Survival Swimming for Democrats

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Tuesday’s midterms saw all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of 100 seats in the Senate up for grabs.

Democrats won the 218 seats needed to take control of the House of Representatives. More than 100 women will sit in Congress for the first time ever.

Additionally, Democrats won control of the governor’s offices in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

National turnout for the election was 49% of eligible voters. The last time a midterm election hit this level of turnout was 1966!

All of the above occurred in spite of GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts. In fact, ten million more people voted Democratic in this election. And yet, Republicans retained their Senate majority and still reelected many incumbents to House seats (like here in Louisiana).

In many states, the progressive vote was deliberately depressed by the way district maps were drawn after the last census. The good news is there is another census coming up. It is essential that Democrats are part of the process when new boundaries are discussed and that only happens if there are more Democrats in Governor mansions and state legislatures.

So what can we do?

Let’s start by taking a lesson from survival swimming. Even strong swimmers who get caught in ocean rip tides or river undercurrents can tire easily if they fight the water directly. There are several techniques swimmers can learn, from survival breathing to treading water to combat sidestroke in order to escape the dangerous current, without wasting excessive energy. Some of the same strategies will work for Democrats, too.

Concentrate on your breathing. Feeling like you’re drowning is a terrible sensation. Becoming mindful of your breathing leaves less room for things like panic, frustration and fear. So, breathe in for a count of four and hold it for a count of four. Then breathe out for another count of four. Wait for another count of four before breathing in again. Practice this breathing regularly and it will help you remain calm and rational when you feel like you’re being pummeled by the waves.

Celebrate how far we’ve come by looking at all the historic firsts. It gladdens my heart to see so many men and women of color, muslims, and LGBTQ candidates who jumped in feet first into unknown waters and just started swimming competitively. While not everything went smoothly, with this election, we are closer than ever before to having our elected representatives looking like the electorate they are supposed to serve. Plus, think of all those first time voters that took the plunge because of all the calls and outreach we did!

Capitalize on the current tidal momentum to increase voter registration. Our votes are our voices and thwarting attempts to disenfranchise voters matters. As an example, your local League of Women Voters will usually be able to send out folks to register voters if you give them enough lead time. Promote the businesses and groups who gave voters rides to the polls (like Lyft and Uber) so we can repeat for the next GOTV drive. Pay attention to efforts by the Secretary of State to close polling locations or locate them in remote, inaccessible locations. Call them out and drown them in a sea of bad publicity.

Collaborate with other progressives by joining Democratic political organizations. For instance, I’m active with the Independent Women’s Organization here in New Orleans. Being around like minded activists helps keep all of our heads above water. It also bring us allies in our individual battles and can be the difference between swimming and sinking. Showing up for each other is how we build movements and create change.

Become better candidates by working with organizations who develop campaign skills like Emerge (check out the one in your state, for example Emerge Louisiana) who focus on women or Democracy for America who train progressives. The Victory Institute trains LGBTQ candidates. Many state Democratic parties and the National Democratic Training Committee are also doing trainings. All these groups help candidates get their feet wet and become more viable by giving them the tools to run and win.

Don’t be discouraged that this election didn’t give us all the victories we hoped for. We are not a single wave. Instead, we are the ocean itself with many waves rising, cresting, falling and rising again. Political fortunes will ebb and flow but together, we can be the rising tide that lifts all the boats.

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Who Is My Neighbor?

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

For those who didn’t spend their childhood summers in Vacation Bible School, here is the Bible passage:

Luke 10:25-37 New King James Version 

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
So he answered and said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certainSamaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

When I think of the priest passing the injured man by, I can’t help but think of the religious leaders who are providing cover and sanction to the current administration’s actions that are anything but merciful. They are very much guilty of crossing the road to avoid those wounded by the White House policies and the practical consequences of Trump’s bullying pulpit.

When I think of the Levite, I think of our lawgivers who showed such disdain and derision to survivors of sexual assault during the confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh. They, too, would walk on the other side from the injured. Heck, they might even think his condition is his fault for falling victim to thieves because of what he was wearing or if he had been drinking!

But when I think of the injured person, I can’t help but think of my transgender brothers and sisters who will be left as naked and vulnerable if the proposed change to federal legal protections becomes policy.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seeking to redefine sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth. The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.” The agency is promoting this redefinition of “sex” across other federal agencies, including the Departments of Justice, Housing, Education, and Labor, which implement and enforce key nondiscrimination laws across the country.

We who are cisgender are called now to step up to help create a safer and more just community for all LGBTQ people. We must express our personal support to our transgender friends and our opposition to elected officials and decision makers. During the comment period on the proposed federal regulations, follow the Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Transgender Equality for information on submitting comments opposing this policy change.

Organizations like the Louisiana Trans Advocates have put forth petitions, like this one, for us to stand with transgender Louisianans in their fight for core human rights of self-determination and expression. Check in your area and support your local trans rights organization.

