Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Phoenix Festival 2017: Week of Beautiful Trauma and Revenge

One of my favorite things about P!nks  'Revenge' is that it's a bit tongue in cheek, and light hearted and fun. That's unusual in a revenge song.

I just finished having coffee with an Twitter friend about an hour ago. We had never met in person before, and it was fun to talk about things that she had never heard of before. One of the things I mentioned was Tyler Glenn of Neon trees being a gay ex mormon, and imagine dragons Love Loud festival in Provo utah.

We mostly just talked about women's soccer, but talking about the push and pull in prodomenently conservative communities by queer communities and allies added to our conversation.

Realizing that Provo pride is growing and expanding and all the amazing positive changes that have come about in Utah post policy doesn't take away from the pain, and negative consequences for thousands of lives that that caused, but upon reflection, it's not just me that experienced this as a 'Beautiful Trauma'

Perhaps the best revenge of such inflicted pain is the number of people, like myself that are happier, free-er, and healthier in life inspite of the Trauma and pain of Nov 5th 2015.

And I guess that's my thoughts for this week.  I'm glad for the changes that happened in my life, even though it was a painful process, and sometimes still can be, to have gone through. And I don't regret any part of my life's journey.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Phoenix Festival 2017: A Lesson From Laura Harvey

It was only Sunday that this year's Phoenix Festival season kicked off. This year's Burining of the 5th started with incense in a fire pit rather than last year's angry, roaring pain filled bon fire. This year was more like a moment of  sending love into the universe, to those still suffering, and for all the pain of 2017.

Then yesterday, I got news that Laura Harvey was leaving my beloved Seattle Reign, and day 2 became surprisingly a day of mourning  again, though this time not for people hurt by a church policy, but because someone important, a stabilising factor in a soccer team, was taking a chance and moving forward in life. And it left me feeling destabilized by change.

Then someone on Twitter wrote some beautiful words about a beautiful bird not being trapped in a cage, and the importance of being free, even if we didn't get to see the bird as much any more. I have totally messed it up here, but this metaphor struck me deeply, because it was day 2 of Phoenix festival, and that person was right.

Today is New Ash Wednesday. I wasn't going to keep all the feasts and structures the same as last year, because Phoenix Festival is a holiday season that is about change, and adapting to your needs, but as I awoke this morning, I realized I needed it to be called New Ash Wednesday again.

Everything is ashes again. Yesterday's news  for my soccer team created a chaos in my mind, where I'm just not sure what the Reign are going to look like next season now. Things have changed. We are at a place where we start again. Not from scratch, the Phoenix ashes are a place of rebirth and creation that will always become a Phoenix again. The point is, that from big scary changes comes opportunities for growth that wouldn't be there if we didn't leave our comfort zone.

From all the words and statements I read from Laura Harvey yesterday, I gained one insight. If we wait to make big changes in our life until we are completely comfortable, and ready to make them, we have waited too long, and missed great opportunities. Changes that are meaningful, that move us forward, require a bit of discomfort and risk.

As we sit in the Ashes stage of Phoenix Festival, let us envision the future we desire, and embrace the changes, risk and hard work it will take to get there.

Happy Phoenix Fistival. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Phoenix Festival 2017

Today is the 5th of November,  Guy Fawkes Day, and The Burning of the Fifth, which is the first day of the Phoenix Festival,  remember the day the LDS church policy was leaked in 2015, forever changing many lives.  It is a day where for many of us LGBTQ+ Mormons,  the foundations we had built our lives on burnt to the ground, and some of us died, and some of us are still dying, and some of us are finally OK. 

The Phoenix Festival kicks off my annual collection of socks for the homeless.  Feel free to send your donation of new socks my way and I will pass them on to my connections in the Puget Sound area. I have been informed that this early November time, people are coming into the homeless camps with soaking wet socks,  and no coats or jackets, because they haven't been donated yet.  Its already snowing here now, so this makes my heart sad.  If you don't live near me in the Seattle Area, please consider donating socks  and beginning to donate coats and warm clothes to homeless shelters and encampments in your area.

The Phoenix Festival is a time for anyone who needs a new home during the Holiday seasons to have something they can make their own. When old traditions have become painful or irrelevant, we have the Phoenix festival, and each year we can make it what we need it to be. There are two things that will always happen with Phoenix Festival,  The Burning of the Fifth,  on November 5th, and The Day of the Phoenix Rising on January 6th.  Why? because this time is symbolic of a Phoenix, and a Phoenix can't rise and be reborn unless it burns it all down to the ground and becomes ashes first.

