Sports and diversity rule!

Let’s talk inspiration.

Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA, signed a temporary contract to play with the Brooklyn Nets on February 23rd, will now remain a Net for the remainder of the season. Collins made a huge statement by selecting #98, in honor of Matthew Shepard and touching off a bit of controversy from the usual cast of blowhards taking to the airways following the announcement. imagesCollins could have skipped the added attention by simply keeping the #46 jersey the team first gave him. But he felt strongly about making a statement by way of tribute to Matthew Shepard. Yesterday, the announcement that the Nets had signed Collins for the remainder of the season proved that he’s first and foremost a talented basketball player, who just happens to be gay.

Onto hockey, where a kick-butt goalie from the gold medal winning Canadian Olympic Team made the jump to the US Southern Professional Hockey League. Big deal you say? Well, hell yeah, because this outstanding goal-tender is Canadian Women’s Hockey star Shannon Szabados, who made history last Saturday night as the first female to play professional hockey on a men’s team. As the net minder for her men’s college team in Alberta Canada, Shannon set records for the most shutouts in a season (5) and lowest goals against average. Szabados downplays the significance of her gender, but there is no doubt about her impact as a trailblazer.

Photo by Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com
Photo by Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com

When asked if she hopes to advance to the NHL, Szabados says only that she’s focused on her current team. I’ll bet the NHL is keeping an eye on this goaltender with a mane of curls hanging out the back of her helmet. A record-setting goaltender, who just happens to be a woman.

Amy Purdy in SochiAnd did you get a chance to check out the Paralympics? If not, you missed a spectacular display of heart. All I can say is wow. The big news of the games was the US men’s sled hockey team winning gold medal vs. the Russians in a tight 1-0 contest. Marine Corps vet Josh Sweeney scored the lone goal of the game to lift his team to victory. Another fantastic story is Paralympian Amy Purdy, who became a double amputee after a severe meningitis infection at 19. Instead of giving up, Amy doubled down on her dream to be a snowboarder. Purdy is now one of the top ranked US adaptive snowboarders and was instrumental in the sport being included in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. She won bronze in the inaugural run. Amy and Josh are world class athletes and Olympic medalists, who just happen to be differently-abled.

So, in the flood of over-paid, prima donna professional athletes, who seem to constantly act out or fall short of our probably unrealistic expectations, I thought it would be great to celebrate those who stand out despite all the odds stacked against them. They compete in their sport of choice and succeed, even when the world is telling them they cannot. There’s a great lesson in that for all of us. Even if you don’t have the luck o’ the Irish, grit and perseverance can get you where you need to go. Never give up.

Peace. Thanks for reading.

~LM

Owning our authentic voice

Hi gang. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of living and expressing our authentic voice. In my life, just as many of you, I’ve experienced homophobia in various forms. I lived as a closeted lesbian in the US Army in the pre-DADT days, when just the whisper of innuendo was enough to get you hauled into an interrogation room and run out of the military—no matter how competent or capable you were. Being lesbian automatically made you unfit. After a couple of near misses under investigation, I came to realize that I couldn’t live dishonestly and left the military with a heavy heart. But I made myself a promise to live my truth and never again let anyone else bully or define me, or make me feel that my authentic self was less than worthy.

I read the most recent coming out news this week about NBA center Jason Collins. Collins is receiving the distinction of being the first pro athlete to come out. He follows US soccer star Megan Rapinoe last summer and Baylor women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, who will be member of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA this season. In his interview with Sports Illustrated, Collins talked about the same need to live authentically. It’s a common thread virtually all of us share.

But to live and express ourselves authentically, while universal, is a bit different for each of us as individuals. LGBT people are still marginalized by the world. Although acceptance is increasing exponentially, there is still a large segment of our society that feels that we really ought to shut up about it, already. Why do we have to keep telling them? They wonder. Because it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people. Because DOMA is still on the books, denying same sex couples the same benefits as straight couples. This means LGBT members of the military, law enforcement, and fire fighters can continue to risk their very lives for you, but their families will not receive the same survivor benefits as their peers.

So, back to the question: Why do I write lesbian fiction? I write lesbian fiction because I want to tell my story—our stories—authentically. I don’t want to ignore the totality of our experiences as lesbians. I don’t mean to disparage, but let’s remember that as women, we do have a different experience even from that of gay men. Yes, the human condition is universal in many ways, but to deeply grasp the emotion and experience of any human, one cannot edit out sexuality. Humans are the only species whose sexuality is inextricably tied to emotion, and this is especially true for women. I want to write stories with lesbian heroines who are strong, capable, sensitive, and yes, sexual.

I’ve seen a lot of discussion recently surrounding the debate of sex in lesbian fiction. Both sides have valid points. Every writer has her own style, and decides how best to tell her story. That’s as it should be. However, I don’t believe including the depictions of the sexuality in my characters automatically demeans my story. I get the irritation that the label “lesbian fiction” is sometimes equated with pornography. That is demeaning on it’s face. It says what the straight world has always said to me: “I can accept that you’re a lesbian, I just don’t want to hear about it.” Why do I have to edit out the sexuality of my characters in order to be taken seriously? Wait. I only have to edit out the sexuality of the lesbians. That’s really the truth. A lesbian author who has had success in the mainstream market says that her publisher doesn’t care about her sexuality, as long as she writes a good story. I’m sure that’s true. They also say she writes badass women characters. She does, and I’m a fan.

But. Why can’t the leading ladies be badass and lesbian? And if they are, why can’t we see them as authentic, whole beings—sex and all? That’s the character I want to read and write about, and if the sex works within the context of the story, I’ll include it. I read a wide variety of books—fiction, non-fiction, mainstream and lesfic. I think every author should write the story they want to write. When this debate comes up periodically, I fear that what we’re actually doing is applying the mainstream, straight world’s biases in the reverse. The straight stereotype accepts kick-ass women, so long as they still need a man between the sheets. The straight male execs at Amazon are the ones who lump us into one category based on the ‘lesbian’ label. Let’s agree that’s wrong, rather than fighting amongst ourselves over how much or little sex determines whether we’ll be taken seriously. When we throw stones at each other for including sex, we’re telling ourselves that depicting our sexuality automatically shames us. I disagree.

Right now, I can’t find those positive representations of myself, or lesbians in general, out in the mainstream, straight, fiction world. Therefore, I choose to write those stories. My writing is my way of taking back my own power to live and express my authentic self. So, for me, I’m not writing lesfic as some lead-up to hitting it big in the mainstream world. Unless the mainstream world is ready to accept unabashed, fully developed lesbian characters. I pray that day arrives. Until then, I am proud to wear the label: “Lesbian Author”.

Thanks for reading~ LM