Go ahead, Josie. Make my day.

Did you ever skip a rite of passage as a kid only to wish you could do it as an adult?

I never had a slumber party as a kid. I went to more than I can count – and generally really liked them. I was a gold-plated, grade A, first class giggler. Slumber parties were the place where giggling didn’t earn black looks from The Grownups. They probably drove host parents to a big bottle of Advil, but at a slumber party? Giggling could well up in a mushroom cloud of noise and no one shushed you. Laughter was much, much better than the occasional pajama party  crying jag, which I probably giggled at, too.

These guys REALLY smack each other. I’d opt for a kinder, gentler impact. But I would love to have a pillow fight – with my girlfriends, a la fifth grade.

I really wanted to have a slumber party on my 12th birthday, but my sister had one not long before that, and not only did my dad’s favorite chair flip over backwards (and eject poor Betsy Ramen into the stereo console) but it might have strained my mother’s nerves.

Now, I never felt robbed or upset about not having a slumber party. But as an adult, I find myself suggesting them to my friends. They usually think it sounds like fun, but we never even pencil them in. Something about the thought of gathering with friends in pajamas to gorge on junk food, swap gossip and boards games (or marco polo!) is appealing. Silly, yes, but appealing. I’ve even daydreamed about a massive pillow fight. What a great release that would be. Stressed? Whack Ellen upside the head with a pillow. Mad at your significant other? Clothesline Josie at the knees. Happy to have all your besties together? Celebrate them all with a whirling dervish pillow punt to the gut.

The more I think about it, the more I like it. Now, where are those invitations?


We found love in a hopeless place

The biggest risk I ever  took was telling my parents that I’m gay.

I’d been brought up in a conservative, religious household. We went to church every Sunday. We grew up going to church choir rehearsals, confirmation classes (that’s the class all adolescents take before becoming official members of the United Methodist Church. Confirmands study the Bible, seek wisdom and learn the responsibilities of church membership — which, simply put, is supporting the church with your prayers, presents, gifts and service.)

My family wasn’t angrily anti-gay or anything. We participated in the arts, which brought us into the company of gay men and women. I took voice and acting lessons from a gay man. And for a long while, it was an open secret that our church choir director and the church pianist had lived together for twentysomething years.

Even so, my parents made it clear that the Bible had it right: sex is a covenant between married people, and when expressed any other way, sex pulls us away from God’s grace. Our lifelong friends had a gay son, and we all loved him. My parents never spoke ill of this young man (who later died from complications of AIDS), and treated him with warmth. But I could tell that they found his sexual identity troubling.

My years at Baylor University unveiled a less loving attitude toward gay folks, with then-President Herbert Reynolds answering a question in a student-president forum by saying that he hoped homosexual students wouldn’t feel at home at Baylor.

When I met and started seeing Wondertrickster, I buried a lot of that. I’d been close friends with a gay man, Matthew, for years, which seemed to cause my dad increasing anxiety. My father is so gentle, though. The most he ever said about my friendship was along the lines of “I don’t understand what’s in it for you.”

I kept the real nature of my relationship with Wondertrickster a secret. It took a toll. I started drinking heavily. I started binge eating. I got pretty ill. One morning, I woke up still drunk, and still sick from the ungodly amount of food I’d eaten in secret. I was more afraid at that moment than I’ve ever been. I looked up the number for the  employee assistance program provided by the company I worked for.

And I went into therapy. My therapist got to the bottom of things pretty fast.

I was a liar.

I was lying to the most precious people in my life about who I was. About who Wondertrickster is to me. That felt horrible. So I tried to make it all go away with booze and food. I didn’t drink daily, but it was always in secret. I binge ate every night, when Wondertrickster was asleep. I ate so much that, after a while, I’d vomit involuntarily.

It takes a long time to stop being a liar. Especially when you’re convinced that your lies are sparing the people you love from the horror of what you are. Lying externalized the selfish, destructive things you do. Lying outsources your sin, your evil impulses to the world.

It took a year to unpack all of this. My therapy prepared me to come out as a lesbian to my parents. I was really scared, but I planned a week at my parents house as a vacation. I would spend five days enjoying their company, and then I would tell them.

