Tag Archives: LGBT

YOU DESERVE HEALTH CARE HEART

LGBT on Campus: Advocating for Better Healthcare

 

On March 8th, Kelli did a workshop called When the Rainbow Meets The White Coat: Advocating for Better Health Care for LGBT Students on College Campuses at the Five College Gender and Sexuality Conference at Hampshire College.

Students, alumni, staff, and health care providers all showed up for the conversation. Here are some of the talking points and tactics the group came up with. If you have any additional suggestions, please add them to the comments so this can be an ongoing conversation.

WHY BOTHER ADVOCATING FOR A CHANGE?

Remember: as a student you have a lot of consumer power, because you are not only buying insurance, you are paying TUITION. In capitalism money talks. But you know that.

Also remember: YOU DESERVE HEALTH CARE

YOU DESERVE HEALTH CARE HEART

Got that? Say it with us: I DESERVE HEALTH CARE.

Research supports that healthcare patterns we start when we’re younger continue when we’re older. If culturally competent healthcare isn’t available at the college level, many LGBT people will delay care for a long time.

“HOW TO” POINTS

Identify the problem (is it a single provider? System-wide?). This includes defining what is NOT the problem.

Identify a clear solution. It should be something concrete.  You might want to start with something easy to change. Forms are a great idea. Ask other colleges what they’re using, or check out the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association website for suggested changes to intake forms. Intake forms are a great place to start because they are self perpetuating. Providers might think “there are no LGBT patients in our practice” until they start asking more sensitive questions. Then, people start to identify as LGBT and providers realize “oh hey, I do have LGBT patients!”

Find research, research in a peer reviewed journal that that supports what you want (if you can’t find what you want, email kellidunham@gmail.com, she’ll try and help you look)

Research what other schools that your administration sees at competition for yours  Make the comparisons with other similar schools.

Prepare an elevator speech: a 45 second pitch about why LGBT students on campus need this action you are requesting.

Make it seem easy to change,

Find allies:

-Other students

-Other student groups

-Staff

-Faculty (especially TENURED faculty who have less to lose)

-Alumni, especially MONEYED alumni. (who are the buildings named after? Is that person or family likely to side with you? Contact them!)

Schools are afraid of liability (it’s why they send students that they seem as potentially sucidal home on medical leave) so introduce that concept early and often. Find cases where schools have been sued for similar incidents.

If your school is blocking you on ideological grounds, keep going back to what it will cost them financially. Often what seems like an ideological problem can mysteriously be dissolved by fear of a lawsuit.

More thoughts? Comment and share!

The Story of a Queer Comic & A Knee Replacement. Oops. Part II

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AKA The Queer Comics’ Loss Is Your Gain

Well, that did not go exactly as planned.

On January 21, despite having had an awesome recovery from knee replacement surgery (read about it way too much detail here) the Queer Comic had to have emergency surgery for a “raging” (that’s what doc in the ER called it. Was that a reference to Queer Anger? Hard to say) deep infection in the aforementioned knee replacement. The queer comic got to keep the replacement but will be on IV antibiotics (mobile style) for quite some time, and can’t be flying all around the country for gigs.

But hey the queer comic still needs to make a living. So this is where the “your gain” part comes in.

If you or your college, conference, faith community, pride event, coffeehouse, bookstore, livestock auction, etc were thinking of bringing Kelli in for some good ol’ fashioned genderqueer nerd comedy, or comedic health training, and you’re within 8 hours of NYC by bus or train….now is the time. Kelli needs to work, and she’s very interested in negotiating. Which means book her between now and June 1 and you will get a break on her fee, or she’ll throw in an extra workshop. Or copies of her CD for all the participants. Or teach an extra class. Or bake brownies. Or. You get the idea.

In fact, Kelli is so interested in working (and let’s face it, so unable to travel) that if you provide a contact that leads to a paying gig between now and June 1st, Kelli will reward you with an electronic copy of her latest book Freak of Nurture, and the MP3 version of any one of her first three CDs (your pick). And a signed, numbered copy of her original incision photo, which was banned from facebook for being “violent” and which  is now officially a collectors’ item (depending on how you define “collectors’ item) as that incision no longer exists, having been cut out during the second surgery.

You don’t have to take the print if you don’t want to.

Ready? You can find everything you need on Kelli’s main booking page.

But let’s make it simpler: here’s what Kelli has to offer the college crowd. And if you’re from a pride event or a faith community, yup there are pages just for you.

