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

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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.

 

***

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!

i-want-you-to-vote

Asking for Trouble

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Women have had stories for years about the sexual misconduct of Harvey Weinstein and they weren’t heard or believed or, worse, they were punished with career ending and reputation ruining whisper campaigns. They aren’t the only women to face sexual abuse; just the latest in a long line. It seems like nearly every woman I know has been harassed at one point or another in their career.

Sometimes it is easier to hear things said in fiction than when you’re told about them in real life. I wrote this piece in response to the fashion designer, Donna Karan’s interview in defense of serial assaulter Harvey Weinstein. She is quoted as saying, “How do we present ourselves as women? … Are we asking for it, by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? … I don’t think it’s only Harvey Weinstein … We have to look at our world … And how women are dressing and what they’re asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”

Thanks to my friend Laura aka Brithna for challenging me to address those brand damaging remarks by writing a piece of Devil Wears Prada fan fiction.

Here is the result:

Title: Asking for Trouble
Author: Mary Griggs
Fandom: DWP
Pairing: Miranda/Andy
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3300

Summary: Andy comes home to find Miranda in the closet with Donna Karan.

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.

Oh, and Bottomless Closet is a real thing!

**

Andy tossed her keys into the bowl on the table by the closet that had once nearly gotten her fired. She winced, even after seven years the foyer still sometimes had the power to trigger bad memories. While she could look back on her days as the premier fashion editor’s second assistant with nostalgia, no rose colored glasses could hide the true terror she felt after she interrupted Miranda and Stephen arguing that fateful evening.

But she was also thankful for it. Everything started to change then. By rising to Miranda’s challenge, instead of sinking, Andy began to come into her own power. She knew she’d never have managed to walk away in Paris if not for the spark lit by the acquisition of the Harry Potter manuscript.

A spark that remained banked for more than two years before she re-entered Miranda’s orbit again. And, it was that spark’s ignition, which led directly to the carefully tended flames of their current relationship.

Smiling now at her memories, she stirred the contents of the bowl and saw Miranda’s keys in there, too. Andy rubbed the ring between her fingers and giggled as she thought of the things the two of them might be able to do tonight.

She walked into the kitchen and pulled out the meat that had been marinating in the refrigerator. Andy washed her hands before preheating the oven. She put a little olive oil into Dutch oven and placed it over medium heat. She was humming as she used one of Miranda’s super sharp chef knives to dice an onion.

Scrapping the onion in the pot, she reduced the heat and stirred before tossing in some minced garlic and salt. Once the onions were translucent, she then poured in a portion of Arborio rice. She stirred it while it toasted and then poured in a quart of chicken stock. After another stir, she covered the pot and slid it into the oven.

Washing her hands again, she decided to go change and check in with Miranda before doing any more dinner prep. After glancing into the study and seeing it empty, Andy practically skipped up the stairs to their bedroom. The room was empty. The door to the bathroom was open and the room was likewise unoccupied.

Her brow furrowed and she called out, “Miranda?”

She heard a faint noise. Walking over to the closet she called again, “Miranda?”

“I’m back here.”

“Where?”

There was a beat or two of silence.

“In Narnia,” Miranda replied.

Andy beamed. When she had learned that Miranda had the bedroom next to hers converted into a climate-controlled room reachable through her closet, she had immediately christened it with the name of the magical world of CS Lewis that the children entered through a wardrobe.

Miranda hadn’t seemed amused but Andy knew if she was willing to call it that herself, they must have reached a new plateau in their relationship. After the first kiss, first fight, first make up sex, and first joint purchase, Andy was sure making cute names for things and having inside jokes surely showed that she and Miranda were united in all things that mattered.

She took Miranda’s answer as an invitation and walked through the first closet and into the next room. It was artfully designed with beautifully lit display cabinets and shelving units with glass doors holding brightly colored hanging items. In the center of the room was a vintage round couch of crushed cream velvet, where Miranda could sit facing any direction she wanted.

Many nights, Andy had woken from a deep sleep to an empty space beside her and a faint light glowing from the room. She would find Miranda deep in thought, staring at some of the beautiful items she had collected over the years.

