Thursday, June 18, 2009

Happy 10th Ballardiversary!

Ten years ago today, I moved from a dark, oddly-shaped studio apartment in Northgate to an adorable duplex in Ballard. The place had just been vacated by a co-worker, who tipped me off to its availability. It was perfectly laid out for me, with a bedroom (yippee!) kitchen, dining area, living room, front yard, back patio and parking place and the rent was unbeatable. $650 a month!

After I moved in and got settled a little, I had a series of housewarming events over a weekend. Friday night was the house blessing and spellcasting party. I made up little spell kits with complete instructions and folks had a great time sprinkling saltwater, reciting charms and stringing up rowan berries. Saturday was a drop-in buffet for those with evening commitments and Saturday night was a grand céilidh with somewhere around sixty people singing, playing tunes and drinking gallons of scotch. Sunday was a "survivor's brunch" complete with a reenactment of the assault on the Death Star from Star Wars using primarily French cheese for all the actors and ships.

Over the next seven years, countless wonderful and moving things happened in that house. I threw at least twenty huge céilidhs for the Slighe nan Gaidheal community. There were times when every room, including the tiny bathroom, was packed with happy, laughing, singing people enjoying the little home I had made for myself.

My friend Pandora and I started the Winter Solstice Banquet, which usually entailed a full day of decorating, a day and a half of cooking and a full day of washing dishes and cleaning afterward. The traditions of heartfelt reflection and honest sharing that evolved around the Winter Solstice table will stay with me for as long as I live.

One year I held a birthday céilidh for my dear friend Kat which her evangelical parents attended. I was pretty nervous about not offending them and with controlling my reactions if they inadvertently offended me. I kept myself in an icy grip of self-control, but despite my fears we had a truly wonderful evening and found common ground despite our differences.

That house was also the last of my homes that my mother ever saw. The year that I moved there, I decided that I wanted to host the family Christmas celebration. It was a very big deal to me and it came off really well. I took the last photo of my Mom that I ever would that day. We blew it up and framed it for her memorial service.

Lingoman and I met while I was still living there in 2001. In the early years of our romance, he would come down to Seattle fairly often so we spent a lot of time in that house getting better acquainted. One weekend, we were getting ready to go out of town when I discovered an enormous dragonfly perched over my dining room table. I mean enormous and it had apparently decided to settle down and start a family with my Ikea light fixture. Being the son of a biologist, Lingoman had no problems capturing the guy unharmed and releasing him outside to rejoin the dragonfly dating pool. That next Solstice, he gave me a beautiful cast aluminum tray decorated with dragonflies. Every time I see it I think "he will help me deal with my fears."

In January 2006, I received notice from the landlords that they had sold the place to a developer, who would be tearing it down to build townhouses. After crying for a week, I picked my self up and started looking into buying a place, since I never wanted to get that kind of letter again. With help and guidance from my wonderful realtor, Sara, I found the condo in which I now live. I moved at the beginning of August, 2006. It's a nice place; comfortable and convenient, but not set up for entertaining. Life has become rather solitary as a result and I struggle with that.

The developer didn't get around to demolishing the place until January 2nd, 2007. I got a call from my former neighbors while I was driving Lingoman to the airport to fly home. By the time I got there, it was all over. You can see my stove on which seven Winter Solstice Banquets were prepared in the pile of rubble if you look closely.

I often ask myself if I would trade the more upscale conveniences of this place to have my little duplex back. The answer is still 'yes.' I would go back if I could.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What Pride Means to Me

This story, like so many others, begins with my mom. In the extremely long, tortured process of coming out to her, I never had to convince her that being gay is innate. I think she knew about me by the time I was 5 years old. It took some effort, though, to open her eyes to the number of people who are not heterosexual. Every year the Seattle media would cover the Pride parade and Mom would assert that "all those people aren't gay." Sometimes she would follow up with "they just want the special benefits" or "I don't see what there is to be proud about. It's not something they had to earn."

I had my work cut out for me.

Trying to explain what Pride is about to my mother, though, prompted me to dig deeper into my own thoughts about it. Here are some of the things I came up with:

  • Gay Pride is the name of a movement, and movements have to come up with tags, handles and titles for themselves. In my mind, a slightly more accurate title would be Gay non-Shame, but that doesn't have quite the ring to it that we need.
  • Gay Pride also comes from my sense of connection with the gay men, lesbians and other sexually non-conforming people throughout recorded history who have achieved great things. Alexander the Great conquered the world. Sapho's poetry is still studied. Leonardo da Vinci's genius continues to inspire people throughout the world. I reminded my mother that she felt pride for my accomplishments, even though she never took a music lesson in her life.
  • Gay Pride is not just about being gay, but also about having survived being gay in this society. It's something that most straight people never think about since they are surrounded by a world that is slanted toward them. Most gay people are raised by straight people and learn to hate gay people before they know that they're gay. I remember the moment I realized that I was one of those people vividly. I think I was about eight years old. I had already been exposed to plenty of negative stereotypes of gay people both from my family and on TV, and absolutely no positive images.
  • Gay Pride is our chance to be visible for one day a year. Even in today's more progressive society, a child growing up gay even in a city like Seattle, will almost never see affirmative images of gay people. It feels like we're not real; that our lives and experiences are not worthy of inclusion in society. Benign neglect is the term, I believe.
  • Gay Pride is a chance to feel safe for a few hours. Long before I moved to Seattle I would come to the Pride parade just for the sake of having a day without worrying if someone was going to think I was gay and be hostile to me. For gay people living in enemy territory, those few hours are precious and irreplaceable.
  • Gay Pride is the best place to celebrate our progress with our straight allies.

If anyone is interested in coming to Pride this year, you can get all the information here: