Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nanowrimo Story installment I for 2010

As usual, this particular Monday twelve-year-old A.P Washington-Williams woke up before her alarmed dinged to signal 5:30 AM and the start of what was becoming her typical school week. She charged into the bathroom eager to beat her older sister who would soon wake up and want her own shower before she begin her own early morning practice ritual on either the violin or the piano. For herself, AP always showered after she finished practice. She loved to dance but had no desire to smell of dedication in Mr. Russo’s humanities class at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School, where she was a 7th grader and the new darling of the dance department.

It wasn’t until after she had donned her dance apparel, including pointe shoes, and was halfway down the basement stairs, before she remembered that she wouldn’t be fighting her big sister for the bathroom anymore until December 19th unless Moonbeam came home on the weekends. Her older sister had just enrolled in Berkshire Hills Music Academy. Her parents had just dropped her off on Thursday. It had been a big deal.

AP had really wanted to go. But her father had told both MJ, Moonbeam’s twin, and herself to go to normally scheduled classes. “It wouldn’t do,” her father reasoned. “for two of my children to skip school to see my third child off to her first day in a dorm know would it?” Morgan Washington-Williams was very educationally minded.

So AP had simply hugged her sister extra long that morning and bounced out the door. Soon she was immersed in a lecture about local history, but her sister was never far from her mind. Instead of wolfing down her usual lunch of cut up apples, tuna in Tupperware, and string cheese and the hitting the locker room to change and entering the dance studio 10 minutes before dance foundations and choreography on DF&C, as PVPA dancers referred to it. She lingered in the Radioactive Café, the student run cafeteria, where they served the way more popular connivance food that went over smashingly well with everyone but the dancers, sipping caffeinated tea and munching a broccoli and cheese Hot Pocket while she typed a quick note to moonbeam on the computer that set off in a
corner of the lunch space.

Dear Moon,
I’m at lunch, but I don’t feel much like eating. I miss you already and hope that you are settling in well. Say “hi” to Julie for me and don’t fall in love 5 times in your first week. I know you can’t help doing that, but just try, okay? I will see you Saturday for Moovin’ and Groovin’ at Fit Together or, if you’re too busy with BHMA orientation stuff I will see you Sunday when everyone comes to visit.
Your loving little sister.

She printed out the letter, shoved it into her pack back, and went to change for class. There was no dress code, even for dance classes, here. At first AP had
found that odd after years of solid color leotards, pink tights, and pink technique slippers and/or toe shoes being the only acceptable class attire. But that Thursday as she slipped into a red leotard and blue tights, she decided she was beginning enjoy the freedom. She was even toying with the idea of raiding her savings account to have pair of technique shoes professionally dyed lavender, her favorite color. Mama said that if AP wanted to that she wasn’t going to stop her, but she would make her youngest child pay for both a new pair of shoes and the dye job on her own.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


(a slightly racy story featuring Li, one of the favorite characters I've ever created who happens to be transgender)

I lay on our full sized adjustable bed (that was actually Frankie’s), looking at the clock, feeling pretty good about how I looked in my medium tinted repair wash jeans (which had cost $49.50 at American Eagle Outfitters, a hefty portion of my monthly allowance, but they were the most masculine pants I’d ever owned and that was the
important thing.

I was lonely. I was horny. I was counting the hours until my girl returned from her lesbian activist conference. I hadn’t gone. I had rehearsal. Besides which I wasn’t a lesbian, at least not anymore.

I’m a guy, a without a Y chromosome, but a guy nonetheless. That had caused me a bunch of problems. I had to change my ID. I have to take hormones to go through puberty again (the right one, this time). I need to talk to my parents (I’m still working on that one).Most horribly, I almost lost the love of my life.

Frankie and I have been an institution since we were 12. I always thought we’d be that way forever. Whatever else was going wrong in my life, and for someone like me it’s always something, I knew I could always court on Frankie being there, along with our four best friends. Growing up people called us the “six pack.”

We all went to UMass. We’re sophomores, nearly juniors, now. I came out to myself on October 11th, National Coming Out Day of freshman year. It’s very clichĂ©. I know, but it’s also true. I came out to the rest of the six pack in April. I waited until everyone was busy with activities. I thought that would make it easier on everyone.

It did and it didn’t. Everyone was pretty okay with it. Everyone, but Frankie. She cried herself to sleep every night for a week. She kicked me out of our room. Not, she said, because she was angry, but because she needed “to consider us.” I slept on the couch for nearly 2 weeks and felt wretched.

Frankie is doing better now though. After the incident last semester, I told her she had to be or she wouldn’t be with me. I shuddered, whenever I thought of that it still physically hurt.

