My Novel

Hello again. Long time, no see. I’ve been busy with… this. This is the novel I started working on while I was still writing This Soft Space, and my hopes are still that it encapsulates some of the specific experiences of being a lesbian, from the struggle to find a space of our own to the wonder of discovering mutual love. After much thought, I decided to post it as a serial novel, free to read (and listen to, as I read each chapter for a podcast) with full ebook chapters available to purchase if desired. All that info, and links to my blog about the writing process, are on the website

It is a bit of an odd way of doing things, but I wanted to make the story available to anyone who might need to read something that, hopefully, helps them feel less alone. I’m reblogging the first part of the third chapter here, just posted this morning, because this is where the story really begins to take off. But there are two chapters of backstory already up for your binge-reading pleasure. Thank you for checking it out, and please feel free to share where you feel others might enjoy it.

All my best wishes to all of you. I hope this post finds you well.


An interesting shift took place over the last three months or so. It started with a simple redecorating project, and as I cleaned out my old bedroom I finally picked up a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, recommended to me years ago. To begin with, I wasn’t going to put all that stuff back into my freshly-painted closet. So began a journey of wading through 30-some years of personal belongings and 30-some years of life, inspecting each item, experiencing every memory, and deciding what to keep and what must go.

This really is a life-changing venture, especially, I think, if your situation is anything similar to mine and you’ve been surrounded by every memento from childhood on for 30-some years. I love my home, this land I grew up on, but I have been here all of my life and the weight of that history begins to hang upon you.

I went through every photograph. Every school paper. Every drawing in every sketchbook. I went through boxes of toys and stuffed animals, souvenirs from concerts and travels, gifts and greeting cards from friends and relatives, always asking myself, “Does this make me happy? Does this ‘spark joy’?”

What surprised me were not the yes or no answers themselves, but rather the following question I asked myself, just out of curiosity: “Why?”

My stuffed animals, for example, which were brought out of the attic and placed here and there to be seen and enjoyed, made me happy because they were so unique to me, an odd band of dinosaurs, hand-made sheep, fuzzy crustaceans, and one ancient leopard. They are old friends, goofy and sublimely happy to be out of a dark Tupperware bin, and the cats curl up against them now.

Going through my art, on the other hand, was a different experience. There were, of course, many drawings I kept, ones I had done for myself. They got torn out of sketchbooks, trimmed down, tucked into plastic sleeves to be stored for posterity. But so many pictures — and so much of the entire whole pursuit — was done for other people.

The two themes are clearly evident in photographs from my youth: there I am shirtless playing in the mud with a cousin; there I am in a dress, hands on my knees, smiling for Easter pictures. Over and over again through every item I picked up — books, clothes, music — I saw a duality in my interactions and responses to life. Half the time I have interacted with life and responded on my own terms, and half the time I have interacted with life and responded in accordance to the people around me and general expectations.

This made me very angry. I burned the bulk of twenty-six sketchbooks, letting all that effort and energy I put into drawings for other people transform into heat and light and free-flowing smoke. And I asked myself, how could I have used that energy to interact with life on my own terms? What could I have done? What could I have created? What could I have experienced instead?

Maybe we all ask ourselves these things as we age.

This isn’t about regret, however; this is about discernment. Because the process of going through every item of your life hones your discernment, and the results are, indeed, life-changing magic. Everywhere I look now I am reminded of what I love, what makes me happy. Everywhere I look I am grounded against sacrificing myself to make other people tolerate some lesser version of me.

This has extended into a mindful look at my thinking, what words I say and write and why, what actions I take, what decisions I make, what plans I follow through. The same story holds true: half the time I speak my own heart; half the time I am arguing with the world. And I can’t say the latter makes me happy, or that it sparks joy in my life. That’s something I want to correct.

This blog has been, in many ways, an argument with the world, and I don’t honestly think that existing as a lesbian free from gender should be an argument. That’s not the story I want to surround myself with; that’s not the life I want to live. I find I’m at war with myself presently, because half of my brain doesn’t know any other way to be. But I feel there is another way, though it is only discoverable if I step away from the argument entirely.

I need it all to become incredibly unimportant, and sink back into a natural way of life. I need to feel like a justified human being on this earth. No amount of words will do that. It’s a matter of settling into daily life without discussion, without exposition, without wrestling always with the ways of the world.

I just wanted to wish all my readers well, and assure them there is a bright and beautiful future ahead.

Our Selves

Late blooming flowers
beneath spreading trees
dipping virgin roots into the river
Warm waters, softened by sunlight –
She sits and dreams.

Deep in the green
Wild things, heavy with Life
Freedom as much as blood
empowering them –
They dance around her
under the shade of the canopy
watching with eyes on other things.
She reaches, but they are as untouchable
as the sunlight.

