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This piece is airing worldwide this week on This Way Out (TWO), the syndicated LGBT radio show.  Click here to listen to the entire show.

(TWO is the first international LGBTQ radio news magazine.)

Everyone On The Moon is Essential Personnel 

Stories by Julian K. Jarboe 

The title, Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel of this collection of short stories by Julian K. Jarboe (Lethe Press; 2020) is prophetic for the times we are in. 

In this collection where the future is now, gender is fluid and climate catastrophe and spirituality collide. 

This well-written, slim collection is Jarboe’s first book, and it proves that there are some new frontiers. Reading it got me wondering if sarcasm is inherently queer. Sarcasm has been used by queers certainly – it does protect us and point out the truth. And, perhaps most importantly, sarcasm can be bitingly humorous. But, in this collection, sarcasm is elevated to art. 

In a story called “Self-Care,” which is  set in the future, the narrator ends up living in a church which mandates that all residents attend a therapy group of which Jarboe writes, “Everyone talked like they’d invented feelings. This one person was so hung up on not suffering enough to feel like they could REALLY call themselves marginalized….” 

In this same story the narrator befriends another transgender person living at the same shelter who is described as a “tall beautiful butch with stone gray eyes named ‘Bert, short for Roberta,’ which she said in one breath with no inflection.” 

Bert is a former truck driver which she strongly identifies with – but at the same time, she defends the robots who took her place. 

Bert keeps mentioning that she is a truck driver.  The narrator, a self-described “gay transsexual witch,” responds by saying, “Well you’d still be driving A TRUCK if you hadn’t been replaced with a machine. 

“I worked sixteen-hour days every day, and robots can do twenty-four straight. Nothing wrong with that. No self-driving semi ever called me a he-she or pulled a knife out to ‘show me’ at a rest stop.” 

When I finish reading “Everyone On The Moon Is Essential Personnel — Stories: Julian K. Jarboe” from Lethe Press, I am left with more questions than answer. It is a volume of stories that made me think. But there’s no denying that it is written for our time. The future is here and gender is fluid. 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here

It happened again. This time someone sent me a link to a video that, is my view, is intended to make LGBTQ people (especially those in a religious context) feel bad about themselves.

The video is supposedly about former LGBTQ people who are now straight Christians and who say that when people speak against conversion therapy it makes them feel invisible. Not only did they convert to being straight but they blame all the problems connected to being LGBTQ in a homophobic society (including alcoholism and attempts at suicide) on their former selves when they were LGBTQ. They say all their problems went away when they embraced their religious teachings and became straight.

This brings to mind a line in a poem (by the excellent poet Jim Cory) Which says something to the extent of: believe me it’s not me, it’s you.

In other words, the problems caused by a homophobic society — of internalized self hatred — are not the fault of the individual. They are the fault of the homophobic society that makes people hate themselves.

I am an Unitarian lay minister, but I give this advice with my secular thinking cap on: There are plenty of welcoming religions (religions that accept everyone including LGBTQ people) and if a church discriminates they (and their friends, relatives, and other allies) will leave — and take their money with them.

In other words, homophobia is not good for the people who practice it.

No one likes to feel erased — and believe me it’s a feeling I’m familiar with. But the people in this video should listen to the announcer’s tone when he says the word “homosexual.” His sneering emphasis is one of distaste.

It makes me wonder what he is covering up.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

This interview between John Robbins and Cory Booker is so good that I watched it twice and decided to share it with you.
I was struck by the fact that Senator Cory Booker (when he was a presidential candidate) talked to small farmers in the Midwest and connected their needs to those of animal rights activists and then crafted legislation that will help us all.
I also agreed with the part where Booker says he “leads with love,” by taking the judgment out of viewing people’s food choices.
 I was fortunate to just happen to become a vegan (for health reasons) last year when my acupuncturist suggested it.
In my family history, people died young (in their forties) because of various health complications including heart disease and alcoholism. So when I heard that you don’t have to succumb to genetics, my ears picked up.
As a result of becoming vegan, both my partner and I feel better than we ever thought we could.
We were considering becoming vegan for a few years before I had surgery for a rather large kidney stone (that plus a subsequent infection caused me to see the acupuncturist) because we had been visiting the cows in a local urban high school farm and learned what happened to them.
Then in the process of becoming vegan, I learned more about the effect of the meat-industry on the planet. So the result of that, having compassion for the other animals, being concerned for the planet AND having a health condition, made it very easy to be a vegan.
Plus, I really detest being lied to.
Now is the time to take stock.
To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.
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Maybe it’s my Buddhist nature that makes me so good at ignoring things. Or maybe it’s because I’m a lesbian of a certain age, and I’ve had plenty to ignore over the years.

