Hello, everyone! My publisher has just released a preview for my upcoming release, Rebound, which is set for release on February 14th. Valentines Day! Also, we still have some pretty incredible news upcoming for this release, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading. ~LM
Women’s basketball star Conner Maguire has the world by the tail. She’s at the top of her game, in demand, and life is good. One day the unthinkable happens and her world is ripped apart. That split second event forces Conner to re-evaluate her entire existence. A beautiful warrior with a shattered heart and incomparable spirit may be the key to conquering her fears, if Conner can open her heart enough to see the world from a new perspective.
My good friend, Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida, wrote a piece last week on race and same sex marriage discrimination in her own lifetime. It’s a great look at the historical parallels of our current struggle for full equality regarding same sex marriage in this country. Like the issue of interracial marriage, these battles will now be waged state by state, until one day we are finally rid of the issue for good. But that’s going to take time.
Nadine’s article brought to mind my youngest sister’s family. She is married to a fine man, who happens to be bi-racial, so my niece and nephew include African-American in their ethnic heritage. I was thinking today about how to talk to them about the historic Supreme Court decisions of this past week. I want them to have a sense of how truly important the rulings are to me, their aunts, personally, not in just some abstract “oh, that’s cool” kind of way. I will tell them that less than a generation ago, their own parent’s marriage would have been illegal in many states, just as mine is today.
I won’t let this pass without the teaching lesson, because on a basic level, I want them to understand that matters of equality are always tremendously important. As Nelson Mandela stated, “I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.” In our current age, where history and civics are increasingly squeezed out in budget cuts, or simply re-written to fit the politics of the time, it has never been more important to understand the gravity of civil rights victories. We are always better as a country when the rights of all are protected equally.
I’ll share my experiences with the younger members in my family. The way it hurts me when people who say they are my friends—or even my own family—remain silent when laws are passed to take away my rights, whether as a woman or a lesbian. I want them to understand that nothing is more important than one’s own personal integrity. Standing up for the truth is right, even if it makes someone else uncomfortable, or you unpopular. One of my other friends, who is a lesbian, is fond of telling me that I shouldn’t “push” people. When it comes to our relationships, people can know, but they don’t necessarily want to know. She wonders why I can’t stay quiet and live my life. I guess that means using vague language and omission in an attempt to avoid making people uncomfortable. I don’t get that. I’m not getting in everyone’s face every day, but I feel it’s important to be authentic and own who I am openly.
Even though 37 states in this country still disrespect my marriage and deny my right to exist as a married person, I will still introduce Sandy as my wife—regardless of who asks me. It’s the truth. When the children in my family ask me if Sandy and I are married, of course I say yes. They need to see that truth and integrity, not waffling. To do anything less shames Sandy, me, our relationship, and sends a message to the outside world that I agree we’re not worthy. I don’t agree.
So, it’s my hope that all of our children will learn about the day the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as a pivotal moment in American history, as a lesson in equality and human dignity. And maybe my nieces and nephews will remember the way we were able to talk openly about fairness and love. Most of all, I hope they’ll live in a world where this debate seems foreign and arcane, and love and commitments are celebrated always. But, as Nadine says, part of the conversation will always be, “That’s why Aunt Sandy and I were married in Massachusetts.”
Peace and Happy Pride~ LM
I was in New York last week for the amazing honor of being a finalist at the Lambda Literary Awards. The nomination, my first-ever trip to New York City, and sharing the company of so many gifted writers, were experiences that I will long remember. Little did I know the most important lesson I would come to learn had little to do with the awards and everything to do with humanity and real strength.
