Monday Random Song: Jason Bravo, “Isn’t Love Reason Enough?”

My good friend Jason Bravo wrote this beautiful song about being true to yourself. Maybe I’m biased, but I think it could be the next “Born This Way”. No YouTube video yet, but you can stream the MP3 from his website. Purchase Jason’s album Between Head and Heart at CD Baby or on iTunes.

(Words and music by Jason Bravo)

Remember that summer when you and I walked on the sand?
We talked about life in a heart to heart that was unplanned.
We climbed on the rocks and we followed them along the shore.
You talked in a way that I never heard you talk before.

And I could hear your words unsaid.
I could feel your pain.

You’ve been looking for a reason not to hide it all away.
You’ve been looking for a reason to be who you are someday.

There are so many things that I wish you could learn from my past.
So many decisions that I’d change if I could go back.
I’d shake off my fear and my armor and let down my guard.
I wish someone told me life didn’t have to be so hard.

But I can’t live your life for you.
I can’t dream your dream.

You’ve been looking for a reason not to hide yourself away.
You’ve been looking for a reason to be who you are someday.

The love that dares not speak its name
Is love just the same.

You’ve been looking for a reason not to hide your heart away.
You’ve been looking for a reason to be who you are someday.

Love, love should be reason enough.

Thoughts on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Apologies for the blog hiatus. 30 Poems in November is kicking my butt. (Donate here to raise funds for literacy education.) More original content will be posted soon.

Meanwhile, I would like to share these eloquent words from Natalie at the Skepchick blog about the importance of today’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Activists estimate that over 100 transgendered people are murdered each year in hate crimes. This is in addition to the other violence, discrimination, and sensationalized misrepresentation in the media that transpeople endure on a regular basis. On a more positive note, though, Massachusetts finally passed a bill to add some protections to our civil rights law for gender identity and expression. The compromise legislation now bans discrimination in employment, education, healthcare, and housing, though they were not able to get enough votes to add public accommodations to the list.

Natalie’s blog post explains why trans rights should matter to everyone (boldface emphasis mine):

…I suppose a question with these kinds of things is often why exactly one should care beyond simple respect for the deceased and ongoing commitment to working against bigotry in its many forms. How does this relate to those beyond the immediate consequences?

Part of it is the internalization of fear by the rest of us. Our lives begin to become defined and restrained by it. In much the same way that women may often internalize fear of sexual assault and lose luxuries such as the ability to walk around after dark without needing to be constantly attentive of their surroundings, keeping keys clenched in their fist, trans people end up losing similar luxuries of being able to feel safe in many circumstances. Our lives become limited by that fear in very real ways. It becomes a force of social control that keeps us quiet and invisible. We desperately strive for “passability” far beyond what is simply comfortable self-expression out of awareness of the very real dangers that come with being visibly gender variant. I don’t really like painting my nails all that much, but every little bit helps.

Part of it is that this affects people beyond those who fall within the transgender spectrum. It is essentially about policing the lines of gender. Using violence and the threat thereof as a means of imposing very real consequences for those who transgress the carefully delineated paths afforded to those born with certain particular anatomies. It marks in blood a line that you may not cross. This confines all of us. Male, female or neither, cis or trans, straight or queer, binary-identified or not, we all end up boxed into a coercively defined destiny based on nothing more than the configuration of one particular body part.

Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of victims of trans-related violence are women. This sends a strong message that it is unacceptable to value femaleness or femininity, or to consider these states preferable, empowering or fulfilling. MtF spectrum individuals embody a fundamental challenge to the assumption of male superiority. Who could possibly be happier as a woman than as a man? Who would want to trade the almighty phallus for the lowly vagina? Along with using violence and fear to enforce a gender binary, it uses the same to enforce patriarchy.

These messages are internalized into our culture. They mean something very, very real. There are untold many who remain in their prescribed gender roles only out of fear of retribution.

But this day isn’t about gender theory or politics or the struggle forward for the living. It is about recognizing, remembering and respecting those we’ve lost. But a big aspect of respecting them is to recognize what it is they died for. They sacrificed their lives for the idea that all of us, regardless of where we fall within the various spectrums of gender and sexuality, can express ourselves and exist exactly as we are, exactly as we feel ourselves to truly be. They died to build a world where we needn’t live in fear and compromise, where we needn’t apologize for our gender. Where our identity is our own. Where biology is not destiny.

So if you get a chance today, please take a moment to pause and think, or to grieve. Perhaps light a candle. Perhaps reflect a bit on the freedom that you may enjoy to express your gender in a manner that is honest and comfortable, or reflect on those who may not yet have that privilege. Perhaps reflect on how valuable and meaningful that is, what it is to feel at home in your body. Remember that it is something that some people have given their lives for.