“But I feel you,”
she says to the sky,
to the golden shafts which blanket her in warmth.
“I feel you – as I feel them –
somewhere deeper than the soul –
If an eagle could fly from me
it would stir me no less than this.
Why was I brought here?
A witness – never to touch the evidence?
Is it a crime to love?
A child’s wanderings – or not?
Why was I brought here
to this that I love
only to reach, and face denial…”

The wind blows,
and in it, softly singing,
she hears her love and weeps.
“A world of beauty wasted,”
she sighs, and closes tired eyes.
She sits and dreams,
and her soul dies.

I wrote this poem twenty years ago, when I was on the cusp of twenty and trying very hard to find my place at a local liberal arts college. I lived off-campus, so would arrive for my morning classes then spend the day at the school, passing a great deal of time between classes in the main building’s rotunda, sitting on a particular bench, watching the other students cross the space as they moved from room to room. It was there I jot down the basic words to this poem.

In those days I couldn’t allow myself to be a lesbian. Sure, a certain girl kept piquing my interest in English, but I was not going to be gay. Besides, I was having a lot more feelings for a lot of other things, for stories and characters spinning in my head, and deep-seated reactions to particular faces, particular eyes. The woods were still my most sacred space. I still tingled – and wrote even more poetry – when gazing up at the Dipper and Orion.

But day to day, I sat in the rotunda and watched the other students cross the space. Teachers, too. It’s a strange kind of isolation that comes with never seeing yourself reflected in the world around you. In high school, I had been an oddball but had made friends; in college, I could not locate anyone like me, and more than ever I was drowning in the images that told me I was wrong: the petite, pretty girls with their short skirts and makeup, the loud, crass boys who wore the same clothing I did. There was one girl who always wore a ponytail and jeans, who shouted across rooms and loved to party. She was openly gay, but she still wasn’t anything like me.

I did well enough in classes but I couldn’t stay. I just couldn’t stay, and after two years of trying I let go of a full scholarship and left college. I don’t recommend this to anyone. Please stay in school and get that degree if possible. It’s very hard to go back and finish later. It’s something I deeply regret, that English Lit degree that slipped through my fingers because my soul was just dying, just dying in that place.

We are told throughout our lives to “Be Yourself!” It sings out in children’s songs and is gently spoken by Mr. Rogers. It decorates posters and Tumblr posts. Electric guitars blare the message in Coca-Cola commercials. We’re inundated with images of hip young people of various colors, their dancing elders joining in, a world of diversity and inclusion distributed to every speaker and screen. But that isn’t the real world. All that well-meaning wishing isn’t the real world.

Being yourself isn’t always possible. Being yourself isn’t possible when being gay isn’t safe. Being yourself isn’t possible when wearing men’s clothes or finding women attractive isn’t accepted. Being yourself isn’t possible when a Christian will take you by the collar and demand you read the Bible when you say you don’t go to church. Being yourself isn’t possible when you see no one around you existing the way you do – the way you want to – and living a free and happy life.

So we get used to being afraid and we call it anxiety. We get used to being sad and we call it depression. We get used to hiding and we call it introversion. We come to hate all the things we loved because those things hold us back from ever being ourselves the way so many seem to be themselves, dancing on TV, walking through the rotunda from class to class.

We are left sitting and dreaming and dying inside.

I tried very hard to be myself, as so many well-meaning people told me to be. But I was convinced it wasn’t possible, it wasn’t safe, and so I decided I would be something other. I would be helpful, first and foremost; I would be funny. I would be talented, generous, and accepting of everyone. I would tolerate the jokes. I would be cool. I would be an atheist. I would be an easy-going dyke, lol. I would be masculine; I would be rational. I would be no problem for anyone at all.

I would make a self that was safe to be.

Somewhere, deep in the green, she sits and dreams.

It was only when I was faced with idea of having to alter my physical body to sustain this false self that I realized how much harm had been done internally, how far I had traveled from who and what I really was. I sat for days in grief acknowledging that yes, it is fucking hard to be a lesbian. It is fucking hard to live in defiance of femininity and patriarchy. It is fucking hard to feel and love and experience the world so differently than the vast majority of people out there who want everything to be so inclusive and positive and easy. It is fucking hard to be myself.

I started this blog in January of this year, settling into this soft space to explore the lost pieces of myself and figure out how I could fit in this world. I have been so blessed to have learned and read and interacted with so many brave, insightful, inspiring people through this space, to have found acceptance and friendship and so many deep thoughts to consider, so many journeys to honor. All of this strengthened me to step more and more into myself in my daily life, and watch all the facades from the last twenty years crumble around me. Difficult, but an unavoidable result of living as someone other than who I am. Somewhere in all the rubble and reconstruction I found myself. Then a book opened and finally – finally – had words for what I was:

A woman’s whose occupation it is to spin participates in the whirling movement of creation. She who has chosen her Self, who defines her Self, by choice, nether in relation to children nor to men, who is Self-identified, is a Spinster, a whirling dervish, spinning in a new time/space.