My nephew met Sandy and I at our hotel. He made the nine-hour bus trip to support me and I was thrilled to have him with us. Because we live so far apart, I rarely see Chris, and it’s rarer still that I have the opportunity to observe him simply going through his day. Chris suffered a spinal cord injury as a young child, and uses a wheelchair to get around. He’s luckier than some because he has the use of his upper body, but still the simple act of traversing a city block is a challenge that I had never realized until spending the day with him. I lost track of how many times the ‘cuts’ in the corner curbs, designed to be ramps for the disabled, were blocked by piles of garbage, parked cars, dumpsters, or even clueless, able-bodied people oblivious to his attempt to cross the street. I was appalled at the number of businesses in the city had only stairs to access them. It made me angry for him. On more than one occasion, I watched taxi drivers look directly at him, his arm raised to hail them, and they drove right by. They made my blood boil.
And then I realized something amazing. Chris was always smiling. The injustices I witnessed and reacted to were things that I guess are commonplace to him. He noticed my irritation and said, “It’s okay. I’m used to it. We just do the best we can; either figure out a way around the problem—or not.” From that moment, I began to watch in wonder at the positive way he interacted with the world around him. He always sought the bright side of everything, and it’s true what they say about getting what you give. I noticed that people around him responded to his positive outlook and beaming smile. I had always known Chris was an athlete and motivational speaker, but to see the way he interacts with everyone he meets was incredible.
At the Lammy’s, Chris made more than a few new friends. To think I had been worried he would be bored at an LGBT Literary event. Ha! Even there, he made easy connections. In his wise way he drew a correlation between the biases endured by LGBT people and those with disabilities. He related a story to a group of attendees about how he’s often told by religious people that they will pray for him. “Pray for me?” Chris said. “What they’re saying is that I’m damaged or unworthy.” How many of us have gotten a similar message because we’re queer? Chris instinctively understood the parallel. “We don’t need their prayers to be fixed, there’s nothing wrong with us.”
Then author Nicola Griffith took the stage to accept her Outstanding Mid-career Writer’s Award. Her words summed up what I had yet to analyze: “I’ve spent my whole writing life feeling like a stranger in a strange land: the foreigner, the cripple, the queer. But tonight this award says: You belong here. We value who you are and what you do. We see you, we know you, you’re one of us.” Chris squeezed my hand and I realized that was what has really bonded us. Although I’ll never know the difficulty he overcomes daily, being one of the different is the shared experience that makes us the same.
When you get right down to it, isn’t that true of everyone?
“Risking it All” is a story that I first began writing about the experiences of a lesbian couple who are both police officers. It’s a unique situation to be the cop taking risks, and at the same time, the wife or girlfriend of the cop, fearing for your lover’s safety. During the course of our careers, my wife and I have had a few instances where we were thrown into some dangerous situations simultaneously. Initially, I had intended to write an action story, focusing on the police drama. But, very quickly, I realized that wasn’t the real story.
This is a tale about two women thrust into a harrowing, life-and-death experience, complicated by the very real danger to the one they love. Duty prevails. The women are professionals who do not hesitate to act. But it’s the aftermath that truly pushes their emotional boundaries. The extremes are amplified—terror and euphoria—action and reaction. Sometimes no words can convey the depth of intensity that translates to pure physical need. Our heroines are living on the edge and risking it all. They live and love with intensity and passion.
Thanks for reading,
Everyone who posts a comment will automatically be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Wild Girls, Wild Nights!
And hey, if you love stories about lesbians in uniform, living and loving in the midst of danger and suspense, you’ll love the writing of Lynette Mae. LM’s first novel, “Faithful Service, Silent Hearts”, was a 2012 Golden Crown Literary Society Finalist for best dramatic fiction and debut author. Her current release is “Tactical Pursuit”, a 2013 Lambda Literary Award and Golden Crown Literary Award finalist. Both novels are now available from Sapphire Books.
Memorial Day. The official beginning of summer, a long weekend, a time for picnics and barbeques and spending time with family. But, every reward has its price. Our comfortable way of life is paid for by the service and sacrifice of those who serve our country unselfishly, and the blood shed by those who have fallen.