Many cities are having solidarity marches (here is the link to one to be held in New Orleans on Saturday, October 27) and they are a good way to show up for our trans and gender non-conforming colleagues and community beyond just words.

They need for us to be Good Samaritans: to show up, to fight anti-trans prejudice and violence and to put our best efforts toward healing our world by loving our neighbors.

Together, we can make sure our trans loved ones will not be erased.

We’ve Got the Power Ebook Giveaway!

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I’ve joined with a great group of authors in giving out a collection of short stories in an ebook “We’ve Got the Power: Stories by Lesbians Who Vote” to anyone who posts a 2-part proof of voting. You can post on social media and put the link to it in the comments to this post and I’ll email you the link to download the ebook. You can also tag me on Facebook or Twitter and I will message you the link.

Here are the basics:
(1) Every photo should include either YOU, your PET, or a BOOK to make it personal

(2) Every photo should include ONE of these things to prove you’re ready to vote or have already voted
– your polling place
– your mail-in ballot (but not how you marked it)
– if you’ve already sent your ballot in, the place where you dropped it off
– if you vote online, the home page
– your voter registration card (no identifying info)
– your candidate T-shirt, hat, bumper sticker, yard sign
– your I Voted sticker
– anything else you can think of to show us that you VOTE

*Non-US voters: If the items on this list don’t apply to you, think of something that does. Remember to include (1) with your photo.

Please do not post the link I give you anywhere – we want to make sure we are getting proof of voting for every ebook that goes out. Thanks in advance!

Geaux Vote!

 

LesFic the Midterms – Stories of Lesbians Who Vote

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We’ve Got the Power!

Sixteen of your favorite lesbian authors (including myself) are rocking the midterms with a FREE collection of short stories to be given to those who exercise their power to vote.

Our vote is our best chance to have a say in the direction of our country, of our world. We’ll show our thanks for your vote with this compilation of stories about the power of democracy, the strength of women and a little lesbian lovin’ too.

Are you ready to vote? Heck, maybe you’ve already voted by mail or online. In any event, take a photo to prove it, but DON’T POST IT YET. We’ll let you know when and where.

Your photo must contain TWO things.*

(1) Every photo should include either YOU, your PET, or a BOOK to make it personal
(2) Every photo should include ONE of these things to prove you’re ready to vote or have already voted:
– your polling place
– your mail-in ballot (but not how you marked it)
– if you’ve already sent your ballot in, the place where you dropped it off
– if you vote online, the home page
– your voter registration card (no identifying info)
– your candidate T-shirt, hat, bumper sticker, yard sign
– your I Voted sticker
– anything else you can think of to show us that you VOTE

*Non-US voters: If the items on this list don’t apply to you, think of something that does. Remember to include (1) with your photo.

So get your photo ready now. As soon as our short story collection is formatted for ebook, we’ll ask you to post your photo. Then we’ll send you the ebook FREE.

Here is the beautiful cover by the marvelous Ann McMan (who is so talented she also has a story in the collection).

Other authors include:
Tracey Richardson
KG MacGregor
Marianne K Martin
Celeste Castro
Carolyn Elizabeth
Liana Villeneuve
Cheryl A. Head
J.E. Knowles
Cade Haddock Strong
Susan X Meagher
Cindy Rizzo
Rachel Spangler
Me – Mary Griggs
Jaime Clevenger
Renée Bess

 

Make sure you’re registered to vote and #GeauxVote!

To get non-partisan election information, contact your local League of Women Voters

There are also LGBTQ equality organizations in every state (check out this list of member organizations from Equality Federation), many of whom provide endorsements. I serve on the board for Forum for Equality PAC in Louisiana and our endorsements can be found HERE.

There are a number of progressive organizations across the nation that provide endorsements. I also serve on the board of the Independent Women’s Organization and our endorsements can be found HERE.

Together, we can Crush the Midterms!

Words matter

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Whether you realize it or not, you are friends and family with sexual assault survivors.

  • 25% of girls will experience teen dating violence.
  • Twenty to 25% of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape while at college.
  • 57% of the rape or sexual assaults against females were committed by an offender whom they knew. Strangers committed about one third (31%) of all rape/sexual assaults.
  • At least 33% of all sexual assault victims are male
  • 1 in 3 girls/women and 1 in 6 boys/men experience sexual assault

Today of all days, please choose your words wisely. Speak with empathy. Be kind to one another.

For those who have bravely come forward, I believe you. I stand with you.

For those who cannot come forward, I support your decision and completely understand it. In light of the spectacle being made of Dr Blasey Ford, it is a wonder why any sexual assault survivor has ever broken their silence.

And, for all of us, please make sure on election day that you

For those who need it: The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) runs a 24/7 hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

https://www.rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-hotline

Enemies to Lovers

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I’m not sure how many are playing Lesbian Book Bingo but Jae has posted the reading list for the “enemies to lovers” romance category on her blog. My book, Crash Stop, is one of the recommended reads.

