Sunday, February 26, 2012


Belonging lies on a continuum. For those of us who exist outside of the binaries, belonging is difficult to obtain. On one end of the continuum lies the hostiles--these are the people who march against civil rights, who slam their minds against people they consider gay or lesbian or trans. They may explain their political activism against same-sex marriage as protecting the failing heterosexual marriage system, but in reality they are simply afraid of losing their privileged status in the binaries. The hostiles slash tires, give us bad student evaluations, report us to our supervisors, harass us, gossip about us, murder us. The hostiles have been around since the late-1800s when sexologists invented homosexuality and heterosexuality as core identities, and then began to purge us from their midst.

The LGBT movement has worked hard for over 100 years to cultivate tolerators, achieving that goal somewhat by the 1970s when the APA stopped forcing queers into mental hospitals, shock treatment, and/or lithium treatments and instead allowed us a measure of tolerance. Surely tolerance is better than hostility, but most of us want something more out of life than mere tolerance from others. Tolerators feel compulsion to continually reaffirm their tolerance when they interact with queers, which is just another way of reaffirming their difference from us and their security within the binary system. Tolerators are a chore to hang out with, as they need constant assurance from us that we know that they tolerate us. Yawn.

Accepters comprise the next step along the continuum. Within urban gay ghettoes, there are lots of accepters, especially as capitalists have discovered there is profit to be made from LGBTs. There may be whispers and raised eyebrows, and initial "ohs!" from binary-mired bystanders who suddenly realize that they are interacting with a non-binary person, but accepters are most definitely a better group for LGBT folks to hang out with than tolerators or hostiles. The one thing that continues to plague me about acceptors is that many of them continue to harbor some measure of anxiety about their place in the binaries, and so have to go overboard to assure us that we are accepted (and that their binary position is not threatened.)

And then there's what I have come to define as shruggers. Shruggers find out that the person they are interacting with is lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or trans, and shrugs, changing the subject to one that is more interesting. Shruggers are more interested in the fact that I'm a fiddler than I'm a lesbian. Shruggers may still zing me on student evaluations, but because I teach a hated required course, not because of hostility towards LGBTQ folks. Shruggers find the topic of sexual identity unremarkable and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

I like shruggers best. I like hanging out with shruggers, working with shruggers, teaching shruggers, playing music with shruggers, engaging in political activism with shruggers.

Last night, Kayt and I worked the Miners Masquerade Ball, a fundraiser for the Ester Republic. We were, in fact, co-organizers, and so the evening was fraught with both fun and hard work. We had scads of fun, and chattered all the way home about the sense of community we felt there. This morning we rose early, even though we were out late, and we started the chatter again. About mid-morning, I realized I was experiencing something I have not experienced since 2003, the year we moved to Alaska. It was a foreign feeling, and I could not at first remember what it was because it's been so long since I have felt it.

It was joy in belonging. We have finally found shruggers among our midst. We have found a site where we belong. Joy thrives here Beyond Ester today, and we are thriving in its glow.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Elusive Moose

She's lurking out there in the dark. Somewhere. I can't see her, but our two dogs know she is there. Kayt glimpsed her this morning, just for a second or two before she melted back into the woods. Her tracks are all over the yard and up and down our road. It is our Elusive Moose. All winter she has eluded us, tempting the dogs with fresh tracks in the snow to snuffle, but staying just out of view. Once she walked across the front porch just minutes between two dog potty breaks.

Tonight, the moon is nearly full, and we have six inches of fresh snow. The dogs ask to be let out, but when we go outside, they huddle next to each other, taking turns to pee. Both lift their heads and sniff the air deeply. What does a lurking moose smell like, I wonder? Borealys, more daring now than Ursa, pulls on her leash, snuffling the path leading up the hill towards the road. Suddenly I see what she does: fresh tracks, just seconds old, the edges still sharp and distinct. I hold my breath, listening as intently as I can, watching Borealys as she sniffs the air, centers and triangulates, and then raises her right foot in a point. I still can't spot the Elusive Moose, but I know she is there.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Five or six Pine Grosbeaks have graced the feeder during the last week or two. The males' bright crimson feathers provide just about the only color outside these days. The trees are draped with white, all of them drooping with the weight of the snow. The sky is a light grey, nearly white. Other visitors include a flock of 10 or more Redpolls, three Grey Jays, a single male Downy Woodpecker, a Hairy Woodpecker pair, a half dozen Boreal Chickadees, and ten or so Black Capped Chickadees. A raven swooped through the feeder area this morning, uninterested in what we have to offer, its mind on other opportunities.

I've been sleeping off a cold, sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day. I dream of flowing water, verdant green fields and woods, and warmth. Obviously not Alaska. People and animal companions long gone from my life visit me in my dreams, proving to me once again that there is a spirit world. That fact continues to elude my acceptance, although I have had so many spirit-visitors, particularly since 1990. Just this past fall, in my temporary office in the windowless sub-basement of Gruening, a spirit shared space with me. I experienced it as small, cat-size or maybe smaller. It would sprint past my right ankle, always the right ankle, just barely brushing my pants. The visits became so routine that the sensation no longer startled me. Months later I mentioned the experiences to a work colleague, who affirmed that she had once kept lab rats in that office, and that the spirit surely was that of a rat. I don't know whether to feel pity for the spirit, thinking that its life was one of torture and pain and even in death can find no release. Or perhaps I should feel elated, believing that the rat-spirit now runs its own mazes, for its own purposes, free from human intervention.