Family Secrets – A Tribute to Ivan E. Coyote

Something I’m working on….haven’t figured out the right ending yet.

Family Secrets – An Homage to Ivan E. Coyote

by Sam Allen

I’ve always wondered who I got it from.

Not like a disease, but a flower that someone gave to me a long time ago, pressed in between the pages of an old photo album. A flower that I discovered late in my 20s; a symbol of love and endurance.

My uncle? Nah, a bad candidate. He was a child taken too far away too early, to a dark place full of urges that he was taught to indulge, and abuse.

My grandfather? Who knows. My aunt Betty tells me that he didn’t like his penis, the thing that most men (I’m assuming) take great pride in. “This thing,” he called it.

But still, what did I know back then, when she was trying to tell me something important?

Now I know that it’s because it was still too far removed. Not intimate enough to be like sleeping in the same bed with your childhood best friend, or making puppets with your stuffed animals during sleepovers. Girlfriend close.

She. Or they, or he. It’s still hard to fathom a pronoun change for this love. Someone who cooked me dry beef patties and carrot and raisin salad when I came over from seventh grade, intentionally missing the bus again so I could spend time with her. Grandma.

A safe haven like no other world could be.

Grandma who didn’t know her grandparents, to the best of my knowledge. Just like my dad.

But she persevered nonetheless, taking class after class at the junior college and having her work published (stolen, actually) in a professor’s writings. According to her.

Mom says that she always felt she had a penis.

We were talking about family gays, and how I didn’t have many, in one of our evolving conversations about the nature, and mom’s feelings, about, my “homosexuality.” I call it queerness. ūüôā

And suddenly, she says, her eyes casually off in the distance, “Well, one time granny told me that she always felt she had a penis growing inside of her.”

I stop.

Yeah, Granny had worn men’s BVD’s. She said they were more comfortable, and was once aghast that an ambulance crew had discovered her little-concealed secret. Cackling like only she could to recall the story.

And yeah, she also hated to French kiss men, or, rather, be Frenched by them.

These things my aunt had pointed out were emblems of her possible queerness. But I wanted more concrete evidence.

Something like this…

“But her brothers raped her when she was little,” mom says. I know that doesn’t explain it but I have to consider her argument respectfully.

“Well, gender identity and body image are things that are innate. Like, at 3 or 4,” I say.

Body image in a way that I can relate to if not exactly have. Maybe she was trans*, maybe not. She may have been right in the middle, just like me. Maybe not. I have to resist making her in my own image.

But this revelation gave me a possible, unexcavatalbe ground that I can stand on and return to. Talk to in times of trouble. Stories.

My grandmother was like me.

When I came home from Portland, I spent so much time plumbing my dad’s memories of his brother the child molester. The gay child molester. A baby boy of 15 probably committed suicide because of what he did to him. He was repeating what an uncle had done to him when he was only 12. Later, dad’s brother had relationships, and my dad recalled softly how Uncle Richard had come out to him before Harvey Milk made it a thing. Or maybe while. While they were backpacking through the mountains, something that I still cannot at all imagine my dad doing or wanting to do.

As for Granny, she came to me in a dream once when I was having a horrible time with agoraphobia and a fear of, basically, everything.

“Ooh! People!” She cackled. We cackled together.

I know that others search for their queer ancestors. I I follow the matriarchal line, holes and missing male relatives and all, on out of a rejection of the patriarchy. Ireland! Ellender! Exactly what I hoped for!

This is different.

It’s a portrait of complexity. Did she tell others about how she felt? I can’t shut up about it to the people I’m close to. Was she ever in a relationship with someone who affirmed what she felt? Something many people search for.

I should have been looking closer. Somewhere where “women” tell their secrets to others who look and feel like their own kind. Maybe.

“Nobody Likes to But I Really Like to Cry”: Daily Prompt – Singing the Blues


I write when I’ve got the blues. ¬†In fact, I’m trying to train myself to feel inspired at times other when I’ve got ’em.

I guess it came out of my Trauma Time (vaguely Hunger Games-ish, is it not?) when I had to get it out or burst. ¬†The feeling in my stomach, the place that felt the injury the most from, would intensify, not a hardness or a pain, but a deep and pliable softness. ¬†Like I was ready to give birth, maybe. ¬†And then I’d write.

And I would feel better afterwards.

This is when I had faith that I had something to say.

At first it was a trauma blog that I maintained on OkCupid, a letter to the city that hurt me.

Then I extracted some of that, a fable in particular, and felt that I needed to write like that.

Bad idea. ¬†I was high on Adderall when I wrote¬†that story, and it just didn’t come in the same way. ¬†The Adderall writing was like a tingling in my head, intense and focused.

What I feel now is more fluid, following a feeling inside of me instead of in my skull.

I’ve gone through a rebirth of sorts.

For years, I couldn’t write.

I was a cocky kid, thought I was better at this than anybody else.

Until one day when somebody smacked me, and knocked me off of my tiny wooden pedestal for good.

“Amy the¬†Wunderkind! Hahhahahahaaha.” ¬†Admittedly, I’d called myself a prodigy and needed a little bit of chastising.

But not like this, not from her, that bitch whom I had tried to befriend.

She fancied herself a writer too, and like a lot of formerly bullied kids, had absorbed the viciousness of their taunts to make her her own private bully, and a bully to others.  To people like me.

I guess we were the same, really.  Formerly taunted, snickered at, talked about.  High opinion of ourselves that hinged on only one thing.

For me it was writing (oh thou god of Demons) and for her, it was finding victims.

I still think that I reminded her of herself, which is why I became such a target for her.  A sick dualism.

I hadn’t learned how to let certain people in my bubble, and then let them out again if they had done something hurtful or threatening.

In fact, because I’d had a love-hate relationship with certain people (students, teachers) in high school, I pursued¬†excactly the people who were¬†bad for me.

Her words still sting to this day.

But maybe what I was undergoing at the time that I lost my writing ability wasn’t a loss, but an evolution.

I fell in love with music.  Hard.

I had the biggest collection of pirated mp3’s in my dorms, with a heavy dose of show tunes and live performances.

I eschewed things like Ween because they were so damn popular.  Fucking snob.

And that’s what led me here, and to Portland, and to the music classes where I felt I could write, even in a slightly more clipped version (clipped wings? ¬†I don’t think so) than I had earlier. ¬†It’s what led me to play Mumford and Sons over and over again, both in the Trauma Time and in my Recovery.

“You are not alone in this. ¬†You are not alone in this. ¬†As brothers, we will stand, and we’ll hold your hand.”

I remember singing that line from Mumford and Sons so much during the hard times.  Somehow it played on the nightly radio station and I latched on.

What I needed back in those days when I was ridiculed by the bitch is more of a spine, more of a sense of humor.

Maybe more Allen Ginsberg.

“You want me to be a saint. ¬†It’s sinister. ¬†There must be some other way of handling this.”

I don’t know.

Now, I like to remember the revery and the books I read, the lectures I attended, the free writes I did (which were still pretty damn good).

I don’t like to think of the academics because I fell from grace. ¬†From a star to someone who could barely fashion a sentence.

Academic writing still dogs me. ¬†And honestly don’t know if this is because I’ve undergone a brain change or if I just lost my confidence and feel blocked.

What I do know is that I’m smart, and that I can write.

And that will get me into, and through, the blues.


Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections


Well, to be honest, I’m not in love with books. ¬†I go into book stores wondering if any of the thousands of books can keep my attention. ¬†I usually end up buying one, more for education than for pleasure, and wander out, slightly befuddled about my choice. ¬†Will I love this as much as an album? ¬†Will I learn from it what I told myself I will – no,¬†should ¬†– learn? ¬†I don’t know.
I recently bought a copy of The Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshshit Exploration of Spirituality ( partially because I wanted to support the awesome bookstore in Sebastapool that I found it in, but mainly because the writer, Chris Grosso, writes in the same short way that I write.  In fact, his essays are a little bit shorter than my own reflections!  If he can get published, dammit, then so can I!
Back in the car, I perused the book a little more, and found the line, “Meditation is really fucking hard for anyone who’s been in a trauma of any kind” (I’m paraphrasing here). ¬†It had me laughing in¬†recognition – this guy thinks like me, but something deep resonated within me. ¬†It’s so true…..I haven’t been able to meditate, let alone be mindful (although I’m working on this through mindful eating: something to do while paying attention to my feelings), ever since my big trauma back in 2010-2011. ¬†Trying would send me back into triggers that I really, really didn’t want to explore another 1,000’th¬†time.
¬† I really loved books as a kid. ¬†When I was about 5th grade, I would crawl into my mom’s big bed and she would read to me until I fell asleep. ¬†I remember the Giver vividly. ¬†Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry: it’s name still gives me goosebumps.¬†
But then I went into an accelerated academic program in high school where we were supposed to record down quotes in the book and track our observations on the other end of the page. ¬†I loved it at first – noticed that J.D. Salinger had a kind of capsulated way of writing….with a certain line repeated right before he got into the story and then as Holden’s story drew to a close. I read cliff’s notes for fun, and for education. ¬†I still loved books. ¬†But they got me to thinking of them as things and not stories, which might be where the trouble began.
And then college required me to read and be tested on books, an entirely new experience. ¬†Maybe that’s where my curiosity waned? ¬†Anyway, somehow, by age 20 or so, fiction didn’t hold the kind of rapture for me that it used to. ¬†Because it was just a¬†thing? ¬†Who knows.
These days, I’m lucky enough to still read with my mom. ¬†Something about reading out loud rekindles the curiosity that I have for stories. ¬†We read Elsewhere by the adorable Gabrielle Zevin soon after I came home from the trauma place. ¬†I remember ipcking it up at the thrift store, thinking that¬†that’s how I related to everywhere, especially Stockton. ¬†I was a wanderer at heart. ¬†
And then came John Green, and Life of Pi, and some John Grisham novels.  So, so good.
In fact, we have another book to read waiting on her bedside table.  
But I do wish that I could get the same enjoyment from reading that I once had.  Maybe with time.
So there. ¬†That’s my story.

Locked Out of Heaven

I’m listening to Rufus sing, “One more notch I scratch
To keep me thinkin’ of you
One more notch does the maker make
Upon my face so blue.”

And it makes me whimper.  I know that not all Christians think that way, but maybe I think that way.

My dog notices. ¬†His ears go up and I got to him, singing, “Jesus loves the little bubbies.” (His nickname is bubby).

This quells my impulse to cry.

I think I need something more in my life than the mundane world of coffee, work (at-home work for me), friends, family, etc.

I need something spiritual that lasts longer than a song.

While singing to Bubby I summon Tommy Gnosis’ aka Stephen Trask’s “We are Freaks.”

After rambling off all of the kinds of “Freaks” that he knows and sees, he says, “That’s the way God planned us. ¬†That’s the way God planned us.” ¬†It gives me chills every time. ¬†Sometimes more than chills. ¬†Sometimes tears.

I grew up a spiritual kid. ¬†I don’t remember much about my childhood spirituality, but I do remember sensing an emotional change in the crowd sometimes, wondering if that was the Holy Spirit moving among us.

It drove me to an interest in an Oversoul, as well as to ethnomusicology later in life (and by this I mean my early 20’s, hehe).

I went to an American Baptist church in Stockton that was relatively conservative but, thankfully, never delved into politics in sermons or Sunday school lessons. ¬†It was stricktly verboten. ¬†And I feel like you’ll knock me for saying that word, but that was the strength of the spell that kept teachers from sharing their political opinions with their pupils. ¬†To illustrate, I remember attending a lecture/rant on creationism during a Wednesday night youth summit, and most people popping their heads in, snickering, and popping them out. ¬†We were not a political bunch. ¬†Even if the ‘science’ of creationism fascinated me at the time.

I got chills when he talked about being a better person, feeling the Holy Spirit move.

But that changed as I got older.  My best friend started to get picked on for my boyish ways.

The way I stood.  The way I wore my hair.  I was generally their misfit and they would rather tell it to her than to my face.

I drifted out of the youth groups, and hated going to church because the pews were filled with the kids who used to be my friends.

My youth pastor came over to me one day as I was standing on the curb, now which I realize to be the farthest possible place away from the youth group while still part of the youth quadrant, and asked me, “Do you still read your bible?” ¬†“Yeah, all the time!” I said, smiling.

Later that day it dawned on me that I didn’t believe in Adam and Eve.

I got into agnosticism….and Walt Whitman:¬†¬†” I¬†CELEBRATE¬†myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

I found Hedwig and the Angry Inch through Rufus’ cover of the Origin of Love (meh, I prefer the original), and play it every Sunday.

It’s my mass, my Pentecost, my Lent (Ash Wednesday! ¬†Ash on Hedwig and Tommy’s forehead!), my holy rite.

Easter and Christmas I assign to pagan rituals, and they hold more meaning for me in their primeval love between life and death, birth and rebirth, the return of a Sun King to the world (Chrismas), earth and sex and Spring for Easter.

I think that’ll still be the case, whatever I morph into.

I still get chills from listening to Allen Ginsberg. ¬†He’s a personal hero of mine, a little bit of a dead celebrity still alive in my heart, and on screen. ¬†“The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely,” have some of the most exquisite pauses that I’ve heard/read ever. ¬†Including music.

It’s a good alternative spirituality.

But right now, I need more.

I don’t believe in Jesus or the stories about him. ¬†I don’t care, really.

“Locked out of heaven.”

That’s what I think when I associate gays and mainstream religion.

An estrangement from God, whatever form or entity that is.

Which is weird, because I still pray.

I think queers who are part of mainstream religions – Mennonites, Baptists, Methodists – are some of the most radical idea-having people around.

Jesus loves you, this I know. ¬†For the Bible tells me so…….includes¬†you. ¬†Me.

Everyone the other religious people have told us – or maybe it’s just the ones who yell the loudest – have told¬†no. ¬†You can’t be in our heaven, unless you change. ¬†You’re a sinner right now, and you’ll continue to be one, unrepentant and shunned, unless you change.

Or maybe it was the mean girls, manifesting their Girl Power Рjust the athletes, just the ones who bridged the line between girlish and boyish traits without actually crossing over it Рwithout accepting the ones who were different.  The ones who were like me.

Maybe that’s what I have. ¬†An adolescent estrangement from the powers who kicked me in the face (metaphorically) that day, when Jackie tried to teach me how to stand right, stand up straight, or loll like those other girls in the mezzanine. ¬†Odd how they fraternized with the influential men and women. ¬†Like meets like.

Anyway, I need to get over my childhood wounds.

Do I still believe in God?  God knows.  All I know is that maybe I need to do something about it.


I wanna be like you, but not really

I wrote this about a year ago about the feelings I have being around trans* guys. I always get antsy, like I want to change, but I think I‚Äôve been through the whole ‚Äúto T or not to T‚ÄĚ process and have come out on the ‚Äúnot‚ÄĚ side.¬†It’s kinda conflicted and indecisive, kinda, and I hope it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. ¬†I have this image, like, I could experiment with T, just to see how it feels, but I feel conflicted about the changes it would bring. ¬†I don’t like my face, but I like the softness of my body, the things that mark me as female/feminine, but still….I’m still wanting to “experiment”

I’m posting this as a part of the Brag Board on The Gender Book,¬†, an excellent book explaining non-binary genders in words, pictures, and, hopefully, song. ūüôā

I wanna be like you, but not really: A Genderqueer Ballad

I wanna be like you,

but not really.

I wanna look like you,

but not really.

You have your path

I have mine.

You look great and

I look fine.

I think.

I think I see myself

in the mirror sometimes.

I think I see someone else

in the mirror too.

When my life is going right,

a glimpse, an eyelash, a nose

that is who I can be, who I could be


I wanna be like you

but not really.

I wanna look like you

but not really.

Your voice glows and it growls

in a way that I want

but not really

Your face I see it, it’s becoming you

And I think, Is that me?

No, not really

Or maybe.

I’m me,

and I’m objectifying you

into something I could be

because…’re a possibility

a change

that I want, and that I envy

that could be me.

but that I don’t think, I don’t think

I really want.