This Memorial Day weekend I am taking time to reflect on those who came before me, those with whom I’ve served, and those serving today. Like many, I have personal connections to military service. My stepfather served in the Viet Nam era, and my sister and I chose Army service as young adults. Our family proudly supports my young nephew, who needed his parent’s blessing to enlist in the marines shy of his 18th birthday. He is currently serving in Afghanistan.
My service inspired me to write more than a few poems and stories; one of them became a full-length novel, dedicated to LGBT service members. By far, the greatest reward of my writing has been the connections I’ve made with readers and other authors, especially so many fellow veterans worldwide. Some I’ve had the honor to meet in person, and many others are my online buddies. In every case, that “something” which bonds those who serve has shown itself, drawing kindred spirits to one another naturally.
One of those early online connections developed into a real life friendship. My friend, Sue, has served many years in the British Army, and recently was commissioned as a Lieutenant. She is enroute to her second tour of duty in Afghanistan as we speak. Most recently, I made the acquaintance of a US Army sergeant, who honored me with a note about my military story. Similarly, AJ, is now serving her second Mideast tour. I am grateful and infinitely humbled by their friendship.
On this Memorial Day, I pause to remember every patriot who has selflessly given his or her life in service of our country. I pray for the safety of those serving now. I hope that my words will in some way convey the level of respect I feel for every one of you who wear a uniform in service of our nation. You are our inspiration and hope. I salute you.
Mom always taught me that anything was possible and I could be whatever I wanted. She would tell my sister and I that we could be the president. In the early days, mom raised us alone. My father left, leaving mom to raise my older sister, brother, and me. Those were tough times for her, and every so often cracks showed in her armor, but she never broke. That’s the important thing. Mom remarried and they added three more to our clan: a brother and two more sisters.
When I finished high school there was no money for college and I joined the military. Mom asked if I really thought I could handle it. I reminded her that she always said I could do anything. She nodded. The next time I saw her was the night before my basic training graduation at Ft. Dix, NJ. My mom, step-dad and three younger siblings made the seven hour drive to see me officially become a soldier.
My life started changing. More accurately, I was discovering myself. I realized that I was a lesbian, and knew instinctively that my Irish-catholic mom was not going to be okay with it. A distance slowly grew between us that had nothing to do with physical location. She didn’t want to hear about my life and I didn’t want to hear the disapproval or disappointment in her voice. Before I realized, I had closed off a huge part of myself from her.
Military policies drove me out of the army before I was ready, and I moved in with my father until I got on my feet. He and I have never seen eye to eye. The dark period of my life began. I floundered around, drinking too much, searching for affection in the wrong places, did things no one would talk to their mom about. Predictably, I drifted further from her. The toxic relationship I ended up in didn’t help matters. Then, my oldest sister died suddenly. The next night, at a hotel outside of Ft. Gordon, Ga., my mom asked to sleep with me. My partner got angry, but I didn’t care. My mom clung to me so tightly through the night that I could scarcely breathe.
But, things didn’t turn around. My sister’s death caused me to shut down. I should have ended my unhealthy relationship, but I didn’t. I did, however manage to get it together a bit and graduated from the police academy. I worked midnights for four years, avoiding home and my emotions. I talked to my mom more often, but she was in her own bad place, having lost her eldest child.
Eventually, I began to emerge from my emotional limbo. Police work gave me a purpose that I desperately needed, and I gathered the strength to end that terrible relationship. I remember the day I looked in the mirror and said, “I don’t care if I have to live in my truck, I won’t do this another minute.” There is something liberating about truly accepting the moment and fully letting go. I always say that complete release and surrender to faith is what opened my heart to my future. I met my wife soon after.
I began living openly. My career moved forward, my home life was fabulous, and I had turned the corner. About a year later, my mom visited with my youngest sister and little niece. We were having a great time until Sandy unwittingly hugged me, or something equally benign, in front of her. The firestorm that followed was stunning. By the end of the night, mom was shouting hurtful words, and I told her if she couldn’t respect my home and partner, then she should leave. It was the moment of truth for us both. I said, “It’s amazing that you raised me to be independent and strong, but now that the reality isn’t quite what you’d expected, you can’t handle it. I’m the woman you raised me to be.” She went in the bedroom and slammed the door.
