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I wrote to my senator what must be earlier this week but feels like a million years ago, after seeing lots of him being a badass at nomination hearings, particularly Sessions', just to say thanks and keep up the good work. I checked the box saying I didn't need a reply but I got one anyway last night. It looks like what he's sending to anyone who writes to him on the subject.
As a Senator and a member of the Judiciary Committee, I had the opportunity to question Senator Sessions during his confirmation hearing. That's a role I take very seriously. During Senator Sessions' hearing, I pressed him on his misrepresentation of his record on civil rights, as well as on the issue of voter suppression, and I shared a story about the impact of Trump's divisive rhetoric on Minnesota's immigrant and refugee communities. I was not satisfied with the answers he gave to me and a number of my colleagues' questions, and after careful consideration of Senator Sessions' record, I do not think he is up to the task of being an attorney general for all Americans. I cannot vote for an attorney general nominee who is not fully committed to equal justice for all, including the LGBT community, minorities, immigrants, and women. When his nomination comes up for a vote in the Senate, I will vote no.
Shame he voted for some of the others though.

And my other senator has voted for all of them so far.
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Mom was telling me about a story my dad read in the paper (ie the Minneaapolis Star-Tribune) about a woman who was prevented from putting the Hillary Clinton yard sign she wanted in her yard by fear that her house, or even she, would be attacked by people who didn't like it.

Mom says this seems possible to her. She said around them all you see is Trump signs, and that this story helped make her think that it might not be that the support is so skewed but just that other people are more tentative about supporting the person who doesn't advocate violence against people who disagree.

And this is fucking Minnesota. Yes like that Cracked article talks about it's the country and not the city. But damn if this is what it's like living in a blue state, I would not like to be living anywhere less white, with less cultural encouragement towards reticence (we got onto this topic anyway because Mom was talking about how she's had to make sure not to talk about politics with her best friend, or my aunt's partner...).

I remember Mom talking in 2012 about feeling a bit lonely as (though she didn't put it like this) an Obama voter in a sea of people who couldn't sufficiently get past their racism to consider voting for him. It sounds even worse this year. She talked about being frustrated that people aren't basing their decisions on facts, and of being worried about what will happen after Trump loses. I know this is all stuff I, like any other follower of American politics, has read in tweets and thinkpieces, but for my mom who lives in a world totally separate from any of that to come out with the same things is weird.

I did my best to reassure her that it'll be over soon -- in recent elections I've missed being in the thick of it and helping out on various campaigns, but this year I've been nothing but happy to be missing out on the worst of it and how it's talked about in American news -- and that I've already voted and done my bit, and that he won't win. But I don't think she was very reassured.

And I've promised that Andrew and I won't talk about politics with my family at Christmas. I fear I might have to bite my tongue so hard it completely comes off, but I hope things will have calmed down by then.
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Talked to parents on Skype, about Sweet Martha's cookies and Jacob Wetterling.

The end-of-summer Mondays off are now passed, in both the U.S. and the UK. But the weather's still warm and muggy. If this year is anything like past ones, the first cold snap will bring with it my worst homesickness. It's enough to make me hate fall almost as much as I hate winter.
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Someone scoffed the other day that Minneapolis's ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ protests were doing no good by moving from the Mall of America to the airport. That inconveniencing capitalism is fine but this was just "fucking up the most stressful travel of myriad innocents."

But it did a lot more than that. I was one of those "innocents" who flew into MSP during the protest. My parents say it took them twenty minutes to go the last two miles to the airport, but they were still ready to greet us while we were still languishing in baggage claim. Still their slight inconvenience, and the sight of police cars and people being bussed away from the protests, has sparked a lot of conversations, starting just after the hello hugs at International Arrivals and going throigh two family Christmases and even a trip to the bank today.

As I listened to the bank staff -- sweet middle-aged ladies who've never been anything but kind and friendly to me -- talk about how the protesters deserved to be arrested, and did you hear about the person who missed a flight to be with her dying mother and ended up not getting there until it was too late.

I didn't hear about that. I don't know any more about it, or even if it's true. But I know if enough passengers are disrupted on enough flights, there are going to be sad stories. I wonder how many people on how many planes it took to get that nugget of pathos to give white people their righteous indignation.

I'd be life-defining amounts of heartbroken if I missed my mom's last moments...but I can't help but think of how much easier it is to find stories of people of color killed by police for no reason other than the color of their skin than it is to find heartstring-tugging stories among all the people going through a huge busy airport two days before Christmas.

Today we found out that the police officers who killed Tamir Rice will not face any consequences for that. He was murdered for no other reason than being alive while black, for being a boy while black.