Here’s the link to the blog post:

https://jae-fiction.com/enemies-to-lovers-romances-lesbian-book-bingo-17/

I hope you play to win the game!

Remarks at IWO Annual Brunch

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One of the organizations I belong to had its Annual Brunch today. The Independent Women’s Organization is a Democratic women’s organization that has its roots back to 1939. I joined when it revived after Hurricane Katrina and recently rejoined the board.

For our event, we had as keynote speaker, Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge. She gave a powerful talk that started with a recitation of the brilliant poem, “And the Women Gathered” by Gloria Wade-Gayles. From there, her speech covered everything from the biblical queen, Esther, to the fictional (but incredibly powerful) Dora Milaje, and served as a call to action for women and Democrats.

I was honored to give the closing remarks for the afternoon’s program.

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Photo Credit – Lynda Woolard

Thank you, Congresswoman Fudge.

Building on what she said, I will speak briefly on how we can best use our power heading into November.

Democracy itself is on the ballot. The 2020 census is just around the corner. Our state representatives are the ones who get to redraw the boundaries of their voting districts. And, when we get the chance, we need make sure we vote blue!

There is some good election news. The Louisiana Democratic party reports a Democrat running for Congress in each district. In fact, nearly 300 more Democrats qualified for the ballot than Republicans in the upcoming elections.

We must support Democrats running for office in November. They need our money, our making phone calls, our knocking on doors and mobilizing our friends and colleagues to get to the polls and vote.

Many of y’all are familiar with the phrase, “Vote early, vote often.” Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t mean getting the dead to vote. It means making voting a habit.

If we make it a habit to vote, we are much less likely to skip a trip to the polls in the future.

And all habits need feeding. We must make sure we re-register to vote every time we move and check our registration ahead of election season. We must take advantage of early voting hours if we think we’ll be busy or out of town on election day. Heck, we must build standing in line on election day into our lives.

Today’s voting population includes almost equal parts millennials and baby boomers. The big difference is in how many of them voted – in 2016, only 19 percent of those ages 18-29 cast their ballots in the presidential election. In contrast, 49 percent of 45-64-year-olds voted in 2016.

And we are living with the results of that election.

What can we do?

First off, check your voting status. If you have a smart phone, put the GeauxVote Mobile App on your home screen. When you meet your friends for coffee and conversation, have them check their voting status and find out if they know who is running to represent them.

Help them get registered to vote if they aren’t. Become voter buddies – look them in the eye to get a promise that they will vote. Give them the same pledge in return.

Make sure folks with mobility and transportation issues have a way to get to the polls. Check on the homebound in your neighborhood or volunteer for a few hours driving folks to their polling place.

At the heart, elections are decided by who shows up at the polls.

Let’s make sure that it is us.

Thank you!

Geaux Vote!

Take Their Feet Off Our Necks

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Louisiana’s abortion ban (SB 181) passed in the House by a vote of 78-9. The Senate had earlier voted 31 to 3 to pass it on to the House. The bill now goes to the governor.

SB 181 would ban abortions after 15 weeks (down from 20 weeks under current state law). The bill provides no exception for pregnancies that result from rape or incest nor does it allow an exception when the life of the mother is threatened or when there is a fetal abnormality. Further, the bill would impose criminal penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and between $10,000 to $100,000 on abortion providers who break the law.

As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote in a letter to the legislature:

SB 181 is extreme legislation that would neither withstand legal scrutiny nor protect the health of Louisiana women. This law blocks a woman’s access to safe healthcare options and unjustly denies her the freedom to make decisions according to her own beliefs and conscience.

Mississippi ratified a similar bill (without the criminal penalties and with exceptions for the life of the mother) whose constitutionality was immediately challenged. Oklahoma passed  similar legislation but their governor (Mary Fallin, who has a long record anti-LGBT bills she is willing to sign) vetoed it on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and against medical advice.

I am furious with the members of the Senate and House who voted for this bill. The personal religious beliefs of legislators should not usurp the medical decision making of private citizens. I am angry that they are putting their fetus fetish over the rights of living, breathing, taxpaying and voting women. Further, with our state facing a budget shortfall of $650 million, this blatantly unconstitutional legislation is just going to waste taxpayer money when the state is forced to try and defend it in the courts.

But I’m also angry at Democratic governor John Bel Edwards. After the House vote, he was asked by Amy Irvin, Executive Director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, to put aside his personal beliefs, show leadership and veto 181. He responded “I won’t do that.”

I supported his candidacy for governor. I supported him because he promised to expand Medicaid, to support equal pay and raise the minimum wage as well as fight for fairness for the LGBTQ community.

Before the election, he did not hide that he was pro-life and made clear he would not support reducing any of Louisiana’s current restrictions on abortion. However, in meetings with women’s organizations, he did promise that he would not make abortion a central issue of his office nor would he work to place additional constraints on women’s reproductive rights. I know; I was there.

