Posts Tagged 'LGBT'

SURVIVAL BY CRAZY

 

by Ann Aptaker

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Okay, I have a few options here. I could cheer my good fortune in the year that just passed (Tarnished Gold, book two in the Cantor Gold crime series, won the Lambda and the Goldie awards, and I was hired to write scripts for a season of the children’s science TV show Space Racers.) Or I could hang my head in misery about events in that same year, which ended with the most nauseating election result in American history (talkin’ to you, Trump voters; I’m a dyke, and you clearly don’t give a fig for my rights, or even my safety). Or I could ignore the world’s crap and just hum my way into a numb nirvana, but a few days of that would probably kill me with boredom. Or I could embrace my most reliable survival skill, the one that writes the books, the one which identifies me as being a little nuts.

Though the first option feeds my ego with the irresistible candy of praise and recognition, I rely on the last one. It’s my “go to” when I need aid and comfort and strength. When I’m in my crazy-empowered state, hallucinations become scenes which become storylines which become books. Being a little nuts thus releases my most productive self; after all, I don’t have an elf crew which writes my books for me in the dead of night while I sleep.

Being a little nuts is also very freeing. I can chalk up my wildest, riskiest thoughts to, well, being a little nuts, and then everything just flows from there. No guilt, no shame, just literary flow. And come to think of it, I have to be a little nuts to write crime and mystery fiction in a Lesfic market which gobbles up romance. But oh well, what can I do? To quote one of the masters, Raymond Chandler, “Danger is my business,” to which I might add, “And dangerous women are my literary pleasure.”

Tarnished Gold 300 DPIWhich brings me to the recent focus of my crazy writer’s life, the outlaw Cantor Gold. She’s dangerous, all right: art thief, smuggler, and confident dyke in 1950s New York, as at home among the gangsters and molls of the criminal underworld as she is sharing cocktails with the upper reaches of New York’s high society snoots. Cantor is dangerous because lives life on her own terms, and no one—not the Law that wants to jail her or kill her, not the rich and powerful who want to use her—will ever take that away from her. She’s prepared to die for her freedom, and kill for it, too.

When I started thinking about the series, started formulating Cantor Gold—that is to say, when I finally allowed my crazy to escape into the world and onto the page—LGBTQ life was getting better. True, George W. Bush was president, and his conservative and religious fundamentalist supporters were waving their bibles in our faces. But inch by inch, court case by court case, they were losing the argument and we were winning our rights. We were pushing America toward that light of equality at the end of the tunnel, we were gaining acceptance—in the larger cities at any rate—and it felt good!

Something didn’t feel good, though, something irritated like a pebble in my shoe, and that something was the threat of forgetfulness. I couldn’t help feeling that in our rush into our bright future, a future of normalcy, the rough edges of the culture that thrived in our earlier, shadowed life would be smoothed away to the point of invisibility. Our colorfully defiant and dangerous past, no longer fashionable as we absorbed into the American mainstream, would be pushed into the closet we ourselves were coming out of. Thus, Cantor Gold, dapper butch in a time when being Lesbian, Gay, Trans, or any other non-hetero definition was punishable by arrest, imprisonment, or commitment to the psycho ward, was my way of keeping that defiant past alive.

And now it’s 2017. That nauseating election result I mentioned earlier has the potential to stop our progress in its tracks, make our way of life illegal again, make us fearful for our very safety. Who knew past would become present? Not I in those politically optimistic early days of Cantor Gold’s creation. Who knew that the release of Cantor’s third adventure, Genuine Gold, would coincide with the installation of a presidential administration and a congress which threatens our hard won rights? Threatens us?genuine-gold-bsb-final

What better time, then, for the defiant Cantor Gold to sing her stubborn insistence on living her life as she sees fit, on claiming her rights to her body and her sexual, emotional, and personal freedom? And as it happens, the crime and murder mystery plot of Genuine Gold takes Cantor back to the neighborhood of her childhood, the place where she grew up, the place which formed her, gave her her strength, her audacity, even her strut and style: Coney Island. Back on that honky tonk isle of fantasies and thrills, Cantor must confront everything she was, everything she is, and everything she insists on being. It all happens in vintage Coney Island, a wild place, a colorful place, where a little craziness, a little danger—then and now—are valued.