This is how scared I was: I had all of my things packed the night before I told them what I was. I put my shoes on before I went downstairs to tell them “the news.” I never wear shoes in a house. But I was ready to be thrown out of the house. Disowned.

The words came out utterly inelegantly. I felt as if I’d stepped out into nothingness. We were all in free-fall. I was pulling back a curtain that could leave me an orphan, technically. As soon as I told them: “I’m gay, and Wondertrickster and I are in a relationship, and I love her,” my mother started crying. Why do mothers cry so often when their children come out to them?

My parent’s response was the deepest testimony to their Christianity I ever witnessed. They said I was their daughter, they loved me and were proud to know me. They said that Wondertrickster would always be welcome in their home. A few hours later, my mother was leafing through a catalog, and asked “what do you think she’d want for Christmas?”

Things haven’t been simple or easy since I told the truth. And it’s taken me years to understand that their grace was — and is — an extension of their love for me.

In the long run, I’ve come to understand that being in the closet is more than a dishonor of those who are keepers of secrets. Its belittling to those around us. Being closeted is living out the assumption than people around us can’t cope with difference.

I didn’t breaks my legs when I landed from that free-fall. I stumbled a little. I’ve learned that being out of the closet is an ongoing process, and every now and then, I choose to rush back in. And as always, when I rush back into the closet, I’m lying to myself, the new person in my life and to God. Every new relationship involves that risk of telling the person “I’m gay.” Or “I have a girlfriend.”

I’m not sure what God is trying to teach me. But the risk is always scary. I always have to take a breath and step into uncertainty. There’s no safety net.

There’s only the mystery of grace and love.

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When my best friend dumped me

Her name was Gina, and we were in the fifth grade. She had lots of black wavy hair, bright green eyes and dimples. And I adored her.

Gina and I did all the things best friends do. Sleepovers, roller skating, pretending to be the latest and greatest pop singer. At the time, I think it might have been Olivia Newton-John.

Fifth grade is a time when a lot of girls are on the threshold of adolescence, in body and mind. Looking back, I realize that it was puberty that probably separated us. I don’t remember her being boy crazy. I remember her wanting to be more independent. She wanted to do things without adults around. Gina wasn’t into any mischief. She just didn’t want her parents or my mom to correct her.

I wasn’t there yet. I still needed my parents. I still wanted their guidance and I definitely craved their approval.

The tension built fast with me and Gina. I don’t remember what cause the cataclysmic fight; I just knew I was bewildered and so, so hurt when she scoffed at me and ignored me in Ms. Clayton’s fifth grade class. One day, during a class filmstrip, Gina turned and put a note on my desk. I looked at it like it might be a moon rock. I took it in my hands. Suddenly, Gina swiveled in her seat and whispered.

“Can I have that back?”

She could. And I handed it over. I saw her put it in her desk. I immediately needed that note. It held the secret of her sudden chilliness. It was the answer to all my questions. During a class activity, Gina left her desk. I immediately pretended to drop a pencil under my desk. I crouched down and lunged for the small, folded piece of paper in the corner of her desk. I unfolded it and was surprised at how much she’d written. I didn’t read the whole thing. I didn’t want to get caught. But I saw enough. I saw that she’d written: You always do anything your mom says… My eyes scanned the loose leaf page and settled on something that felt like a kick to the chest: …and now I hate you even more…

Gina was turning back toward her desk. I crumpled the paper and jammed it back into her desk. I never knew if she suspected I’d read it.

After that, there were exactly two phone calls. Both times, Gina hung up on me. After the last call, I looked at the phone in my hand. After that, I cried myself into a headache. Neither my mom nor my sister’s embrace helped much. I sobbed until the sobs turned into involuntary jerks of the diaphragm, and I was lightheaded.

I don’t remember how I passed the days after Gina ended our friendship. I remember feeling strange, like walking and breathing took more effort.

Things eventually evened out. I managed to avoid crying by never letting my eyes fall on Gina ever again. I pretended she just wasn’t. We didn’t speak again.

