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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

I often consider the world to be a Buddhist test. I pride myself to be able to wish everybody well — regardless. This time I failed that test. Not only did I get pissed — I relished the feeling of righteous anger.

You see, I got ganged up on in Twitter.  I was bullied as a child and really really don’t like being ganged up on. Then a crowd of boys pushed me down the steep hill that was behind the elementary school playground. This time it was retweets and likes on a homophobic Bible verse that was sent to me.  It did not matter that this was a Christian gang. I still got pissed.

I read and reread the verse. It was from Romans and part of it reads: “…for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward another.”

First of all, the “natural use of the woman” — really?!

Secondly, this verse tells us that there were LGBTQ people in Biblical times. Of course, we knew that, but this confirms that our tribe was there.

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If anything, this Bible verse (which I have seen before) should be ignored. It also points out the necessity of re-writing the Bible which I did in THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders ( Adelaide Books).

I was ganged up on by this virtual mob during Pride. My first thought was shame, shame, shame. This is what we used to say during the LGBTQ Pride March in NY where we used to stop and point at the religious right people protesting the parade and chant back at them.

Shame on you for trying to make me feel bad about myself. And shame for trying to make a whole group of people feel bad about themselves.  What’s the point? Usually, homophobia has a fair amount of twinkle, twinkle (what you say is what you are) in it.

This is what I thought at first. But then I started to wonder what makes a homophobic right religious person tick. For surely by  driving people away from the church — it isn’t self preservation.

So I went to the major offender’s Twitter page and the first thing I saw was a donation button. Ah, money, I thought. That’s what they’re thinking. Then I saw a video about the migration of a certain Bible from Scotland to a recent “presidential” photo op in front of the church near the White House after the protestors in the street were scattered with tear gas.

I loved it when I saw that Mitt Romney was marching in the street with the Black Lives Matter protestors.  He was marching with a group of evangelical Christians who were singing “This Little Light of Mine.” Even if they came late to the party, they came. And even if some of these folks still oppose LGBTQ rights — other evangelicals (usually younger ones) are secure in their sexuality and are more open minded.

On this Twitter page (of the person who sent the homophobic Bible verse) there is no mention of justice and no mention of Jesus. There is no mention of goodness.

There is no mention that those protesting George Floyd’s murder are right — and that they are bending the moral arc of history toward justice.

We are at a pivotal moment in history — but not to back the forces of hate.

The young people are shaping the world that they want to live in.

Listen to them.

They are not your enemy.

 

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 service based on the lifting up of Pride. The service was about magic and being the hero of your own story.

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.

Happy Pride

This is what I used to say every June to our legion of friends, old and new, when we were in every New York Pride Parade for years.

The New York Pride events were, of course, cancelled this year. Pride usually draws a large amount of people from all over the country.  It’s estimated that two million people have attended New York Pride each year in recent years.

My partner, Barbara, and I weren’t planning on going this year and we haven’t been to Pride for years. Although we would like to go again and see our friends in Brooklyn who we stay with. Even so, even with all the tragedy going on around us, I was momentarily taken aback a few months ago when I heard Pride was cancelled.

Pride is that much a part of me.

The LGBTQ community has earned Pride.  But I do not think that having pride should be limited to one group of people.  Everybody should be proud of themselves.  As the late, great, writer Toni Morrison said, “You are your own best thing.”

She was speaking, of course, about true pride, or self-love or empowerment – whatever you want to call it. This kind of feeling good about yourself, does not rest upon feeling negatively about another group.  That’s not pride. Unfortunately, we’ve been seeing far too much of it and it’s heartbreaking – to say the least.  One could argue that hatred of others begins with self-hate.

Pride was born in the protests of the Stonewall Inn, which became a week-long riot in 1969. The people with the least to lose – those who couldn’t pass in straight society, the butch lesbians and the drag queens – exploded one night during yet another police raid on a gay bar. Raids were customary then. Gay people were routinely carted off to jail, their names were published in the newspapers. They lost their jobs – and often their families.

