normal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What I Was and Who I Am

Got to waxing nostalgic and was thinking about grade school days, and how they differed from junior high and high school.

When I was in grade school (grades 1-6), it was not uncommon at all to see two girls walking the playground arm-in-arm. Or two boys, for that matter. There was lots of hugging to demonstrate close friendship. Generally it was same sex.

This was smiled on and not discouraged in any way by any member of the faculty or staff. They all thought it was great.

All of this changed once we reached seventh grade. Beginning in seventh grade girls were no longer encouraged to hug girls and boys were no longer encouraged to hug boys. And yet they stuck us naked in showers together. That was uncomfortable. For me, anyway. But same sex couples caught hugging, or even holding hands, would be mocked and humilitated - by students, faculty, and staff alike. Then, for those who were part of varsity sports or cheerleading squads, hugs and butt slaps were allowed during victory celebrations, home runs, touchdowns, and goals scored. But you'd better not enjoy it too much.

It's interesting to me that all of us apparently have it within ourselves to put aside our programming - when it suits us.

I wonder if the day will come when it suits most of us all, or at least most, of the time. It would certainly give us one less thing to fight about. And it would make a lot of people's lives a lot easier to live.

There weren't many who bucked the system back then. At my school ALL girls took home economics and ALL boys took shop class. In my six years of junior high and high school only one boy and one girl stood up and forced the school to let them switch. A boy decided he didn't want to learn how to fix cars, make things out of metal and whatnot. He would rather learn how to cook and sew and do things like that. A couple of years later a girl decided she wanted to learn the mechanics and crafts being taught the boys.

Think about that. We had six grades in the school with a total enrollment between 800 and 1,000 students. In six years only two people dared stand up and declare what they wanted.

I wasn't one of them.  Wish I had been.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A History of Hatred

Been reading up on lesbian life in the Victorian and medieval eras. My inspiration for doing this was a website that claimed in Victorian England there were women in 'respectable' society who deemed themselves married, called themselves married, and were treated as married by the rest of society. At the same time, women who indulged in 'affairs' with other women were considered low-life.

Unfortunately, I didn't bookmark the site and I don't recall how I stumbled upon it, so I can't provide a link at this time. But I found it interesting that perhaps we have actually become more narrow in our thinking as time has progressed. My research so far would indicate that no, we're just as narrow-minded as we've ever been, and just as critical of people who don't act (or think, or feel) like us.

Another thing which spawned my interest in Victorian society was remembering a documentary type show I saw a number of years ago about two girls who developed a close friendship. There did not seem to be any sexual behavior between them, but they were 'friendlier than just friends', as their families put it. Eventually they became a scandal and were separated. The one grew up to become an author, or a poet, and I think she was the focus of the documentary. Neither woman would talk about the other, and as I remember the documentary, neither woman was particularly happy with her life after separation.

I finding it interesting that about eight hundred years ago in certain parts of Europe it was women who were seen as the insatiable sex cravers and not men. Men were above that sort of thing. Right.

Well, I don't think that attitude lasted long, because what followed was the belief that women having sexual relations with women was impossible (because there could be no penetration). Right. But this belief hung on for a long time. Still, there were laws made and punishments doled out. The most common punishment was confinement in a nunnery, which explains the reputations some of the nunneries had. I mean, think about it. If you fill a place up with women who prefer women to men it only stands to reason that some of these women are going to fall in love with each other beyond simple friendship. It's really no different than the monastary reputations from the same time, or if one were to confine heterosexuals together.

People are going to fall in love when they meet someone who fills the empty place in their heart.

It's still incredible to me, though, how we, as a (human) race, put so much emphasis on sex and gender. Most people believe we are spiritual beings, meaning our spirit will live on when the body dies. Not everyone believes this, but I think most people do. Just look at how important religion and faith are around the world. So why, if we really aren't our bodies, do we make such a big deal out of what's between our legs and what we do with it? Is it because we have been taught that who and what we are is really defined by what goes on between our legs? Sometimes it seems so.

The research into Victorian and medieval societies is fascinating and I intend to continue my reading. I may stumble again upon that original website, and perhaps I will also find out who the author was. I'm sure she was born in the 1800s. Maybe early 1900s. And I'm thinking she moved to England from Australia, but it's been a long time and my memory is fuzzy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Should Writers Know When They Write

What I probably should be doing is taking a few days between posts to collect my thoughts better, instead of wandering around every day with random thoughts. But for now I'm posting even when I'm not entirely clear in my head what it is I want to say. I hope it doesn't make me too difficult to follow.

I'm thinking more about the fact that writing about sex and writing about lesbian lifestyles do not have to be the same.

