i am not an activist

Pink_triangle.svg.pngI am not an activist.
I am an active participant in my own life.

In the early 90s, I was 21, my parents were both dead, I was living with a woman who was not very good to me and I was working my ass off trying to get through college, in Charleston, SC.

I wasn’t openly gay, I mean, I was, but I wasn’t. It wasn’t “safe” to be that way. To say someone is openly gay now seems so odd to me, at that time, many people suspected/knew I was gay, no one ever asked me and I never told. It was hard to live two lives, but it’s what we all did.

One weekend, I went to Atlanta to see the Indigo Girls, which is something all good 20-something lesbians did at the time. They were super hot and fresh back then and they looked like me and they sang things that felt like the things I was feeling. They too were from the South and this was the first time I saw someone like me doing something big. They were not openly out in the media. I’m not sure they hid it, but I don’t remember reading anything about them being gay back then. Mike at work, a fellow college student, warned me that I should watch out, because those girls might be gay. Mike was probably trying to see what I would say. I said nothing.

The opening band that night was a group called disappear fear.  They sang with this sweet harmony and also a fiery passion that only two sisters (sonia and cindy) can. They sang of gay activism, no more wars, gay pride and a call to LOVE OUT LOUD. I loved it. I laced up my combat boots, pulled on my ripped jeans, put on my worn out t-shirt and sang at the top of my lungs. I became a groupie and spent a lot of time traveling around to see them play after that.

I was naive to “gay” culture and living in the South I was also naive to most things culturally. I did have two gay brothers who both lived in California, but I didn’t really know anything about them, other than the fact that they were gay and my older gay brother Michael was HIV+. There was no handing down of the gay culture. No one teaches you what gay looks like, because like anyone who is straight there are so many varieties of people, being gay is not a “thing”.

In the middle of summer, in the Charleston heat, I was sitting outside of Cafe 99, with Sonia and Cindy and their band. They mentioned something about a pink triangle. I was like “What? What’s a pink triangle.” They told me it was what homosexuals had to wear in addition to the Star of David during the Holocaust. Whoa. Cindy and Sonia are Jewish and not only had I never heard of the pink triangle, I had never met anyone that was Jewish, or at least I didn’t know that I had.

I had always been fascinated and terrified by the Holocaust. Even the word itself has a certain sense of terror to it.

They told me that people in DC and Baltimore, where they lived, were wearing the pink triangle to take back that message that there is something wrong with being gay and to be more open and out. To see each other.

A friend and I in high school, both confided in each other that we were gay during my senior year. Or rather, we talked about the fact that we might be gay, because the way all straight people talked about being gay was that it might be a phase. We weren’t sure. We always thought it would be great if everyone were gay had some sort of symbol to let one another know, not only because we were desperate at the time to know gay people, but also as a sign of unity – Yeah – I’m with you.

I had my symbol – the pink triangle, so I put one on the back of my car and I wore shirts that had this simple symbol on it. It was a small thing to say – “Yep. I’m gay.” That small action allowed me the freedom to feel more comfortable with myself and who I am, without necessarily feeling unsafe.

I gave up my pink triangle back in the late 90s. Things had changed. I’ve felt safe. Safe to be who I am and maybe that’s because the world has slightly shifted.

Maybe we live in an illusion that this is true. Most of life is an illusion anyway, until you wake up to the fact that it’s not.

Back in the 90s I was called names when I lived in Charleston, DC, Salt Lake City – especially Salt Lake City, even in Portland less than 10 years ago, two kids yelled out of their car at me and called me a homophobic slur.

Being from the South, I’ve always felt this underlying current, that this is not over, where you slide your eyes to the left to see what that old white gentleman is saying about you to his pals. I’m not sure it’s ever gone away. We’ve swept it into the shadows and now, by living in an almost unanimously liberal city, I’ve had the chance to avoid it.

What about all those other places though? The places we all moved from – to get away from hate – or to simply find our people? It’s why I left the South. It’s why I refused to live in Salt Lake City.

Is it okay for them to be them and us to be us?

I don’t hate “them” for hating me.

I know I want to feel safe and for the last week or so given what our President-elect has said and spewed. I don’t.

Now more than every our voices need to be heard.

If I need to wear that pink triangle again. I will. I’m ready.

I am an active participant in life.





anyone can get to normal.

When I was a child growing up in rural Michigan with my nine brothers and sisters, life was normal. Our Father, who was married to someone else the entire time he and my Mother were having children together, had multiple women friends all over the state of Michigan. Our life was normal. Normal? Yes, because it’s all we knew – and what could we do about it anyway? We were children.

