Arrhythmia

The vigil. A self-selected showcase of sorrows and serenades. A call to action, an inactive advertisement for hearts and minds, but what about tomorrow?

I counted the seconds, 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… and told myself I would go up to talk if no one else said anything, but my feet wouldn’t move from the concrete. I looked around, somebody must say something, it can’t end without any speakers, somebody please. And I’d count again, insisting, this time would be it, but it wasn’t.

And four speakers stood before me before I finally said, this is it, I can’t wait any longer, but I didn’t know what I’d say, what could I say? I got to the mic, opened my mouth, and all the words left me. I said, I’m sorry, I took notes, and took out my phone for reference.

I decided not to come out at Institute when my CMA (corps member advisor) told us this school wasn’t particularly open and other corps members have struggled for saying too much about themselves, and I was afraid if I came out it would get in the way of building the meaningful relationships I need to be the best teacher I can be for these kids.

But when I heard about Orlando, I realized I was just trying to keep myself safe, and if I stayed safe, my students wouldn’t have the safe space they deserve. So I added a brave space slide to my introduction, affirming that everyone in this classroom is loved and embraced, and I put a brave space sign on the wall, but I never told them I’m gay. I wasn’t brave enough for that. I wasn’t ready for it. I don’t know how I’ll ever be ready–it was easier a few weeks ago, when I was engaged, there was a ring to start the conversation. Now there’s nothing. I feel invisible again.

I said I went to the TFA 25th Anniversary Summit in DC back in February and Tim’m West said in the LGBTQ affinity space that “safety is a pretty low standard to set.” And I said, safety isn’t enough anymore. Marriage equality isn’t enough if being married can get you fired, if being married can set you up for hate crimes. Marriage isn’t enough when our trans family are murdered every day. Marriage isn’t enough when HIV continues to plague our community and access to healthcare only gets harder. Marriage isn’t enough when children are unable to come out of the closet without getting kicked out of home. Marriage isn’t enough when the queer community remains one of the most racist and marginalizing communities: we cannot celebrate marriage while we still ostracize our queer peers of color, when a Latino I’m talking with tells me he’s always been attracted to white guys and can’t even identify why. Marriage isn’t enough, because there is still too much equity to be earned–equity to be fought for and won and claimed by blood, flesh, and bone.

The same blood, flesh, and bone being lowered into the ground. Their graves must not be an ending, but a beginning. We–as a community–have become complacent and complicit, perpetuating the same oppression delivered upon us. The oppressed are now the oppressors. We can blame the media for erasing the fact it was a gay nightclub, the fact that it was Latin night, the fact that trans artists were their featured performers–but until we as a community embrace them, we are no less to blame.

We can spew fire at the politicians who champion anti-LGBT legislation, who offered their hypocritical hearts and prayers in condolence and then took this tragedy as another opportunity to spin their Islamophobia and stir up the electorate. But until we open our arms to our Arab and Muslim allies and family, we are no better than any of them.

I said, as I stood before the crowd, the mic now dead, exercising my teacher voice so everyone could hear me, I said we’ve settled for safe spaces for far too long and it’s not enough–safe spaces are not enough when safe spaces are daily infiltrated and desecrated, when our brethren in blood and spirit are shot down for who they are. It could have been you. It could have been me. Safety is no longer enough.

I said thank you for attending, for coming out to reflect, but reflection alone isn’t enough. We need action. And because my CMA told me I need to practice giving clear directions, let me practice my MVP (movement, voice level, participation) statements.

We’re going to get up and with our loudest voices, we are going to make sure that everybody knows they are embraced in our community, and whenever we hear hatred or bigotry, we’re going to call it out and invite them into the conversation, because if we push them away, that conversation will never be had, and that change will never happen.

I said I didn’t feel sad when I first saw the news, because I’ve seen so many headlines about so many shootings. I said I feel desensitized, dehumanized.

Don’t make us feel this way again.

Stillness Between Breaths

Yesterday I began reflecting on some recent challenges in my relationship with Harel, and it’s a topic I’d like to return to. I feel it’s worth mentioning that although I can’t describe exactly what’s going on without breaching Harel’s trust and confidence in me (he has not said if I may share what’s going on), the general motion is that the circumstances within which our lives are suspended have shifted, and despite no change in our love for each other, it’s unclear if a long-distance relationship can be sustained in the way these new situations would require.

It is, ultimately, an ongoing process we’re both trying to figure out.

