Monday, November 29, 2010

Time for Giving Thanks

I've spent about the last month thinking about the importance giving thanks. This included writing a letter of thanks to a teacher who helped me in middle school and writing to a favorite blogger. It meant going through my friend list on facebook and thinking about why each one of them is important to me--how they changed my life and how thankful I should be for the opportunity to meet them. I owe every friend of mine, so very, very much. I started with the idea of a top ten things to be thankful for post, central points of what I am thankful for this year. I think this is only nine, but close enough, it is almost four AM lol.

My Mommy.
My mommy is the best person I know. I love her more than she can ever guess. I know that she has done an incredible amount for me over the years. It isn't possible to put in words how much I respect her and how important she is to me. I know my mom loves me. I know that no matter what, she will love me. I can be a burden at times and a headache. My mom loves me. And that makes all the difference. She is never ever allowed to die. I may not live at home and I may be an "adult" or whatever. My mommy is amazing and I wouldn't trade her for anything.

My Baby Sister
I love my baby sister and I always have. I will always love her with all my heart. She is 10 years, 2 months, and 9 days younger than me. She just had her birthday on Saturday... I was sad I couldn't be there with her.

She came at a time in my life when I was struggling. I was in an awkward tween stage. When she was ten months old, we moved and I began attending a new school. I didn't know anyone, and I definitely didn't feel like I fit in. I said stupid stuff, I did annoying things, and I just wanted to come home and cry. I didn't cry anymore, I had decided I was too old to cry. What I did do was come home and hold my baby sister in my arms and feel how she clung to me and how much she needed me--how she didn't judge me, she accepted me. She is my baby sister and no matter what I love her and I don't want to lose her.

My daddy
I love my dad. My dad has always made me laugh and I know he cares about me. My dad has always been an example in my life of how important it is to treat your spouse correctly and the I think it is adorable how much he loves my mom, even after over twenty years.

My brother
My brother is growing like crazy. He will get his learner's permit in January. He is a high schooler which is still mind-boggling. Who told him he was allowed to grow up? Sometimes when I picture him I still see the mischievous four year-old who stole my diary, the kid I could just pick up if he was bothering me and carry over to his bed.

We fought a lot as kids, healthy sibling rivalry and all. For a while I was convinced that I hated him. Then one night when I was about nine, I had a nightmare where he died--I was completely devastated and so scared. I don't know what in the world I was thinking before that. He is my little brother and I love him.

I can no longer carry him around--he is stronger and taller than me these days. He seems to be growing into a cool person and I look forward to the day we can hang out as peers.

My Best Friends
Having people who I can come to on a hard day and not feel like I need to hide my pain. People who trust me enough to give me their secrets. I've had a lot of best friends over the years--but I really do think that right now I have the best group yet. Love you guys!

I read a lot of blogs. I don't comment much. I gain a lot from the posts as I read about how other people are handling their challenges. I know it can be hard to put your personal life out in the public, even when most likely no one will ever connect you to your blogger identity. I love you for sharing.

Work Friends
I love work. And it isn't because I get to deep fry food or because I get to deal with irate customers. It is because of my amazing coworkers. You'd have to meet them to understand. They help me get through the long shifts and make work not only bearable, but enjoyable.

I haven't spent enough time recently reading books. Even with a busy schedule, I can make time for checking in on my favorite comics. Either the comic writers are really nerdy or I'm not as weird as I thought--either way, a minute of laughter can be the difference between a miserable evening and a decent evening. Also, occasionally I learn stuffy like this

Seeing things in shades of gray
Through age 11, I fit the Molly-Mormon mould perfectly and had a religious zeal beyond what I can even really imagine now. Today I'm a cynical-liberal-humanistic-feminist-lesbian-mormon. I was in elementary school the last time I really saw things in black and white. I've spent a lot of time wishing, begging God that I could just be the Molly Mormon because that would be so much easier. I could go back to being convinced that I needed to convert every one of our neighbor because they were living a sad destitute life without the gospel.