So being a little nuts is proving to be my most potent survival skill, fueling my literary ambition, my creative strength, and my defiance in the face of threats thrown at us from the incoming government regime. Cantor Gold, my offspring birthed from the womb of crazy, may be a fictional character from the 1950s but it turns out she’s a hero for our own time, too. She’s brave, she’s dangerous, she’s smart and sexy, and she survives in a world that wants to silence her, imprison her, even kill her. Her best weapon? Defiance.

But to keep her alive, I rely on my best weapon: the strength of being a little nuts.

The Universal Experience

 

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by Juliann Rich

 

GRAVITY, my latest book is not a coming out story. It is a coming of age story. When I asked Kathi from BSB for topic ideas for this blog, she suggested readers might be interested in why I’ve written four books featuring LGBT characters. So I thought about that, and it didn’t take long to figure out that my closest connection to teen culture has been through my son…and my son’s friends…and their friends ~ all of whom gathered around my kitchen table, playing D & D and eating me out of Doritos and Oreo cookies. Just like in the world of GRAVITY, no one needed to worry about “coming out.” Not in my house, anyway. There, they were not “gay” or “lesbian” teenagers. They were simply my son’s friends. And as I had experienced approximately one and a half million years ago when I was a teen myself, they were growing up and falling in love and trying to figure out how not to be flung into the stratosphere since the world had stopped spinning on its axis.

 

So, in answer to the question about why I write what I write, I’m going to share a chapter from my own life. It is my touchstone memory to which I return again and again as I remember how this universal experience we call falling in love for the first time forever changed me.

 

***

 

The first boy I ever fell in love with was named Brian. I was 13, maybe 14, and volunteering as a candy striper during the summer holiday at the hospital where my mother worked as a nurse. I was too young to get a job that paid money, but old enough to volunteer and my mother was determined—even then—that I would follow in her rubber-heeled and white nursing shoes steps.

 

She had my whole life planned out for me and if that fact bothered me at the time, I don’t remember.

 

My body had changed over the previous winter and the pink stripes on my uniform followed all my new and unfamiliar curves. I was still part-child and smitten with the “dress up” aspects of volunteering at the hospital. I was also part-adult and my future was easier to imagine as I pushed my cart with an ice compartment and a large garbage receptacle through the gleaming white hallways. I did, however, hate the hospital’s hair policy, which mandated I wear my hair in a bun since even my tomboyish ponytail hung down my back. I liked feeling older. I hated feeling old. And so every shift I tugged out half a dozen strands from that granny bun and let them fly free.

 

Too many years have passed and I have no memory of whether Brian glimpsed my red-headed rebellion when I walked into the hospital room where his younger brother lay in the hospital bed, his right leg in a cast. There aren’t enough years in one lifetime, however, to make me forget how one glance at him utterly changed my reason for being there. Yes, it was my job to take out the garbage and change the water in the pitcher, but there was one and only one reason to be in that room: to look into his dark brown eyes.

 

“Hi,” I said, blushing. “I’m Juliann.”

 

“Brian,” he told me, and I remember deciding I had a new favorite word. “This is my brother Jace. He broke his leg,” he said, unnecessarily. “Do you work here?” he asked as I crossed the room. I would use the word sashayed because it’s probably a more accurate description, but it’s a stupid word and even now I’m unwilling to admit that’s what I did.

 

“Yes and no.” I opened the curtains though that was not technically one of my candy-striping duties, but sunlight made my hair look like it was on fire and singeing Brian seemed a perfectly acceptable response to the question his eyes were asking the curves of my uniform. I returned his stare and took in all the important details of him: 5’7”, maybe 5’8”; medium build that whispered rather than shouted the presence of muscle; dark brown eyes; hair the color of coal; and cheeks that flushed ever deepening shades of red the longer I held his gaze.

 

“I’m a volunteer,” I finally said. “A candy striper.”

 

Jace attempted to sit up in his bed and winced as the cast dug into his swollen leg. “Your job is to give out candy?” he asked. “Cool!”

 

I laughed which made Brian laugh and I decided the rest of the hospital could live with overflowing garbage cans and stale water for the remainder of my shift. “Sorry, no, but I do have gum.” I reached into my pocket and withdrew a pack of grape-flavored Bubblicious. I popped a piece into my mouth before handing it over to Jace who looked disappointed, which would have bothered me if I weren’t so relieved to know my breath was, if not minty-fresh, at least grape and not garlic scented.

 

My flirting skills were not then what they are now. Neither were Brian’s, probably, and so I emptied the garbage can to the unspoken cadence of one thought that looped through my mind like a broken record: Brian…Brian Who and how am I supposed to find you again in a world filled with Brians?