This year,  I am a different person with different needs than last year. I have become my own person, and I feel less pain than last year, less attached to the things that happened in 2015. So this year will have different themes than last years Phoenix Festival. Within each of the weeks,  everyone can interpret the themes according to their own needs and desires.

I have chosen my weekly themes from P!inks new album Beautiful Trauma, because I feel like it really fits with where I am at this year, as well as remembering the past in a way that feels relevant and moves me forward.

Week 1 (Nov 5-11):  'The Week of Beautiful Trauma and Revenge'   from those two songs on P!nks new album.  This is a week of recognizing the beauty gained from going through our lives journeys, even the painful parts, and  also recognizing that sometimes its OK to be angry and rage a bit when things are wrong and painful.

Special Feast Day, Nov 5th "The Burning of the Fifth"   Have a meaningful and cathartic bonfire.

Week 2 (Nov 12-18): 'The Week of What You Want, For Now'  This week will be about being present in the moment, and living your life with awareness in the present. 

Special Feast Day, Nov. 18th: The Day to Choose to Reign.  This is a day where you own your life, your decisions, and the journey you are on, and take mindful action to own  and pursue the journey and course that you wish for your life to take.

Week 3 (Nov 19-25): 'The Week of What About Us'    This song of P!inks is perhaps one of the most beautiful and powerful songs on the album.  I will lead us in reflecting on her words and what they mean to me in this week.  Its a week that first and foremost is about recognizing your worth as a human, and  not letting anyone destroy your worth, and your beauty.

Special Feast Day Nov. 23: 'Chained to The Rhythm'   This day is about recognizing that along with all the beautiful things that distract us, There are also ugly things in history connected to those moments, and that we can only begin to fix the damage those beautiful things hide, when we pause from our warmth and comfort and  recognize and come to terms with those ugly pieces as well.

Week 4 (Nov. 26- Dec 2): 'The Week of But We Lost It'    Forever is as long as there is. and sometimes forever is less long than we think, but treasuring things while we have them is a part of this weeks theme. Sometimes we loose thing, sometimes we loose people,  and sometimes things get broken "but the bone grows back stronger"  This week is a time of treasuring  the pieces of our lives that we have lost,  and being connected to the pieces and people we have while we have them.

Special Feast Day, Dec 1: A Toast   Today toast the memory of someone or something important you have lost and treasured in life.

Week 5: (Dec 3- 9): 'The Week of Secrets and A Better Life"   This week is about Brene Brown style Vulnerability. Its about confronting shame, owning your story and connecting to other humans in an appropriate and meaningful way.

Special Feast Day,  Dec 6:  Day of  Try-Umph    Take a risk, Share with a close friend something that you have felt alone in feeling, or try something new. "Triumph is just Umph added to try", according to a skating medal I once received.  If something is keeping you down, keeping you from opening up, keeping you from trying something new today is the day to face it.

Week 6 (Dec 10-16): 'The Week of the Barbies'  This song on P!nks Album has really connected with me, its called 'Barbies' and its about a longing to go back to your childhood, a feeling that we grew up to fast. This week will be about connecting to your inner child, and taking time for simple joys and pleasures.

Special Feast Day, December  16: 'Day of the Light of The Inner Child"  Today is a day to not be afraid to dream, to play, to imagine. 

Week 7 (Dec 17-23): 'The Week of  Where We Go'   "There's a Road that takes me home, take me fast or take me slow, throw my head out the window, feel the wind, make me whole, write my name up in the sky, as we contemplate goodbye. I don't know, we don know, where we go"
Where is home to you? is it your family? is it with your friends? Does it change over the years?  This week is about connecting to your "home" whatever or whoever home is to you.   Home is where the heart is, home is where my stuff is, home is where I feel the most safe to be me.

Special Feast Day, December 23: 'Kucios Eve'  The Lithuanians have a special Christmas Eve dinner every year, Family will come together from all over on this day. As an American with deep love for Lithuania, I have had an appreciation for this special feast, and  a complete inability to participate and join in it.  But I have always admired the traditions associated with it, and the idea of gathering. Since Kucios is not mine, and never will be  I am designating Kucios Eve as a feast day, to gather with your chosen family and create some meaningful and fun traditions among yourselves. include food and symbols that are meaningful to you all personally.

Week 8 (Dec 24-30): 'I Am Here, And You Get My Love'  "I open up my heart, you can love me or not. There's no such thing as sin, Lit it all come right in. I wanna make some mistakes, I wanna sleep in the mud, I wanna swim in the flood, I wanna **** till I'm done... I am here, I am here, I've already seen the bottom so there's nothing to fear."  "But you get my love baby, you get my love if there's one thing about me that you can trust, you get my love."     This week is about loving, living, making mistakes, but trying. This week is about being open and  doing things that scare you, but that you have wanted to take a chance and do.

