First Guest Blog: Renee Bess
I know I owe you GCLS updates, and I promise you will get them, but the best thing about GCLS is the bonds we form while there. Writing can be a very isolating experience and the rare chance to really connect with other people who share our passions is a God-send. We as a community need those connections to thrive and grow and pull strengh from. So with that in mind, I am going to start doing my part to spin out from my own little circle here and connect all of you to people who make up my own community with a series of guest blogs from the people I really admire within our community.
Our first blog is from Renee Bess. Renee is the author of Leave of Absence, Breaking Jaie,”and Re:Building Sasha. Her next book, The Butterfly Moments, will be published by Regal Crest Enterprises in September 2010. Renee is also an active member of the GCLS, and I had the chance to share a wonderful dinner with her at this year’s conference. We don’t get the chance to chat often, but every time we do, I walk away feeling inspired, and her blog for you today is no exception. So without further ado, here’s your first guest blog.
From Renee Bess:
I’m convinced that life gives LGBT people more opportunities to be brave than it gives to non-LGBT’ers. How many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered folks “come out” only once? We’ve all had to self-disclose numerous times, and each occurrence calls for some amount of bravery. While life here in the U.S. gives us plenty of chances to be bold, it doesn’t give most of us the opportunity to be legally married. Hence, the topic of this little piece.
A year ago, within the confines of an online forum about gay marriage, I vowed that I would not attend any more straight marriage ceremonies until I had the legal/civil right to join my partner in matrimony. I made my public statement with the knowledge that a close straight family friend had become engaged, and the assumption that the state of Pennsylvania would not legalize gay marriage by July, 2010. My assumption was really a certainty. We liberals who live here frequently say that between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, lays a conservative mindset and populace similar to those in Mississippi.
I figured my family friend would mail her wedding invitations six to seven weeks prior to the ceremony, so by late May I began to think seriously about my response. What would I say? How could I express myself in a way that wouldn’t be offensive, but would convey the basic unfairness that accompanied this part of my identity?
The day of reckoning arrived. When I plucked the embossed envelope from my mailbox, I knew I was at peace with my decision to boycott the wedding, but terribly unsure of how to explain my actions, and not at all comfortable with the prospect of insulting the bride and her family and upsetting the entente cordiale I struggle to maintain with my elderly mother. The wedding will take place in Maryland and I am her means of transportation.
It took me a week to gather the right words and put pen to paper. I explained how difficult it would be for me to engage in a celebration that I cannot legally enjoy myself. I compared it to attending a party to recognize someone else’s right to vote, or use a public bathroom, or buy a meal in a restaurant while others, including myself, cannot. I wrote about the times my former partner and I had to find our medical P.O.A. papers before we rushed one or the other to hospital; me doubled over with kidney stone pain or her wincing from the searing hurt caused by the shard of wood that had jettisoned into her eye. I related how we never travelled anywhere without the legal paperwork that would grant us access to one another in an emergency situation. I informed her that no matter how many years we’d been a couple (thirty-one, then) if one of us died, the other would have to pay a fifteen percent estate tax on the value of everything we’d already bought together. I tried to give the bride and her future husband more than simply a concept of our lack of civil rights. I tried to give the injustice two faces, names, and bodies.
My friend phoned me the day she received my letter. We had such a good long talk. She was more than empathetic. She got it…totally. She told me she’d never before thought about my issues because she never had to. She believes we deserve every right any other citizen has. Her attitude is that of a gay rights activist. I think both she and our conversation are amazing. She told me she thinks she’s fortunate to have me as a friend; that she admires my bravery.
I’ve Googled the Maryland town where the wedding will take place. I’ll drop my mother off and then visit the local bookstore for a couple of hours. I always feel at home in bookstores, especially if they have an LGBT section; most especially if they’re progressive enough to integrate the LGBT fiction with the mainstream books.
Best wishes to my friend on her marriage. Best wishes to my gay and lesbian counterparts who reside in states that have passed gay marriage initiatives. Best wishes to those of us who don’t live in forward-thinking areas, but who protest, agitate, and work for marriage rights for all.
A big thank you to Renee for her insightful words, and for being my first ever guest blogger! As always you may comment directly to this blog or if you would like to contact Renee Directly you can e-mail her at Levrb1@aol.com You can purchase Renee’s books from: www.rcedirect.com; www.giovannisroom.com; www.amazon.com; and LGBT bookstores nationwide. Please visit her website: www.reneebess.com.