Homodramatica, the Excerpt

All right, only a few more days until Homodramatica: Family of Five releases! In the meantime, I’ve posted the Official Excerpt on my website and thought I would include the Introduction here. Happy reading!


For those who may not know me, I’m a writer of lesbian fiction, a gay-married resident of the Pacific Northwest, the mother of three awesome daughters (including fraternal twins), and a ginormous soccer fan. In fact, I intended to publish this book before the 2018 Men’s World Cup started, but alas, I missed my self-imposed deadline. So here we are a bit late. If the US men had made the World Cup, this book would probably be even later. But that’s a whole other story.

Homodramatica: Family of Five is a collection of essays that started out as random posts on my blog Homodramatica and eventually coalesced into a quasi-coherent story of our family’s beginning. Each chapter presents a text-based snapshot of daily life for my wife, three young daughters, and myself at a particular moment in time. Woven through this writerly scrapbook, as I’ve come to think of the collection, is the theme of gay marriage in the United States. What are the flashpoints in the cultural conversation about same-sex marriage? How does the debate impact parenting in general? And how does the political climate impact the life of our gay-married, same-sex parented family in particular?

As the saying goes, the personal is political. For our queer family, caught up in the culture wars of the early 21st century, the two have often been inextricable.

Homodramatica the blog wasn’t actually my idea. In 2009, after nearly three decades of dreaming of becoming a “real” writer, I signed a contract with Bella Books to publish my first novel. Solstice came out in early 2010, followed by Leaving LA and Beautiful Game in 2011. Somewhere during that pre-parenting gold rush of novels, my editor suggested I start a blog, one of the easiest marketing tools for a writer to manage. At the time, my wife Kris was eight months pregnant with our first child. Not only would a blog help me connect with readers and other writers, I decided, but it would also be a place where I could jot down my thoughts about “lesbian fiction and life,” as the tagline says on Homodramatica, with a spotlight—or dare I say focus—on the family.

Seven years later, my kids are now old enough to understand that Mimi is a writer of grown-up novels that they won’t be allowed to read until, you know, never, if I have my way. They also know that I occasionally write about our family, and they seem intrigued by the idea of appearing as central characters in one of my books. For my part, I’m glad I recorded so much about their early years because after 88 consecutive months of disordered sleep, my memories of past events are a bit blurry, to be honest. My wife, Kris, agrees.

For the purposes of the story this book attempts to tell, I have fleshed out the original pieces from the blog and added several previously unpublished and/or significantly altered essays, marked in the table of contents by an asterisk. It turns out that while I have rarely lacked for blogging topics, I have often lacked the follow-through to post that content online. Like many would-be chroniclers of daily life, my intentions were good when I started the blog. However, I’ve grown less efficient at posting in recent years as my family, day job, and fiction writing have been higher on the priority list. As a result, my goal of a thousand words a day—the minimum daily word count Ray Bradbury recommends in Zen in the Art of Writing—has tended to be reserved for fiction.

Still, I’m glad I started the blog, even if the guilt at not posting has sometimes taken up more room in my psyche than it probably should. But thanks to the demands of self-promotion, my kids now have a book they can hold in their hands and say, “This is the story of our family. This is how we came to be.”

So read on, and I hope you enjoy this prose scrapbook of the early years of our family of five.

To read more of the excerpt, including the first two never-before-published essays in the collection, visit the book page on my website and click Official Excerpt.

Homodramatica book cover

Posted in Family, Nonfiction, Parenting, Same-Sex Marriage | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Homodramatica, the Book

I’ve been meaning to collect some of the essays from this blog for a while, specifically to tell the story of my young family’s beginnings. Our origin story, as you will. Not only have I wanted to create something I could pass along to our kids, I also see our experiences over the past few years–as attitudes and laws around same-sex marriage and queer parenting have shifted in this country and beyond–as a type of living history.

And, too, I have observed the longing in younger queer people to read stories of older LGBTQ+ people with good lives. So much of our representation in the media is problematic that I believe it’s important to tell stories of relationships that last, of families that include same-sex parents and healthy kids. I may not be able to offer a Happily Ever After story because none of us know how things will end, but I can certainly write a Happy For Now tale.

As such, I am pleased to announce that Homodramatica: Family of Five is now available for pre-order on Amazon’s Kindle store for only $3.99. The official publication date is July 28, but if you order now, the book will be delivered to your Kindle on July 27. For those of you who prefer a print version, the paperback will be available in early August.

The blurb and cover are below. I don’t think either will change, but there’s a still a month to go. You never know…

By the way, for those wondering about the Girls of Summer series, book four is still on track for a November publication date! I’ll share the blurb and cover later this summer.

Homodramatica: Family of Five

In 2011, shortly before the birth of her first daughter, novelist Kate Christie started a blog called Homodramatica. Over the next few years she would write about queer parenting, lesbian fiction, same-sex marriage, chronic illness, and the joys and challenges of raising three girls under the age of three. Now, in Homodramatica: Family of Five, Christie has reshaped her nonfiction writing into a book that tells the story of her growing family—and of her own growth over the same period.