Special Feast Day, Dec 25th: 'Day of the Hymn for the Hymn-less"   This is based on Ke$a's Song 'Hymn' and is just for the Agnostic, Atheist, and other non religious people on Christmas day. It is a day to celebrate what you do believe and find hope in, in whatever way you find suits your beliefs, but make it fun and meaningful. :)

Week 9 (Dec 31- Jan 6) : 'The Week of Wild Hearts and The Phoenix Rising' 
Lyrics of Wild Hearts
 vs 1:
I will have to die for this I fear. There's Rage and terror and there's a Sickness here. I fight because I have to. I fight for us to know the truth. 

There's not enough rope to tie me down, There's not enough tape to shut this mouth. The stones you throw can make me bleed, but I wont stop until we're free. Wild heats can't be broken, no wild heats can't be broken.

vs 2: 
This is my rally cry. I know its hard, we have to try. This is a battle I must win. To want my share is not a sin. 

repeat chorus.

vs 3: 
You beat me, betray me. you're losing, we're wining.  My Spirit above me, you cannot deny me. My freedom is burning, This broken world keeps turning. I'll never surrender, there's nothing but a victory. 

repeat chorus. 

This week is about finding  your new sense of spirit in life for the year, about battling for things that matter, for those that need your voice, and standing up for yourself.  it is about rising from your ashes, better and stronger than before. Reborn.

And that is a summary and guide to this years Phoenix Festival.  As you wish, feel free to join me in celebrating.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Refusing To Be Erased

Here is my National Coming Out Day blog post. Some of this I will have said before, and some of It will be new, but I feel like these posts are like onions, and pastry crusts, full of layers. So I will peel another back today.
As Twitter greeted  me this morning with all its many tweet alerts, I first noticed that Eminem had apparently rapped something that even had Ellen Degeneres and my favorite vegan soccer players taking note. And then of course the epic melt down of us soccer fans and a decent into bickering over wether or not the women deserved fair pay and treatment when the men were so abysmal.
But finally, finally after all that, Twitter let me know it was 1) the day of the girl and 2) national comming out day.
So today, all I could think about was how after I came out, at least one of my aunt's  (I remeber one specifically, but I have many many aunt's so there could have been more) asked me a question. "When did you know?"  And I figured probably more people have that question.
I answered my aunt fairly quickly and simply, but it took me 28 years on this planet to fully come out to myself, so my answer of "about since I was five" though accurate, isn't really the whole story.
When I think back to my earliest memories, what I remeber most was that I hated frilly girl stuff. I hated pink, and lace, and dolls, I hated stupid gender rolls and patriarchy. I had a raging temper that stoked when I was told the boys got to do  the "cool stuff", and I was expected to do the "dumby girly stuff".  More than that, I could see even at the young age of around 5 ish, that men and boys got treated way better at church, at home, on tv.
And I was not ok with it. And that had nothing to do with sexual orientation. I was a tomboy, and probably a raging young feminist before I could even understand the concept of equal pay for equal play.
This small detour is not a rambling tangent, it's intentional. When as an adult, trying to fit into a box of sexual orientation that I didn't, I spent a year or two reading books about what went wrong with me, and why. Those books were horse shit. And their theories completely unfounded. But they added to my interesting life puzzle I spent decades on figuring out just who I am.
Around that same time, I remember that I liked boys and girls. And that sometimes I was sad that even though my male friend my age down the road was someone I was constantly being told I should one day consider marrying, because it would be so cute, my female friend my age at the other end, or the one from school, I was just supposed to be friends with.  But what if I liked the girl more?
Those were simple child hood times, and I don't know how much depth we can give to those. 
When I truly want to think on that moment that I knew, then I go to around the age of ten. By then I knew what a crush was, and i started to really get confused by it, mostly because I don't think I had words for it.  There was a boy, I really liked him. I sang Trisha Yearwood songs about us running away and getting married.  And I kissed him behind an old car  one day.
And there were other girls. Lots of other girls. One girl in particular I was super crushing on. I used to hang out with her a lot in 4th grade. I thought she was the most amazing person ever. But I felt weird about it, because I was feeling things I was told I wasn't supposed to and it scared me, and eventually we just went our seperate ways.

I remeber a family trip to chrystal hot springs around that time. I remeber distinctly, sitting in a hot spring pool, and going, 'hey, that girl is really cute, what if I'm gay?' And then seeing a really cute boy and thinking 'Well, I can't be gay, because I think he's really cute too. So if I like boys, I'm must be ok."   It was very culturally reinforced at this time my life that being gay was very very bad, and it would mean something was wrong with me, so I couldn't be that. 
Jr high came, and everytime a certain cheer leader would talk to me, I would blush. And then I would feel stupid about it, because what if she knew I liked her? But when the cute boy would talk to me and I would blush, I was relieved, maybe I could fit in the boxes I was supposed to.
We don't have all night, so I'm gonna fast forward. The struggle was real, and it continued, in high school, then college. I had a crush on this or that roommate,  but THAT must be just really strong feelings of friendship, because I really liked that hot guy in German class, but I kind of liked her more.   When I was in 9th grade a friend came out to me as bisexual, and it freaked me the heck out. I wanted to say me Too! But I couldn't. I knew then, by college, that bisexuality was a thing, but some how it didnt really exist, because as long as I could find a guy I liked... I was "normal" and it would be "ok", no one needed to know.
Fast forward a decade or so. Home from my mission by about five years. I had almost started to come out, and panicked and went right back into the closet, in ultra high pray the gay away mode. I was attracted to men. Just find one you like, and make it work. I tried and tried and tried, and I genuinely was attracted to the guys physically.
One of my then boy friends sucked marshmallow goo off my fingers, and I knew I wasn't gay. Very sexually repressed Mormon, but totally not gay. And at the same time had very gay feelings for one of my best friends.  And again, I was confused. Because I was trying really hard to choose the really hot guy, but it just wasn't working for me.
Soon the pressure got to be much and I finally started the very slow, long process of coming out, first to trusted friends, then to my family, and then to the world. And from day one I came out as bisexual, because I knew I was. But every time I questioned, am I? Because everyone is saying it's a phase. Am I? Because I definetly  have a preference for women, and I'm not sure I ever want to date men again.
And them I started dating women. And sometimes they couldn't handle that I was bisexual, because they thought that meant I would leave them for a man? Even though I very clearly preferes women, and that's a pretty low risk that would ever happen. And I thought, should I just make it easier and say I'm a lesbian?  But I couldn't do that, because I had just fought so hard to claim my identity.
I remeber sitting with bishops telling me it was great I was bisexual, and I just needed to marry a man, and that would fix everything. I knew from years of dating experience that was utter crap. I had family members tell me it was just like an addiction or an illness and after some counselling and prayer I could over come it,  and that was after I had read all the books, and prayed, and gone to "lds addiction  recovery" and years of counseling.
No. After all that, I had claimed who I was. I was finally at peace and happy, and I wasn't going back there to make anyone else comfortable, gay or straight. I was not going to pick a team. Because most likely I will end up with a woman again,  but I have had meaningful experiences and true attraction to men. And it would be a lie to deny that, even if its blue moon rate that my feelings for them are much beyond a mixture of strong sexual attraction and mild friendship.
And at the same time, I am mostly attracted to women, in a total package kind of way.  But what happens if one day I end up in a relationship with a man, and like the vast majority of my bisexual lady friends, I suddenly am made to feel less than welcome in queer spaces? Nothing more than an ally, because of a relationship that would invalidate my feelings and previous experiences in their eyes.
Everyone seems to think it's a phase. And listening to Queery with Cameron Espisito and Rebecca Sugar today finally helped me understand why. We have conditioned ourselves to put the sexual orientation of people as weighted mostly on their relationship status and sexual histories.
I have a friend that I've had discussions with, and would probably say he is bisexual leaning heavily gay. When he took the kensey  scale test online, it told him he was like a 1 or 2, so nearly straight, but he would say that is not true. Based on his feelings and internal experiences. But the kensey scale like our culture weighs heavily on relationship and sexual experiences.

Not to get too into my friends business, the point of this is, if I am with a woman, I am bisexual. If I end up with a man for the rest of my life, I'm still bisexual. I'm still queer, I will never be straight. I can't just blend in, but I can be erased, and I could be erased by either the straight community, or the gay community depending on my relationship, but that doesn't change who I am.

And one of many reason bisexuals, even if they have never been in a same sex relationship, are a part of the queer community, is because those feelings and those struggles that are carried  out in closets, and hearts are just as deeply queer experiences as anyone else's.  We throw gender into the mix and recognize that bisexuals include gender non conforming, non binary, intersexed, and trans people (because sexual orientation and gender identity are seperate non attached things) and  the bisexuals get clearly as queer as anyone else, wether they are passing or not.  It's not a choice, who you fall in love with, and it's not something to change or fight against. To be bisexual, to be gay, to be lesbian, to be queer is a beautiful wonderful, and sometimes exquisitely painful, and sometimes exqusitly joyful thing.
It is a journey and a process in a world that still often tries to get rid of us, and I am happy to be at a stage in life where I know who I am, and I am safe enough, and have a strong enough community supporting me to be proudly and openly 100% me, with out feeling the slightest bit broken, damaged, or in need of repair.
And since it took me so much time, and cost me so many hard fought battles to get to that place, I will not be erased again. And because of this part of my life, I now dare also to take up space and not make myself small in any other part of my life.
Happy day of the girl, and happy national comming out day.
Love and peace to any who cannot safely come out. If you need a friend to safely tell your story to, feel free to message me.

Daring To Take Up Space: Mandi-Spreading

Commuting on the fast ferry brought me to a whole new world. The seats there are a little more narrow than they are on the regular ferry. Normally this isn't an issue, but occasionally I have had the displeasure of sitting by a man-spreader.

I can't remember exactly when it happened; normally in tight  spaces I exaggurate my smallness, and shrink myself so that everyone can have adequet space. But one day, on the fast ferry, a manspreader sat by me, and I just couldn't. I thought, why am I working so hard to make myself small, so that this person can delve into my space bubble when he doesn't have any reason to.

In that moment I decided I would start taking up space physically. I would not make myself small. I fought off manspreaders  by man spreading. If a non manspreaders sat down beside me, I would relinquish the space so that I took up not more, or less, but just what I needed.

Then one day, a very large man sat down beside me. And I decided, as he was trying to make himself small and was clearly very uncomfortable in his seat, that, in this particular instance, I would make myself physically, a bit smaller. Not to relinquish my power, or my space, but because I know larger people and I have heard and seen their problems in travel, and the judgement they get. In this instance, I felt that by conciding  some of my space, I was giving more of it to both of us.

And a very physical thing taught me a very real lesson about adaptability, and seeing and hearing eachother, and when to stand your ground and when to stand down.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I wanted to post yesterday about another kind of space, space to exist, to be you, to be loved as you are, and learning to Mandi-spread when you need emotional and mental help, from your friends, from society, from a professional, whatever and where ever you are.

I've had a lot of friends talk to me lately going through hard times. They often appologize for bothering me, for being a burden, or for taking up space. I've been there, I've felt that. I am forever greatful for the friends I have that let me know that they loved me, they enjoy me, and they want me to take up my space with them. Sometimes people are busy or emotionally burdened and we can't always be there for eachother, but true friends will be honest with you about the level of there for you they can be. And they have a way of letting you know, they want you in that space,  and that it's just a temporary overwhelm that restricts them from doing more

That was one interesting part for me, moving into the Mandi-cave, as we call it, has also taught me a lot. In all my discussion leading up to and moving into my new place, what happened the most was the discovery that my friend seemed to have as many anxieties as me about me not wanting to be there, as I did about her and her family not wanting me to be there. Once we established that we both wanted me there, we could have clear and useful discussions about the logistics of it all.

Humans were not meant to live in isolation. We were meant to be in comunities, and to work together in connected ways. When we come together in community, our loads become bearable, even when we take on more from eachother, because we no longer are taking on everything for ourselves. We can play to our strengths and our needs and accommodate eachother in a way that provides adequet space for everyone, without making anyone feel small.

The past month or so of my life has been amazing. I hope that I am providing something as useful to my friend and her family as they have provided for me. By having a community literally dwelling around me, everything is just easier to manage, and less overwhelming, even on the crazy days, just because I can come home and say to another human, 'how was your day' face to face. I don't know if I would have appreciated what a difference that makes, without having experienced years without it.

To my friends that are struggling, that need someone to talk to, but are afraid to be a burden, to exist, to take up space and time-
I want you to. I want you to reach out to me, and I am happy when you do. I may not always be able to respond to you right away, I may not always have the energy to help and to talk.  But I always want you to reach out to me, and I always want to have the energy to help and be there for you. Know that I love you, I'm glad that you exist, that you take up space, and that you have reached out to me. I love you. You are valid, and worthy, and worth every ounce of energy I can give you. You give back to me in ways you may never know. Don't hesitate to reach out to me. If I can't talk, it will never be because I don't want to, and you will never know if I am able if you don't ask.

If you have a question for me, ask it. It may take time, but you will get an answer.  We are in this together. I cannot do it without you, and I don't want you to just 'get through' this life without me. I want to be on your team. Reach out. Do your own spreading. The world gains nothing by me or you making ourselves small.

Love,  Mandi