Read the whole post here. (Hat tip to the Twitter feed of No Longer Quivering, a must-read site for women recovering from patriarchal religious abuse.)

Winners of the Alabama State Poetry Society David Kato Prize for Poems about GLBT Human Rights

The Alabama State Poetry Society offers a twice-yearly contest with a variety of themed prizes sponsored by different individuals and poetry organizations. For the Fall 2011 award series, I sponsored the David Kato Prize for poems about the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. (Prizes: $50, $30, $20, plus HM’s at judge’s discretion.) The award honors a Ugandan gay activist who was murdered this year. With the permission of the authors and the ASPS, I am pleased to publish the winners below.

First Prize:

what more is there to say
by Barry Marks

oh mama mama
oh god mama
how can i not believe
believe you made me what i am
you and papa
god papa what do i say
what do i say when i say who i am
who am i to question you mama
when you say i should not
i should not fit myself into another self
it is not enough that a self is warm
is loving is wanting my self
the self you made the way i am
the way you are
you must be
as i must be
who is anyone to say
to say this does not fit there
or there or where i do not fit
do not fit whose formula
you formed me god mama
god papa should i speak of
god papa on god mama to make
baby god me or was god mama
on top how irreverent how shameful
to think of a god mama god papa
oh my god
mama oh my god
papa if that is so awful
shameful then why should anyone
throw his her mind into my pants
my heart my private self i am
god baby just like they are
just like you are
oh god
oh god
i love you both
i love god
god loves me
what more
is there
to say


Second Prize

A Good Holt
by John Foust

I am giving you these words to savor your heartaches.
Am I? I give words to you, salt and pepper, heartaches.

I talk about cold morning and the lift they bring.
The cold splashing of the springs assault icy heartaches.

Standing in the wind waiting for the bus all my life,
It is good to feel warm hands on the vault of heartaches.

Running, all the time running with fare to catch love.
The doors open stepping up, I jolt fares into heartaches.

On the sidewalk, in the coats and swishing, I am alone.
Walking down the street, wrenches bolt tight heartaches.

Row strong in the winter waters of the human stream,
Keep warm, keep a good holt on your hidden heartaches.



by Janet Anderson

consider the bliss sitting
absolutely still, your
mind completely numbed.
no free-fall ideas trickling
off into childhood, or tomorrows,
only anonymity.

uneasy to be human, to feel
like an outcast with a brutal
imagination. To beat and beat
yourself against your slab of mind,
the convolution of colors raking
into a long, white, outstretched reach,
the flame groping for the spread
of fire, the floating, diving words
wanting out, freedom
from discrimination, freedom
to be, to clam your own bones
to nest in.


First Honorable Mention:

Closet Elegy
by Susan Luther

In the middle of the night I felt the urge.
Got up, and went down the hall. It was not
my house, but — not exactly strange either. I knew
where to find the necessary door. Business finished,
I turned the doorknob back into the room
I had come from. which… wasn’t. Was unfamiliar
hostile darkness — half awake, a blank abyss, nothing
to know who or where I was by, like the time,
staring at Uniform Reality in the reception line
I forgot my own name. No shred of illumination,
adjusted vision. Only black on black
vertigo, the floor capsizing underneath.
Is this how you felt when Alzheimer’s first
augured holes — boarded entrances — into your mind?
How you felt before, under the sentence of your daughter’s
(to you) banish-imperative not-in-my-house bad news? Is this
how she felt you felt have felt feel, others feel, trapped
in telescoping rooms of denial panic incomprehension
difference Open the door Open the door OPEN THE DOOR


Second Honorable Mention

the right to be very human
by Catherine Moran

And I say,

being human holds all the glamour
of a rainy picnic on Mars.
We have to fashion our own umbrellas
to hold the elements at bay,
and juggle to keep
the food warm and ready.
All the while we project a certain image
demanded by the social circle.
Those who don’t look like they belong,
are left drifting into puddles
and being soaked by stray drops.

And I say,

everyone has a right to be warm and dry
at the picnic.
Loving and caring for another person
is the most basic human gift
we can bestow on each other.
Sexual orientation
matters little when it comes to kindness.
And when one person
the deep humanity of another with a spirit
of love and concern,
we are being the best creatures we can be.

And I say,

what people wear or
with whom they prefer to spend their time
become such a minor issue.
In a world where humanity can
dish out meanness like a leftover casserole,
any semblance of compassion
is as welcome as fresh thyme.
Being human has its drawbacks.
If we can open the umbrella a little wider,
the picnic can progress
with everyone dry
and plenty to eat.


Third Honorable Mention

Prometheus Bound
by Caren Renee Davidson

You met the cold hammer
Cast from Vulcan’s own fury.
You chose to have the fires
Show the sameness
of your face.
You are still Prometheus
the Teacher.