From the introduction: “Each chapter presents a text-based snapshot of daily life for my wife, our daughters, and myself at a specific moment in time. Woven through this writerly scrapbook, as I’ve come to think of the collection, is the theme of gay marriage in the United States: What are the flash points in the cultural conversation about same-sex marriage? How does the debate impact parenting in general? And how does the political climate impact the life of our gay-married, same-sex parented family in particular?”

While some of the pieces in this collection will be familiar to readers of Christie’s blog, the book also contains content not previously published, including birth stories, parenting notes, and essays on Prop 8, DOMA, and the 2015 SCOTUS gay marriage decision.

As the saying goes, the personal is political. For one queer family caught up in the culture wars of the early twenty-first century, the two have often been inextricable.

Homodramatica book cover

Posted in Family, Nonfiction, Parenting, Same-Sex Marriage | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Let Me Tell You About My Mother

ERA YES! Mom in DC, 1978

Let me tell you about my mother.

She is an amazing woman. Not an easy woman, but then neither am I, as my wife would undoubtedly tell you; as my daughters will likely someday agree. My mother is a strong woman–a brave, independent woman who is determined to face death in the exact same manner in which she has lived her life: on her own terms.

At seventy-three, my mother has lived her seven-plus decades boldly. As avid outdoors people, she and my father instilled in my sister and me a lifelong love of adventure. Before we could even walk, our parents took us car camping in and around Southwest Michigan. As we grew older, our family adventures expanded to include dune running on Lake Michigan beaches, camping trips to Northern Michigan, canoe excursions along Michigan waterways, and epic road trips to the East Coast, the American West, and,  memorably, across Canada and Alaska.

Backpacking in Grand Teton Natl Park, 1981

We climbed mountains in the Grand Tetons, hiked the shores of mountain lakes in the Canadian Rockies, explored the tundra of Denali National Park. We marched on Washington for the rights of women and veterans, fished for perch and rainbow trout in Michigan lakes and rivers, and watched the Alaskan sun set and rise again in the space of a single hour on the night of the summer solstice. There was laughter and yelling, but not in equal proportion. Like many families, there was happiness, and dysfunction, and abiding love.

My mother was not an easy woman or an easy parent to live with, but she was always completely herself—someone I have loved and respected even as I’ve struggled at times to escape her shadow.

She was herself; the choice of tense is deliberate. Over the past decade, my mother’s sense of self has altered significantly. In 2007, at the age of sixty-three, she was thrown from a horse in Wyoming and broke two vertebrae in her back. Within six months of the accident, my sister and I noticed that she was beginning to change. Her memory, never her strongest suit, began to slide noticeably. She experienced abrupt mood changes, got lost more easily, and demonstrated other early signs of dementia.

My mother’s mother

We were intimately familiar with these signs because my mother’s grandmother, mother, and older brother had all been diagnosed with—and eventually died from—Alzheimer’s disease. Knowing that the condition tends to run in families, we weren’t surprised when my mother was eventually diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), sometimes described as a precursor to Alzheimer’s. Still, her mother and grandmother had been older when dementia began to rob them of their dignity and independence. My mom was only in her early sixties when her symptoms started, and none of us was prepared to lose her so soon—including her.

We were fortunate that her cognitive impairment plateaued and remained stable for many years. But a few years ago, it became clear that the plateau was shifting beneath her feet whether we were ready or not. Kris and I asked my mom and dad to move closer to us so that they could help us with our growing family and we could help them, in turn, with what the next stage would bring.

World Cup 2015, Vancouver BC

And so, in the summer of 2015, we helped them find a condo on a hill overlooking a beautiful lake not far from our house. My parents moved to Washington State during the first week of July—just in time to accompany us to the World Cup final match in nearby Vancouver, BC. Another rousing adventure for the family scrapbook.

Only a few weeks later, my mother fell during a hike in the North Cascades. She and my dad were a mile from the trailhead when she missed a step and face-planted into the boulder-strewn trail, sustaining injuries that left her unable to walk. A group of young hikers happened upon my parents, and four of them took turns carrying her fireman-style back to the trailhead. An ambulance met my parents halfway home and transported her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a broken leg and concussion. It was her seventy-first birthday, and she realized then, she told me later, that her days of hiking in remote wilderness settings were numbered.

After her leg healed, she seemed to stabilize again briefly. But last summer, a year after her hiking accident, we noticed the decline accelerating again. She was still able to walk on even surfaces without difficulty, but she was increasingly unsteady on the trails she loved to hike. She was still driving, but she was getting lost repeatedly. While she had never loved to cook, she had always enjoyed baking, and now she was doing little of either.

Mom helping Alex read

Most significantly to her quality of life, she was having trouble reading. A self-described “voracious reader” and a writer in her own right, she was now struggling to retain any written material more than briefly. Until recently, my mother had read everything I’ve ever written and was, in fact, my earliest champion. She was the first person to read and comment on early versions of Solstice, Beautiful Game, and In the Company of Women, and helped shape me into the writer I am. I knew her dementia was getting worse when she failed to read either of the novels I published in 2016. What was more, she and my dad knew it too.

