International Women's Day

Cultural misogyny is so often heard as "men treat women badly". As if only men can be misogynistic. As if misogyny always looks like being treated badly. Misogyny is a dangerous word. It's a misunderstood word. People tune out and turn off when they hear it. It has been overused. So, in some ways, misogyny is a useless word. 

So, what is misogyny? I can look up a definition and copy it here. I tend to love Merriam-Webster as my generic answer to life's questions. Instead, I thought about what it looks like in my world and the world around me.

Misogyny is when I am treated better and differently when I have long hair. And when my male friends are treated worse and differently when they have long hair. Misogyny is the way women distrust beautiful women. Misogyny is the way strong women feel the need to apologize for their strength. Misogyny is my mother telling me not to work out and get too muscled or I would be unattractive. Misogyny is my neighbor telling me she didn't understand why I was a lesbian since I was "pretty enough to get a guy". Misogyny is knowing my hair is only attractive on my head. Misogyny is I apologize when someone bumps into me. Misogyny is men being afraid to wear skirts or share their emotions with other men. Misogyny is women denying their sexual desires. Misogyny is effortless perfection. Misogyny is Prince Charming. 

Misogyny hurts us all in different ways. 


Strong Enough to Be Gentle

 The first time I ever shot a gun.    

The first time I ever shot a gun. 


My ex mother in law used to say this. As I experience the America of mass shootings, I am reminded of her wisdom. It takes strength to be gentle. Or as Utah Phillips sang, force is the weapon of the weak. It feels powerful to yell or punch or dominate. We have all had those moments of feeling ourselves fill with rage that feels like power and acts like fear.

The current national conversation around gun violence focuses on more gun control and blames the mentally ill. This ignores the numerous gun control laws in place that are neither funded nor enforced. And we ignore the most glaring and obvious traits of the shooters. They are men, white men often. Obviously they are mentally ill, as they shot lots of people. Women are 40% more likely to experience some form of mental illness than men. However, out of the 134 mass shootings experienced in American since 1966, 131 were men. Being male is a much higher indicator of potential gun violence than being mentally ill.  

Why do American men feel the need to shoot school children and movie goers and gay dancers? When #metoo got legs in the fall, a friend of mine posted on his Facebook wall, what is good about being a man? I was startled and ashamed to realize I couldn't think of anything. I could think of things like "men have privileges in our society", things I didn't feel really spoke to what is good about being a man. Somehow in our efforts to identify and embrace female leadership, we have created a void for men.

With all the best intentions, we have left our men behind. And the most sensitive, most lost, are using the tools they have to tell us. Rage, violence and lust are the emotions we affirm for boys. So they express those emotions in ever increasing extremes. Traditional masculinity is either viewed as suspicious or bad, and literally fought against ideologically. And we haven't replaced it with a new way to be. Sites like the Good Man Project  do a good job addressing some of these challenges. Our national culture is lacking in leadership and examples of how to be a man in today's society.

#metoo and mass shootings have a common thread in my view. A thread that underscores what we are doing isn't working. The men in our communities feel repressed and isolated. They have unclear directives about how to be as people. They have uncertain acceptance of themselves as men. And as long as that is true, no one can be strong enough to be gentle. 

Are You Sisters?


I remember the first time I held her hand in public. Not where we were, how it felt. The headlines were full of the Rebecca Wight murder. Wight and her girlfriend had been camping in the woods. Another camper met them on the trail and, when he learned they were lesbians, he stalked them and then shot them 8 times, severely injuring Brenner and killing Wight. He was convicted for his crimes, not before his lawyer introduced the defense of "gay panic".  In 1988, when the murders occurred, it was admissible in court to claim the panic of being exposed to homosexual behavior could create a legitimate, violent response.

I remember the act of courage it felt like, to reach over in a public mall in Orem, UT, and touch my fingers to her fingers. I remember forcing myself not to look around and see if people were looking as our hands slid from touching to entwined. I remember the simple, sweet feeling of her palm against my palm. And my racing heart, inspired by the first rush of romance and the background awareness of possible violence. Was I creating gay panic with my fingers caressing her fingers? 