When my Father’s wife finally left him and he had had enough time to convince my Mother that he had changed, she finally married him. This became the new normal.

My Father wanted to raise us right, so he took away the freedom that my mother allowed us – to run wild and free in the swales, swamps, and forests of our small town. He turned off the tv and turned on old music from Jim Reeves, like:

He’ll have to go

Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone
Let’s pretend that we’re together all alone.
I’ll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low.
And you can tell your friend there with you, he’ll have to go.

At where I am now in my life now, I see that he was trying to help and trying to do something good for us in the only way he knew how, but there was one thing missing.

A conversation.

This guy moved into our house, he was a man I barely knew, even though he was my Father – he changed the rules, changed the locks, changed the tone, without ever telling us why he was doing it, what good it would be for us, or ask what we thought about it.

We were children.

There was one thing he couldn’t take from us though – the fact that we never invited him, we never asked for him – we did not vote for this. And those of us in the family that were young and had many years left to live with this guy, had to figure out how to cope.

Initially, at ten, I tried to kill myself, by hanging myself from a curtain cord in a Days Inn motel room, in Ocala, Florida, where we were on vacation. Vacation for us, meant that we lived in a motel room in Florida, instead of in a house in Michigan, there was no trip to Disney, no fun for a kid. My parents played cards and my brother and I, who were the two youngest, sat in the air conditioned room, longing to be home.  This new normal was not anything I wanted to be a part of. I was getting out whatever way I could. I wasn’t successful in this cry for help and no one even noticed that I tried. My Mother came in while I was hanging from this cord and said. “Get down from there Amy Beth!”  I never tried again. I knew it wasn’t the answer – and I know that it is not the answer.

I don’t know how or why – even at ten – I knew that one day I would not have to deal with this guy anymore. He could control this small part of my life, but he couldn’t control how I related to it, or my future.

This memory serves me well today, in this time, when we have a President-elect that is not normal. Someone who thinks he’s the only guy with the answer. Where millions of people did not vote for him, where his idea of a rigged election became our nightmare.

Where he’s trying to make us believe that everything will be fine. Where he’s implying that he’s got this. And all along, he’s installing men, who are exactly like him in positions of power. It’s not normal and yet –  it’s the new normal

What’s missing?

A conversation. Our president-elect has not engaged with us in any appropriate manner. That’s what narcissists do. It is not normal.

We should not let it be normal.

We cannot let it be normalized unless we want to fade away.

What can we do?

We can contribute in the way we know how. Whatever your talent, you can offer it out to the world, if you are a healer – heal, a writer – write, an activist – act, a mother – raise your children to think for themselves, a father – have that conversation with your children, a teacher – teach, a reader – read.  Do what you know how to do.

Now is the time to create the new normal within ourselves.

We are not children anymore.

and some day – he’ll have to go


Hope does not come from being in the light.
Hope comes from being in the dark.

These are dark days – even the season is pushing us to go into the dark and reflect and find hope for the Spring.

It would be easy to turn away from the darkness – to turn on the light.
Sometimes staying with and holding onto the darkness is what we need to find the light.

I think back to when my Mother died and how dark that time was for me.
I turned away from grief then.
I was young, I did not yet have the skills to cope or understand that I needed to grieve and to wallow until I was ready to inch forward.
Instead I moved full-steam ahead, grasping at any light that would get me through.
It only brought me more darkness and with that came emptiness.

If we always look for light out there, we are starting in the wrong place.
The light is not out there, it’s in all of us and sometimes we have to have to go into the dark and be gentle on ourselves and grieve for the light we’ve lost.

It may take a long time, it may take 4 years, but what is four years in a lifetime? A long time to grieve, yes, but life is long.

I want to be angry, but right now, there is nothing but sadness.
I want to grieve and allow the time for uncontrollable sobbing.
I want to take a long look at myself and try to understand my own fear, hate, and bigotry – because this darkness is somehow a reflection of all of us. I want to stay with this darkness.

Darkness gives us the chance to find meaning. It gives us the ability to make change. It gives us the ability to make real change. Not ones that we’ve known before, not what we think change looks like, but what it really is and sometimes that is the scariest place – not knowing.

While this might sound a lot like hope, there’s much work to be done to get to hope

David Whyte says it this way in his poem Sweet Darkness:

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

Now is not the time for hope. It is time to go into the sweet darkness. Hope will come, it always does. And you know what hope does?
Hope gives us the ability to see that there is light, our challenge is to find it.

Our challenge is to help those that don’t have the skills to grieve, help those who have only known darkness, help each other find our way through this darkness.

This is our wake up call – are we willing?

The only way out of this darkness is through.