By saying that he won’t veto this bill, Governor Edwards is putting his personal beliefs over medical experts and ignoring constitutional law. Abortion is legal and is a necessary component  of reproductive justice.

As SisterSong has defined it:

Reproductive Justice is a positive approach that links sexuality, health, and human rights to social justice movements by placing abortion and reproductive health issues in the larger context of the well-being and health of women, families and communities because reproductive justice seamlessly integrates those individual and group human rights particularly important to marginalized communities. We believe that the ability of any woman to determine her own reproductive destiny is directly linked to the conditions in her community and these conditions are not just a matter of individual choice and access.

The fight for women’s equality is inextricably linked to control over reproduction. John Bel Edwards speaks regularly about the necessity for women’s equity in the workplace for a better and healthier Louisiana. If he will only expand his mind to understand that women will not truly be empowered economically until they are able to access the full range of reproductive health services.

I’m not saying I won’t vote for John Bel Edwards again, especially if the alternative is Jeff Landry. However, he will be losing votes and supporters over this. As will the Democratic party in Louisiana that has once again caved to the anti-choice extremists and proved that the rights (and lives) of women matter little to them.

Elections matter. And maybe that is just what these politicians need to learn – there is a wave of progressive women activists coming and we are pissed!

 

***

The title comes from a quote from Sarah Grimke, used to great effect by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in oral arguments before the Supreme Court. I highly recommend seeing the new documentary RBG, in theaters now.

Here is the trailer:

 

Visiting the Whitney Plantation

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I had the opportunity to visit the Whitney Planation on Sunday with a group of NOSHA  folks. The plantation is about 45 minutes from New Orleans along the Mississippi River but it takes you back in time to a dark period of our history – when our country was being built on the backs of slaves.

This is the only plantation in Louisiana that tells the story of slavery with the exclusive focus on the lives of enslaved people. You begin by reading about the Western slave trade from the beginning (the papal decree of 1452) followed by information about slavery in the United States in general, in Louisiana specifically and at the Whitney Planation in detail (initially established in 1752 to farm indigo and still an active sugar cane plantation decades after the Civil War).

The plantation is a mix of original structures and replicas. The hour long guided tour begins with a video in the Antioch (originally named Anti-Yoke) church established by free people of color in a nearby parish. Throughout the interior are a number of clay statues to the children of the plantation. They are a stark reminder of how many childhoods were lost during that shameful period of American history.

Outside is the Wall of Honor listing the slaves of the plantation. As their team of researchers discovers more, that info is placed on plaques in the area. A lot of the oral history used is based on narratives collected during the Great Depression in the 1930’s by the Federal Writers Project (part of FDR’s Works Progress Administration). Many of those who were still alive to tell their stories had been children at the time of emancipation.

Reflecting on the wall

Next stop was a memorial garden of the 107,000 enslaved people of Louisiana that lists all the names that have so far been found – some with dates of birth and place of origin, some with nothing but a name. Inset in large type among the names are quotes on daily life, punishments and forced breedings taken from the oral histories. At the end of the memorial is an artist’s rendition of a longboat – the small boats that brought slaves from the slave ship to the shore.

We next visited the Field of Angels which memorializes 2,200 enslaved children who died in St. John the Baptist Parish. The number comes from the records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, as the Catholic Church required all children to be baptized during that time.

Angel cradling a baby

We then walked to the slave quarters – basic 2 room structures that, during harvest, could have more than 10 people per room. Not a very restful place after working a 16 hour day – hardly heated in winter and no way to cool in the summer. From there we moved past many of the other structures (some still in the restoration process and not yet open to the public) to the Big House. We passed a steel jail where slaves were kept prior to auction, the overseers house, the blacksmiths shop, the carriage house, smokehouses and the kitchen (separate from the house because of the danger of fire).

Even the Big House is centered on the enslaved folks who worked it – we entered through the back door, as slaves were required to do and saw the small child who was the companion slave of the mistress. Before the tour starts, each visitor is given a name of a child on a card and Hannah’s story was the one I wore around my neck.

Not all of the buildings or objects within them are intrinsic to the plantation but, rather, have been brought to it from other locations to tell the whole story of slavery. Doing so may not be authentic to the plantation’s history but it definitely increases their impact. Seeing everything in one place is powerfully moving.

The final exhibit contains sculpted heads, which are replicas of those beheaded for their role in the 1811 German Coast slave revolt. About 500 enslaved people rose up in several parishes, planning to travel along the Mississippi to New Orleans where they would take the city and free the black people. Federal troops ended the uprising on the third day, once the escaped slaves ran out of ammunition. Those captured were executed and their heads were displayed on poles along 60 miles of the river as a warning to the other slaves.

This is not a museum to the genteel Antebellum period that you’ll get from other plantations. This is not a nostalgic look back at life before the Civil War. Instead, it is the monument to the Confederacy that we all should see.

The Whitney Plantation makes real the truth of how America was made and covers history from a perspective many of us have never considered when we think of our nation’s past.