There was something else we all knew: My mother was (and still is) adamantly opposed to nursing care. She watched her mother and brother die in dementia wards and has said for more than a decade that she would rather die than go into a nursing home. Literally. So when my parents learned last fall about a local workshop on dying with dignity, they immediately signed up, eager to find out what options were available in their new home state.

At the workshop they were disappointed to learn that Washington’s Death with Dignity Act does not cover Alzheimer’s patients. Those who are in the early stages of dementia are ineligible to request life-ending medication because they do not have an immediately terminal diagnosis, while those in later stages have cognitive impairment that renders them ineligible for the program. The only legal options available to Alzheimer’s patients, even here in a Death with Dignity state, is traditional suicide during the early stages of the disease or something known as VSED: Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking.

At first I thought that VSED sounded barbarous, inhumane. Voluntarily dying of starvation and dehydration? Um, no thank you. But then, a month after the workshop, my parents invited me to a meeting with a local “death doula” who they had seen speak. The doula provided a ton of information about VSED, and my opinion began to change. If done correctly with a doctor’s support, on-call nursing care, and hospice medication, VSED can be a peaceful, empowering way of escaping an agonizingly slow dementia death sentence.

End of Life Washington, an amazing resource

“That’s what I want to do,” my mother declared. “So how do we do it?”

The doula pointed us to the End of Life Washington website for more information and important legal paperwork, and then suggested we work with a local elder law attorney who is a VSED and Death with Dignity advocate. In addition, she recommended we find out if my mother’s geriatric specialist would support her decision to hasten her own death. If not, we would need to change to a physician who would.

We were lucky on several fronts. Coincidentally, my parents and I were already clients of the attorney the doula recommended. Also fortuitously, my mother’s physician had assisted other patients who chose VSED and readily agreed to help us determine when the right time would be for my mother to start the process. She also agreed to prescribe medication that eases anxiety and physical discomfort during the VSED process—an absolute must to avoid undue suffering during the days or weeks it can take for the body to completely shut down.

Is VSED a pain-free way to die? Most experts say it isn’t, not completely. But will it allow my mother to remain in control of her own life until the end? Absolutely. Will it allow her to escape the steady cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s and the reality of facing her last days in a dementia ward, something she considers a fate worse than death? Yes, it will. That’s the whole point, really.

The attorney instructed my mother to write a statement of intent to do VSED while she was still fully competent. Here are some of my mother’s reasons for choosing VSED, in her own words:

I do not wish to live in a long-term memory care clinic. I watched my mother deteriorate from a vital, active first-grade teacher to simple memory loss to a completely lost soul wandering the hallways of her assisted living facility, unaware of where she was or who her children were. Many hearts were broken, including hers… I worried about my mother every day because she was being cared for by strangers. I do not wish to expose myself or my family to that risk.

Phyllis Shacter, a Western Washington resident who helped her husband carry out VSED in 2013, has written a book that describes this path in detail: Choosing To Die: A Personal Story. Her website, phyllisshacter.com, also includes many good resources, including a link to this incredibly powerful, moving video in which a nursing care provider explains why she supports VSED for dementia patients:

So this is the path I am on with my family right now. Since we finished the legal arrangements last spring and obtained verbal commitments from my mother’s attorney and physician to assist with the VSED process, we have been able to focus on enjoying life without worrying as much about what the future holds.

Mom and Dad in Alaska

My parents traveled to Wyoming and Alaska this summer, two of my mother’s very favorite places, and they have continued to explore Western Washington and the Olympic Peninsula by ferry, car, and foot. It’s very much an exercise in Zen, I have to admit, and I am not always up to the challenge. I have found comfort in spending time with my wife and daughters, in hiking with our dog, in returning to meditative practice. Live in the moment, be in the moment, be the moment—that’s pretty much the goal right now.

It isn’t easy, of course. Like my mother, I have good days and bad days. There are moments when the slightest negative interaction sends me into a grief spiral that I know has little to do with the conflict at hand and everything to do with the fact that my mother is dying; that one day sooner rather than later I will likely be seated at her bedside holding her hand as she lets go of this life and transitions to whatever comes next. But my mother is at peace with her decision, and despite her increasing impairment, she is leading the way for the rest of us. She is tackling Alzheimer’s with the same strength and refusal to compromise that she has brought to every stage of her life, including raising my sister and me to be strong, fierce, proud women just like her.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my writing interests have shifted in the past year. I find myself attracted more to stories and characters embroiled in life and death situations, as well as to various memoir projects—basically, trying to make sense of the past and present through story-telling. I’ve been writing about my mother and father, about the steps we’ve taken and the obstacles we’ve encountered, most of our own making. I’ve been writing about my same-sex marriage in a country where same-sex marriage only became universally available two years ago, even as I watch my parents’ fifty-two year union near its inevitable end. I’ve been writing veritable rivers of words, jotting down snippets of scenes and conversations, recording ideas and themes to include in one project or another. And yet I haven’t published a book this year, even though I quit my day job eight months ago. I haven’t finished the third book in my soccer trilogy, I haven’t finished the sci-fi novel in progress, and I haven’t finished either memoir yet.

I will. I know I will. I’m just not sure when. I’m trying to be okay with that fact; I hope it will be okay with my readers as well.

