Dancing With Orlando

I’ve sat on this post for a while, not knowing what to say, but knowing I had to say something for my own healing. As a friend and fellow blogger noted, there are plenty of blogs and articles and think pieces out there by people more informed, more connected, and more articulate than I. But I have to write. So, here goes.

Early in the morning of the 12th of June, a heavily armed gunman entered Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire. 49 people were killed, 53 people were injured, some still in a serious condition. It was Latin night at the bar, so many of the victims were Latinx or coloured. Most of them, as has been reported, were members of the LGBTIQ community.

Australian television reported the event as breaking news. Not once was it reported that Pulse was a gay bar. I didn’t discover this fact until the next day as I was trawling Facebook. An already horrific event just became all the more terrifying.

I am a cis, white, femme woman. The way I look invites assumptions that I’m heterosexual. The only time you would know I’m bisexual is if I tell you, or if you see me holding hands with my same sex partner. I came out to family and friends 20 years ago with little fanfare. I have never experienced random homophobia unless I am holding hands with my same sex partner. My ability to “pass” as straight has afforded me the privilege of living relatively free from fear. I’m also tough and opinionated, so the times I have been met with stares and looks in public whilst with my partner, I have defiantly returned the looks and stares. Homophobic epithets yelled from passing cars have been laughed at because I think it’s ridiculous.

My wife, however, is a cis, coloured, androgynous lesbian woman. She screams gay. To look at her, you could safely assume she’s gay. She has had a different experience all her life. She does not feel safe holding hands in public. She has to check who she’s with before she refers to me as her “wife” rather than her “partner”. She has experienced discrimination, hatred, thinly veiled contempt, and violence in the form of homophobia. She has felt a fear I haven’t.

We have both, however, taken refuge in our community. In our clubs and bars we have felt safe. Surrounded by LGBTIQ people we have felt at home, free, able to be ourselves.

Now, in the wake of Orlando, for the first time in my life, I am afraid. I know I shouldn’t be. I know that I shouldn’t allow the hate of that act to change who I am in the world, but it has. Because it could happen to me. It could happen to my wife, my friends, my dad, my family. In that one place where we go to take off the armour of staunchness against society’s view of us – us queers, the gays, the lesbians, the bisexuals, the transgendered, the intersex, the ones questioning, the ones uninterested in labels but who know they aren’t straight, the “others” – we are no longer safe. And it scares me.

The day after the Pulse shooting happened, I was on a train going to rehearsal. A man and his girlfriend were sitting next to me, arguing loudly. As they left, the man yelled out to an Asian man opposite us that he was a “filthy fucking chink pig”. Usually, I’d call out this behaviour. Usually, I’d apologise to the person abused for being subjected to that. This time I didn’t because I was afraid. There was too much hate that weekend for me to stand up against this.

Our community has had enough. This is not to say other minority groups haven’t; we have all had enough of hate. But the LGBTIQ community have been fighting for decades – for generations for our rights, to be treated equally, to be recognised as human beings who are as we are, not as degenerate, or mentally ill, or perverted, or criminal. We have fought not to be brutalised or “corrected” or killed for being not straight, for being born “different”. We have fought for our freedom to marry our partners, and to walk down the street holding hands without being heckled, abused or bashed. It seemed like it was getting better. It seemed like we could relax for a little while. Then this happened.

Not only has this act of the worst mass shooting in America’s modern history slammed the fact in our faces that we’re still not safe, the refusal of the heteronormative mainstream media – and some of our country’s leaders – to recognise the homophobic element of this crime has made us feel that we are invisible.

Yes, this was a crime against humanity and a crime against our freedom to be as we are – all acts of terror are – but this was also, unequivocally an act of homophobic hatred. There have been reports that Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the shooting, was a regular at Pulse and a closeted homosexual. It is still a homophobic act. Growing up gay in a world that tells us being gay is wrong and evil will, in some cases, elicit feelings of self-hatred so intense that they explode in violent acts against others. That’s homophobia.

Oh, and then there’s the hoaxers – the people who believe the shooting was a false flag to further the “gay agenda”, Islamophobia, gun reform and Obama’s “black politics”. You know, the people who post videos, vehemently insisting the victims don’t exist, demanding photos of gun shot wounds from survivors to prove they aren’t “crisis actors”, giving “evidence” that the whole incident didn’t happen. You know what? I’d probably take these opinions more seriously if their videos and opinion pieces weren’t littered with homophobic tags (e.g. “aw, look at the poor grieving faggot”), racism (“it was only them spiks that were killed”), and general insensitivity.