It could also be that patriarchy is boring as well as toxic and I have lived – thriving  — by ignoring it.

So when I was once again harassed online about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books; 2018), I sighed and was tempted to ignore it. I did for a few days. I was working on something new, making it easy to have single focus. But this homophobic response to THEY stayed in the back of my mind. I argued with myself that I was obliged to respond because I wasn’t just speaking for myself.

The online harassment that I speak of came in the form of two webpages (from different sites) that quoted extensively from homophobic passages in the Bible. Yes, there are homophobic passages in the Bible. The webpage talks about “distorted desires” and quotes extensively from the Apostle Paul (who scholars think was gay, hence his internalized homophobia).

One translation that was sent to me was “male prostitutes and homosexual offenders.” For some reason, I found this very amusing. The fact that anti “homosexual” sentiment does exist in the Bible is proof that queer people did exist in biblical times — the premise of THEY.

One website has a number of videos of gay-looking white men talking about the dangers of pursuing same sex attractions and ignoring what is in the bible. My knee-jerk response was a very loud voice in my mind that said, “IT IS NOT HEALTHY TO SUPPRESS YOURSELF.”

I’m tempted to say it was the voice of God. I thought I was kidding, but who knows?

It might have been her.

But it’s true: suppression of the self is not healthy for children or adults. It can – and often does – lead to self-destructive behavior.

I won’t get into why I think that there are entire websites devoted to the anti-gay parts of the Bible. (But I will say — It seems like someone doth protest too much.)

The fact that there is anti-gay sentiment in the Bible, doesn’t mean that LGBTQ people cannot find a spiritual home in religion. In fact, there are many welcoming congregations. This means that all are welcome, regardless of their sexual orientation.

This morning, I attended digital services at the Unitarian Universalist church of which I am a member. The service reminded all of us that we are in a period of change and to have hope for that change. The lay minister who led the service quoted the late John Lewis extensively, reminding us that we are here to make “good trouble.”

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist digital Poetry Sunday Service. The service is an annual UU tradition.

The YouTube video of my talk is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

https://youtu.be/grjVeHZCJV4

 

Janet Mason on Sappho

Author and UU lay minister Janet Mason reflects on Sappho and on her own experiences learning Greek in this reflection given (digitally) to the congregation …

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Twenty years ago, I went on a pilgrimage to the homeland of the poet Sappho to the island of Lesvos in Greece. A few months ago, when I attended the digital poetry group of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration, Kin asked me what I meant when I used the word “pilgrimage.” I replied that it was just like a religious pilgrimage except in a poetic context.  Sandy, who was also in the group, asked me what drew me to Sappho.  As an adult, after coming out as a lesbian in my early twenties, I saw Sappho as the pinnacle – in my mind the connection between pre-written matrilineal history and the later history (sometimes referred to as the patriarchy in which she was preserved – perhaps in no small part because she echoed Homer). 

Sappho was perhaps one of the first poets to place herself firmly in the center of her poem, in the center of her own existence and in ours.

Shortly after the poetry group, I began learning Greek. (The language instruction that I use is Greekpod.com.  I like the way the lessons are organized, and that the website has easy access audio as well as written instruction.)

The Greek language has long been an interest of mine.  As a writer, I have an interesting in improving my brain and learning the characters and structure of a language that will allow me to go deeper in my writing. I also have a memory of going into a bookstore in Athens and asking for the poet Sappho in her native language. “The Poetess?” the proprietor responded – “Sapfo?”

I nodded and then he disappeared into the backroom and brought out a slim volume of Sappho’s work written in classical Greek with a modern Greek translation. And so now, by learning Greek I am taking the first step to being able to read this volume.  Learning Greek also brings back memories from that pilgrimage and remembrances of snatches of the language that I used to get around.

Learning Greek brings me joy – as much joy as reading good poetry. I am going to end by reading a poem that I wrote on that trip to Greece which is published in my book titled, “a woman alone.”

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It is a poem written for, perhaps, this exact moment in time when self-reflection and joy are essential.

 

a woman alone
hears darkness
rising in cloaked
incantation—
bearded in black robes,
priests caught
in their own shadows—
a woman alone
descends
into courtyards,
their candles
ablaze with their own light.