Ten years later, there was another riot, after the assassination of Harvey Milk, a small business owner and politician in San Francisco. The man who assassinated him, a former firefighter, got off lightly on a charge of manslaughter and used what has since come to be called “the twinkie defense” – meaning that his legal team used the excuse that he ate too much junk food which led to his criminal behavior. After this sentencing, a peaceful candlelight vigil turned into a riot outside San Francisco’s city hall which involved setting buildings and police cars on fire.

 

lesbian statue of libertyA few years after Harvey Milk was assassinated, I attended the premier screening of the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk (the first movie) at the Roxy on Sansom Street. I was young then, in my early twenties, and recently out as a lesbian. I still remember sitting in the dark theater and listening to the crying of those around me – mostly gay men.

Both riots – and there were others too – were before my time, but they are part of my history.

My partner and myself have lived in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia for a long time. We’ve had our problems with homophobia – even here in liberal Mt. Airy – but for the most part we have been met with acceptance. And that’s the way it should be. Of course, we should have equality. All people should have equality. This acceptance, no doubt, is why I sometimes take LGBTQ rights for granted.

These days, I’m probably more excited about going to a plant-based diet (which I did last fall for health reasons).  When I found out that this diet has a favorable effect on the planet, I was even more jazzed.

I’ve long been in favor of cultivating the earth — not just because it is the right thing, but because it is interesting. I’m a second-generation organic gardener, and I like bees. And I like planting bee balm and lavender and other plants that bees like.

But what I’m really excited about in going to a plant-based diet is feeling like I have a new lease on life. And I’m excited to be part of a global community.

There was a time when I felt the same way about coming out as a lesbian. Coming out in the early 1980s, meant that I didn’t have to erase myself and it meant that I had a tribe.

Recently, when reading a quote by the important gay writer Steve Abbott, I became very excited. The quote is about intersectionality and was made far before that term was commonly used. Steve died in 1992 of complications due to AIDS when he was forty-eight.

In his ahead of his time essay “Will We Survive the Eighties,” Abbott writes:

“It is clear that what we are doing now … is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth’s ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that we can no longer afford to see anything – not even ‘gay liberation’ or our survival — as a separate issue needing a separate cultural or a political or a spiritual agenda. This does not mean I intend to renounce my sexual orientation, far from it. Even in times of sadness or loneliness, it remains my greatest source of strength and joy.”

As I read Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend and published recently, I was reminded that we all have our stories and that we were all forged in fire.

In 1992, I was at a writing program in Boulder Colorado, when I was scheduled to have a one on one critique session with Steve Abbott.  He was at the program but had to leave early because he was sick with full blown AIDS. Nearly thirty years later, a review copy of his book showed up in my mailbox. I did not know it was being published and I had not requested it.

To me, this was one more experience that proves that the universe works in mysterious ways.

I became Unitarian Universalist later in life – after fifty – when I found a religion that agreed with me. In particular, the Seventh Principle rings true:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

We are all connected.

 

 

–Namaste–

 

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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Today is Pentecost in the Christian tradition. There was a time, when the word “Pentecost” just conjured little white churches in central Pennslytucky that I knew with a shudder that I should avoid. (Even driving by on the turnpike was a hazard.) But I am now past that. I am really am curious.  I researched the Christian holiday of Pentecost a while ago for my novel The Unicorn, The Mystery (being published later this year by Adelaide Books) and found that doves were routinely shoved through a little hole in the ceilings of cathedrals in the Middle Ages. (Doves represented the Holy Sprit and before that they were associated with Aphrodite.)  Perhaps there really is nothing new.

The minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church I attend (now digitally) is from a Christian-background and mentioned that today was the holiday of Pentecost in his background. Then he went on to talk about the events of the day which truly are grim.

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Later,  I received two comments online relating to Pentecost. The first comment was from a colleague I’m friendly with. She quoted a passage from what I assume is the Acts chapter in the New Testament. The quote ended with: “ever with the cross that turns not back.”

I approached this Bible verse like a riddle. To me, not turning back is persistence. 

The second comment I received was from a not so friendly source. It was written in response to my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders. He told me that Christ demands the complete and full surrender of self. Then he said, “This not only includes acting upon same sex attraction but all sin.”

I have to confess to being raised secular— something that I have always considered a blessing — so I may have missed something. But I think I was just insulted.