Miranda might be facing the black dress designed by Givenchy and worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Princess Diana’s sea green sequined evening gown that was designed by Catherine Walker. Or maybe she would be looking at an Armani Prive gunmetal grey dress, encrusted with Swarovski crystals, which had been worn by Cate Blanchet. Over in one corner was the letterbox red Valentino dress worn by Anne Hathaway when she hosted the Academy Awards that Miranda seemed to like best.

She had explained that she was both soothed and inspired by the art of fashion.

Tonight she wasn’t mediating. Miranda was standing in front of a display cabinet along the back wall. There was a rolling metal rack with several items on it and small pile of fabric on the floor by the fashion maven’s feet.

Andy walked over and embraced Miranda from behind. “What’s this?” she asked.

“This is the Seven Easy Pieces collection from 1985.” Miranda opened the front of the case and ran her fingers over one of the black bodysuits.

“I’m sorry, love, but I need more than that.”

Miranda heaved a great sigh. “Donna Karan, you plebian.”

“I know DKNY.”

“That’s the affordable line, she’d been distant from that for years.” She pulled one of the black pieces off the mannequin and held up to Andy. “This is what started it all for working women.”

“Is that a unitard?”

“It is a body suit that mixes and matches with the other pieces.”

“Interesting.”

“She freed women from the power suit.” Miranda sighed. “It is most unfortunate she has likewise failed to free herself from outmoded ideas about why women are assaulted.”

“Yeah, I heard her interview. So insane. I can’t believe a woman fashion designer of all people would blame what women wear for getting them into trouble.”

“Especially when the trouble was caused by an incredibly powerful man abusing women whose very careers were dependent on him,” Miranda replied.

“Their stories are so painful. I can’t hardly believe he was able to keep doing it for as long he did. Why did so many wait so long before coming forward?”

“It isn’t an easy thing to do. Many rightfully fear their reputations will be ruined, that they’ll lose their job or be blacklisted. They know they will be blamed for putting themselves in the position of being alone with him, even when he used honeypots to lure them in.”

“Honeypots?”

“He had other women attend the meetings to begin with, so his victims would feel safe. He’d dismiss his assistants and then start the pressure, many times using force to get them to comply with his demands.”

“I can’t believe other women were helping him.”

“I would guess that while some didn’t know they were being used, many others were complicit because they, too, needed their jobs and his goodwill.” Miranda glanced at her. “Frankly, though, you’re making my point.”

“What?”

“Even now, you’re blaming the other women instead of holding him responsible for his actions.”

“Wow,” Andy said, sinking down onto the couch. “I hadn’t realized I was doing that.”

“It is our default to blame the victim. She was alone, she had been drinking, she was wearing provocative clothes, she should have said no, she could have fought harder…” After ticking off the statements on her fingers, Miranda made a tossing gesture with her hands. “Why do you think so many maintain relationships with these men after the harassment?”

“I have no idea.”

“It is one way to rewrite the narrative. If they can make something of it consensual, then maybe it wasn’t so bad. Maybe you can get something out of it.”

“Gross.”

“Worse is that most victims continue think it was their fault.”

“How so?”

Miranda started putting the items from the display case into a bag. “If they were too friendly, maybe he got the wrong idea. If they had been affectionate, they had been asking for it. If they allowed one thing to happen, then the rest was their fault, too. Maybe you were too ambitious and he could see you wanted it.”

Andy lifted her head and stared when Miranda changed to second person point of view again. “You?”

“Hmmm?”

“You said you. Twice.”

There was silence before Miranda turned to look at her. “Yes, me.”

“You’ve never said before.”

“It was early in my career, when I was still young and vulnerable.”

“Really? You?”

“Everyone is young once. Not everyone has to pay for it, though.”

“If it’s a bad memory, you don’t have to tell me. It may help to talk about, though.”

“I’ve talked about it before but, clearly not enough.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Not enough if this whole Weinstein issue can rattle me so.”

“I don’t remember but you didn’t seem so angry when Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly scandals imploded.”

“Maybe because I never expected better from men who created and made careers in a system built on harassment, belittling and bullying. FOX was a known entity. There might even a part of me that thought maybe all those women deserve what they got.”

“Nobody deserves it.”