But also don’t miss information about Kelli’s one person shows, presentations about health, presentations for health care providers and health professions students as well presentations about the uses of humor. If you’re interested in bringing Kelli to your workplace for diversity, or humor and stress trainings, here’s everything you need to know. Finally, are you thinking about asking Kelli to emcee your next event? Check out the page we made just for you!

Wait, is that feeling overwhelming? Email Kelli directly (kellidunham@gmail.com) or just give her a call (215.964.1963) .

Or a text. Because it’s 2014.

Thanks!

STAND UP STANDING UP AND OTHER RED AND BLACK

ALL NEW SHOW!

STAND UP STANDING UP AND OTHER RED AND BLACK

Kelli Dunham is everyone’s favorite ex-nun genderqueer nerd comic and now she is celebrating her knee replacement the only way she knows how to deal with difficulty: making comedy about it.

You’ll learn what her knee was replaced with (hint: not, as you might think, with a Diet Mountain Dew filled implant), what happened when her super queer Brookyn support team met her super Midwestern mother, and five gender-larious mix-ups in the hospital.

With special guest comic superstar Red Durkin!

Sliding scale advance tickets now available, 8-15 bucks here. If you need the scale to slide lower, no problem, email kellidunham@gmail.com.

More info and RSVP on the facebook event page.

PS To celebrate Facebook banning the event jpeg Kelli created to promote the event, we’ll be giving numbered, autographed prints of the close up of Kelli’s incision to the first five people in the door.

SQUARER

 

KELLI U PENNANT

WELCOME, NEW STUDENTS, TO KELLI U!

UPDATE 20 FEBRUARY 2014: The January classes are already up and running, but if you’re interested in one on one creative coaching, just hit up the contact page.  Kelli is offering specials all through the spring/summer of 2014.

——————————————–

Yeah it’s true.

Kelli is scheduled for a knee replacement in early December.

But don’t worry, they’re just replacing her knee with another (fake) one.

Don’t believe the rumors that her knee is being replaced with a: ADJUSTABLE MONKEY WRENCH

Or a lower leg donation from this very down and out bear:

BEAR WITH CAPTION

Or even an implant filled with Kelli’s favorite fluid:

DMD CAN

Not for lack of trying. Kelli’s surgeon was SO uncooperative!

So Kelli won’t be actively touring until mid-February. However, she’s taking the opportunity to teach a few ecourses that folks have been bugging her to put into action anyway. All include a ton of personal support, are available on a sliding scale basis and make great (consensual please) gifts.

Okay, okay. But Kelli's not offering a graphic arts course.

Don’t worry. Kelli is NOT offering a graphic arts course.For obvious reasons.

ECOURSE OFFERINGS:

The IF I HEAR ONE MORE RAPE JOKE I’LL SCREAM Alternate Alternate Stand Up Comedy Course for Progressive People: a six week career class designed for the beginning to intermediate comic who wants to start in or continue in stand-up without losing their soul. You can read more details and register here.

WHAT DOESN’T KILL US MAKES UM, MORE LIKELY TO TAKE UP KNITTING? This is a four week personalized course in CREATIVE RESILIENCE for the individual looking for creative ways to deal with grief, depression, PTSD or living on a planet that is completely shitty sometimes. Bring your own creative outlet (writing, performing, squaredancing etc) or Kelli will help you find one. More details and registration here.

PERSONALIZED URGING:

PERSONALIZED CREATIVE URGING (AKA COACHING, BUT KELLI HATES THAT WORD) Do you have a creative project you really need to finish but you can’t seem to get there? Kelli can help you figure out what your barriers are, design a plan and schedule, put together a support team, and nag you hard core into getting it done. Kelli has only a few slots open for this service. Gift certificates also available for one-time assessments or urging on an hourly basis. Details and registration here.

PERSONALIZED HEALTHCARE URGING. Getting healthcare is tough tough stuff but our bodies and our lives are worth fighting for. If you or someone you know is struggling to get a pelvic exam, have that mole looked at, make a primary care visit or meet another healthcare goal, there isn’t an app for that. Kelli can provide help with planning, self understanding and support to complete the task. Makes a great gift (with consent) for someone you love. Details and purchase right here.

 

Red made this flyer. She is super talented.

Trigger Warning!

Yup, it’s time for Kelli to record her fourth (yeah fourth!) CD, and she is calling it TRIGGER WARNING.

Because you know, trigger warning for talking about death and other horrible things. Hilarious, but horrible.

