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Wednesday, 17 March 2004

Better than Halvah

My experiments with ameliorating the crushing pain of existence are resoundingly successful. i'm still hella distracted though.

But I thought I'd share a weird and complicated story with you, on the 11th anniversary of my grandma's death:

How My Grandma Died

Well, when I was a youth, I eventually became dern certain that I was a homo and I've always been terrible about keeping secrets. furthermore, shameful secrets give people power over you. People can guess or find out and threaten to tell everybody. This happened to me on multiple occasions. And "I am not!" is not a good responce to any taunt, whether someone is calling you an asshat or a dyke. So I came out at school.

I was sixteen years old and it was the end of my sophomore year, about a week before final exams, maybe less. It was definitely the very end of May or the beginning of June. My friend had given me a bunch of information about Gay Pride Month events and parades. She had gotten a photocopy from someplace. This was before the internet. It was sometimes hard to find out about things, especially subculture events. Well, I've always been one for flyer-based activism. So I printed up 50 flyers that said "June is Gay Pride Month" and listed all the parades and street faires in the Bay Area. And I started handing them out to people. This was about equivalent to printing up flyers that said "Celeste is a big dyke!" I knew this would be the case and I had decided to answer any questions that anyone asked me. The other kids weren't sure what to do about this. They'd ask me "Are you a lesbian?" and I'd say yes. And they'd look at me quizzically and say , "ok." and go back to talking to their friends.

I went to talk to the director of student activities to get permission to post the flyers around school. He was my freshman english teacher (and was arrested last year for groping a student, but anyway), he was only in his second year of teaching then. I was used to occassionally seeing him nervous, but I'd never seen him so nervous as I did then. He explained that it was unfortunate that society (and specifically the catholic church who ran the school) was not accepting of homosexuality and maybe in future years, people would be allowed to post these flyers, but not now. I thanked him for his time.

Meanwhile, astounded kids were asking me for flyers. People would come up to me and ask if I was gay just because they couldn't beleive I would say it. It would walk past a cluster of kids that were talking amongst themselves and looking at me and then one of them would come up to me and ask, just to hear me say it. I remember one afternoon, I was walking the length of the quad, rolling my tuba behind me to go home at the end of the day. It seemed like a relay race. I started out across the quad and passed a group of kids, probably practicing cheerleaders. They talked excitedly amongst themselves for a minute and then dispatched a runner to the next group of people talking along the path. they would gossip excitedly! then they would send a runner to the next group. I don't remember if it was me or the rumor that crossed the quad frist. I do remember having stressful dreams about being chased by students with pitchforks and flaming torches, ala Doctor Frankenstein.

but my timing was really perfect. Just as things were getting to a riotous pitch, final exams struck. This was a college prep school. Kids took their finals very seriously. Nobody had time to worry about me anymore. And then school was out for the summer. I didn't know what would happen to me in the fall. I remember telling a coworker at Pizza Hut that summer that I didn't know if I had any school friends. But after spending a summer digesting it, they all calmed down and more or less accepted me.

This horrified my mother. she didn't like that i was queer. she didn't like that she hadn't been able to dissuade me from being queer. and what's worse is that now everybody knew! I would tell anybody! every day was coming out day for me. she pleaded with me not to tell my grandma. My grandma had a bad heart. if she knew i was a lesbian, clearly she would have a heart attack and die. I acquiessed. It was the only time my mom was able to restrain me. She tried to build on this success. She told me that I couldn't subscribe to any gay periodicals, because my grandma used to know the Cupertino postmaster (in the 1950's) and certainly the postal carriers would gossip about delivering the Advocate and it would get back to my grandma and she would have a heart attack and die. Other farfetched connections were made. Some completely unexplained. I couldn't go on a date with a girl because my grandma would have a heart attack and die. How would she know? she just would and it would kill her. My mom told me this over and over. If I went on a date with a girl, my grandma would somehow magically find out and have a heart attack and die. I was somewhat unconvinced and completely undeterred.

Anyway, during this time, I was young and naive. I thought that people mostly discriminated against queers by accident. As in, they didn't think about anything but straight people, so they wouldn't realize that queers were being excluded. As in, privledge is blinding. People who are able-bodied often don't notice a lack of ramps for handicapped accessiblity and so can create barriers without meaning to. I used to think people only discriminated against disabled people by accident, which alas is not true. and I thought they discriminated against gay people by accident, which alas, really was not true. so when my highschool responded to slam-dancing at the Valentines dance by banning people from getting same-sex guest passes, I thought I could just explain to them about how this was disciminatory and they would fix it.

I had only gone to the homecoming dance of my freshman year and I went with a band guy, so no paperwork was required. But if you wanted to take somebody who went to a different highschool or something, a permission slip was needed, called a guest pass. At the valentines dance of my junior year, a bunch of guys got guest passes for their friends at Bellarmine, the catholic all-boys higschool down the peninsula. Boys will be boys and there were too many of them and they got rowdy. Instead of issuing a proclimation "no slam dancing," the administration decided to just make sure all the non-St Francis boys were on some sort of leash, like a female date.

My friend knew a lesbian who went to Castilleja, an all-girls highschool in Palo Alto. She gave me contact info and I called this girl up. Her name was Emma, as I recall. I made a date to meet her after school one day to get the pertinent information for the guest pass. She was a granola girl. She was cute, she was friendly, she was flirty. I was on cloud 9. I remember walking with her in Memorial Park in Cupertino, holding hands that first day. I pushed her on the swing. Parents with kids saw us, realized we were two girls together grabbed their children and left. But it just made it all the more exciting. At the end of the afternoon, I drove her home. I sat in my pickup truck, looking over at her and she kissed me! I had kissed a lot of boys by then. Maybe 10. I was looking for the right one, but all I had found was slimy toungues and bad breath. But her! It was the first time I had kissed a girl. It was astoundingly wonderful. I felt dizzy. My foot slipped off the break of my truck and it rolled several feet. I promised her that I would see her the night of the dance.

Meanwhile, the wheels of the school machinery were turning. I got a slip saying I should go to the dean's office. The assistant dean, a really butch PE teacher, told me to go to the dean. The dean told me to go to the vice principal. The vice principal told me to go the the principal. the principal wanted nothing to do with me and sent me back to the vice principal. He helpfully explained that the school had to answer to the standards of the catholic community in which it existed and could not issue me a guest pass. I met with him and argued with him several times. I was surprised. I remember my heart sinking when my English teacher, a silent ally, said, "you don't think you're going to win, do you?"

the night of the Saint Patricks Day Dance came and I had lost. The next dance was the junior prom, for which a date was pretty much required and which, it was clear, would also deny me entry. My (one and only) ex-boyfriend asked me to hang out with him, so me, him, a friend of his, and Emma were tooling around in his car. I don't remember where we went or what we did. I do remember spending quite a lot of the evening making out with Emma in the back of Brian's car. Brian was probably not amused, but I didn't notice. I didn't care. Girls! Girls are awesome! Emma was awesome! It was the best thing ever!

I came home from that night, my first date with a girl, walking about a foot off the ground, I was so happy. It was the best thing ever. All of my lingering doubts or confusions about my identity seemed to have been swept away. I felt like a new person. It was the best thing ever. the guest pass thing didn't even matter anymore.

I went inside my house and my parents were still awake, which was somewhat unsusual given the hour, but not unheard of as they were night people. But they were acting very strangely. What happened, I asked?

My grandma had a heart attack. the next wednesday, St Patricks Day, she was dead.

I never saw Emma again.

Be careful about threats you make over and over again, as you never know when they'll come true.

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