Look, I’m not going to deny anyone their right to express their opinions however abhorrent I find them. I’m not a big fan of blindly swallowing whatever the mainstream media feeds us, but for fuck’s sake, people are dead. Those who are using Orlando as a platform to vent their anti-government/authority/big corporation/whatever viewpoints aren’t serving the greater good. They’re just augmenting the hate.

People are dead.

Fuck, it hurts. It really hurts because I’ve realised that I haven’t seen myself in any of the terror victims of the past. I haven’t recognised the fellow fallen humans in Baghdad or Paris or London or Syria or anywhere at all. It’s not until my community – MY community, MY identity, MY place of belonging – is threatened that I am affected. That saddens me. I may not have been at Pulse. I may live on the other side of the world in a country with gun control. I may not be connected to any of it other than the ownership I have as a queer woman. I may not know any of the victims or survivors, but I see myself in them. And it’s made me aware that I see myself in all victims of violence, and that’s overwhelming.

Enough. Enough hate. Please.

Having said that, having admitted my fear, K and I have been going out to our local gay bar for the last couple of weeks because she is competing in a drag competition (she’s a drag king, and she’s hot as a guy, and more on that later). There was so much love, so much acceptance, so much the gathering of like-minded and love-minded people that all my fear dissipated, even if it was just for a few hours. I love our community. I love the supporters of our community. In spite of all that’s happened, we will keep on dancing. We are dancing.

 

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Love Isn’t Enough

Trigger warning: contains references to drug use, violence, abuse and rape.

I remember the first time it happened. We were in St Kilda East, opposite the cemetery. Stupid idea for two energetically sensitive people to live opposite a massive cemetery, but there you go. We were breaking up for the second time. I had confronted her about her return to drug use, and by confront I mean scream “fucking junkie” in her face. She punched me in the mouth, held me down on the bed and raised her fist to punch me again. She called me a dumb fuck, ugly bitch. I muttered for her to get out of my house. She did. I cried. I went in to work at the parlour the next night, my lip swollen and a blood blister forming. The girls took care of me, but all I wanted was her.

I begged her to come back. She did eight months later. By this time I had spent a few months living in a factory cultivating an amphetamine habit that I didn’t have to pay for, I had worked in Sydney for the first time and been anally raped by a client whilst there, and had been homeless for a while, bouncing from couch to couch. I had finally found a little flat to call home in St Kilda, and she came back. And then she left. And then she came back. Even when she was with someone else, she came back. This was to be the final two years of our relationship, this push me/pull you bullshit.

The second time it happened was at the flat. I had found needles and poorly written love notes from another woman. I confronted her again, this time adding “whore” to the well-versed “fucking junkie” routine. I slapped her because she called me stupid. She doesn’t remember this, but I do because she fractured my nose in retaliation. She slept in my bed that night, while I lay on the couch, sobbing. She was gone in the morning.

I punched the wall next to her head once because she stole my entire $700 pay packet to score some heroin. Then I took her to a Buddhist temple to be cleansed. She thought I was taking her somewhere to kill her. I guess she didn’t know how much I loved her, that regardless of how many fantasies I had of beating her up and throwing her off the balcony, I could never harm her. Love does that.

The last time was the last time anyone ever laid a hand on me again. I forget now what the argument was about. Probably drugs, again. I goaded her, that I remember. I pushed her hard with my words until she snapped. She held a knife to my throat and tried to smash my head through the kitchen window. Fuck, she was strong. I have strength, yes, but she was propelled by something more forceful. I couldn’t push her away. She suddenly let me go, grabbed her things, and stumbled out the door. I didn’t see her again for years.

I grieved for her for a long time. I thought she was The One for me because I felt so strongly for her. I didn’t realise until years later that the physical stuff was not the only abuse we heaped on each other. She lied to me constantly, about stuff that she didn’t even have to lie about. I called her names to hurt her because I couldn’t touch her. She stole money and jewellery from me. I read her private phone messages. She took drugs and worked at the parlour one New Year’s Eve instead of spending it with me, so I cheated on her with another woman – I was free to sleep with whatever man I wanted to, but I broke our one rule in spite. She shot up anything she could get her hands on. I cut myself. She’d proposition men for drugs. I laid on my back for her habit. We played stupid games with each other, her using, me enabling until we burnt ourselves out. We were like a supernova that imploded into a black hole.