For this one night only show, Kelli is teaming up with the also hilarious Red Durkin. There are two shows, and both comics will perform at both shows.

Here are the details:

KELLI DUNHAM in TRIGGER WARNING

RED DURKIN in INTERPRETIVE SCREAMING

Friday, October 11th at 8 pm and 10 pm, BOTH COMICS, BOTH SHOWS

Bat Haus Co-Working Space

279 Starr Street,

Brooklyn, New York 11237

Tickets on sale now (we are going to sell out, so please buy in advance) sliding scale starting at 10 bucks and there are a couple of fun options like hilarious VIP options.  And RSVP to our facebook event page and you’ll be kept up to the minute about special promos, contests, etc. We hear a bunch of fans are planning on coming to the shows dressed like situations from Kelli’s or Red’s jokes!

Red made this flyer. She is super talented.

Red made this flyer. She is super talented.

MORE ABOUT THE SHOW:

Red Durkin is the kind of comic who can make audiences wince one moment and fall over laughing the next. Kelli Dunham is known for gently edgy humor that can only come from a someone who was a very bad nun turned big huge queer. At these two shows, Red will be recording her first comedy CD and Kelli her fourth.
———————————–

MORE ABOUT THE COMICS:

KELLI DUNHAM is everyone’s favorite ex-nun genderqueer nerd comic. Kelli was one of Velvet Park Magazine’s 25 Significant Queers of 2011 and was named to the 2012 Campus Pride Hotlist. Kelli was also given the The Fresh Fruit Festival Award for Distinction in stand-up comedy, although Kelli has never before or since been called distinguished. Kelli is a registered nurse and the author of five books of humorous non-fiction, including two children’s books being used by Sonlight conservative home schooling association in their science curriculum. Kelli’s fifth book, Freak of Nurture, a collection is humorous essays that none other than lesbian comedy godmother Kate Clinton called “laugh out loud outrageous storytelling” is just out from Topside Press and caused author Barbara Carellas to give Kelli the moniker “the David Sedaris of the genderqueer dyke world”

Kelli has three released three comedy CDs: “I am NOT a 12 Year Old Boy” “Almost Pretty” and “Why Is the Fat One Always Angry” all which are on regular rotation on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s Rawdog Comedy Station and Pandora’s Margaret Cho Comedy Station.

Kelli was recently the expert on “What Is Normal” in Twist Magazine (known as Tiger Beat’s little sister magazine), on a page facing a full color poster of Justin Beiber. There isn’t even a ironic statement to match that, it’s just strangely true.

RED DURKIN is the managing editor of PrettyQueer.com and one the most promising young queer comics in the country. She has toured extensively as part of the Tranny Roadshow, performed at Camp Trans and the Transgender Leadership Summit and was a member of the Fully Functional Cabaret. She has written 9 zines, was featured in the final issue of Punk Planet magazine and Topside Press’s The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard.Her work on Youtube has reach over 100,000 views and has appeared in classrooms and boardrooms nationwide.

Yeah FREAK OF NURTURE is HERE

So let’s say you’ve been wanting to share some Kelli Dunham comedy but you hate going to clubs. Or colleges. Or prides. Or coffeehouses. Or maybe you’d like to hear a little more in depth behind the scenes look at why I was a nun, or all the funny stuff that happens when you lose two partners in a row, or you wish some of my stories about living in Haiti were written down.

Or maybe you lead a high school GSA or college LGBT student’s group and want to bring me to your school but you are having convincing more serious minded folks that you can a stand up comic to your school without some kind of international incident. PHOTO OF REVIEW COPY OF FREAK OF NURTURE

Wellsireeee my friend, you’re in luck. Kelli is Serious Now. Kelli’s fifth book (and her first personal/queer) book FREAK OF NURTURE has just been released by the groundbreaking Topside Press. You can read more about the stories and essay contained within on Kelli’s blog for the book you can buy it right now, or if you’re anywhere in the New York area, come out to the event release reading at (naturally) the Sealy Cuyler Funeral Home on May 18.

And if you need help explaining Freak of Nurture to your friends, just show ‘em this Venn Diagram. A Venn Diagram always helps.

Totally clear it up, right?

Totally clears it up, right?