Spinster, Hag, Fury or Chrone as Mary Daly defines them in Gyn/Ecology, but I will tend always towards “a woman who has chosen her Self, who defines her Self, by choice, neither in relation to children nor to men.” At those words, deep in the green, she raises her head and stops dreaming. At those words, she rises to create again.

I will leave this space for those who seek it, and I hope it engenders softness around them, the same kind of comfort and safety to explore themselves as I have needed. At very least it’s another story for those who like stories, and another experience that will hopefully make someone feel a little less alone. I will always keep tabs on new comments and any searchers who find themselves here looking for guidance.

It’s time for me now to create a new space, to fill not with the restrictions I’m casting off or the identities I’m trying on, but with the simplicity of my Self just as it is, at last recovered. I will let you know where that space is once I create it.

But I leave any readers of these writings with this message: Your self, your true self, your sacred self held in the innermost parts of you, that sings when you love and weeps for the beauty of the world, can be revealed and embraced and recovered. Even if it isn’t safe to be yourself. Even if it seems impossible. You can wipe away the dust and debris and hold that jewel, every beautiful facet, and know without doubt that no one, nothing, will ever make you abandon it again.


My heart breaking, I read about Alan L. Hart.

Alan L. Hart was born Alberta Lucille Hart in Kansas, on October 4th, 1890. Growing up, she spent time on her grandparent’s farm, playing in boy’s clothes with boy’s toys. It is a now familiar story of a girl breaking free of gender roles: “[He] hated traditional girl tasks, preferring farm work with the menfolk instead. The self reliance that became a lifelong trait was evident early: once when [he] accidentally chopped off [his] fingertip with an axe, [Alan] dressed it [him]self, saying nothing about it to the family.”1

Although often writing under a male name, Hart graduated from college as a woman and obtained a Doctor of Medicine degree as a woman – with top honors – the only woman in the class.2 She was attracted to women, despite confessing to “a loathing of the female type of mind.” Under a false male name, she married a woman. Later that year, 1917, she sought a hysterectomy from a psychiatrist, who described her as “extremely intelligent and not mentally ill, but afflicted with a mysterious disorder for which I have no explanation.” Again, a familiar story.

What is not so familiar is a facet of Hart’s personal position in requesting the hysterectomy, a radical surgery for a healthy young woman in 1917. Hart invoked a eugenic argument, insisting she was a person with an “abnormal inversion” who should be sterilized. At the turn of the century, homosexuals were thought to be “sexual inverts.” Many women who were sexually attracted to women and defied gender norms were subjected to inhumane treatment, and some instead chose to live, as best they could, as men. Apparently, some, like Hart, retained the belief they were indeed abnormal specimens of humanity.

It is one thing to want to live as a man out of necessity and wish to be free of the hassles of menstruation. It is one thing to know you do not wish to have children. But it is another thing, entirely, to believe you are such an aberration your genetic material has no place among your fellow human beings.

Alan L. Hart was an intelligent, learned Doctor of Medicine, a woman living her life as a man, and believed she should be sterilized.

My heart breaks for Alan L. Hart. My heart breaks for Alberta Lucille.

After a successful career as both a doctor and novelist, after a long and happy marriage to a woman, Alan L. Hart died in 1962. Eight years before, Alan Turing had committed suicide after enforced chemical castration. Forty-five years before, Alberta Lucille Hart had convinced her doctor she should be sterilized.

This was the environment for so much of the 20th century. Homosexuals were not supposed to exist: they were to be corrected; they were to be assimilated; they were to be erased. For the past 100 years, this has been the environment we have been trying so hard to change.

Thankfully, our environment has been changing. Today we are surrounded with examples of women living lives that for all intents and purposes look like the lives of men – the careers they pursue, the fashion they wear, the women they marry. Likewise, we see around us men who live lives resembling those of women. This is our reality, an observable fact. We know now, as a society, that in their personalities and expressions of themselves, women can be just like men, and men can be just like women.

We remain, however, still a little confused. We still fall back on familiar words, familiar stories. If a girl plays with boy things, she must be a boy, right? So confusing. If a man wears a wig and makeup and a dress, he must be a woman, right? Our little human brains keep ticking over the new information, trying to categorize and make sense of it all with new words, just as we did a hundred years ago. But today, many of those who defy their gender roles don’t see themselves as abnormal aberrations who must be sterilized.* They’re out and proud. There’s a whole movement behind them.

It is a wild, wild time, this reality, this confusion.

I look forward to the day when the reality, the fact, of sexual orientation clarifies the confusion for everyone. Apparently, human beings want to have sex with each other. In order to do so, they need to know who is male and who is female so they can hook up with the bodies they naturally desire. For some strange reason,** this is a matter of contention in all the confusion right now, but it simplifies everything beautifully: Change your lifestyle. Change your name. Change your clothing. Change your body however you wish. But don’t change that biological sex marker. That is important for finding the loves – or good times – of your life. Let people know if you are homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual, and whether you are male or female. It’s that simple. Then we can all respect one another, express ourselves fully and freely, and get along.