The funny thing is, we loved each other fiercely. That’s probably why we lasted for five years all up. She still says that I was the perfect girlfriend. I beg to differ, but I loved her, there was no doubt about that. Sometimes, though, love isn’t enough. We were bad for each other. She lost herself in drugs and I lost myself in her. While we were together, terrible things happened to us and we weren’t in the frame of mind to get help. Our network was sex workers, brothel managers and drug addicts – people who had their own stories and horrors to contend with. We removed ourselves from our respective families because toxic relationships tend to make their inhabitants do that. Oh, there was love. In retrospect though, looking back years later, it is so clear that it wasn’t enough.

Ten years later, we’ve reconnected and we’re friends. Good friends. Some people raise their eyebrows at this. I guess I wanted her friendship because I refused to be the victim and I refused to make her the perpetrator. I’ve told very few people the particulars of this story because I still refuse to be the victim in this. I spent a lot of my life victimising myself because of the things that happened to me at the hands of others. I needed to, and identifying as a victim of abuse is very important for the healing process to begin. But by the time she and I were finished I was done with it, I was done with being the person bad things happened to. Therefore, I think, I was able to forgive. She and I have talked and talked and cried and talked about that time. She has apologised again and again, still does, to such an extent where I have to tell her to stop because she doesn’t need to anymore. I can see by simply spending time with her that she’s a completely different person now, as am I. I said my sorries to her too, as one thing this relationship taught me is that things are rarely one-sided.

I’ve suffered abuse. At the hands of my mother, at the hands of a child molester, at the hands of a few rapists, and at the hands of a lover. It does not define me, but I know more of this subject than I care to. No one can tell me otherwise.

If you know more of abuse than you’d care to, please get help. Talk to someone. Recovery is not about being angry at the person who hurt you (although that helps for a short time), it’s about finding a way to move on with love for yourself. Talk therapy helped me immensely. Maybe it can help you too.

This post is dedicated to this year’s Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, whose strength, resilience and bravery is an inspiration to many.

CASA
Support for victims of rape and sexual assault

http://www.casa.org.au

Family Drug Support
For families and loved ones of those with addictions

http://www.fds.org.au

ASCA
For adults surviving child abuse

http://www.asca.org.au

Victim Support Australia
Help for victims of crime

http://www.victimsupport.org.au

Child Wise
Help for victims of child sexual abuse

http://www.childwise.org.au

Domestic Violence Resource Centre
A very helpful site for those experiencing domestic violence, also caters to LGBTIQ

http://www.dvrcv.org.au/support-services/national-services

1800RESPECT
https://www.1800respect.org.au

Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association
Although there is no over-reaching national association, this page has links to other organisations that offer support and help to current and ex-sex workers. (Based in NSW)

http://www.scarletalliance.org.au

Of Loss, Lying, and Love

Seven years ago, at the age of 30, I did this crazy nutso thing and went back to University to finish my degree. I was nervous as all get out as I knew that coming in to complete my third year I would be interloping on an already established network of student artists and theatre makers – most of whom would be 10 years my junior. How on earth was I going to fit in to this group of people who already had two full years of experiences and bonding and getting drunk together and all that? Could I still write essays? Did I know what ‘pathos’ meant (I reckon I still don’t know what ‘pathos’ means)? Would people want to work with me? Could I match wits with my classmates and teachers? Would I pass my degree? It was scary and intimidating, but given I had spent the previous year in a depressed, stoned and fat state of self-loathing, I needed to jump right in and swim.

Within the first week, I was pretty much accepted into the fold, probably because I have no problem making a dick of myself to get people to like me. I was also fresh blood. Within six months, I had a whole new group of friends, had come out as an ex-hooker, and had earned a reputation for being unapologetically honest, accepting and funny. The age difference meant little, the laughs were a-plenty, and new theatrical exploits were planned and executed with aplomb and alacrity.