Miranda rolled her eyes. “I know that. And I know that I’m more disappointed than angry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m furious at Harvey and all the pain he has caused. But, Donna, she was…” Miranda flung out her arms. “Do you know she was championing a woman president back in 1992? Her advertising campaign was called ‘In Women We Trust’ and had a model wearing one of her double-breasted blazers being sworn in as president.” She sighed. “It was transcendent.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“She designed for real women’s bodies and made even those who weren’t five foot, ten inches and skinny feel beautiful. It was powerful. And, it didn’t end there. After she left her label, she started a foundation which empowers and educates children in Haiti.” Miranda shook her head.

“That’s bizarre,” Andy said. “How could she do one thing and say the other?”

“Her interview knocked me back. I felt like she pulled the rug from under my feet. And it makes me question if anything I believed about her was ever true.”

“That sucks.” Andy stepped up to Miranda and touched her shoulder. “Could you tell me more?”

“Mmm. I think part of it is that it makes me feel lot like I did after my harassment. He was a mentor. A man I looked to for advice.” She reached up and squeezed Andy’s hand. “I thought my boss was invested in my career and instead he was targeting me for my body.”

“What happened?”

“I met with him after work. I brought out my portfolio and he brought out his penis.”

“Ew! Why do men think that’s what women want?”

“He didn’t care about what I wanted.” Her lip curled in a snarl. “He wanted his dick sucked and didn’t care what it took from me to get it.”

“What do the men get out of that? Surely there are plenty of women who would willingly have sex with them?”

“It is about power, not sex.” Miranda brushed off her hands. “They are predators who prey on women they can penalize if they say no and implicate if they give in.”

“Thinking about it makes me feel so helpless. I hate it,” Andy said.

“Unfortunately, far too many men are erotically excited by their ability to punish, humiliate and inflict pain on women. Their…” Miranda looked down. “I mean, our fear turns them on.”

Andy reached out and took hold of her hand. “I’m sorry. I know this must bring up bad things for you.”

“Sometimes it seems you can’t be a women in business without having to endure it. I was lucky to have other women and an HR department to support me when I was harassed.” She bit her lip. “I wasn’t demoted but it did slow my trajectory for a bit. I’m afraid it only stayed quiet because my boss had already been looking for work elsewhere.”

“They allowed him to leave?”

“With my blessing at the time. I wanted it over so I could move on.”

“But when they let them get away with it, the same thing could happen to someone else. How do you know he didn’t do it to someone else at the next job?” Andy asked.

“Sweetheart, sometimes there are no good options. Stay silent and you’re complicit. Tell a friend and nothing gets done. Go to someone in authority and you’ll face unfair consequences – men will be uncomfortable around you, thinking you’ll accuse them next; women won’t be any better, thinking that they’ll be tarnished by standing by you.” Miranda tossed her head. “I learned who my friends are.”

“I’m sorry you had to learn that way.” Andy stomped her feet, “Why can’t we support one another?”

“Because it is still a man’s world. They are in positions of power. They are the ones making the decisions and they’re the ones who refuse to believe us.”

“That’s terrible.”

“While not being believed is bad, the potential for retribution is worse.” Miranda glowered, “And, there will always be retribution, the power dynamics make it inevitable.”

“But you’re a success.”

“I am now. But I remember how my personnel evaluations, which had called me assertive, now warned that I was being aggressive. My decisions were questioned in a way they hadn’t been before and a promotion I had been expecting never materialized. They said it was because of restructuring after he left but it forced me to take a lateral move to a different office before I was able to really start moving forward again.”

“I’m glad they didn’t make you quit.”

“What choice did I have?” Her hands were shaking slightly as she transferred pieces from the display case to the rack. “I didn’t have any money outside of my paycheck and this was my career.”

“You’re a fighter.”

“Yes, but the cost was high. My long term relationship ended as I didn’t feel sexual any more and he was upset I was lumping him together with my harasser.”

“I’m sorry he wasn’t more sympathetic.”

“Me, too. But it was for the best. I wasn’t in a good place.”

“Of course, you weren’t. What happened was horrible.”

“And it wasn’t so much the trauma as the gas lighting.”

“What do you mean?”

