Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I rarely say no to myself. I don’t deny my whims and desires. In fact, in the realm of things that I want to do, there is very little that I haven’t done. I don’t believe in living a life deferred – or a dream deferred as the original poem states. Despite this, as I approach the milestone age of forty, I’m thinking about what I haven’t done and would like to before I transition, by some measures, into my middle age.

It will happen in January of 2010 and, truth be told, I’m quite excited about it. I’ve never feared growing older and I don’t want to adopt that fear as the years progress. In fact, I want to be one of those people who embrace age and its corollary, experience. To achieve the experience part of the equation, I’m thinking about what I haven’t done that I want to do. I’m making a list of things to do before forty.

A dear friend suggested adrenaline activities, which are, I fear, woefully absent from my bank of life experiences. Sky diving, bungee jumping, tight-rope walking. I’ve done none of these. Nor do I particularly want to, but the point is taken about adrenaline. So I’m mulling those and definitely will put one on my list. At this point, I’m leaning to parasailing, but who can tell what might strike my fancy in the next months leading up to the big day.

I also want to dye my hair. Not brown to cover the gray that is now coming in by the handfuls, but pink or purple. A color that will shock and disarm. Perhaps green? I want to have an arresting presence for a few weeks before I cut it all off. I’ve never dyed my hair before, and it seems like a life experience that I am missing, so that’s on my list.

I’d like to do a thorough hair removal. Generally I’m a hairy gal. I don’t shave much but for one day, except for the hair on my head (dyed bright red?), I’d like to be hairless. Everyone tells me that the one hairless day will be paid for with a few weeks of intense discomfort afterward as it all grows back. That’s doesn’t seem to dissuade me, however.

I’m careening into more hedonism as I approach forty, and I embrace that. More partying and revelry all around. I didn’t do as much of this as I could have in my twenties so I’m reversing that part of the life cycle and staying out late getting drunk and sleeping in the next morning.

I’m trying to figure out how to honor all of the people in my life who have died before reaching forty. A group of gay men with whom I came out who have passed away – primarily from AIDS but other medical conditions as well. My sister, who should have been right behind me in approaching forty, but isn’t here to share in it. I want all of them to be present as I celebrate this milestone. So I regularly invoke them, calling on them to celebrate with me.

Suddenly, I’m interested in people who are eighty. What were they doing at forty? How did they spend the last forty years? What lessons do their lives have for me? I’m trying to soak that knowledge up in the way that I studied the forty year olds when I was twenty.

I want to speak another language fluently. I want to read more books that matter and change my life. I’d like to be an expert in something. I want to travel to every continent—at least once, some many times. I want to create my own list of the wonders of the world. I won’t achieve all of those goals by the time I’m forty. It seems prudent to have a few ideas of what I will do with the gift of time I am granted beyond this milestone birthday.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #14 dated October 30, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 703

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Nowhere in the world are we – gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people – a majority. There is no gay homeland from which we came and to which we turn in times of danger, for support and validation. Wherever we live, we are a minority. Even in Provincetown, the East or West Village, the Castro, Halstead, or West Hollywood, we are a minority, unless we draw the lines very narrowly and resist coloring outside them. The fact is we queer people will always be in the minority, living across cultures and communicating with others like us and yet not.

Living as a minority sometimes has advantages. Alienation from the dominant culture can be a creative; it can be an inspiring experience that energizes us to build our own culture – outside of the dominant, majority culture. Living outside also gives us greater freedom to think critically and critique our culture. We have the freedom and flexibility to create our own communities and families based not on biological or geographical conditions, but on our own intellectual, social, political, and affectional affinities.

Living as a minority also has disadvantages. Sometimes, we don’t have the support and compassion of our family of origin. Our families of origin may want us to be heterosexual or they want for us their vision of a normal life. Even when the do support us, sometimes they feel sad by their own sense of loss of their vision of us as heterosexual. Sometimes, our parents don’t teach us how to live as queer people and sometimes isolated from other queers, we struggle to find acceptance and validation. Sometimes living as a minority is isolating and alienating. Sometimes the chafe of living between the majority culture and our queer – and minority – subculture is difficult and painful.

Rather than living automatically with people who understand our lives and our cultures, we must seek out others like us. Instead of following the norms of our society, we must build our own lives, sometimes in the absence of effective role models. Then, when we do build families and communities that flourish, we cannot simply rest. We have a responsibility to translate and educate others – the dominant majority – about our lives and our culture, and we have a responsibility to help other queers like us. This can be tiresome and burdensome as well as annoying and vexing. Yet, we do it because we must. We live as a minority within our nation.

Sometimes given the nation’s exclusion of queers, I want to reject my nationality. It is not only queerness. Recently, I’ve felt ashamed of my nations treatment of poor people, of children without health care, and of people in New Orleans during and after the hurricane. I want to rejected my nationality given the reality of the oppressive racism and sexism that dominates our history and our present. I’ve wondered, if my identity as a lesbian is not recognized, why should I adopt the identity that the nation wants for me? Why should I be nationalistic or patriotic?

I am outside of the nation and, yet, I am of the nation. I cannot disentangled the two. We queer people life outside this nation; we are not fully recognized by the nation with all of the rights and responsibility of citizens of the United States. The pain is felt most obviously when our governments – federal, state, and local – refuse to acknowledge our lives and treat us equally.

We are also inside the nation. Many of us were born here. We live here. We must engage with the country – to transform it to include our realities. Ultimately, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people effect everyone in our nation. We are a minority that is mutable – people join us and leave us over time. We can live without a nation; we cannot live outside of nationality. So we must struggle with both—our country and our identities. Through that struggle, we hope to transform us all with more justice and more integrity.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #13 dated October 16, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 664

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


On Tuesday, September 18, I woke up early, showered, and packed my bag for a day of travel. My partnered dropped me off at the New Carrollton train station, and I headed to New York for meetings for work. She drove back to Riverdale for her dentist appointment and then was off to work in Baltimore. It was a typical day.

I responded to all of my email on the train, took the subway to the office in New York, sat in meetings, ate the bagged lunch I had carried with me. Mid-morning an email arrived from Equality Maryland announcing the news that the Maryland Court of Appeals issued their decision in the Conaway v. Deane case—and it wasn’t in our favor.

The court ruled that gay and lesbian couples were not unfairly excluded from the marriage in Maryland or in their words, “the State’s legitimate interests in fostering procreation and encouraging the traditional family structure in which children are born” means that the State can excluded gay and lesbian couples from marriage. I didn’t have time that day to think about it.

My partner and I (and I confess, I often call her my wife and she reciprocates even though there is no legal basis for such an assertion) have been together for eleven years, yet with the exception of the mortgage that binds us both to payment and a stack of documents that are somewhere in our office (I’d be hard pressed to put my hands on them in under five minutes), we are strangers in the eyes of our government. We were hoping, perhaps foolishly that that would change. On Tuesday, we learned that it didn’t. At least for now.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday night, I was tuckered out from my day and still had to meet a friend on the Upper West Side. We had agreed to purchase her used car as she prepares to move to London (where gay and lesbian relationships are recognized), and I was driving it home. It was exciting to get the new-to-us car, but as I exited the Lincoln Tunnel, I knew I had to go south, but I fantasized about going north.

New Jersey recently ruled that gay and lesbian couples would be recognized through civil unions. I wondered, driving along the turnpike if perhaps we should move there. I knew if we headed farther north, a metaphoric and literal migration in the United States as people seek rights and equal treatment under the law, we would be recognized. The entirety of New England is now a safe haven for gay and lesbian couples. Marriage in Massachusetts; civil unions in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Only one mid-Atlantic government would recognize our relationship: the District of Columbia, and four western states: Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington. The south and the Midwest, from where we originally hale, are like Maryland all blind to our relationship.

I kept driving south and even felt sad leaving New Jersey, knowing that I was leaving one of the safe zones for gay and lesbian couples. Still, I was glad to get home just after midnight.

We love our life in Maryland. Our home, our community, our jobs. The reality is though, as we grow older when concerns about relationship recognition in light of health care, disability, and death become uppermost on our mind, we may have to move. If we had children, we would definitely want to be in a state that recognized our relationship. And as more and more states recognize gay and lesbian relationships in a variety of ways, my wife and I will want to live in a state – and a country – where we are accorded equal rights under the law.

If Maryland isn’t a state that will do that, we’ll take the future calls about employment elsewhere seriously. The drive north on I-95 is pleasant and will be even more so if it leads to a state of equality for us as a lesbian couple.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #12 dated October 2, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 667