I’m a practicing Buddhist.  That’s my root religion in my Unitarian Universalist faith. As such, I rarely comment on anything personal about my harassers. But I looked at this guy’s Twitter profile and saw that he looked more than a little light in his loafers. He is young looking and rather effeminate. In fact, if he hadn’t just insulted me, I’d think we both played for the same team.

He described himself as a “Catholic who’s doing his best and discerning the priesthood.” Now I don’t know what the latter part of that means. But I do understand the first part. The question is what is he doing his best at? Does he mean that he’s doing his best in his avoidance of same sex attraction? If so, what is his best? Does he act on his same sex attractions now and then?

I hear that thinking you’re engaging in a sinful act might make things seem forbidden, and therefore “hotter.” But to me, it’s easier to believe that there is no such thing as “sin.”  I’ve heard it said that Jesus never said one word about “homosexuality” being a sin.

I’ve come to understand that Jesus is about justice.

In my research today about the holiday of Pentecost, I learned that the holiday is often called White Sunday or WhitSun. And I learned that the wearing of red is customary.

If it is White Sunday — then it is time for white people to stand up for justice. And this time — as in too many instances — it’s about racial justice. As a practicing Buddhist, I try to stay away from anger. But people have a right to their anger and often when it starts, it can’t be stopped. It’s perfectly understandable.

The senseless murder of George Floyd is an outrage. Thinking of yourself as above the law or as the law — is a mindset that has to be stopped. 

The golden rule of ethics (included in the New Testament) of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, is a creed that we live by.

It’s time for justice.

“…. ever with the cross that turns not back.”

 

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 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.)

 

Beautiful Aliens

A Steve Abbott Reader

Edited by Jamie Townsend

“Will We Survive the Eighties” is the hypothetical question that titles an essay written by Steve Abbott, a gay man and a leading figure in the 1980s avant-garde literary community based in San Francisco.

In 1992, when attending Naropa University’s creative writing program. I was scheduled to have a one on one critique session with Steve Abbott – but he wasn’t there. He had attended the program and had given a reading and a workshop but had to leave early because he was sick with full blown AIDS.

Nearly three decades later, in 2019, Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend was published by Nightboat Books in New York.

Abbott survived the 1980s but just barely. He died in 1992 when he was forty-eight.

Abbott was many things – a poet, critic, novelist, and poetic cartoonist – but as his daughter Alysia Abbott (the author of Fairyland, a memoir about her relationship with her father), writes in the afterward of Beautiful Aliens:

“…his work was about building community. It was about hand-illustrating posters for the readings he organized…..It was about going out and engaging young men and women in classrooms but also in the cafes, bars, and bookstores around San Francisco, sharing his vast knowledge and encouraging them to add their voices to queer culture, in whatever way they could, even if that culture wasn’t getting mainstream attention. He knew how important it was to support voices on the edge, writers that were pushing boundaries and weren’t interested in keeping their readers comfortable.”

I found Beautiful Aliens, a selection of Abbott’s writings, mesmerizing.  For one thing, there were so many overlapping areas that we had in common – queer writing conferences that were important to me, and favorite poets and writers such as the lesbian icon Judy Grahn.

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I also found that Abbott was a writer who, in so many ways, was ahead of his time, and still has much to tell us.  In his prescient essay “Will We Survive the Eighties,” Abbott writes:

“It is clear that what we are doing now … is killing us all. And as we project these attitudes onto other species and towards the Earth’s ecological system, we are jeopardizing our very planet. I would argue that we can no longer afford to see anything – not even ‘gay liberation’ or our survival — as a separate issue needing a separate cultural or a political or a spiritual agenda.

This does not mean I intend to renounce my sexual orientation, far from it. Even in times of sadness or loneliness, it remains my greatest source of strength and joy.”

 

I found Beautiful Aliens, A Steve Abbott Reader edited by Jamie Townsend, published by Nightboat Books in New York to be that rare thing – a voice from the past that addresses the present.

 

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

 

THEY Scottie

 

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on theme of “The Gospel According To Gandalf.” The service was about magic and being the hero of your own story.

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.

When I first learned that the service for today was on the Gospel According to Gandalf, I drew a blank. I have long prided myself on the fact that fantasy writing has nothing to do with me. But I remembered that I really enjoyed the talk on this topic last year. I also remembered that I identified with the character Frodo in that he was defiant and had no interest in power but is the hero of his own story.