Maybe it's just an excuse, so I can tell myself I don't have to write bedroom scenes. Not that lesbian love scenes are any harder (or easier) to write than heterosexual love scenes. I don't write those well, either.  The problem I run into is getting so caught up in the physical I forget to include what's really important: the spiritual binding which comes between real lovers, as opposed to sexual partners. I suppose even in mere sexual gratification there is some sort of spiritual binding taking place, but it would be minimal.

The more I write about it the more I find myself wondering if sex isn't merely a red herring. Perhaps what I am really struggling with is writing believable love. For that is what I really want to write. Sex is simply one of many possible manifestations of that love. It's such a controversial topic that it easily can assume center stage. But the real issue is the love which motivates the sex. Without the love there is no story worth reading. With the love it is the anticipation that these two people really belong with each other. Olympia and Aileen (opened my baby name book to two random pages and took the first names I liked) are two women - or I suppose they could be too young to be called women - who meet casually. They are not looking to fall in love. They are not looking for a sexual partner. They just meet and 'click' together, so they continue to meet when they can. They become friends. The friendship blossoms. At some point in time romance enters the relationship.

The truth is, that is pretty boring stuff all by itself. In a story, there has to be more going on. Something, or someone, has to be under challenge, and at least one of the main characters has to be directly involved in resolving the crisis. It is, in fact, this crisis which allows the relationship to build quickly and quietly without being addressed by the women. They are so focused on resolving it that they don't take the time to address their relationship properly. This will ultimately put their relationship at risk, for ignored relationships can fall apart just as quickly as they formed in the first place. The story's climax (I'm sorry, I couldn't think of a better word) is when both crises reach their moment of decision. The external crisis must be solved for good or ill, and the internal, love, crisis, must also be decided.

That, of course, is only one way of doing it. Another would be for Olympia and Aileen to meet and almost immediately begin a physical relationship. In this kind of story the question isn't about sexuality, coming out, or anything like that. The internal crisis is whether or not the relationship is truly a life long relationship, or one which should be broken, and the women go their separate ways.

There are a variety of ways to write the story. The key is very much like other things I've posted about. To write a story there are things a writer must know in her head:
  • Who is the target audience (women, men, young girls, questioning, timid)
  • What is the underlying question (sexuality-discovery/coming out, relationship-marriage/just lovers)
  • What is the focus (love, sex)
I have probably oversimplified the questions, but I think you get the idea. Whether we, as writers, use written down outlines or not, we must have a clear idea of the answers to those questions and questions like them before we can effectively tell our stories.

If our goal is to produce erotica then we certainly should not be writing for young girls, and our focus is clearly going to be more on the sex than the love. And the underlying question is probably less about discovery of oneself than it is about what kind of relationship is going to be established.

If our goal is to explore sexuality then our target audience could be any of  the choices, but probably less likely to be men. (That's a prejudice of mine.) The relationship is more in the background and self-discovery and acceptance becomes the focal point. I also believe a story like this is ultimately less about sex and more about love.

There are valid reasons for writing any kind of story for any group of people. But we need to know what it is we're trying to do when we go into a story. Why is this story important to us, as writers? That's probably the biggest question of all.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Who is It For

Just recently I finished a story and sent it to a good friend of mine. She liked it, but she pointed out a significant flaw. At the start of the story I raised a question, or perhaps a better way to put it here is, I established my main character's primary goal. So, to the reader, the resolution of that goal became the story's focal point. At the end of the story I answered the question of whether my main character would become comfortable with her sexuality, and I did it nicely. At least, that's what I gathered from her critique. However, the question I asked at the beginning was NOT about my main character's sexuality. I did raise the sexuality question, but not at the start.

So the stories biggest flaw was that it was not bookended. I told the reader that one question was most important, and then didn't treat it as important. Meanwhile, I felt the sexuality question was most important but didn't raise it at the start. This made for a nice, but unfulling, story.

To make the story right I have to stop being so coy about my main character's struggles with whether or not she is a lesbian and put it up front and in plain sight from the start. That way the reader knows what she's reading and can better appreciate the main character's conflict as she seeks to learn who she really is.

It's obvious to me that I took the back door approach to the sexuality question because I'm still embarassed to write about it. The very term 'lesbian' seems to bring up connotations of sex, and I'm still embarassed by sex. I'm sorry, but I was taught I should be, and I learned that lesson too well. You know, I still haven't written that explicit sex scene. And nobody would even know about it but me! I'm not really a prude. I just get embarassed.

That the word 'lesbian' should be a sexual word is wrong, I think. I kind of spoke about this, poorly, I know, in my previous post, where I wondered publically what constitutes being a lesbian. A comment brought up the idea that so much of lesbian fiction is very sexual in nature and is actually geared toward heterosexual men, who get off on the idea of women being together. But lesbian stories shouldn't be written for straight men. They shouldn't be written for men at all. Lesbian stories should be written for women. Lesbians in particular. If men, or straight women, enjoy reading, too, so much the better. But they should not be the target audience.