 

Hey I was tagged (along with the brilliant Imogen Binnie) by authors Johnny Drago and EC Crandall (who penned the hilarious and bizarre and parodical book Executive Privilege) to do this self interview as part of the Next Big Thing. I’m not exactly sure why I’m being so snarky, since it’s a self interview, but it’s early and I haven’t slept much.  At least that’s my excuse. So here goes:

PHOTO OF REVIEW COPY OF FREAK OF NURTURE

Beautiful book, right? Thanks Topside’s Julie Blair for that!

What is the working title for the book?

I don’t know how hard it’s working, but the title is Freak of Nurture, which comes from a bit in my stand up act. “Some lady saw me on Showtime and emailed me to tell me I’m a freak of nature. No, my friend, you don’t know me, you don’t know my family, or you would know I’m a freak of nurture.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve been playing around with the idea of a book of essays for hmmm, almost a decade, but never really thought I had a platform, or maybe I thought it was too narcissistic to have a book that’s just about my adventures and misadventures “oh look how fascinating my life is, gee whiz, golly folks, it’s all about me.” It seemed like those girls on GIRLS (the HBO disaster series) where everyone is running around trying to get other people to pay attention to them and affirm them and they HAVEN’T DONE A DAMN THING YET.

Anyway through my work with Queer Memoir and cajoling college students in storytelling workshops about the importance of telling their own story (I say “tell your own story or someone more powerful than you will tell it for you, and it won’t be the same story” at least five times a day) I realized it’s a little hypocritical to ask other people to tell their very personal stories publicly unless I have the guts to do the same.

Tom Leger from Topside, Mr Success Bully himself, is the person who convinced me that I needed to put out this book at this point in my career. This is actually my fourth book, and all the other books are doing quite well, but they’re all niche nonfiction. For example, The Boys’ Body Book (Simon and Schuster, 2010) is first in its category in Amazon and is being used by everyone from LGBT focused foster care agencies to Sonlight Conservative Christian Homeschooling Curriculum. Which is pretty scary.But despite its success, which I’m grateful for, no one has ever heard of it unless you’re the parent of an 8-12 year old boy.

So Freak of Nurture is my first really personal, really queer book.

What genre does your book fall under?

Traumedy (trauma + comedy)

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmmm, well, I think I should play myself because I won’t have to do anything complicated to look like myself. Unfortunately, I can’t act, I’m a comic and a storyteller. So maybe all my talented acting friends can all play themselves and I’ll play a missing person in a newspaper that someone else,playing me, is reading.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Freak of Nurture is a book of stories and essays that demonstrates hilarity and chaos reign when you combine what Kelli Dunham’s therapist calls “deep biological optimism” with a hearty midwestern work ethic and determination to make bad ideas a fantastic reality

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Writing it took both a lifetime and six weeks.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See above, and also 2011 The Year I Stopped Getting Invited to Parties (not for the faint of heart)

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It covers a lot of ground! There are stories about my first job in the shelter system (“You Know Who Does Anal”), the first ever in print story of my disastrous attempt at being a nun (“Bad Habit”) as well as lots of stories of smart kids in Haiti who beat the hell out of each other with their prosthetic legs (“Dishonoring Columbus”) and some good ol’ fashioned gender confusion humor.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Freak of Nurture will be released May 21, 2013 by Topside Press; pre-order available oh so soon!

And I’m tagging the hilarious Red Durkin!

PS And oh here’s what lesbian comic icon Kate Clinton has to say about Freak of Nurture: “This hilarious collection covers a lot of ground – daredevil childhood, big-hearted caregiving, behind the scenes Catholic convents, coming out as uh whatever, comedy and good samaritan road-trips, death defying hospice  – with a bracing self-awareness, a keen appreciation of language, sexual frankness and buoyant optimism.   It is laugh-out-loud outrageous story-telling.”

 

Kelli and Heather looking intent

I was feeling like everything that needed to be said today about Heather Mac was already written in Stacy Bias’ post Remembering Heather MacAllister

But then…you know, it’s Ash Wednesday and Pudding Day, two of my least favorite days of the year, so I don’t want to let that go without some kind of recognition.

Blah blah blah.

If you’ve done the Catholic Ash Wednesday thing, you know that when the priest smears a cross of ashes on your head he says “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return”

Not creepy. Not at all.

Not creepy. Not at all.

But a priest I used to know in Haiti would add his only little twist to the liturgy. If he knew your name, he’d add it to the pronouncement.

“Remember, Kelli, you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Go ahead, try with your name stuck in there.

Yeah, right?

Back in the day when I was in my early 20s, I hated that priest because every Ash Wednesday I hear that same thing echo back and forth in my head.