 

In the end it was Brian who changed the tune I danced to for the rest of that summer and the year that followed by shoving an uncapped black magic marker in my face when I returned from my cart with a pitcher of ice water. The intoxicating scent of ink and solvent flooded my nose and made my head spin.

 

Oh, I knew what he wanted, but I had evolved enough as a woman in the previous five minutes to know the value in making him say it. I placed the pitcher on the swing table that covered Jace’s stomach but left his cast perfectly accessible and looked at Brian.

 

Your marker, buddy, your move, I thought.

 

Something swelled inside my chest and expanded until the last bit of little girl that remained inside me was pushed out by something new. Something mysterious. Something deeply connected to all the other changes that were happening to me.

 

“You’re supposed to write your name,” Brian said as he looked at me with eyes steadier than his hand. “Both your first and last name,” he rushed to add. “You know, so people know who you are.”

 

Rarely, but occasionally, I have been inspired to recklessly fling open the doors to my hidden places where I keep my most private of feelings.

 

This was the first of those moments.

 

I took a step toward Brian and reached for the marker. “If we’re talking about writing on casts, I’m obliged to tell you I’m not bound by any rules,” I said, staring into his eyes.

 

“Huh?” he asked.

 

“There are rules. Lots of them actually,” I admitted. “But I highly doubt there are any stipulations regarding the content of what someone writes on a cast. I mean, it’s not like you can report me to some Official Broken Limb Message Inspector if I don’t write my name, first or last, on Jace’s cast, right?”

 

I stood there, hand still outstretched for the marker, while the realization flooded his eyes. He was hopelessly outgunned in any contest involving words and he knew it. Lucky for me he seemed clueless to the fact that he could defeat my strongest defense with one glance.

 

One smile.

 

He answered by dropping the marker in my hand.

 

“I thought so.” I bent over Jace’s leg just as he smacked a bubble, spraying me with artificially sweet and grape-flavored spit.

 

“Jace!” Brian scolded while I wrote a message that contained seven numbers and two words, neither of which was my first or last name.

 

“Eight, seven, three.” Brian began reading what I’d written, but when he finished with the numbers, I read the words.

 

“Call me,” I said, and then I turned and walked out of the hospital room, leaving Brian to ponder whether or not I’d broken any rules. As for me, I’d stepped into my womanhood, and I didn’t give a damn.

 

***

 

Would it have mattered if Brian had been Brianna? To the world? Yes. This was the early ‘80’s when leg warmers were cool (the first time around) and girls wore off-the-shoulder sweaters and John Travolta was still skinny and if you were a girl into another girl or a guy into another guy, you didn’t talk about it. So yes, had Brian been Brianna, the world at large would have reacted very differently.

 

Hence, decades of coming out stories – including The Crossfire Trilogy.

 

But with GRAVITY I explored the inner experience of falling in love for the first time and discovered something I think I’ve always known. I cherish that memory of the day in the hospital not because I met and fell in love with Brian, but because I met and fell in love with a strange and wondrous new version of myself – one I would spend the next million and a half years trying to understand.

 

Which is what has inspired me to write every single book.

 

That moment. That encounter. That journey.

 

I’ve simply written about it through the lens of the kids who rolled the dice in life and love and left my kitchen table covered in Oreo crumbs.

 

 

~ Juliann Rich

 

 

 

 

 

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Minnesota writer Juliann Rich spent her childhood in search of the perfect climbing tree. The taller, the better! A branch thirty feet off the ground and surrounded by leaves, caterpillars, birds, and squirrels was a good perch for a young girl to find herself. Seeking truth in nature and finding a unique point of view remain crucial elements in her life as well as her writing.

Juliann is the author of four young adult novels: CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE, SEARCHING FOR GRACE, TAKING THE STAND, and GRAVITY (forthcoming in November, 2016). She writes character-driven books about young adults who are bound to discover their true selves and the courage to create an authentic life…if the journey doesn’t break them.

Juliann is the 2014 recipient of the Emerging Writer Award from The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival and lives with her husband and an adorable but naughty dachshund named Bella in a 1920’s brownstone she is lovingly restoring to its original beauty.

 

Her newest novel, GRAVITY, will be released by Bold Strokes Books on November 15th, 2016.

 

Gravity FINASometimes you fly. Sometimes you fall.

A dream at Olympic gold in ski jumping. It’s a dream that’s been the exclusive property of male Olympic athletes.

Until now.