I got to thinking about that, and I wondered if that wasn't the problem I was having with my story. The idea of straight men reading lesbian stories hadn't really entered my thoughts. But in order to see how others wrote love scenes I had been reading a lot of online examples. I quit because it seemed to me so very few were well written at all that I was only filling my head with how NOT to write them. But when the idea that these stories were written to excite the imaginations of straight men, I realized that I felt the same way about them. They did not seem like stories written for women seeking commonality with someone who shared their love preference. But I think all of that reading distorted my thinking about lesbian stories in general. I think I subconsciously forgot my target audience, and I'm not comfortable writing sex stuff for straight men. Or for anybody for that matter.

My stories are supposed to be about finding acceptance, falling in love - love, not sex, and being free to be who one is. And my target audience is women. I need to remember that and forget about the stereotypes. I need to just let my characters be real people, and not animals which are slaves to passion and sexuality. While there are real people who are, they are not the subject of my writing. My writing is not supposed to be about sex, although I want sex to (sometimes) be a part of my stories.

So, between my friend's critique, and the comment on my post, I think I have what I need to fix up my story and make it something people want to and enjoy reading. Any people.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What are the Requirements

The first I remember being aware of there being anything other than female-male relationships I was in junior high. Whenever anyone was to be severely criticized, or made fun of, inevitiably they were accusing of being queer. I had to ask what this meant and was told it was a girl-girl or boy-boy relationship, depending on what they were. For some, this tag remained with them all the time. For others, it was only while they were in disfavor.

I was some place in between. The only time the derogatory remarks were directed at me was when I was in disfavor (which, I confess, was often). But I learned through the grapevine that should I ever come up as a topic for discussion (not real often) the talk was that I was also queer.

This confused me because I didn't understand why. True, I didn't date. And equally true, I was often friends with others were 'known' to be queer. There were no labels of gay, or lesbian, back then, although the terms were known. The slang at the time was queer. It was always used in a negative sense.

The whole thing confused me because I was the only one not being called it to my face, except in cases of angry disfavor. I didn't understand it then and I'm not sure I understand now. Unless, just being in love can define someone as lesbian (or gay).

I don't mean platonic love, as between relatives or good friends. I mean real love. Romantic love. Just without the sex.

What if two women are deeply in love with each other, but never engage in lovemaking? I remember reading about two such women from the late 1800s or early 1900s. The story is vague in my memory and I don't recall their names. It seems to me that one became a famous author, or poet. The girls had grown up together and everyone knew they were very close friends. But then questions began to be raised about how close their friendship was. There didn't seem to have been any bedroom scenes, but the deepness of their love came under question. People wondered about them. Eventually they were split up, even to the point of living in separate countries. I'm thinking one lived in Australia and the other in England.

These women would have been called lesbians had they shared their bodies with each other. But they only shared their spirits. Their love. Their love was so deep that at least one of them pined away for the rest of her life. But I think they were both very lonely.

But were they lesbians? Does being a lesbian require sexual acts?

And the pining away brings up another point. Why is it that lesbians are viewed as promiscuous? Why is it that only heterosexuals can be viewed as monogomous? I think this is another form of harrassment, sterotyping. It just isn't true. Monogomy is a commitment of will. Why can't lesbians have that?

I remembered reading a long time ago that studies showed each of us meets someone we could fall in love with every four to seven years. It doesn't mean we will fall in love, but we could. But does this deep kind of love require sex? What about people who physically cannot have sex? Does this mean they are incapable of deep, romantic love?

Most of the gay and lesbian friends I have had in my life were unknown to me as gay or lesbian until after we had gone our separate ways. The topic of sex seldom came up in our conversations, I guess. Certainly, I never felt like anyone was coming on to me. Of course, my idea of someone coming on to me is they kiss me like a lover. Subtle things I tend to pass off as my imagination. But I learned of my friends' sexual preferences through other friends afterward. I guess I don't pay close enough attention to the sexual things.

Or maybe I'm just dense.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When It's Safe to Be Counted

We like to talk about getting along. We like to believe we can. But it's hard, isn't it? And what's so odd about it being so hard is that most of us belong to many different 'groups'. And some of these groups are in conflict with each other. Most of us can be associated with some sort of political affiliation: Democrat; Republican; Green; Other (where Other means you're not specifically identified with any known party, but you are politically aware). We have some sort of connection to relgion: Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddist, Native American, Agnostic, Athiest, Other (where Other represents some sort of conscious religious attitude - or lack thereof). And of course we have sexuality: straight, bi-sexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, a-sexual, Other (where Other is some new label with which I am unfamiliar).

