Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why I'm anti-marriage

So in the wake of the passage of gay marriage in New York, I’ve been thinking a lot about the institution of marriage. And I’m sure I’m not the only person in the country who thinks that the notion of marriage itself has become out-of-date.

We had a very cerebral discussion at Tuesday’s Open Love NY meeting about how polyamory should be regarded as just another avenue of self-determination, like the way we generally have the legal freedom to pursue whatever career we want, to wear what clothes we want, to modify our bodies how we want (although that is a right that must constantly be upheld; e.g. abortion). The argument is that if people support these basic rights to live the way we want to live, then why draw lines at who or how many people we love? It’s basically the “this is a free country last time I checked” argument.

And now we have a national debate, or war even, on equal rights when it comes to access to the institution of marriage. On one side are all the people who are excluded (GLBTs, polys, close family members) and allies for equal rights, and on the other side are the conservatives, traditionalists and the religious right. And I would say that most of the arguments for the latter group stem from a religious viewpoint, because the argument of “that’s the way it’s always been” is a pretty weak position when it comes to civil rights.

But what gets me is that this has become a religious issue in the first place. Separation of church and state has always been one of this country’s central tenets, so the church should really have no say in the secular rights of marriage, which are conferred on couples by the state, not by any church.

For example, a gay or lesbian couple could be married anywhere in a pagan or Unitarian ceremony, but it doesn’t mean dick when it comes to getting a marriage license or being recognized as a legal couple in the eyes of the law. So logically, the support of the Catholics shouldn’t mean anything either, outside the fact that there are more Catholics than pagans (as evidenced by the capital “C”).

Since we all agree that secular marriage rights have nothing to do with religion, as evidenced by the fact that Jews, pagans, Christians, Muslims, etc. all get the same legal rights when they get married, I think it’s time that we ask the question – why does the state need to acknowledge marriage at all? Why create that inequity in the first place, between people with the “right” to marry and those without? Why not let individuals self-determine how to build the family they want to live with, even if it falls outside the singular, opposite-sex partner model? Why can’t our government just treat everybody over the age of 21 as an adult, period?

The answer of course is that those with the “right to marry” want to preserve those rights for themselves, to create an artificial privilege that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact they are heterosexual. GLBT partners do everything that straight partners do – buy houses, pay taxes, take vacations, and care for each other when they fall ill. There are many more impassioned arguments out there about how gay marriage is an issue of fairness, and I agree with all of them.

What interesting to me is that in this debate, the idea of “civil unions” has been demonized by the pro-marriage equality forces, and I believe that is shortsighted. I think there is merit in looking at civil unions as a legal replacement for marriage.

Wouldn’t it be nice to create your own version of a domestic union, rather than just taking the one-size-fits-all legal definition of marriage that we have now? Basically, we already have a version of this model with the use of prenuptial agreements, so it’s not a big stretch to just apply this across the board and say that “marriage” is a religious ceremony that is an option if you so choose (atheists will probably choose to pass on this), and getting a license means you are in a civil union together (which of course is open to any two adults who freely choose to do so), conferring all rights and obligations spelled out in that document that you both agree to live by. You make up your own rules, file the document at the courthouse, and you’re done.

The freedom to love whom we want to love is a relatively modern idea, but it has grown to become one of our most prized cultural beliefs (for Americans), and the government has no business telling us who, how or why two (or more) adults express their love for each other. Civil unions should be exactly what the name says – the government’s one and only avenue for all people who have chosen to make a commitment to each other freely and publicly to prove that commitment to the world.

2011 Pride parade

After a few days of feeling rather melancholy, I’m actually in a good mood today, so it’s a fine time to catch up on blogging, before the holiday weekend comes upon us. And it was an adventuresome weekend with the historic New York Gay Pride Parade celebrating the passage of New York’s gay marriage law, with lots of pictures to share.

Last week was a rather unusual one at the office. On Tuesday I got to stay home to work because there was a charity lunch in Manhattan. It was at the Jumeriah Essex House on Central Park South, one of the city’s most opulent and famous hotels. I actually did some PR work for them at Agent K, but I’ve never been there. Working at home was a lucky break, because the trains were all messed up that day. Hoda Kotb from NBC was the featured speaker, and it was a beautiful room.


In the evening it was early enough for me to try for a Broadway play, so I gathered some intelligence for future lotteries at some shows before settling in at the cancellation line at Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark. I didn’t get a ticket, but it was okay – they were charging $140 for them. I don’t need to pay that much to watch people dangling from wires.