In the book "This Is My God" Herman Wouk said “But this idea of salvation limited to one group never had any place in the Jewish faith and has no place in it today. In Judaism right conduct is the path of God. This path lies open to Jews and non-Jews”

The path of God is open to all. As a friend put it, "If some random bishop from North Carolina called me to tell me he received revelation for me I would tell him he does not have the authority to receive revelation for me. I cannot receive revelation for anyone else. I don't know why I thought I could- why I thought I could say, "I know this is the correct path for everyone, regardless of their circumstances."

Being different can be a pain. I'm thankful for it because it has taught me to love and accept people.

Everyone in the Utah area who has been helping me
This blog hasn't been updated much recently. Honestly, it isn't for lack of material in Provo. It isn't even because of a lack of time. It is because of an overwhelming prevalence of material. It is sitting in a religion class being told that homosexuals are evil. It is walking down the street and listening to a girl tell her friend how the show "Modern Family" is a wicked, perverted abomination because it depicts a gay couple who love each other, which is just wrong. It is listening to a bishop say that if women aren't considering how their major will help them raise families, they are being unrighteous. It is going through every single day feeling like if people knew the truth about my sexual orientation they would reject me. It is going to church and smiling, doing my best to keep up with the Joneses. It is coming home and feeling devastatingly alone and isolated.

I have lasted this long because of my friends. I owe David, I owe Brandon, I owe Brent, I owe Dan, I owe Kate, I owe Bridey, I owe Isaac, I owe Kira, and Amber, and everyone. They all have their own lives. They've made room for me, to protect me on the days that I don't feel like holding on. Provo culture.. hurts. My Utah-friends make it bearable.

In summary, life is good. I have a great family, I have awesome friends (no overstatement, they are like unto angels descending from heaven), and I had an amazing thanksgiving day surrounded by fabulous people. I feel overwhelmed trying to change the world and I wonder if BYU is where I'm suppose to be, but for now it is where I am trying to thrive. I'm living in a warm apartment, I have food, and I'm getting a quality education. I'm incredibly blessed!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Journey to Feminism

I've been thinking about how I got where I am quite often. For all the different facets of my life.

I was a "tom-boy" growing up. Not only did this entail spending recess playing soccer instead of hop-scotch, but for me it meant being one of the guys. This meant that when I was challenged to an arm wrestling competition, I gave it my all (and often won). Once I remember saying "uncle", but only because the boy dug his fingernail into my hand and made me bleed (yeah, I'm still bitter about it).

Being one of the boys also meant that I was subject to more bullying than I woul have been as a girly-girl I think. I mean, I doubt I would have gotten teased any less. But I never saw any of the other girls get punched or hit.

Part of my getting-bullied stemmed directly from my own stubbornness. I was not one to be controlled, even if I knew that it would result in pain. If a bigger bully came up and told me that I needed to move, because he wanted to sit there, I would look him in the eye and say that I had every right to sit here and he can deal with it. Then I'd get a black eye and have the wind knocked out of me. Then he'd get suspended and I would go home and, in the safety of my mom's arms, cry. Not until then though, other people ought not to see my weakness. Our school had lots of bullies, and somewhere along the line I stuck a giant bullseye on my back.

There was no reason in my mind that boys and girls ought to be considered different, and really I encountered very little pressure to conform to social norms.

I was always expected to go to college, to excel in school,told that I could be anything I could dream of when I grew up, and assured that I belonged in church. I remember being about 5 or 6 and watching the Gullah Gullah Island cast perform "I can do anything better than you can" divided by girls singing against boys. It seemed weird to me, of course girls can do anything just as good as boys, what a silly division. At 5 and 6, my best friends were both guys. We went "tornado chasing" and climbed fences and did everything else together--there was no difference.

