Vaginal Discharge, Apocalypse, and the Gay Agenda

I remember the first time I felt fear of the apocalypse. My youth group was circulating copies of the Left Behind series. I read them all. I stayed up late under a dim reading light pouring over one chapter after another. When Kirk Cameron answered the cat call of End Times fanatics everywhere with the cinematic rendition of the book, I attended my church lock-in to watch the film. The fear was palpable. I remember the conversations that ensued during the lock-in. “What will you do to be ready?” I was a junior high girl, so I was mostly concerned with what would happen to my undergarments upon being “taken up.” Never mind that those who were left behind probably didn’t care about the piles of junior high girl clothing strewn about. My 15/16 year old psyche was overly concerned about the level of discharge in some of my underpants. At school I would take the tissue in the bathroom stall and wipe my underwear. Mine were feverish and frivolous attempts to wipe away evidence of discharge. No one talks about discharge, y’all. I didn’t know I need not concern myself with this very normal bodily fiction. Our bodies undergo a month evolution and the presence of discharge is just a fact of life.

The End Times reel would play in my head. Maybe a crash of thunder, a lightening bolt, or some other form of deity driven mass communication and then BOOM! all the well-behaved Christians were taken up. My clothes would be left, obviously since I was so well-behaved, and what would remain of me would be underpants with significant stains and discharge. The underpants would be accompanied by a bra with holes on the side where I Macgyvered the under-wire out. The only thing I hated more than copiously uncomfortable amounts of discharge were those damn under-wires.

My youth pastor would use the imagery of apocalypse to catalyze the behavior he expected of us. Of course back then, just like today, The Gays were on the list of those ushering us closer and closer to the day we’d evaporate out of our clothes into heaven. My youth pastor punctuated the list of others “bringing us closer to God’s will with their unrighteousness and disobedience”: Democrats, un-submissive women, people who were being “worldly,” and baby murders.

It is 18 plus years later and I am no longer worried about my discharge or what would happen to my clothing if I were to suddenly become a puff of smoke. I am most certainly no longer worried about The Gay Agenda. There are things you should grow out of after all. There are things that aren’t developmentally appropriate to carry into adulthood because you obtain a level of experience, education, and clarity. So I am here to tell you, based on my life experiences (in case you need to be told): The Gay agenda isn’t a thing and xenophobia is worse than any kind of apocalypse. Also vaginal discharge,  much like consenting adults loving one another, is a normal part of life that none of us should be too concerned about.

There should be people that will take

Grab My Hand

Song: Sage The Gemini “Good Thing”

Reading: Women Who Run With the Wolves

 

Right off of 12th street in Tulsa, Oklahoma there is a gravel path that spans the length of the man-made creek. I don’t know what those are called. Watersheds, maybe? If you walk far enough down the gravel path there are bundles of dense trees on the right side. Without any warning a forest just springs up.  My best friend Sarah and I would wade through the water and ride our bikes along the path. When we discovered the forest, of course we trekked into it. You don’t find a forest in the inner city of Tulsa and not go explore it. If you walk deep enough there is a creek with a rope swing, a fallen log, and an old shack. Sarah and I visited there often, we’d swing over the creek, steal kisses, and dream. Most of my memories of 12th street are punctuated by my time with Sarah in our secret forest.

One day, in particular, our neighborhood was flooding from heavy unexpected rains. I flew down the stairs from my room to answer whoever was pounding on the  front door. It was Sarah. She begged me to come to the forest. The creek in our secret forest would be high, she promised. Her eyes sparkled with hope of adventure. I called to my mom that I was going to play with Sarah and we walked down the street. We waited, per usual, to hold hands only when we got far enough down the path for no one to see us.

The usual knee-high grass in our secret forest was laden with dew and water. We stomped through the mud and down a root covered hill to our swing. Hope gave away to elation as we stood staring wide eyed at the raging creek. The water was very high. The fallen log that connected the creek banks, usually extremely high from the creek bed was soaked from the waves of water pushing their way over and under the log. Somehow we determined that the best idea was for us to see if we could balance on the log.  Junior high girls can be given to such risks. There is something about being young and in a secret forest that makes you feel invincible. We took our shoes off and made our way down to the log. Sarah nervously insisted that I go first. I balanced my way to the middle of the log and motioned for her to join me. About the moment that she made her way to the middle to meet me I started to slip. I wobbled and contorted my body. I jutted my arms out straight the way one does when they are trying to keep balance. I stiffened my body and focused all my attention on not falling.

And then I fell.

I grabbed the log and called for Sarah’s help. She wouldn’t help. She stared down at me wide eyed and scooted her feet away, in case I were to attempt to grab them. She said that she couldn’t grab my hand. It was too much of a risk. If she helped pull me up, she might fall too. She walked back to the bank and I attempted, with little success, to pull myself up. It was too wet and the log was slimy and smooth from years of erosion and water. I decided to let go and try to fight the current to get to the side of the creek.

I let go.