On Thursday the communications department had an outing at an orchard in New Jersey on the first day of cherry picking. Jennifer and I rode in on an early train to be on time, only to be thwarted by an hour-long delay en route. Luckily, Lori was able to pick us up and take us there, and it was a brief but fun time. It’s actually the first time I’ve ever been berry picking, although I spent a lot more time taking pictures than picking. It was humid, but still cool because of the early hour.


Friday night I stopped by Puck’s house in Staten Island to have tea and watch an episode of Dr. Who before convincing them to come to the MMMM with me. We chatted with our friends Kiwi, Jenn, Roz and others, but didn’t stay long. In fact, just as we were leaving, Piper and Jet were coming in, so we only got to say hi briefly before heading back to Staten Island.

Saturday we embarked on a huge project to organize their entire household library, except for their Russian-language books. These were spread among seven bookshelves in three rooms, so this involved moving stacks of books up and down the staircase. We spent nearly the entire day on the job, taking some breaks to play videogames and swim at the beach (they swam, I walked on the sand since I didn’t have a suit). At the end of the day, we’d shelved up to the M’s in fiction, and completed the non-fiction sections. We drove back to my place in the evening so we could start early on Sunday for the parade.


Sunday morning we had breakfast at the Evergreen diner across the street, our first visit. It never seems to be open whenever we want to go. We went down to 14th Street to meet up with the FetLife Unicorn group and we made our way up to 20th Street to meet with Angel and her friends. Along the way we picked up more friends and more unicorns joined us later as the parade started. Plus, Piper marched with her NYU crowd and ran over to say hi, as did Murray, Linda and Sandy, who were marching with their bisexual group.

Puck, Aaron and Piper

Puck drawing on Anastasiya's belly

After the parade was over, we were both exhausted so we didn’t go to any of the afterparties. Instead we went to my gym to take a dip in the pool, then picked up some burritos for dinner and ate them at home. We watched an episode of Buffy before Puck had to catch a bus home to see family visitors.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Folsom Street East

It's been a very eventful weekend, and it's nice to have a breather Sunday night to relax before the work week starts again.

Friday night I stayed home, but had a somewhat difficult text conversation with Puck. It was only difficult because of the questions it raised, not because of any ill feelings or negative emotions (other than fear, perhaps). That's one thing that's different with our relationship vs. my past relationships is that even when we disagree on things, we are always coming at things from a standpoint of loving and caring deeply about each other. It's how we continue to seek out ways to keep our relationship healthy and sustainable.

So the night was difficult for both of us, probably compounded by the fact we had this conversation by text and not in person, so we couldn't touch each other, which has always been an important part of our communication. Maybe we'll try not to have virtual check-ins in the future if we can help it (which may be difficult when they're back in school, although I'd like to visit more this coming semester).

Saturday I went to Loehmann's in the early afternoon to buy some housewarming presents for Piper, Jet and Elisa, whom we would be visiting that night. I got a wooden box full of tea bags, a box of scented drawer liners, and a scented soy candle. I also found a sparkly sequined dress for the party, although the sequins kept falling off of it. I wanted to attend the Pride rally in Central Park, but I didn't have time after all the shopping. I also packed some fresh cherries, lychees and chocolate truffles for the potluck. Puck came by in the evening and we trekked out to Astoria together for the party.

When we got there, Piper was still getting dressed because Jet had done a lovely cross ribbon pattern on her back using medical staples through her skin. Beth and Ryan came later, and I got to spend lots of time with Beth one-on-one because we both don't like crowds so much. Many of our kinky friends showed up as the night progressed - Kiwi, Aaron, Eric, Ilan - and I got to know some others that I've seen at munches or on FetLife. It was a pretty ordinary party until about 10 pm, when an announcement was made that those who wished to shed some clothes could now do so, and I took the opportunity to take that sparkly, but uncomfortable dress off and continue the evening in my bra and panties, which is the first time I've been so undressed in public.

The rest of the group played a game of "Never Have I Ever" but I didn't feel like playing, even though with this crowd, I probably would have had a decent chance of winning. Afterwards, Piper got taken to her bedroom, blindfolded and with hearing blocks, tied to her bed, and worked over by four sadists with a variety of tools, devices and substances (use your imagination here). Puck and I left shortly after midnight and got a cab back home.

Sunday morning Puck and I had breakfast and another good relationship check-in, one that resulted in another small change in our agreements, and our discussing a potentially very large change that may happen in the future. We continue to make small adjustments as we go along, give and receive feedback, evaluate and make new suggestions.

After our check-in, we headed out to the Folsom Street East festival to set up the table for Open Love NY before they had to head back to Staten Island. Several volunteers and leaders came and went throughout the day to help me pass out flyers, sign up people on our mailing list and give away membership bracelets.