It is a very personal reckoning of the human toll of slavery. And it is a reckoning more of us need to make.

Guided tours are offered everyday but Tuesday from 10am to 3 pm
Whitney Plantation – 5099 Highway 18, Wallace, LA 70049
www.whitneyplantation.com
Advance ticket purchase is recommended

Et Tu, Karl?

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Another week, another need to rant about something someone has said. This time, it was  fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld who came out trashing the #MeToo movement in his recent interview. Luckily, I’m a writer and the best revenge I can have is to put them in my writing.

Madame Coco Chanel Karl Lagerfeld Art Fashion Luxury Satire Cartoon Illustration Critic Portrait Painting Sketch Humor Chic by aleXsandro Palombo

Chanel’s head designer Karl Lagerfeld said in 2013 he thinks the founder of the iconic French fashion house would have “hated” him if they had ever met.

This time, I’m having Miranda Priestly, the fictional editor in chief of Runway magazine do the ranting for me.

If you’d like to read some of my other Devil Wears Prada fanfiction, several of which are fairly political, go to that section of my works on Archive of Our Own.

For now, though, enjoy this bit of femslash.

Title: Et tu, Karl?

Author: Mary Griggs
Fandom: DWP
Characters: Emily, Miranda, Andy
Pairing: Miranda/Andy
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1900

Summary: Emily and Miranda have a moment in the copy room.

Author’s Notes: Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox are the owners; I’m just letting the ladies play in my sandbox for a while.

This piece is in response to Karl Lagerfeld’s remarks on #MeToo (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/karl-lagerfeld-slams-the-me-too-movement-models-that-complain-about-being-groped_us_5ad49b6ae4b0edca2cbbfedd) and how I think Miranda would respond.

***

Emily entered the darkened Runway anteroom and felt her shoulders settle. Every morning as she got dressed and ready for work, she was consumed by a fear of being late or, worse, not making it to work at all. Getting into her space and knowing that she, Emily Charlton, really had the job a million girls would kill for, was actually pretty relaxing.

Well, she mused to herself, it was relaxing for the two hours before Miranda’s scheduled arrival.

Flipping on the light, she gave a small purr of satisfaction to see the space as neat as a pin and that the junior assistant’s desk was clean and tidy. It had only taken a day’s training to instill a sense of decorum in the newest hire. Unlike the weeks it had taken to convince the fashion disaster that was Andy Sachs that pictures of her parents and furry little boy toy no more belonged in public view than those hideous clothes she wore.

After Emily hung up her coat in the closet, she moved the sturdy wooden hanger for Miranda’s to the center of the rod for easy access. Pivoting on her heel, she smiled at the Jimmy Choos she had snagged from the closet. Without Nigel poaching things for his own personal Galatea, she was finally getting the good stuff first.

She rotated her neck and shook out her arms as she tried to shake off thoughts of that brunette traitor. It wouldn’t do to harsh her morning mellow with thoughts of past failures. There was a small voice in her head which kept harping on Andy being Miranda’s favorite. It didn’t help that she had seen Andy’s byline in this morning’s newspaper. She fumed anew that she had never gotten to blacklist the deserter.

Powering up her computer, she glanced into Miranda’s office. The fabric samples from yesterday’s editorial meeting were still on her desk, so those would need to be moved to the credenza but the rest of the space looked clear enough for her to be able to check her emails and fine tune the day’s schedule first.

She sank into her Houzz ergonomic chair and slid her hands along the armrests. After allowing herself a small swivel of satisfaction, she pushed her keyboard an inch to the left. She tweaked the position of her pen holder and used a soft chamois cloth to wipe off a few fingerprints along the edge of her glass topped desk. Emily couldn’t help the smile as she looked around her space.

Senior assistant to the Editor in Chief of an internationally recognized fashion magazine. She mentally buffed her nails as she murmured, “Not bad for a girl from Wandsworth.”

Emily loved this time alone in the office. For these precious moments, she had all the power. She could make or break careers by how she allocated the minutes of Miranda’s day. She skimmed over the subject lines of her email inbox as the schedule program booted up and knew that it was her will alone that kept the entire production running as smoothly as it did.

The silence of the office was broken by a noise from the copy room. Immediately, thoughts of corporate espionage ran through her head. Had someone come in early to make reproductions of the exclusive fashion spreads or to copy confidential information from their files?

Emily dithered for only a moment before rising to her feet. Hefting one of the many heavy, lucite Draper Fashion Publication Awards from the bookcase behind her desk, she took it and crept down the hall. Or as close an approximation as one could creep on five-inch heels. Raising the award over her head, she stepped boldly into the copy room.

“What?!” she screeched.

Miranda turned from the copy machine and her reading glasses slipped down her nose. “Good morning to you, too, Emily.” She blinked. “Is that the 2010 or 2015 award?”

