A’ja, we hardly knew ye


Tonight Pretty and I, along with 12,000 of our closest friends, will say goodbye to Gamecock women’s basketball senior A’ja Wilson who will be playing her final regular season game at Colonial Life Arena. We are carrying plenty of tissues with us because we don’t want to see her leave us just yet. A’ja, we hardly knew ye.

A’ja Wilson has broken almost all the basketball records she could break in 4 years at the University of South Carolina, but tonight the young woman with the fabulous smile and wicked left hand will be breaking her countless fans’ hearts as she poses for senior pictures with her parents and Coach Staley before the LSU game.

My goodness, it’s hard to believe four years have passed since the teenage girl from Hopkins who went to elementary and high school right here at Heathwood Hall in Columbia began playing for Coach Staley and the Gamecocks. That shy girl who joined the team has been replaced by a young woman who is now clearly the team’s heart and soul…and fearless leader.

For those of us who have had the privilege of watching this remarkable young athlete step into the national spotlight with her superior statistics while never losing her love of her diverse fan base, exuberant dance,  sense of fun, competition and most importantly the game of basketball, we can only say thank you for the memories you leave.

We wish you well at the next level wherever that may be and know that whether you are on a basketball court or a judge on the Supreme Court, you will always be a winner.

Pretty and I will see you tonight and will wave to you from the stands. We’ll be the ones waving white towels.

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and still we wait


SEVENTEEN

17

I have nothing.

Posted in Life, Personal, politics, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged | 12 Comments

valentine’s day…schmalentine’s day…let’s love everyday!


Our trip to Charleston last week for the College of Charleston book event was a treat on many levels, not the least of which was getting to visit with old friends we don’t see enough and meeting new friends for the first time in a diverse crowd that was fun and humming with enthusiasm. Over 60 people came out in the pouring rain to talk about Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home.

The Fab Four warming up…or something like that…

Panelist/Contributor Linda Ketner listens intently

to young person with questions following discussion

(while I sign books for a student)

Contributor Warren Redman-Gress (l.) and Harlan Greene

It was fun to finally meet Harlan Greene in person after months of emails. Harlan wrote the Foreword for Committed to Home, and we have discovered we share a common passion for the preservation of our community’s history. He is a really cool guy.

Warren is a friend of many years who came to South Carolina with his husband Jim from Long Island, New York. Their story of love, activism in our state and overcoming great odds to adopt their son Cristopher 18 years ago is an inspiring one in the book. Happy Valentine’s Day to one of my favorite couples!

And Happy Valentine’s Day to all our friends in cyberspace from Pretty and me – let’s love each other everyday.

Stay tuned.

(photos courtesy of Beth Huntley and Teresa Williams)

 

 

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when somebody loves you…17 years and counting…


Oh my goodness, today belongs to Pretty and me – tomorrow marks the beginning of our 18th. year together and today marks the end of 17 unbelievable years for us as a family. Take a look at this picture of  two young, oh so young but not too young women, in Cancun on February 09, 2001. A new century, a new love, a new life.

Happy Anniversary, Pretty – the adventurous spirit of the Cancun trip lives on in our lives every day…through the good and lean years and for all the in-between years…come what may.

I love you all the way.

 

 

 

 

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hot off the presses: limited seating remains for Charleston event!


Greetings to all friends in cyberspace who will be in the Charleston area next Wednesday, the 7th. of February. The College of Charleston Friends of the Library and the Alliance for Full Acceptance headquartered in Charleston are sponsoring our panel discussion of Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home. 

Harlan Greene who wrote the Foreword for our book will also discuss the beginning of a multi- year project to preserve and make accessible the historically endangered stories of LGBTQ communities in greater Charleston. Supported by a $200,000 grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, the College of Charleston Libraries’ project marks the first initiative of its kind in the region. Huge thanks are due Harlan and the CofC Libraries for their efforts to keep our history safe and available for future generations.

The project dovetails nicely with our Committed to Home authors who are exchanging views about their stories. I am so pleased to moderate our group which includes Harlan, Linda Ketner, Jim and Warren Redman-Gress. These essays are intimate accounts of their individual journeys to making South Carolina a better place to live for all her citizens, how these individual roads led to collaborating on the creation of organizations designed to achieve the goal of equality for everyone.

Our event is free and open to the public. However, reservations are required and may be made at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/committed-to-home-tickets-42316377424.

I understand seating is now limited, so if you are planning to be there, please register.

Charleston is a wonderful place to visit – I wish some of my cyberspace friends would take this opportunity to make a quick trip to the showplace of our state’s tourism. Pretty and I would love to see you!

Stay tuned.