This is part of an epidemic. And it won't change without some conversations, among white people. And the only thing that's made those conversations start to happen among my family and my rural Midwestern community? Is the airport protests.
He was twelve. He should be thirteen by now and he never will get to be. And that is an injustice no one is being held accountable for. He was twelve and he can't ever be thirteen.
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Amidst the doomy news of a slew of Republicans getting in, I was almost afraid to check on my beloved state.

But Minnesota's dangerous progressivism has once again not betrayed my faith in it. I really really wanted Mark Dayton and Al Franken back, and I got them.

And (though I feel a bit less invested in this because I can't vote in her district) we finally got rid of that embarrassment, that blemish on the good name of our state, Michele "Crazypants" Bachmann! Woohoo!
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It's nice that, along with all the horrible dreams, I've been having some comedy relief ones.

Last night it was that my dad had a Paul Bunyan statue built along the side of their driveway, so you could see it from the road. He was so proud of it.

(This is especially funny if you know how completely Not My Dad such a thing would be. You'd never catch him as the protagonist of a magical realist movie.)
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Here's a picture of Margaret and Cathy, the first same-sex couple to be married in the state of Minnesota, just after midnight on the first day they were allowed to, running to greet the second couple, Al and Jeff.



How long had these guys been waiting to get married? The greater-than-usual average age in pictures where new kinds of marriage have been legalized is just heartbreaking, but I'm just glad they were finally able to. Another couple's story: "They met as neighbors in an apartment complex 20 years ago." "They met at the University of Wisconsin in 1976. They both became teachers." "They had already raised twin boys and have been together for 33 years."



Some of the stories... "These guys met after one of them moved to London. He forgot his jacket in Minnesota, went back, and never left again." Imagine!

A wedding in sign language!



With the best applause:



I am so happy for them all, my heart feels like it could burst. I'm so happy this is happening in my state. Finally.
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Drinking something called North Star Porter. It seems appropriate when I'm getting made fun of for sounding Minnesotan.
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"So what part of Minnesota are you from then?" Andrew's American friend asked me last night.

What an awesome thing that is to hear. I never get asked that any more, because I so rarely run into anyone who's even heard of Minnesota that I don't usually get to refine my birthplace any more than what part of the country I'm from. And even there the answer I've found most effective is "in the middle, at the top" when people ask where in America I'm from; anything more specific gets blank stares.
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There are so many things I should be doing now. I should be working on that thing I was talking about yesterday. I should be sorting out the spare room so someone can actually sleep in it tomorrow night. I need to get ready for work and leave the house soon.

But instead I keep looking at MPR's photos from the signing of Minnesota's same-sex marriage bill yesterday.

Minnesota's old, white, male governor gives a thumbs-up after signing the bill.

Not for the official pomp and circumstance so much, though, as the people in the crowd.

Two men sit close together on the grass, facing each other, hands on each other's thighs, with a little bit of space between them and the standing crowds around them, a lovely intimate moment in such a public place.



I love this picture especially, because the two guys here, one smiling while the other kisses his forehead, look so normal to me. They could be neighbors or friends of my parents. But my parents probably think that all queer people are like the person standing to the right of the picture: young, arm covered in tattoos and wearing a hipster bow tie. Maybe that one's not gay but they're some kinda weirdo, not like these guys with potbellies and greying beards.

And just in case I was in any doubt that this is Minnesota...



A man holding a little white dog who is wearing both a rainbow lei around its neck and a teeny Twins cap.

I love you so much, Minnesota.
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Thanks to [personal profile] po8crg for the heads-up on the Minnesota probably legalizing same-sex marriage this week.

A mere seven months ago I was biting my nails over whether my state would enshrine homophobia in its constitution by passing an anti-marriage-equality amendment. The vote failed, but unlike in the other three states that had same-sex marriage on the ballots, we didn't get it; we just fended off the possibility of never being allowed to get it. It was a small victory for a state I've always tried to tell people is pretty progressive.

But very soon after that vote in early November, our lovely governor started pressing for same-sex marriage legislation to be written. I was happy about that at the time, but haven't heard a lot about Minnesota politics since, so was amazed and delighted to read that both houses are pretty confident it will pass and people can marry whoever they like as of August 1.

Which would be just short of nine months since the bigots had the chance to ban gay marriage forever. An extraordinary turnaround, something to make me a little proud when my beloved state has been dragging its feet in hopping on the equal-marriage bus.

What I'm happiest about, though, is in that article where it stresses that since no House Republicans are saying they'll vote for the bill, the Democrats need to pretty much all vote for it. And while the Republicans can spout off about religious objections and wouldn't it be nicer if we had civil unions for the goddam faggots (I'm paraphrasing, but only slightly I'm sure), some of those Democrats are from rural areas where a lot of people think like that. One of those is quoted in this story, a DFLer representing a place called Albert Lea.