Belonging to so many groups means we have to decide which group we will align ourselves with when the two groups come into conflict. This can be costly. It can be dangerous. People have been beaten, even killed, for admitting they also belonged to an opposing group. Areas of religion and sex can be the most risky of all.

Of all the groups which fight there are two I feel especially bad about because I have strong personal connections to both: Christians and Lesbians. (Lesbians can be expanded to include all non-traditional sexual types, but this blog is more about women and those who identify themselves with women.)

I would think of all the warring groups these would be the two most likely to come to peace with each other. In most cultures, it is women who are taught from birth to be loving, nurturing, accepting, and helpful. Well isn't that the message of Christians? Aren't Christians constantly talking about God's love - for everyone? So if Christians want to be loving and caring, and women are taught to be loving and caring, why don't they get along?

Well, for one thing, it's a stereotype to say ALL women are loving and caring. I've known plenty in my life who would fail that test miserably. And I've known men who would qualify.

As to Christians, I have known Christians who qualify in the loving and caring category. I have also known plenty who are intolerant, unforgiving, and downright mean.

It seems to me the greater burden is on the Christians. They are playing for what they believe are higher stakes (eternity). Lesbians are just trying to mold the world into a place where they (and their progeny) can live in peace and not be harassed, threatened, beaten, and denied basic rights and priviledges which others enjoy with impunity. Also, and this is the biggie, right now Christians seem to have the greater (political) power by means of the Religious Right (which I do NOT believe is Christian at all). The problem is, the Religous Right is using its power to hurt. This tells me that the wrong Christians are in charge. It can be the same within the Lesbian political structure. Sometimes the wrong Lesbians are in charge.

What I'm trying to say is that I don't think there's anything inheritly wrong with either group. What it comes down to is leadership and followers. We who are not leaders, and perhaps especially those of us who are connected to both groups, need to examine our leaders to make sure they actually represent our group and not just their own idealogy. I think too often we give our leaders free reign. People don't handle that well. Without accountability they usually wander away from their original purpose. And we who let them wander wind up suffering because the rest of the world begins to look at us though we are carbon copies of those leaders who have long since ceased to  represent the group and what it really stands for. And why shouldn't they? After all, do we not allow these leaders to continue to lead?

I think we need to quit fighting and hating each other. That does none of us any good and hurts us all. Some physically.

Personally, I think Lesbians (as a group) tend to do a better job of this, although I have met some who are quite mean in their own right. Still, it doesn't hurt to be reminded that accepting Lesbians doesn't mean rejecting other ways of life. Let's not make the pendulum swing to the other side. Let's try and stop it in the middle. Maybe then we can have balance and we can all just be who we are.

As for Christians, I think arguing rights and such with them is a complete waste of time. When Christians are Lesbian-bashing they are feeling very self-righteous and superior. They do not hear contrary arguments. You may as well argue in a foreign language. So there is really only one way to reach Christians - if they can be reached at all. They must be returned to their basic message, which centers around Jesus.

Christians love the phrase, "What would Jesus do?" So when you're being bashed by a Christian, challenge them with Jesus. Not God. Even for Christians I think God can be a lofty concept which allows for all sorts of cruelty and intolerance. But Jesus is specific. He is the foundation for the Christian faith. And from what I've read, Jesus never condemned anyone for anything - except religious people for being hypocrites. So, when Christians behave poorly, bring them to Jesus. No need to be mean. Be to them what they're supposed to be to you. Point out that they aren't acting much like Jesus. If they don't listen to him I guess they're not Christians then. That being said, if you live in a place where doing this puts you in physical jeopardy then I do NOT advocate this. Don't get yourself hurt. People can be crazy. Especially over matters of religion and sex.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't think we can best solve this problem legislatively. Not that I'm against legislation. People need to be protected, and that is best done through legislation. The marriage ban, work benefit packages, inheritance, hospital and nursing home rights, are all things which need to be addressed so nobody in this country is denied simply because of who they are. That means legislation. But to solve things socially is going to require grass roots effort. Individuals have to stand up and behave correctly. This may encourage others in their group to stand up and do the same.

Look at me. I have been quietly reading poems by Sarah L. This encouraged me to not only start up a blog, but to write some poems about my own life.  True, this is hardly on the scale of what I've been writing about, but the principle is basically the same. We can inspire others to be better people. So, people like me, who believe they are affiliated with two groups, need to refuse to choose sides when confronted with the choice. We need to stand up and bring the two groups together. But don't put your life at risk. If you don't have the liberty to stand up without being physically hurt, then I think maybe you should stay seated. I would hate for you to be hurt.

 But I have this liberty. I will not be beaten. I will not be killed. But I may find members of one (or both) groups rejecting me. Generally, the extremists do this first. Then, if the others become intimidated, they follow. But I can't inspire if I don't at least try.

So I will stand for both. I don't think the two groups are really that incompatible. I really don't.