For seventeen-year-old Ellie Engebretsen, the 2011 decision to include women’s ski jumping in the Olympics is a game changer. She’d love to bring home the gold for her father, a former Olympic hopeful whose dreams were blown along with his knees on an ill-timed landing. But can she defy the pull of gravity that draws her to Kate Moreau, her biggest competition and the girl of her dreams?

How can Ellie soar through the air when all she feels like doing is falling hard?

Previous works by Juliann Rich:

The Crossfire Trilogy, published by Bold Strokes Books

 

Caught in the Crossfire 300 DPI    Searching For Grace 300 DPI    Taking the Stand

 

 

 

 

To learn more about Juliann, visit her website: http://www.juliannrich.com.

The Amazon Trail

 Softball Memories

Lee and her pinkie ring go to PTown

Lee and her pinkie ring go to PTown

We’re glazed in, said a neighbor. Ice, freezing rain, snow, winds. The streets are sheathed in a thin, treacherous layer of ice. In the yard the fat little dog crunches through the ice, then sinks into snow, one paw, two paws, three paws, four. In Sochi, Russia, the Winter Olympics go gayly forward. Heck, they could luge down our hill. “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” Olympic Charter I don’t remember sports quite like that. Here’s what The Federation of Gay Games writes on their web site about gays in sports. “The best gay and lesbian athletes in the world already do compete in the Olympics (with a large majority of them in the closet). But the Olympics, and mainstream sport in general, remain a very difficult place for homosexual athletes to compete, and certainly to compete without hiding their sexual identity. There are countless potential champions who under-perform, or simply don’t participate, in mainstream sport because of homophobia.” When I was a kid, girls couldn’t use the gym very often. Our P.E. teachers taught us demure dances in a classroom, while the boys shouted in the gym, feet and basketballs pounding the wooden floors. I remember once playing baseball in the junior high playground, but never got to bat. Girls who played tennis walked over a mile to courts at a public park and used our own rackets. The gay teachers were, of course, closeted. The straight girls made fun of them. I hero-worshipped them. We got more space and time to do sports in college. We even had a women’s sports association. Again, the teachers were closeted. They had to be in order to get that space and time for women students. As obvious as some of the phys ed students were, they played straight or they left school. Pretty clever, to get a lesbian department head to weed out any gay girl whose profile wasn’t low enough. The male phys ed chair tried to lure me away from the English department, but the pays ed majors avoided my eyes. I stuck with the avant-garde English majors where I felt safer. Later, in my late twenties, I discovered women’s softball. Not to play, but to be a fan at Raybestos Stadium in Stratford, Connecticut where the greatest women’s softball team was located and where the greatest women’s softball player wowed the crowds. Joanie Joyce played with the Raybestos Brakettes, a legendary fast pitch team that won state, national, and international championships. Look up Joan Joyce on the internet; she’s had an amazing career in golf and basketball as well and few people have ever heard of her. I don’t know how I lucked out to live in the same state as The Brakettes and Joyce, but I got to see her play and win there and during the brief professional women’s softball league days in the 1970s. I’d go to those games with a mix of gay and non-gay women co-workers. The small stadium would be half-filled with blue collar straight couples and wildly crushed out gay women. It amazed me that most of the Brakettes’ followers were straight and considered the games family outings. This was a new world for me. I came to enjoy the relaxed late afternoon games and to admire powerhouse player Joan Joyce enormously. She’s 72 now and coaching at a university in Florida, as competitive as ever. She’s still completely gorgeous, a fitting idol for any young athlete. You knew you were in the presence of greatness when you followed her team off the field. The women’s movement came along and proved, once everyone settled down a bit, to have an interest in sports beyond passing Title IX in 1972. Suddenly, we were watching or playing softball instead of talking and talking in consciousness raising groups. The softball fields of the U.S. proved fertile ground for a meshing of lesbian feminists and bar dykes. I went to those games to be part of something. When the lesbian team in New Haven played the straight girls, the dykes could count on  posse of both head dykes and bed dykes to be raucous fans in the bleachers. Head dykes, back then, came out via their feminist politics. Bed dykes just came out. Softball, so to speak, leveled the playing field. Each side had something to teach the other.

Irish Hat

Irish Hat

Today, it’s astonishing for me to see the “free” world taking up the cause of gay Olympians and gay Russians. We haven’t been free about anything gay for very long. Is this just another way of condemning a Communist country or have we at last melted the ice of repression in America and embraced the Olympian tenet of fair play?

Copyright Lee Lynch 2014


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