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Me at the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, BC, on September 23, 2019, in fern gully
I made it to Fern Gully (at the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, BC).

Make Your Difference Your Strength

In 4th grade, I wrote an essay about how I wanted to be President of the United States when I grew up. It won a contest in my school district and county — how novel, a girl wanted to be POTUS — but didn't win at the state level. I'm sure it said some ridiculous things, including that I wanted to put dolphins in the White House swimming pool. No doubt influenced by my Lisa Frank folders and notebooks.

This was the same year Bill Clinton was elected the first time. The same year I remember first having cutesy elementary school crushes: one on this boy and another on this girl Mallory. (Yes, trademark me to remember the girl's name, but not the boy's.) This was the same year Don't Ask, Don't Tell was drafted, but not put into effect until the next year, and three years before the Defense of Marriage Act. And, in Oregon, this was the year after Measure 9 was almost enacted by voters to make it illegal in Oregon's Constitution* to "promote homosexuality" with public funds and the local activists in my conservative hometown, who trying stop it, were harassed enough they left town.

As I grew up, I lost any idea that I could ever be POTUS or even a viable candidate for any political office. Not only was it hard enough to be a woman — even a white woman — as every single POTUS has still been a man, and currently, 81% of Congress is male, but I was queer. It wasn't until (ironically) a 2012 Joe Biden gaffe that the Democratic party, the "liberal" American party who loves queer and other minority's votes, decided maybe two consenting adults in love should be able to get married no matter their gender. I was 28-years-old.

On September 20th, GLAAD, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and the Advocate hosted a historic first: an LGBTQ Presidential Forum with the Democratic POTUS candidates**. The forum gave the candidates each three minutes to provide a "what will you do to help LGBTQ people in your first 100 days" and then four or so questions with a journalist moderator. There were also LGBTQ celebrities popping in to remind us how a forum focused solely on our rights had never happened before with Angelica Ross***, a black trans woman hosting.

The candidate I was most looking forward to hearing from was South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, because he's the one queer candidate and because he's 11 months older than me. Only he went back to his rural hometown, where he became the mayor and then publicly came out in 2015. (Contrastingly, yours truly came out in 1999 and left her hometown in the dust in 2002.)

I'm far to the left of Buttigieg's politically. My two biggest criticisms of him are 1) he's too much of soft conservative (or as we call them in the US "moderates"), and 2) he clearly listens too much to his campaign advisors, which means he's often bland and safe.

In the last big debate, Buttigieg spoke about his coming out and his time serving under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and for a moment, I saw a glimmer of what I'd hoped someone from our community could bring to the table of POTUS candidates. I saw part of who he is beyond his pollsters. I saw the queer people I know and love. I saw the person I am too.

I expected Buttigieg to get emotional at this forum. He is doing what we all thought we couldn't do, and what many of us still cannot do. I expected some tears or at least more emotionality than the nine straight candidates.

I'm not saying this forum didn't mean at lot to Buttigieg personally, but I wanted that to come out in his body language and in the things he said on stage. Especially since except for the blood ban question, all the questions he got were friendly and assumed he'd fully support our community. I wish the moderator had asked a personal question about the discrimination he'd faced that wasn't about the blood ban on men who have sex with men (recently changed from lifetime to sexual activity within the last year).

The blood ban is absolutely homophobic and anti-science, especially since HIV/AIDS is something anyone can get and is transmitted not just via sex between men. But Buttigieg will not tackle it directly — he sidestepped by saying it needed to be studied — because frankly, his team is working their hardest for straight voters to never think about Buttigieg and anal sex in the same context.****

It's 2019, and I need some hope. 10-year-old me, who dreamed about the debate stage and her pool dolphins, needs hope. Some hope that Buttigieg isn't giving me. Democratic leadership says he's following Barack Obama's footsteps, but we knew Obama through his very personal books and his ability to communicate his story as the American story. We understand what makes Obama different and how that difference is his strength.

While Buttigieg does have a book, Shortest Way Home, the reviews signal that he spends more time talking about what it's like to go for a run on the streets of South Bend and policy positions than the personal. (I have not read his book.) What Buttigieg does talk personally and passionately about is his Christian faith. He's had a couple powerful moments during debates where he's called out Evangelical Christians — who love Trump and feed on his racism, authoritarianism, and frankly, how he might bring about their apocalypse — for not acting how their religion guides them to behave, and I wish Buttigieg felt as equally comfortable talking about being queer. If he weren't running for POTUS, I'd give him more leeway since he's only been out to his family and publicly since 2015.*****

Buttigieg should lean more into who he is from being queer to his veteran status. On Thursday, CNN and HRC are having their LGBTQ-focused town hall, and I'll be listening to (almost) all four hours of it. Candidates in 2020 need to motivate because they understand something differently about America due to their experience. That they are not going to leave anyone behind and understand personally what it means to be left behind.

Plus, if we hear about the candidate's personal experiences all the time, why are we not hearing from Buttigieg, except when he's directly asked? For instance, I cannot believe Buttigieg didn't bring up his father's death due to cancer last year in the healthcare debates.