I think they're just afraid of each other. So if I can help ease fears, maybe they will start liking each other as they should.

I'm a dreamer. No wonder I'm lonely.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pretty is as Pretty Does, Not How it Looks

For years I have wondered about myself. What would I really be like if I were comepletely left to my own with no fear of repurcussion?

To be honest, I'm not sure.

I like the frilly daintiness which is assumed with being "pretty". At the same time, I like being "tough".

What I have discovered over time is that "pretty" isn't always what I think it is. I have met more than few people who, at first encounter, strike me as plain, or even unattractive. Then, as I get to know them, they become more and more beautiful. Some have even become sexy. Do I dare blush to say that?

Still, when I imagine myself as being "pretty", I have a definite image in mind. I guess that shows prejudice on my part. For while Tahira (not her real name, but the same meaning) was about the most beautiful person I knew, kind, loving, and gentle in spirit, she was also sixty pounds overweight. And despite the fact that by the time we parted ways I saw her as a very sexy woman because of her spirit, I don't think of Tahira when I think pretty. I feel bad about that, too. But there is physical and there is spiritual. The spiritual is better, but it's hard not to be influenced by the physical.

The concept of who is pretty and who isn't is mean. How many women (and men) have suffered because the world around them declares they are NOT pretty? I remember Tahira coming into the office one day (she was my supervisor, and we shared a small enclosed office with one other) and breaking down and crying. I quickly closed the door so the whole company wouldn't know. When she collected herself she told me why she was crying. She had gone to the store the day before with her little boy. Walking from the car there were teenagers nearby who saw her. They made rude and horrible remarks about how fat she was. It bothered her at the time, although she managed to not cry then. But she couldn't forget it, and now, at work with me, she broke down and released her feelings.

It tortured me to hear that someone so beautiful was being so mistreated. It cut me, because when I had been in school I had done my share of teasing others for being fat. My pennance is that I am now fat. Serves me right, I suppose.

Why did I bring this up? Because I tend to write my main characters as being my idea of pretty. I guess it's because I so want to be pretty, and the only place I can is in make-believe. But part of writing is to be real, so maybe I should consider writing about the poor girl/woman who doesn't fit the world around her's idea of pretty.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Life of Priscilla

Daytime soap operas have been around since at least the 1930s. Then they were on radio and sponsored by soap manufacturers. They were dramatic little shows, also known as 'operas'. So that is how they got their name.

I have never been one to get into them much. Some people become very involved with them. One of my grandmothers used to get so mad at a certain woman on some show she watched because the woman was so mean to someone else. To Grandma, watching the soap opera was a kind of voyeurism. I suppose she felt like she were the 'fly on the wall', watching real people live real lives. But you don't have to be a senior citizen to get like that. I have known plenty of twenty and thirty-somethings who are the same way.

When I was young it was assumed one hundred percent of soap opera viewers were women. Subsequent history has proven that to be a false assumption. Plenty of men are just as caught up in the lives of these fictional characters.

The truth is, prime time television series aren't much different. What is different is the time table. Prime time television series provide isolated events in the live of its characters. Soap operas follow their characters almost minute by minute.

I'm not sure how I need to ask this, but can short stories achieve the same thing as a soap opera?

What if I were to create a character, and just follow her daily life and write about it? Like the radio and television soap operas there would be no specific goal to be achieved, or obstacle to overcome. Just the daily things, like having to deal with losing one's job, falling in love, having children, getting divorced, having an affair, learning a new trade.

The key, of course, would be to make the character so interesting that readers would actually care about her, or maybe one of the regular characters around her. I suppose that would be something that might work in a magazine, which attracts readers for others reasons than just to read about the life of Priscilla. (I just opened my baby name book and randomly chose a name that sounded nice.)

Generally when we read a story we are looking for something out of the ordinary. We want something to take us away from the mundane daily life we are living for ourselves. But sometimes, it just might be nice to read about someone else's mundane daily life. Especially if they're kind of like us. So maybe Priscilla is a lesbian. Or bi. Or maybe Priscilla doesn't really know what she is regarding relationships. Maybe she struggles with those because she's still trying to live the life she thinks she's supposed to live. Maybe the life of Priscilla isn't a short story, but rather a long journey.

Is that something worth writing?

Oh. And on a different note, Sarah L has a fantastic post on her blog. Link to it here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stuck in the Middle Without You

In my profile I call myself "genderqueer". When I picked that label I based it solely on a feeling I have inside, and the recommendation of a friend, who actually suggested it to me.

But recently I found a gender test used by psychologists/pschiatrists when counseling patients about gender issues. I'm not seeing a counselor, but I couldn't resist taking the test anyway. What would it tell me? That I'm really a man? That I'm really a woman? What?