Our environment, right now, is fighting for that respect and freedom. We need to listen to one another, we need to be patient, we need to understand. We need to protect one another from violence. But we are talking, and we are acknowledging reality, and we are nurturing an environment based on respect and authenticity and expression. There is a lot to work against, but so much that has already changed for the better.

I don’t feel like I need to be a man anymore. Not in the slightest. It never even crosses my mind. My environment has changed drastically from where I was when I thought that was the answer to all my problems. I haven’t moved (though I painted a room yellow) but I’ve changed who I spend time with, what media I put in my head, my political views. I’ve learned so much, and I’ve acknowledged so much trauma, so much history, both personal and shared with other lesbians. I’ve come to love my woman’s body because I’ve come to see myself in other women. The face I once never wanted to look at I realize now can connect with others who see themselves in someone similar, as I’ve seen myself in other’s faces. But I had to find those other women and construct my environment around them.

They are out there, for everyone. We just have to find them.

A remarkable thing happened the other night. I settled on my bed and turned on my iPad to watch some videos before I went to sleep. First I watched an episode of The Supersizers with Sue Perkins. Then I caught up with Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen. Then I turned on Saturday Night Live to catch the newest bit about the Presidential debates, with Kate McKinnon’s brilliant Hillary Clinton. And as I turned over to go to sleep, I realized I had just spent my evening watching three lesbians in a row, who I relate to in one way or another. I realized I no longer felt so strange and alone. I no longer felt abnormal, an aberration.

But it has taken me almost forty years to change my immediate – and internal – environment. It has taken me almost forty years to leave behind the homophobia of a conservative, sheltered upbringing and to create space amid my doubts and my fears for women I admire, women I’m attracted to, women I love – including myself. The clothes hangers full of men’s shirts in my closet and the big leather boots beneath. This haircut. The books on my bookshelves, the movies and TV shows, the websites, the pictures, and most of all, these thousands of words I’ve written that hopefully make some space for someone else.

Sometimes, we have to give ourselves a soft space in which to heal. We have to create a nursery in which to grow, a hearth in which to burn bright.

We change as our environment changes. There is a natural transition. It may occur half despite our actions and half because of them, but it will happen nevertheless. It is sometimes slow and often painful, but it is happening before our eyes, in ourselves and in the culture around us. We have to trust in that forward motion, and adapt our environment for the betterment of ourselves, for those we love, and for the evolution of our human society.

No more aberrations. No more “abnormal inversions.” No more erasure of any part of anyone, not anymore.

A small thing I have added to my environment in the past months are the words of lesbian poet Mary Oliver.3 I share a few of them here, in the hopes for positive change in everyone’s environment, and in everyone’s life:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.




1 –

2 –

3 – Oliver, Mary, Dream Work, Boston: Atlantic Monthly, 1986. p.38-39

*  save for the children being sterilized by their homophobic parents

** lesbian fetishization, autogynephilia, patriarchy

male violence

Beauty and the Butch—A lesbian fairy tale — Purple Sage

Guess what—I wrote a fairy tale! The reason I wrote this is because I was thinking one day about superheroes and princesses, and how kids are being expected to identify with the characters that are marketed to them based on their sex, and how identifying with characters of the opposite sex is taken as a […]

via Beauty and the Butch—A lesbian fairy tale — Purple Sage

Back in high school, I just loved Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. We played the music for marching band one year and I had a bunch of the songs on a mixtape I listened to constantly (oh, the ’90’s) and I will freely admit the feelings it stirred up had a lot to do with the plot of my book, that “unexpectedly falling in love with someone you shouldn’t” thing – which, yes, I think a lot of lesbians, no matter how deep in the closet they are, identify with.

But you know what I just realized reading this version? Listen to how cool this is: Where the movie always lost me was when the Beast turns into the Prince. Like I am no furry, hear me out, but when kind-of-gender-neutral Beastie floated up and turned into weirdly-chinny, floppy-haired, absolutely-male Prince-Dude, I was just like, “Eh, ok, whatever.” Like it weirded me out and made me so uncomfortable, even though I was crying at the falling of the rose petals just before.

BUT! BUT!! This is the cool bit: reading Beauty and the Butch here, I realized something: In this version, the “beast” character NEVER CHANGES INTO ANYTHING ELSE. Yes, her true nature is revealed, but that’s different than a physical change from Beast into Prince. She’s physically and emotionally and everything else exactly the same from the time she meets Beauty until the end. NO CHANGE IS REQUIRED TO MAKE HER AN ACCEPTABLE MATE.

And what a remarkable and splendid message that is for all lesbians.



