Today (well, yesterday now) SCOTUS decided that same-sex couples can legally get married. I was in my house, and Mo texted me the news. That’s how I found out. I got on Facebook and suddenly rainbows were everywhere. In almost every one of my friends’ news feeds, there was celebration and tears of joy – queer folks and allies alike. And oh, the rainbows. They were all over everything all day today, on FB, on Instagram (my two social media-thingies), in tweets by brand names from Macy’s to Starbucks. Regard said tweets here. There’s even a rainbow across the top of WordPress, as I type.
I’ve said this before, so bear with me. When I came out 23 years ago, these rainbows would be nowhere, because this wouldn’t even be in the Supreme Court, because no queer in their right mind would go and ask for a marriage license and risk getting the shit kicked out of them by anyone who found out. Or maybe they did try, but I’m telling you, things were different then. There was no Ellen and no Rachel Maddow being totally out of the closet right there on television. We were scared, because most folks thought we were disgusting. In 1993 my artsy-fartsy boarding high school started its first support group for LGBT folks. We had gotten that far, anyway. There was immediate backlash, from parents and from my fellow students, some of whom turned out some bona fide gay bashing. Like, open taunting, hanging a guy from an upper story window, that kind of thing. There was a particular group of boys that did the worst of it. I personally got followed and jeered at, and another time got followed and pelted with rocks and ice. When i told a trusted teacher that I had been attacked, he just looked uncomfortable and shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal. When I told some of my friends, they did the same.
Like I said, I’ve told this story before, but it still feels important to tell this, especially today. In ’93 things sucked for me as a bi girl, and today there are rainbows flying everywhere you look and same-sex couples were granted the right to legally marry, and almost everyone I know supports equal rights for LGBT folks, right out in public. It feels incredibly brave to me to be out of the closet, or to be publicly an ally, because I still haven’t caught up from the 80s and early 90s when being out was incredibly brave. Today my younger friends don’t even blink an eye that I’m partnered with another woman. It’s just not on their radar as anything out of the ordinary. They’re like, you’re gay, yeah, and? Whatevs. Even the neighborhood kids are on board. My kiddo got told by somebody’s visiting cousin that it was gross to have two moms, and her friends told him to shut up. It’s a small thing, but it’s healing. I know it’s not like this everywhere, and everything isn’t roses and cupcakes for queer people. But this whole thing, the rainbows, the pride, the support and activism of allies, the “yeah, and?” attitude of the millennials, is healing. I believe I have finally roamed around to my point. Thank you for the healing, friends. Thank you for today.
[addendum: The next steps in our LGBT journey – stopping violence, ending suicide, paying attention to our marginalized brothers and sisters, passing legislation to protect LGBT people from getting fired – will happen. I’m sure of it now.]
When I was nineteen, I went through the worst depression I’ve ever experienced. It was the summer before my freshman year in college. I was living with my dad and brother in dad’s little saltbox house on Westport Island, Maine. This is where my grandparents, Bill and Gene Bonyun, had settled our little branch of the Bonyun family, on a coastal saltwater farm. Gene, or Nonie as I called her, died when I was little. My grandfather, Pop-Pops, was one of the most influential people in my life, kind and dear, vibrantly youthful into old age.
That summer, when I wasn’t laid up in bed, I was across the woods at Thomas Farm, drinking tea with Pops. He knew me well, and he saw how desperately sick I was. He arranged for his friend Paul Lynn, a potter, to bring an extra pottery wheel up to Westport for me. They put it in the boat house, got me all set up with pickle buckets and tools and old wooden shelves for my work. I dug clay from the banks of the cove and spent the rest of that summer sitting at my wheel, throwing pots and cups and vases, with the old boat house doors open to Thomas Cove and Knubble Bay beyond, the smell of the sea and mud flats blending with the smell of pickles, the sound of wind and ravens and gulls filling my head.
As you might imagine, in that setting, I was healed. The depression melted quietly and completely away. By the end of the summer I packed up my things and left, ready for what came next, my spirit renewed. I left all my clay pots on the shelves, raw and un-fired, there in the boat house.
They stayed there for twenty-one years. Years after my dear grandfather had gone on, I found myself standing in the dim light of the boat house, on a cloudy day, gazing at the shelves full of my old pots. Many were broken, a few missing, but there were some that were still whole. Old and dusty, but alive, still raw and un-fired, ready for what came next.
I took them home and, with the help of a potter friend, glazed and fired them. I got them back today. Four pieces, finished. Tonight, I took one of the pieces, a wide round tea cup, poured in hot water, dropped in a bag of Sleepytime, added cream and honey, and enjoyed a first cup of tea from this cup made by my younger hands. I’m back with my Pops, sitting at the table holding warm mugs, and I can see his smile again, and that eternal twinkle in his kind, kind eyes. He’s telling me again that beautiful things should be used, not set up on a shelf to gather dust. Like this good Westport clay.
I came out 21 years ago. I used to look at those middle-aged dykes who had been out that long and subconsciously believe I’d never be that old. Am I middle aged? I don’t really care. I’m totally immature, and that’s all that matters.
