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Community Matters

November 16th, 2009

Sandra and I were watching Ellen and Portia on Oprah last night. Among other moments, they shared video footage of their beautiful wedding, and naturally, I started crying.

When I came out in 1998, Ellen had just come out the year before. I remember well the repercussions on her public career, as well as the reactions in all forms of popular media. I remember being totally unsurprised. She took the first, really big, really GIANT, step for popular gay rights. And it wasn’t going to be easy. She’d made waves; big ones. She went from the girl next door to an abomination in the eyes of many, simply for speaking honestly about what many people had to have assumed already.

What surprises me, if I think about it as I did last night, is how very far we’ve come in the last decade. My committed relationship is legally recognized by the country where I live. How amazing is that? I have the legal – and social – right to call Sandra my wife. Without quotes. Without joking. And although there have been so many setbacks in the States in the last year, I can’t help but think that progress there will come soon enough, and surely, in the decade still to come.

I’ve written before about personal activism and how I firmly believe that being honest, being unafraid, and being out is the key to changing minds, to getting more of THEM to be on OUR side when the votes matter. I’ve written before how our allies need to be out and vocal as well; as a believer in equal rights for all. It’s too easy for people to think they’ve never met someone gay, or someone who believed in equal rights. Let’s continue to prove them wrong. This is an issue that matters.

But also, on top of activism, there’s the idea of community. In the past, the gay community was the only place anyone could feel safe being out. Whether it was private clubs (or circles of friends), bars, or political organizations, keeping your true personality inside the community was once essential for North Americans, even in big cities. Even when I came out in central Illinois, I wasn’t immediately out to my friends at all. My first conversations about the me I was discovering were in my gay and lesbian studies classes, in my weekly Rainbow Coffeeshop volunteer sessions, and in the community online. Community was everything. The only place I could feel totally comfortable. The only place that seemed to not view me through rainbow-tinted glasses.

Now, things have changed for me. Although we ran into so much homophobia (and ignorance) in Calgary, Toronto is more open and accepting. I rarely go a day without seeing gay couples being affectionate in public. I never have to explain what I mean when I use the word ‘wife’. (I’m not the only woman I know here who even HAS a wife!) I am no longer the only out person at work. My straight friends here truly see me and my wife as no different than any other married couple, just maybe with a little more yarn in the house.

So, is this idea of community becoming less important as we’re growing less and less afraid of just living our lives? Does community still matter?

I spent seven days at the end of October on vacation on an Olivia cruise. If you’re not familiar with Olivia, it’s a company that started in the midst of the gay rights movement of the 70s. Originally, it was a record label to promote women in music. Now, it’s an upscale travel company, organizing a dozen or so trips a year for women only. Trips range from tiny and exclusive adventure travel tours to large cruises and all inclusive resorts. The prices and destinations may vary, but what doesn’t is that everyone on the trip will be a woman, and nearly all, lesbian or bisexual.

Spending a week in the company of women (except for the ship’s staff) is a pretty unbelievable experience. 1300 in this case. There’s love and drama and big personalities, of course, but there’s also this all-too-fleeting feeling of being in absolutely the right little world for maybe the first time ever.

Renewal. Joy. Inclusion. Comfort. Friendliness. Diversity.

Breathing a little easier without spending even a second worried about reactions to words like “lesbian” “partner” and “wife”. Being reminded that if we don’t continue to vocalize our lives, if we don’t continue to fight for equality, it’ll never come.

And really, at the heart of it, the fight we’re in is for that community to keep growing until it includes everyone, gay or straight, and where we can all feel equally comfortable to just live these diverse little lives of ours in peace.

So yes, community still matters, even after all the changes we’ve seen in the last decade, in the last two decades. Community reminds us of who we are, where we come from, and where we can go together.

Shapely Cowl

November 13th, 2009

It’s that time of the year where I start thinking about holiday gift knitting. Those of you who know me know that I’m horrible at planning to knit for the holidays. This year may be a little different as I spend some quality time working through my stash. Like many knitters, I have a lot […]

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Making Weight Watchers Work

November 10th, 2009

Ever since I posted my success story a few months back, I’ve gotten comments and emails about how it worked for me, and what tips or recipes I’d suggest others try. To me, it sounded like the perfect excuse for a blog post. How WW Works Weight Watchers works on a point system. Everything you […]

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