Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Texting To Save Lives

The agile minds at The Trevor Project have done it again. They figured out that 90% of young peop...wait a minute...I'm going to say that again, louder...

90% of young people said they would text someone if they were having a hard time and needed to talk. 

Ninety percent, Team. That's huge.

This initiative allows young people to text counselors when they need to, knowing that in many homes--even in this age of cell phones--young people can't find the privacy to make a call when the chips are down. But texting they can do.

This is...this is...wonderful. I could go on and on.

As with most of life, cash is needed to make this happen. They are having a fund raiser at this website, and every little bit is welcome. If you are not in a position to contribute right now, Good Lord, welcome to the club! You are not alone, and it does not imply that you don't care! Consider sending The Trevor Project an encouraging message and asking how else you could be involved. Perhaps share their website with a couple of teachers you know or ministers or neighbors or anyone who has exposure to young people.

Bit by bit, one by one, lives are saved and statistics are shrinking. Keep going, keep reaching. It's getting better.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Heather Peace, Chely Wright, and One Freaking Awesome Concert

I'm noticing that a lot of the people who love Heather Peace's music also love Chely Wright's music. There appears to be some kind of very strong parallel there. What would be unparalleled, though, is the potential Vibe of Happiness brought about by a concert featuring both Heather Peace and Chely Wright.

A Vibe of Happiness, I say. And I have been neither drinking nor smoking!

They are not songwriters who I would have guessed would share fanbases, but clearly they do--most of the regular readers of this blog live in the UK, Canada or the US, so it does make sense.

Heather and Chely are reaching the same demographic and appear to have the same values and message and even concerns. While Chely Wright is involved with GLSEN, Heather Peace is involved with the British counterpart, Diversity Role Models. Both are generous patrons of various Pride initiatives. Both have made bold and stirring videos calling for action. (Here is Heather's video, and here is Chely's video.) They are both from modest backgrounds and worked very hard to educate themselves to achieve their successes. Interestingly, they have even both been very forthcoming about their personal faith and the conflict they have felt with the Church.

They really are quite similar. like cousins kind of, across the pond from each other. They have a lot to say to the world, and a lot of the world is listening.

So what's the next step? Who do we need to email to get those two to do a concert for us?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Calcified Convictions With A Side Order of Fossils

Oops. I got in a rush and wrote something really dumb. (That's what I get for trying to write while catching up on Breaking Bad.) My recent post about the movable middle finished thusly: "The movable middle, witnessing Chely Wright's immovable convictions, will themselves gladly move."

Immovable convictions? Really? Your Faithful Blogiatrix just wasn't thinking on that one.

It doesn't help anyone or any purpose or really the genesis of anything at all to assign it "immovable" convictions. I mean Geez Louise, aren't we all just making this up as we go? We modify, we redirect, we revise with every bit of new understanding that comes our way.

With that, please humor me as I rewrite my last sentence to my earlier post: "The movable middle, witnessing Chely Wright's integrity and consistency of character over the long haul, will themselves gladly move."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Call Me (not exactly) Indispensable.

Chely Wright seems to understand--almost intuitively--that her role in the gay rights movement is to avoid being indispensable. She has begun and nurtured several initiatives within the movement, but I am not aware that any of them rely solely on her for their health, growth, or continuance. This is a smart arrangement--it could be said that any movement is only as durable as it's most indispensable factor. And if that factor just happens to be a carbon-based life form, the movement becomes vulnerable to every vagary out there. Ick.

      So props to Chely. She "gets" it--she is leading well, and with wisdom. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Moving the Movable Middle

Last week in a radio interview, Chely Wright referred to the "movable middle." Let me tell you a couple things about the movable middle. These are my people--I hail from their tribe.

The movable middle:
  • are perfectly aware of their membership in the movable middle
  • understand that "extremism" is really just a strategy to get their attention and scare them
  • know that lots of people are clamoring for their attention, because whoever manages to get their attention also gets a lot of power and a whole lot of cash
  • will tolerate shrillness, but only long enough to politely step away from it
  • live in the need for compromise; it is often how you keep your job in a shrinking and competitive labor market
  • accept that life isn't always fair, but fairness is what you should always shoot for
  • are stretched thin by raising families, caring for aging parents, managing careers, paying bills, and keeping the car running
  • are not naive and know they are not naive, but also know that people on the coasts tend to think they are naive
  • will tolerate showboats, but not showoffs--a subtle but critical difference. Showboats are fine as long as they seem aware that they are showboats, they work hard, and are genuinely talented (Think Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl...ok, even Liberace.) Showoffs are just self-centered fools who need to get a job.
I get the feeling that some folks in the movable middle are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Chely Wright, wondering if she is genuinely trying to be honest, or just hopping aboard some supposedly lucrative "gay" train. And although her book, her documentary, the LikeMe Lighthouse in Kansas City, the scholarships out of her own pocket and a ton of other efforts clearly ring of authenticity, nothing replaces that one thing that cannot be controlled--time. That clock will tick and time will tell who is for real and who is not.

