Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
Reblogged from Diverge: www.idiverge.wordpress.com
Two things to know about me: 1. My parents are divorced. 2. My mother and grandmother raised me. One thing you might not know: I didn’t think growing up in a house without men was weird, until people told me it was. My family just was what it was, and that was fine. Parents got divorced. Sometimes grandmothers moved in, and sometimes parents got remarried. People died. These were facts. Everybody had different ones.
Based on my facts, and how uncomfortable or confused they make other people, there’s an impulse to try to figure me out, especially when it comes to my politics. Two classics are: “The reason you don’t want to get married is because your parents’ marriage broke up,” and “You don’t want to have kids because your mother died and you’re afraid you’ll get sick and die too.”
Of course, the impulse to understand someone who’s not like you is natural-one could argue that as a fiction writer, I do it everyday. Part of me thinks these attempts to shrink me are hilarious, but most of me is outraged. Our experiences, the textures of our lives, contribute to making us who we are. I could have reacted differently to what’s happened in my life. Instead of opting out of marriage and children, I could be grasping for them-desperate to create the traditional structure that I didn’t have.
Here’s the thing about me, though-the way I’ve responded to my experiences is to be honest about what I want. The reason I want those things, or don’t want them, may in fact be influenced by my upbringing, but that’s why the phrase “the personal is political” is so important and relevant. Being a feminist, or radical character of any sort, means actively rejecting and/or analyzing what crosses my path everyday, things I’m expected to accept and conform to as a woman. Since I make different choices, since I challenge structures and threaten what people consider normal, this leaves me vulnerable for the attack, or the analysis of others.
The overarching theme in my decision-making is that I believe in being truthful with myself about what I think and feel will make the best life for me, where I can build a space in which I can access my potential to work for justice and create. As a person who benefits from white skinned, educated privilege, I can make these decisions in relative safety and security.
The bottom line is this: We pathologize people who make choices that place them outside of normative structures. We might believe our efforts are benign – after all, we’re just trying to understand each other. We read other’s experiences through our individual lenses, but then we use the most nefarious of systems-sexism, racism, heteronormativity, etc- to process them, because we’ve learned to associate normalcy with morality and truth. That’s the most insipid part of all of this-the fact that we really believe that we’re the safest when everyone else is just like us.
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July 28, 2011 | 9:21 am
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
On Sunday, gay and lesbian couples in New York began marrying, as the most populist state yet extended marriage equality to same-sex couples. Check out this blog post from a rabbi in Minnesota as she discusses watching couples wed in New York as her own state struggles with the equality of LGBT Minnesotans.
July 22, 2011 | 5:56 pm
Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
Reposted from my blog, Diverge (www.idiverge.wordpress.com)
I spent three hours at the archive today, upstairs in the periodicals, looking at and filing copies of Heresies, Aegis and Chrysalis (save an extra copy of things published before 1980).
There’s a grey box that contains what folks at the archive think is the first lesbian newsletter, Vice Versa, written in 1947 by a woman in California on her typewriter “for all her dykey friends.” (F, another volunteer) I was afraid to touch it, it’s so important, but this is the point of an archive, especially a feminist one, for enable people to encounter history.
We looked at piles of newsletters and magazines that had been donated from individuals and universities, deciding if they had anything to do with lesbians, or if they were just general feminist publications. It was such an interesting distinction to make, and to consider, since for me, they’ve always been inseparable. I have such great, complicated thoughts at the archive, there must be something in the walls, or the books, or, most likely, it’s the energy of all of it.
Before I left, F told me that the brownstone next door had recently been purchased by two women, a couple, for around two million dollars. “Some women have money, I guess,” she said.
July 22, 2011 | 5:52 pm
Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
Reposted from my blog, Diverge (www.idiverge.wordpress.com).
On Saturday, I spent a long time at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. It makes me feel so hopeful there, my thoughts get so much larger, my imagination comes off its leash. It’s full of pulp novels, photos, posters, oral histories, diaries, music, fiction, autobiographies, and basically anything else you would find in an archive. There is a delicious purple couch and a kitchen and a long, curved staircase and shelves and shelves of book with yellow and green pages from the 1970’s that smell old and wise. All the fiction, biographies and autobiographies are shelved by first name, not last, a holdover from 70’s radical feminism, which I love. (Subversive feminist action: Reshelve all your books in this manner.)
I read two essays while in the Archive, both from Voices from Women’s Liberation, possibly published in 1971. (Yes, I opened it and inhaled, which is what one should do with old books.) I made a plan to volunteer there, and thought about some things.
1. What I was wearing that day, which is dangerously similar to what I’m wearing today, and what I wore yesterday, which are these shorts I made out of a pair of corduroy pants, some flip flops, and a purple v neck shirt. I felt really attractive and confident in those clothes, the way I often feel when I’m wearing clothes that are comfortable and modest (not by religious standards, but by my own). It seems to be curious to others that I dress in a manner that may not attract men. What does it mean to feel good in clothes we’re not “allowed” to feel good in? What about feeling good in bodies that we’re not supposed to love?