Setting up the table

Kat and Murray (he got a lot of attention with that costume, predictably)

Kat and Murray

Brian talking to a potential member


Courtny doing shibari on Ed, Diana's life partner

Ed and Courtny

Ed and I went up to the stage to accept on Diana's behalf the 2011 Sexual Freedom Award, and the $500 donation to Open Love NY that comes with it. Here's my acceptance speech following Ed's (apologies for the shaky camerawork from Brian's partner Jazz)

The afternoon was concluded by the famous porn star ass pie eating contest, where Ed and others competed in a contest to eat pie off the backsides of porn stars. Ed, unfortunately, didn't win, but made a valiant effort. And at the end of the day, I caught a t-shirt stuffed with lubricant and male and female condoms, enough to probably last me the rest of my natural life :)

Pie eating and spitting

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Shin and bare it

I met a cute trans woman named Riley last weekend at the TNG munch/party, the first pre-op t-girl I’ve met in a long, long time. Meeting her made me think a lot about my own transition, and the progress I’m still making in my new identity.

Like most women, I have a lot of body image issues, but I’m always making progress to address them. For example, I don’t like my legs very much because my skin there has lots of marks from when I was a child that have never gone away. I don’t know why that happens, but fortunately the rest of my skin is pretty clear.

So in summers past I’ve never gone bare legged to work, no matter how hot it was. I would always wear long skirts, slacks or hose. This was dreadfully uncomfortable when I worked in the city and had to navigate the subways in the muggy heat of the afternoon. One thing I don’t miss about working in the city is riding crowded subway trains at the height of summer and being pressed on all sides by sweaty bodies.

But this year is different. Maybe it’s because I have such a supportive boss who accepts all my strangeness in stride. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten so used to wearing skirts because that’s what I wore all winter, along with tights. Maybe I just don’t care as much about sacrificing comfort for appearance. But this summer I’m taking advantage of the female prerogative to wear shorter skirts and bare legs to keep cool on the hottest days.

I’ve been thinking about taking a trip somewhere while Puck is in Russia this summer, just to distract myself and because I haven’t had a real vacation in many years. I think it would be good for me to go somewhere I can reconnect with nature, maybe visit Vancouver Island to go whale watching from a kayak. Another idea would be to take a walking tour through Ireland. I guess I should go see a travel agency and find out what’s available.

In other news, people really like my hair color – I get lots of compliments on it. I guess I should take some pictures of it, but I haven’t been taking a lot of pictures lately for some reason. I actually forgot my camera last weekend for Jon’s party, but we were in a bit of a rush coming from Staten Island to get to Penn Station.

Maybe this weekend I’ll take some of me at the Folsom Street East street festival, where I’ll be at the Open Love NY booth and making a speech to accept a donation from them honoring my friend Diana Adams, who will be recognized with the 2011 Sexual Freedom Award.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jekyll & Hyde week

Last week was a very dichotic week between work and home – at the office was super-busy (but not in a bad way) and home was wonderful because Puck was over every night except last Monday.

The reason why wasn’t very pleasant – their grandma was in the hospital all week on the Upper West Side, so they were keeping her company during the day while their parents were at work, then came over and stayed with me rather than trek all the way to Staten Island and back each night. I lent them some clothes to get through the week, and we played video games and watched movies at night (we saw X-Men: First Class on Thursday). So it was wonderful to come home to them each evening and snuggles every night.

Work was incredibly busy last week because of an environmental issue out in California that Lori and I have been working on together. We’ve been having two, sometimes three calls every day, between editing and reviewing documents, photos and videos. It’s going to continue to be a big part of my work for a while, but hopefully the worst of it is over now.

The other bad news is that Yoshi developed an electrical problem that got to the point where he wouldn’t run, so I couldn’t bring him to the hospital, as I’d planned to do on Friday. His engine would start just fine, but as soon as I let go of the ignition, the engine dies. Last time I drove him on Wednesday for my allergy shot, there was smoke coming out of the steering column and smelled like burning rubber, so that’s not good.

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon dealing with tow trucks, trying to get him out of our 7-foot clearance garage (where tow trucks couldn’t go) and get him to the local Honda dealer in Princeton – it turned out to be an ignition switch that is covered under warranty, and $100 in labor. The tow truck was covered under my cell phone plan, so that was nice. All in all, it could have been a lot worse. It’s a scary thought, not having a car.