I kicked and pulled and eventually made it to the side of the bank. I was soaked and covered in mud. My legs were torn and scratched from the roots and rocks, and one of my fingernails was bleeding from clinging on. My adrenaline transitioned to hot rage. I screamed at Sarah, “YOU ASKED ME TO TAKE THE RISK FIRST AND THEN YOU WEREN’T EVEN THERE WHEN I NEEDED YOU. I JUST NEEDED YOU TO GRAB MY HAND!”

This memory is so vibrant to me, even eighteen years later, because I didn’t talk to Sarah for almost three months after that day.

That moment in my life has re-played in various ways; in love, friendship, and work. I step on the path of adventure with people I think I can trust. I see the raging water. I see the precarious log, and I accept that often I am the bravest one. So I step out on the log and take the risk first. When I fall, because we all fall in some way, they do exactly what Sarah did. They protect themselves and won’t risk.

I guess it makes sense. If you aren’t looking out for you, then who is? Maybe I am reading too much into why I was hurt enough to refuse to talk to her for three months. Metaphors and memories tend to fail that way.

What I do know is that even today, when someone is brave enough to push me back a little and step out to take the risk first, something lights up in me. Someone else being The Brave One, The Responsible One, and The Present One endears me to them. It leaves me in awe because I still have those scars from clinging to the side of the creek bank of life, trying to fight not being swept away by the current. There should be people that will take risks for you, for us. There should be people who walk to the middle of the log and beckon for you to walk out to them.

When they make it to the middle though, if they slip, be willing to grab their hand.

Ava DuVernay at #Blogher15

Ava DuVernay is Not a Leader

#Blogher15 welcomed Selma Director, Ava DuVernay to close the conference with an interview conducted by Melissa Silverstein. During the span of the interview, right after Silverstein told Ava she was articulate, Silverstein asked DuVernay about her leadership in the Black community. I watched Ava shift in her seat and stammer a bit at the question. “Leader?”

The question (along with a white woman calling a Black woman “articulate”) is proof of something Silverstein doesn’t understand about the Black community. Ava DuVernay is not a leader. Ava is an artist, yes. Ava’s art is leading a conversation, yes. But Ava is not a leader. She is something else altogether.

Do you remember Inception? It was that goddamn awful movie that everyone wanted to debate what the actual premise was about. It had vivid imagery and the scenes were so creative, but the entrainment value was ruined for me when the eleventy hundred multipoint-analytical-paper-on-Inception-versus-reality hit the internet. I have no shits to give, because Science Fiction, y’all. I enjoy Science Fiction, I just don’t feel whipped into a frenzy that requires a treatise on a character’s moral development.

I digress.

In Inception the characters each carry a personalized Totem. At one point Arthur has an exchange with another character,

I can’t let you touch it, that would defeat the purpose. See only I know the balance and the weight of this particular loaded die. That way, when you look at your totem, you know beyond a doubt that you’re not in someone else’s dream.

A Totem, as I understand it helped the character orient themselves to reality. It functioned as a test, but it also functioned as a symbol. Ariadne explains the totem,

An elegant solution for keeping track of reality.

Black people know the balance and weight of particular experiences. We know, when we experience these things, that we are beyond a doubt not in someone else’s dream. These same totems allow us to see when we’ve also been hijacked. What we thought was real was actually counterfeit. Ava DuVernay is not a leader she is a totem. Her life works become totems that so many Black women and men can hold in our hands, test the weight, and use the experience to orient ourselves to reality. She shows us what it is like to be present in our own dreams. Silverstein wouldn’t understand that, so it makes sense that her question didn’t land well.

In order to protect its integrity, only the totem’s owner should ever handle it. In that way, the owner is able to tell whether or not they are in someone else’s dream. In the owner’s own dream world, the totem will feel correct.

As a Black woman I often feel like I live in the dreams of another. I feel like I have to adopt someone else’s ways, language, and look to just be okay in my world. Even then, I am not always safe.

Ava doesn’t know what she has done for me. She doesn’t know what she has done for so many. She is an artist learning to be true to herself and in the process has become a symbol of what we can be when we live in our own dreams. Ava DuVernay is my totem. 

 

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What We Fear Most

That we are bad

That our needs are bad

That what we want or desire is too much

That we are lazy

That we are alone

That we won’t measure up

That there won’t be enough for us

That people would love us if they knew who we really were

That there is not enough forgiveness 

That we are unforgivable 

That we are too hard to love

That we aren’t smart enough 

That we are lost

That we won’t know what to do

That we will fail

That we aren’t chosen 

That we have no power or control

That others will hurt us

That others will judge us

That others will hate us

That we will never feel better

That we don’t know what real love is

That we aren’t worthy of trust 

That we will never be validated 

That all of this is for nothing 

That we will be forgotten 

That they will believe things that aren’t true about us

That we can’t go back

That we can’t start again

That we will never find companionship

That it will hurt too much

That we won’t feel this way forever

That we won’t remember 

That we will be left out

That we will be too afraid 

That we will be too sad

That we are altogether too much to love, to handle, to be of value