2. This is a conversation I’ve been having often, about when it’s okay to claim a queer identity. Apparently, there’s an essay out there by a white Dude, who’s straight, and identifies as queer. If anyone knows what I’m talking about, send it to me. I’m thinking about whether, because my politics are queer (as in radical, out of the mainstream, anti essentialist), it’s okay to identify that way, even if I want my sexual partners to be male bodied. If I claim that identity, am I an imposter? Who does it matter to? If I’m perceived as queer anyway (because of politics, appearance, etc), how much heterosexual privilege do I really have?
Easy questions, obviously. I expect you all to have answers.
July 21, 2011 | 1:37 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
Whenever I am writing a blog, the content and message comes from a reflection on an experience and lesson, which I find deeply moving, powerful and of which I feel passionate. As I seek truth, it is these experiences that open my eyes to feeling truly alive and present during my borrowed time on this earth.
My birthday is approaching on July 22, and I will be 28 years old. This birthday is especially profound for me because I feel more alive then ever. Although I was alive and breathing, my spirit felt dead during many years of my life. I was spending day after day being lost, lacking a purpose and passion for life. I believe that there are people who can relate to this feeling. Over the past four years I have worked incredibly hard to truly feel alive, and now that I do, I never want to go back to feeling dead inside. The way I nourish my soul to feel alive is through finding meaning, purpose, compassion, and gratitude within my everyday experiences.
Lately I have been thinking about death and dying, and how incredibly important it is to understand and accept my mortality. Definitely not a light subject, but I believe that by facing the terrifying reality that I will one day pass away, it will be powerful in helping me to open my eyes towards a new perspective and a greater sense of aliveness. I find that within society, we go to great lengths to not talk about death, and it is really harmful that we do not integrate ourselves with the reality of it. I find that the more I face death, the more I want to make the most out of this lifetime. I want to be present and soak it in.
I have been facing my mortality through studying geriatric social work while in school. The other day in my policies and procedures class, we went over what happens biologically when we become elderly. My grandmother, who is a very tough cookie, which I attribute to her learning how to survive during the great depression, has said to me numerous times “getting old is not for wimps.” I found myself getting scared, yet inspired to lead a more healthy life, as my professor relayed in detail how our bodies begin to shut down over time, and the complications that occur.
I am also taking the steps to become a volunteer for hospice. I’ve heard from many people who have worked or volunteered for hospice, that they find it to be the most fulfilling experience. My professor warned me that hospice work can be very sad since you often form real human to human connections as the people who are in the face of death have dropped their barriers.
My professor asked me what my intention was in wanting to volunteer with hospice because she wanted to see if it was for the right reasons. She said that people often volunteer because they want to see what they can get out of the experience, however it is really important to have the intention of wanting to see what you can bring to the patient, rather then what you can receive from them. I told her that when I am around the elderly, it brings out the best in me, as I naturally shift into being fully present, patient, and have an open heart. I feel unconditional love towards them, something I learned from my grandparents. I truly enjoy hearing them share the stories and the history of their life experiences. I find that their faces light up as they reflect and share.
I also mentioned to my professor about a beautiful moment I had shared with my grandfather only a few months before he had passed away. My grandfather had been battling Alzheimer’s disease during the last few years of his life. The symptoms had gotten really bad really quickly towards the end of his life. Since I lived in California I didn’t get to see him much, but I had heard from family members what was going on with him. Before I went home to see him and be with the family, when I would imagine what it would be like when I saw him, I found myself feeling really scared to face him. During this incredible moment with my grandfather, which I believe is one of the most special moments in my life, I was fearless and present, and the unconditionally loving part of me came out. My cousin who was witnessing this moment, was amazed at how my grandfathers demeanor had totally changed, from being very volatile with outbursts of anger towards almost everyone (symptom of Alzheimer’s), to having melted with me and became the incredibly sweet man that I had always known him to be. He looked at me with such loving eyes and asked me how I had gotten so beautiful. I believe that my grandfather, who had witnessed me being so incredibly lost and in such great pain for so many years, was able to recognize my inner peace. I am so grateful that he got to witness that inside of me before he passed away. If I volunteer with hospice, I hope that I can bring comfort to the patient, as I exude the same fearless, present and supportive person that I had been with my grandfather. After I told my professor my reasons for wanting to volunteer with hospice, she encouraged me to continue to explore seeing if it is right for me.
My mom told me about how grandfather, before he got ill, used to read the obituaries every morning, and in his own sense of humor say, “just checking to make sure that I’m not in them.” It wasn’t until October 3, 2010 that my grandfather would have his own obituary, right after passing away on October 1, 2010. His memorial service was at Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa, FL, and was held in the very sanctuary that he designed as an architect. There were over 400 people there to pay tribute to the man who was known for having integrity and a big heart. He was a silent leader, not needing to boast and be recognized for his talents and contributions. As I spoke at his memorial, I talked about how my grandfather had left me a tremendously profound gift, which was to be able to witness the death of someone who had gotten to live a full life span with dignity and grace. Up until his memorial, the only experiences that I had with death were tragic. Prior to my grandfather passing away, from 2007-2010, I witnessed 24 people loose their lives to addiction. Many of them were close friends. The number will climb. My view of death had been very heavy, dark and scary. I would panic when I would think about death. My grandfather helped me realize that death didn’t always have to be tragic. I realized that I deeply desired to leave a legacy like my grandfather had. I began to shed my heavy fear about death because it transformed into something that could be a celebration of life instead of a tragedy.
I thought about what I would want my obituary to look like…
MANDELBAUM, Lia B. Age 93, died Friday, July 21, 2077. Ms. Mandelbaum was a licensed social worker and therapist. She was a professor at the local university and was also the executive director of a non-profit, which was geared towards helping people from all walks of life, to have an equal opportunity and chance to lead a productive, healthy, purposeful and happy life. She believed tremendously in the power of living from the heart and being vulnerable, and so she fearlessly wore her heart on her sleeve. Lia was very genuine, grounded, and a role model to so many. People felt safe to be themselves around her because of how she embraced the beauty in not being perfect. Lia Mandelbaum has touched the lives of many and will be very missed. She has left a legacy of great love, compassion, bravery, determination, and an amazing endurance towards making the world a better place, one day at a time. Survivors include her partner and best friend of 60 years, her 3 children and 8 grandchildren.
I ask you, the reader, to think about what you would want your obituary to look like.
July 6, 2011 | 4:31 pm
Posted by Kalil Cohen
Outfest: The 29th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival starts this Thursday night with the Opening Night Gala film GUN HILL ROAD, starring Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, and newcomer Harmony Santana. To find out more or buy tickets, visit www.outfest.org.
With over 150 films at 7 venues across Los Angeles, there is something for every audience. Among this wide variety of films are several films by Jewish filmmakers, some of which I profiled last month here:
Among these is AUGUST, a beautifully shot film set in Los Angeles and centers on two ex-lovers whose passions are reignited when one moves back to Los Angeles while the other is in a long-term committed relationship. With a non-linear and interwoven narrative, this film is much more than a simple love triangle. Major themes of the film are regret and desire, and the challenge of breaking habitual cycles. I recently caught up with Eldar Rapaport, Israeli-American filmmaker of AUGUST. Eldar is being featured at Outfest as one of the “Four in Focus” filmmakers presenting their feature film debuts. I recently had the opportunity to preview AUGUST, and to find out more about the filmmaking process.
You can see AUGUST on July 10th at 9:45pm at the Director’s Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 90046
(between Crescent Heights and Fairfax)
There is free parking in the DGA parking lot located just south of Sunset on Hayworth Ave.
You can buy tickets here: http://www.outfest.org/tixSYS/2011/filmguide/films/3308
Have you made films in Israel as well as in the United States? If so, does your experience of making movies differ between the two countries?
I actually have never shot a film in Israel. I have worked on productions, but never directed. My impression is that it’s easier there for the independents in the sense that you just go ahead and do it. Hit the ground running, less permits and paperwork. Raising money though is easier here. Many of my friends wait on government funds to go shoot.
I noticed that you feature Israeli musicians in the music for AUGUST. Can you talk a bit about that decision?
This music was the inspiration for this entire film. I wrote the short film Postmortem (on which August is based) to the music of Harel Shachal and Anistar after seeing them perform in NYC and this past year I partnered with another Israeli musician, Surque who composed my original score. This music is an integral part of this film. I can’t see it any other way.
How has winning the Iris Prize affected your career?
I think I owe a lot to Iris. I’ve been trying to raise money for a while and only after my win investors were able to look at me and say “We guess we can trust him now. He has proof he knows what he’s doing.” From there on I raised the money pretty quickly.
AUGUST started as a short film. What was it like to turn that into a feature film?
It was a long process. The short was meant to be an anecdote with no continuation. But it was received so well that people asked for the feature. And so the process began. You come along bumps along the way as to the structure and characters arc but it’s also quite inspiring. It provides a lot more freedom to invent things. I think the most challenging was how to adapt it to LA and how to sustain the audience’s interest for 100 minutes of what was a topic of a short film. I think we succeeded in both.
What is your writing process like? Do you tend to develop characters first and then the plot? Do you start with a general concept and see where it goes, or do you start writing with a good idea of where the story is heading?
My process is quite free form actually. I usually know my starting point and the end point and then I connect the two points. The characters are always very clear to me but their arcs reveal themselves while I write the story (in this case collaborating with Brian Sloan). So I dump a hell of a lot on the page and then start molding and cutting away. And I never write without music. I have to find a song that represents the film. It keeps me focused and helps me visualize things.
Do you have any projects in the works?
I’m about to shoot the Iris short at the end of this summer in Wales. It’s called “Little Man” and is based on the short story of Israeli novelist Etgar Keret. I’m also developing another Israeli novella, “Games of Joy,” by Yael Hedaya into a feature film to be shot in NY.