“Remember Kelli, you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

But I don’t mind it now. Ahhhh, dust, that sounds seriously restful. I’m enjoying much of my life, I have a lot to be grateful for and I’m damn sure happy to be above ground.

But when my ash time comes, I hope I can go gracefully. Because I know I’ll be tired. Hell, I’m already tired. As the grandfather of one of the students I work with said “I ain’t afraid of dying because living right is a lot of work.”

Right on.

The other thing about Ash Wednesday and Pudding Day is this:

Earlier this year my therapist pointed out that I still “had a closet full of clothes belonging to Cheryl” Now, don’t worry, my therapist hasn’t been to my house, she was just summarizing, somewhat inaccurately, stuff I’d told her in the past.

Actually I didn’t have a full closet of Cheryl’s clothes. I had more than a full closet’s worth of Cheryl’s clothes AND Heather’s clothes and they weren’t in my closet, c’mon, I’m a New Yorker. I don’t have any damn closets.

No all these clothes of both my dead girlfriends were sitting in containers next to my bed.

Creepy, right? Not as creepy as a Precious Moments coffin. But creepy nevertheless.

Creepy, right? Not as creepy as a Precious Moments coffin. But creepy nevertheless.

So at my therapist’s suggestion I set up operation purge, with the help of people who loved Cheryl and people who loved Heather. When we got to the point where we saw some bare floor it occurred to me that maybe it was time to scatter Heather’s ashes as well.

Heather didn’t really have much of a plan for her ashes, except she wanted them everyplace they could go “all the places that I didn’t get to travel.” And I did that for a while, taking them as far as Haiti, and Montreal and Memphis and Mississippi. But TSA people are not so thrilled with folks showing up with a bagful of gray powder to board a plane.

So I decided to scatter Heather’s ashes at Coney Island because of the freak connection, because it’s a place where working class people go to have fun, and because it’s one of my favorite places in the five boroughs.

I also decided that I should go to a movie on my way to scatter the ashes.

Of course, I forgot that sometimes certain movie theaters like to check your bags if you look like you’re carrying snacks and I, apparently, always look like I’m carrying snacks.

Even as a baby. I totally looked like I was carrying snacks.

Even as a baby. I totally looked like I was carrying snacks.

When they checked my bag this particular day it was not full of snacks, but it was full of Heather’s ashes, a substance apparently completely unknown to the movie theater security because they called…the real-ass police.

The real-ass police showed up, looking like he was sent from central casting (“we need a New York cop, Irish Catholic looking if possible, need heavy duty NY accent”) took one look at the ten pound bag of gray powder and said to the security guards “really? It’s got fragments of bones” and added “what did you think it was, drugs? 10 million dollars worth of drugs?” The security guard squirmed but Central Casting Cop wouldn’t let up “Who takes 10 million dollars worth of drugs to the movies?”

Here's Heather and her heart sister looking tough as shit. She would have known exactly how to handle an ashes meets law enforcement debacle.

Here’s Heather and her heart sister looking tough as shit. She would have known exactly how to handle an ashes meets law enforcement debacle.

They gave me a free pass since I was too late for the movie I wanted to see so I had to see Les Mis instead. Between the laughing at the ridiculous overacting and the “your last breath should involve an opera note” death scenes in the movie, and thinking how much the ashes scene IRL would have completely amused Heather, I was in pretty great mood when later the Q train pulled into Coney Island.

Heather would love this juxtaposition of fun and creepiness. This actually looks like our house when we held a hosted a Halloween Party in 2006.

Heather would love this juxtaposition of fun and creepiness. This actually looks like our house when we held a hosted a Halloween Party in 2006. Also, this photo was taken a few years ago. But same place anyway.

I walked out onto the beach sat down at the first jetty and let Heather go, with an older Russian couple wearing matching sweatsuits as my only witness. We nodded to each other as I climbed the stairs to the boardwalk.

Later my therapist asked if it felt lonely to do it that way and I answered “no…I don’t no…:” before I even realized how true that was.

C PICTURE Heather pink chemo

My Queen could make even chemo look fashionable.

The thing about loving someone that was so loved by others is even if I so much as whisper Heather’s name, there is a part of me that feels surrounded by her –as she called them “lovetroopers” and there is healing in knowing the loss is not mine alone.