Someone knocked. I looked up, expecting Frankie and her mahogany waves. My smile faded as I realized that 1) It was only 4 and the conference had only ended an hour ago and even if they sped you can’t get from Boston to Amherst in an hour. 2) Frankie wasn’t the type to knock on her own door at 4 in the afternoon.

Jessi entered. “Wanna get a pizza?” my suitemate asked. “Marc’s running late and I need to eat.”

“I don’t feel like being the third wheel.”

“You won’t be. We'll order in. You won't miss her." Jessi said with a grin.

“Does everybody in the world think I have nothing better to do than wait on my girlfriend?”

“That’s not what I met. I just think it must be weird for you. Her being gone all weekend. I know weekends the two of you are usually more inseparable than usual.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just… jumpy. Spinach, mushroom, pepper, okay?” Jessi nodded. I dialed. We waited 30 minutes and just polished off the first slice when Marc walked in.

He kissed Jessi’s cheek as her mouth was full of veggie pizza. Then he turned to me. “It’s good to see you. I’m glad she had someone to order with. I thought she was going kill and eat me when I told her I was going to be late. Your lady here?” Frankie made Marc nervous. It made sense. If someone tried to kill me, I’d avoid them to. Frankie could create pain in any person she chose to- unbearable pain. I know, she accidentally did it to me last November. She was aiming at Marc and I interfered.

Poor Marc hadn’t done anything. Frankie was just afraid he’d hurt Jessi, because he was able-bodied and Jessi had Down Syndrome. Each of the six of us had some sort of disability and able-bodied people who were attracted to us frequently had less than honorable intentions.

“No,” I told him.

“Not that it would be a big deal if she was. Frankie’s a different person now. “ Jessi added. “All she wants is for me is for me to be happy, as long as your part of that, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“I know you all say she’s different and you’re probably right. But, no disrespect intended, the girl still creeps me out.” We ate the pizza in silence for a few moments. Then Jessi asked Marc about school. Academic matters dominated the conversation until the last slice was eaten. Jessi talked about her photography class. I talked about my African theater class, at Smith. Marc spent 15 minutes talking his computer science and graphic design classes.

Jessi beamed. Her former lay about of a boyfriend was excelling at Hampshire, despite enrolling in the spring semester and undergoing that horrible Frankie-induced injury in November. After the last of the pizza was devoured, Jessi and Marc went to a movie, as for once Jessi was basically deadline free for an evening. They asked me to tag along.

I declined. I figured it was a pity invitation and, also knowing that if I left for the movie I’d miss Frankie’s arrival, and, therefore, my chance to alleviate the most carnal of my needs as soon as possible.

I went to my room and glanced at the clock 5:55. I opened my notebook, figuring that I might as well do a little bit of next week’s reading. I had completed Monday’s homework yesterday and had completed by first off book rehearsal for the Laramie Project today. I was reading Helen Keller for my disability theater class at Mt. Holyoke. I didn’t like this play very much, but I had to pick a monologue to do, extra credit if you could do it off book. The problem was that there weren’t a lot of male parts. Only Helen’s brother, Annie’s brother, Dr. Aganois, and the boy slave.

I chose Percy the boy slave, because the role is unique. I work on my Southern, Negro accent. crouching in the corner. Away from the door. I am so focused on my role that I don’t hear Frankie until she says, “Well done!” at the end of the monologue.

I turn, beaming. “Miss me?” she asked as I bounded over to her and kissed her, stroking her chestnut hair.

“Not terribly, I masturbated frequently.” She was surprised and I realized she
didn’t know I was kidding.

“It was a joke, love.” Frankie knew I didn’t like to touch myself. It was just a reminder of everything that was wrong with down there. The only way I can interact with my genitalia is if she does it, although in desperate times, such as when had a three week fight last Halloween, I’ve been known to do the whole shower messager over jeans thing. Frankie has spinal muscular atrophy and doesn’t move very much. She can drive her wheelchair and move her fingers enough to hold my hand. She uses Naturally Speaking to type, IM, and talk to Jo- our Deaf housemate, who types back.

Some people, not our housemates, think Frankie and I don’t, or more the point, can’t, have sex. They’re wrong. I det it more often than most people, at least 10 times a week on average, as long as we are on speaking terms, which we usually are, although we fight like every other college age couple I know. I spend about 3 days a month sleeping on our suite couch or crashing at friends places, when we’ve not getting along. This is usually at her insistence. She irritates me regularly, but rarely enough so that I want to forgo my bed or my bedmate.