Mom and the girls

For now I’m trying to enjoy walks around the lake with my mother and daughters; weekend lunches and trips to the ice cream parlor with the whole clan; and Friday night pizza and movie nights at our house, the twins snuggled up on the love seat with Grandma and Grandpa, Alex and the dog snuggled up on the couch with Kris and me. I’m trying to be in this moment for as long as my mother is still here because one thing is certain: She won’t be present for much longer. One way or another, the woman I’ve known my whole life is leaving.

A few days ago we took the girls to the beach with my folks. While my dad and Kris took the girls beach combing, my mom and I sat back on a blanket and looked out over Puget Sound.

“So how are you?” I asked.

“I’m okay,” she replied, slipping her baseball cap lower to block out the sun.

“You seem, I don’t know, at peace with everything,” I said.

“I think I actually am. You know what a control freak I can be–”

I started laughing and she joined in. “I do know, Mom, because I got it from you.”

“I don’t know about that–I still have it,” she said, her usual reply whenever I claim to have inherited something from her. “But I think I’ve finally accepted that I have no control over what’s happening to my brain. I realized at some point that I could either accept it, or I could keep fighting and be miserable. I’m choosing to try to enjoy my life as long as I can.”

“That sounds  wise,” I said, meaning it.

Mom at the beach

Last winter, when I explained to my former boss that I was giving up my stable, good job to spend more time with my parents and young children, he told me that the last lesson our parents teach us is how to die. What my mother is teaching my sister and me, our spouses and our children, is how to go out on her own terms as herself, before Alzheimer’s can rob her of her dignity, her capacity to feel joy, her connection to the people she loves most.

One of the tangible legacies she will leave is a video that the attorney recommended we record in which my mother explains her decision-making process. It didn’t have to be fancy or especially long, the attorney told us, just honest and direct–ways of being in the world that come naturally to my mom. Once the paperwork was complete, my parents and I sat down in their living room and I “interviewed” her with my camera phone, asking her a variety of questions about how she defines quality of life and why she is choosing to hasten her own death.

Towards the end of the video my mother says, “I feel very strongly about the decision [to do VSED]. It’s my life. It’s my future, or not, and I have the means within my reach to make this decision and follow through with it. I don’t want to hurt my family, but I think it would be more hurtful to see me with my brain not working, wandering up and down the halls of a nursing home alone and not even knowing who you are. I have been there, and I know how painful that is for family members. I don’t want to do that to you or to me.”

“Do you have any doubts about your decision to do VSED?” I ask.

“I have no doubts whatsoever,” she says firmly. “I feel very strongly about it. I feel strongly about it enough that I would be willing to fight anyone who tries to convince me that this is not the right plan. It isn’t right for everybody. Maybe it isn’t right for most people. But it is very much the right thing for me to do. And I intend to do it—when the time comes.”

We both pause, and then: “Thank you,” I say from behind the camera. “I love you.”

“Thank you,” she replies, smiling at me. “I love you too.”



Posted in Death with Dignity, Family, VSED | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

What the Literal Hell is Going On?

Yesterday Donald Trump decided to enact a wide-sweeping ban on Middle Eastern refugees and immigrants that led Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to detain and even, in some cases, deport individuals arriving in airports across the country. By late afternoon, the ACLU had won a stay of the ban in federal court—the first of many anticipated legal defeats for the week-old administration. What should adanielshave happened next was that anyone being detained should have been released, and all attempts to detain and deport foreign nationals based on the Executive Order should have ceased.

Instead, Homeland Security issued a press release indicating that judicial rulings wouldn’t affect the “overall implementation” of Trump’s EO. Um, excuse me? A FEDERAL COURT ruled that the ban is unconstitutional, and therefore cannot go into effect as currently written. How exactly does that ruling not impact the ban’s implementation? And, sure enough, according to the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), one of the groups that sued the federal government in New York, attorneys at US airports are still waiting for Homeland Security to release people being detained under Trump’s order.

“We continue to face Border Patrol non-compliance and chaos at every airport across the country and around the world,” said Marielena Hincapié, NILC’s executive director.

BORDER PATROL NON-COMPLIANCE? What the literal hell? Judicial orders are not optional. They are legally binding. In fact, in cases where individuals and/or entities decide to disregard judicial orders, the federal courts often call in US Marshals for assistance in enforcing those decisions. In this case, if the courts were to do so, we would have US Marshals being tasked with confronting non-compliant CBP and Homeland Security agents. Would the Marshals even do it? Is it possible that we could have federal employees from one agency firing upon federal employees from another agency? Or would individual agents simply choose which side they agree with politically?

I feel like we’ve officially entered the Twilight Zone because apparently our federal government needs a refresher course on what the government is and isn’t supposed to be and do (I’m looking at you, Trump, and you, Congress). So let’s just quickly review the basis of American democracy, as established by the Constitution (and illustrated at usa.gov):


Why three branches? Because the Constitution says so. And why is power distributed across multiple branches? Again, from usa.gov: “to ensure a central government in which no individual or group gains too much control… The U.S. federal government seeks to act in the best interests of its citizens through this system of checks and balances.”