There were a lot of questions, and I don't remember but a few of them, but perhaps the greatest indicator of what result was in store for me was this question:

You have the power to change your sex at will. You will be entirely a woman or entirely a man. Which will you be?

There were several choices available, but the one which slammed home to me was:

I would be a woman or a man depending on how I was feeling at the moment.

So do I need to tell you the results from my taking this test? I came out as Androgynous. My internal gender identity is essentially androgynous, both male and female at the same time, or possibly neither.

To tell you the truth, that is exactly how I feel about myself. How did that old commercial go? "Sometimes you feel lke a nut. Sometimes you don't." I have felt all three of those things. I have felt like a man. I have felt like a woman. And I have felt like I was neither a man or a woman. The third case is usually when I start acting "against my sex" and nobody around me will accept the behavior. Then I don't feel like I fit in with anyone.

So, again considering the purpose of this blog, how do I use that in my writing? I should be able to, I think. Will that help me write love stories between women as I want to do, or will the impact be minimal? Or maybe, because I like fantasy, I should write stories in which my main character can change her identity. To be honest, I have been coming up with stories like that since I was in grade school. I've even written one recently where my main character wasn't always the same sex, but it wasn't through an act of her will. (Wasn't done through surgery, either. It is a fantasy story which I won't go into now.)

If the test was accurate and my feelings are true, then it looks like I'm some place in the middle. (At least on the inside.) I do tend to lean more toward female, but I'm not sure how much more.  But if I create a main character who is neither female nor male, will readers identify with her? (Should I say 'her'?) After all, we like to find the right pigeonhole for people so we can interact properly with them. Maybe its just time we built more pigeonholes. The two we have don't seem to be serving everyone well enough anymore.

I can sing the Steelers Wheel song with new enthusiasm now.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Just a Work Friend

Sarah L posted a comment on my previous post that kind of struck a cord with me. It made me feel guilty and ashamed of myself. I tried writing a post about it but I had to delete everything I wrote because I wasn't getting my message across. I guess I don't know how to say it. But I'm going to try again.

Basically, it comes down to this: Why do people feel this horrible need to be mean and cruel to people who are different from them? And why do we try to force everyone around us to be like us?

Again, because this blog is specifically devoted to discussions about women-to-women relationships, I will confine my thoughts to lesbians and bis. Why do we have to be so cruel? And why did I allow myself to be part of that cruelty for so long?

When I was growing up I was taught in church we are supposed to love other people. That is in the Bible. I've read it myself many times. But why was this addendum added? "If they are like the established norms we have created." That is NOT in the Bible. I know. I've read it cover-to-cover several times. A few times looking specifically for that message. It isn't there. So why are we teaching it?

I was not taught to love people who are different than me. I was taught to love people who were like me. Conversely, this also meant that if I wished to be loved, I had to be like the people around me. I had to say the things they said. I had to do the things they did. I had to wear the clothes they said were appropriate for my age and sex. In fact, I remember punishments I received which involved clothing. I would have to wear clothing belonging to a younger age and the opposite sex. This was to show the world around me how 'bad' I was.

And so I would join in and harass people who were "different". Generally, this meant holding boys who didn't "act like boys" and girls who didn't "act like girls" in utter contempt. Inevitably, these children would be pushed into one of two areas. Either they became complete loners, waiting for the day when they could leave our small town rural community and go hide in the city, or they joined the majority and acted like they did. I did the latter. As much as I could.

But you know what? People seem to sense when someone is only pretending, and the older I got, the harder it became to fit in. I became more uncomfortable with things like harassment and began walking away from it. Did you know that if you don't join in with harassment you are somehow guilty of a crime in the minds of those who do? It wasn't until I became older that I found the strength to admit, not just to myself, but to others, that I don't hate people who are different from me. For one thing, I'm not so sure anymore that "they" and I are that different from each other after all.

I commented back to Sarah L that I now openly challenge people who make fun of, or laugh at the discomfort of, GLBT people. It's kind of become a one-person crusade to stand up against the same people who I grew up with and tell them they are wrong. Something I should have done all my life. But didn't. What I find comforting is that a couple of the people I have been challenging seem to have changed their tune (at least around me). Maybe they never wanted to be part of it either, and now that I have challenged them they are relieved they don't have to be that way anymore. Maybe I'm deluding myself. Listening to all the hate messages in the news I would say I am.

I look back on my past and I see certain patterns emerge. At the time I remember only vaguely wondering about it. Now it fills more of my thought.

Why was it that the boys who were attracted to boys, and the girls who were attracted to girls, found me as a person to be friends with? This began in my high school years, after I had quit joining the public harassing. But even after school, when I would be at work, if there was a gay, bi-sexual, or lesbian in the company, they seemed to find me and we would become work friends. (Work friends are people you only talk to at work. You go to lunch together, and sit next to each other in company meetings and at company events, but you don't socialize apart from work.) Often, their sexual orientation was only a rumor, and seldom did they ever talk to me about it. Sometimes they did, but mostly we were just work friends. Often I was the only work friend they had.