Gina made new friends, and by sixth grade I had new friends too. We were all dealing with middle school, new breasts and body hair. New feelings. And then I heard that Gina’s father had died very suddenly. The pity that reared up in me surprised me. (By this time, my big sister was learning to battle mean girls, which meant learning the full meaning of schadenfreude. I kept waiting to enjoy just the thought of Gina’s tears and loss. The enjoyment never came.)

The last time I spoke to Gina was in line at the high diving board at the community pool. It was the summer after our sixth grade school year. As much as it had hurt when she’d ended our friendship, I thought about how awful it must be to walk inside your house after school and know — each and every day — and know your dad wasn’t going to come through the door for dinner.

Our eyes met. Before things could get awkward, I said it.

“I’m sorry about your dad.”

She looked back at me.

“Thanks,” she said.

She climbed the ladder and stepped on to the board. She hesitated, then turned back and looked down at me.

“It’s not a whole lot of fun,” she said.

In the moment it took her to skip to the end of the diving board, I knew I was going to be OK without Gina. Sure, there was a twinge of something – was it pain? Regret? Or just a girl’s heart getting a callous over its first bruised spot? I wasn’t sure.

Gina disappeared into the green-blue water, a little splash sort of punctuating our scant exchange. It was the last meaningful conversation we had. As a grown woman, I like to think it was our way of shaking on it, agreeing to chuck any ill will into the deep end of the pool.

It probably wasn’t that neat. The grief probably lingered. But more than 30 years later, I remember Gina and the days after she wasn’t my friend. Sometimes, In my head, I pretend I answered her before she took that jump into the deep end.

“I hasn’t been a whole lot of fun for me, either.”

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It’s Not Just What He Said, It’s How She Said It


Just found this gem about how the march toward civil rights can mean assimilation. And how assimilation can splash a whole lot of vanilla on our big, bad rainbow flag.

Originally posted on [ par·al·lel·e·vi·sion ]:

Panti The appearance of the phrase “Panti Gate” in a charades game at my apartment last weekend proves that the events of the past few weeks have reached a zenith, with gender discombobulist Panti Bliss now a given part of the international charading lexicon.

Much has been said on anywhere from HuffPo to Fox News to the inimitable Broadsheet about Rory O Neill, and especially his Noble Call (below) which recently closed out a performance of 1913 Lockout drama ‘The Risen People’. The substance is, as has been repeated time and again, powerful — and the oratorial style marks it as one of the best speeches to come out of a nation of talkers in a very long time.

But for a moment I’d like to look beyond both the content and the form of the speech, and instead focus on the visual that Rory O Neill presented on that night…

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Everybody’s working on the weekend.

I look forward to the weekends. My days off. Time I can structure to my liking.

But just like most working Americans, I find that my weekends are rarely leisurely. And I don’t have children. (How do you parents do it?)

There’s laundry, yard work, that personal finance course I’m taking – all nine weeks of it. There’s housework.

And there is always, always e-mail. Each weekend, I use anywhere from 1 to 3 hours reading, sorting and weighing e-mail just for work.

What if I decided to take one whole day as an actual sabbath? Practicing Jews and Christians are acquainted with the weekly exercise of setting aside one day for rest, for fellowship and for community. God rested on the seventh day, the biblical day after the earth was created. For centuries, Jews and Christians have followed that example, and spent their sabbath at rest, at play and perhaps with a feast day with friends.

It’s an easy bet that even practicing Jews and Christians want to set aside work on their sabbath days, but have a difficult time doing it. Plenty of observant Jews work on Saturday, and at the end of Sunday worship at my church, a fair few of us are talking about work we’ll be doing later that day. As professional demands creep into our “spare” time more and more, the need for rest — physically and psychologically — intensifies. We all need a sabbath, whether we use it to reach out to a creator or not.

How would I spend my sabbath day if I really observed it in its orthodox context?

I’d wake up rested but early enough to read scripture in preparation for worship. I’d have a large cup of frothy coffee. I’d bathe, dress and drive to church for worship. I’d find my seat about 10 minutes before the introit (that’s the opening of the worship liturgy for those who don’t “do church” the way I do) maybe close my eyes and “breathe peace.” For me, that means breathing slowly and deliberately. Then, I’d worship with my church family, being open not just to the gospel and the message in the sermon, but being open to my family members in the pews – listening for their need for touch, talk and encouragement.