That's where I'm from. That's who's representing me. She says her brother's gay, she saw the discrimination he faced, and thinks he should be able to marry whoever he wants just as she did. But she knows what a big deal this is: "It could cost me the election," she said.

I'm so proud of her, and so glad I'm represented by someone who is sticking up for people who aren't straight, however unpopular it is to the people around her. I know just how unpopular that can be, and it means a lot to me that she's doing this.

Aaron Hicks

Apr. 2nd, 2013 12:47 pm
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You know you're from Minnesota when...

You're watching a game you already know your team lost, because you want to see what all these new guys on your team are like --

(Well, you already know you're from Minnesota when you have to do this, and you try and guess who will be the players that go on to have illustrious careers for other teams after they become too good -- and thus expensive -- for the Twins. Who will be the David Ortizes, the Doug Mientkiewiczes, the Torii Hunters, of the future? But anyway, I was saying...)

-- and you hear a name that you vaugely recognize, and think he must be a trade from a team we play every so often and that's why it's sorta familiar. And then he comes up to bat and Dick Bremer says "this is his first major league at-bat" and you remember that this is the AA guy they were talking about so much last year.

And now he's leading off. And there was nothing better to talk about last year. Because this is Minnesota.
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Andrew just told me Minnesota wasn't even a swing state "any more", it was just a Republican state.

It turned out a) he was of course wrong about all of this and b) it's because he had no idea which one was Minnesota on the map and thought I was from one of the Dakotas!
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Okay, so first there's this: "The reductions to health and human services will strike at the state’s most vulnerable residents and will include reductions in mental health services for children and adults, community-based services for the disabled and elderly, child care assistance, and emergency assistance for families facing homelessness."

A friend of mine who lives in Minneapolis alerted me to this, saying, "Slashing $55 million from transportation and $1 billion from health and human services (including the near-total elimination of Medicaid and healthcare for the poorest Minnesotans) means I don't know how I will continue living here."

I don't blame her. There's nothing I can say. Our wonderful governor, who I voted for and was desperate to have win, is being held hostage by Republicans in a microcosm of the way Obama's hands are being tied at the national level. As Paul Krugman recently said about that in the New York Times

Republicans are automatically against anything the president wants, even if they have supported similar proposals in the past.... If a Republican president had managed to extract the kind of concessions on Medicare and Social Security that Mr. Obama is offering, it would have been considered a conservative triumph. But when those concessions come attached to minor increases in revenue, and more important, when they come from a Democratic president, the proposals become unacceptable plans to tax the life out of the U.S. economy.
 
I think the same thing is happening in Minnesota.

My beloved state, where I left my heart, is chasing out poor people and ill people and other disadvantaged people. I am angry and upset and shaking my fists with impotent desire to do something to fix this.

And next? There's this: The biggest school district in the state basically has a Section 28 / "Don't Say Gay" policy. (This is only the one school district, but the list of states with simliar policies (Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and of course Tennessee) is one of states that are traditionally a lot less progressive than Minneosta, so it's not a list I want to feel a part of!)

The mother of one of Anoka-Hennepin's students said, "If you're even questioning who you are and you're not seeing anybody who's like you, you don't see anything positive about who you are, then you start wondering, 'What's wrong with me?'" Her son, who was gay, committed suicide when he was only 15.

Seven suicides have taken place amongst the students in the last two years, and more than one has been connected to bullying about sexuality, something the teachers and staff are required to ignore, fobbing responsibility off on to "individual family homes, churches or community organizations," totally disregarding the importance of the time kids spend at school and the fact that families and churches might well make the kid's life worse, while they are doing nothing to make it better.

The superintendent is saying he's trying to "walk down the middle of the road" and other such unsupportive platitudes. He's also questioned that it can be konwn what drives someone to suicide, saying there is no evidence for bullying or harrassment.

Those poor kids. I'm sure there's no evidence that I was bullied or harrassed when I was in school either.

The small consolation I have in regards to this story is that a friend of mine sings with One Voice Mixed Chorus, which is for LGBT people and allies, and in trying to help raise money for them, she said this:
One Voice made sure to visit one of their high schools in our most recent Out in the Schools tour. Your donation today will not only be matched, but will allow us to continue spreading our message of social equality to other local schools and communities.
My friend, not L, G, B or T herself, makes me feel really good about this, that these issues do not just concern or affect those of us in the minority being treated so badly at times; they are human issues that can touch any of us.

There are also, as lovely Minnesota Senator Al Franken shows here, some people who try to twist facts to suit their purposes, in this case that a "nuclear family" can only mean a married mixed-gender couple, when the government study he's quoting from specifically defines it in a less homophobic way.

It's funny how often being on the side of facts and reality also puts you on the side of LGBT people not being monsters.
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If nobody ever again pointed out or laughed at the way I talk, if no one told me I'd "picked up the British accent" or told other people they had to go listen to me talk because it was so "neat".... I'd be so fvcking happy. You have no idea.

I just wrote this Facebook update, but it leaves my thoughts unsettled, so I thought I'd take the subject here. I have a lot to say (ha!).

Yesterday was a bad day for it, with going to church and then being stuck at these goddam grad parties in the afternoon. I saw my high school band teacher and said "Hi" to him, and he said "You have got the accent! I can tell, from just one word."

I've gotta say it made me pretty dismayed and I found it hard to talk to him and his wife much (thankfully she just waved at me, and I at her) after that, I was so self-conscious. The problem about people noticing how you say things is that it leaves you with no response; if I got riled up and started arguing that there is hardly a singular British accent and even if there was I damn well wouldn't have it... it would just get worse and worse.

I'd be laughed at, more. I'd be told not to take things so seriously. I would have to be polite. I would try to change the subject, but every time I've tried that so far there seems to be some threshold I have to reach before the people I'm talking to will let it go. I feel I'm being scrutinized like a goldfish in a bowl, and there's nothing I can do about it. Because all their voices are just ways for them to say things that they are thinking, but mine is just a decoration. What I'm saying doesn't matter because how I'm saying it is just so "neat."

The band guy was told by someone I went to school with, who I chatted to yesterday, that he had to talk to me to hear my accent. My mom told me this after he left. For all I know he wouldn't have bothered at all if I wasn't this vocal oddity now. He probably would've, I know that, but this is how I'm feeling now.

These people making me feel so uncomfortable are mostly decent people, people I've known a long time, and I know they don't mean anything by this. You just don't encounter a lot of exotic accents in rural Minnesota. So they're both excited, and stupid, like little kids who haven't yet been taught not to point and talk about strangers when out in public.

And being in most other ways apparently typical for rural Minnesota I have a lot of privilege, some of which has been taken away now that I'm coded an outsider -- though in good ways rather than bad, which is something, it's still pretty awful to be idolized for the way I talk. Because not only does it leave me with no voice to defend myself or to be listened to as anyone else would, it's also not something I have a lot of control over. Yes, I consciously changed the way I talk when I was working at the hospital and didn't want to stand out in any way if I could help it, and I quickly realized you get your point across faster and more easily, if you talk to people in the words and pattens they're used to hearing. So while it's not completely outside my control, and while I do actually try to sound more Minnesotan when I'm here -- I'd love nothing better than to "pass" -- there's only so much I can do.

Especially when these are all people who know me, and know where I've moved, and expect that ignorant-American-anglophile's idea of a fvcking British accent. I'm convinced to some extent these people are hearing what they're expecting to. My dad says that I have less of "an accent" than I used to, which fits with my theory that it was partially job-specific, as I haven't worked there for a year and a half. But they don't even listen to him when he says that -- I've heard him say so several times in the last couple of days, but no one (except me!) ever makes any acknowledgement of this.

It really fvcks with my identity too. In a restaurant the other day, when I was ordering my food, my grandpa told the waitress, "She's from England! She's come here all the way from England!" and my parents and grandparents laughed, so probably no one heard me say "I am not from England! I'm from here!" I'm sure no one cares, anyway.

But anyone I know in Britain, or even anyone who reads this, or was reading a few years ago especially, will know how desperately important Minnesota is to me. I had homesickness like a disease for the first couple of years I lived in Manchester, and being here is easy in a way that makes me realize Manchester has always been hard, in a way; living there is like hearing a quiet, low buzzing sound that you don't consciously register until it goes away, and then the lack of it is amazing.

This is a huge privilege I grew up with and, as is the way, never knew I had or thought could exist, until I lost it.

So I can only implore you, if you are fond of a friend's way of speaking, please make sure they know that you are listening to what they say as well. If you think someone's ethnicity makes them beautiful, realize how uncomfortable this might make them if you say it; they didn't choose their genes any more than you did yours. Think about how stories that're good to listen to are often harrowing to live through, because we all know a good story needs conflict. If people don't want to talk about where they're from or what languages they speak or anything like that, respect that even if you think it's just so fascinating. Understand that there are probably good reasons why they won't appreciate this -- either in their specific experience, or they've just already had their fill of being exotified -- but that you aren't owed an explanation.

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