 

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moving on down the road…to Charleston!


l. to r. Harriet Hancock, Sheila Morris, Pat Patterson, Nekki Shutt

photo courtesy Darlene Williams

Not pictured here are panelists Alvin McEwen, Dr. Ed Madden and moderator/organizer Dr. David Snyder who did a super job of asking questions that addressed the major themes of Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home which stimulated a lively discussion among the six panelists.

The personal stories in the book were collected individually and independent of each other so that the opportunity to share perspectives as a group of six contributors was awesome. I wish everyone in cyberspace could have been there with me and Pretty who cheered us on from the front row of the audience…and fellow contributor Dick Hubbard who sat a few rows behind Pretty. Pretty’s sister Darlene and her friend Dawne, out-of-towners, gave additional support from the front row seats.

I was thrilled to meet Dr. Robert Brinkmeyer, Jr., the director of the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina, in person. Bob’s endorsement is one of three on the back cover of our book and his department was one of the co-sponsors of our event.

My thanks to Dave for setting up the USC event and to the University of South Carolina Bookstore at the Russell House for selling books not only at this event but also at the Guild meeting earlier this month.  And of course, a HUGE thank you to the contributors who continue to tell their stories to extend their reach from words on pages to live audiences who ask questions that make us believe we have made a difference in our state.

Next week we will have a panel discussion in Charleston that will feature Harlan Greene who wrote the foreword for Southern Perspectives alongside contributors Linda Ketner, Jim Redman-Gress, and Warren Redman-Gress. I look forward to being an out-of-towner myself in the lowcountry.

More on that event later in the week, but please save the date for Wednesday, the 7th. at 6:00 p.m. if you will be in the Charleston area – I would love to see you there.

Stay tuned.

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the book tour continues at USC Monday!


Please join us for our event if you are in the area!

Books will be sold at the event and contributors will be available for signing books bought there or elsewhere.

Stay tuned.

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oh yeah, I met Neil Diamond once


Peering into the darkness from my designated position next to the pianist who would accompany me for my two songs I had to sing for the four vocal judges sitting in the audience that were my jury and would determine my final exam grade in my voice class, I was unable to see the judge who had asked me about my attendance at the Neil Diamond concert that night. The bright spotlights directed to the stage to simulate actual performances blinded me.

“I heard you on the radio this morning,” he continued as I tried to melt into the floor from embarrassment. Surely not one of these classical music teachers had even heard of Neil Diamond and would think pop music was the last rung on the ladder of musical hierarchy.

“Congratulations on winning the two tickets to the concert – and the backstage pass. That’s quite something,” he said.

“Thank you, sir. I rarely listen to that radio station,” I lied. “I was just trying to relax for the jury today. Lucky,” I mumbled and then tried to regain my composure to sing the Italian and German songs I had prepared.

***

In 1969 I was a twenty-three-year-old lesbian struggling to find a girlfriend and the meaning of life – but mostly a girlfriend. I was a displaced Texas girl living in Seattle, working for a local CPA firm doing taxes and bookkeeping, and looking for love in the only comfort zone I had: the Mercer Island Baptist Church which had been introduced to me by a straight woman I worked with at the CPA firm.

I came from six generations of Southern Baptists and was thrilled to know Seattle even had a Southern Baptist church out there in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. In my flight to escape my family and my “passing” as straight in the Houston area I drove 3,000 miles to a place where I didn’t know a single person except my lesbian friend who traveled with me, a girl who turned out not to be a lesbian (much to my disappointment) and left me two months after we arrived to move to California with a man she met at a bar. I hadn’t really made a plan to find friends.

Enter the Mercer Island Baptist Church with mostly other displaced southerners whose religion made them feel that they were strangers in a foreign land, biblically speaking. That church became my lifeline to community with the unintentional bonus of developing my own personal “gaydar.” Without delving into specifics, let’s just say that lust and hormonal longings became so intertwined with my religious understandings at the time that I answered a clear call from God to move back to Texas and enroll in the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. The “call” came in the form of a rejection by a married woman in the church that I was madly in love with but a woman who was older, wiser, had three very young children, and identified as heterosexual.

My mother wept when I called her to tell her of my career change and told me she believed I was following the path predetermined for me at my birth when she gave me to God for Christian service. Unfortunately, my voice teacher at the seminary seemed to disagree with my mother’s euphoria. As a matter of fact during one of our lessons, she abruptly asked me why I had decided to pursue a career as a church music director when I had such wonderful opportunities in business as a CPA. Church music directors were mostly men, she went on to tell me as I sang the scales with less enthusiasm.

My music teacher was right on all fronts, but I’m not a quick learner so I stayed in the seminary for two years after switching my major to theology which didn’t require standing in front of four teachers singing words I didn’t know the meaning of. After two years at Southwestern, I left with a girl friend I had met there which in my mind at the time proved that God truly answered prayers.