Emily just stared at Miranda. She had never seen the woman in jeans but here she was. The black True Religion denim clung to the curves of her body like it was painted on. The effect was augmented by the asymmetrical white button-down Michael Kors shirt Miranda wore on top. Emily’s jaw dropped when she saw Miranda was wearing sneakers. White Tiger Ace sneakers from Gucci but still, sneakers!

“Emily?”

Shaking her head, Emily stood silently in shock. Questions flew through her mind but she gritted her teeth and repeated to herself, “Never ask Miranda anything.”

Miranda shrugged and went back to what she had been doing. She punched a few more buttons on the copier and tapped her fingernails on the plastic cover while waiting for the machine to work. She pulled the resulting sheet out of the tray and held it against her phone case. She made a face and slid the page into the shredder before returning to the copier to punch more buttons.

Miranda smiled in satisfaction at the latest version the machine spat out. She pulled out a pair of shears and cut out the small area of printing before moving to the equipment along the back wall of the room. Miranda deftly ran the miniaturized copy through the laminator and held the hot plastic by the edge while it cooled.

Her mantra failing her, Emily finally asked, “What are you doing?”

“The original is still in the machine,” Miranda responded.

On automatic, Emily lifted the top of the copier and pulled out a sheet of lined paper. It was a list written in Miranda’s neat scrawl. She noted a photographer, a stylist and several fashion designers on it. The last name on the list was Karl Lagerfeld. Holding it out, she said, “I don’t understand.”

Miranda was in the process of affixing the laminated list to the inside of her phone’s case. Absently, she spoke, “It is my personal list of those you will never see in my magazines again.”

“Karl?”

“He seems to believe that groping is the price models pay for working. Anyone who doesn’t want to be sexual harassed should become a nun.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes. For him there is no middle ground. And no acknowledgement of the power imbalance that might keep young, vulnerable women who are desperate for work silent for years about their traumatic experiences.” She rather viciously slammed the scissors back into their holder and then swept the trimmings into the trash. “I know we’re in a business that is built in a large part on women’s insecurities but that is no excuse for victim shaming those who dare to speak out against sexual misconduct in our industry.”

“What was he thinking?”

“No idea. It was just another example of Karl spouting off. This latest interview in Numero, as you might have guessed, is causing quite a stir on social media.”

“How is Chanel handling it?”

“So far, they aren’t.” Miranda snapped the case back on her phone. “Which is why I need my own method of accountability.” She slid the phone into her purse. “For too long, there hasn’t been any discussion about sexual harassment or a way to deal with allegations of abuse.”

Miranda glanced at her senior assistant. “I know you’ve experienced it.”

Emily went cold. “Mir…Miranda?”

One perfect eyebrow raised. “Don’t deny it. I will allow you to not confirm it but don’t make the mistake of lying to yourself that it didn’t happen.” Her voice softened. “I buried my experiences and carried on with a stiff upper lip, too, you know. It led to my success but also to years where I couldn’t meet my own eyes in the mirror. Especially after learning that someone else endured the same thing because I never spoke out.”

Emily nodded. The icy fingers down her spine were being banished by a feeling of warmth spreading from her chest. She never knew that Miranda had been aware of the pinch or proposition. She had just been grateful without questioning when other people had been sent to deal with the designer instead.

“We’re facing a seismic shift in the way our society and our industry is responding to these allegations. It helps that we are finally breaking the silence but it won’t be enough until everyone is treated with dignity and respect on the job.”

Emily scoffed. “How do we get there?”

“Women like you ensuring the end of the reign of the dinosaurs.” She waved a hand at herself. “That includes collaborators and supporters and all who had the power but did and said nothing.”

“But you’re doing something.” Emily paused. “Right?”

“I’m trying. I’m supporting efforts to offer comprehensive training about workplace sexual harassment for models and I’m advocating putting in place some sort of complaint mechanism and, maybe even, creating an independent monitor to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse.” She sighed. “However, beyond meaningful remedies for victims there need be real consequences for those who abuse their power and positions.”

“And not letting them get away with it because they are free spirited creatives,” Emily whispered.

“Indeed.” Miranda crossed her arms. “We’re finally having the conversations we need to have. Until the breadth and impact of sexual violence was brought into the mainstream, it was ignored and survivors were alone. With the work of Tarana Burke, among others and the growing, global Me-Too movement, we are creating solutions.”

Emily was about to reply when another voice intruded on their moment.

“Hey, Mir? Did you see what I found in the closet?”

Emily turned in shock as Andy Sachs came around the corner, a pair of pink furred handcuffs dangling from her index finger.

“Oh, hey, Em. You’re looking smart,” Andy said with a smile.

Emily bit back her planned snark and bared her teeth in a simulation of a smile at the reminder that she was wearing one of the skirts Andy had given her after the Paris debacle. “You, too,” she managed to force out.

And, unfortunately, that was the truth. Andy was wearing fitted Bill Blass khaki trousers and a baby blue silk tank top. A top Emily had coveted but missed when it disappeared from the closet.