On very rare and special occasions in the middle of summer, I’ll come across a butterfly or moth emerging from its chrysalis or cocoon. They are such strange creatures in those moments, their wrinkled wings still folded close to their bodies, their bodies distended with the blood that will fill their wings. As full of life as they are, expanding with every passing second, it seems a wonder that they ever fit into the cracked shell beside them. It must simply be too small to hold all of that color and pattern and complexity unfolding nearby.

But the chrysalis did hold the butterfly for a time, and allowed it to become what it was to become.

Over the past few months I have been feeling more and more constrained by this blog, by the accompanying tumblr, by being ThisSoftSpace in this Discourse on the Internet. This blog has been a chrysalis of sorts for me; it was a place to crawl into when I was needing a sheltered spot to process my shit, to see if I could figure out what I was supposed to become. A part of me hoped that by putting it on the Internet, other women who needed to process their shit would see that they were not alone. Another part of me just appreciated my story being witnessed by others. There’s a lot of validation in that. A part of me learned I have the right to my story and the right to tell it and that is very empowering to someone who has spent a great amount of time alone in the closet.

All along, I was still inside the chrysalis. Others have come by and measured and eyeballed and printed up labels for What Sort of Creature This Is. A lot of words get thrown around. Female. Woman. Lesbian. Amazon. Detransitioned. Gender Non-Conforming. Gender Defiant. Maybe Butch? Maybe not. Maybe “Straightbian” because I got some words wrong. TERF, certainly. Radical Feminist, maybe. White Colonialist Imperialist Predator. That last one was one of my favorites.

As personal as this blog has been, none of its readers really knows who or what I am. There are a handful of women who have been in contact with me off these pages and I have appreciated the relief that comes with being more of a real person with them. It is very, very difficult to try to deal with these issues interpersonally while behind a pseudonym – very difficult to reconcile who you really are with who others want you to be when you are just a handful of letters on a screen to them. When Maria Catt began making videos of her real self under her real name, I was floored by her bravery – and her sincere, authentic dedication that unfurled in her voice, in her physical presence. It shows so clearly what sort of butterfly she’s become, what flowers she’s going to pollinate, what sort of beauty she’s going to bring to the world. We have all been watching her metamorphosis, too, after all.

When I first began reaching out to detransitioners last summer, one of the first I emailed was 23xx, who had written a raw and moving account on tumblr and had helped create the private forum for those seeking support. Around the same time I joined that forum and began my own process through it all, she announced that she had to be moving on to her real life away from her accounts online. I was rather taken aback – here was one of the strongest, most compassionate voices around stepping away from it all. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to stay involved, if this was her story, if these were her people. But I was very new to it all, too.

One of the beautiful things about the word “transition” is that it implies movement and change. “The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.” It is synonymous with “metamorphosis”, in fact.

A week or so ago 23xx returned to tumblr with the post I’m not dysphoric anymore. It was inspiring, honest, and simply very clear. She, too, had transformed over time, healed and strengthened and spread her wings. A certain tone in that post differed greatly from the words I had read the year before, crouched over my copy of Blood & Visions, seeking comfort. She seemed so much more an independent person I hardly knew, and so much less the similar soul I had encountered during the most dramatic days, when everything was still so raw and processing our trauma was the thing to do. She was what I needed once upon a time but now we both have changed. There is another side to all of this, another transition to be made. We spread our wings and fly away from shattered pupae skins; they belonged to us at one time but are a part of us no more.

As the Buddhists say, once you use the boat to cross the river, you don’t keep carrying the boat with you.

I have been feeling constrained by this chrysalis, and the words written upon it by others. I have been feeling constrained by the arguments, the constant – so often petty – discourse. This morning I offered on tumblr that it’s okay if women want to shave their legs, and got a “No offense but… maybe think about a positive contribution next time,” from a 19-year-old lesbian feminist. I find myself often on the wrong side of lesbian and radical feminism, often still an outlier. I am tired of the black and white arguments from those trying to prove their points. I don’t have the energy to keep up with the ideological passions of the young. And I don’t have the constitution to argue with the irrational voices that keep trying to erase biological reality by claiming, “Transwomen are women!” Biological reality is going to win out on its own, I truly believe, in time. Our goal in the meantime is damage control. So I ask myself, how can I better support women and lesbians? How can I give them confidence to stand up for themselves and their love, their desires, the lives they want to live? How can I do this as what I am, as who I am, authentically?

The beautiful thing about being aware of detransitioned and reconciling women is seeing them pull themselves out of their cocoons and start pumping their wings full of blood. Seeing them going back to school, seeing them enjoying healthy relationships, seeing them building the authentic lives they want to live. Like 23xx, I wonder when the new will outweigh the old, when they will fly so far from their experiences of disidentification that it will seem far from them – perhaps always a pattern written into their wings but no longer a carapace they have to carry on their backs.

And I wonder, for myself, what it would be like to fly away from this chrysalis and rebuild my life as who and what I am, beyond these pages that have held so much of my processing, so many of my thoughts, and so much of my time this past year.