Cut to seven years later, most of these friends are gone. I must admit that the majority of them I chose to step away from, mainly because I didn’t like who I was around them, but a few kind of forced my hand somewhat. Some of them were my closest friends that I had spent the last seven years forging deeply important connections with. Seven years of cheap hair cuts, and tea, and hugs, and listening ears, and the keeping of their secrets, the countless tarot readings, the acceptance and non-judgement, the theatre, the wine and the laughs. All gone because they believe my wife abused her ex, because that’s what my wife’s ex told EVERYONE. That and many other lies that manifested silent judgement in my friends’ eyes when they looked at me, when they looked at my wife. I want to scream at them “FUCK YOU! How dare you! Damn you for abandoning me, for not returning the faith I had in you, for believing the worst, for not talking to me because it’s ‘none of your business’, but let’s face it, you make it your business because you talk to everyone else except me about it. Fuck you and fuck the high horse you rode in on!”

*rage!*

By gods, I miss them. There’s a hole in my life created by their absence. There are comments and messages missing from my social media page, texts unreturned and unread, conversations that I can’t have with anyone else. I feel lost. Bereft. My heart hurts and I cry often, usually alone. My pride will not let me reach out to them, my fear warning me that any attempt to connect will be rejected. I don’t cope well with rejection so I don’t try. I’m pig-headed like that.

I know it’s my own fault. I walked away. I made a choice and I stuck to it, as righteous and indignant as it may have been at the time. I still believe it was the right thing to do, because I do not believe or give any credence to what my wife has been accused of. I didn’t believe it before she and I began our relationship and I still don’t. I will choose her time and again because it’s the right thing for me to do. Yet, I still grieve what I have lost.

Wikipedia defines friendship as having the following characteristics: affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, altruism, mutual understanding and compassion, enjoyment of each other’s company, trust, and the ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings, and make mistakes without fear of judgement from the friend. For once, Wikipedia can be relied upon as being fairly accurate. That aside, I cannot deny that I do still have friends that offer me the aforementioned things, and I can requite them the same. But the connection I have with those friends differs from my Uni friends, and I can’t quite identify why. It’s a feeling I guess.

This too shall pass, as all things are ephemeral. In closing the doors to those people, I have manifested the opportunity for other avenues of connection to open. This is exciting and different, my life has changed immeasurably, I feel there are magnificent and wonderful experiences to come, and I fully believe that all has happened just as it should have happened.

it still sucks, but. And it will suck for a while. I hope they’re okay. I hope they achieve all they desire. I hope in time I will see them again and all will be fine. I hope they miss me as much as I miss them.

Love’s Labours

She burst into my life like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky. I stole that line from Christopher M. Cevasco who said that in reference to reading Tolkien for the first time, but it’s accurate. It was unplanned, unexpected and unsought. I had thought she was beautiful from the moment we met a year ago, but she was in a relationship, about to get “married” – as much as lesbians can get married in this country – and I don’t mess around in other people’s relationships. I kept my friendly distance, stayed acquaintances with her and her wife, and continued my lonely journey.

Six months after the wedding, the marriage soured. Gauntlets were thrown, mud was slung, feelings were hurt and names were besmirched. It was ugly. Ugly and painful for all involved, I’m sure, but the only people who know what truly went on in that relationship is her and her wife.

Five weeks later, I took her on a date, simply because I wanted to give her a moment of sanctity, maybe even a little bit of joy. It had been a long time since a woman had elicited such feelings in me, and it may have been a long time before I met someone who did again, so I took my chance. I saw her more often, my heart growing larger every time. We spent hours talking, kissing, laughing and enjoying our connection. I believed at first that I was a band aid, a means to mend a lacerated heart, and although the thought saddened me I accepted the possibility that this was my only role in her life. I honestly felt privileged to be that momentary salve for her soul. However, despite our best intentions, and even against our own wishes, we fell in love.

We celebrated, publicly and privately, this new discovery of love. We took photos, we shared photos, we accompanied each other to significant events simply because we just wanted to be together, experiencing each other in these moments, as people in love do. Within a month, we became official. We’re in a relationship.

And then the knives came out. Some were sharp, keen and loud; others dull, silent but no less painful. Opinions were formed by those ill-informed, unsolicited advice was delivered with the arrogance of those who have not yet learned to let others be as they are. People started telling us what to do, using mutual friends as catalysts, suggesting that we might perhaps think of others and not be so “cutesy” quite so publicly. We were accused of using social media to be spiteful, of manipulating others’ emotions for our own gain, and for proving nasty accusations against my partner as fact through our inappropriately timed relationship.