Besides which, as I tell myself every time I opt to curl up with her in our soft Craftmatic even though she’s done or said something offensive (which happens way more often than I should let her get away with), the couch is horribly scratchy and bad for my Epidermolysis Bullosa. The blistering skin condition I was born with.

Most people who had the disease are perpetually wrapped in bandages. Most people don’t know I had it. They would if I couldn’t heal myself in the same way Frankie can hurt people. Those who know about our gifts call me a “fixer” and Frankie an “inflictor”. The yin and yang thing suits us, although I wish she didn’t take as much joy in applying her ability as she sometimes does.

Frankie smiled. “We’ll see if we can do something more acceptable about that.”

“Good, I guess I missed you a little bit after all.” Frankie scowled. I stroked her hair. She smiled. “I love you.”

“So you say six times a day on average.”

“You count?” I tease. “Do you want me to put you in bed?”

“Not just yet,” Frankie laughed. “Patience, patience! I want you to stand next to it though.”

“What? Why?” I said.

“It’s a surprise, but I think you’ll like it,” she told me. I knew that tone.
Whenever she used it, I ended up liking what happened, so I obeyed. She smiled, suddenly shy, and maneuvered her chair right in front of me. I begin to wonder what I was getting into, but I decided that if she wanted to play I’d play. “Lock the door. I don’t feel like being an exhibitionist!”

“Since when?”

“Since ever. You’re the theatrical one!”

“You wish is my command,” I bowed, turned and locked the door.

“Don’t I wish! We both know you’re not a much of a submissive as you like to pretend.”

“Just like you’re not as much of a butch.”

She smiled. “We’ll see if you still think that after this.”

I raise my eyebrows involuntarily. Frankie turned and faced me. I am acutely aware of our difference in stature. Out of habit, I squat, so I could look her in the eye.
“Sweet sentiment, but we can’t play if you do that.”

I straightened myself to full height again. I may wish I had male genitals, but for the moment my female bits were pretty happy. I smiled and she smiled back. How many times had we been in similar situations? I’m standing there waiting for something to happen when Frankie leans forward and catches my bonze zipper in her teeth. “What the-“

She doesn’t respond because she too busy causing my fly to descend. I’m wearing boxers, because that makes it easier hide my absence than it would be in briefs. Frankie knows, of course, that there’s nothing there so she pushes the fabric up, into my nether reasons. I feel her tongue through the material. “Oh, sweet Jesus!” I’m aware that this sounds ultra girly, but I don’t care.

With good deal of reluctance, I remove myself from Frankie’s decidedly able
tongue. I feel her stiffen. “What’s wrong?” she asked, trying and failing to keep the hurt out of her voice. I squat, kiss her fully, and pull off my boxers with one head, while I stroke her hair with my other hand.

“There’s nothing wrong, honey. I was just trying to make things work a little better. Trust me, I’m not complaining.” I’m aware that I’m waist down naked and moist and my girlfriend is about to cry.

“I thought you didn’t like it.”

“You thought I wouldn’t like it be seduced by the person I love best in the world, who has, by the way, been gone since Friday? Do you know me at all?” I taunt her slightly and she grins. I breath, crisis averted.

Suddenly Frankie kisses me and all the drama is forgotten. She held my tongue in
her mouth for a moment. Then lowers her head to kiss my neck. Without words, I rise against her enjoying the feel of her month against my flesh. I get wetter and wetter, lubricant sliding down my legs. I bend myself slightly backwards, while thrusting my hips forward.

She places her face between my legs and licks, but rearranges herself just before I come. She runs her tongue up and down my thighs. One then the other, careful never to brush my midpoint. I wait, swallowing my objection.

She’s in charge here and knows I know it. Frankie may be fragile, but she’s very good at certain things. If I complain, she’ll just make me wait longer and I’ve been waiting since 7:30 Friday morning. What seems to my aching anatomy like hours later, she gives in. I hold verticality, moaning in a very non-passable pitch.

Would there ever any moment with her in the future that my gender disforia wouldn’t damage? I redirect my thoughts. I’m quite sure than anybody walking by our door knows exactly what’s happening at that moment. I suddenly decide that I care what they know.

I come three times and think that one thing I’ll miss when, and if, I ever acquire male genitalia is multiple orgasms. Still, I regularly imagine myself pushing a manmade penis into Frankie (even one that required a pump as they all do now) Mind you, I’m not sure if she would even ever allow that. That’s a big if. I know there’s no one else who’d even have a prayer of ever convincing her that male penetration is a good idea. The only reason I have the half chance I do is that she adores me “beyond all sensibility”. At least she adores the woman me.