This country has a terrible problem of toxic masculinity, especially white men, and Buttigieg with his rural background, deep faith moral center, being openly gay, and veteran status could show a different type of male leader. Instead, half the time I forget he's gay — and that probably makes some of his campaign officials happy — but I also forget what could make him a great candidate in this race. I forget what he could bring to the table that's different from all the other white men I pray every night will drop out.

And how this queer might actually be moved to knock door-to-door for a candidate she's hopeful about. One who's difference is their strength.

*Let's not forget that the Oregon Constitution banned black people from the state until 2002 (and had sundown towns into the 1970s).

**They invited all 200 of them, but Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Julián Castro, Joe Sestak, Amy Klobuchar, and Marianne Williamson were the ones to show up.

***Ross has since been harassed off Twitter both by homophobic and transphobic Trump supporters and Bernie Sanders supporters as she criticized how he missed this forum. (Sub-note: I personally got the most Twitter hate in 2016 from men when I criticized Sanders, and my following is much smaller than Ross'. Sanders needs to call his boys in.)

****Friends, everyone has a butthole, and queer men aren't the only ones having anal sex! Also, why, as a woman who's had sex with men who've had sex with men, am I not banned? Also, not all queer men have anal sex, and asexual people exist in our community too.

*****That's only four years! I've been out for 20 years!

Bookworm corner

Be a Star, Wonder Woman! by Michael Dahl and Omar Lozano 5/5 stars

Omg this kid's book about Wonder Woman is so adorable, both the story and the art. I loved it.

Boogsy by Michelle Kwon 2/5 stars

I just don't think a comic book about a sentient booger is for me. That said, I'd definitely be open to read another book from Kwon.

Captain Marvel Little Golden Book by John Sazaklis and Penelope R. Gaylord 3/5 stars

The kid's story isn't very good and a little dry. Also all cats are flerken. The art though is gorgeous.

Faith Says You, Vol. 1: It's Dark Outside by Kate Brown 2/5 stars

The art flow was lovely, but unfortunately, the story didn't hold up and there wasn't enough of a glimmer to get me interested in the next volume.

Gothic Tales of Haunted Love by Hope Nicholson and S.M. Beiko (editors) 4/5 stars

Really well curated collection of stories. All of them fit the gothic romance promise and were tightly constructed shorts.

I Am Mr. Spock by Elizabeth Schaefer and Ethen Beavers 4/5 stars

This is a pretty cute children's book about Spock and the best he represents.

Jazz by Toni Morrison 4/5 stars

**spoiler alert** The writing is gorgeous, but it's Morrison so I expected that. The style was experimental like jazz. Lots of personal drama to pull you in, and Morrison's subtly had me rereading a few parts when I missed a beat.

I recommend reading the whole chapter before putting the book down in your reading pace to get those beats.

I had a hard time connecting with characters who were jealous and obsessive in pursuit of people and half-truths they thought would change their lives.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee 5/5 stars

I really loved this sweeping story and its many lives. I did keep cheering for the heroine to get away from all the rich jerks around her. When was she truly free?

Wonder Woman Perseveres by Christopher Harbo, Gregg Schigiel, and Rex Lokus 2/5 stars

Pretty disappointed in this kid's book. One of Wonder Woman's main reasons is to protect women and children and spread love and peace. Wonder Woman never used love or peace to persevere, or did an action around love and peace. I did appreciate the learning from your mistakes lesson, but this was otherwise physical strength and stamina-centric.

Things I wrote recently

On Patron:

Reviews on my comics blog:

Green thumb update

Spent a rainy Monday at the VanDusen Botanical Garden and Bloedel Conservatory. Lovely places to visit in Vancouver, Canada. Released 100 lacewings into my house for pest control. Have ripped out about half of my garden. Put up a bunch of new plant lights and space. So much gardening to do right now.

Tomatoes from my garden
Left: My cat Zeta assisted me in the garden in August.
Right: The haul of tomatoes from my garden, which were canned into salsa.

Other things

Yeehaw — On their podcast Still Processing, Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham say everything I've been thinking about Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road," especially his collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus. Seven-year-old me, who learned to line dance in her red boots, feels vindicated.

When Cactus Destruction Is Imminent, These Rescuers Come Running — The desert is not as barren as some may think.

New Hope, New Pain, Same Old Divorce by Cameron Esposito — "As a queer woman, I fought for the right to be married. Now I’m fighting for the space to be human."

Art Spiegelman on how Golden age superheroes were shaped by the rise of fascism, aka the article that Marvel thought was too spicy to put into a collected edition of Marvel comic books because it isn't like Captain America started his work punching Hitler in the face and shooting Nazis.

For Smart Animals, Octopuses Are Very Weird by Ed Yong — This is why I warn people against eating octopi.

A woman's greatest enemy? A lack of time to herself by Brigid Schulte — Watch me silently weep as I read this article.

How ergodicity reimagines economics for the benefit of us all — Shocking, we've been thinking about economics all wrong. It actually benefits everyone, no matter how many resources you have or don't have, to band together in this world.

Take care and put some hope back into the world,


Erica McGillivray

Copyright © 2019 Erica McGillivray, All rights reserved.

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