So back to the good stuff. Friday night I met up with Puck at a TNG munch that preceded a play party at Paddles, a local BDSM club/dungeon in midtown. I met some nice people at the munch, and we all walked over from the Chelsea Diner to Paddles together. Puck stayed for about an hour and then left to attend the MMMM. A few minutes later, Bellatrix arrived and we played for a little while, then watched some of the other scenes together before she left to go home and I walked over to meet up with Puck at the MMMM.

On the way, a man stopped me on the street and introduced himself – he had tried getting into Paddles that night, but didn’t realize it was closed for a private TNG party that night. We chatted while we walked together over to the MMMM – he’s Italian and new to the kink scene too. He didn’t stay at the party long, and in fact, neither did I. Puck was really sleepy, so I just said hi to the people I knew there – Jet, Aaron, Kiwi and Ilan – and then we went home.

The next morning Puck and I took the subway, ferry and bus to Staten Island and hung out with their brother-in-law Alex (Sasha) until everyone came home. I helped clean up their room and we had dinner together with some of their family friends from Baltimore. I watched Walk the Line on my projector while Puck played their daily dose of computer games before making our way upstairs for bed.

Sunday was our friend Jon’s birthday party, and we went to Medieval Times in New Jersey - somewhere my family and I used to always talk about going, but never quite made it to. We met several nice people at the party, and there were a lot of huzzahs and laughs all afternoon.

From there we went to P3 (the Palisades mall that I used to visit at least once or twice a month with my family) to play games at the Dave & Busters. A fun couple named Laura and Adam gave Puck and me a ride back into Manhattan, since they live in NoHa (North Harlem). In keeping with the medieval theme of the day, I showed Puck the movie 1981 movie Excalibur, John Boorman's vision of the Arthurian legends, before going to bed.

Funnily enough, we saw Laura almost exactly 24 hours later at Poly Cocktails, along with lots of old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in many months – Rev. Jenellen, Professor Joe, Sara & Seth, Calico (from Ryan’s birthday party), Hookah Mike, Phrannie (who is moving to Wisconsin in a couple weeks), and others.

As usual, I talked OLNY shop with the leadership team while Puck socialized, although we checked in together throughout the evening. I left around 11 to get ready for bed since I had to go to work in the morning, and they left at midnight to come to bed after we filled in each other about the evening.

So it’s been a very fun seven-day week with Puck, and with Bella and other friends. I am enjoying my life right now, but I know I will miss Puck very much when they leave for a month in Russia next month. It's a situation that I will get used to someday, but not quite yet. Until then, I am living in the moment and cultivating new experiences and connections that may come to define me in the near future.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Good deeds

It's been a quiet day at home, so after recharging my batteries after a stressful week, let's get caught up on my life.

I left off last Sunday when I went back to Jonathan's apartment at the Belnord for a potluck benefit concert to help the Super Coda soundproof Cafe Orwell, a performance cafe in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I made my peanut noodles, which were very popular. The potluck requested "non-corpse" and "non-flesh" dishes, so realizing the sensitivity of this crowd, I made a sign with all the ingredients spelled out, which was greatly appreciated.

Jonathan started out the evening's performances with some solo piano and vocal works, some of which were funny and some were quite profound. Storm came in during his set and I waved at her and chatted a bit after he was done while Dream Zoo was setting up. She had been visiting family down in Pennsylvania but came back in haste to attend the concert and to check on her new kitty at home.

Dream Zoo has changed their lineup since I saw them last at the Delancey with Bonnie and Hiba, back when Storm was playing with them. Valerie is still plays cello and belts out with that huge voice of hers, but Sunday she was supported by a young man on violin, a string bass player and an electric guitar. Valerie is such a spirited performer - she lost her glasses while playing and completely undid her hair from all her wild head movements.

There were a couple other acts scheduled to play after Dream Zoo, but at that point it was getting pretty late, so I went home.

Wednesday was a community service day for my company, and my job was getting media lined up for it. As it turned out, I got my picture in the local newspaper, helping to organize and stock a food bank.


I've been on a bit of a Blu Ray buying binge lately 'cause Best Buy has a trade-in deal where you can get $5 off certain movies on Blu Ray with any DVD you bring in. Plus Target has some nice exclusive packaging deals on Harry Potter movies, and I'm getting revved up for the grand finale on July 15.

This week I announced I am stepping down as the organizer of the Polyamorous Women's Group, a post I've been handling for more than a year now. I think I'm just burned out on it, and the number of women who come regularly is very small. As I posted a while back, I'm trying to turn my focus away from poly right now, and this is one way I can reduce my responsibilities. Fortunately, Sylwia was able to step up and take it over, so I'll just back her up. She came over to visit me today, her first time in the apartment, so we could discuss it, and it turned out to be a nice visit.