I find myself wondering about it. For one thing, I find it interesting that, as I became friends with the gay, bi, lesbian people who had sought me out, the non-gay, non-bi, and non-lesbian people wanted less and less to do with me. 

I think I know now what I am trying to say with this post. I'm trying to say, "I'm sorry", to a lot of people who befriended me, and with whom I was embarassed to be friends. Yes, I was their work friend. I wasn't mean to them. I didn't avoid them. But I was embarassed to be seen with them. How awful I've been. And do you know what's the stupidest part of it? All of my life the one thing I have wanted more than anything else is to be loved and accepted for who I am. And guess what? The people who I was embarassed to be seen with were giving me exactly that. And I never saw it. And now they are all gone from my life. I never socialized with any of them. Instead, I have lived a lonely life. And I'm not talking sex! I'm talking love. I should have loved them back. Because you know what? I think that's all they wanted, too. I didn't give it to them. I was just a work friend. And I'm sorry.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Don't Make Normal Unusual

I've read a lot of books, short stories, and such, and I've watched a lot of movies and television shows. And do you know what just irks me to no end? It when the writer of said book, short story, movie, television show, or such, wishes to show us how normal their lesbian women are by "telling us they're normal". Maybe it's just me, but if the writer feels she needs to go out of her way to tell us something, then it seems pretty clear to me that she doesn't think it's normal.

To me, if a writer is going to write a story (screenplay) about lesbian women, and she wants it to be natural, then don't tell people it's natural, just treat it as natural. If we, as writers, don't make a big deal out of something, our readers should grasp fairly early on it isn't a big deal.

That's the way I want some of my stories to be. That the women are in love, or even married, is not integral to the story. It's just a part of it, like having a heterosexual main character. Maybe she's married. Maybe she has a boyfriend. As a writer we would never think about making a big deal that she's married to a man, would we? Then, if the story doesn't call for it, don't make a big deal that she's married to a woman.

At the same time, I angst about things a lot, and so for a good many of the stories I have been writing the fact that my main character is in love with a woman is important to the story. I recently wrote one in which my main character had to flee her village because she had been discovered with her lover. A friend arrived in the night and helped her escape before the lynch mob arrived. The story followed her flight to a new village, where she had to begin her life anew, only to find a new partner and be caught again.

I suppose there are those who would criticise my main character for becoming involved with another woman so soon after being separated from her previous lover. But the truth was there was no reason for her to believe she would ever see her previous lover again. The friend who helped her escape could not even guarantee her lover got away. Besides, one thing I know for certain from personal experience is this: lonely people are incredibly susceptible to love. We are not promiscuous people. We just want to be loved. And depending on the level of loneliness, and the number of hurts inflicted, we can do a lot of things if we even slightly believe we are loved. And so I felt my character was in character. For who is lonelier than the person whom no one accepts?

I guess I kind of strayed from my original point. Now I'm writing about angst. But angst is important to me right now.

While searching for a place where I might be able to submit some of my work for possible publication I came across something a man wrote about coming out stories. He said he was sick of them. He was tired of the angst and all that went with it. He wanted stories about gay people who were already comfortable with themselves. I understand his point. But at the same time there are a lot of people who are still struggling with who they are. Angst is very much a part of our lives. So I don't think there is no longer any need for such stories. I mean, old-fashioned romance novels are still selling like hot cakes after one hundred years. Right?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why are We Taught to be Ashamed of Who We Are

I'm going to take Sarah's advice. Haven't yet. Kind of timid. But I'm going to do it. I'm going to write a fleshy, down-and-dirty, love scene. Going to use all the words I can think of. Just because. Just to say I wrote them. Just so I can look at it afterward and say, "I wrote that." And not, "I wrote that?" Won't be posting it here, that's for sure. What Sarah said was to keep this one secret. This is just a break out piece. Once that's done perhaps I can write something a bit more tame? More in line with what actually turns me on. I'm blushing writing that. I know I am. My neck feels warm.

It's funny about sex, isn't it? I don't mean "funny ha-ha". I mean funny, as in strange. Well, that was probably a bad way of putting it, too. I don't mean strange sex, I mean talking, or writing, about sex is so different than talking or writing about anything else. I find it far easier to confess my failures as a person, an employee, a parent, a child, a sibling, a friend, an athlete, a writer, a singer, a performer, or anything else, than to admit my failures regarding sex. I can talk about those other things, usually without blushing, with complete ease. But as soon as sex becomes the topic I'm blushing.