I felt my first actual attraction when I was 16, to Mari, a beautiful girl at boarding school. I was lying on her bed with her and suddenly just really needed to kiss her. This realization didn’t shock or dismay me; I just thought, oh, okay, and went about my business for a few years before eventually saying it out loud to my good friend. This is how the conversation went:
K: I’m bi.
G: I’m bi too.
Then I came out to my family. This is sort of how the convo went with Mom:
G: I’m bi.
Mom: I figured.
My coming out, as you can see, was not really a big deal. It’s a bigger deal for other people, folks who get kicked out of the house, lose friends, get disowned. This National Coming Out Day, I honor their struggle. I want people to look at this blog when I’m old, or when I’m dead and gone in another 40 or so years, and be amazed that there was ever a time when someone could get away with shit like that.
p.s.: Actually, Mom said she was proud of me when I came out to her. Then she spent a lot of time quietly worrying for my safety. I am one lucky kid.
p.p.s: I didn’t kiss Mari. I still wonder if she wanted to also.
p.p.p.s.: It was college when I finally kissed my first girl. 30 seconds later I kissed my second girl. That’s a story for another time. Or another blog.
In other kid news, Ry’s Big 10 birthday party is tomorrow. There will be a ginormous chocolate vanilla swirl from-a-box cake, featuring pirates on horseback (her theme choice this year) in buttercream frosting, three kinds of ice cream, snacks that will include the obligatory healthy items that will go untouched, and in the big backyard, an epic food fight. Weapons include oatmeal, spaghetti, mashed potatoes and jello.
At this time ten years ago the baby had finally been turned from jackknife breech to deliverable vertex, I had had to quit working because hauling old Kirby vacuums up and down stairs was simply no longer physically possible, I could eat apples only, and I felt like I must have my own gravitational pull. Also, when Melissa wouldn’t call the neighbors about their mini schnauzer’s constant, ear-piercing yapping, I stomped in a rage to the door, slammed it open, braced my feet on the porch, feeling the trick board sagging under the huge weight of my own body, and shouted “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!” at the top of my lungs.
She started her life with us as Waffles, an 8-week-old in the shelter, Ry’s new puppy. A little black mini Australian shepherd-beagle-pug with white and brown legs (cinnamon and sugar paws), a white tipped tail, a charming milk-dipped chin and big brown eyes with the bugginess of a pug and the intensity of a herding dog. She was very sick with kennel cough. I had just had abdominal surgery, and little baby Sugarpaw and I lay in bed healing together for long weeks, quiet and companionable. When she was up and about, however, it all changed, and I swore I’d never, ever have another puppy again. The chewing and destruction of things and needle sharp play-teeth was more than any of us had reckoned on. We called her Suicide Pup, for the nectarine pit she swallowed (vet visit), the staple she swallowed (discovered at the same visit), the wild mushrooms she ate (home vomit remedy), and the time she jumped out of the car window on a busy road, which probably still gives the driver who was behind us bad dreams. She tried to get Bob the cat to claw her eye out, by shoving her face into him, and instead got a nasty little infected claw puncture just below the eye from which I disgustingly, horrifyingly pulled a large … well, lets just say something was living in there. That should freak out my mother enough.
But puppies grow up into dogs, thank god, and Paw was a one of a kind dog. She was beautifully sleek. Her odd eyes coupled with almost-underbite teeth and a tongue that would often just peep out from the end of her shortish muzzle made it hard to believe there was such cuteness in the world. She was very loyal and a great guard dog. Despite her 30-pound size, she could act intimidating when strangers came knocking, which comforted me when I was on my own in the house. She was an anxious dog, probably owing to her breed, but was able to have some happy years thanks to a great vet with a knowledge of medication. She loved her adoptive brother Jake and they enjoyed great bouts of ferocious-sounding play fighting, then would lick each other affectionately, tails wagging. She adored Ry and me and Mo, and many people who came to visit got the Total Adoring Love-Eyes Treatment. She loved to have her belly rubbed. She loved a spot of sun. Her favorite pastime was catching Frisbee, and she was amazing at it. She was strong, fast and athletic, and would have been a great agility dog. She enjoyed catching snowballs in the winter and tennis balls the rest of the year. She swam only once, and it was because she was desperate to fetch a stick from the current. She was a great digger. When I was in the garden I’d bring her out under the honeysuckle, and she just about dug that tree out of the ground. She had a project in the front yard that turned out to be a trench. When she dug, she made these little groaning, mumbling, whining sounds, like a Tonton from Star Wars. Her nickname was often Tonton. She made me laugh.
That was Sugarpaw. The vet, observing her after her death, believed she probably had a brain tumor that caused the extreme heightening of anxiety and aggression that occurred at the end of her life. She’s buried now beside Bob and Sunny, and various pet rodents of Ry’s, behind our house, in the shade of a pine. I hope the Frisbees fly free where you are, sweet Paw. Our Good Dog.
Mo the Mermaid King: A Tale of Adventure, Intrigue and One Seriously Attractive Merperson Being Taken on Vacation With People She Loves for her 50th Birthday
by Rocky and Blue