I’d spend the rest of the day listening to music while preparing a homemade dinner. This would be work for some people, I know. But for me, it would be an act of love and nurturing. I’d prepare the table, and call Wondertrickster and our best friends to the table. We’d laugh, talk and savor our food. After that, Wondertrickster would join me in an early evening walk with the mutts. We wouldn’t have to talk. Then, we’d come home, watch The Walking Dead and finally go to bed.

Oh, I almost forgot one important thing: Someone other than me would do the dishes and clean the kitchen.

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Hello, kitten: The allure of 1930s Parisian lesbian style

When I first saw the film Amelie, I must have played back the scene five times.

The title character has found a tin box of childhood treasures hidden behind a tile in her bathroom, and has embarked on a journey to find its owner – surely now a grown man with children of his own, if he still lives. Along the way, Amelie – shy, doe-like Amelie – tracks down the box’ owner in every place he is presumed to have lived. She buzzes an apartment in Paris, asks for the man. She gets no answer beyond an opening “Hello?” and heads up to the apartment. When she gets to the hallway, she sees a willowy woman leaning in the doorway of the apartment. She’s dressed in a beautiful suit. She’s smoking a cigarette. The marcel waves in her hair are deliberate and a touch wild.

Hello, kitten.


Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, a blues singer in 1920s Harlem, wore a suit very, very well.

Between the basso profundo of the woman’s voice, the languid lines of her suit and the smoke curving up like a lascivious question mark, well, I was smitten. No. That’s not true. Smitten is too dignified for what I felt. All the warmth in my body gathered in my pelvis.

Thus began my admiration for 1930s Parisian lesbian fashion. Thus began my love of a woman in a well-fitting but decidedly masculine suit. I’ve loved butch women as long as I can remember. When I was maybe 12 or 13, my parents pulled into a gas station to fill up the tank as we returned to Clear Lake City, Texas from a trip. We pulled in behind a small car occupied by two women. When they got out to stretch their legs and filled up their tank, I noticed their hair and there clothes – gym-ready shorts and T-shirts. One of the women was powerfully built.


My mother said it the way some people said “cancer.”


This suit was designed for a woman, but employs what we now call “boot” cut leg and straight lines of a tailored men’s suit.

I didn’t say it out loud, but I admired their boyishness. They carried themselves as if they could spring into action at any moment. Like a guy.

A suit doesn’t say action, exactly. Not the physical sort. But a suit says function, ease and a little style and respect for occasion. And a woman in a suit? The lines draw attention to the face, a certain set to the jaw line, and the eyes. A suit says confidence, forward motion and independence. (Conversely, the women’s apparel of 1930s Paris suggested restriction, restraint and a need for a strong arm to brace against when boarding a train.)

And the woman in the suit? She’s transgressing. Associating with masculine independence, intellect and agency. Her body is an instrument of her own will, rather than an object to be acted upon.


‘Hello, kitten.’ This Parisian woman in the 1930s looks to have donned a man’s suit, tie, vest and shoes.

Most of all, the Parisian suit of the 1930s exaggerated the actual strength and vigor of a woman’s body, without compromising its softness. Would I try a suit today? Sure, if the proportions were flattering. But really, I’d rather be the kitten. The favorite pet of a lady in long lines and structured angles.

Meow indeed.

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For the love of Pete, stop bending my decorative pillows. (And the bed pillows.)


I said it.

The love of my life, the brainy-sexy-cool Wondertrickster (as I call her), has this habit that makes me want to turn into a mass of snarling, hateful bitey-face.

She bends my pillows.

Stop it! That’s not a euphemism for anything naughty. It’s the naked truth. If there is an unoccupied pillow in the vicinity (and pillows are prime real estate in Casa de Wonderboink, thanks to our three dogs) Wondertrickster will bend it. SHE. WILL. BEND. IT. As in fold it in half and subject the bent, folded pillow to her full weight. And sometimes the weight of our pets Wonderfright, Wondergrouch and Wonderlick.