“It seemed like everyone around me made me question myself. The male coworkers who told me it was good to be hit on, that I should take it as a compliment to have men want me. Female coworkers who told me it wasn’t so bad, that what they survived was worse and, if they could move on, so should I. I even had someone from human resources tell me he didn’t do or say or mean what we all damn well know he did.”

“Like mansplaining on steroids.”

“Indeed.”

“What can be done?”

“What makes you think anything can be done?” Miranda picked up the dress fabric from the floor and gently hung it on a hanger before setting it beside the others on the rack. “Think back on all the other times we’ve seen a mass of women finally come forth with their stories and what is the result? A hung jury or a mistrial, or even a quiet settlement is the norm. Most often, though, there is a new TV program or movie or a contract for a new sports team.” She brushed her hair from her eyes and glared. “Sometimes they get to take the oath of office as President of the United States of America.” She took a deep breath. “Three women made allegations about Bill Clinton. Ten women accused Roger Ailes. Trump has had fifteen women plus an ex-wife. Twenty-nine women have already come forward about Harvey. Fifty came forth about Bill Cosby. How many will be enough to effect change?”

“We can’t just give up all hope.” Andy scowled at Miranda’s smirk. “I know you think I’m a naïve mid-westerner but can’t we do something?”

“I’m not sure it can be solved with any single thing. It is all tied up in how we raise boys into men and the expectations they have about the women in their lives being available for their sexual pleasure.”

“You’re talking about rape culture.”

“Exactly. When sexual harassment and abuse is ignored, trivialized and normalized, even talking about assault becomes impossible.”

“I want to find a way to do more than just talk.”

“That would involve getting more men to discourage each other from harming women or thinking that dominating women enhances their status.”

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

“Dr. Martin Luther King was so very right.” Miranda locked the now empty case. “But the fear about retaliation isn’t just a womans fear. Men face it, too, when they come forward. If they aren’t complicit, they know they will be mocked by their peers, even ostracized.”

“They are victims of toxic masculinity, too.”

“And their privilege will not protect them.” Miranda shrugged. “Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps the young men of today will learn from the public falls of guys like Harvey Weinstein.”

“But those are the same young men who made Trump president, even after he bragged about grabbing her by the pussy.”

“True.” Miranda rolled the cart out of the room and reset the keypad after Andy closed the door behind her. “I’m afraid this administration has given many angry men carte blanche to abuse women.”

“But what about the resistance movement? Aren’t there women being empowered to speak up and demand justice?”

“Possibly in the same way the feminists of the 1970’s did so.” She nodded. “And they did get laws written to protect women. Corporate culture has changed. Maybe now we can go further.”

Andy grabbed her yoga pants and a sweatshirt and started to change. Her voice came out muffled as she pulled off her shirt. “If only there was a way to change their desire to do these things.”

“That’s easier said than done. Desire is such an amorphous thing,” Miranda drawled, her eyes on her younger lover.

Blushing, Andy fought to keep from turning away from Miranda’s knowing gaze. “So what do you suggest?”

“Honestly? I don’t care to change what’s in their hearts. I’m good with them being afraid of the consequences once they get caught.”

“I wish I could fix it, though. For you and all the others.”

Miranda said, “You can’t fix everything, darling.” At Andy’s mulish look, she added. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t fix some things.”

Pointing at the things Miranda had taken from the closet, Andy asked, “What about this stuff? What are you fixing with these?”

“I’m going to donate my Donna Karan collection to Bottomless Closet. They can auction the items to fund their work. They won’t get as much as they would have before she damaged her brand with her remarks but anything helps.”

Smiling brilliantly, Andy said, “You know, Miranda, I think the real champion of stylish working women is you.”

“Honestly, Andrea,” she said as her cheeks pinked. Straightening her back, she asked, “I’m starving. Are we ever having dinner?”

“Yeah, the risotto is baking and the steak is ready to go.” Andy ignored the look from Miranda as she slid her feet into a pair of cerulean Crocs. “You promised not to mock my style choices.”

Arching her eyebrow, Miranda sniffed then asked, “Did I say anything?”

“No but you were thinking awfully loud.”

“God forbid someone in this relationship think.”

Putting her fists on her hips, Andy glared.

Miranda shook her head. “Forgive me, darling. Reflex.”

“I know it has been difficult,” Andy replied. “I do appreciate the effort it must take to bite your tongue sometimes.”