As time moves forward, Chely Wright's sincerity will be vindicated. People will see that her vision for America dwarfs any little press bump they suspected she might have been going for. She will stand her ground in that story about putting a gun in her mouth, she will continue her hard work, her values will not change, her winsomeness will remain. And the movable middle, witnessing Chely Wright's immovable convictions, will themselves gladly move.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Redefining The Genre

Uncle Dave Macon
Let's face it, our society tends to prefer a narrow-ish definition of  country. (That is country as in "rural," not country as in "geo-political nation state.") I know very little about country music, but even with my limited exposure, I can name off a handful of tunes that give definition to the idea of what being country is and is not. (Redneck WomanShe's Gone Country, I Like Girls That Drink Beer) Somewhere along the line though, the genre clearly has stretched and changed. Par exemple: the gentleman pictured at left, unapologetically having a very nice time, would not easily be confused with the gentleman currently married to Nicole Kidman, also (presumably) having a very nice time. And yet each, in their day, gave definition to the idea of country. Patsy Cline gave us sequined evening gowns, full orchestras, and interesting hair. Tammy Wynette, June Carter Cash and Loretta Lynn gave us even better hair, and Dolly--well, you get it. Each followed the rules enough to earn a platform allowing them to break the rules a little. 

And then comes our girl Chely. She paid her dues. She followed the rules. And when it came to changing things up in Nashville, some folks were happy to show her the onramp to 65 North. I'm not sure who is in charge around there, but I hope they realize that Chely Wright has widened the definition of country just a little bit more, and it won't ever go back to where it was. A whole new crowd is tuning in to Nashville, bringing our own certain vibe. We're here, we're queer, and we are country too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ahhhhhhh Look At All The Lonely People.

Where do they all come from?
If my math is correct, Sir Paul McCartney was only 23 years old when he wrote those lyrics. A few months earlier, weeks maybe, he had stood in front of 55,000 people whom he had never met, seen, or had any connection to, and they screamed his name and the names of his friends.

Fifty-five thousand people.

He went home and wrote down what must have been going through his mind about all those lonely people: Where do they all come from? Where do they all belong?

Fandom is a strange phenomenon, and yet it snags most of us at one point or another in our lives. I am no exception--let me shake hands with Lily Allen, and watch me come unglued.

I've learned the technical term for this oddly one-sided audience-to-celebrity connection is Para-social Interaction. I've also learned there is a truckload of scholarly research out there about this very subject, along with an interesting-but-slightly-creepy scale for assessing just how pathological a given fan may be. (Yikes.)

As Chely Wright's fanbase shifts around (and that's conjecture, that her fanbase is shifting), I have to wonder what direction this new para-social interaction will take. Perhaps Chely Wright is being handed an opportunity to cultivate a fanbase not only of all the lonely people, but also of all the fortified and mobilized people listening to cogent and decisive leaders.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Zooey Deschanel Under a Tiffany Blue Sky

You've probably already heard this, but it was news to me: Zooey Deschanel dresses too "cutesy" and "girlish" because she is frequently seen wearing Peter Pan collars.

Her response?
"We can't be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a f---ing feminist and wear a f---ing Peter Pan collar. So what?"
The Week, January 25, 2013

Absolutely. Thank you, Zooey. You nailed it.

And with that, may the girly girls of the world unite under a Tiffany Blue sky, celebrate their pencil skirts and their push-up bras, their ruffly blouses, chandelier earrings and contrasting cardigans--worn just over their shoulders.

Amen! Bring it! And may the bullies who fancy themselves the Arbiters of All Things Feminist Enough go home and concentrate on their own closets and leave us to define ours.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Intellectually Flexible Country Singer


I suspect that as LGBT rights continue to move forward, some issues will become more--not less--complex.

Examples from history:

Those diaries kept by pioneer women in their covered wagons may reflect the anguish and misery of four months of hell, but nowhere do they mention the frustration of a glass ceiling in the work place. That came along after women's suffrage.

First-person "slave narratives," documented in the 1880's, are fascinating, touching, heart-wrenching...even astonishing at times. One thing they are not, though, is an editorial about who should fund the research conducted in Black Studies Departments of major universities. That came along after Civil Rights legislation.

I don't know quite what to make of this; it is just something I've noticed. When equality becomes codified, leadership requires a keener insight to fight new battles in new ways.

With our fight for equality moving along at a good clip, we need a cadre of leaders who can identify what needs to be focused on in the moment. People comfortable with ambiguity, who believe the questions sometimes tell us more than the answers.