And I snapped. I ranted and raved. I lost my temper and my ability to be understanding and compassionate. What we were being charged with sounded juvenile to me. I am capable of being an arsehat, but vindictiveness is not in my nature, so being reproached for that offended me. It angered me, for one very simple reason:

I am happy. And people I barely know are sitting around talking about my relationship like it’s an episode of Game of Thrones and coming to the conclusion that my happiness is objectionable and should not be displayed in a public domain.

I have no shame in declaring that my life has been difficult. I have had many moments over the last 37 years in which I felt I was existing in some circle of Hell. I have fought, and struggled, and heaved my way out of that pit time and again. I have been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by strangers and by people who claimed to love me. I have put myself through trial after ordeal whilst stumbling around in the dark trying to figure out how to be human. I have suffered indignities, sorrow and pain, and through it all I still found the ability to breathe, to find joy where I could, to love as much as my battered heart would allow. And yet I was never really happy. I didn’t think I could be.

She came into my life at a time when I had resigned myself to a continuing reality in which I existed alone. Rather than being a depressive, self-pitying realisation, it was an understanding of who I was and where my existence was at. It wasn’t a reflection on who I am as a person, whether or not I was loveable or worthy, it was simply an acceptance that perhaps my life wasn’t about experiencing that particular kind of partnership, that it was more about my spiritual development, and my art, and my friends, and the more I searched for that elusive love that I craved so much, the more miserable I would be. The thought also occurred to me that perhaps I was simply too damaged to ever be completely vulnerable and let someone else in. So I let it go with an abeyant sense of sadness, and told myself I didn’t like who I became in a relationship anyway, so I wasn’t missing much.

Then she entered my field of vision and everything changed. We are unflinchingly honest with each other about everything: our pasts, our expectations, our faults, the things we don’t like about ourselves, the things we do, how scared we both are, how cautious we know we should be, and how quickly we fell for each other anyway. Maybe it’s a lesbian thing, I don’t know, but I can’t deny that I am in love. So utterly, overwhelmingly, scarily in love.

For the first time in any relationship I’ve had ever, I feel like myself. I am comfortable and relaxed, and I have so many moments where I am present and content. I don’t feel the need to impress her, to compete with her, to hide my crazy, or to be right all the time. I don’t feel the need to be thin to be attractive to her, and I don’t need to play the femme fatale to get her attention. She thinks I’m funny and sweet and beautiful and smart and a dork and clumsy and she loves me for all of it. At last, I think I’m having the relationship I should be having. I’m actually happy, not because she “makes” me happy, but because I like who I am around her.

It’s happened very quickly, and if I’d had my way, I would have preferred her to spend more time single. But it is as it is, and being the sort of person who takes risks for love, art and experience, I have accepted this path that the Universe has put me on. It’s hard, though. Staying vigilant amongst the well-intentioned but ultimately hurtful “advice” that has been sent our way is difficult. Doubt is always a factor in new relationships, but it usually comes from within, not from external sources. Many of her friends believe she has moved on too quickly, but what they don’t know is the hours of discussion between us and our close friends over what went wrong, the times she has wept in my arms over the end of that relationship, her sorrow at the loss of her wife who was her best friend, and her fear of fucking up her time with me. Of course no one else knows this, it’s private. I understand the concern of her friends and mine, and I begrudge no one the right to have an opinion, but I do draw the line at imposing that opinion as fact onto my experience. I would never dare tell anyone what they should and should not say, do, think or feel. It’s insulting.

Our relationship is not a “fuck you” to her ex, a woman who whilst hurting hurt others, including two of my closest friends. Our time together is about us, not about sticking it to anyone else. We share our adventures with our online world because this is the age of the internet, such is the time we live in now. The only person who has any conceivable right to be offended or disaffected by our public declarations of mutual admiration is her ex, who has blocked us both on social media (such is her privilege) and has no access to our private lives. Her name is not mentioned in any of my posts, and I try very hard to be respectful of her perspective of her relationship. But this is mine, and I will not be shushed.