I know what you’re thinking. What particular brand of crazy is Wondertwisted? Is this a first world problem or what? I am my own brand of distilled insanity and yes, my ire at the casual half-ing of pillows is a sure sign that I’m overfed, overindulged and, in the words of Helen Fielding, “bone idle.”

Look, peeves aren’t rational. Peeves are individual tics of the deranged first worlder with control issues. I know all this. But when Wondertrickster grabs a pillow, folds it in half and tucks it behind her back, I want to smack things and cuss. Wondertrickster and I have been jointly domesticated for nearly 20 years. I’ve learned to live with the way she squeezes a tube of toothpaste, the way she leaves usedgoddamnedqtips where our three mutts can find and eat them. (Hey, you think it’s a joy to clean up vomited Q-tips? You do it, then!) I cuss under my breath when I find all of her coats draped over every chair in the house when it is 100 degrees out.

But this pillow-crimping nonsense burns my biscuits. I simply can’t deal with it, you know?  It has something to do with the way my mother keeps her house. At any moment, a Southern Living freelancer could drop in, wait for her to hide the mail, and then take pictures of her house. Everything is beautiful. And when I’m at her house, I feel happy and cozy. I want my home to be the same.

This means that my pillows should be fresh. Crisp. Placed intentionally. They should not be creased. Their polyfill stuffing should be tightly packed, forming a convex belly that says “I’m soft! I’m fresh! I’m LOVED!”

You think I should embrace this quirk of Wondertrickster and accept the outcome as a signature of Casa de Wonderboink. When I look at the pillows around my humble abode — these sagging, deformed mounds of dog hair-covered decor — I don’t see the perfection my mother seems to accomplish with grace.

Maybe I will one day. But for now, I shall fluff, plump and mold while cussing like a shanked inmate in a state prison. I will glower and I will rage.

My pillows will look awful, but me? I will soldier on in this righteous domestic war.

Update: Wondertwisted wasn’t going to “out” Wondertricksters pillow-deforming vice. But  the Daily Prompt brought it up. And now you know what wondertwisted has to live with. Send whiskey and a valium, stat!

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Anybody want some cake?

Anybody want some cake?

That’s what I had to say to get all of the creatures I adore to LOOK. AT. THE. DAMN. CAMERA.

Clockwise, from bottom: Bandit, Master of the Underbite; Scout of the Faulty but Generous heart; Gizmo the Puppy and Laura, the Empress of Road Rage.

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Zimmerman and me: How I helped arm Trayvon Martin’s killer.

(Note to readers: I abandoned my earlier plans to post this entry about my experience in the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Since then, I’ve plucked up my courage.)

It wasn’t until I passed the big black truck in the Wal-Mart parking lot that Rev. Jeff Hood’s sermon hit me like a sand bag.

There was a bumper sticker on the rear window of the truck. It was a loud shade of pink, and it was giving me an order.

Don’t call 911.

Use .357.

To the left of the words was the animated barrel of a gun. The gun the sticker said I should use instead of calling law enforcement.

Rev. Hood, the pastor of the Church at Mabel Peabody’s in Denton, Texas, convicted the small congregation of mostly queer men and women with a sermon about Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria as they sat near the fabled well. He shared the condemnations of George Zimmerman, the Florida man acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. He didn’t have to look far for the acidic response to the verdict; He read them 10 to a second on social media sites. Hood didn’t spare his congregation the vulgarities and obscenities peppering the Facebook status updates and the tweets that surely tested Twitter’s considerable bandwidth.

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, holds up a card with a photo of her son as she speaks at the National Urban League's annual conference, Friday, July 26, 2013, in Philadelphia. Fulton told the National Urban League gathering to use her story, tragedy and broken heart to stop the same thing from happening to another child. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, holds up a card with a photo of her son as she speaks at the National Urban League’s annual conference, Friday, July 26, 2013, in Philadelphia. Fulton told the National Urban League gathering to use her story, tragedy and broken heart to stop the same thing from happening to another child. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Rev. Hood recounted the reaction to a tragedy that raged with racial conjecture and fury. And Hood asked us to consider what we’d have done if Zimmerman was the Samaritan at the well while we lingered there.