Then I remembered that I absolutely loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I read it as a teen.  It allowed me to enter the mystery. I loved it so much that I wrote “Everybody should read The Lord of the Rings” in large letters with a black sharpie on the white bathroom wall in a dive bar in Trenton that I hung out in when I was a teenager. My then best friend, who died young, looked at me in utter delight and exclaimed, “I knew you wrote that. I knew it!”

What can I say? It was the seventies. I was a teen and, like all my friends, then, I had a substance abuse problem. It is something that I tried to leave behind me. I wrote one novel based on this experience and closed the book. I thought I was done. But the fact is that I have had an off again, on again relationship with substances over the years. My own story of abusing substances when I was a teen – in a certain time and place – is something I felt bad about for a long time.

Of course, I regretted how this behavior may have affected others – especially my parents. But the question that I always came back to was, “Why did I do that to myself?” After many years, I concluded that I had to do something to break out of the confines of my life, and that is what I did. So, I forgave myself. After all, the past is the past.

And while I would never want to encourage anyone to use substances, my experiences weren’t all bad. There were a few moments of breaking through to something brilliant and elusive that may have laid the seeds for the talking unicorn in my head whose words I wrote down in a novel titled The Unicorn, The Mystery which will be published later this year by Adelaide Books. The novel is based on the unicorn tapestries in The Cloisters that is part of The Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan.

 

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So, fantasy writing probably does have something to do with me – even if the talking unicorn in my head is a realist. And I may have unconsciously modeled myself on Frodo. Who knows? I do know that I have come here for a number of years – to this Unitarian Universalist church — and listened to the opening  statement that included some variation of you are welcome to bring all that you are.  It must have sunk in because here I am talking about something that I thought I was done with.

Interestingly, it wasn’t until last fall in the year that I turned sixty and embarked on a balanced plant-based diet for health reasons, that I experienced an absence of any craving – including alcohol and other products that contain sugar.  In addition to being addictive, sugar compromises the immune system – important to know during these trying times. It wasn’t just me who found that a plant-based diet eliminated cravings. At a party, I met a young woman with blue hair who had been formerly addicted to heroin but who had since gone to a plant-based diet.

We all have a past. So, I encourage you to bring all that you are here – including histories that you may not be proud of but that we can all learn from.

Remember, you are the hero of your own story.

Namaste

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 took part in the 9th Annual Food Revolution Summit this year for the first time. I was delighted to be in the company of 300,000 plus people worldwide who either are on a plant-based diet already or who are considering it.

I listened to every speaker and learned a lot. I’ve been on a totally plant-based diet since last fall when my acupuncturist suggested it for health reasons. I had surgery for a rather large kidney stone last year. I came home from the hospital with a bad bladder infection that sent me back to the hospital. It was really an ordeal.THEY Scottie

I was never much of a meat eater, so I gave up dairy and fish last fall. Within a month, I couldn’t believe how good I felt. Six months later, I have regained my energy and take an hour long walk everyday. I also do my yoga practice in the house on most days.

In this pandemic, it’s very important to be as healthy as you can. So I learned a lot of good information about food and supplements (like the importance of vitamins B and D) that I am using to tweak my diet.

One of my favorite speakers was Asha Akhtar, MD, whose interview was titled “Why Loving Animals Is Good for Your Health.” I’ve long been an animal lover — and have loved domestic companion animals and cows and pigs, in particular. Even so, the medical research on the value of having animals in your life (research that is largely ignored by the medical system) is staggering.

The interviewer mentioned that cruelty against domestic animals is illegal in most states but that cruelty against animals raised for “food” is legal.

This is certainly something to think about.

 

To read or see a YouTube video about my plant-based journey which led to my novel Cinnamon, a dairy cow’s (and her farmer’s) path to freedom,click here.

