Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Teach Your Children Well

Here's a letter from S. Bear Bergman, an award-winning performance artist, writer, and activist who travels around the country teaching about GLBTQ issues. (That's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer.) I respect Bear's work very highly, and this work is essential education for both straight and GLBTQ youth. It can help promote healing and self-acceptance and even prevent violence against those of us who are not exactly Ozzie and Harriet.

Bear says:

Often, the colleges and universities that don't allocate money for GLBTQ programming are those that need it the most. When queer and trans education or programs aren't a priority of the institution, it is a good indicator of a less-than-safe environment for queer and trans students. I had to decline seventeen requests last year from schools which had /no/ money to bring me in. I am happy to donate my time and do stuff for free, but I couldn't afford to travel at my own expense.

Here's where you come in.

I know you don't have wads of cash laying around, just waiting for something to do with it. But I am hoping that many of you have a little bit - in this case? $5 a month. That's all. My sponsoring non-profit** will let you set up, online, a donation which will automatically charge you five bucks, once a month, without you even having to think about it.

That money will then be available for me to travel to some of those underfunded schools and do queer and trans education on the ground, which I think will benefit *all* of us in the long run, even if it happens in Iowa, or North Dakota. I'm asking you to join me in an initiative to make this world a safer place for all of us, whatever our gender or sexual orientation. To send me places where I can help queer and trans youth feel less alone, and less afraid. To help make less hate, and more understanding.

Want to? Here's how:

Step 1: Go to my profile page.

Step 2: Click on the button that says "Support This Artist's Work"

Step 3: Click on the yellow "Donate Now!" button.

Step 4: Fill in the form. They key parts are:
- type in $5 (or more, if you like) for Donation Amount,
- click the button for monthly,
- and you *MUST* earmark it for me, by typing 'Bear' in the earmark box, or the money goes to the general fund.

And you're done. No muss, no fuss, no nasty aftertaste, just piping-hot queer and tranny educational goodness at a low, low price!

Got questions? Email me, and ask.

Want to forward this to people you think will help out? Go nuts.

Seriously? Thanks. If you're reading this, it means you're part of, or an ally to, my community. Even if you don't give a nickel in financial contribution, I'm really glad you exist.

Best regards-

* I tour around the country, performing (this) and lecturing about queer and trans issues. I talk to students, staff, and faculty all over the country - visiting classes, holding workshops, and giving performances - to help them understand queer and trans folks a little better, and make their schools safer for us. I really do believe that knowledge is the antidote to hate, and that has largely proved correct - the students at the schools I have visited overwhelmingly reported feeling safer, and better understood, after I went.

**I have just been granted artist support by the Fund For Women Artists, a national organization which sponsors artists whose work they feel has particular merit and will make a substantive contribution toward feminist causes, including anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia work.
Recent Reading

Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins by Elizabeth Stone. All about family stories and their effect on individuals. Definitely worth reading -- and discussing with your family. I'd figured when I picked it up at the Salvation Army that it focused on the roles played and stories told about the current generation, but I was pleased to discover that it had a much broader scope.

God knows the family stories told about my third-great-grandmother, M.L.T. Hartman, were a great help to me in finding my way. Not only was she a farmer who reared eight children, she was also a teacher, a historian, and a recognized poet in her day. She wrote books and once drove a team of horses through a tornado; she wanted to get to camp meeting, and she did. M.L.T. was a formidable-looking woman with the high cheekbones, stocky build, and downward slanted eyes so characteristic of my mother's family -- all of which I inherited. She died at age 79, doing chores in the barn. Bear in mind that M.L.T. lived her entire life in the nineteenth century; her grandfather was a local hero of the Revolutionary War. (I have stayed in the house he built, which is now a bed-and-breakfast.) Her example helped me reconcile my need to write with the need to stay connected with my maternal family history.

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly. A compulsively readable murder mystery written in haunting prose. Benjamin January, the title character, is a dark-skinned man of mixed race in 1833 New Orleans. Trained as a surgeon and as a musician, he is caught in many painful transitions and polarities: the old French culture and the new American attitudes; the slave society into which he was born and the very different world of the gens libre du couleur bought by his mother's status as a white man's mistress; and the Paris world he has just left for the New Orleans where he was raised.

It's an astonishingly powerful book, complex and humane, and never letting twentieth-century racial or political attitudes override the realities of the nineteenth-century slaveholding world. It's painful to read the scenes where Benjamin January has to swallow insults and violence to save his life, or play stupid (we would call it shucking and jiving) as white society demands, while concealing his ferocious intelligence and pride.

I am so glad this is the first in a series. I will be reading them all.

Oddly enough, I've also been reading Lalita Tademy's Cane River, which begins in 1834 and explores the same society. Very fine -- but I think Barbara Hambly is a better writer.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Saints and Skiers

Michele recently found this quotation by Leonard Cohen, poet and lyricist.

What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love.

- Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers (1966)

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Walt Whitman Summarizes This Blog

Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth,
And what was expected of heaven or feared of hell

from "I Sing the Body Electric"

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Today is the centenary of the events in Joyce's Ulysses.

There are plenty of authentically Joycean ways to celebrate Bloomsday, most requiring a partner and/or beer. A friend of mine suggests, "Read a little Joyce. Hoist a pint or two. Say "yes" to someone you love."

I plan to celebrate by performing the dangerous act for which James Joyce is most notorious. Yes, I know it has landed plenty of people in jail, although some people only start doing it when they're imprisoned. Not a few people have been killed for doing it.

I'm going to write.