Look, at the risk of sounding overly poetic, love will not be denied. It demands attention, expression and celebration. We as humans need to hear “I love you” as much as we need to say it. I love hard and I love well, and the opinions of a few is not going to stop me from rejoicing in my happiness with the many who have been waiting to see me in that state for decades. If that means I alienate some acquaintances then so be it. I personally think it’s sad that someone’s happiness can be the cause of so much disdain in others.

I love her. She is my illumination, my muse, my paramour, my biggest fan and my greatest ally. She is graceful and erudite, she is considerate and charming, she is accepting and reflective, and is one of the most brutally honest people I know. I admire her strength and her vulnerability, and I hold in high regard her ability and willingness to take responsibility for her own life, to seek help, and to own her mistakes.

She makes me laugh. She makes my heart sing. And yes, she may one day hurt me just as much as I may hurt her, but I choose to take the risk because I’m an adult and have the competence required to make my own decisions.

What makes me laugh is that none of this is actually anybody else’s business, not even remotely. The only people who know what really goes on in our relationship are her and me. The reason I share this now is because I want to. I have nothing to prove and nothing to justify to anybody. This, what you’re reading now, is about me. Little ol’ me, finally receiving the love I’ve always wanted.

Little Fat Flying Cherub Day

Lupercalia

Valentine’s Day, eh? Geesh, when I think of Valentine’s Days past, I am reminded of two years of working the phones at an international flower delivery service and that day being the day to dread. 12 hours of frantic, last minute orders, angry customers, overworked and stressed florists, and my frayed temper. Honestly, if your entire relationship rests on whether your uninspired choice of a dozen red roses reaches your beloved by closing time, you’ve got a huge fucking problem.

Oh my gods, customers would get so infuriated if anything occurred that was not within their expectations, as if theirs was the only order/relationship/existence of importance. The experience of working at that place greatly opened my eyes to the absolute absurdity of this annual “holiday” and the lengths people will go to to conform to an accepted display of affection on this consumer-driven, banal day of twaddle.

Now, you may be forgiven for thinking that my enmity for the 14th of February actually stems from a lack of romantic attention on this day in the past because you’d be partly right. The only Valentine’s Day present I’ve ever been given was a rustic CD stack from my ex-fiancé. One year, he took me for lunch at Arthur’s Seat which would have been lovely if we had not had a sotto voce argument in the restaurant that I started which consequently left me in tears, which was the regular occurrence in our relationship. He gave me beautiful gifts for Christmas and birthdays, but Valentine’s Day was a fizzer always. I bought him a Valentine’s gift once, I’m sure. I just can’t remember what it was. Obviously, it was so much from the heart that my blinding love blocked out the memory of its physical form.

Ha ha.

Subsequent relationships garnered little in the Romance Day of Gift Buying department mainly because my ex-girlfriend was too wasted to notice that it was THAT DAY (or any day, truth be told, bless her cotton socks) and therefore was oblivious to any of my romantic overtures in celebration of the day, and the most recent ex was so busy trying to prove that he didn’t love me, like me, or even particularly want to be around me that I’m sure a failure to acknowledge the Day of “Love” was yet another attempt to wound me with his indifference.

Here I am, talking about Valentines past as if I actually care. I don’t really. I mean, whether or not I get a gift or a card or a gesture remains relatively unimportant in the scheme of things, but in the midst of my crusty cynicism, I do have occasional, private wistful wonderings of what it would be like to have an unexpected romantic surprise from one’s paramour. I also ponder why it’s so important, why this day is so bloody significant to the general unwashed masses.

Being slightly pagan in my world view, and knowing that Valentine’s Day has some basis in pagan history, you’d think I’d know the history of this day. Well, I don’t, but I did some hasty research and found out (woo, internet!).

This day of mass-produced love has its origins in the festival Lupercalia (which I do know a little about as it turns out), which is the ancient Pagan, possibly pre-Roman festival of fertility, or as the right-wing Christian fundamentalists like to call the “festival of sexual licence”. Apparently, celebrating our fertility is a sexual perversion (rcg.org). Go, you crazy Christians!*

Oh, you crazy Christians!

Oh, you crazy Christians!

Lupercalia is actually a ritual involving the twin founders of the city of Rome, Romulus and Remus, who were fished out of the River Tiber and raised by a she-wolf in a cave at the base of Palatine Hill. The cave was dubbed the Lupercal (from the Latin lupus meaning “wolf”), and became the sacred site of future rituals in honour of the twins and the wolves who raised them, represented by Lupa, the she-wolf, and Faunus Lupercus, the alpha-male wolf deity.

