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Blog

These are my thoughts, yo.

Filtering by Tag: Love

A Year After Suicide.

jasmine banks

Yesterday was the anniversary of the night when Vince called me from Micronesia. I knew what he was calling for before I even answered the phone. Teej was gone. Suicide. In some areas of the world suicide, or attempted suicide, is still a crime. I wonder how and why you'd punish a crime that is born from despair. Our world and our inability to face existential realities are dumbfounding. I think that is that hardest part about losing Teej: Suicide comes from deep deep despair. Despair is a place with no light. A place so dark, one would rather close their eyes forever than bear the weight of that darkness. So you close your eyes.  She was in so much despair. Her life, though, is markedly different. There was also so much hope and love.

I still can't clearly say how the loss of my dearest friend is shaping my life. It is hard to say with any loss, really. What I do know is I continue to live and honor her in how I live. I carry her with me. My child bears her name. Her drawing marks my body. The love she infused into my life cannot and will not be taken away. Suicide can do many things, but it can't shatter love.  I am working to move from allowing the loss of her life be the definition and into embracing who she was during the time I had her. She belonged to all of us, but most of all to Africa and words. I'll go there one day there and I will write.

If you need help, reach out -> to anyone->to everyone-you aren't alone Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 9.33.45 AM

pic 001 pic 003 teej Teej and Isaiah Teej Teasdale

International Women's Day Is About Raising Boys

jasmine banks

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Huzzah! International Women's Day. What are we celebrating? All things vagina! Woohoo!... which as it turns out are INTERNAL. I know we call the "down there area" vagina, but it isn't.  Your goods, va jay jay,  lady garden, tender flower, and all other euphemism (ad nauseum) is called VULVA. IF there is one day to get this right, it is today, International Women's Day. Which brings me to why International Women's Day, for me, is *actually* about raising my sons. "Yeah, yeah yeah," you think, "yet ANOTHER day that is supposed to be about women, and here we are talking phallus." Well. IF you are a MOTHER of a SON sit down and lets have a chat.

International Women's Day, of course, is a day for me to reflect on motherhood, womanhood, the women who helped raise me, and what my life is like with my lady plumbing. It is  ALSO about me raising my sons, because they can grown up shaped by the world OR by me to be several different kinds of men.

They could grow up to be the kind of men who ignore the rights of women and attempt to legislate women's bodies.

They could grow up to be the kind of men who call women whores based on their desire to be responsible for their bodies.

They could grow up to be the kind of men who say it was the woman's fault. She was dressed in a short skirt. She was basically asking for it.

They could grow up saying that unwanted pregnancies of ANY kind are good lessons to teach women that what they are doing (read: HAVING SEX) is wrong.

They could grow up to be the kind of man who is convinced that a woman doesn't have a whole sense of self apart from her "spiritual leader". 

They could grow up  be the kind of man who hates women so much, who is so buried in misogyny, that even another man who could  be portrayed as "feminine" elicits violent responses. 

SO on International Women's Day I am embracing one of the most POWERFUL positions I have as a woman. I am a mother to BOYS who will grow up to be MEN. I am exercising my power to teach my sons, Isaiah and Tobias, to  be feminists.

I vow to teach them that women are beautiful and complicated PEOPLE who have the same power and ability as men.  I vow to teach my sons that they are in charge of their bodies, thoughts, and actions as women should have the right to be in charge of their bodies, thoughts, and actions. I vow to teach Isaiah and Tobias that "feminine" and "masculine" is a wide range of things and are all acceptable definitions. I will teach my sons about what a vulva is, where the clitoris is, and why making love is more important than making porn.  I vow to edify my sons and help them understand that their masculinity or femininity (because YES men have femininity in them as well) is not defined by the stereotypes and gross exaggerations, but are as unique as the finger prints on the people who bear them.. There are no "girl colors" or "boy colors". These, dear boy, are just colors. We all have equal rights to them. I vow to teach them to be respectful and honest husbands and partners who know how to say "I'm sorry."

I will teach my sons that love is love. People are people. NO  matter what.

And.

Grace and Love (love for everyone) are the most important things.

I am raising sons to be good people, and it is the most feminist expression of power that I have ever exercised.

Happy International Women's Day!

 

What My Momma Taught Me About Sexual Orientation

jasmine banks

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blue roundI've never written about this, so I am going to need lots of love and encouragement. I have no doubt there are going to be some haters. There always are. More than anything I sense my growing fear is the rejection of those people that I like and care about... but with authenticity comes risk, so here goes. My first girlfriend's name was Sara. I loved her. She had pale skin and long brown hair with giant green eyes that looked like the color was stolen from the underbelly of a tropical leaf. Her teeth weren't straight. They overlapped a little and her lips would curl back over them as her mouth turned into a smile. We would walk for hours barefoot in the creeks near our homes and would explore the trails around our neighborhood. We shared secrets and held hands. We stole kisses and talked about dreams and were as carefree as two girls with families like ours could be.

As much as I've struggled to come to terms about some of the more dysfunctional things about my childhood I can say with certainty that my mom taught me well concerning sexual orientation. She taught me that I don't have to choose to check a box. I could dig deep into myself and be still. I could listen to what my heart told me. Isaiah, my brother, and I were taught this:

You fall in love with a person, not their gender

I was raised to believe that what makes a person is not their sexual organs or even their gender expression. That lesson afforded me the freedom to discover that I could love and be attracted to all kinds of people, and that the sexual expression that follows connection and love was neither heterosexual or homosexual. It was simply an extension of loving a person and wanting to express that love physically.

Though my story takes a brief pit stop into the world of fundamentalist Christian dogma and a quick dance with shame about my identity, the same truth has always stayed cemented in my heart. It found itself buried under the imposed beliefs of those who taught me "marriage (and true love) is only between a man and a woman", but it wiggled itself free of the dirt of bigotry and grew in spite of the polluted soil. You fall in love with a person, not their gender. 

So I have.

I have fallen in love with girls and one boy. I married the boy. I don't know if it is an anomaly. I don't know if I should have married a girl. I don't know. I don't think about it. I don't feel like I need to extrapolate my choices that way. He asked me to marry him, I loved him, wanted to be in a relationship, and I said yes. We had kids. We built a life. I don't know the answers because I am not interested in taking on  a title or quantifying my connection with people to make myself more understandable to the world. This can get me in trouble. It makes people uncomfortable. "So you are bisexual? Have you ever had sex with a girl? Why did you marry a man? Do you want to leave him for women?" I don't answer these questions. These questions aren't asked because someone cares about my quality of life, the quality of life of the people I love, or ethics.... they ask because someone without borders feels an awful lot like a threat or they are curious.

My mom has known my whole life. My mother-in-law knows, my best friend Sadie knows, my sister-in-law knows, my husband knows, my sister Paige knows, and my kids will know.

And now, I guess, you know.

I don't talk about this much openly because I live in a small town with small minded people. They struggle to understand my interracial marriage, much less a marriage with a member who has a mixed orientation. I was never cut and dry with any kind of definition. My personality, my race, my skill set.. I've always been a "bit of this and a bit of that" but mostly I've been about love and kindness and connection.

I am learning to be okay with it. I hope, one day, the world will too.