Towards Moonlight

From “The Morning After” Episode of The Fosters on ABC Family

Last Tuesday night my mother, Jenna, comes into the house

I’m sitting in the living room with my other mom, Kelly

Jenna asks us if we could take a drive with her

So we all get in the car

And as we drive, silence creeps along like the cracks of a frozen lake

Our hearts begin to thud slowly…off-beat

And I wonder and then I know

And I didn’t imagine it would end like this

I didn’t imagine an ending at all

But if they were going to tell me about the divorce, what a way to do it

I sit in the back seat and think about how lucky we were to have had this family

Their 20 years of marriage

My 15 with them

I remember all of us driving miles out in the high way until I fell asleep in the back seat

I don’t want this life to end

Jenna starts to talk

She tells me that our car is just 13 miles away from reaching 100,000 miles now

I wonder if this is part of the divorce speech or just a distraction

I feel angry

They should just say it

She tells me the reason we took this ride is so that we could all be there to reach 100,000 miles together as the people who matter in our life

Slowly I realize that this isn’t a break up ride or a divorce ride or a separation ride

This is a 100,000 mile ride

We’re in the car and we’re driving on a Tuesday night

And we’re 99,987 miles in

We stop for onion rings and sundaes

Keep driving, 99,993 miles – Stevie Nicks

99,997 miles – Elton John

When we get to 99,999 miles we hold hands, blast Melissa Etheridge and sing Lucky at the top of our lungs

There are too many reasons that my Mamas found love in each other’s presence

There are too many moments when we are unbreakable and this moment we are one family

Constructing road as we go

Burning bridges behind us

Adding mileage like graceful aging

Driving in our car towards moonlight…

Performed by Garrett, a friend of the Foster family. I didn’t really like the character Garrett until this poem. It’s like he captured a “real family” moment. And showed how a “real family” doesn’t have to be defined just one way.

Why the Country Music world broke my heart…

I grew up in California and, despite the grossly mis-informed stereotype the rest of the states seem to have about California, many of us are actually huge Country Music fans. Every summer since I was about 12, my sister and I would try and see every Country artist that came through our city. One summer we saw 12 artists in just 4 months!

When I was 13, I got a job working at the Iowa State Fair where my cousins lived and raised animals. During the weeks of the Fair, dozens of artists (mostly Country) came to play at the Grandstand, a huge outdoor facility that sat over 10,000 people. By the second or third year that I worked at the Fair, I had figured out how to sneak into the Grandstand to see the best artists. I knew it was wrong but what can I say? I was a mischievous teen!

One year, Country music artist Chely Wright came to play the Grandstand and I snuck in to watch her rehearse. I loved her hair and I remember wanting to look just like her. I never could have imagined, all those years ago watching her sing “Shut Up and Drive”, that I’d relate to her so much as an adult. Or that it would be Chely’s struggle in the Country Music world that would tear my heart to pieces.

Chely Wright

On May 3, 2010, Chely became the first commercial Country Music artist to come out as a Lesbian. I remember when she did, and I remember the minor stir it caused, but I guess I was largely naive to the real struggle Chely faced as she made the decision to be honest about her life. I recently came across the documentary “Wish Me Away“, filmed over the course of the 3 years prior to Chely’s coming out. It includes very personal interviews and conversations, as well as video diaries Chely took in the weeks before the announcement.

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As I watched the documentary, my heart broke little by little. It broke as Chely told her story about being afraid to come out to her Father, only to later realize that there was nothing to fear. It broke when Chely recognized that there would always be people in the world that wouldn’t get the choices she made. It broke watching her struggle with what “normal” is and how to just fit in. And, most of all, it broke when she spoke about the real possibility of being cast out in the Country music industry.

In one interview in the documentary, Chely talks about having dinner with a male Country star a few years back. Rumors of Chely’s sexuality had been circling and this unknown artist flat-out asked Chely, “You’re not gay are you?” After Chely denied it, he apparently responded with, “Well, good, because Country Music won’t have it.” One of her producers, Rodney Crowell, expressed his fear of her being “iced out” of Nashville because of the way the Country Music world views homosexuality. Author and Country Music Historian Don Cusic predicted that many fans might consider it “a betrayal”. While being interviewed by a Birmingham radio station, Chely was told by the DJ to just “Shut up and sing.”