The ritual included the sacrifice of a goat and a dog, “the killing of a herd animal and a herd defender presumably echoing the feral days living in the Lupercal” (manygods.org.uk) by two young men representing, I reckon, the twins, who then led the Luperci – a gaggle of priests formed for this particular ritual – down the street, thwacking women, men and children with a bits of dead goat in an attempt to cleanse out the bad juju of the previous year and promote fertility.

Goat spanking. It's the new ... um ...

Goat spanking. It’s the new … um …

As is the way with the crazy Pagans** the ritual ends with a big feast (presumably of goat meat) and lots of sex.

This all happens on the 15th of February. The 14th of February is the eve of Lupercalia and was the day of the love lotteries as it was also the day of Juno, the Queen of the Gods and big fan of marriage. According to witchology.com, unmarried women wrote their names on bits of paper which were tossed into a jar and chosen at random by unmarried men. The couples then paired up for the remainder of the festival and could remain together and marry if the partnership worked. How this fits in with the tradition of anonymous and perhaps slightly stalkery love note-giving of today’s Valentine’s Day is perhaps due to the Lupercalia custom blending with folklore beliefs in Britain and France that the 14th was the day the birds started their bonking season, so everybody thought “let’s get bonking too!” and it persisted as the day of love.

But then the early Christians came along and spoiled all the fun. “Now stop this, we can’t have blood sacrifices, that’s just not on. And we certainly can’t have all this rampant spanking, bonking and carrying on, it’s so undignified. I know! There were two martyrs called Valentine killed on this day in different years sometime in the 3rd century by that Emperor Claudius II person, let’s give one of them, oh I don’t know, the second one … let’s give them this day and we can get back to some sort of decorum … oh, the people want to keep frolicking? Oh, all right, just keep your bloody clothes on!”

Or something like that.

And so it evolved, as these things are wont to do, into what it is today. Some Christian groups have distanced themselves from the supposed religious aspect of the day admitting that it really has nothing to do with a couple of dead saints, and claiming that it is against their God to celebrate it.

But really, in my humble opinion? It’s a day that celebrates love. Yes, it’s consumerised (just made up a word there) to buggery, yes it causes more stress in relationships than it should, yes it may have lost its true meaning somewhere in the works, but so what? We celebrate birthdays, we celebrate our national holidays, we celebrate Christmas and Easter (both with their roots in Paganism), why not celebrate a day of love? Forget the sappy bullshit that accompanies it, Valentine’s Day is a great day to remember, reflect, and bask in the warm-fuzzy glow of romantic love or platonic love or familial love or any kind of love because love is pretty awesome. Hey! It looks like I care after all.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers and their loved ones. Go have some chocolate covered candy hearts.

*No disrespect to sane Christians anywhere.

**No disrespect to sane Pagans anywhere.

Same Love

I’ve blogged about marriage equality before. Yep, I’m gonna do it again ‘cause there’s nothing I love more than whipping that proverbial horse until it’s broken and bleeding on the ground, staring up at me with those pleading eyes that are asking me, ‘why? Why??’

Anyway, I digress.

I went to a lesbian wedding yesterday. A Jewish lesbian wedding in fact, that was quite religious, albeit progressively so. It was held in a synagogue with the smashing of the glass and the walking around in circles and everything. You could have knocked me down with a feather when God didn’t come stomping down out of the sky to smite us all for celebrating this sacrilegious besmirching of the sanctity of marriage. No thunderbolts of lightning or evil laughter emanating from the pits of Hades. Nothing. I was a little disappointed.

I lie, I wasn’t disappointed at all. It was one of the most beautiful, moving, divine weddings I have ever been to. Both brides were beaming and exquisite, both sets of parents were bursting with pride, the love and commitment was evident and obvious in both the couple and the congregation. Many tears were shed, including my own. It was, quite simply, a celebration of the love and bond between two people who chose to be together, and were making a commitment to choosing each other for many years to come.

Isn’t that what marriage is about?