 

P1050468

ARRIVE ALIVE: THE FINE ART OF FAMILY HOLIDAY SURVIVAL

 It's always Jesus O' Clock in my family. This is pure comedy gold for a queer comic. At family gatherings, I keep my comedy notebook on my laptop 24/7. It's not as comedically lucrative as the fact that my room-mate is dating my ex-therapist, but it's close.

It’s always Jesus O’ Clock in my family. This is pure comedy gold for a queer comic. At family gatherings, I keep my comedy notebook on my laptop 24/7. It’s not as comedically lucrative as the fact that my room-mate is dating my ex-therapist, but it’s close.

For more holidays than I can count without getting a nervous twitch in my eye, I made the Philadelphia to Daytona Beach, Florida trek with my older sister, her husband and their two kidlets. The trip, often in a compact car, led to the Florida house that my mom shared with her husband at the time, a retired army Colonel everyone including my mom, referred to as “The Colonel.” The house was adorned with a wide assortment of dead animal skins on the floor and a number of historically significant weapons on the walls. It was a fun place.

As we snaked down Interstate 95, past billboards for a Noted South Carolina Racist Attraction and others advertising “Carnivore Heaven Bar and Grill” or “Agorama: The World’s First Agricultural Theme Park” I would find myself sweating more with each passing mile. As I craned my head out the car window, scanning the highways for rainbow bumper stickers or any sign of Queer Life, I would repeat my mantra “I can survive the holidays with my family. I can survive the holidays with my family.”

Many years and thousands of dollars of therapy later, I fancy myself a bit of an expert in the “let’s wrestle some fun out of this dysfunction” arena And despite the warnings of my friends, therapist(s), exes and perhaps even my pets, I still spend winter holidays with my huge—and, yes, hugely alcoholic– family of origin. I have tools now though, don’t try this at home. Or do try it at home, but observe these important survival guidelines to decrease the statistical likelihood of family gatherings ending with tears or blood being shed:

Some people would rather kiss a goat on the mouth than spend time with their family on the holidays.

Adult Children of Alcoholics guess at what normal is. Kissing a stone goat in the courtyard of the Museum of Modern Art, is this normal? No idea.

As much as possible, avoid the more intensive family interactions like group meals. These can be a breeding ground for cutlery mishaps, eating disorder relapses and semi-drunken brawls. Taking a job such as firefighter, emergency medical technician, undertaker or nurse practically guarantees that you can always use the excuse “I’m so sorry I can’t make it but–sigh–I have to work.” If you family insists on having holiday meals locally to accommodate your oh-so-busy schedule, clip your little cousin’s walkie talkie to your belt and explain you’re “on call.” Run out right after the turkey is served.

If you’re not able to excuse yourself, at the very least avoid coming out to your family in the midst of holiday meals. At least not spontaneously. That rush of warmth you thought you felt could just be heartburn from your aunt Sophie’s bacon and pepperoni dressing. The resulting indigestion you might experience would probably not be life-threatening, but could indeed feel like it.

You can also feign intestinal disorder that require constant trips to the bathrooms. This is a fail- safe way of avoiding troublesome, boring or even insulting topics of conversation, For example, for many years, every time my family gathered, my grandmother liked to tell the story about how lucky she was to have survived her bout with cancer, since the disease was caught at such a late stage.

“I didn’t go to the doctor right away about the pain in my side,” my grandma would explain, “because I thought I was just sore from carrying Kelli around. She was such a big fat baby.”

Silence.

“Hey,” my grandma would say, “where’s Kelli.”

Flush.

You get the picture.

Also, feign sleep. A lot.

Also, feign sleep. A lot.

It’s also important to anticipate the end of a conversation before you initiate its beginning. One year I asked The Colonel over pumpkin pie if the bayonets mounted on the living room wall were real. ‘For chrisskaes yes,” he exclaimed, “what good is a bayonet if it’s never been used to kill anyone?” Luckily his question was rhetorical because I was too stunned to speak. I learned something very important that day. If you can’t handle the answer, use all your self control to keep from asking the question.

The corollary to above mentioned rule is plan family-friendly conversational topics in advance. For example, I have a slight suspicion my mother won’t want to hear about my accidental threeway at Atlanta Pride, but I’m sure she’ll love my stories about discovering drag culture in rural Wisconsin. I hope. Commit these safe conversational topics to a 3 by 5 card if you can’t commit them to memory.

Yes, it’s a little awkward to recite “Colonel, would you like to chat about the win to loss radio of [insert name here], a local sports team?” But if the alternative is chatting about “those damn [insert name of ethnic group/ random, allegedly liberal group/ or almost endangered species]” it’s worth both the awkwardness and the effort. It’s a documented fact that the average homosexual can listen to only a limited number of anti-harp seal diatribes before going completely bananas.