So, really, I was born a feminist. I can't remember a time that I wasn't.

My favorite song at 11 was "Cinderella" by the Cheetah Girls:
I don't wanna be like Cinderella,
Sitting in a dark, cold, dusty cellar,
Waiting for somebody to come and set me free
I don't wanna be like someone waiting
For a handsome prince to come and save me
On my own I will survive...
I'd rather rescue myself...

Somebody who will understand I'm happy just the way I am
Don't need nobody taking care of me
I will be there for him just as strong as he will be there for me
When I give myself then it has got to be an equal thing

I can slay my own dragons.
I can dream my own dreams
My knight in shining armor is me
So I'm gonna set me free

I loved that song like no other. It was inspiring and so fun--they believed in female power, which I found very cool.

Eleven was also around the age that I began reading everything I could get my hands on. I had always liked having my mom read books to me, but it wasn't until then that I enjoyed the process too. This started with Harry Potter, and continued to everything and anything. By 12, I was reading autobiographies (everything from Interviews with J.K. Rowling to Mein Kampf by Hitler). At thirteen, I found "The Feminine Mystique" in our middle school library and devoured it against the will of my mother. She didn't think it was age appropriate. Stubborn as I had always been, I ignored her.

Once I picked up that, I began reading other books too. I read The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. I found it interesting, but the chapter on lesbians was a bit of a turn-off for me. It started with "We commonly think of the lesbian as the woman wearing a plain felt hat, short hair, and a necktie..." which I found hilarious and showed to several friends. One friend responded after laughing and said "Now a days we think of a lesbian as a girl wearing doc martens with socks and a flannel shirt" I laughed but I had never heard those stereotypes before.

The book went on though, saying that "She [the lesbian] is unfulfilled as a woman, impotent as a man, and her disorder may lead to psychosis". I skimmed the chapters that followed, but after that sentence, I basically lost respect for the book.

That was about the time that my feminist leanings started to become applied to church teachings. Things like being told that we needed to be modest for the boys drove me insane. Once there was an article in the New Era about that, and the next month a boy had written in and got published on the front page, saying basically that acted like boys have no agency and that they were being ridiculous (and somehow it got published?!?). I ran downstairs and showed the article to my mom and told her that I wanted to marry that kid. She told me I should go find him on Myspace lol.

I don't know the exact question I asked, but around 14 the bishopric counselor tried to explain to me why only men have the priesthood. His explanation could have been worse, but it was basically that boys suck. Boys need the priesthood to develop qualities that women just naturally are born with. To get into heaven girls just have too be good, boys need to have the priesthood and be good. I walked away more confused than I started. The reverse-sexism aspect of it and the "girls are naturally just more spiritual" paradigm was foreign to me. I don't know how I escaped it, growing up in an very mormon family, but I guess I had just always blocked it out.

At 15, my favorite song was Fairytale by Sara Bareilles. It was basically about how we're raised on these stories of girls who just wait for the perfect man to come in and sweep them off their feet. "I would have cut it myself if I knew men could climb hair" said Rapunzel in a fashion that made me love the hardcore heroine perspective.

Sixteen was when I truly became a cynic. Everything was fallible and required scrutiny. Most weeks at church I found at least one thing if not to consider ridiculous (not doctrine, annoying opinions/comments)

It wasn't until 17 that I ever visited FMH, and it wasn't until eighteen that I was even willing to admit to myself that I might be a feminist.

At 19 I've given in and become a Women's Studies Minor. Today my favorite song is... Hmm, there are many. I like Strength to Go On which says:

What we are is the sum of 1000 lies
What we know is almost nothing at all
But we are what we are until the day we die
Or until we don't have the strength to go on

And I love Survive which says:

Life for you has been less than kind
So take a number, stand in line
We've all been sorry, we've all been hurt
But how we survive is what makes us who we are

I swear I'm not emo. Lol. That's a very summarized version of how I got here.