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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Lately, reorganizing my office, I came across a framed poem by James Broughton that he had sent me. James was a friend of Jim Cory, the publisher of Insight To Riot Press. Jim sent James a collection of my poetry, When I Was Straight, that he had published in 1995 and James sent me a letter and an illustrated poem that I took a picture of and pasted below. The poem is called, “What Matters.” I am reprinting the text so you can read it too:

What Matters

What matters
matters
but not always

Some of the time
everything
matters

Much of the time
nothing
matters

In the long run
both everything
and nothing

matter a lot

-James Broughton-

 

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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.

THEY Scottie

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April is National Poetry Month. Lately, I’ve been reconnecting with the reading of poetry and have re-experienced how healing it can be. The Fumo Family Library featured my friend, the poet, Maria Fama. Her latest book is The Good for the Good, Poems by Maria Fama from Bordighera Press (2019).

Maria’s work revives the past and makes us whole.

On the back of the book, Daniela Gioseffi (an American Book Award winner) writes: “Once again, Maria Fama makes us smile as she cajoles us with profound folk wisdom and ironic wit. This is a book everyone of any background can delight in. The witty folk wisdom it offers can be cherished for a lifetime.”

Maria reads to us from a variety of years and books in this video. Enjoy!

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Today, I heard from an old lesbian-feminist colleague and editor Jan Hardy. In the early 1990s, Jan edited and compiled two important anthologies that I was included in:  Wanting Women, an Anthology of Erotic Lesbian Poetry and Sister Stranger: Lesbians Loving Across the Lines (both from Sidewalk Revolution Press).

Jan picked up a copy of my book Tea Leaves, a memoir of mother’s and daughters (Bella Books; 2012)  and wrote the following review for Goodreads.

“Very moving and sometimes difficult to read only because I’ve taken care of both my father and my mother as they grew older and became unable to care for themselves. Janet Mason captures so well the conflicts between caring for her mother’s daily needs and yet granting her privacy and dignity, between reminiscing about the past, providing strength for each day, and trying to face her mother’s imminent passing. Her writing is honest and clear, yet poetic and meditative. Many of her insights about working class life in Philadelphia shed light on the character of her mother, her grandmother and her father, and show how she developed as a woman and as a writer. This memoir must have been so painful to write, but it flows easily on the page and will last in my memory.”

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Hearing from Jan caused me to reflect on the past.  In many ways, it seems like I was a different person then. For one thing, I migrated from poetry to prose.  (The poems kept getting longer and there was dialogue in them.) I was a rather loud mouthed lesbian as a young adult. Well, someone had to be.  Now, there are more of us.  But really I haven’t changed that much.  For one thing, the poetry taught me a lot. There has to be rhythm and the writing has to be spare — regardless.

Jan was touched that the anthology she edited, Wanting Woman, was mentioned in Tea Leaves. I didn’t remember my exact words, but I remembered the context because well it is memoir and it actually happened. I wanted to find the actual quote in Tea Leaves and I did.I thought you might enjoy it too:

Now, as we sat in the living room talking, I looked over at the breakfront against the wall near the front door—the gold framed photographs on the top shelf, my parents on their wedding day, my high school graduation photograph and under that, on a lower shelf, the journals and anthologies where my writing was published. My mother took pride in my work, commenting on the other pieces as well as on my own, and seemed oblivious to the fact that the plumber or the next-door neighbor might come in the front door and see the purple cover of “By Word Of Mouth: Lesbians Write the Erotic,” the first anthology I published in. I had given my mother copies of the other anthologies that I had published in also, although at first I was hesitant. I was worried that she wouldn’t approve of the sexual content, not because it was lesbian but because some references were explicit. “I was afraid you might think it was dirty,” I once said to my mother a few years earlier when we were in the city shopping at Giovanni’s Room bookstore and I came across Wanting Women: an Anthology of Erotic Lesbian Poetry—a collection that included my work. My mother read the poem and, to my surprise, simply shrugged. “Who do you think taught you dirty?”

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One of the ways my partner and I have been staying connected during this time is through video chatting — with others as well as with each other. This week we met with a small group with our Unitarian church that is focused on poetry. Actually one member of the group is someone we know from way back when who was in a feminist writing group I was in. Another friend brought this poem to share. Since it has to do with writing and it talks about the sit down and be quiet method that I’ve espousing for decades, I thought I would share it with you. It was penned by Wendell Berry.

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How to Be a Poet

(to remind myself)
i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

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

THEY Scottie

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