“Oh, this?” Andy twirled. “Just some old thing I had lying around.”

There was a clearing of a throat.

Andy blushed. “Okay, something Miranda had chosen specially and set aside for me.”

Emily gaped as Andy turned her brilliant smile onto the Queen of Fashion. Miranda simpered. Honest to god, simpered and smiled back!

Her brain spinning, Emily concentrated on not speculating on what the two of them together at this hour and in those casual clothes could mean. Doing so had the added benefit of helping keep her head from exploding.

Miranda patted her on the shoulder as she walked past. “Move my nine o’clock to this afternoon. I will be in late as we’re celebrating Andrea’s first front page scoop.”

Grinding her teeth, Emily said, “Yes, Miranda.”

Her boss turned to the other woman in the room. “Andrea, you should know by now I have better restraints at home. Those were only good for a fashion shoot.”

“Shall I put them back?”

“Well, since you have them, we might make the drive to the Water Club for breakfast a little more interesting.”

Andy bounced a little as she reached out and slapped Miranda’s ass. “My turn on top!”

“As you wish,” Miranda replied.

As they walked away, they heard a faint chanting from behind them.

Emily stood alone in the copy room, repeating to herself, “I love my job. I love my job. I love my job.”

Saints and Sinners 2018

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The 15th Annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival will be held in New Orleans March 23rd thru 25th at the Hotel Monteleone. There will a welcome party, panel discussions, reading sessions and a book fair. To close things out, there will be an induction of new members to the S&S Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees include Elana Dykewomon, Judith Katz, Moises Kaufman, Martin Sherman, and Noel Twilbeck.

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Artwork by Timothy Cummings

I can’t wait as I really enjoy the festival – lots of authors I admire and lots to learn. Of course, I will not just be sitting at the feet of the masters, I’m doing several things and will have a very busy Saturday. My schedule is as follows:

At 10am on Saturday, I’m participating in the panel discussion entitled LESBIAN ROMANCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY: CH-CH-CHANGES to talk about how lesbian romance has changed in this century, and how does it continue to change to embrace changing queer sensibilities and to reflect our intersectional identities. My fellow panelists are Nairne Holtz, Isabella, and Radclyffe. The session moderator is Ruth Sternglantz

That afternoon I’ll be reading from my most recent book, Bitter Heart, at 2:30pm along with authors Kathleen Archambeau, Peter Gajdics, Mercedes Lewis, Gar McVey-Russell, Jeffrey Round, and Vanda.

At 4pm, I’ll be talking GAY POLITICS AND THE STRUGGLE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE.  We’ll be assessing the current political scene and articulate a pressing agenda for the present. My fellow panelists will be Stephen Driscoll who serves as chair of LGBT Outreach of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, Melissa Flournoy who is a former Louisiana lawmaker and was the Louisiana State Director of Planned Parenthood Gulf South, and Chris Bull who is co-founder and editorial director for Q.Digital, which owns and operates Queerty & LGBTQ Nation. The panel will be moderated by David Swatling who has produced arts and culture documentaries for Radio Netherlands and is three-time winner of the NLGJA Excellence in Journalism Award.

Download the full schedule HERE.

I hope to see you there!

Silence is Consent

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent racist words from the 45th president of the United States.

I’m also thinking about how few of the men at Golden Globes used the opportunity to do more than wear #TimesUp lapel pins.

And, here on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day, I’m reminded of one of his most powerful sayings:

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In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

We have a chance today to stand up for our friends and allies. In New Orleans, the events celebrating what would have been the 89th birthday of this great civil rights leader begin at 9am at A.L. Davis Park (2600 Lasalle Street). Check your local news for events in your area.

Why should white people and especially white women go to these events? Because when we stand together, we live our commitment to community. If we have any hope of building trust and having credibility, we must show up for our brothers and sisters of color.

Standing up for justice removes all doubt you have in the content of your character. Being silent in the face of injustice, bullying and harassment is the first step in diminishing self-confidence. It is incrementally detrimental and the next time, you might not be able to act at all. We judge ourselves by our actions and, even though our voice might shake, we must speak out anyway.

Later in the month, on January 20th, there will be Women’s Marches across the nation. Here in New Orleans, we will gather at Duncan Plaza for step off at noon.

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I hope to see you out there protesting, marching and, someday soon, celebrating. Taking our activism to the streets reinforces our collective power and reminds us of what all we’re fighting for.

Be mindful of keeping our focus on fighting the power, not each other. We must lift each other up if we are to raise the nation from this quagmire.

After the March is over, don’t forget what that solidarity felt like. Use that energy as you persist to resist.

And, never be silent again.

 

Lesbian Book Bingo

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Jae, an award winning author of slow burn romances with strong female characters, is running a fun promotional event for all lesbian fiction readers. Wouldn’t you want to play Lesbian Book Bingo?