“What would you have to give George Zimmerman?” he asked.

Would we have “living water” for this man? How would we face a man who’s been drawn as a monster by so many? After all, Zimmerman earned some of those claws all by himself. He killed an unarmed boy whose biggest sin might have been daring to leave the sidewalk.

Hood asked this of people who are no strangers to threats of violence – implicit and direct. Queer folks who live openly and honestly as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender leave their homes every day knowing that they are a target.

I’ve had just one terrifying experience. My girlfriend and I walked to our car from a Dallas gay bar. As we walked, not touching, a sports utility vehicle pulled up next to us. A passenger window opened a crack and a young man’s voice called out.

Hey you!” the voice yelled. “You f–king dykes! I’m going to kill you, you f–king dykes!

I’m gonna rape you and kill you!”

Even as the vehicle sped off, the sound of men’s laughter bending as it went, I felt a cold finger of terror on my back. This is how I’m going to die. My father is going to have to identify my body. The thought rose in a split second. We got in my car and drove back to Denton. My girlfriend and I didn’t talk about it.

Rev. Hood was asking me what I might do in the presence of Zimmerman. What would I do should I come face-to-face with Public Enemy #1?

And I was stumped.

In this file image from video, George Zimmerman smiles after a not guilty verdict was handed down in his trial at the Seminole County Courthouse, Sunday, July 14, 2013, in Sanford, Fla.

In this file image from video, George Zimmerman smiles after a not guilty verdict was handed down in his trial at the Seminole County Courthouse, Sunday, July 14, 2013, in Sanford, Fla.

Then Hood asked us if maybe we’ve designed a world in which violence isn’t just likely, but inevitable, through our choices. What about the movies we watch? What about the music we listen to? What about the words we use? (“F–k you, motherf–ker! F—k George Zimmerman! Those were the words a lot of us published on social media sites after George Zimmerman was acquitted.)

Time for the truth. These days, most of the films I watch are exceptionally violent. I’m a horror film buff, and had just stopped watching The Human Centipede a few days earlier on account of its weak ploy to shock the audience with — how do I put this — scatological doom. That’s rare for me.


I’ve watched The Poughkeepsie Tapes twice, a movie so gratuitous in its depiction of torture and violence that my stomach churned. I watched every second of Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer only to be angry that a director would subject anyone to the pornographic glee captured in scenes of human butchery and rape. I crave the chills of true crime, and I’m not sure why. I’ve gobbled up media about the worst serial killers to roam the earth. I love to be scared. And I love for heroes — especially heroines — to kill the villains. The violence is always cathartic. In fact, I’m convinced that the reason I seek out horror movies is because the villain’s bloody end is the justice I crave.

As for music, I return to hip-hop again and again, with its metaphorical lyrics about “murdering” rappers in the booth. Lyrics that declare the narrator as a hero for using women as mere tissues to mop up after the rapper’s gleeful masturbation. Sometimes, I can’t stomach the demeaning depiction of women in the form (Yeezus is particularly gross), but I still listen. I know I’ve made a terrible bargain, but I just love those beats.

And my words? I routinely exaggerate my anger.

Nothing wrong with that guy a sledgehammer to the face wouldn’t solve,” I’ve said. “God, I wanna punch her in the neck. Or the ovaries,” I’ve said with a roll of my eyes.

And the day before that sermon? The day the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder  case was announced? I’d been hurrying to the office to print out some paperwork. That’s when I saw a small group of people marching through the heart of downtown Denton. Many of them had what looked like semiautomatic rifles over their shoulders. They carried a white flag with what looked like an M-4 rifle on it, the words “come and take it” underneath the rifle. They stopped at the door of the newsroom in a casual scrum. I couldn’t see if someone was knocking, hoping to get some ink on their protest. I peered at them from my car, resolved not to draw attention to myself. This is my day off, dammit, I thought. But really, I was afraid to grab my notebook and ask a group of people — two of them pushing a baby stroller — why they were carrying rifles. Irrational? Maybe. But I know what it feels like to have a stranger threaten to rape and kill you. Heck, I’m a walking reminder of the so-called Gay Agenda.