So while this post won’t, and can’t, address the details of what we’re going through (and ultimately, I’m not sure I’ll discuss those details publicly, even with Harel’s consent), what I wish to return to is a discussion the strategies I’m using to get through it all.

Because after two years of being engaged, news like this isn’t easy to digest.

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My Year of Recreation

By which I mean, re-creation.

I realized recently that I’ve allowed myself to stagnate. I felt somehow I had finished developing as a person–I knew I would never stop growing, but I assumed there were things I had figured out, things that were finally fixed.

Like perhaps I’m a paint by numbers, and while there were still a lot of spaces waiting to be filled in, I had the core of the picture complete. I knew who I was.

That is, at least, until I didn’t.

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Apples and Honey and Homework and Death

The beginning of this week brought the beginning of a new year: Rosh HaShanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, began on Monday. I had in mind a few thoughts I wanted to share, and every intention of doing so on Tuesday.

Then on a Monday a student at NC State completed suicide, and on Tuesday I had homework, and on Tuesday night I fought to finish my homework due Wednesday.

So in the midst of all these things, I never even realized I hadn’t welcomed the new year on my blog, and being on campus, in classes, the most I had been able to do to celebrate this occasion was share some apples and honey with others in the community. On Monday, a fellow math student had shared challah in the graduate lounge. That had made my day.

The truth is, death is a great occasion to think about life, and a new year is a great occasion to think about what we’re doing with our lives. So, naturally, I did.

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Onward, Odysseus, I am with you

My goal when the year began was to live this year with love. To live in love, to live with every action imbued with love, to draw my intentions all in line with love.

It’s an ambitious goal. It requires reflection, introspection, and mindfulness. How else will we uncover our deepest motivations? Our deepest passions? Our deepest...fears?

When I turned my compass toward love, I had no idea what sea I was sailing into.

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Failure and Reprieve

This post has been in progress for more than two weeks. The title and idea came about even further back than that. It’s hard to trace the timeline of something ethereal: does it come into existence when the audience sees it, or when the idea is conceived?

Trifling nonsense aside, this has been a trying semester–for a myriad of reasons, perhaps my hardest yet–and words have at last come to challenge me. They stick to my tongue like tar and won’t say what I mean to say–or I don’t want to say what I really mean.

It’s like Alice all over again, but then, wasn’t that what I wanted to be? The mathematician-turned-writer-does-both like Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll himself? A moot point. A tangent. A space without definition, to be called “obvious” and “left for the reader to prove.”

What I mean to say is I’m exhausted. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. I need recovery. This is perhaps the closest I’ll get.

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A Long Way Forward and Back

Five years ago today I started blogging. Years before that, I had kept an online journal and routinely participated in other similar activities. It’s been a pleasure, an honor, and an adventure making it this far–and I hope always to be on this journey with you.

The truth is, however, that I began this journey for myself: It is a path I love to follow, not for those who join me on it, but for the sights and experiences it gives me. It is my hope, indeed it is my dream, that as I move through this life–living life first and foremost for myself–that my passions, especially those passions that I’m able to share, may enrich the lives of others as their passions have enriched mine–how Tolkien’s passion for Middle Earth, Einstein’s passion for scientific inquiry, and Milk’s passion for social change have all shaped my life and the lives of others.

And I hope, along this path we all share, I may glimpse your passions as well.

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Prologue: One Year Ago

If you scroll to the bottom of this page and look at my archives, you’ll notice I published 16 posts in December, 2012; 13 posts in January, 2013; and nothing in February. In March I posted twice. “Life is a dance and I misstepped,” I wrote in the first. “The good thing about any dance is that, so long as the song keeps playing, it doesn’t matter how many steps you miss, you can still jump back in and pick up where you left off.”

Except I never said what that misstep was.

I’ve made a few allusions here and there, I’ve told a very select few people in person, and a select fewer in my communities online. But I’ve never shared it here. Of all the places on the internet, it has been nearly impossible for me to be most honest in the one place fueled by and founded upon my honesty.

So this week that changes. This week I share everything.

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Failure and Success

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about my goals this year, and probably for good reason: Since I wrote about them last, they’ve mostly all crumbled away. But with every defeat comes a new perspective which is, after all, akin to victory in its own right, and I think one last look back at my goals this year will help me prepare for next year.

It’ll be a painful trip for me–in more than half my goals, I’ve had complete failure and that’s hard to face–but only through hardships can we truly force ourselves to grow.

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