For so long, I have adored Country music and the artists that create it. It breaks my heart to know that so many of those singers I’ve loved for all these years, can’t accept their fellow Country artist just because she’s gay. A few weeks after coming out, Chely appeared on Oprah, who asked Chely if any Country stars had reached out in support. Chely replied that only two had so far.

I refuse to accept that Chely’s brave decision is something that will end her career. I have downloaded each one of her songs on iTunes (even ones I already owned on CD’s) and bought her memoir, “Like Me” for my Nook. Maybe you aren’t a Country music fan. And maybe you’ve never heard of Chely Wright. But perhaps you can help spread the word about her courage. And maybe her story is one to inspire others out there to be as brave as she was.

Inspired, Scared, Courageous, Scared

While absent-mindedly trolling the Internet just moments ago, I found the most amazing article about a Middle School History teacher coming out to her students. As I read the story, I felt like I was reading about my own life as it happened in an alternate reality. In that reality, I was brave. I came out to my students from the get-go. And I stood up to those that tried to knock me down. But it wasn’t me. This was someone else’s story – a story that I have for so long wanted to make my own.

The teacher’s name is Jody Sokolower. To me, she’s a hero. Reading her words, I started to feel so ready to do what she did. I began to imagine her story playing out in my own school, with my students and administrators. And then, just as quickly as I felt ready, fear crept in. That is where I am stuck. For every part of me that feels inspired and ready and brave, fear looms like a dark cloud ready to squash it. Each time I imagine all of the students that are just waiting for a Gay or Lesbian role model, fear reminds me of the parents, administrators and other students that could be ready to pounce. How did she do it? How did she get so brave?

In her story, Jody talks about how it started with the question, “Are you married?” I can’t even count the number of times I have gotten this question from my students. And instead of holding my head up to the world with the truth, I brush past it with a simple, “Nope.” Over and over again, I have had the opportunity to come out to my students, but I always find a way around it.

Last year during the Presidential Election, my Honors classes worked the entire month of October on a project in which they researched the many Presidential candidates and studied their specific beliefs and policy platforms. One of their assignments was to come in ready for a Socratic Seminar, during which the students would be discussing some of the “hot-button” topics of the 2012 campaign, including Same-Sex Marriage. For this type of lesson, the desks are set up in two circles – an inner circle for discussion and an outer circle for observation. The entire seminar is driven by the students – I simply watch and take notes. It wasn’t long before the discussion settled onto Gay Marriage. I held my breath, curious to hear the opinions of my students. And as each student contributed their personal beliefs, I was shocked. Even though a few students had some religious reservations on the topic, most of the class was in agreement that Same-Sex Marriage should be legalized. I felt myself getting choked up as I watched. One student said that he didn’t even understand why the government should get involved in people’s personal lives, and that soon this topic was going to be as ridiculous as slavery once had been.

I can see the opinion on homosexuality of the American Youth changing before my eyes, but I still cannot shake the fears. Unfortunately, I can no longer tell if these are genuine fears I have, or simply excuses to avoid the issue. Is the backlash I am anticipating real? Will there really be an angry mob ready to mobilize? Or is it just something I am creating as a why of putting it off?

I know this: Jody Sokolower’s story has made me feel inspired and scared. I know, too, that I cannot continue to keep my life bottled up. This needs to happen. And the sooner I make that clear to myself, the sooner I can get to work on clearing that dark cloud, and moving on.

Coming Out Again and Again

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What many outside the LGBT community don’t realize is that “coming out” doesn’t just happen once. It is not set and sealed after only one awkward conversation. And while each “coming out” conversation did get easier for me, it still had a way of making me feel like I was odd – like I had to clarify my life against the norm.