“Sometimes? Only sometimes?”

Andy rolled her eyes. “I’ve gotten better.”

“And we know how high that bar was to begin with.” She leaned over and kissed Andy before she could do more than squawk.

As the kiss deepened, Andy could feel her mood shifting. Her hands moved from her hips to holding Miranda’s, tugging her even closer. Andy moaned and then groaned as her empty stomach grumbled.

Miranda pulled away and used her thumb to wipe away a smudge of her lipstick from Andy’s lips. “Why are you moving at such a glacial pace instead of feeding me?”

“Because I know how much it thrills you.” Andy laughed and stole another kiss before leading the way back downstairs.

They might not have solved the world’s problems but, when they came together, they showed that change was possible. And they proved, in many ways, that change could also be quite pleasurable.

The End.

**

If you enjoyed reading that, check out some of my other femslash fanfic: https://archiveofourown.org/users/marygriggs/works

Or, check out some of my published work: https://www.bellabooks.com/Bella-Author-Mary-Griggs-cat.html

Coming Out As An Ally

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haring coming out day

It’s #NationalComingOutDay, and I’ve got a way everyone can participate.

I want you to put yourself in the closet for a day.

See how long you can go today without making any statements about your spouse/partner/significant other or revealing your gender identity.

Take a trip down memory lane for any work trips, out of town conferences or vacations you may have taken. Do a little research to find out when those places decriminalized homosexuality. And, in the places where being gay, lesbian or bisexual isn’t criminal, see if there are any protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation.

Think back on your significant rites of passage: first day of school, first kiss, senior prom, first job, getting engaged, marriage, paying taxes, etc. Ask yourself how each situation would have been different if you had been having to hide who you love or where you fall on the gender/sexuality spectrum from your family, your friends, your peers or your boss.

Some languages, such as English, do not have a gender neutral or third gender pronoun available pronouns. For today drop pronouns for yourself and for your romantic partner. When you pass people in the hallway or the street, don’t automatically default to using gender cues to categorize them as male/female. Think before filling out forms which require you to select a gender.

Tonight, when reading bedtime stories to your kids, avoid anything like classic fairy tales (Cinderella, Snow White, etc) with their heavy male and female stereotypes or romanticized storylines about heterosexual love. Do you have any books you can read with gender non-conforming heroes or of children adopted by same-sex couples?

When watching TV or reading a magazine, consider how many times a day you are presented with images of men and women together in relationships of sex and love. When out driving or exercising today, think about the words before singing along with the songs on the radio or your iPod.

Before reaching for your partner’s hand when out in public, look around. See if it is safe to do so, wonder if the people around you may be harboring violent thoughts about people like you who are “flaunting” your sexuality in their face.

This is a day when many people (not just trolls on Twitter) will make jokes about how National Coming Out Day is “so gay!”  Reflect on the courage it requires to move from being a passive bystander to taking an active role in addressing name-calling and disrespectful humor.

Few people who take this challenge can last more than an hour or two without slipping up and mentioning their significant other or making a comment that outs them as straight or cisgender.

If you did try, I hope you gained a better understanding about how much work and emotional effort it takes for someone to be closeted. I especially hope you have more empathy (or even sympathy) for those who have to stay closeted for their own safety or security.

Ally is a verb, not a noun. It is a call to action.

Maybe now you can answer the call.

Politics Are Deeply, Deeply Personal

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The personal has always been political and, these days, the political is getting deeply, deeply personal. I don’t know about you but I’m reeling from the recent series of Trump administration decisions that effectively deny LGBTQ people full citizenship.

Here are some of the lowlights:

  • the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief before the US Court of Appeals arguing that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission erred in deciding that the Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination protects gay and lesbian employees,
  • the US voted against a United Nations resolution that condemned the death penalty as punishment for consensual same-sex relationships,
  • the Justice department announcement that walks back Obama era discrimination protections for transgender workers under Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and
  • the Justice Department issued a Religious Freedom memo with 20 ‘principles’ that are a rehashing of the worst talking points for a religious right to discriminate.

These are significant blows to hard-won gains of the past several years. I’m not sure how many more setbacks to equality and humanity we are going to see but, when you consider we haven’t even had one full year of the Trump presidency, it ain’t looking good.