Let me repeat: Each branch ensures that no other branch gains too much power. And for 240 years, this has been the way America has operated. Has it been perfect? Um, no. Has it been better than a dictatorship? Absolutely. Have we Americans grown accustomed to our supposed freedoms? You betcha. But in one weekend, Trump has thrown away two and a half centuries of operating instructions, and now our very form of government is being threatened by a businessman with zero experience in government of any kind.

Is this how people felt when Nixon obstructed investigations into his political activities? Because that’s the last constitutional crisis the US faced. Unless you count Congress refusing to vote on President Obama’s choice to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court for hundreds upon hundreds of days, which [spoiler alert] I DO. Unfortunately, most historians do not, so there’s that.

Other notable constitutional crises in US history? The contested election of 1876, which was decided ultimately by an ad-hoc Electoral Commission; the secession of seven Southern states in 1861, which led to [cough] the CIVIL WAR; and Britain’s Stamp Act of 1765, which first raised the issue of taxation without representation—you know, the whole reason we fought the Revolution and created a Constitution that would prevent any individual or group from gaining too much control over our government…? That’s right—constitutional crises led to both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. I don’t mind saying I feel a tad sick to my stomach (and at heart) trying to figure out how we will dig ourselves out of this one.

So yeah, we’re in dire straits already, and the orange dude has only been president for a week. Peachy.

Oh—and in other news, while we were all foaming at the mouth over this power play and the resulting chaos, Trump removed the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the National Security Council and replaced them with—Stephen Bannon, his white supremacist chief adviser. Because Bannon obviously has the global experience needed to keep America safe.

If you get a chance, check out this piece in The Atlantic: A Clarifying Moment in American History. And hold on tight, friends. Because here we go…

Posted in History, Politics | 1 Comment

Our New Reality? More Like Same Old, Same Old

Okay. So I have waited a little while to write down my thoughts regarding the 2016 Presidential Election, AKA the day hate trumped love or, as I like to call it, that fucking day from hell. In case you didn’t pick up on it, I’m a little pissed, a fact to which I suspect my wife and children would readily attest. In the past three weeks I have winced innumerable times as I’ve said, “Oh, yeah, Alex, no—umm, that’s a grown-up word, okay? Please don’t say that word, honey.”

I know I’m not alone in my anger. I know I’m not the only one who feels like punching a wall or screaming into a pillow because our uninspired electorate voted into power an unapologetically racist, misogynistic, homophobic regime that demonstrates a little more every day why they are appallingly unfit to lead even a Walmart franchise, let alone the government of a global superpower. And yet, everywhere I go I hear people saying how shocked they are that this happened.

Shocked? Really? I’m not shocked. Disheartened, angry (again), frustrated, dismayed—but not shocked. For those who are, I would genuinely like to know: Are you new here? Is there some part of America’s racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic history that you missed? Because from my perspective, this is pretty much business as usual in the land of the free.*

(*Fine print: “Free” applies only to cis-gendered straight white males who were born here. Or, hell, anywhere else, really.)

I don’t usually let my rage escape its careful bounds like this. I usually smile and keep my finger-pointing at a minimum because that’s what we minorities find works the best in obtaining and maintaining our civil rights from those in the majority. Thoughtful disagreement, civil discourse, tolerance of other views, etcetera, etcetera. That’s why the gay marriage movement picked middle-upper class white people around which to build its legal cases—because assimilation wins you more friends in high places than justified and justifiable rage.

But underneath the calm, cool, collected exteriors? Yeah, most of us are pretty fucking pissed. Or depressed. Personally, I find anger the better way to go.

blm_400x400As people who know me will tell you, I am not one for optimism. I am, however, an observer of history. And all year, I have had a cautious eye on American history. DT’s decision to appeal to the lowest common denominator in our country, i.e. White Nationalists, alarmed me but didn’t exactly surprise me. After all, this is the same country that fought a civil war in which an estimated 260,000 Confederate soldiers willingly gave up their lives to defend the “right” of wealthy plantation owners to own human beings. This is the same country in which, between 1882 & 1968, an estimated 3,445 black Americans were lynched by their fellow citizens. This is the same country where police officers still harass and kill unarmed black women and men from every walk of life.

It’s not just people of color, of course, who’ve gotten the shaf—er, received unfair treatment. This is also the country where women did not obtain the right to vote until 1920, 144 years after the first American Congress famously declared “that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” This is the same country that has elected exactly 31 women to the US Senate out of a total of nearly 2,000 US Senators since 1787. This is the same country where American women still make 80 cents on the dollar when compared to men, and where only 4.6% of Fortune 500 companies are led by a woman. This is the same country where current statistics reveal that one in every five women will be raped in her lifetime.

ERA-yesThis is the same America that, nearly four decades ago, failed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Here’s what the ERA says: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” THAT’S IT. Equality under the law shall not be denied because of sex. Congress managed to pass the Equal Rights Act in 1972, but over the next ten years, only 35 out of the required 38 states—the three-fourths majority as specified by the Constitution—ratified it, so it cannot be included in the Constitution. And of those 35 states who voted in favor of the ERA, five later voted to rescind their approval. (Assholes.)

