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Unwrapping Fear

For years Olivia sent out its mailers covered up.

For years my Jerusalem Report magazine arrived in my mailbox uncovered.

And then for the last twenty some years, both arrived shiny and new and "out."

The situation has changed. Once again I am split.

Recently I started missing copies of my Jerusalem Report magazine.

I assumed they were landing in someone else's mailbox.

I didn't realize I had been throwing them away as junk mail until I got curious and tore open the dark gray plastic covering.

There it was, my Jerusalem Report, suddenly hidden under an ugly wrapper.

It took me back to when Olivia was forced to send out brochures (Olivia Records/Olivia Travel) in plain envelopes to our mailing list.

It felt safer hidden for most of our customers, even to those who were out lesbians in the community.

The closet was full of fear, even of the postal carrier, let alone the neighbors, family members, or co-workers who might see it. That mailbox would have to be shut until no one was watching when you pulled out your mail. That was too stressful. So Olivia wrapped its brochures and flyers very carefully for years.

Being "out" was dangerous for most of us.

I had friends who lost their children to homophobic ex-spouses.

We all remember those days, right?

People lost jobs, children, and family, for being gay not so long ago.

Marriage Equality was not on the table and no one introduced their "friend" as their "wife" except in the safest spaces, or as I did when I wanted to be provocative.

Once or twice we sent out the brochures unwrapped. People asked to be taken off the mailing list. When Anita Bryant waged war on us, Olivia put out its first album with the L word on it - "Lesbian Concentrate" was a brilliant response and the beginning of a new era for our community. It was a beginning; Anita Bryant forced Olivia to scream "Lesbian" instead of "Women's" music.

As we witness a surge of Anti-Semitism in Europe and echoes of "Zionism is Racism" again, wearing a Star of David makes a loud statement.

It always did for me, as a stateless Arabic Jew in a Catholic missionary School in Japan. It was how I asserted my identity. I had no nationality because I was a Jew, my Star of David was my flag.

There were days or weeks when I didn't' have the strength to put it around my neck. Easter was one of those times.

The taunts of how I killed Jesus was bad enough on regular days, but Easter was another thing. During Easter I gave myself permission to be a coward. My Star stayed home. I went to school virtually under a dark gray plastic wrapper. My Zionism, my Jew, exposed by my Star of David was carefully hidden for fear of attack. Today my sense of freedom and safety is split as a Lesbian Zionist.

I am hearing, "Can you be less of Jew?" again.

Until recently, "Can you keep your lesbianism out of our faces?" was a perfectly acceptable insult.

Today we announce Vacations for Lesbians and mail Olivia's unabashedly lesbian brochures with impunity into thousands of mailboxes. Uncovered.

I remember breathing fully when we were finally free to get rid of the envelopes sometime in the eighties. Our customers were no longer calling to get off the mailing list unless they were hidden.

I want my Jerusalem Report sent out with the same impunity.

I feel heartsick looking at the dark gray plastic. Some days it remains under a pile of mail before I can bear to tear it open. It's wrapped in fear.

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