July 27, 2011

Gay Pride in a WWJD Bracelet, and Lights at Niagara Falls

I feel like I haven’t written about books in a century so this blog will be about The Celibacy Club by Janice Eidus (my instructor at Chautauqua), but also a little bit about New York making all marriages legal.
So, to start off…let me share a little anecdote.  Since I was fourteen years old (that’s, let’s see, ten years) I’ve worn one of those trite, “W.W.J.D.” bracelets that starving children in China are creating for teenagers like me who at the time believe in three things; their own virginity, Jesus and Catholic guilt (or Baptist, Methodist, Mormon…whatever denomination you see fit here).  I seriously have not taken this thing off since fourteen.  If my bracelet breaks, I immediately go out to the local Family Christian Store (literally that’s the name) and ask the sales lady where they are, and I purchase a new bracelet.  I have very pale, vampire, nocturnal skin under the blackness of my sewed bracelet – it hasn’t seen light in years, much like my buttocks.
Since about two years ago, I wore a rainbow W.W.J.D bracelet.  I liked to call it my “Gay Pride, Jesus Pride” bracelet.  However, since then, the store has stopped selling the rainbow version (the only version I’d ever bought, and ever would think to buy in the political, and religious conditions our world is under at this point) and so I had to turn to basic black.  I really believe they stopped selling rainbow because they realized the connotation it held.  They still have purple though which I’m considering switching too.  Must wait until the black one breaks though – it’s been going strong for a few years.
I like to think that people aren’t always judging each other.
But I think I’d be wrong in saying that.
Just last week, a former friend texted me with the facebook news of another friend being “engaged and pregnant.”  Now, tell me this friend wanted to text me about anything other than this…doubtful.  She wanted to gossip.  I had to bite  my tongue and remind her that I no longer have a facebook and am not privy to the personal lives of people I haven’t spoken to in more than six months… because I don’t give a flying shit.  (pardon my French).
So, back to the bracelets (que Christina Aguilera circa 2009).  I have worn this black bracelet, white stitching, for the last two years.  All along thinking about what people thought about me when shaking my hand in interviews.  Did they think I was a “Honk if you love Jesus person” to quote one of my favorites, A Walk to Remember?  Did they think I would only teach their children about Biblical history or Biblical literature or Jesus-appropriate, Virgin-appropriate literature?  When really I would just throw at them the almanac of Judy Blume. These things, I can’t be sure of because no one has point-blank ever asked me what my bracelet means.  We are in the Bible belt, so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  (Coincidentally, my friend Jono did ask me once what it meant, but I don’t think he counts because he’s Australian, and religious activities are very relaxed in Australia even though the churches are GORRRRGEOUS).
Anyway, the one thing I think I can actually bet on in my bracelet-toting ways is that people definitely don’t assume that I’m a gay rights activist.  Not that I’ve gone to any rally’s or really partaken in any gay-rights political notions.  However, I have bought a shirt from the FCKH8 community and worn it quite frequently around people who obviously don’t believe in gay marriage.  I also put it frankly on my blog that I’m into all marriage types being legal in every way.  I have a few friends who haven’t come out of the closet, per say, yet, but are working on themselves in a way to always, no matter what, let their lights shine.  I have convinced my teens that using any slur of “gay, homo, queer, or fruitcup” will not be tolerated or accepted at the teen center and that it should be forever removed from their vocabularies.  (Embarrassingly, I have watched the NY Housewives episode where they went to the Gay Pride Rally…eeee).  And I have recommend the book, Shine, to countless people in celebration of young adult gay literature.
(See here for other books, via Barnes & Noble that may introduce you to specified reading within the LGBTQ Community).
Also, the church I attend has a vibrant gay and lesbian community.  I feel like I’m just spouting of reasons for you to believe that I actually love gay people, and actually love their freedom of expression and right to marry.
Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing.
This whole blog came about actually…because I spent the week in NY (duh, if you’ve read this any in the past week, you know) and I actually went to Niagara Falls on Sunday night and got to experience the first ever rainbow falls.  I know a twitter picture has already gone viral of the falls in their rainbow, prideful glow.   However, I too wanted to share a few of my photos and give a hooray to whoever decided to paint the falls the beautiful, rhythmic and unicorn colors of one of God’s greatest gifts: the rainbow.
I feel blessed to have been at Niagara Falls on such a big day for New York City and for the rights of people carrying any sexuality.  I can’t wait to see how we progress even further in our fight for rights of any nature.  (I’m also deep into the battle of Planned Parenthood, and sex education, especially with my new found career in teaching high school students).
I’ve actually, also, been hearing all week about government spending and how this is just adding to the deficit  because now we have to give benefits to same-sex partners.  Yes, I am concerned about the debt, and the fact that we haven’t come to a conclusion at all with whether we are raising the ceiling.  But, my joy in seeing this hallmark-card moment in history means so much more to me than this debt.  I know that sounds totally ridiculous seeing as how I will be getting this debt on my shoulders as soon as I have a big-girl job, and my children, and my children’s children.  I’d rather people be able to sign paperwork under their government to be able to love one another I guess.  I guess that’s how ludicrous and out of my mind I am.
The falls were beautiful, gay pride is beautiful, everyone in the world no matter what race, sexuality or religion is beautiful.  Here are some photos:

Rainbow Falls via Canadian Side.

Another success for the LGBTQ community and our nation.

I'm just overdoing it with this one.

I want you to see this moment in history from every angle.

Fireworks for the momentous occasion.

Blurry, but I really love it.

My beautiful Aunt Jan who has too many pets and too much garden to be with any man who isn't AMAZING.