That’s right, fifteen states refused to ratify the ERA and another five withdrew their approval, thereby preventing the act from becoming law. Which states refused, you ask? No great surprise here: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. The five who rescinded were Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Most of these states were part of the Confederacy. And three weeks ago, seventeen of the twenty ERA hold-outs gave their electoral votes to Donald Trump.


Coincidence? Not even remotely. Thanks, Bible Belters. As one of my friends said recently, “So glad to see that my rights and those of other minorities are once again up for debate.”

The lack of inclusion of women and people of color in the Constitution, our lack of representation in the top echelons of government, our lack of leadership in the largest corporations in the country all signal a lack of power within our capitalist republic that persists even now, two and a half centuries of America-ing later. And yet, even despite the very clear signals from our collective history, I was as hopeful as the next Hillary supporter that she would become president of the United States of America. I thought maybe, just maybe our nation was ready to elect a woman as leader of the free world. I admit it–I was hopeful.

redlogoBut as an American am I surprised that DT trumped? No. For fuck’s sake, this is still the country that refused to recognize the legality of my 2005 same-sex marriage for an entire decade. This is still the country where I can be LEGALLY denied housing, services, and employment because of my sexual orientation. This is still the country where, despite the fact my name is on all three birth certificates, legal experts recommend that I adopt my own children because my wife is the biological mom, not me. This is still the country where I am legally and culturally a second-class citizen.

So excuse me for not being surprised that hate trumped love. Again.

One bright spot is that our country has been America-ing for quite a while now. While we are admittedly a rather entitled lot, that entitlement will likely come in handy during DT’s tenure, for there is one thing we have grown accustomed to having over the last two hundred forty years: Our Freaking Rights. (“At least in theory; at least some of us,” one of my friends pointed out recently. And yes, I know it’s not perfect, obviously–see my points to that effect above–but we do have the longest-standing democratic government in the world, so I have to believe that part of our history counts for something, too.)

Our sense of entitlement when it comes to political freedom means that in the wake of the election we have seen responses like the statement from the ACLU and the declaration by the state of California; statements of support for immigrants and DACA from university and college presidents, among others; the formation of a new Muslim-Jewish advisory council to develop domestic policy proposals on issues related to immigration, refugees, and religious liberty; vows to fight for equality and the environment from progressive organizations and people–from those we might expect to stand up to hate (Harry Reid, for one) to those I wasn’t, frankly, expecting (Stan Van Gundy & Gregg Popovich, among others).

Only three weeks post-election and the dust has already begun to accumulate over the President-Elect’s actions, revealing a giant arrow pointing back toward our centuries of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. But I can tell you one thing: I am not prepared to watch my rights and those of countless others go gentle into the night. Nor are millions upon millions of my fellow Americans willing to do so. I don’t yet know in which direction our nation will move, but I do know that as entitled as we are, as accustomed as we are to calling ourselves the land of the free (however problematic the concept may be when applied to our diverse, real-life populace), we won’t back down.

As Shakespeare reminds us via Henry V:

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage…

And once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.



Posted in Black Lives Matter, Equal Rights Amendment, LGBT rights, Women's rights | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Queer Youth: It’s Getting Better. Whew.

So there’s a time in my life that I don’t like to think about, let alone talk or write about. But I recently wrote a YA novel about a pair of high school soccer players, and I discovered that inhabiting their minds for months on end brought me spiraling back to my own teenage-hood, better known as the years-long period of my life when I felt actual despair. Hopelessness, even. Like my character Jamie, if not for soccer, if not for the endorphins, the team goals, the chance to inflict my anger and frustration legally and with encouragement on a small leather ball and larger, less leathery opponents, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through junior high and high school.

I’ve heard a lot of people say they hated their secondary school experiences, including my own sister. It’s not something we talk a lot about, but as a teenager, my older sister struggled with suicidal ideation, much of it revolving around the two-year relationship she had with another girl. I found out about my sister’s girlfriend from Aaron (not his real name), one of the identical twins who lived in my neighborhood. Aaron was the more dynamic of the two boys, i.e. the one who suggested he and his twin Adam switch clothes and classrooms every so often in elementary school. We could all tell them apart, of course, but the adults? Not so much.


Rocking the pageboy in the early 198os.

Aaron was also the boy who, in seventh grade, announced to the lunch table that my older sister was a “dyke.” Apparently he’d forgotten the reputation I’d made for myself in second grade when I beat the crap out of any boy who dared steal my soccer ball or put me down for being “just a girl.” I mean, it had been five years, so maybe his memory lapse was understandable. Or maybe he just thought that now that we were in junior high, I would act more like a “regular” girl and less like a tomboy, despite the fact I favored tube socks, Puma sneakers, and a Kate Jackson pageboy haircut.

Either way, he seemed to realize his mistake almost immediately, because as my fists clenched and my eyes narrowed to slits, his eyes widened and he backed away.

“Take it back!” I roared, pushing away from the lunch table.

That’s when he made his second mistake: He whirled and ran. Like a wild cat, I growled and chased after him, my adrenaline surge fueled by his frenzied flight.