Mercury is in retrograde. It’s the week before my period. There’s a massive thunderstorm happening while I write this and I’ve been looking for omens. I may try taking a break from all of this for a while. I may try to see what lies beyond the constraints of the chrysalis.

I will let you know what happens.

The Little Lesbian Handbook is Live

With many thanks to PurpleSageFem for her edits, additions, and lovely formatting work, I’m pleased to present the Little Lesbian Handbook, available both as a downloadable PDF and at

Our goal with this project was to create a comprehensive booklet of information for lesbians who are beginning to explore their orientation and what it means to be a lesbian. My hope was to answer a lot of questions I had when I first realized I was a lesbian and a lot of questions I have seen in blog comments and tumblr asks over the past year. Although much of this information can be collected elsewhere, having it all in one place will hopefully give some women a source of comfort to fall back on when needed. It helps, I think, to have something so solid explaining so much.

Our wish is to disseminate this information as far and wide as possible. To help with Google search term ratings, please link to the wordpress site linked above – the more links  to that page the higher Google will place it among search results. Alternatively, feel free to link to the PDF or download the PDF to host at your own site. Print it out to distribute in person if you like. Don’t worry about crediting or linking back to this blog. It’s all about the Handbook getting around to as many women as possible.

Putting this together really means quite a lot to me, especially since I came to realizing I was a lesbian later in my life and had so much trouble figuring it all out. I hope perhaps this collection of words simplifies the journey for others, so that it doesn’t take them nine years to be able to speak the word “lesbian” or apply it to themselves with real joy and real pride.

Many thanks to all who contributed their thoughts and ideas. I do believe we’re open to making additions in the future, especially if there are personal quotes you wish to add, so feel free to comment!

Slaying Dragons

It’s been a helluva summer.

I’m grateful now to see the last week in August ahead, and more grateful for the change in weather. The windows are closed today and I’m wearing a flannel over a t-shirt for the first time in a while, after some of the hottest, wettest weeks I can remember. We don’t have air conditioning, so heat and humidity mean sleepless nights and listless days, which gets stressful over time.

I can usually handle seasonal stress like that. We’ve never gotten an air conditioner because I always say, “It’s only bad for a handful of days every year. I can survive.” (Living upstairs, I’m the one who deals with the most stifling heat.) This summer, though, it’s not what my nervous system needed. After figuring out I’d have to reboot my career, after my mom being all kinds of under-the-weather in July, after a flat tire and road trips and family visits, I’m just abuzz with all kinds of unpleasant sensations.

I just read a little article about anxiety that’s all, “Everyone feels jittery sometimes! It’s normal! Just make sure you eat well and continue to exercise!”  Tell that to my indigestion that’s been giving me chest pains for the past three weeks. Tell that to my flip-flopping heart that was flip-flopping all over while posting Maria Catt gifsets today. Tell that to the muscle in my calf I seemed to have strained trying to keep my leg from shaking yesterday, while showing my mom a Youtube video on my phone balanced on my thigh. I never could have held it steady in my hands.

The problem is, all summer I’ve been slaying dragons. All summer I’ve been coming up against my fears – coming up against the closet door – and throwing a shoulder against it. Posting these blogs, posting on tumblr – posting more and more of my authentic truth on my main tumblr, under my real name – buzzing off 2/3rds of my hair, sharing a ridiculous video of me playing the ukulele, spitting out the words “She’s stunning” in front of my more conservative family members, trying to talk, trying to be truthful, trying to be fully myself. Every time I make one of these moves my body reacts; one of the first blogs I wrote here was all about this reaction. Every little push is another battle with real physical costs. I am exhausted. I feel sick and weak and unwell and my anxieties feed off that further and tell me I must be dying, but I keep facing those dragons anyway.

Because you know what? It’s working.

On Saturday we had a family picnic, the first we’ve had in a long time, with a good number of people and kids sitting around a picnic table under a tree in the yard. Beautiful sunny day, iced tea, tasty salads, ongoing conversation about people’s lives and jobs and so forth. For the first time I can remember, I sat comfortably, not editing my posture, but indulging in my natural “lesbian slump”. When I spoke, I wasn’t nervous, and spoke naturally, with my real unedited inflections. I told the kids what to do when I needed to tell them what to do. I made jokes. I shrugged things off.

For the first time I can remember I wasn’t self-conscious in front of other people.

I’ve spent this summer surrounding myself with positive influences, with people and ideas that inspire me and make me happy, pumping myself full of them in a way I’d never let myself before. Others had always warned me off, scoffed or laughed or asked me if I thought that was really wise or perhaps ridiculous or come on you can’t be serious. This summer I said fuck’em and slayed that dragon and did it anyway, indulged like a madwoman. I don’t know if that’s some kind of therapy, but it should be.