Is it me, or am I just the product of how I was raised? How I was raised seems a bit too easy, although it certainly has to come into play. Maybe it's because so much of the punishment I endured as a child was sexual in nature. One wasn't just spanked, one had their pants pulled down. Generally in public. Bedwetters were publically diapered and laughed at. That was the thing, you know. Punishment not only involved physical pain, but emotional pain always had to accompany it. Humiliation was the order of the day. And it always seemed to revolve around sex somehow.

And so we grow up with all kinds of inhibitions about sex. Taste a beer and one might get into trouble. What was the standard punishment for trying beer and cigarettes when I was young? "Make 'em drink until they get sick." "Make 'em smoke until they're ill." No one ever did that with sex. Get caught masterbating, or worse, experimenting with someone else, and the cry certainly wasn't, "Make 'em f--- until they throw up." No. The whole thing was treated as though it was the worst shameful act that could happen. More beatings and more humiliations.

And so we learn to keep it secret. That's private. Hell, I find it easier to talk about problems going to the bathroom than I do problems about sex. I suppose that's fine, but I want to write. I really do. And if I'm going to write something that seems real, I have to write in a way that presents whatever I write about as being real. And so I have to get past the past - without actually forgetting it. There is great value in remembering the pain. The shame. The anguish. The utter humiliation. Remembering these things helps me write characters who are experiencing pain, shame, anguish, and utter humiliation.

But how do I write a character who is comfortable with her sex, her sexuality, and her sexual preference (be it straight, bi, or lesbian, or whatever) when I am not so sure I am comfortable with those things for myself? I find myself envying those people who have come to terms with who they are regarding sex in all its forms. I think, if I could just be at peace with who and what I am I just might be able to write the things I want to write. But it's this shame thing. Still, maybe I can use that, too. Maybe that's where the tenderness comes from. The loving compassion which, to me, absolutely has to be part of good sex. If I could just put my feelings into it.

Meanwhile, I have an assignment. Going to write some rough, fleshy, down-and-dirty sex scenes. I doubt I'll find them arrousing, but the ice will be broken and maybe I can get through to the other side.

Good luck to me, huh?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why Be Afraid and Embarrassed

So I thought I would expand the idea of being "jarred" out of the story because of the way a love scene has been written.

Being taken out of the story can happen for other reasons than love scenes. Explicit anything can do that if it isn't done correctly. This is true with gore, profanity, humor, infodumping, etc. But as this blog seeks to discuss love scenes and such in particular I will confine my comments to that.

When I read a story I always try to identify with a character. Usually this will be the main character, but not always. Sometimes one of the supporting cast catches my fancy and I really identify with her (or him, or even it). Generally, the only character to get a love scene is the main character and whoever she is with. In these cases I identify with the main character.

For me, identifying with a character in a love scene means I am imagining myself doing/receiving whatever the main character is doing/receiving. This is where I suppose love senes become especially difficult. If the main character does something I haven't done (or thought of doing), I might recoil. The same is true if the main character has something done to her. This is where personal sensibility can get in the way of good writing, I think.

For instance, suppose I want my main character to be a wild and bold person, willing to try a variety of things. What happens when I put her into love scenes? The likelihood is I become personally embarrassed by her boldness. For just as when I read, when I write I have to "become" the characters. I have to know who is shy and timid and who is dominant and daring. I have to be able to write people who aren't me. With other characteristics it seems I have little trouble doing this. I don't think of myself as being a hateful person, but I think I can write hateful people. I think I can write cruel well enough. But when it comes to sex I'm embarrassed. Here is where I'm afraid to trust my imagination. Why?

I kind of wonder if it isn't because sexual things are so personal. In a way, it's like they cut to the core of who we are. And so the unspoken voice in my head is reading over my shoulder as I write. Everthing is fine. There are occassional comments about this or that. And then I write the love scene. "You find that erotic? That's sick/stupid/dumb/strange/etc."

I could write what I have actually done myself, but then the voice might say, "You did what? And you found that arousing? You don't really do that when you climax, do you?"

It's just so personal. But isn't that what makes a written character come alive? Is writing as much about courage as it is about knowing how to say something?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Can You Write a Love Scene

I'm up during the night a lot. It's when I do some of my best writing.

Lately I have been exploring new relationships in my writing; mainly, lesbian and bi-sexual characters. I have never written about sexual things before. In fact, I have been quite conservative in my stories until the last couple of years. But this year I seem to have awakened a creative area I never knew I had, and I find it most exciting. Even exhilirating.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to write pornography, and I don't think I can write erotica. But loving relationships. That I think I can do. But love scenes are part of loving relationships - or can be. I've been struggling with those a bit. To be honest: I haven't been all that successful.

If anyone has any thoughts, I am more than willing to hear them. How does one write an arousing love scene without becoming pornographic? I don't want to abandon my new world of creativity. I want my women to love each other. But I want them to be real about it.