When I graduated from college and got my teaching job, I made the decision to not be forthright with my lifestyle right away. I was in a new state in a new setting. I did not know a single soul at the school and, to be honest, I was scared. I was afraid of what the other teachers might say behind my back. I was afraid that students would find out. And most of all I was afraid that parents would rise up against me, pitchforks in hand, ready to have my head. It wasn’t until my second year at the school, after I had made some good friends, that I came out. I didn’t even think too much about it. One day, the conversation offered up an opening and I took it. What was surprising (or perhaps not at all so) was that my new friends almost seemed bored with the news. Like, “Yeah, so? And I’m straight.” It was great! I didn’t feel odd. I just felt like it was normal. And that was when I started to realize that it is normal.

My sister once said to me, “Why would you ever hide being gay? I don’t understand why anyone would want to hide who they really are.” I explained to her that, while I agreed with her in my head, my heart fought back. Coming out to family can be difficult enough. But being out from the get-go to co-workers and strangers leaves the heart vulnerable. We put ourselves out there for ridicule, criticism and hate every time we step out from behind the closet doors.

That same year that I came out to my co-workers at school, another female teacher in my building brought in pictures of her new baby girl. I was pretty confused at first – I didn’t remember this woman being pregnant. I didn’t work directly with her and rarely saw her throughout the week, but I was sure I would have been aware of a pregnancy. As I flipped through the photos of the beautiful baby in the hospital, one photo made my breath catch. It was a picture of a woman in a hospital bed holding the newborn girl, while my co-worker smiled proudly beside both. She was gay! I was so exhilarated I couldn’t even speak. I learned a valuable lesson that day: Sometimes we step out of the closet waiting for the attack of the Monsters, but we forget to look for the company of a Friend.

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” –Hermann Hesse

Coming Out

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Just days after my roommate, Jamie, and I admitted our feelings to each other, I was on a flight back home for the Summer. It was going to be so tough being away now that we had finally blurted out how we really felt. It was all brand new to me. I was excited and scared and nervous all at the same time. It never occurred to me at that time that I’d have to tell my parents. I was only 19. We don’t think that far into the future at that age – I had all the time in the world. Little did I know, that conversation was only weeks away….

Jamie and I talked everyday. It was a challenge because this was just before cell phones became a must. I bought long-distance calling cards each week at the drug store so I wouldn’t get caught jacking up my parents’ phone bills. When I think back, I remember feeling so stealth. I thought there was no way that anyone in my family could possibly suspect something was going on between me and my college roommate. I mean, she wasn’t even in the same state!

Well, I guess when you’re really in love, it seeps out of you. There’s no way to hide it. And I guess that’s how I knew right away that it was real and that it wasn’t a college phase. My Mom calls it Twitterpated – like from Bambi. When two creatures are so in love, they can only see each other, and they don’t care about the rest of the world. Last night Jamie and I were looking through some boxes of old photos of us. I found a stack of letters we’d written back and forth. Reading the letters made me feel like a kid again. The giddy, love-stained words were so honest…and completely Twitterpated.

In July, my father took my sister and I camping at the same lake we camped every summer of our lives. One morning while we were sitting watching the boats on the lake, he asked to take a walk. We found a picnic bench in the shade and sat down. I was feeling a bit uneasy, but I never could have anticipated what he was going to say. My father simply looked me in the eye and said, “I’d like to talk to you about Jamie.” I nearly died. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I had time. I was supposed to have all the time in the world. I tried to play it off by responding with, “What do you mean?”, but I knew he knew. My father knows me better than anyone else in my family, and I just knew he knew.

I hear horror stories of people coming out to their parents. Some get yelled at. Some get disowned. Some are even attacked. Since I hadn’t even contemplated coming out to my father yet, I hadn’t considered his reaction – but I should have known how it would go. He asked me if I was truly happy. My answer was simple: I absolutely was. And that was it. My father told me he was there to support me in anything I did and he has always kept his promise. From that point on, I didn’t hide my relationship from my family. It was difficult to actually say it sometimes, for fear of even the slightest bit of rejection. But my father proved something to me that day on the picnic bench. He proved that even if the entire world did not accept our relationship, I had family that did. It made me feel like the luckiest girl on Earth.

I do not ever take that gift for granted and I thank my father as often as I can for being such amazing Dad.