There’s no way I’m going to try to disarm you guys,” I thought.

Then, there I was in the parking lot of a huge shopping center with a cartoon gun pointing at my head. I didn’t know whether to be mad at Rev. Hood or myself. The marketplace gives me what I want: Spilled blood. Righteous and hunted women still standing as the credits roll.  And an endless armory of virtual ammo. The media fill my Spotify playlists with those posing, chin-jerking anthems that delude me into thinking I’m a bad-ass amazon instead a fat lesbian jogging heavily down the streets.

I’ve never been the quiet one at the edge of the well.

I’ve never been the servant of God, waiting for uninspiring moments to show my love of the Divine by serving the children of God, even the ones who are tough to love. Especially those who are hard to love. Mostly I’m sitting around giving people the stink eye. Where is the smiting when you need it, right?

And now this preacher with slight shoulders and a longish beard wants me to think about what I’d give to George Zimmerman? He knows what I have for this man. I have the sharp side of my tongue. I have a cold shoulder and a chip itching to be picked at. If it were for me to do, I’d give George Zimmerman something to be afraid of. I’d be the biggest “f–cking asshole” of the tribe that supposedly marauded around his neighborhood before he made an example of Trayvon.

George Zimmerman will probably  get the stink eye for the rest of his life. Threats will be spat from car windows and the shadows when he’s just walking by, living his life. Not bothering anyone. He’ll feel the fear. He’ll crack his head against boundaries that, for most of us, are invisible.

The truth is that I don’t want Zimmerman to experience that. I don’t want Zimmerman to feel hunted, vulnerable and endangered in his own skin. I’ve felt that once. And there are other people who don’t have my white skin, don’t have my carefully applied makeup and don’t have my wardrobe (which complies with the culture’s expectation of “good” women). They’ve probably felt endangered in their own skin, vulnerable and exposed, many more times than my one bad night. And young black men? I figure they never get a break from feeling like they are a target.

And yet…

I don’t want Zimmerman to spend the rest of his life carrying that mortal fear. I hope he can carry the ghost of Trayvon Martin with something like nobility. Something like grace. And now that Rev. Hood has called my silent, festering bigotries into the hard light of truth, I think that I have a responsibility to Trayvon’s memory and Zimmerman’s life.

Should I encounter Zimmerman at the well, I like to hope that I wouldn’t heap my pain onto his. But it doesn’t look so good for him, or anyone who is my enemy. I haven’t had much practice sharing the water of life. I’m too busy convincing myself that Samaritans can’t, in fact, be trusted. They pack heat, after all. They pull triggers. Me? I buy tickets to watch. Because catharsis is a higher priority than disarming Zimmerman and all his brethen with something gentler.

My catharsis is more important than the love of the Holy One.

So I’m here to ask for forgiveness. Because we’re all Trayvon Martin, and we’re all George Zimmerman. And if we martyr Travyon and condemn Zimmerman to a living hell?

If that’s our choice, we’re all in trouble.

Those teens on twitter? No one “outed” them.

Anyone with a Facebook account knows that Americans are still either celebrating the election of President Barack Obama to his second term — or still reeling from Mitt Romney’s loss.

Social media is a mixed bag. A blessing and a curse. On Tuesday, a high school classmate and Facebook friend of mine who lives in China posted a status update about another school mate “un-friending” him for openly supporting Obama.

Diplomacy was scarce and fleeting between the red and blue after the election. On Nov. 9th, the high-profile Gawker Media blog, Jezebel, posted a controversial story about American teens who tweeted their rage over Obama’s re-election, their famously short blasts dripping with racial epithets. You can read the post — and the 509 subsequent comments — here

The story detailed a random sampling — 12 teenagers whose Twitter account profiles are linked to their actual identities — of tweets that referred  to the president as a “nigger” or a “monkey.”

Welcome to “post-racial America,” y’all.

My mom is a bigot. Yay!

Little pitchers have big ears. See exhibit ‘R’ for ‘racist.’

Jezebel aggregated and published the tweets themselves, including the author’s names, hometowns and the high schools they attend and represent as athletes and club members.