And I’ve spent this summer revisiting my past, daring to go back and process events never processed before, things that seemed too unpleasant or uncomfortable to dissect. Along the way I revisited my journals that I’ve kept since I was fourteen, and I’ll tell you something, nothing is more harrowing or enlightening than rereading the past in first person. So much joy. So much pain. So much survival and simple continuation, the turning over of time until now.

So comforting, in a way. So comforting, in fact, that I found I could let so much of it go.

A week or so ago I came across a Myers-Brigg Personality Type testing site I hadn’t seen before, and idly stepped through the questions on my phone after dinner. Way back in 1998, a guy my mom was seeing introduced us to the personality types and had us take the great big long questionnaire, and I initially tested as an INTJ. Part of me was a bit proud of being a “rare type” but the description always seemed lonely and clinical to me, with descriptions like “The Architect” or “The Mastermind.” All that Thinking and Judging, all alone, no less. As the years passed I kept taking further tests, checking to see if that really was me, because I always thought there must be more, something else, something to reflect all I held inside. But I was always still an INTJ.

Then this test came along, and suddenly, it had changed. Just one letter – INFJ – but what a difference to suddenly be “The Advocate”. What a difference to be FEELING instead of thinking. I went around the Internet taking alternative versions of the test (as spontaneously and authentically as I could!) and it kept coming up INFJ. The profiles all spoke of emotions, of feelings, of sensitivity, of compassion and connection with humanity. They all spoke of a person I always felt I held within, too scared to show, locked away sometimes even from myself.

I realized I’ve spent my life thinking about how to feel. Buddhism tells us to stop thinking and just be, but though I’ve spent almost three years on and off the meditation cushion, I couldn’t just do it. I couldn’t just be myself. There was so much else I had to do. So much to let go of. So much to embrace. So many dragons to slay.

A friend once told me I was scary on the outside but a soft marshmallow on the inside. I balked. I have always been a fighter, I told her. I have always been slaying dragons and standing up again and trying to survive in my armor with my sword oh I am a knight surging forward. I held that image of myself in my head so hard I didn’t even know what I was anymore beneath that ideal.

Because the truth of the matter is, that soft marshmallow has been locked in a breadbox for a very long time, simply dreaming of riding out in armor to slay dragons. It was way too scary to imagine actually exposing myself to the light of day.

What I learned this summer is that even soft marshmallows can face their fears and slay dragons. Maybe it hurts every time, but at least I know it’s actually me hurting and actually me fighting, and actually me standing up again and feeling so much, learning so much, experiencing so much in the aftermath of every battle. Learning that you don’t have to be tough to survive. Learning that some triumphs can come from an offense of compassion instead of a defense of anger. Learning that it’s better to be a soft marshmallow and feel and experience all of this, if that’s what I really am.

We can change, sometimes slowly, sometimes painfully, but ultimately delightfully.

Even if it’s exhausting and we feel we need to sleep for days.

The nights are getting cooler. The sun a little lower in the sky. My mom is doing better, and I don’t have to be afraid to be myself anymore.

What is the Deal with Female Gender Performance (really???)

This is a blog full of questions and thoughts and feelings. I smashed it out right in WordPress and almost decided not to post it, because it always seems like such a superficial topic. Let’s not split hairs, let’s not divide women, etc. But I have questions and thoughts and feelings about these things. I sincerely encourage discussion in the comments.

What is not a question at all is that Katie Ledecky is a stunning, amazing, often breathtaking young woman.


Besides all that (and the staggering quality of her swimming, of course) she is utterly adorable.


That smile, man. Honestly, what kind of sublime, joyful water creature are you?

Ledecky of U.S. reacts after settingnew world record during women's 1500m freestyle heat during Aquatics World Championships in Kazan


But the other night, while waiting to watch her race, NBC throws up this profile picture of her with all her stats or whatever:


And I’m like, wait. What? Where has that Katie gone? Who is that? I kind of see a resemblance but… but…

This has been a thorn in my side ever since I first figured out I was attracted to women, and I think part of the reason why it took me so long to figure it out. When I see a woman I find attractive (we all have our preferences) in her natural state, I cannot stop looking at her. I cannot stop looking at her. Like just this intense enjoyment of her natural features, her expressions, her humanity. But as soon as the makeup goes on and the hair is “styled” nine times out of ten I find myself scrabbling to find that woman I admire again. And a part of me doesn’t even want to look at her anymore. It’s like with the application of a few salon products she’s lost to me.

It seems like a tremendously overreactive response to the very things that are supposed to accentuate a woman’s natural beauty. And it bothers me, because I feel like I’m probably missing out on a lot of interesting women because I can’t get past the way that look dissuades me.

Now, I know – we all know around here – that makeup and hair styling and much of women’s fashion is designed to alter womens’ appearances towards the preferences of men. To make them look younger, more sexually approachable, more closely aligned with some kind of Perfect Model Beauty Standard only a handful of women in the entire world naturally express. I also personally believe that a great deal of that standard comes from the way women are made to appear in pornography – maybe much, much more than your average neighborhood 40-something wife and mother might consider while shopping at the Clairol counter. We all know that patriarchy, the male gaze, and capitalism are shoving all these products – based on this particular look – down women’s throats.