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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I am really enjoying THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders. It’s making me want to go back and refresh my memory on how some of these Bible stories have usually been taught. I especially appreciate that you give us a glimpse at so many times when there is a gap between what Tamar is thinking and what she says. I like that there’s a general underlying premise that we can all think about weighty issues like this for ourselves and figure out our own way forward.

—ShellEy Krause

 

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here
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Yesterday, I got harassed online by someone saying he felt sorry for me because I had to live my life in a fairy tale. After a quick scan of this person’s Twitter page, I determined that he wasn’t conservative. Rather he was just a Negative Nelly — a type that is often found online.

I turned the harassment into a Buddhist exercise and sent him positive energy.  Then I did a mantra of positivity for all the negative people.  And then I ended up sending positive energy to the whole world.

I thought I was done with the entire thing, but my mind kept returning to the idea of fairy tales.  I like fairy tales. And rather than living in them and being trapped by them, in my book it’s okay to inhabit them and change them. It’s okay to wake up and write a different ending.

In my book Tea Leaves, a memoir of mother’s and daughters (Bella Books; 2012), I write about my grandmother working in a textile factory when she was a young woman. Naturally she would have thought about fairy tales. They do connect us and inform us.  I imagine one of the primary purposes of fairy tales was to convince young girls and women that the frog would turn into a prince. All you had to do was to marry him.

In Tea Leaves, my young grandmother is inspired by the rhythms of the heddles in the textile factory to daydream and those daydreams were informed by fairy tales. As a girl, my grandmother had daydreamed about becoming an actress. She went as far as taking bit parts in a neighborhood theater company. But being an actress was a pipe dream.  As my grandmother later — repeatedly, habitually — said to my mother “Art doesn’t put food on the table.” Since she was a young girl, my mother had shown considerable artistic talent.

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But my grandmother was right. Art doesn’t usually put food on the table. But it does feed the spirit. So my grandmother worked in a factory. Even as a young young woman raised on fairy tales, she must have realized that the workers were treated badly and paid worse. At the end of her daydream, the rhythm of the heddles turned into the heavy sounds of workers marching in the streets.

My grandmother went on to become a single mother. The frog she married didn’t turn into a prince. And then he left.  She gave birth to my mother, a thwarted artist, a feminist ahead of her time, and a frustrated housewife. My mother gave birth to me. In elementary school, I briefly wanted to be an actress. In high school, I designed silkscreens.  I had a lot of pent up rage in me and I eventually became a writer. It took three generations, but we got there.  And fairy tales were part of the process.

“Not only is dairy not ‘essential,’ factory farming, including dairy farming, is a breeding ground for disease,” the actress and vegan activist wrote in an op-ed slamming the governor’s dairy-focused Nourish New York initiative.

— Edie Falco quoted in VegNews

My partner and I have long been big fans of Edie Falco.  So when I learned that she was a vegan activist, I was elated.  When the network drama ‘Tommie” was cancelled, we were both bummed. ‘Tommie” starred Edie Falco as an out lesbian police chief in Los Angeles It was the only network drama that we watched. Then my partner observed that it must have been too much for the mainstream — an out lesbian with a bi-racial (adult) daughter.  Not that the mainstream couldn’t learn a lot from a strong female lead — but it probably was too threatening.

Becoming a vegan saved my life.  My partner followed suit, and is now a vegan too.  I became a vegan for my health but also have a strong compassion for the animals.  When I learned about the benefits of a plant-based diet on the planet, I was already sold.

I first learned about Edie Falco (who perhaps is best known for her role in The Sopranos) on The Exam Room podcast, a show on YouTube from The Physicians committee. I highly recommend the show for those who are plant-based or thinking about it.

Following is an excerpt from the VegNews article on Edie Falco:

”In a recent op-ed in the New York Daily News, award-winning actress Edie Falco—known best for her role as Carmela Soprano in The Sopranos—slammed New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s Nourish New York Initiative, a $25 million program that revolves around purchasing dairy products for distribution to food banks. “With federal funds stretched to the limit, why would the governor squander $25 million to bail out the dairy industry, which is rife with disease and cruelty?” Falco wrote. “Not only is dairy not ‘essential,’ factory farming, including dairy farming, is a breeding ground for disease. If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that raising and killing animals for food is a global health risk. The current crisis originated in a meat market. Swine flu and avian flu originated on factory farms in the United States. Sweet corn, New York State’s proposed ‘official’ vegetable, never sparked a pandemic.”

