Friday, March 27, 2015

With Love and Gay Pride

by Jean Roberta, roving reporter

Hello, fans of the LGBTQ (or GLBTgenderfuck2spiritwhatever) press. Remember when the fashionable way to sign any letter or email was “with love and gay pride?” That seems to have faded, but I’m proud to say that a pride has volunteered to be interviewed in their home in Africa.

JR: Simba, are you the only male in your family unit?

Simba: No, we have some male cubs, but I’m the head of the household. Every group needs a leader.
(All the females show their teeth while making a sound somewhere between a growl and a snicker.)

JR: So what does a typical day look like for all of you?

Nala: Lazy-ass here stays home with the cubs while we hunt. We still have meat from our last kill, so today we get a day off.

Simba: I organize the hunting parties.

Nala: As if! I’m the head female.

Lucy: Uh, Nala, that depends on what you mean by ‘head.’ Hello! We’re female lions. We know how to hunt.



Simba: Little human, we have typical mammal families. I dominate my harem and father all the cubs.
(More growling/snickering from the females.)

Nala (in a condescending tone): You’re a good lay and a good dad, Simba. That’s why we feed you.

Lucy: We like having a token male with us. He can babysit when we need time away from the cubs.

Patches: But not all of us want to be moms.

Lucy (insinuating): You’re good at something else, Patches.

Patches: You know it.

Nala: Human, you should spend a day with us so you can learn how real families function in the wild. You humans have such an unnatural culture.

Snaggle-Tooth: One male for one female. What’s up with that?

Lucy: I couldn’t cope. (All the females shake their heads.)

JR: Um, well, some of us have alternative lifestyles.

Nala: It’s about time. Do you hunt?

JR: Only for packaged meat in the grocery store.
(All the females look aghast.)

Snaggle-Tooth: What do you do with your bottled-up energy? Everyone knows females are more aggressive than males. It’s only natural.

Patches: But look at her claws. Useless, if you ask me.

JR: They’re not for hunting. I keep them short for mating.
(All the lions look at the interviewer.)

Simba (apparently clueless): Human mating habits must be very strange. I would like to meet the male of your pride. I’ve seen documentaries about human families.

Nala (sarcastic): You know so much, Simba.

Simba (to JR, as if this just occurred to him): I hope you’re not a Christian. We kill them.

JR: I’m not.

Lucy: There’s hope for you, she-human. When you tell the other humans about us, make sure you tell them to leave us alone. We’re not hurting them.

Patches: More species should live like us.

JR: I’ll pass it on. And thank you all for sharing your lives with me. Some of us had no idea.
-----------------

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pride and Joy

by Annabeth Leong

I first encountered her at the tobacco shop and wine bar on the downtown strip. I was technically too young to be in there, but no one questioned me. I smoked Gauloises in an effort to seem sophisticated, but I've always contained too much innocence to hide things like the way she made me feel. She was olive-skinned and tall, strong-jawed and gorgeous. All that faded, though, when the song came.

I was a little girl when Stevie Ray Vaughan first sang that song, so I didn't learn it from him. I learned it from this woman, and the sound of its opening bars is inextricably associated with the thrilling shock of hearing her belt out these words about a female lover. I've heard plenty of women sing songs that way now, taking the words written by a man and not changing them to make them "right," but at the time the audacity seemed incredible. Hearing her declare herself "her little loverboy" opened my eyes to something I'd never been able to describe.

I was obsessed and foolish. The town was small, and I could hear and recognize her voice from a block away. I could walk up and down the downtown strip and listen for it. I could hang out after a show and hope she'd say that I could ride with her to the all-night diner. I could wish for a kiss that never came, wonder if the truth that seemed to live inside her singing voice also lived within her heart. Was this all a ploy, or was there something being confessed here?

***

"You could be friends with women, but you sleep with them, too." The therapist's voice was faintly accusing, and my mind could fill out the rest just fine on its own. I was a slut who slept with too many men, but I was worse than that because I slept with women, too. Not only that, the fact that I wanted to sleep with women was ruining my friendships, making me untrustworthy.

This wasn't only the therapist's idea. I'll never forget the school trip where the girls protested about having to share a room with me. I remember the girls who wouldn't come over to my house and the places I wasn't invited. And before that, I remember other untrustworthy women—the aunt who was only whispered about, her name never mentioned except in tones of disgust, because she'd left my uncle to be with women; the friend of my mother's who had destroyed their connection by declaring her love.

