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.
Unless you’ve been on the Island of Misfit Toys the past week or so, you’ve no doubt seen the stories about Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame, who was interviewed by GQ magazine and volunteered a few comments about his biblical interpretations on the subject of lesbians and gays. Now, I wholeheartedly agree that Phil—or anyone else for that matter—has a right to his/her own opinions and beliefs. I also know as a responsible adult that exercising my free speech may have consequences. That’s a fact of life.
So, what do you do when these culture wars invade your holiday gathering? Most of us want to get along with our family and friends, and edit our conversations accordingly for the sake of peace at the Christmas table. Knowing that there is an ultra-conservative religious wing to our family, Sandy and I talked about the possibility of the subject coming up and agreed to do our best to maintain peace. We had already heard a few of their “well, that’s what the bible says” types of comments in advance to understand the potential pitfalls of the day. We respect their beliefs, however narrow-minded and well, wrong, we believe them to be. Mostly, we coexist in a peaceful way, and we even believed that we’d made strides toward acceptance.
But here’s where the story changes. A member of the family arrives at the gathering wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Phil’s picture and proclaiming: “Phil is my hero”. My problem with that is huge. First off, to know that you are coming to a family gathering where you will see relatives who are lesbians and choose to wear that shirt seems confrontational, at the least, and hateful at worst. It made me sad and angry simultaneously. Sad because the message was clear: A man who has recently proclaimed that I am a godless sinner and evil person, because I’m a lesbian is his hero. And here’s the way these things inevitably go: If I react, then I will be the one deemed to have ruined Christmas for the family. Right? Exactly.
This is an all too familiar scenario and it’s always heartbreaking when you think friends or family members really do accept you, only to be confronted with the undisputed truth in their [careless] actions. So, today, I’m pondering the relationship with my extended family and seeing things a little differently. People, here’s the deal: If you tell me that you love and accept me and then wear a shirt proclaiming your support for hateful words against me then, I’m sorry, you are a hypocrite. You can’t have it both ways. Hateful speech is just that. Hateful. Jesus had no tolerance for the religious bigots of his time. I’m challenging those of you who profess to be conservative Christians to stop hiding behind a twisted message of hate and start embracing what Jesus actually DID say and do. Start small. Try respecting the people in your family unit, then maybe branch out from there. I’m betting the world will be a much better place if we all gave it a try.
You can read Phil in his own words here:
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.
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
Many of us were saddened by the news of the passing of CW2 Charlie Morgan. It’s a tragic end to a story about a woman who lived a life of service in the shadows, during the years when DADT was the policy of the US military. Like so many other lesbian and gay service members, Charlie served her country at a huge personal cost. After the repeal of DADT, while many others still feared repercussions with DOMA still on the books, Charlie had the courage to tell her story.
Charlie served proudly in the New Hampshire National Guard for seventeen years. More than ten years ago, she and her wife, Karen, entered into a civil union in Vermont, and last year wed in their home state. They have a daughter who is eligible for healthcare and survivor benefits, but her wife is not. Charlie simply wanted to take care of her family, just like any other responsible spouse.
Charlie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. She underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. When she was said to be cancer-free, she was deployed to Kuwait for a year’s tour. But last September, she was told the cancer had returned and was in her lymph nodes. The cancer was now incurable. So, like any other dedicated spouse, Charlie felt a renewed urgency to fight for a change in the law because that was the only way to secure the benefits that her family deserved. The benefits she earned during her years of service to this country.
And Charlie knew first hand how much those benefits meant. Her father had been killed in an accident while on active duty when she was three, and his survivor benefits were her mother’s source of support. But with DOMA still on the books, her wife would not receive those same benefits. So, Charlie wrote to the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Her requests for a meeting were ignored at first. Finally, when a news organization got involved, a meeting was granted, but after she made the trip to DC, the Speaker sent an aide to meet with Charlie. She told her story, told him her time was short, and that her family needed their help. The aide listened and then told her the Speaker would continue to defend DOMA.
When Charlie’s wife, Karen, was asked about what a repeal of DOMA and full recognition as a military dependent would mean, it is said that she stated it would be great to be able to go to the commissary to shop for her family. The simplicity of a request to perform such a normal task is heartbreaking in its significance.
Charlie’s letter to the Speaker said, “Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Active Guard, I laid my life on the line for my country, and now I need my country to protect and care for my family. My wife and daughter face an uncertain future, unable to receive the same family support services as our counterparts who render the same service, take the same risks, and make the same sacrifices.” For those who serve in our military and sacrifice so much for our freedoms, that doesn’t seem like such a huge request.
Charlie Morgan lost her battle with cancer on Sunday. Charlie, like every other lesbian or gay service member—or indeed, every lesbian and gay citizen—wanted exactly what you want, America. The chance to live freely and receive the same benefits for hard work as any other citizen in this country.
That’s all we want. Why is this so hard to believe?
Hi gang! Wow it’s great to be back. I’ll have a longer post with a few announcements coming in the next couple of days, explaining what’s been going on in LM’s world and reconnecting with my peeps. (That’s you!) But for now, my good friend Cheyne Curry, fabulous author and film maker, tagged me in her blog hop tour. Thanks Cheyne! Today’s topic is the next big thing. For me, that’s a story near and dear to my heart. Read on…
What is the working title of your book?
My current WIP is Rebound
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The story came to me from watching a few simply amazing people in my life who have flourished despite adversity that they’ve experienced. So, I used their examples as a starting point for the story and let my own creativity take over from there.
What genre does your book fall under?
Lesbian Romance/ Drama
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I get asked this question from time to time with my other stories. I suppose it’s fun for folks to imagine what actors might be cast to play various characters in stories they enjoy. For me, I prefer to stick to writing. My characters are composites of people and experiences I’ve had throughout my life, so that would make it difficult for me to decide. I’d love to hear readers’ picks though. LOL
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A twist of fate can alter our entire reality and force us to dig deep in search of our authentic self.
What is the longer synopsis of your book?
I haven’t written a complete synopsis, but here’s a bit to give you an idea:
Conner Maguire has it all. She’s a professional athlete on top of her game, with a gorgeous partner, and all the trappings of fame. A twist of fate changes everything, leaving Conner alone to rebuild her world and even her identity. Coach Shawn Tyler isn’t cutting Conner any slack. She’s challenging, frustrating, and beautiful. Shawn might hold the key to Conner’s future, if they each can get past their individual pride long enough to open their hearts to new possibilities.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Rebound will be published by Sapphire Books in 2013.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It’s still a work in progress.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
This seems to be related to the question above. I was inspired to write this story by the incredibly talented and strong individuals in my life who rise above any challenge, despite being differently-abled. I think all of us wonder if we would have what it takes to overcome a sudden injury that completely alters our physical or mental reality. Most of us are stronger than we know. The key is understanding the truth that nearly all of what the outside world sees is not who we really are. But human nature usually prevents revealing our truest selves unless something rocks our world, good or bad. This story explores that phenomenon.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
While not a sequel to Faithful Service, Silent Hearts and Tactical Pursuit, Rebound tells the story of Conner, Mac McKinley’s young cousin. Readers first met Conner in Tactical Pursuit.