Falco urged that the funding be redirected to fruit and vegetable farmers, pointing out that the consumption of dairy products has been linked to a variety of illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. “Cow’s milk is often foisted upon schoolchildren, even though it’s one of the primary causes of food allergies among kids, and millions of Americans are lactose-intolerant, including many people of color.” Falco wrote. “If we want to nourish New York and help the state’s struggling dairy farmers, Governor Cuomo can put that $25 million to better use. Let’s help dairy workers retrain for jobs making the healthy plant-based milks that consumers actually want to buy and increase the availability of nourishing vegan options in our schools and food banks.”

Here is my favorite Pride video (from The Exam Room Podcast).  It features a couple called The VeganMos.

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here

THEY Scottie

When my partner told me that Jane Goodall said that humanity had to go to a plant-based diet — or else — I became very interested.

I’ve been on a plant-based diet for health reasons since last fall. We were going toward being vegan for a few years.   My partner and I were never big meat eaters — in part because we were animal lovers.  In recent years, we found out out that cows are slaughtered for meat after they are done being milked. So, with that in mind, it wasn’t hard to go vegan.

After only a month of not eating dairy, I felt amazingly good.  Now,  nearly ten months later — of being completely vegan I still feel amazingly good (part of it, I’m sure, is due to not ingesting the suffering of animals).  Part of it is being connected to a worldwide growing community of likeminded people who have scientific evidence that a plant-based diet vastly improves people’s health.

I’m happy to hear how fast the vegan-movement is growing, but there are times that I’m perplexed that more people aren’t pursuing it.  Would people really rather be sick, than change their diets?

One very simple answer is economic — follow the money.  What companies support the media by advertising products that are bad for us? Another answer for it is that eating can be emotional, not logical. There’s even a term for it: emotional eating.

I’ll let Jane Goodall’s comments speak for themselves. The following is an excerpt from The Guardian.

 
Humanity will be “finished” if we fail to drastically change our food systems in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis, the prominent naturalist Jane Goodall has warned.  She blamed the emergence of Covid-19 on the over-exploitation of the natural worldwhich has seen forests cut down, species made extinct and natural habitats destroyed. The coronavirus is thought to have made the jump from animals to humans late last year, possibly originating in a meat market in Wuhan, China.

Intensive farming was also creating a reservoir of animal diseases that would spill over and hurt human society, said Goodall, one of the world’s foremost experts on chimpanzees and a longtime conservation campaigner, speaking alongside two European commissioners at an online event held by the campaigning group Compassion in World Farming, on Tuesday.

“We have brought this on ourselves because of our absolute disrespect for animals and the environment,” she said. “Our disrespect for wild animals and our disrespect for farmed animals has created this situation where disease can spill over to infect human beings.”

People must move away from factory farming and stop destroying natural habitats as a matter of urgency, she said, because of the threat of diseases and of climate breakdown. Factory farming is linked to the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs, which threaten human health.

“If we do not do things differently, we are finished,” she said. “We can’t go on very much longer like this.”

 
To see my UU reflection on going to a plant-based diet (given on National Pig Day) click here.

 

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Now, there’s a new one. I’m usually told that I’m going to go to hell because, I wrote THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books — New York/Lisbon).

But this time, Unitarian Universalism is being accused of the “end times” that this person says that we are in. First of all, we are in changing times (not end times) and that change is based on logic and science.  It’s hard to see the suffering in the world — and I do have compassion for those suffering. But change is necessary. As my late Aunt frequently said, “the universe is always changing and so am I.”

I’ll quote part of the message I received so you will have a sense of it.

The “religion of tolerance”; “universalism” and the “unitarian world view” is a direct affront to the Christian faith: These trends proclaim that JESUS is a liar and that THE BIBLE is a fabricated lie.

My experience in being Unitarian Universalist (UU) is that I am more open to the universe. I am more tolerant — and that includes tolerance of religious traditions that in recent history were not tolerant of me.

In this context, I have become a practicing Buddhist (this is my root religion). In  Buddhism, I have learned that we are wired for disaster (fight or flight), and that we have to re-wire ourselves so that we can promote goodness toward ourselves and others.

As I have experienced it, Unitarian Universalism is a Christian faith (with a small “c”) that is secure enough to embrace all faiths. In this context, I’ve learned that all religions have something in common: the pursuit of goodness. I’ve also learned that you don’t have to be in a religion to pursue goodness.

In my UU tradition, I have not learned that Jesus is a liar or that The Bible is a fabrication.  Actually, I learned the opposite.  However, it is true that I was inspired through a “New UU” group to rewrite the Bible. That’s how THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders was born.

But that’s just me. I understand that some might be threatened by my beliefs.  But think about it — why are you threatened?

We all pray in different ways and for different things.

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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