And later, my constant feeling of being a spy. "What's there to worry about?" someone would say as she whipped off her shirt. "It's just us girls."

All that is shame, not pride. All that is grief, not joy.

They were mixed up together for so long. I remember the first time I woke up with a girl, my heart pounding in fierce celebration of everything we'd discovered the night before. We drove around and did ordinary things, but the world was no longer ordinary. I was in her car! She was breathing next to me! But then she almost hit the car in front of us, and it felt like a divine warning that we'd better not get too cocky.

After she left, I wrote in my diary, "I had real sex last night," and then I ripped out the page, tore it to bits, and burned it because I was afraid of my mother discovering it in the trash. It makes me sad to think of that. I wish I had the record of that morning. I remember the painstaking care I took trying to describe my fear and excitement.

***

I feel unqualified to take this twist on this topic. Apart from the gay sex, I've lived most of my life as straight. That's the punchline to a joke somewhere, right?

I once made a girl fall in love with me by buying her a bottle of her favorite scent, which was hard to find before the internet. She was on vacation, and I went to store after store looking for it. When she got back, I wrote her a note to go with the bottle, in which I said, "I wanted to tell the cashier, 'I'm buying this for my GIRLFRIEND.'" She melted and told me that was exactly the right thing to say. But a week later, I had freaked out and locked myself away with a boy.

I could be bold, but I was too cowardly for pride. I was sure that all my desires were wrong—not just the ones for women, but all the things I thought about while I got myself off.

If there's anything that does qualify me to write this way, it's this: I understand why pride is necessary. I have torn myself and others up with shame. I have let people use the word "they" around me, both because I was afraid I didn't belong and because I was afraid I did.

***

"She's shaking." People love to point it out, I think because it's cute to them. But yeah, I'm shaking. I'm on my knees in front of a woman at a BDSM convention.

"I'm shaking because I want this so much," I tell her. I feel like her little loverboy.

What nobody knows is that when I sit back down after it's over, I keep shaking for the next hour. The person next to me tells me, "That was sweet," and all I can do is nod. I go home and lie in bed and shake. For days, I shake whenever I think about it. I'm shaking right now.

***

I'm still not sure what to call myself. The first time I wrote about this subject at The Grip, someone on Twitter described my writing as queer, and I jumped all over that as if, like Adam, they could name me. That felt like permission, and I desperately needed permission.

To me, having a name does matter. If something is a pride and joy, it's got a name. The things I'm afraid to name are things bound up with shame.

And there is something about wearing a thing in public, which I still struggle to do. It was truly dangerous where I used to live. The girls I slept with back then—when we went out together, we pretended to be friends. Then later, I just pretended to be friends.

There was a woman I loved who was my pride and joy. Whenever people realized we'd showed up somewhere together, I wanted to grin and brag. Being in her car, her house, having plans with her—my heart grew larger from every little thing. But I didn't want to touch her. Not like that. I would tell you if you asked. I would cry and swear to it. It was only after I lost all claim to her that I had to admit what I wished the claim had been.

It is only recently that I have been wearing this out in public, making it clear about myself in various ways, spoken and gestured. I volunteered to run an LGBTQ meetup for an event a participate in. I may not be able to say which of those letters is mine, but I'm damn sure one of them is. I feel sheepish about all this, embarrassed to admit how the once-ordinary world is changing around me, afraid that if I confess to the perfect peace in my heart it might come out the wrong way.

It's not that I don't care about specific people, because I do, but it's also not as simple as being struck down by love. I wanted to walk down the street without hiding and being afraid. Pride and joy, even if I'm shaking again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Him Being Proud

by Daddy X


A tall buck-toothed stranger clomps up to the bar wearing tight jeans, western shirt, boots, a cowboy hat and myopic-thick glasses. “Where’s all the poontang?” he hollers.

“Friend,” I say, “right now it’s mostly guys gettin’ off work, but you just made happy hour.”

“How much?”

“Dollar drafts. Till six.”

“Three, then.”

“Three beers? All at once?”

“Gonna cost me more in ten minutes?”

“Yep. Two-twenty-five each.”

“Line ‘em up!”

“Okay. Here you go. Three beers—three bucks.”

He slaps a roll of bills on the bar—a fifty in plain sight up top—digs in his pocket and proceeds to count out two dollars in small change. He then extracts a wrinkled single from the middle of the roll. “We’re square,” he says.

“Gee thanks, pal.” There wouldn’t be a tip.

“Any cunts ever come in?”

“Yeah, ladies do come ‘round most nights. Start filterin’ in ‘bout seven, seven-thirty.”

“They like to fuck?”

“Well, maybe. But you gotta have the right line, man. Else, go scare up one o’ them bony-ass hookers over by the bowling alley.”

“Me? Pay for pussy? I don’t think so.”

“And why’s that?”

“On account of cunts’s always beggin’ me to fuck them. I be famous for my fuckin’.”

So I go around back and phone a neighborhood gal. “Yo Delores. Wanna make some quick scratch? Got a humdinger over here.”

Sure enough, towards the end of the guy’s third beer, ‘ol Delores sashays her fine self through the door, girl all spillin’ out her halter and little cut-offs. I twitch a thumb towards the fool.

She slinks up to his sorry ass. “Hi handsome!”  

He says, “Umm… uhh… err… shucks, lady… uhh… uhh… umm...”



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Irrelevance of Pride by Suz deMello

This theme has been a tough one for me to write about because the subject has absolutely no relevance to me.

Yes, I know it's one of the seven deadly sins but I fail to see how it can be deadly.

Pride has to do with how one appears to others as well as to ourselves. A modicum of pride is really self-esteem, isn't it? And I require respect from others. Requiring others to treat me with respect isn't pride, but self-protection.

So for me, the term "pride" has been translated into other, more relevant terms.

It's interesting that I can't write about it because I do manage to put myself into the heads of characters that aren't much like me at all. I suppose that the two sheiks I wrote about for Silhouette Books (a defunct divison of Harlequin) were proud. One was so proud that he plotted revenge for fifteen years against a man who'd bested him. (Okay, maybe he wasn't merely proud but psychopathic). The other one was just kind of a schmuck, but of course, through the love of the heroine he was transformed into a pretty good guy.

To make up for my lack of inspiration, here are a few visual interpretations of "pride":

image by Marie-Lan Nguyen 



image by Benh LIEU SONG


Bosch's The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things - Pride
I have enough self-esteem (a.k.a. pride?) to admit I don't understand this artwor
k.



image by Alex Pronove (alexcooper1)

I hope you enjoyed the images and didn't need any insights into pride.







Monday, March 23, 2015

Pride and Passion

Sacchi Green

For a day and a half or so, I thought I’d be all set to hold forth here on the subject of pride, or at least to report something I could feel proud of, whether warranted or not. As it turns out, though, when I read the fine print—i.e. the contract—I realized that some changes needed to be made, and they won’t be made—or refused—until today (Monday) or later. Nothing really major, I think, but we’ll see. A contract suitable for a single-author book doesn’t always work for a multi-author anthology.

So, in spite of having been offered an editing gig that would once have represented the pinnacle of achievement to me (at least in my little corner of the erotica genre,) and still looks well worth doing, I need to seek out a different approach to the theme of pride. And, of course, the harder I seek, the more complexities I bump up against.

Is feeling proud fundamentally wrong, as we sometimes learn, or can you get away with it if you call it self-respect? Then there’s “Blessed are the meek,” and I really can’t argue with that. If “pride goes before a fall,” it’s better to be the observer of that particular dramatic scene rather than the lead character. Most of us can enjoy a bit of Schadenfreude, as long we’re not the butt of it. Still, if we can’t be proud of our achievements, where’s the incentive for achieving them?

Maybe the answer is that feeling proud of one’s achievements is okay, but the kind of pride that makes one person feel superior to most others is questionable.  I’m not proud of myself—there are too many things I haven’t done as well as I should have—but I’m proud, or at least not ashamed, of some difficult things I did step up and do about as well as anyone could.

But I’d rather talk about stories than keep on with pointless navel-gazing. From the earliest legends and traditions we’ve been fascinated by stories of pride, and by no means chiefly ones culminating in a fall. Gods, heroes, royalty, people with inherent pride, bred in the bone. Pride in their ancestors, their traditions, a noble sort of pride that includes responsibility for those under their rule. We may get a bit twitchy about the classism in books like The Lord of the Rings, but we still cheer for Aragorn to take up the proud role that is his by birth.

When it comes to erotica—you knew where I was going, right?—we can get hot for confident, strong, proud characters, mostly male, it’s true, but some of us can appreciate strong, proud women as well. Wait, don’t stop reading yet! The excerpt I’m about to include has both. I do write straight sex from time to time, and I know whereof I write. This particular story was published under my alter-ego’s name, Connie Wilkins, in Hot Highlanders and Wild Warriors, edited by Delilah Devlin for Cleis Press.

This excerpt comes from near the end, so a bit of context might be in order. (I think I posted a bit from the beginning a while back when we discussed some other theme, and maybe this part as well, so apologies if I’m repeating myself.) Ardzvik is the hereditary Lady of Aragatsotn in Armenia, and Yul Dharuga is the Mongol General appointed Governor of Georgia and Armenia by Batu Khan of the Golden Horde. Proud Ardzvik would prefer to fight to the death, but to save her people she offers the fealty of her Province, previously sworn to the deposed Georgian kings, to the Mongols, so that taxation can substitute for bloodshed. At this point in the story she has been hosting Yul, and felt drawn to him, but pride is still so much a part of her that a dramatic chance encounter shatters her self-control, and rage bursts through.
_________________________________________
 
A Falcon in Flight

The next morning Ardzvik rose early after tortured dreams. Never had she needed the solace of the mountain and her falcon more. Bakhshi carried her with Zepyur tethered to her leather hawking glove along trails and then trackless reaches until his mistress was sure they could not be followed, and then she dismounted, slipped the hood from Zephyur’s head, and loosed the bird to the breeze.

Today she had brought her bow in hope of flushing larger game than the falcon could hunt. Wild goats were often seen at this height, and even boar might come to root among the tubers of mountain flowers. She pulled off her leather glove and kept an arrow at the ready, but her mind was not focused as much on the outer world as on her inner one.

Why did she yearn so for a man who might well not want her, or, if he did, might value her title more than her body? And if he wanted golden-haired Leyli, how could Ardzik bear it? Their father had not wed Leyli’s mother, but he had acknowledged the child, and if Ardzvik bore no heir one of Leyli’s would be accepted as ruler of Aragatsotn. Illegitimacy was not such a barrier in the ancient traditions of this land.

It was the begetting of children that obsessed Ardzvik now, not the bearing of them. She wanted this one man and no other, foreigner, destroyer, conqueror though he might be. She had known a mare who would let no stallion mount her save the one of her own choice. The horse had broken out, gone to her chosen mate in spite of her owner’s different plan, and their offspring had turned out to be the finest the herd had ever known. Perhaps bodies knew things that minds did not. 
  
Ardzvik’s mind might be preoccupied by her treacherous body’s needs, but her eyes caught the hitch in her falcon’s flight and her ears caught the changed sound of the bells on the bird’s ankle. Suddenly Zepyur was not hunting, but fleeing. A great white hawk more than half again her size rose over the mountain’s shoulder. 

A falcon of the north! A female Gyrfalcon! Not native here, but the royal family of Georgia had possessed one when Ardzvik was a child, and she had seen it hunt. It was clearly hunting now.
Zepyur twisted and dived, eluding her pursuer again and again, but the other gained ground each time. Ardzvik shouted and raised her bow. Something moved below on the mountainside, but she had no time to look. Zepyur dived again, opening space between herself and her pursuer, and Ardzvik’s arrow sped sure and true—until another’s arrow met it in flight, and both spun together toward the earth.

Arsdvik whistled for her bird and quickly donned the hawking glove. Another whistle, yet more piercing, came from somewhere below. Zepyur soared to her mistress and perched, quivering, on the thick leather gauntlet. The white intruder glided down past the man whose dun horse raced up the steep slope, to land on the arm of a second rider following more slowly.

Yul Darugha gave a roar in a language Ardzvik did not understand, though the words were clearly curses. She swiftly hooded Zepyur, stroked her feathers to calm her, and set her to perch on a rock in a sheltered hollow, tethered to a wiry shrub. Bakhshi grazed nearby, the sounds of his browsing familiar enough to reassure the hawk.

Ardzvik advanced toward the approaching man, another arrow at the ready. Her heart still pounded from her sudden terror for her hawk, but fear had transmuted into a glorious, intoxicating fury.

He leapt from his horse, bow in hand, and ran toward her, coming to a sudden stop as she raised her own weapon in warning.

“You…if you…when I saw that it was you…” His deep voice cracked. “If you had killed my gyrfalcon, with my falconer as witness…” He stopped for breath. “I would have had no choice! You know that!”

“I aimed between them to distract your bird,” she retorted in a cold rage. “If she did not veer off the next arrow would have found her heart. And if your arrow had killed my falcon…”

“I aimed between them as well,” he said, his voice steadier now.

Ardzvik clung to her anger, reveled in it, allowed it to spark from ice into fire. “For the sake of my people I surrendered my province, but this is my own land! Here I will stand and fight!”

Yul Darugha’s eyes lit with a flame that was not anger. He set down his bow and shouted a command to his falconer waiting below. The old man shook his head doubtfully but moved away with the gyrfalcon on his arm and was soon out of sight.

“So there is a she-wolf in you after all! When I first saw you I thought--I hoped--but I could not be sure.”

“A she-wolf?” Ardzvik’s laugh was scornful. “Look higher. My name means “eagle” in the old tongue. I am Lady of Aragatsotn, and more. My mother’s line is said to be of those warriors from the lands beyond the Black Sea called Amazons by the Greeks.” True, only the oldest grandmothers said this, but Ardzvik still felt it to be true. “I will defend my own!”

“I see in you that warrior girl who haunts my memory.” Yul spoke now not as the Mongol Darugha but as a man who needs no title between himself and the woman he desires. “It is she I dreamed of, before last night, and then it was you. The only prize worth winning.”

The heat of Ardzvik’s anger flowed effortlessly into arousal, but she did not forsake her proud stance. “How can you be so sure of me? Was she not naked, that warrior girl?”

He stepped forward; she stepped back. Her own hand drew the rough tunic over her head and loosed the drawstring of the men’s trousers she wore for hunting. Her strong, slim body stood bared to the summer sun, and to his burning gaze.

Just as he reached for her she stepped forward into his embrace, rejoicing in the rumble deep in his chest and the arms far stronger than her own that raised her up off her feet to crush her against him. His mouth pressed hard on hers, then moved into the hollows of her neck and over her shoulders in a frenzy of hunger for her flesh. When he lifted her yet higher to taste her firm breasts, she gasped and cried out and forced his head and mouth ever harder against them.

At last, needing more, and yet more, Ardzvik scrabbled at the jerkin of overlapping leather disks that left his muscular arms bare but kept her from rubbing against his chest. 
“Are you more shy of the sun than I?” she panted. In seconds his clothing was heaped along with hers. They rolled together atop this pile or onto nearby tufts of harsh grass, scarcely noting the difference.

At first Ardzvik rode Yul, her long dark hair flailing across his body as she savored the exquisite joy of easing inch by inch onto his great length and breadth. Men were more like stallions than she had ever dreamed! Then he growled low, lurched atop her, and thrust deep and hard. Her hips arched upward to take him in still deeper. Her passage gripped him, yet let him slide in its wetness just enough to drive her to a peak of intensity close to madness. Sounds burst from her that were not words, and from him as well, until all she could hear was her own voice rising in a cry of triumph, her body wrenched by joy.

But Yul, she saw, when she could focus on anything outside herself, was braced above her on stiffened arms, face twisted, jaw grimly set, the cords of his neck standing out like tree roots. “I must…” he forced out the words. “I would not get a bastard on you!” He struggled to lift his great weight from her, to withdraw.

“Then you had better wed me!” Ardzvik cried. “I will have now what is mine!” Need surged in her again. She dug her hands into his clenched buttocks, gripped him close, and tightened her inner walls about his hardness until he had no words at all, only rough groans accelerating into a mighty roar. That sound, and the hot fierce flow of his seed, sent her into a second spasm of joy.
___________________________________

So there you go. Pride and Passion. Excuse me while I go change the title of my post, which wasn't quite as alliterative as this one.
 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pride

Spencer Dryden


Pride

This will be my last post with OGG.

Two thoughts come to mind about pride. First is Proud. I am proud of my accomplishments as a writer. It's really been a delightful surprise. I expected it to take years to become a published author. I have been at this for three years. I was published in two anthologies the first year I started writing.

I have approached writing the same way I approached acquiring handyman skills-to learn as I go. I'm still improving as a handyman, but you'd be hard pressed to find one better. I started with simple projects. I've definitely grown as a writer. I'm writing simple little stories now but working on longer, more involved pieces.

 I've also followed the advice of my mentor who told me to write the stories I want to hear, the way I want to hear them. I stay pretty close to what I know. Thankfully, I have connected with a couple of great critique partners and later, two sharp eyed editors at Breathless Press and Fireborn Publishing. 

My first release with Fireborn, Hand Job, is about an aspiring erotic writer/handyman who fantasies about a barista at his local coffee shop begin to materialize. Today, Breathless Press is releasing my most likely last story with them (they are going to all print over 50,000 words).  The Substitute is the story of a plumber who discovers his buddy's business is about delivering more than plumbing services to an exclusive female clientele.
 

My other thought about Pride is something you swallow occasionally. The shift from writer to published author comes with the requirement of 'building a platform', promotion, marketing or what ever you call it. The skills necessary to build visibility, and hence sales, are quite different from those required of a writer. I have invested the last year working on building visibility by all the usual routes, including posting here at OGG, doing over three dozen guest blog posts and endless waiving my arms on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. But it has come at the expense of writing. Most of the material I have published in the last year was written before my ascension to the status of published author. Several of the stories languished for months at that Cave we have discussed here.

My writing regimen requires much more quiet and focus. I can't hear the muse above all the noise of the marketplace. I m so amazed by writers who can segregate their lives, continuing to put out quality material while tirelessly promoting themselves and others. The swallowing part, I can't work that way and there is no shame in it. It's just who I am as a writer.

I have found the biweekly requirement of OGG  too taxing to continue. The idea of designing, feeding and maintaining my own blog is out of the question. I'm not so sure the personal blog is a successful a promotional tool anymore. I think it worked well for established writers ten years ago, but it's not the present or the future of promotion. Lately my efforts have been at reaching potential readers directly though mainstream platforms like The Good Men Project. (A troublesome label but a noble effort. It implies a kind of superiority that makes me uncomfortable. It is, after all, a value judgment. There are editors and contributors there who think that an erotic writer is about the worst thing an 'enlightened' man could be.)

The other insidious thing about being a published author is the pull from internal to external validation. Handyman work is internally validating. Frequently, my clients don't fully appreciate the skill involved with my work. Writing for me is also internally validating. I write best when I am simply entertaining myself. As an author I have been too easily seduced by the idea that sales are the validation of my work— a recipe for self destruction.

It's been a great honor to be among such talented people, but I am anxious to make a bit of a retreat and reconnect with my roots. Thanks especially to Lisabet Sarai who has been a friend, promoter and gentle critic.

Best wishes to all of you.

 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How To Make Me Cry

by Giselle Renarde

If you've ever done Wai Lana yoga at 5 in the morning, you'll know she plays yoga sounds at the end of each episode. Every so often, she plays one that is, as far as I can tell, a variation of this verse from the Siksastaka (a Hindu prayer):

One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind,
thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street;
one should be more tolerant than a tree,
devoid of all sense of false prestige,
and ready to offer all respect to others.

The variation goes something like this (I'm working from memory, here):

One should approach yoga in a humble state,
thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street,
devoid of all false prestige,
and ready to offer all respect to others,
without ever expecting any in return.

Every time I hear those words, they just fucking BREAK me. Strangely enough, a later verse of the Siksastaka says,

Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain,
and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absence.

That's exactly what happens every time I hear that instruction in humility.

And why?

Well, maybe the fact that it's 5:30 in the morning and I haven't slept has something to do with it, but I think it's more about PRIDE.

I aspire to compassion and humility, but those aren't really qualities that are bred into us in North America. Even here in Canada, where we happen to be particularly self-effacing, we're still raised to be proud and strong and to command respect. And if commanding doesn't work, you DEMAND it.

Having grown up in a household plagued by violence and addiction, I always felt like I had to work SO HARD to advocate on my own behalf, and PROVE MYSELF in a world that might otherwise write me off. I had to show my teachers how SMART I was, how GOOD I was, how I could SUCCEED despite every impediment I'd faced. I had to prove I deserved respect.

I've come a long way since then. I'm educated now. I'm self-sufficient, I have a career that I love, and I spent ten years of my life volunteering with children who faced the same obstacles I did at that age. I don't know if I'm respected by all (in fact, I'm sure I'm not), but I do respect myself. Maybe that's the key.

Even so, all it takes to break me down into a sobbing heap is the suggestion that I might give up even an ounce of my stupid pride. It doesn't take much to get my hackles up. It doesn't take much to get me feeling superior to others. Gee, it's tiring being so much better than everyone else...

I'm a pendulum swinging from helpful good intentions to steely self-righteousness when I feel like people are taking advantage. 

I don't want to feel challenged or threatened. I don't want to be angered. When I encounter someone with a dominating or demeaning personality, I only want to feel compassion for them. I want to show respect for their journey, and understand that they didn't arrive where they are in a vacuum.

How do I get from here to there? How do I get to a place where I can just abandon every drop of my pride?

I want to be lower than straw in the street.

But, man, it's not easy...

My latest release is Sapphic Confessions