My wife, Sandy, is incredible. I would have fallen into an angry, unforgiving place if not for her. She wisely urged me to give my mom time. Over the years, I’ve seen her mellow. Although we don’t speak directly about my sexuality, my family’s acceptance of Sandy has grown. Mom has trouble expressing herself emotionally, but I know she’s tried, and I figured that’s the best we could hope for. That was before yesterday. We’d sent flowers to our moms for mother’s day and my mom called to say thank you. I was busy, so Sandy put her on speaker while they talked. Before they hung up mom said, “I just wanted to thank you. The flowers are beautiful. I love you both.”
Tears formed in my eyes as I realized that once again, mom taught me that anything is possible.
For mothers here and those who live on in our hearts.
I wish you all blessings and peace~LM
I’m a Christian and I’m perplexed. Can somebody please explain to me why folks who profess to believe in the teachings of Jesus are forever bastardizing his message?
Our most recent example of faith-based hypocrisy comes today from a story about a father who loves his son and simply wants to support his son completely. The Reverend Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, a minister of the United Methodist Church, was asked by his son to officiate his wedding. What an awesome thing, right? Right! Except that his son was marrying a man. Uh, oh. Dr. Olgletree says that his son’s request inspired him and he readily accepted. Two of the reverend’s children are gay, and he loves and accepts them unconditionally. His daughter previously married her partner in a non-Methodist ceremony.
Rev. Olgletree conducted the ceremony for his son back in October, and no doubt, it was a joyous family occasion. Then, one of the reverend’s fellow ministers saw the wedding announcement in the newspaper, and apparently felt it his sacred duty to tattle on Rev. Ogletree to the local bishop. Rev. Randall C. Paige and several other ministers object to Rev. Ogletree’s actions, citing violations of canonical law. They say the ceremony “is a chargeable offense under the rules of the church” and that breaking the laws are not the proper way to bring about change.
Really? Umm… Jesus broke the laws of his lifetime by renouncing Old Testament teachings publicly, throwing the money lenders out of the temple, cavorting with known prostitutes, pretty much thumbing his nose at much of the religious doctrine of the day, and the list goes on. Seems like he thought that breaking the law was exactly the way to bring about change at times. Unjust laws meant to demonize or marginalize minority groups are always overturned by acts of civil disobedience, because morally unjust laws cannot and should not stand. So, how is it that these religious scholars would assert that breaking the rules is not the way to affect change? Guess they skipped those parts of the New Testament. The complaining reverends say that Rev. Olgetree’s actions injure the church because they “foster confusion about what the church stands for.” Shouldn’t the church be standing for love, honesty, family, and stuff like that?
The Rev. Olgletree is awe-inspiring. “Sometimes, when what is officially the law is wrong, you try to get the law changed,” he said. “But if you can’t, you break it.” He challenged Rev. Paige, saying, “Dr. King broke the law, Jesus of Nazareth broke the law…So you mean you should never break the law, no matter how unjust it is?” I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the premise our great country was founded upon, and I hope we never lose that belief in standing up for “right” over “law”. Rules and laws are made in given periods of time, based upon the knowledge folks have to work with. But, we evolve. We grow. We change.
These changes come largely through interacting with people who may be different than ourselves. That’s why I always say that we change hearts and minds one person at a time. The good reverend understands the teachings of Christianity call us to be loving and compassionate toward one another, not judgmental or hateful. When we open our hearts to the lives and love of others, we cannot help but grow. That’s the human experience. The reverend, only wanting to fully participate in his son’s marriage, as any parent would, unwittingly became a symbol of religious defiance. He said, “I actually wasn’t thinking of it as an act of civil disobedience or church disobedience. I was thinking of it as a response to my son.”
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