You know, it’s interesting, I’ve been to three gay weddings in the last five years, my father’s included, and one thing that is common with all three of them, besides the homosexual thing, is the very solid choice that these people have made to be together. They weren’t doing it to please their parents, or because it was expected by their communities, or because they wanted to prove something. They did it because they loved the person they were marrying and they wanted to celebrate that. That’s my definition of marriage, and why the little romantic that’s buried deep, deeeep inside me still wants to have a partnership that fits that paradigm, ‘cause yeah, I wanna get married one day. It really doesn’t matter to me whether I marry a man or a woman, so long as that person and I love each other like my just-married friends showed me they loved each other yesterday.

So, get up marriage equality horse. Have a drink, take a painkiller and saddle up. ‘Cause I’ll be riding you until Australia catches up with the rest of the cool countries in the world (like New Zealand, ahem) who realise we’re not free until we’re equal.

Relationship Status

How many chances is too many? How many times can one turn the other cheek? They say a leopard never changes its spots, but considering I’ve changed mine a number of times (stripes are slimming) I would assume others can too.

About ten years ago, I was in a relationship with a heroin addict that lasted for approximately 5 years. I did not take heroin – hated it, in fact – but this did not stop me from loving her. I went back to her time and time again, forgave her every transgression, cried and ranted and raved at her, but I had faith that my continued love and support would eventually make her see the light.

She did see the light, but not because of me. She saw it because she wanted to. All I succeeded in doing was laying myself open for punishment. I kept smacking my head against the proverbial wall whilst wondering why I had a headache. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, because it made it very clear to me that I have no responsibility for saving anyone else. In the process of “saving” her, I damned myself. Again, not a bad thing to experience, but one would think I would learn not to do it again.

I did do it again, not to the same extreme, but I totally did it. I must admit, I am now aware that I have a habit of throwing myself in front of the metaphorical bus for love. My tactic for keeping a relationship going is to keep giving, even when I have been sucked dry and am lying in a puddle of my own delicious tears, a desiccated, useless husk. ‘This person treats me like shit even though I am giving as much love as I can to them. I know! I’ll give more!’

Now that’s smart.

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When I was a teenager, I read this book, Women Who Love Too Much, because “if being in love means being in pain, you need to read this book!” (I was a teenager. Everything is painful. Duh.) It talked about co-dependence, addiction to relationships, giving up your own life for the sake of your partner’s, making the other person the centre of your universe, all the stuff that makes me want to regurgitate my cookies. But, when I think about it, I know that I put up with a hell of a lot of bad behaviour from a partner because I tell myself I like to be understanding and supportive, that I accept their foibles and faults, and ultimately I expect to be given the same in return. Unfortunately, compassion, understanding, and empathy are sometimes taken advantage of and seen as an excuse to continue the behaviour. Enabling, if you will. ‘She’s so understanding and forgiving. That means I can do it again and she’ll just keep forgiving me!! Hooray!’

Yeah, hoo frickin’ ray.

So yes, I forgive and I support and I understand that other person and that other person says all these lovely things about me being lovely and then goes away and ignores me and forgets that I exist and I’m left feeling like the idiot with egg on her face and a big sign saying KICK ME on her back. I don’t believe I’m crap at relationships. A failed relationship does not a failure of a person make, but I see now how so goddamned hard it is to get it right! You have to choose the right person, first of all, which is not as easy as it sounds. And really, I don’t think any of us can control who we fall in love with, so that point is moot. You have to be comfortable and in love with yourself before you can be in love with someone else as well, and who’s got that down pat? Then you have to be sexually compatible with the other person (which is soooooo very important to me) which is sometimes difficult because so many people have such hang ups about sex. Then you have to have a relationship agreement as to whether you’re monogamous, polyamorous, open, closed, etc etc. Then there’s being at the same place in life for marriage and babies (if you want that), or mortgages and holidays (if you want that), or living in India for a year, or even just living in the same house! It’s insane, and it can’t be planned, and it can’t be figured out because nothing about love is logical and relationships are confusing and nobody knows the right way to do it!!

And yet, human beings fall in and out of love, get married, get divorced, have flings, become fuck buddies, post “it’s complicated” statuses all the time. And a few of them actually get it right, whatever it is, even if only for a short time. So, I’m holding out hope that if I ever do end up spending a significant amount of time with someone who is worthy of all that love I seem to keep excreting all over everything, that I get it right. Even if only for a short time. ‘Cause right now, it all seems a little too hard.