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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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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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I try to avoid absorbing too much news. However, I have Windows 10 ( I’m on the computer a lot) so I always get the headlines. Yesterday, I got snagged and was ready to read another story about how awful things are when I came across an item under the heading of “good news” about a farm sanctuary tour for kids. I clicked on the link, began watching and was immediate flooded with good vibrations. I especially loved the donkeys and found out later that this sanctuary — Pasado’s Safe Haven in Washington State — was named for a donkey. We are living in dismal but changing times. But that fact that this sanctuary exists and is doing the essential work of rescuing the farm animals — the fact that farm animal sanctuaries are in existence all over the world — is good news!

Pasado’s Safe Haven Virtual Sanctuary Tour: Kids Edition!

 

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 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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Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day.  It is a joyous occasion and a heartbreaking one.  I couldn’t help noticing this as this crisis was breaking all around me. On my daily walk, I see that the flowers are erupting this year. A chorus of bird songs fills the air.  I’ve seen the photos of the planet becoming less polluted. Yet, it is very sad that the humans are suffering.

So, I take my walks everyday and do my Buddhist mantras for healing for the planet and all of her inhabitants.

Here are some of the photos I took on my walk.

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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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