And we know because of all that, a bit of hair and makeup styling is sometimes essential, as Maria Catt and PurpleSageFem have both recently reminded us.

I also want to leave room for fashion and for personal grooming, including makeup and all kinds of hair styling/coloring/whatever, as a form of personal expression. It can all be used to create unique looks and if that’s what expresses your personality the best, then hey, I am all for it, men and women and everyone who identifies in-between.

What I am more concerned about is the near-ubiquitous acceptance and attraction to a very particular, standardized way for women to appear. For me, living in the US with a basic cable package, if I turn on my TV at any time during the day or night, for any length of time, 98% of women will strictly abide to this standard of appearance. The outliers will be a handful of contestants on reality shows, like chefs on Food Network, or a nice lesbian couple looking for a new house on HGTV.

Ellen Degeneres and Rachel Maddow, the most gender non-conforming celebrity women I can think of right now, both wear noticeable makeup. I have to say Ellen does a great job of downplaying it, however, despite being a spokesperson for CoverGirl. But hardly anywhere can you see a woman in her natural state.

With the Olympics we have an opportunity, at least now and then. Thank goodness! But then the network profiles the athlete, and in the case of several female athletes I’ve seen profiled so far, the first – the FIRST – point made in her biography is how really feminine she is and how she likes to go shopping and do her nails just like any other girl. Let’s not forget she’s only NOT wearing makeup to do her sport, right? And those muscles don’t make her any less of a girl!!!

Okay. I know, I know, the pervasive effects of gender roles under patriarchy. I know, I know. We live in a highly gendered society. But this is the question: If I am attracted to women in their natural state, and I know others – probably even (even!) men, I’m sure – are also attracted to women in their natural state, why is there utterly no room for that to be seen or expressed? Are there no women who can safely show their natural faces – none, anywhere? Is our world truly that small and oppressive?

This is what really worries me. And it spirals down to something else, which is the issue I’ve always had with the words “butch” and “femme”.  I know, I know, lesbian terms from the days when it was best to appear in public with one woman passing as a man and the other appearing as a woman. But times have changed, and I sincerely don’t believe that in most cases “butch” lesbians are performing a male role. I think these days most “butch” women are simply eschewing feminine gender roles and dressing comfortably, perhaps with a short hair style she prefers. If a woman buzzed her head but wore makeup and a dress she would be “femme”.  It’s not the buzzcut that makes the butch. It’s the total dropping of the feminine gender role.

So is Katie Ledecky “butch” in the pool but “femme” when doing a press interview on stage?

I know it is a precious term for many lesbians, but there are times when I want to do away with the word “butch.” We are all just women in our natural state. Sometimes, some of us put on makeup and feminine fashion. Sometimes, women in our natural state choose – or are pressured into – being femme.

(The problem with this blog is that I could go off on a tangent regarding transgender gender performance now, but you can all feel free to go off there in the comments instead. 😉 )

As a person who is primarily attracted to women in their natural state, it just boggles my mind – sincerely, in a frightening way – to think that there is a natural system of attraction that we could all rely on, that would leave women to be themselves in all their individual, unique glory (as men are allowed to be) but we are so overwhelmingly manipulated that we hardly ever get a glimpse of that possibility. Women do not have to wear makeup to be attractive. I say it again: WOMEN DO NOT HAVE TO WEAR MAKEUP TO BE ATTRACTIVE TO THE SAME OR THE OPPOSITE SEX. But we are so conditioned to believe women have to that we never see anything else. Sometimes, it seems like that alternative isn’t even an option.

At least not without some reassurance somewhere. Oh, look at this glamour shot. Oh remember, she likes to have her nails done, she’s just as girly as any other girl. Oh, doesn’t she look better with some makeup on. Oh, doesn’t she look better with her hair done. Oh, don’t we love seeing her dressed up to “go out”?

Because heaven forbid she go out as she is. Heaven forbid.

I know it’s misogyny. I know it’s patriarchy. I know it’s the veils women have been forced to wear since Roman times. I know it’s all of these things.

But is it really, really, that deeply, disturbingly pervasive?  So pervasive that (I have no doubts) a woman will read this and immediately begin defending her use of styling products to make herself look like every other woman in the world, not as a social necessity, but as an innate expression of herself?

Honey, I know you’re so much more beautiful than that.

I always thought it was me. I always thought I was weird or super-picky or just not getting it. I always doubted I could be truly attracted to women because I wasn’t attracted to that standardized performance of femininity at all. But now that I’m older and wiser and absolutely sure I am attracted to women, in their most basic, natural state…

It is terrifying, at times, to think of what we’re really up against.