The chase was pathetically short. Aaron had quit soccer long before and was more interested in video games and (though I didn’t know it then) smoking weed with a few other future wake-and-bakers in the neighborhood, whereas I was still fully soccer-obsessed and a member of the Hillside Junior High track team. I caught him in the courtyard outside the lunchroom, tackled him to the ground, and sat on him, yelling at him to take it back. Naturally, he did.

Our friends followed us, and when a monitor finally picked up on the disruption in the lunchroom force, our friends pulled us apart and we all retreated as if nothing had happened. At least, outwardly. For the next few days, though, I walked through the school halls with a question battering my brain: “Was she?” And even more disturbing, “Am I?” By then, I already knew I was different. I’d known for a while, but junior high was where my difference became more pronounced because not only did I have crushes on girls more than on boys, I was still a tomboy—i.e., resolutely gender non-conforming, although more out of cluelessness than choice. My female friends had recently begun to speak what seemed to me almost a foreign language revolving around boys and make-up as they worked to fit themselves into a traditional gender role I couldn’t begin to fathom. It probably didn’t occur to Aaron that I would kick his ass at lunch because, duh, I was a girl, and girls in junior high don’t usually seek to dominate their male classmates either physically or academically. Second grade, sure. But seventh grade? My reaction marked me as an outlier even as it reinforced my schoolyard rep as someone not to be messed with.


My sister (center left) and me in the late 1980s

My sister, who identifies as bisexual, and I, a genderqueer lesbian, both came of age in the 1980s, when homophobia in American culture was dishearteningly mainstream. Unfortunately, thirty years later, the “taint” of queerness in sexual orientation and gender presentation is something American kids still struggle significantly with. In fact, according to the Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, and LGB youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. Other disturbing statistics from the Trevor Project: Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives, and 25 percent report having made a suicide attempt. Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.

The Dangers of Being Queer

There’s a reason for the tendency toward self-harm and the marked lack of resilience among our community’s youth. Members of other minority groups can usually rely on a support system made up of friends and family who in many cases share their minority status and who love them unconditionally, but kids who are queer fear they will never find a place where they can be accepted for being their authentic selves. Those of us in the LGBT community don’t know who will respond positively until we make the decision to be honest with the people in our lives—or someone else makes that decision for us. Coming out always means running the risk of being ridiculed and ostracized by childhood friends and, even worse, family members.

We’ve made enormous progress in the decades since I was a teen, thanks to LGBT civil rights activists and to campaigns like the It Gets Better Project, which works to communicate to LGBT youth that even if their families and communities of origin reject them, there will be other places where they will be loved and accepted, and other people who will cherish them. But despite our many steps forward, half of all queer teens still get a negative reaction from their parents when they come out to them, according to the True Colors Fund. More than 25 percent are thrown out of their homes, and still others run away to escape an abusive environment. Right now, LGBT youth—who represent around 7% of the American youth population—make up an estimated 40% of the 1.6 million homeless young people living on the streets. Despite their minority status, LGBT youth are nearly eight times more likely to wind up homeless than their straight counterparts, a situation that puts them at an increased risk of victimization, sexual and physical assault, and mental health issues.

Public schools in the U.S. have made significant advances against LGBT bullying, too. When news of my sister’s relationship with her girlfriend got out at Kalamazoo Central High School, she was harassed on a daily basis in hallways, bathrooms, and classrooms while the school’s teachers and administration largely looked the other way. But while LGBT verbal and physical bullying has, unfortunately, survived the test of time and has even evolved in sophistication via social media, schools have become better at both prevention and intervention. A couple of years ago when GLSEN released the 2013 National School Climate Survey, their 8th biennial report on the school experiences of LGBT American youth, they noted that even though LGBT students continue to experience pervasive harassment and discrimination, an increase in the availability of school-based resources and support is making American public schools safer overall.

Getting Out


Me & Bandit (& my perm!) in high school

But school—and home life—is still not safe for so many LGBT youth. Rejection from families of origin and “pervasive harassment and discrimination” are not easy things to bounce back from, no matter how much support teachers and administrators extend. After witnessing my sister’s experiences at the hands of Kalamazoo Central bullies, I retreated into myself, focused on soccer and schoolwork and writing, and, in a 1980s version of It Gets Better, basically waited out high school. Leaving my family and hometown behind was, I imagined, the only way I could ever find true happiness. Or if not happiness, then some sort of contentment. I pictured my adult self living alone in a cabin in the woods where I would have my dogs and my books and my fictional characters for companionship. It would be a quiet life without a spouse or children; a blessedly (or so I thought) empty life where I wouldn’t have to worry about being despised for who I happen to be.

Seeking solitude as a teenager wasn’t a blessed experience, though. It was incredibly lonely. Whenever anyone reached out to me, I responded only half-heartedly. I was so afraid of being rejected, so far inside my own head and heart it would have taken someone incredibly strong and dedicated to break down my defenses. I told myself I was happy being alone, and honestly, it was often a relief to roam the woods near my house with just my dog at my side; a relief to play soccer alone in my old junior high schoolyard after everyone had gone home for the day. I studied hard and watched tons of television and read romance and science fiction and fantasy novels, anything to distract me from my daily life. And I waited.