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Just as in regular bingo, there is a bingo card with 24 squares. In Lesbian Book Bingo, each square has a category/theme such as “historical fiction” or “summer read” or “enemies to lovers.”

Each month, Jae will post recommendations for 2 categories, each with a list of 15 books. Readers can win e-books by completing a row on the bingo card, which means reading books from at least 5 different categories. There’ll also be two giveaways each month for readers who leave comments.

It’s a big, year-long event with more than 250 authors participating and my book, Crash Stop, will be in the enemies to lovers category, to be posted on August 16.

For the rulz and the bingo card: https://jae-fiction.com/lesbian-book-bingo/ 

Follow Jae’s Book Bingo posts on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JaeFiction

Singing Songs About the South-land

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I have roots that go deep in Alabama. My father’s family is from there and is spread all over the state from Birmingham to Mobile. My parents retired to Alabama’s Gulf Coast and my sister moved to the state after her divorce.

I lived there as an infant after they moved us to Montgomery while dad was in Vietnam so we could be near my dad’s parents while he was at war. In 2005, I evacuated there ahead of Hurricane Katrina making landfall and ended up living above my folks’ garage for more than a year while recovering my house and city from the devastating flooding.

There is a lot of natural beauty in the state but the special election for the Senate seat vacated by now Attorney General Jeff Sessions showed a spotlight on the ugly underbelly of Alabama’s strange combination of white nationalism and Christian evangelism.

This is a state Trump won by 28 points just over a year ago.

Yesterday, though, Alabama voters rejected Roy Moore and elected Doug Jones. With 99% of the votes in, Jones had 673,236 votes to Moore’s 652,300. While Moore isn’t conceding, those 20,000 votes will survive a recount.

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What can we learn from the numbers coming out?

Most crucially – that African-American women are the beating heart and soul of the Democratic party.

Fifty-eight percent of Alabama women voted for Doug Jones, including a paltry 35 percent of white women. However the difference is that ninety-eight percent of black women voted for him. I hope the party (and those who fund prospective candidates) are paying attention to who got him to victory.

The second lesson is that field work wins elections.

There was a significant boots-on-the-ground, get-out-the-vote effort, especially in the Black Belt, that resulted in turnout higher than the 2012 election (according to exit polling, went for Jones by 92 points. In 2012, African-Americans made up 28% of voters and Barack Obama won them by 91 points).

Money was spent on local billboards in black communities reminding folks of the election date, while a number of organizations prioritized calling all registered voters and educating folks about what to do about voter suppression efforts (checking registration ahead of election day, staying in line no matter how long, not letting the police presence at the polls checking for active warrants discourage voting, procedures for casting provisional ballots when necessary, etc).

Significant efforts were also put on getting people out to vote by arranging carpools and rides and organizing in black churches to get “souls to the polls.”

Those efforts paid off big time.

There are also lessons that need to be taken to heart. For all those thinking about running for office, remember that focussing on kitchen table issues can win elections, especially when the opponent only has hyper-partisan dog whistles and no substantive policy positions (other than wanting to jail LGBT people, kick all Muslims out of public life, and a dream to return the country back to the greatness of slavery).

Furthermore, personal integrity is still crucial to a lot of voters. The GOP lock on family values has taken a serious blow, especially in light of the number of supposed pro-lifers (and GOP funders) who were willing to champion an accused sexual predator.

We are also seeing how much a state’s urban/rural divide is being exacerbated by gerrymandering (large numbers of votes came from the counties housing Alabama’s five biggest cities). We must not allow our state legislatures to pass further laws to suppress the vote.

Each and every vote was crucial, so all those who love democracy should shift their focus to 2018 and getting out the vote. All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested, as well as numerous governors and state races.

We can win. And, for a change, Alabama is leading the way.

 

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Essay title comes from Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Don’t Disappoint Me

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Last night was a watershed moment, with progressive electoral victories across the nation and plenty of firsts: first lesbian mayor of Seattle, six out transgender people elected, first African-American mayor of Charlotte, a Sikh mayor in Hoboken, a Liberian refugee winning mayor of Helena, MT!

This is how we take back our country. City by city, state by state, every damn election.

But we can’t win if we don’t show up on election day, though.

There are 2,974,434 registered voters in Louisiana. For the October 14th primary election only 401,499 of us voted.

That is 13.5% of voters.

Here in New Orleans where we had a mayor’s race as well the city council and judges, the turnout rose to 31.9%.

The Louisiana General/Orleans Municipal election is November 18. Early voting runs through November 11th.

If yesterday showed us anything, it was this: good people can win but it only happens when we stop bitching and moaning about what is happening to our country AND get to the fucking polls.

You want to make a difference? GO VOTE.

When we show up, we beat Trump’s picks and the other right-wing extremists holding this country hostage.

We must vote in EVERY election. Not just the presidential races. Every election, even if the only thing on your ballot is State Treasurer.

We can take back our country. Block by block, town by town, city by city, state by state, election by election.

Elections matter. Every single election matters.

Geaux Vote!

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