Whenever I think of Frankie deciding to be with someone other than me merely because I wanted to make my soul more harmonious with my genitals, I want to vomit. About a million times a day, I wish I could just go back to being a normal girl, a normal actress, a normal daughter, a normal girlfriend.

But, even as I wish for that in the mist of this, I know the wish is incompatible with personal survival.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Speech I made

This is the speech I made at UMass today. It was to a group of students in a class called My Body, My Health"

I’m so happy to be talking with you all today. My name is Martina Robinson. I’m a bisexual woman of color with a disability. I have a speech impairment. Hopefully this projection will help you understand me. During Q&A, please ask me anything you want. If you don’t understand my reply, simply ask me to repeat myself. I’m used to that. I have to do it 15 times a day on average. It doesn’t embarrass me. I’d much rather answer your question than have you leave here with a burning one. I also gave your professor slips of paper with my contact info, please contact me if
you feel you need to at any time.

I’m 34. I live in Belchertown. I am a writer and an organizer. I just got promoted. Now I am the Disability Examiner for the whole country on Examiner.com in addition to covering Western Massachusetts. I spend a good deal of my time fighting for justice, which includes giving speeches with the Speakers Bureau. I have assistants who come to my house and perform tasks for me such as putting me to bed, getting ready in the morning, and coming with me wherever I happen to be going (which today was here). They also make my food, do my laundry, clean my house, and tend to my cat.

I’m out to every person that works for me. I feel that that is very vital to having a healthy mental state. There are still places that require me to be the closet. Since coming out to my family at 21, I’ve vowed that my house would never again be one of them. It hasn’t. This decision has costs me a few workers, but I wouldn’t change it.

I’m a health educator by necessity, if not degree-based training. You see people in certain of my communities especially the disability community and certain communities of color, don’t believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people exist within their membership. This makes it very hard to discuss matters like sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention and same-sex domestic violence, both of which are issues that every community needs to deal with no matter how deep their denial goes. So, being a community organizer and activist by training and passion, I became a health educator by default. There was no way, I decided (and I’m pretty stubborn) that I was going to let issues like HIV and domestic abuse steal away the people I valued most.

So I learned and I studied. I gave workshops. I was publicly out as a bisexual, woman of color with disability. Some people didn’t like the things I said. Some people wanted me to shut up. They failed, obviously.

I was and still am willing to defend the people I value, whatever the cost. As society becomes more and more accepting (which I believe it is despite the failure to abolish bigoted laws like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or to as yet legalize same sex marriage in every state) the risks that publicly out people take becomes less and less. I’m overjoyed about this turn of events.

From experience, I can tell you that it’s in no way healthy to have the very truth of your existence questioned or denied by people whom you value. My parents, who live in a very small town in Pennsylvania, blamed my deciding I was bisexual on going to a very liberal arts college and taking women’s studies courses. Of course, that’s ridiculous. I no more decided to be bisexual than I decided to have darker skin than some of my co-presenters. It’s just part of my biological makeup. People, some of whom I respective, have argued that it’s not the same. They say you can hide not being heterosexual, but you can’t hide being a person of color.

Obviously, people with these opinions haven’t studied history. Before the civil rights movement, lots of light skinned people of color tried to pass themselves off as white to escape the grip of segregation. This was not a physiologically healthy practice. It was a survival skill.

I feel that being in the closet is the same thing. It’s painful to always watch your pronouns to make sure you’re not outed. It’s horrible to not bring your significant other to family gatherings, because of what people might say. Never knowing what to do when your mom/aunt/grandma decides that it’s “time you met someone” and proceeds to introduce you to her neighbor’s friend’s son when you’re already head over your heels in love with a girl they’ve never met is just gut twistingly awful. It hurts to lie to people you care about. If you do it often enough it’s hurts physically and can affect your well-being. Trust me, I know.
I’m an organizer and I am not just going to sit here and tell you some “poor me” story without giving you the tools to make it better for the next person down the line. So, what can you do as people, regardless of your sexual orientation, to make this campus and the broader world beyond UMass more accepting of GLBT people?

Be an ally. Let your friends and family know that you love them, regardless of who they love.

Confront and Interrupt anti- GLBT bias! Be it in yourself, the dorms, your family home, or on the street. Be mindful of safety, though. Sometimes, the best course of action is to sneak off to a corner, discreetly call the authorities, and make them come deal with what’s happening.

Learn about GLBT history and culture. GLBT people are not a some new phenomena that simply popped up 20 or so years ago. We have always been here. We will always be here. Celebrate us-even if you are straight.