As all this plays out, I'll enjoy watching Chely Wright's role. Her resume, as I understand it, shows a background of effective leadership. She seems clever and courageous and likable. People trust her. And although she's on the cusp of mommy-hood, I have a hunch that her direction won't change. She'll remain one of those "keen" thinkers, aware of the unsettled reality we find ourselves living through, and comfortable with carving out our place in it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Mutable Emmylou**

·         (**"mutable" as in "changeable," not "mutable" as in "Honey, hit the mute for me, would ya?")

      Somewhere along the line Emmylou Harris must have received a Special Dispensation allowing her to be associated with the country side of Nashville, have plastic surgery and appear in Vogue magazine. She has won 12 Grammys, 3 CMA's, and a Lifetime Achievement Award. The girl is prolific, by anyone's definition.

      What she is lacking, however, is anyone's definition--since her first album in 1969, Emmylou Harris has retained the right to define herself, and redefine herself, and then tweak as necessary. She has recorded everything from Western Swing to Bluegrass to that "Country Pop" stuff during the early '80's. Recently, her work is not far from what NPR designates as "World Music." The freedom to define herself is part of being Emmylou and part of what makes her brilliant.

      I vote that if Emmylou gets to do it, then Chely gets to do it; define, redefine, tweak as necessary. Move toward whatever is next, and keep it coming. Tell our story, Chely--the sacred and profane, the awkwardness, the elegance. All of it.

     And in so doing, we'll watch Nashville move toward what is next--gracious, elegant, ever new and arrestingly beautiful, like Emmylou.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rita Hayworth, Chely Wright, and That Black Bikini

Rita Hayworth, back in her day, worked hard, suffered snide remarks from her haters, earned a nice living, and--ultimately--made it OK to look like Rita Hayworth.

Thank God.

Today we are the happy recipients of the freedom she modeled and won for us. From her, we learned to never apologize for smoldering devastatingly. We wear our hair down on our bare shoulders, and let our admirers wonder about everything south of there. And if any shaming voices decide to tell us how we should look, we know to ignore them.

Let's not let go of those lessons.

In an ironic twist, the woman who edited Chely Wright's memoir Like Me questioned a photo of Chely Wright being unapologetically sexy in a bikini. (NOTE: details of this are in the memoir and also in the documentary Wish Me Away.) Apparently, the editor felt that if she (the editor) wouldn't appear in a bikini, Chely Wright shouldn't appear in a bikini. Something about Chely Wright "playing straight" in her swimwear.

I hope this editor realizes that her own work wardrobe is what she wants it to be simply because someone somewhere broke the rules and paved the way. Does she understand that Chely Wright is stretching the boundaries of how lesbians are "supposed" to look, and making it OK for us to look like, well, us?

As our world continues to move toward equality, the definitions of feminine and feminism will continue to evolve. Let's agree together to be comfortable with that evolution. We seek out all that those terms embrace, letting each of us give definition to ourselves, gratefully receiving the stardust left behind by our sister Rita.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Our Lady of Statistical Reduction

Perhaps what is so shocking about the elevated likelihood of gay teen suicide is that it has taken us this long to figure it out. Were the statistics any lower in Shakespeare's day? Was growing up gay easier for Oscar Wilde than for Truman Capote?

The current statistics indicate that LGBT teens are four to six times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-gay peers. Think about that--not twice as likely, not even three times as likely; four times. Six times. And I have to think that historically, before records were kept, the statistics were probably even higher.

Since coming out, much of Chely Wright's considerable energy, brains, leadership experience and (presumably) cash have gone toward lowering this statistic. I suppose this is the part where I should list all the different LGBT initiatives and organizations she's part of, and the interviews she's done, and the hours and weeks of traveling, and the money she's given, and the sleep she's gone without, and the scholarships she's funded and the oh-my-word the woman is obviously serious about lowering this statistic...but truthfully I don't know that I could list them all. I'm neither a Chely Wright Scholar nor a Chely Wright Watcher nor, believe it or not, even a long-time fan of her music. Listing all those things is her story to tell, not mine; plus it would require more time on google than I care to spend.

Here's what I do know: statistics change incrementally, a tiny fraction at a time. Sometimes, statistics change almost imperceptibly--but they do change. And they are changing right now, as you read this, because people like Chely Wright are beside themselves with dedication to seeing it happen.

Someday--think of it--someday, people will be wringing their hands and demanding change because LGBT teens are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-gay peers. And then eventually, we'll say "twice as likely," and it will be too much, and we'll be right. Twice as likely is too much. And we'll continue demanding change, and we'll get it, eventually.

NOTE: If a young person you know is struggling with LGBT issues, please do not hesitate to call The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386, or visit them online at