And, of course, all of this is on top of the shooting in Vegas, on top of watching our President tossing paper towels to Puerto Ricans who are without clean water or power, on top of more Congressional attacks on the healthcare system (including allowing the CHIP to expire), etc, etc, etc.

Living in Trump’s America is a stark reminder that nothing should be taken for granted — we are seeing first hand that it only takes one bad election to regress on LGBTQ rights.

Which makes it even important to ensure that we vote each and every time we get the chance. Voting is how we have our voices heard and get leaders who will represent our best interests. Elections matter. Voting matters. As the project Let America Vote states, “You can’t win the political argument if you’re not part of the conversation.”

This is especially true for local elections. Local government affects almost every aspect of our daily lives – school and library quality, policing and public safety, trash and recycling, sewers and drainage, public transportation and street maintenance, and many other quality of life issues.

By voting in local elections (and holding our elected officials accountable), we can create the change we want to see. And every single vote makes a difference! Typically just 1 in 5 voters participate in non-presidential elections. That means that those who do vote have an outsize influence in the result.

Now, I understand that finding information on local races can be difficult – there isn’t near the coverage as there is during presidential elections. It can be hard to find out when to vote and/or what is on the ballot. One place to look is Rock the Vote, which has state by state info on upcoming elections.

To help those in Louisiana, I’m posting endorsements from two organizations I work closely with here in New Orleans.

Independent Women’s Organization Endorsements

Forum for Equality PAC’s Endorsements

Additionally, here is the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana’s guide to the constitutional amendments on the ballot

So, please geaux vote!

Taking a Knee

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Sunday’s football games were eagerly anticipated by just as many people who don’t give a rat’s ass for the sport as by those who were fanatics. All across the nation (and especially in the White House), people’s heads were exploding over what football players were doing (or not doing) during the national anthem. These are the same folks, mind you, who just a few short months ago were going completely insane over the removal of monuments dedicated to people who fought a war to destroy our country.

Let me begin by making one thing clear: I am an army brat. I am from a family with a long and proud history of service in the military. I was raised on bases where everything, including traffic, stopped each night when the flag came down. I was taught respect for our nation’s flag and the proper etiquette on handling it – and that includes not wearing the flag as clothing or using it in advertising.

The national anthem has its own protocol , which I was taught to follow. We were to stand, put our hand over our heart and face the flag. Every movie I watched as a kid on base started with the national anthem and we all stood in silence. I’ve watched grown men cry to hear it and I’ve gotten pretty angry at people I saw laughing and talking during the playing of it.

But #TakeAKnee is not and never has been about the anthem or the flag. It is about the unjust treatment of minorities in a nation that claims to be equal and tolerant. It is about protesting systemic racism and the extrajudicial killings of black people by police.

Our political leaders and the media were full-throated in denouncing the riots that followed the funerals of African-American men killed by police and the violent clashes after the acquittals of those police officers. Those protests were decried as uncivil and counter productive. Of course, the media ignored that many of the people who took to the streets had been peacefully advocating for better treatment for YEARS, without ever changing the inequitable conditions they experienced as Africans-Americans.

Now come sports figures, including at least 100 football players, who use the stage they’ve been given as professional athletes to protest against suffering and oppression by taking a knee or sitting during the national anthem. Because their act of free speech doesn’t match the mainstream American understanding of civil disobedience, this too has been censured and discredited by many, including the current occupant of the White House.

I may not know much but I do know that every time those in power refuse to acknowledge the grievances of the oppressed because those grievances are not framed in a manner considered ‘civil,’ what really happens is that we avoid addressing the oppression.

Diverse expressions of dissent are required to generate meaningful change. A full range of constructive political tactics has always been deployed to liberate us from our oppression. We just can’t fight white supremacy, misogyny, heteropatriarchy and state-sponsored terror without offending/inconveniencing somebody.

Instead of getting caught up in a perception of disrespect or a sense of discomfort, please listen to what these protesters are trying to draw our attention to – that the police are regularly killing unarmed people. Disquiet at the method of protest is not as pressing as the need to address the reality of police brutality and racial bias.

Because if we learned nothing else from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, we learned that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

And sometimes those demands come on bended knee.