Jezebel was after the answer to one question: did the racist tweets about the president violate school policy? Blogger Tracie Egan Morrissey contacted the principals at each high school to find out. A lot of calls weren’t returned; A few schools reported that they were aware of the tweets and were dealing with the offending students. Those school officials wouldn’t divulge the consequences, citing policies that forbid them from discussing the details of individual disciplinary cases. That’s understandable.

As social media has expanded, a lot of American public schools have addressed formats such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to give school officials authority to deal with online behavior that can impact students while they are at school or are engaged in school activities off campus or outside of regular school hours.

Teens who tweeted racist epithets after the presidential election did so from accounts linked to their actual identity. Several students later insisted that their accounts had been hacked.

Predictably, Jezebel commenters erupted over the site’s decision to identify the teens. They decried Jezebel editors for “outing” the teens in a format that is permanent. More than one commenter noted that prospective colleges could find the article — and the hateful remarks — simply by doing a Google search of the teens’ names. Because of Jezebel, colleges could willfully pass over students who have already demonstrated a propensity for stupidity at best, racism at worst. Those concerns are valid.* These commenters rallied around the teens, explaining that they are minors and therefore shouldn’t be named in a public forum.

Jezebel didn’t “out” anyone.  In order to “out” someone, there must be secrecy — and often, shame — around the behavior in question.  If you’re familiar with Twitter, you know it bears no relationship to secrecy. Think of Twitter as the YMCA. You have to join it to participate. And then when you participate, you are never, ever alone. When you participate in Twitter, you are in a public place, a place that is free to anyone who wants to join.

Powerful black men will take all of your money.

For an alarmingly big number of American teens, allusions to economic policy were just an excuse to call the president a “nigger.” Later, commenters on Jezebel, a popular blog, excused the teens from responsibility on the basis of their youth.

And if you’ve seen these tweets — made by teenagers whose profiles include photos of themselves, names, school activities and their hometowns — there is not one particle of shame in them. The racism is blatant. Boastful, even.

These teenagers weren’t “outed.” What they did would be very much like walking into Denton High School — a public building attended by all races and socio-economic classes — lifting a megaphone to your mouth, and declaring that you don’t want Barack Obama to be the president. Because he’s a “nigger” or a “monkey.” Does anyone think such a stunt would be met with silence? Does anyone think a responsible adult wouldn’t respond?

These teenagers haven’t earned the blunted edge of journalistic anonymity. And they might be young, but they are old enough to know better. I don’t pity them. I worry about the rest of us, who will likely spend the rest of our time on the planet mopping up after them. After all, these teens are being reared by adults who are either teaching them to be proud of their toxic beliefs (hey, they have a first amendment right to turn black and brown people into objects on the basis of race alone, right?) without consequence, or letting them think that racism isn’t penalized until the very moment they turn 18.

Maybe we all need read All I Really Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten again. The part about playing fair. The part about cleaning up your own messes. The part about saying you are sorry when you hurt someone.

If we believe that teenagers who are behaving badly should get a pass because they are young, then we are hurting them. We’ve let them think that adolescence is a golden age when mistakes can never stick and sin isn’t real. People need to graduate from high school prepared to navigate an America that is home to people of all kinds. If teens are to inherit a country worth fighting for and living in, then they need to be citizens with a grip on civility and social nuance. It’s not that they can’t express they’re beliefs. They can. But they also have to be accountable to and for them. Publicly and personally. And if we grownups think our little darlings can get away with this kind of behavior in the workplace, we’re certifiable.

If Jezebel’s condemnation and investigation stings the young psyches of these teens, I say let them feel it.

If we’re fortunate, the pain will teach them some humanity. I hope it’s not too late.

*In 2001, members of the Kappa Alpha fraternity confronted a group of University of North Texas football recruits, most of them black, as they were touring the campus with their parents. The members shouted racial epithets at the group and waved a Confederate battle flag at them. The UNT administration suspended the fraternity for five years.  Universities and national officials of panhellenic groups often frown on such behavior, and deliver harsh punishments for these behaviors because they violate school conduct policies. Conduct counts. Online and off. 

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