Other headlines, like Sakia Gunn and Matthew Shepherd's murders, furthered a belief of unexpected violence. Friends of mine, told me stories of being teens and playing "smear the queer" with their friends. (A game where several boys would chase one boy and then kind of beat on him.) They hadn't known what it meant and felt pretty awful about it. And where did they get the idea? Kids learn these things. In 1992, Colorado passed Amendment 2. The only place in the country where it became legal to discriminate against LGBT people. A psychologist, Glenda Russell, studied the impact and eventually wrote Voted Out. She learned minority groups show signs of PTSD when their basic human rights are voted on. That doesn't surprise me. I felt constantly under siege. 

Flashback to 1999. I put gay bumper stickers on my car, hopeful I wouldn't find my tires slashed because of it. We moved to Tacoma, WA and bought wedding rings. We probably paid more for them than we should have, we were both so delighted when the salesperson commented we were a cute couple. She worked Borders and I ran the Rainbow Center, Tacoma's LGBT Center. We decided to be out, as much as possible, to stand for those who couldn't be out. I volunteered with the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington and appeared on television and debated in public across the state. We were interviewed by the local paper, twice. We got married in Canada when it became legal and had it spread across the front page of the paper. And still, when she was stuck on the freeway in a snowstorm and I had to call the highway patrol, I told them my sister was trapped. I didn't want our gayness to delay her possible rescue. And I believed it might. 

I didn't wonder if I was safe. I knew I wasn't. When 9/11 struck and the country reacted with panic and fear, I realized the rest of the population was having a moment of experiencing what I felt when I held my girlfriend's hand in public. I didn't feel less safe after 9/11, I felt less alone in knowing I wasn't. 

We have come far. We have achieved social equality and legal equality in many areas. I don't fear for my life when I hold a woman's hand in public any more, most of the time. And, on Feb 10, I sat and listened to Orlando, a poem about the 2016 massacre of LGBT people at a nightclub in Florida. It reminds me however far we have come, we have farther to go.

Meet the Magician


When I founded BiCurean in 2011, my initial vision was to produce a podcast. I pictured a community growing around the idea I was creating. A community dedicated to embracing our seeming contradictions. A place to embrace ourselves as messy humans and, perhaps through that experiment, learn to be more accepting of the messy human nature all around us. I bought the domain, started a Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram. I began blogging sporadically, trying to find ways to share the BiCurean vision. I bought a Blue Snowball mic and downloaded Audacity and started trying things. The podcast, though, well it went nowhere.


This last fall, I met Erik Kosnar. I shared my vision for BiCurean (which he embodies in his life) and my continued desire to create a podcast. Being the kind of person who likes to help others achieve their dreams, he offered to help me make it happen. Somehow, I managed instead to rope him into being a co-host. We started playing with ideas and theories and concepts and topics and have, finally, achieved 1 full episode. Which will post (cue drumroll) this Thursday, Feb 15!

Erik brings a rich history of working in music to BiCurean. Darker Days Tomorrow is his current solo music project. He is an artist, musician and composer with an extensive background in audio engineering. He also has a lot of experience in training both in the corporate and private training sectors. He also worked at and designed educational materials for a national nonprofit. In his private life he is an advocate in the LGBT and poly communities. His current day job is Customer Success Manager for a thriving Silicon Valley start up. 
I have large visions for BiCurean. I want to be part of creating a cultural shift towards a more human world for all of us. The podcast simply wouldn't be possible without his efforts and expertise. I can say that with confidence, as it didn't happen until he showed up. When he offered support, I asked for partnership in the project. I have always been a better worker when I have a teammate. I am lucky to have found one as dedicated and hard working as Erik is. And I am so delighted he has opted to be my sound magician and co-host for this endeavor! 

The Right Chemicals


In. Out. In. Out. This steady rhythm beats behind every movement in our world. Some fires burn the air away and then we choke on our own expectations. I don't know all the fires in my belly, my mind, my past, but that doesn't mean they don't burn me when I get distracted. There is a balance in life that paces itself to the steady in out of our breathe. When I lose touch with that balance, I feel the wobbly-ness all the way to my toes. It's not like drowning, there is none of the peaceful feelings I've heard are part of breathing the wrong mixture of chemicals into my lungs. A little less O and a little more H and suddenly what gives me life, slowly smothers it. There might be a lesson there, in the details. Put the wrong things together and they are bound to cause trouble. Maybe that's what I did, when I walked into your life, but really all I wanted was to find another touch stone in this chaos. To be another touch stone in this chaos. But all the fear we thought was behind us welled up. In. Out. And my lungs were slowly filled with something I could neither process nor expel.

You've Got to Have Faith

The 2016 election cycle was a call to action for me. In a personal context, it challenged me to really look at the choices I've made over the past several years. And, in the same way that I believe we as an American people need to come together and embrace our whole communities, I have been challenging myself to do that internally. 


At 25, I left the Mormon church. I had fallen in love with a woman and I realized that my experience of loving her was not sinful. It was, however, impossible for my faith community to accept and support me in that relationship. My close friends were actually quite loving and did their best to be supportive friends while also being true to the tenets of their faith. They showed a combination of compassion and integrity. These qualities originally drew towards them as friends. We drifted apart for many years, our lives being so different, and busy.  We had young children and were starting careers and finishing school. It was more sensible to retreat to yearly letters and, with the rise of the internet, the occasional facebook post

I became an activist and eventually worked as the director of two separate LGBT centers for a total of 12 years. And, until November 2016, I kept a wall in my heart between the faith of my youth and the world in which I live today. However, a facebook post full of rage and blame at conservative religious people, broke me open. I realized that by keeping the details of my path conveniently under-wraps, I was also failing to represent the power of openness and the ability of people to change and grow. 

I learned to be a social justice advocate. I was a Christian because I believed the message of Christian love and acceptance. And I was a Mormon because I strongly believed in the sacredness of personal choice. So the seeds of social justice activism were within my choice of faith communities. I still had to grow beyond my reflex judgments to find a truth that I could embrace. It is my former faith that made me a good director and activist. I learned to put my community first, to do my part without fanfare. I was able to trust that others would do their part and together we would make a difference for many. It is my former faith, my knowledge of my own confused and stumbling path, the reminder of compassion and the awareness that we are all unknowing in some way, that made me a good leader. 

I didn't talk about my prior faith as anything more than a party trick. I didn't highlight my conservative roots. Doing so also means, I left the power of the changes I made in the shadows. My growth into an advocate was a part of my conviction and my faith. I may no longer be Mormon. The life I live today would not be possibly if I hadn't been Mormon in my past. 

Modern Canaries

I am committed to the values of our country, flawed though the implementation may be at times. Democracy offers hope of a different way. It requires more of us than self-interest. As people, we fail in this at times. And the stories we tell are victim centered. Women are harmed by men. Immigrants are harmed by citizens. Black people are harmed by white people, cops. The harm happens. The stories confuse the issue. 

The story we fail to tell is the larger story. Black people bear the burden of the stigma of racism. Immigrants are disproportionately affected by the stigma of xenophobia. Women show the more obvious wounds of patriarchal assumptions. And we all suffer. They aren't the victims. They are the canary in the coal mine, indicating the toxicity we are walking toward. Warning us of a future we can avoid. 

Being black is being strong and resilient. Being an immigrant is a sign of courage and strength. Being female is a simple fact of living. Who a person is, is not the problem. None of these identities are the reason folks suffer. They suffer because as a society, we have put the burden of our fears on these identities. Citizens aren't going to lose jobs because immigrants are working. White people aren't going to be less capable because black people are treated as the capable people they are. Men aren't going to be diminished because women are acknowledged as strong and powerful. 

As long as we make this about the identity of the people suffering, it sounds like a hand out to a victim. It is insulting. Who they are isn't the problem. Who we are is. We, all of the different 'we's' need to fix our problems, deal with our insecurities, so other people don't walk around carrying our problems and their problems. We need to intervene and work to create equity.  We need to create equity to address the suffering we handed off to immigrants, women, and black people to hold for us. 


The Meaning of a Handout

1996 08 IMAG0047.JPG

My uncle was an Irish Catholic New Englander. Born days before the crash of the stock market that kicked off the depression as the fifth child in his family, he was the epitome of cheap and hospitable. His funeral was last year. At 80+ years old, his wake was standing room only. Hundreds of people came to remember and appreciate him. The stories shared during the eulogy were a fitting tribute to a man who opened his home to my mother when she lost everything in my teen years. The same man who constantly hounded me about not eating more than my 25% of any meal. 

He didn't believe in 'handouts' and opposed the liberal agenda, as he called it, with the passion he brought to everything in his life. Still, no one went hungry on his watch - there was always room for one more at the table in his world. He had a cultural prejudice against Italians. This didn't prevent his sister or his daughter from choosing Italian spouses. And we held the meal portion of the wake at an Italian restaurant. Sitting there with my family, drinking red wine with my cousins, I looked around and knew Uncle Paul would approve of our lovingly getting the last word. 

My uncle loved me, loved his family. We argued about abortion, capitalism, homelessness, and taxes. We likely argued about a lot of things I don't remember arguing about. He raised my aunt's children as his own after they married. He took care of her through years of degrading memory loss until she passed. Fair didn't really mean much to him-- for me or him or anyone else. There was your word and your actions. 

As progressives, we have something to learn from people like my uncle. He was overt in his prejudices. When confronted with something unexpected, he was able to see it and change. As liberals we are often pretty self-satisfied and smug. We pull out our graphs and charts and bully people with intellectual assertions. Many of us have ousted god from our iconography. This doesn't mean liberals have escaped the clutches of self-righteous faith in our religious values. Academia. Inclusion. Logic. 

Getting stuck on words like 'handout' or 'religion' loses us something important- the awareness of our fundamental agreement on doing better for more people. Our methods differ. Our goals are remarkably similar. My uncle was a force for good in his world, in many ways. I hope to have the same said of me in 30+ years. Don't we all?



 My grandfather as a choir boy. 

My grandfather as a choir boy. 

So when I first saw Emma Watson's presentation to the United Nations on how feminism was about men, I was not a huge fan. At its core, any movement to create a new world requires full participation, so men are essential to creating an equitable society. And there is a weariness in me, a weariness of seeing and not being seen. 

A friend of mine turned me on to a men's rights writer who he felt spoke to him. This guy, my friend, is a pretty caring, giving, equal rights kind of guy. My friend's point was the men's rights movement was dominated by the loudest, craziest people.  So I gave it a read. My weariness increased. 

#MeToo happened. Suddenly men in positions of power were being called out for misuse of power. Liberal friends of mine pointed out the anti-Trump rage had fueled a need to do things about power issues. So Weinstein and Louis get called out. Trump still sends tweets about his big button. North Korea still responds. Most everyone wore black to the Golden Globes. My weariness is unabated. 

The conversation about abuse and gender politics lives in a wild west vigilante 2 dimensional fairy tale. If we annihilate everyone who oversteps or commits a crime, we will finally live a 'pure' society.  As if. The righteousness of denial. The rage of our own humanity.

Unraveling the Pink had a great podcast recently talking about redemption as the next step.  What if people are more than one moment or one action? What if someone is both a sexual predator and a great leader or artist? Is that possible? Is it possible to hold someone accountable for abuse while also appreciating their contributions to life and society? For the person impacted, it isn't a simple question. For bystanders, it isn't an easy question. 

The more I experience this, in my life, in the world, as a bystander, as a participant, my weariness increases. We talk about gender issues. We talk about victims. What if the way we talk about this creates more of it? The issues of power and accountability aren't limited to gender or the workplace or race- they are pervasive. Perhaps these issues of power are rooted in ignorance, pain and fear. Starting there, how do we share the pain of the impact? I don't suggest we let people off the hook- actions have consequences. Perhaps contrition can lead to restoration as well?