My new girlfriend was my date for the Neil Diamond concert that night in Dallas, and we did go backstage after a fabulous concert to meet him. He had long hair at that time (circa 1971), appeared to be exhausted, was shorter than I expected, but shook hands and spoke to each of us with a slight smile. I seem to remember a female guitar player who left with him…

Yesterday I heard that Neil Diamond is retiring from touring as a result of Parkinson’s Disease, and I had a flood of memories of that night in Dallas so long ago. The world has lost a great performer, but thankfully we have his concerts preserved for posterity via new technology.

Today is Neil Diamond’s 77th. birthday, and I would like to sing Happy Birthday to him, but alas, I’m worried that it might be slightly off key. Instead, I will simply thank him for the music he wrote and performed during the past 50 years of his life -and mine. His songs have brought joy to millions of people who will remember them with their own feelings, but not everyone will remember the privilege of meeting him backstage.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

taking this show on the road


I am deeply grateful to the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Business Guild for inviting Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home to be the program for their January meeting, the first monthly meeting of 2018. The Guild meeting was historic for the book, too, since it marked the first public appearance of contributors to discuss their participation in the project since the book was published at the end of December, 2017.

(l. to r. contributors Teresa Williams, Nekki Shutt, Ed Madden, 

Harriet Hancock, Michael Haigler, Candace Chellew-Hodge

and editor Sheila Morris)  

photo courtesy The Guild

An audience of more than 50 people listened intently as Candace Chellew-Hodge discussed her reluctance to move to South Carolina from Atlanta many years ago and the subsequent transformation in her life that led to community service; Michael Haigler’s description of three years in Africa in the Peace Corps and another 20 years in San Francisco that ultimately led him home to build community in his native state; Harriet Hancock’s remarks on the impact the civil rights movement had in her life of activism that took a different course when her son came out in the early 1980s;

Ed Madden’s story of his own journey home that began in Arkansas but took him to South Carolina where he found the experience of family that his own mother and father continue to withhold because of his sexual orientation; Nekki Shutt’s experiences as an attorney who faced overt gender discrimination in her chosen legal profession that couldn’t deter her from her dogged determination to have marriage equality in South Carolina; Teresa Williams who withstood family pressures and the fear of the loss of her son as she fiercely protected her role as mother and ultimately her role as a lesbian activist.

These are six real stories – intimate accounts – of the lives of ordinary people who became extraordinary in their commitments to stay home and move their home state from an oftentimes hostile environment toward a place of true equality for all of its citizens. These six people and their amazing stories take their place along with fifteen others in the book who shared their commitment to home and their courage to fight for change… twenty-one  southern perspectives captured in one volume that supplies missing information in the overall struggle for queer rights during the turbulent 30-year period from the AIDS epidemic that characterized the 1980s through the realization of marriage equality in 2014.

I do believe that truth is stranger than fiction – and just as entertaining.

Our next public appearance will be on Monday, January 29th. at 4:30 in the afternoon on the University of South Carolina campus at the Russell House Theater. Panelists for this event are Harriet Hancock, Ed Madden, Alvin McEwen, Sheila Morris, Pat Patterson a/k/a Patti O’Furniture, and Nekki Shutt. Dr. David Snyder will be our moderator.

(Books will be available for sale and signing by contributors of books bought there or elsewhere.)

We hope you will join us as we continue to take this show on the road.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

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beware the (fill-in-the-blank) immigrants


I collect words and quotes like some people collect antique automobiles, and recently I’ve been interested in American presidential quotes on specific topics like, for example, immigration. The American Immigration Center offers quotes from noted Americans on the topic of immigration including the quotes of these presidents.

“I take issue with many people’s description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren’t any illegal human beings as far as I’m concerned.” Woodrow Wilson, 28th.

Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as their talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd

“As an immigrant, I chose to live in America because it is one of the freest and most vibrant nations in the world. And as an immigrant, I feel an obligation to speak up for immigration policies that will keep America the most economically robust, creative and freedom-loving nation in the world.”  Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries {Haiti, El Salvador, other African nations} come here?” Donald J. Trump, 45th.

Shame on you, 45, for such a reprehensible comment that sullies the legacy of not only other great American leaders but spits on the words of the Statue of Liberty herself as she has welcomed the world on Liberty Island in New York Harbor since 1886.

Give me your tired, your poor,

your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

the wretched refuse of your teeming shores.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me –

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

And finally, as I celebrate our national holiday today of the birthday of one of the greatest civil rights activists in our history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I leave you with a personal favorite quote of his.

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous

than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Posted in Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments