Archive for January, 2011

January 23, 2011

I’m Moving to Boston… And I NEED a Job

Alright, folks, for my more spiritual, emotional, analogical take on this please see the previous post. This is all work and no play. Please spread this post far and wide to any people you may know who could help me out!

I am moving to Boston, soon, and I desperately need a job once there. I have a place for my sister and I to stay for a little while but that little while needs to be spent saving money, not looking or a job.

Things I have done in the past:
-Worked at a residential treatment center for children and teens with autism spectrum disorders and other PDDs (pervasive developmental delays).
-Ran campaigns on local, and statewide levels.
-Worked with LGBTQ non-profits on grant writing.
-Worked at summer camps for children with developmental delays, physical delays, and mental challenges

Things about me and what I am looking for:
-I know a lot about LGBTQ history and the current atmosphere in the US
-I am really, really good with children of differing abilities and ages
-No, really, I am fabulous with children
-I can write curricula
-Public speaking (ok, this is based on stuff other people say, but I am certainly not THAT bad at it)
-I am willing to travel
-I would love to do something that involved religion or interfaith organizing
-The job needs to be cool with the fact that I am genderqueer. I have put up with enough gender discrimination crap for my lifetime, thanks.
-It needs to be public transit accessible.

Other things:
-I have a bachelor’s degree from College of the Atlantic in Human Ecology
-I am trained in infant/child first aid and CPR
-I type 90 WPM
-I really, REALLY need a job.

Want to know more? I’ve got resumés and I know how to use them – I’m happy to email them to you on request. If you have any tips (actual tips, not tips like “check out monster.com!!” or “my aunt knows somebody who worked for this man who had a son whose wife’s ex sister in law once worked for this place in Boston!”) then please leave them in comments or email me at andyleighcoate-at-gmail-dot-com.

Thanks!

January 22, 2011

Slow Moving Stars

Do you remember the windows screensaver called something like shooting stars?

You looked at a black screen with white dots coming toward you. But the dot would never hit the middle of the screen. It would always go off to one side right at the end.

Last night I stood on a bridge during the ends of a snow storm and watched the snow flakes fly at me. The wind was whipping in my direction, and the snow seemed to be flying directly toward me, right at my face, but few actually hit me. And I remembered being that little kid watching that screen saver, placing my pointer finger right in the middle of the screen and being almost annoyed that the star never hit my finger; it always veered at the last minute.

There are so many “almosts” and “close calls.” So many stars that never hit your finger, so many snow flakes that don’t hit your glasses. It feels like if you just moved your finger a little to the left or right, or ducked your head just the littlest bit, that something would hit, would stick.

I’m moving.

I’m moving to Boston after coming to the hard conclusion that, as much as my heart is in Maine there just isn’t a place for me here. Boston has opportunities and all kinds of things that Maine just doesn’t.

I can’t help but wonder if I’m just moving my finger an inch to the right, ducking my head a little, hoping to catch that illusive star or some errant snowflake. Will it make any difference? I’ll still be the center of wherever I am. Will things always just fly by, some looking like they will hit, and some so far from me as to not even try to grasp?

In that screensaver you can change two of the settings: how many stars and how fast. Maine has very few stars, and things move pretty slowly. You can trace each star’s trajectory. Moving to Boston is like ramping up both of those things – things will fly by, there are opportunities, and more opportunities means more of a chance that I can shift at the right speed at the right time to catch one. But I also can’t follow each opportunity. I can’t hope to see every option before needed to grab.

Maine is slow. Things will happen today… or they won’t. You move at your own speed in a lot of ways. The people at the bank know your name, you almost always run into somebody you know when you leave the house, and people shovel driveways for other people or help them if they are at the side of the road. Once I got pulled over because my tail light was out, and the cop offered to replace it for me if I had a spare.

I grew up in Los Angeles, and I’ve lived in Boston for varying amounts of time. They are cities. Nice things happen, but they are more spread out. People are more cautious. Here I have no problem leaving my computer, wallet, and backpack sitting at my chair in the coffee shop or library to walk around, go to the bathroom, order another drink, or step outside to make a phone call. It’s safe here. I don’t lock my front door or my car door anymore. I’ve even gone so far as to leave my keys in my car when I’m at home or at a friend’s house on occasion.

Those things can’t happen in cities. And I’m going to miss it. I can move quickly, I can adapt. But I do like my slow moving stars.

January 21, 2011

The first time I got arrested

The first time I was arrested I was 16. My parents still don’t know. I refused to move when the police instructed me to; forty five minutes later when they got around to processing us and I gave them my high school ID, declaring me a high school sophomore, they told me to just go home. They didn’t care to deal with a minor who had committed the very serious crime of blocking a public street.

I was arrested for blocking a group of protestors in front of a local abortion clinic. They were on the sidewalk. I was in the street. They were allowed to continue holding signs depicting huge, blown up pictures of aborted fetuses and those of us holding signs that said “Support women!” and “Choice Rocks” were arrested.

Yeah, it felt wrong then, too.

I have never lived in a time when abortion was not legal – by the time I was born abortion had been legal in the US for over 15 years. By the time I .knew. what abortion .was. I had been indoctrinated by the church that it was a Very Bad Thing that only Very Bad Women got. As time went on I began volunteering with Planned Parenthood, forming my own thoughts and opinions and sexual ethics.

A few years ago I was asked why I, as a queer identified woman (at the time) who only slept with women (at the time), I fought so hard for services that I thought I would likely never need*. I had a hard time articulating it, and brought it to a friend, asking if she thought it was weird. “No,” she said, and we talked about bodily autonomy, and reproductive ethics and how, in many ways, the two movements (right to choice, and LGBT rights) had followed the same trajectory for a lot of the same reasons.

This movement isn’t about me, or you, or any individual. It is about trusting people to make decisions about their body. I know my body better than anybody else. You know your body better than anybody else. Nobody should be able to make decisions about our bodies; not friends or parents (after a certain age) or lovers and certainly not a bunch of politicians in DC.

Let’s not forget those who fought, long and hard and tirelessly, for our right to choose and let’s honor them by living up to the standard that the pioneers set. Let’s trust people with their own bodies.

Please consider donating to an organization that protects the right to choose today. More information on the blogathon can be found at Amplify.

*As my friend Daunasia pointed out, LGB youth are actually more likely to get pregnant or get somebody pregnant than their peers.

January 18, 2011

Just shove the cookies at me.

I don’t think anybody reads this blog who knew me 5 years ago. If you think I’m messed up now…

I was never supposed to go to college, never supposed to graduate high school, really. I wasn’t supposed to leave Los Angeles, or do things like present at conferences, give speeches at important-ish things, or be asked to be on boards or committees. I was stupid, I was shy, I had crippling social anxiety, and I had such a dysfunctional upbringing that I really had no concept of how the world was supposed to work.

In my first couple weeks of college an online-but-trusted friend sent me a care package. It had cookies in it. It was one of the few pieces of mail I received that year, and it may have been the first time somebody spontaneously did something nice for me. I freaked out for hours. No joke. Later that year another friend sent me a check for $100. I freaked out for considerably more than hours. I very, very seriously contemplated sending it back for days before agreeing to deposit it. Simple things like that just completely baffled me.

The thing is? I’m getting better. And I’m trying.

This morning I called that same friend who sent me those cookies over five years ago, just to cry. To paraphrase, I said to her, “What the hell did I do wrong? I have tried to do everything I was supposed to do.” She said “You DID do everything right.” But I guess I’m just not sure I believe her.

Because I graduated when I wasn’t supposed to, I left an abusive home, I put myself through college I found places to be during breaks so I didn’t have to go home, I secured a job before graduation, I got an apartment, I even ended up taking custody of my little sister in order to give her a chance at what I didn’t get in high school.

And here it is, mid January in Maine. I’m jobless, broke, out of heating fuel, my pipes burst on Sunday, and I am feeling out of options. I can’t be at my house – it’s not livable. It’s been in the single digits here the last couple nights. That’s just not a doable situation without heat of some kind.

So I’m trying to trust friends when they say that it’s OK to stay with them. Part of me so badly wants to believe that that is true. But a much bigger part just tells me that I’m a burden. I have no idea how to accept help still, not really. Some of my friends are good about knowing how I work and how to shove help at me – these are the friends who knew me at the end of high school, who did have to force the help on me because if they didn’t I’d sit in the freezing apartment before letting anybody know that something was wrong.

Now I tell people when the heat is out, when my car breaks down, when something goes wrong. The problem is that I go to somebody’s house, and then I just sit there, or lay there, or hide out. I try so hard to not be a burden and probably end up being more of one because I’m so awkward that I have to be there in the first place.

The thing is that my friends here, my friends from college and the community that never knew the old me, the me who couldn’t EVER say yes to help, don’t know how much I have changed. It’s hard for me to explain. To explain why I am crying over something stupid, why I am doing X, or Y, or Z. To put it bluntly, I do a good job of pretending to have my shit together, until I don’t.

So I hide out, I cry, I try to ask for help and then I cry some more, and I annoy people, and I KNOW that I annoy people, and I wish I knew how to not annoy people, but I don’t.

January 9, 2011

Unitarian Universalism, Me, College, and Marriage Equality – A Love Story

At my alma mater every student has to write a human ecology essay, their own declaration of what Human Ecology means to them – an annoying but useful task, considering it is what we all get out degree in.

What follows is the essay I wrote last year.  Obviously a lot has changed since then, but the sentiment remains.  This post is long, so I am putting most of it behind the cut.

January 6, 2011

Um, hey, UUA? Where is my place?

A month and a half ago I sent an email to the office of youth and young adult ministries that said, essentially, “this is who I am, this is what I have done, this is what I can do. Please, help me to be involved in some way. Please put me to work.”

I never heard back.

Not going to lie, that kind of hurt. I am sure the email just got lost in the shuffle or something, but my former congregation had just shown me that they were not interested in making a spot for young adult ministry at our church. The other two churches I went to in the area didn’t have any young adult presence either. There certainly wasn’t any kind of organized group. I set about searching online for stuff, but I keep coming up empty handed. It felt like the UUA was telling me that there wasn’t really a place, either. I could come back when I was 25 and do stuff then.

I know that churches tend to lose a lot of folks in their late teens/early twenties, and that they gain them back when they start having kids of their own, settling down, gaining a more stable life. But there’s got to be a place in this vibrant, affirming religion for people 19-24. There simply has to be. Just because MOST churches lose people in their early twenties doesn’t mean that we have to concede to that, and it doesn’t mean that you lose ALL your twenty somethings. Heck, you gain some twenty somethings (hi!) and those people need to be included.

So now? Now I’m reaching out via my blog.

Let me introduce myself.

My name is Andy and I’m 23 years old. I have, if I do say so myself, a pretty kickin’ resume. I’ve been doing activism in one form or another since I was 12, including working on the past three presidential campaigns, helping organize my county during Maine’s fight for same-sex marriage, lobbying on local, state, and nationwide levels for (among many other things) comprehensive sexuality education, against the Stupak amendment, the repeal of DOMA, passage of the transgender anti-discrimination and hate crimes bill in MA, multiple environmental bills in California and Maine, and headed up way more letter writing, visibility, and phone banking campaigns that I can even think of. I learned an awful lot about the democratic process, both nationally and in smaller groups.

I went to Phoenix last July to protest SB 1070, and I attended the Sexuality Education and Advocacy Training conference last fall in DC. I am currently a member of The Trevor Project’s Youth Advisory Council and do workshops and speaking engagements around the area about bullying and suicide prevention in among LGBTQ youth. I interned at BAGLY, the Boston Alliance of GLBT Youth, and MTPC, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. In addition to office work and meetings I also helped form that summer’s Boston Radical Cheerleaders – which was a group of youth and young adults who got together once a week and yelled about sex positivity, progressive legislation, and tearing down political structures. That whole justice, equity, compassion stuff? Seemed to play a kinda big part in a lot of that – not the cheering thing, but all the rest of it.

Last spring I graduated from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME, with my Bachelor’s degree in Human Ecology; loosely defined, that is the study of how people interact with their environment, be it natural or human-made. While there I studied everything from documentary film to 19th century female writers, oceanography to evolutionary biology to feminism as it relates to fundamentalism to gender and sexuality in Southern Africa. At COA I learned that everything is tied together, kind of like a giant web or something.

I have been working with children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, developmental delays, physical disabilities, as well as hearing and visual impairments for over 10 years, in everything from running workshops on helping children deal with a sibling’s diagnosis to working at a residential treatment center for children with Autism. I have coached little league teams, worked at summer camps, and learned more about the inherent worth and dignity of every single person on this big, bad, beautiful planet than I ever thought possible.

I am passionate about a lot of things, and that now includes Unitarian Universalism. I gave a speech at National Coming Out Day about coming out as religious in LGBTQ spaces. I gave a sermon about learning to pray when I went to Phoenix. I try to work principles into my daily living. I even wrote my final paper for college, the big important one that you need to graduate, on Unitarian Universalism and finally feeling accepted, for once, in a religious community (incidentally, I am happy to share that paper with anybody who wants to slog through it).

And now? Now I live on the Downeast Coast of Maine where I’m looking for work, raising my younger sister (she’s 17), learning how to run my life outside of college, and wishing to be involved. I am aging out of the last bits of youth activism in the next six months but I am not quite able to move on to grad school just yet, even if I did definitively know what I want to study. I don’t have a home congregation right now, but I have a computer, and I have a telephone, and I have car that runs sometimes and I have a kinda local-ish airport and I have Boston about 5 hours away if you follow the speed limit (which I do thankyouverymuch).

Mostly I have a drive and a want and a need and a desire and a million ideas.

So I want to be involved. Is there a place for me? Is there a way for me to be involved? What can I do?

I am here and open.

Best,

Andy

P.S. I swear to whatever you do or don’t find holy that if you tell me I can “help with the Facebook page” I will have unkind things to say on Twitter.

January 4, 2011

A story of one kid’s adventure through activism

Once there was a spark.

And a kid who wanted to catch that spark, and grow it into a flame.

And the kid did. Caught that spark, and it started to grow.

As the kid got older a lot of things changed.

The flame was not the same flame that was imagined those years ago.

But it was a flame. It was a good flame. And as much as it changed and moved, grew and shrank, that flame still had the memory of that little spark that it had come from.

The flame went around the country, lighting things here and there, sticking with them for days or months or milliseconds.

As the years went on the flame became a raging bonfire in all its warmth and glory and beauty.

But the kid, who wasn’t really a kid anymore, didn’t know what to do then. The kid had never been good at tending the fires; only at lighting them.

Maybe it was time to walk away from fires. Or spend some time learning to tend those fires, instead of just light them.

It was a hard decision. It had been a long and hard road to build that bonfire, and a lot of stuff had to be learned to get the fire to that point. It wasn’t always pretty learning, or logical learning, or learning that made sense, but it was a lot of learning.

The kid started to take steps to let that giant bonfire shrink. To just a couple of flaming 2x4s, and then just some coals.

The kid took one of those coals, tucked it in a pocket.

The kid will never have to catch that spark again. It’s a spark that you can’t uncatch.

It won’t go out. That’s not how this fire works. Eventually the flame will be coaxed out again. But it will be a carefully tended fire.

Instead of haphazardly throwing on an old dresser and junkmail and anything else that will burn this fire will be started carefully, as the kid has now learned to do.

Some stuff that will burn up quickly but is necessary to start a fire.

Some stuff that will burn for awhile, long enough to light the big stuff.

And some big logs. Hard logs. Logs that will burn for a long time.

Steady logs.

The spark wasn’t stable. The bonfire wasn’t stable.

The kid is growing up, learning to make fires that work.

But there is still that spark that started it all.

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