With all that studying, I did well academically. Soon colleges were lining up for me, and I knew that my dream of escape was within reach. I visited schools, read view books, and listened to my gut, and somehow I managed to pick wisely: Smith College in Western Massachusetts, an all-women’s school eight hundred miles away from my Southwest Michigan hometown. Smith’s view book contained a handful of photos of smiling tomboys in among the “regular” girls, including a picture on the back cover of two athletes walking down a brick path casting wide smiles over their shoulders, autumn leaves swirling around them, an ivy-colored building in the near distance. In that image I saw the possibility of being accepted and no longer alone. Maybe even, dare I think it, happy? When I visited Smith in Northampton, Mass. (a.k.a. Lesbianville, USA), I knew I was on the right track. Soon, it would get better for me.


Smith College, where (for me) It Got Better

And yet it took a full year for my heart to thaw, an entire year at Smith wondering if I could put myself out there, if anyone would like me if they got to know the real me. Not until my sophomore year did I gain enough courage to cut my hair short and match my outsides to my insides, to come out far and wide as a gender non-conforming lesbian. As soon as I did, an amazing girl asked me out. She thawed my frozen heart the rest of the way, and though I imagine she probably grew frustrated having to battle my walls and the emotional iciness I retreated into whenever I felt threatened, she was more than generous with her patience and unconditional love. We were together for a year during which my old dream, of solitude and dogs and loneliness, faded completely away, overtaken by visions of a partner and home and even, maybe someday, children. My parents adored her, and even after we broke up (alas, she graduated and I didn’t), they continued to ask about her for years. Once, I asked my mother why, and she told me that my relationship with my first girlfriend made me a more open and loving person, for which my parents will always be grateful.

Twenty-five years later, I am not the same teenager who left home wondering if I would ever find a place to belong. And yet, somewhere inside of me is that broken girl, that scared girl, that hopeless girl. Sexuality isn’t everything, of course; it’s just a part of who we are. But if your sexuality and/or gender identity fall outside cultural norms, they become objects others can and do use to hurt you, to ridicule you, to chip away at your sense of self. To beat you down, figuratively and sometimes literally. They become the reason your family might stop loving you, the reason your best friend from childhood might turn away from you, the reason your teachers might withhold help and acceptance, the reason your church might mark you as a sinner unworthy of your god’s love.

The majority of queer youth still struggle with these and other “what if” moments because most queer youth still come from straight parents who are statistically just as likely to ban them from dating anyone of the same sex or kick them out–or force them into “conversion therapy”–as they are to unconditionally love and accept them for having the courage to be themselves.

And yet, it does get better. There are an estimated 3,000 school-based Gay Straight Alliance clubs across the U.S., and even more opportunities for queer youth to connect online. It does get better, and it has gotten better over the last few decades. My hope, along with that of so many other LGBT adults, is that it will continue to do so.

My vlog for the It Gets Better Project is below. If you watch it, try not to laugh at the additional permed mullet pics from the (thankfully) distant 1980s–I dare you…

Posted in Family, Gender, LGBT rights | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Game Time Cover Reveal, Release Date, and Jacket Blurb

The cover for Game Time, book two in the Girls of Summer series, took shape this week, and I realized that the Valentine’s Day recreate would be better suited to book three in the series. So here is the final-ish cover for the next book:


I reserve the right to change it–when I self-publish, I often make good use of that right–but this is the general gist. Due to requests (thank you to two readers who contacted me on social media!), I also made it available for pre-order on Amazon. This is my first time using the pre-order option on the KDP publication platform. “Pre-order” means that as soon as the book is uploaded and approved for publication on the KDP platform, it’s automatically delivered to the purchaser’s Kindle app. Seems like a good process to me, both for the author and the reader.

The publication date I selected is September 30, 2016. Only a month away! Whew. I (and my patient beta readers) have much to do. In the meantime, here’s the blurb/product description:

Training Ground, book one of the Girls of Summer series, introduced Emma Blakeley and Jamie Maxwell, two young athletes with seemingly bright soccer futures. Now, in book two, those futures are upon them.

It’s late 2013, and the world’s best soccer players are gearing up for the 2015 World Cup. In London, Jamie has just completed her third season with Arsenal Ladies F.C. Only one soccer dream still eludes her: a spot on the US women’s national team.

Emma, a national team regular, plays professionally in Seattle with the NWSL, the most recent incarnation of American women’s pro soccer. When Jamie is invited to her first national team residency camp, Emma is apprehensive. As professional athletes they have crossed paths a few times before, but they haven’t spent this much time together since high school.

Jamie, meanwhile, would do almost anything to earn the chance to play for her country at the highest level. Even, if she had to, share a room with Emma at team residency camp.

Both women are hoping it doesn’t come to that.

Join Jamie and Emma for the latest installment in the ongoing story of their lives, loves, and would-be world championships in Game Time, book two of the bestselling Girls of Summer series.

All right. Happy summer to you, and back to work for me… As a reminder, you can add your email address to my mailing list if you’d like to receive news and updates on future releases. Happy reading!

Posted in Lesbian Fiction, Second Growth Books, Self-Publishing, Soccer | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments