Friday, June 26, 2015

Bonus Update: This Bi's Perspective on Marriage Equality
Very few times in my life have I been able to hang out in a room full of fellow self-identifying bi- and pansexuals. In fact, most notably in my early adulthood, it was virtually impossible to identify each other because we kept it all hush-hush. We'd tell one person who turned out to be a mutual friend of another bisexual who would then "hook us up," like a puppy playdate. Usually it was a "Psst, over here... I hear you're... *makes swinging motion with hand*" Then there'd be a couple of solemn nods and no more would be said. 

Being bisexual is a little bit awkward in predominantly LGBT environments. If I am dating a woman, I'm assumed to be a lesbian, and if I am dating a man, I'm assumed to be straight and therefore largely an outsider. Things must have changed some since I was more active in the community, and I live in a much more accepting city now, but this is how I was indoctrinated.

I knew a bisexual woman in college who self-identified as lesbian while in a lesbian relationship and as bi when that relationship broke up and she started dating a man. I accepted this because I understood that it's just easier that way. A self-identified gay cousin of mine confessed to me when he came out ten years ago that he really considered himself bi, but it was easier to identify as gay. Another self-identified gay man told me the same thing a couple of years later while we were chatting at a gay bar. (He later tried to pick me up. I declined.) 

But on those rare occasions when it has been just me and my fellow Bs and Ps, a frequent topic of discussion was same-sex marriage. We felt torn and upset in a way that gay, lesbian, and straight people can't. (Trans folk I am sure can relate, though.) Being allowed to marry, for us, was like a roll of the dice. If I fell in love with a woman, boo, I lost. No marriage for me. But if I fell in love with a man and wanted to get married, as I now have and do, I'm a winner! Yay! And that is just crazy. We hated it. We felt bitter about it. We resented it.
A self-identifying cisgender dyke I dated for a time in college and I half-joked/not-really about this on occasion. I had also dated a secretly self-identifying transgender woman (a few of them, as I have found out since). I knew about this person's identification and so did this cis-woman. The joke was that if I wanted, I could marry the transgender woman because she had a penis, but not her because she had a vagina. Some joke. 

I also identify as bigender (nonbinary is a  new one that I also took a shine to recently). And in college, and most of high school, I was extremely butch. I was often mistaken for a man and in my brief, mostly casual relationship with the above-mentioned woman, we definitely took on the stereotypical man/woman, butch/femme roles. I was pleased as punch to be the "gentleman" to her "lady." (Though I was also very insecure, shy, and easily cowed. Bless her for putting up with me.) Even embracing those "traditional" roles, no marriage for us!
I was engaged to a man who identified (at the time) as bisexual for about a year in college, and we had privately decided that neither one of us felt comfortable actually getting married. Not because the relationship was unstable (though it turned out to be), and not because we didn't want to commit ourselves to another human being. It came down to marriage inequality. Because we happened to have had opposite genitalia, we got to marry? It wasn't fair to us, so we never bothered to even start making wedding plans.

For every man I have ever dated seriously, there has been a nagging voice in my mind that if I married him, I would be a traitor. I'd be flaunting my privilege in the faces of my friends, people I cared deeply about and worked alongside in advocacy. Dating women was more cut and dry. There was simply no option, so no problem. (Unless we ran off to one of the few states that started to allow them, returned to our home-state and sued, which is a lot for anyone to go through, and I am deeply indebted to the people who have gone that extra 200 miles. We wouldn't be here without you!) 

That all changed today. Now everyone can marry! I could marry a woman if I wanted! My transgender exes can marry! It's a wonderful thing! Is our fight over? Hell no. There are so many things affecting our community - suicide, mental health, homelessness, and job and housing discrimination, just to name a few. But I do believe that with the legal recognition of all of our relationships, acceptance will follow. As we've seen, it's a Domino effect. Families are being recognized. This is amazing! I am blown away by how much has changed since I graduated college ten years ago. 

Now, I see and hear people say things like "I'd turn gay for her/him," and I rejoice. Ten years ago, NO ONE would say that without being instantly ridiculed. (Not in Michigan, at least.) I often joke that I didn't know any straight people while living in San Francisco. You were either LGBPQ or "I don't identify" (which basically translated to "I'm mostly attracted to my opposite gender, but I won't leave out the possibility of something happening with my same gender so I'm keeping my options open"). Young people see their own sexuality as so fluid that they are willing to admit when they are not only attracted to members of their same gender or sex, but openly state that they want to have sex with them. They aren't afraid. They don't see the stigma. Same-sex attraction is accepted, and now so is same-sex marriage.
Wait, I take back what I said about not knowing any self-identifying straight people in San Francisco. I knew this one woman who identified as straight. She had also been in a serious relationship with another woman for over two years, and swore she'd go lesbian again for Angelina Jolie. She is now engaged to a man. And bless their union!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Home Renovation: It Starts

Last Friday, my mom and her boyfriend Larry drove out from Kalamazoo to help Greg and me work on our new house. We were also joined by Greg's aunt Pat, who was generous enough to mow the lawn, groan tall and made wet by all of these storms we've been having. Mom and Larry were delayed almost 2 hours by stopped traffic on 94 near Jackson (why do these things always happen in Jackson?). 

While we waited, Greg and I sanded the odd globules on the ceilings and walls of the bedrooms and hallway, and I painted along the edges of the ceilings (just next to where they meet the walls) so that Larry could later come along behind with a roller.  This really helped to streamline the process, especially in the hallway where the ceiling was lower and only about an inch above the doorway moldings. (Good luck getting a roller in there.)

In my sanding (prepping for the painting) , I discovered a few of the, what I had thought to be, globs of paint were actually plugs the previous owners had put into holes in the ceiling, then painted over. So when I sanded them down, they popped out and Greg had to go behind me and patch them properly. Turns out using a putty knife is not rocket science. Wish someone had explained this to the previous owners. Would have saved us a lot of time and work.

Other surprises included the latex paint peeling off of half the laundry room door because latex paint does not stick so well to varnish, and the paint tearing off one bathroom wall because latex paint also won't adhere to oil paint. How they got 2 coats of latex paint on there I will never understand.

We haven't tackled the walls yet, but 2 of the bedroom and the hallway ceilings are painted, as well as all of the bedroom trim (thanks Mom and Larry!). Pat got our lawn into shape, filling 10 bags with clippings (!!), though after that monster storm system that just moved through, it may need a little more TLC now. (The lawn is a battleground.)

The laundry room is halfway cleared out, too. All the weird hooks and things that were nailed - yes, nailed - to the ceiling are gone, though the holes they left behind are still there. We took down some of the shelves, but not all. The room is pretty big, and we haven't decided what we'll do with it. I was thinking combo laundry room and workshop. When I mentioned putting in a work table to my Mom and Pat, they both responded that a sturdy table to fold clothes on would be great. This is how I know I am not actually a woman. I was thinking a strong table to weld stuff on would be great!

The kitchen has been professionally measured, cupboards picked out, and a rudimentary plan drawn up. We could dismantle the current cupboards, but Greg wants to finish the bedrooms first so we can start moving stuff into them. Hoping to get more work done around our varied work schedules this week. Luckily, not a lot actually needs to be done, we just don't have a lot of time to do it. One of our cats is also experiencing health problems, so we are dealing with that, too (poor kitty). 

That is it for now. Not all of my updates will be about the house, but I will be updating on the progress using the tag "house." And posting pictures, of course!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Peony Garden at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor

After living and working in the Ann Arbor region for the past 5ish years, I finally managed to make it to the Arb to see the famous peonies in bloom! This was one of my 2015 Summer Goals, and I am quite pleased to have achieved it. 

Mostly what prevented me from seeing the peonies in the past was that I had a poor grasp of their bloom time. But I kept checking the website, which is how I learned peak bloom is usually around Memorial Day. Greg and I were busy that weekend with other activities, so we made a date to see them a couple of weeks after, when, according to the website, peak bloom would hit this year.

Greg had never been to the Arb (what locals affectionately call Nichols Arboretum). The Arb is a little Ann Arbor's own little Golden Gate Park (or Central Park, if one is from that region of the country). Though owned by the University of Michigan, the Arb is open to everyone. There are some wonderful hiking trails and the Huron River runs right through it, which means lots of scenic picnic spots. I know a few people who have held their weddings at the Arb! 

The peony garden was interesting. It's set up in a grid pattern with rows and rows of all kinds and colors of peonies, "over 270 historic cultivated varieties (cultivars) from the nineteenth and early twentieth century representing the best American, Canadian, and European peonies of the era." As a gal from Kalamazoo, here is the part that tickles me the most: "Dr. W. E. Upjohn, founder of the Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan, donated peonies to the University of Michigan in 1922." Ibuprofen, multivitamins, triple antibiotic ointment, peonies... What hasn't Upjohn given us?

There were many people there that evening enjoying the peonies with us. I saw a small group of ladies painting and tourists from all over the world snapping photos. From there, we wandered some paths down to the river. We passed joggers, cyclists, people in trees, people in the water, and more. The Arb is just a really great place to hang out for everyone! (Especially peonies.)

Maybe sometime this summer we will find time to canoe around there. I like canoeing and that part of the river seems to see a lot of canoe and kayak action. We'll see. Ypsi also has some nice parks that I have yet to explore, and seeing as that will soon be my new home, it may get priority.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cleaning the Gutters (and Eavestroughs)

It occurs to me that the long, narrow troughs that run along the roof line of a house to funnel rain water away from the home's foundation so as not to cause floods that could damage the foundation or flood the basement are known to me as two things: gutters and eavestroughs. Wikipedia tells me that the term eavestrough is primarily Canadian, which explains why people in Michigan might say it, our state being often referred to as Lower Canada. We usually said eavestrough in my family, unless one was setting out to clear them of gunk, in which case the set phrase (if you will) was "clean the gutters."

I bring this up because that is precisely what Greg and I did last week at our house. This was my first foray into house maintenance and Greg's second. He went over there right after we purchased it to mow the entire overgrown lot with a weed whacker. (Never do this.)

I also went around picking up trash, most of which was slowly disintegrating into the ground, but since it was plastic, styrofoam, and metal, would have outlasted us, despite its decrepit state. I had to leave a few styrofoam cups and beer cans, though, as they were cradled by the Pokey Bushes of Doom, which stabbed me more times than I could count. (Greg got bitten by ants.) I get that bushes armed with tiny stilettos are a decent home defense device. I don't care. They're more than half dead, so I don't feel bad about ripping them out, which is our next course for yard work. 

Tonight, we met with a designer at Home Depot for our next step on fixing up the interior. New cabinets! New countertops! New floor! New lights! Well, tonight was just the cupboards. But it's all so very exciting! We're also planning a painting party coming up that may also involve ripping out the current kitchen cabinets. We don't have a lot of time off, so we have to cram a lot in.

I'll throw up more house updates here as they occur. Honestly, that's mostly what I will be up to for the next couple of months. I'd still like to do some fun things around town, but this month alone, I only have 2 or 3 days off, so... Yeah. Having so many jobs is really hard! Alas.