Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Church in Uganda

I went to church.  I haven’t been to a proper church since my grandmother insisted I receive my communion and my mom bargained with the nuns to make sure I only had to go through one year of religious classes and not two.

“I taught her all the prayers,” she said in her thick Brooklyn accent, on the phone with the nuns.  “She knows the Hail Mary, she knows the Godfather…”  My other mother almost peed herself laughing in the background.

I did go to classes for a year, and I did receive my communion.  And I did learn the difference between the Godfather and the prayer: Our Father. I haven’t been back since.

But Uganda is religious, and primarily Christian. And if I’m going to live in this country, I might as well try to understand it.  It may be a good opportunity to continue my personal pilgrimage (ChelseaToSea: On Science and Faith) to get a little faith myself, or at least not be so afraid of it.

I got up early on Sunday morning and met up with my coworker, her two sisters, her mother, her father, and her tiny niece.  Her niece loved me. Took my hand, looked adoringly in my eyes.  And then hated me, scowled whenever I looked at her and insisted she sit next to mommy and not Chelsea in the church pews.

The church was simple and not at all like the Catholic church I grew up going to.  The pews were movable wooden benches and everyone had to bring their own bibles.  The ceiling was high and white and cracked.  Cows looked on through the windows.  And there was music.  Not the high, silvery notes like the Catholic choir, but deep belly notes coming from drums, alto singers and a saxophone player.  There was a TV screen in the background sharing the lyrics so that you could sing along. I loved it.  I swayed and danced and clapped and sang and the niece started to like me again (kind of), so I could use her as security blanket and danced with her.  They served a delicious lunch and then we kept singing. 

“I could really get used to this.  This is a ton of fun.”
And then it started. 

“We have a lot of money to give to the needy today, but not, of course, if you’re gay!!”  The crowd burst out laughing and applauding.

“I am married, to a wife, she is a woman.”  Another round of laughter and applause.

I felt like I was undercover.  A gazelle wearing a lion skin in a pride.  A black woman hiding under a white pointed cloak. 

If there is a god, wouldn’t it want us all to love in every possible way? Why would it punish us for acts of love?  Wouldn’t it want us to be open and loving and caring toward everyone?

If this god preaches that my parents belong in the bubbling circles of hell just for loving each other, then this god is not my god.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bill Clinton

I was 16 and getting my hair cut.  I was going to high school in Key West, was obsessed with the idea of becoming a top journalist one day, and was wearing my hair in long curls.  I wanted to be an undercover journalist to be exact.  One that put herself in dangerous situations to expose the truth.  I went to summer camps dedicated to journalism and was the editor in chief of my school paper.  
Luckily I was too oblivious and happy to know just how nerdy I was.

On this day I was sitting in the salon chair when a local reporter burst in.
“Bill Clinton is walking down the street!”

This is my chance.  MY CHANCE TO EXPOSE THE TRUTH.

I jumped out of the chair, borrowed a clipboard and camera, and ran off toward the former President.  He was surrounded by Key West tourists in their parrot shirts and bodyguards who stood out in all black. 
“I’m a student reporter!  I work for the newspaper! I’m a student reporter!” I screamed, wet hair flying.

Then, former President Bill Clinton said, “Let her through.”  Like Moses parting the damn Red Sea.
Bill, Billy, put his arm around me, and we walked and talked for 3 blocks.  I asked him how he was liking Key West and what advice he would give to aspiring young politicians.  He told me he liked my name.  I blacked out with happiness.

When it was time for him to visit Margaritaville for a burger (poor choice President Clinton) I left him to get the second part of my hair cut.  The journalist from before met me in the salon. 
“Chelsea!  You were the only one to get the story!  Can you write it up for ALL THE PAPERS?”

And I did.  After that, the local paper hired me and I wrote from them every summer until I graduated high school.  And I realized, I gotta get some kind of specialty because general journalism is not nearly as sexy as I thought it would be.  And so I studied health.

Now, 9 years later, I work for a public health NGO owned by Bill Clinton. 

Isn’t that something?
Check out my two-lengthed hair

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I have two mothers.  Two mothers, one sister, one female dog and one female cat.  There’s a lot of estrogen and that’s the way I like it.  I never really noticed that I grew up in a “nontraditional” family.  It was never a thing.  My parents were proud but not loud.  Generally

I grew up in Brooklyn.  Coney Island then Park Slope then Red Hook.  These days, Brooklyn is almost oppressively liberal.  If you’re not seeing through rainbow glasses you are shunned as close minded and obsolete and worst of all, unhip.  As it should be.  But growing up in the nineties, there were still a few kinks to be worked out.

My kindergarten teacher in P.S. 321 was Trudy.  Trudy had a beehive grey haircut and smoked like a chimney.  She liked yelling at us and telling us the raunchy parts of Greek mythology.  I was 4.  We had to share a picture of our family.  I drew one with three cats, one curly haired mommy and one blonde mommy. 

“Where’s your dad?” She rasped.
“I don’t have a daddy, I have two mommies.”
“That’s impossible. You’re a liar.”

I went home and told my two lesbian mothers.

They came in the next day, in their nineties high rise jeans and cowboy boots, and went straight up to Trudy in the middle of the classroom. 
“Hi.  We’re Chelsea’s moms. She has no dad.  Don’t ever fucking call her a liar again.”

Generally not loud.

In the 6th grade I learned how to make the genetic predictor tool: Punnett squares.  My mother has blue eyes, I was told my sperm donor had blue eyes, and I have brown eyes.  I worked and reworked my Punnett squares.  This can’t be right, could it?  Two blue eyes and a brown eyed child?


I went home and told my mom.
“Eh, maybe he had brown eyes.  I don’t really remember.  But I know he was a doctor.”
Growing up with two moms was never a thing because they never made it a thing.  But being a doctor was a thing.  Is still a thing even though I’m not a doctor.

“Chel, I have this rash.  Take a look at it and tell me what to do.  You’re the doctor.”
My mom gets naked.
“Ma, the rash is on your arm, why are you naked?!  Also, I’m not a doctor.”

It’s cool, I can be their daughter who is a doctor in Africa.  As long as I keep getting hip points for having lesbian mothers.

You’re a queer, Sudanese refugee who speaks 5 languages and has her own urban garden?
I have two mommies.