Also,–and I hope you are listening closely here–work WITH the family denial system, not against it. Remember what you learned from the friendly neighborhood dyke lifeguard? If you’re caught in a a rip tide, don’t try to swim out of it. The riptide is always stronger than you are, and you’ll tire yourself out before you can reach the beach. Swim parallel to a riptide; however, and at some point a topographical feature on the shore will cause its strength to ebb and you’ll be able to break away.

Watch Sarah Palin speech clips for practice reacting to "reduced truth" situations. PS Why her crazy-ass self so hot?

Watch Sarah Palin speech clips for practice reacting to “reduced truth” situations. PS Why is her crazy-ass self so hot?

The same principle applies when dealing with what a friend calls a “reduced truth” family situation. Some may call a sideways confrontation passive aggressive, I call it efficient.

Perhaps an example would prove instructive here. My mom had a tubal ligation 19 months before I was born. It seems in the 60s the tubal ligation procedure involved only ligation, that is clamping of the fallopian tubes, rather than actually severing them.

My brother, thinking I was already aware of this fact, mention it offhandedly at a Christmas gathering the year I turned 30. I did some quick internet research. According to a CDC report done over a 10 year period from 1965 until 1975, of the 10, 365 post-tubal ligation women the CDC studied, 143 became pregnant at least once after the procedure. In other words, 1 in 155 tubal ligations were unsuccessful.

It seemed strange my mom had never mentioned my special status as a 1 in 155er. We weren’t a timid clan by any stretch of the imagination: one of the explicitly stated family rules was “remember kids, we don’t give each other the finger in front of grandma.” My biological father was of the genre of dads that thought great fun on a road trip involved farting and then locking the windows of the family station wagon.

I couldn’t understand the complete silence over a simple medical fact.

I decided to chat with my mom about this. The day after Christmas, I accompanied her on an early morning drive to pick up donuts for all the visiting relatives. I had only managed to say “Mom, you could have told me about the tubal lig-” before my mom turned the steering wheel sharply to the right while simultaneously hitting the brakes. This sent the car skidding onto the gravel shoulder.

“I can’t believe how close that car came to hitting us” she said, genuinely breathless.

It was 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning and we were driving on a deserted stretch of highway in rural Florida. There was not another car for miles.

I nodded and agreed that, indeed, who could believe how close that car came to hitting us.

HUMAN EGG FIGHTING

This story is true. I’m not even using hyperbole as a comic literary device. No hyperbole needed in my family, we’re low maintenance that way.

All the same I couldn’t resist tormenting my mother about this absurd situation just a tiny bit. The next Christmas I got my mom a special gift: a tee shirt I had sent to her house directly from the Planned Parenthood website. It was adorned with a picture of a smiling cartoon uterus and said simply “Ask me about my tubal ligation.”

See? Navigating within the confines of the family denial system, not against it.

Of course, if you’re bringing your partner along to spend some quality time with your family of origin, the ordeal becomes more complicated. Positive outcomes; however, are not impossible. In every relationship there comes a moment, usually shortly after moving in together, when one partner turns to the other and says “Seriously, though, seriously. Were you actually raised by wolves?” Spending time with your family allows you to demonstrate that yes, in fact, you were raised by wolves. If nothing else, it cuts that particular argument short.

In this photo, Cheryl is thinking "I wonder when is a good time to ask the raised by wolves question." It was our second date.

In this photo, Cheryl is thinking “I wonder when is a good time to ask the raised by wolves question.” It was our second date.

Other tips:

Avoid doing the very first introduction of a new partner at a holiday gathering where there is no easy escape in case of backfire. Family vacations might be okay, if you’re going down the shore and can join the traveling carnival set up by the boardwalk if things get really out of control. If you’re planning a winter Pocono weekend trip with your entire extended family, a single snowstorm could throw the whole interaction deep into the unmanageable zone.

You’ll also need to process closet issues before—not during- the family get together. No, hilarious homos, I don’t mean a long discussion about the virtues of cedar paneling versus moth balls or a campy reenactment of the “no more wire hangers” scene from Mommie Dearest. I’m merely saying that if your partner is going to be introduced as “friend,” “room-mate,” “personal trainer,” “pal” or other such euphemism, they should know in advance.

CLOSET

Warn your partner, if you wish, about the little eccentricities of your family, but don’t expect to have warned them about the right things. For example, because I am both a registered nurse and a worrywart, I am known amongst my friends as “Safety Monitor Dyke.” I was frequently (and inexplicably) the only person who brought a fire extinguisher to the Lesbian Avengers’ flame eating demonstrations. One Christmas my partner watched my cousins (who had each polished off a six pack of Old Milwaukee) head into the woods, chainsaws and axes in hand. She turned to me with a stunned expression “what are they doing??” to which I replied “well, chopping firewood I guess.” She was horrified by this blatant affront to personal safety, I was accustomed to it.

apparentyl

Try to respect your partner’s view of your family; their (relative so to speak) objectivity may shed light into some very dark corners. For example, in the past ten years I have been involved in many useless arguments about the souls of cartoon characters. This is because at some point during every holiday gathering, my oldest sister authoritatively announces “Smurfs are a satanic force from hell.” “No,” I would say, “the Smurfs are merely annoying. There is no evidence they are a satanic force from hell.”

 One year my partner asked if I might “perhaps choose battles a little more wisely?” And it’s true, there is only so much reality you can interject into any given conversation. Although I was initially resistant, I realized she did have a point. After all, who elected me CEO of the Cartoon Characters Defense League? Nowadays, I let the little blue bastards take care of themselves.

My family teased Cheryl a lot about the vegetarian thing, but they all liked her. Especially my mom. Cheryl was like the daughter she'd wished she had!

My family teased Cheryl a lot about the vegetarian thing, but they all liked her. Especially my mom. Cheryl was like the daughter she never had!

Finally don’t forget: Unless you were raised by 7th Day Adventists or the Krishna, take your vegetarian partner out to eat before every family meal. As far as I can tell, my family seldom if ever actually encountered a living breaking vegetarian in their habitat. This is why they don’t understand vegetarian diet choices. Or at least that is what I told my vegan partner when they offered her a huge platter of turkey explaining “it’s okay, we took out the bones, so it doesn’t look like meat.”

If all else fails, remember that cheerfulness is an effective weapon in trained hands. My “Smurfs are Satan” sister has a ten year old daughter who recently came into the house crying because another kid on the playground had called her “silly”  when she instructed him that you can become demon possessed by trick or treating at Halloween. Faster than you can say “put another fifty bucks in the therapy fund” my sister comforted her daughter by saying “the Bible tells us the world will hate Christians. Isn’t it beautiful to be hated as Jesus was?”

Do you think my sister wants to know that I (the heathen sodomite) and my homosexually evil partner are actually happier than she is? No way. Sometimes collective cheesy grins (even if you have been 30 seconds away from partneracide for the last 6 months) can go a long way towards maintaining your collective sanity at holiday gatherings.

Go somewhere this gay.

Go somewhere at least this gay.

Finally, always plan an after holiday holiday. Invite your queerest friends to your queer house for completely queer decompression. This might involve eating hummus and completing rainbow crafts. At the very least, everyone should wear a vest and sing a showtune or Holly Near song.

Or better yet, someplace so gay this is likely to happen.

Or better yet, someplace so gay this is likely to happen.

 

You might want to get another dolphin or even labrys tattoo. Or go to a tea dance. Or write a slam poem that has seven trigger warnings and wherein you rhyme oppression with expression and spread each word over six lines. Most important of all, think about scheduling a double session with your therapist. And definitely plan on having the bill sent to your parents.

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This blog post is excerpted from my upcoming book Freak of Nurture (Topside Press, April 2013).

Would you like to to read some more funny stuff from the book?

Maybe you’re a blogger and you’d like to review it?

Maybe you’re a podcaster and you’d like to have me as a guest on your show?

Maybe you just want to know where the title Freak of Nurture came from?

All that and more, right here.

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Also, if you enjoy comedy about the craziness of families, you should probably download my brand new CD, “Why Is the Fat One Always Angry” as a holiday gift to yourself. Pay what you want, including free. You can play it on your iphone with an earbud in only one ear and your family won’t even notice, right?

HUMAN EGG FIGHTING

I’m Here, I’m Queer, The Tubal Ligation Didn’t Work

Wanna hear this story in stand up comedy form? For a limited time, download my new CD “Why Is the Fat One Always Angry”  which includes “I’m Here, I’m Queer, the Tubal Ligation Didn’t Work” for whatever you want to pay! Anything! Or nothing! It can be your holiday gift to yourself!

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