Yes, my shirt does say, "I like big books and I can not lie."

So, after all of that, and all my emotions that are still swirling through my head… after facing the international crowds, gambling away twenty bucks at the Casino and seeing Rainbow falls, I started Janice Eidus‘ book, The Celibacy Club.
I was really excited to start this book because Janice had just been my instructor for a week with all the retirees.  For some reason, I was experiencing some sort of intimidation factor within the workshop and the daunting task of once again diving into fiction was terrifying to me.  I’ve been focusing so much effort on poetry, that fiction no longer comes easy and I actually had to sweat, and accumulate that little patch of ink on the outside corner of my mid-pinky region (shucks).
So, this book took me about two days and while I didn’t love it, I’m definitely going to give Janice another chance to woo me with her novel.  Not that reading about lots of fantasies didn’t thrill me this time around.  I will turn to this novel next.  She read a bit of it on a Brown Bag Porch Lunch in Chautauqua and I really enjoyed the first chapter.
The Celibacy Club, just didn’t reach me though.  I just kept wanting to believe in stories that weren’t possibly real.  The stories were mostly fantastical, told in the voice of has-been’s and old-wash-up’s.  I adored a few of the stories, especially the second to last story which was about hair, coincidentally an assignment she gave us in class was about the same topic.
I read that story today and for some reason I tied it up quite nicely with my gay pride blog.  It seems to me that this story is about the plague of aids on men and a group of women have gotten together to grow their hair until this plague is stopped.  I loved how the story had a political objective, but I also loved the women, their stories, the very escape each of these women feel in growing their hair long.  They are going against norms, going against men they love, fighting for more appreciation, less judgment.  They are you and me.
Many of the other stories touched my heart as well.  Both Elvis and Jimmy Dean come into play, as well as a mermaid with a spectacular singing voice.  It’s a coming-of-age through sex, a knowing yourself through your own sexuality, or lack there of.  It’s a book of sex education.  And who can complain about a book, that’s mostly about sex, with a bible study-esque cover.  I mean come on, be serious,  this cover was totally planned to look like a bible study class cover. I grew up in Vacation Bible School and CCD, I know it when I see it.  I just love that wit, that even the cover is satirical.
I recommend Janice Eidus, because she’s an amazing teacher and instructor, because she knows the Bronx, and NY, because she’s Jewish (and maybe you need to read more about your heritage or just about another religion) and because who doesn’t like a good sex romp ever so often without diving into a grocery store romance.
So, Here, Here to Gay Pride, to Janice Eidus and her sex, and to the gynecologists cold hands this morning.  Everyone have a good night!

7 comments so far.

7 responses to “Gay Pride in a WWJD Bracelet, and Lights at Niagara Falls”

  1. Great pictures! I love the falls in rainbow colors. I also love that you stand up for what you feel is right. Not everyone has the strength to do that. I’m wondering if your bracelet has caused any problems interviewing for teaching jobs. I’m only asking as a former teacher who heard all the time that we weren’t supposed to wear religious symbols. I’m not sure people would really know what your bracelet means though. Just curious.

    • Cassie says:

      I don’t actually know at the moment how they’ve responded. I have only had one teaching interview, and I realized halfway through that I wasn’t prepared enough to take the job yet and I need a bit more experience so I actually spoke up. It hasn’t stopped me from getting jobs working with anything else though – working with teens mostly. However, I had a teacher in high school who wore like four crosses and very often interjected her faith into what we were learning and nothing was ever said to her.
      I guess in the Bible Belt, Southern area it may be different as well. They will definitely know what it means and I had many teachers who wore crosses. I’m pretty sure I just learned in my Policies Class that teachers can wear crosses, and religious regalia as long as it isn’t harmful or promotional, or any of those things.

  2. bea mannes says:

    I am glad you have continued to wear the bracelet, and I hope you occasionally look down at it when trying to find an answer to a situation or problem. Niagara Falls was certainly beautiful in those pictures, and I know so powerful when you are standing right there. Since I know that you enjoyed the teaching of Janice Eidus, I am sure you will enjoy the second book. Thanks for the pictures!

  3. Brenda says:

    I quite enjoyed this journey from travels to book review, beliefs and pride for all. I send my two kids to a Christian school because of its location. It is block from our house. It’s not perfect, but it is close. The biggest challenge for my daughter (recently graduated) is the extremely narrow right viewpoint. Now she never had a chance to be conservative because I am her mother and I bend towards the left, and believe in all those things written in our constitution as well the basic human right, freedom to be. I think we still have a way to go before we are accepting of one another. It’s a mystery to me. As for the photos, they are amazing. I’ve never been to Niagra Falls, but have always wanted to go but I keep traveling outside of the country.

  4. Renee says:

    It’s so good to know others feel the same way. Religion and Gay Rights are not always separate spheres. I am also passionate about teen sexual education!! I feel these passions are going to be hindered by our career decision. I hope to secretly teach students about acceptance and contraception! (It is currently illegal to be gay in NC, so illegal to openly teach acceptance in at least wake county) We must teach what we believe no matter the consequences.

    • Cassie says:

      Of course I agree with you. 🙂
      And I saw your application on my bosses desk yesterday so he has it. I’m not sure if he’s hiring, he doesn’t really talk to us about that, but good luck.

  5. bea mannes says:

    Without education, teens are playing with fire. Education is everything; in career, in life, and in sex.

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Hi, I’m Cass

I am a writer, educator and genuine creative living on the coast of NC. Our house is built on sunshine with my husband BJ, dog named Tucker, and our two very sassy cats: Fromage and Jasper.

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