Friday, June 24, 2011

The First Gay Pride Was a RIOT

Have you ever heard of the Stonewall Riots? If not, you are not alone. But, I think they need to be addressed, especially considering that it is gay pride month.

In Denver, we celebrated pride last weekend with our annual gay pride fest, sponsored by our GLBT center (and many corporate donors). There was a parade, there was dancing, there were drag shows. It was a big party and I, with most of the attendees, was drunk all weekend.

While there is nothing wrong with a big party, or getting drunk, I think that there is something missing from this celebration. Mainly, the activism. The first gay pride parade happened the day after the stonewall riots, as a protest to the police brutality and the discriminatory laws that the LGBT community experienced at the time.

Previous to the 1970s in the United States, it was illegal to openly engage in homosexual conduct. Police brutality against LGBT individuals was incredibly pervasive, and it went completely unnoticed by the mainstream culture.

Then only gay bars that existed at the time were underground bars run by the mob. The Stonewall Inn was one of these bars. At 1:20am on June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn. This had happened before, but the LGBT community had finally had enough. The patrons of the bar refused to follow protocol for these raids, refusing to go with the officers. Many people were arrested, but the wagons sent to take them to the jailhouse had not arrived yet and they had to wait. Those released from the bar did not leave quickly, instead they stuck around, crowding the outside and drawing more of a crowd from the neighborhood and nearby bars. Some drag queens decided to perform for the police by posing, primping, and dancing in exaggerated ways. The police got violent, and a riot started.

This was the first time the LGBT community fought back, and it was brilliant. The next day, for the first time, most of the LGBT community risked getting arrested and marched down the streets of new york in solidarity. This sparked what we now know as the gay civil rights movement and gained us many of the rights we have today, as queer people, including the right to get drunk in the park for our yearly gay pride festival.

So, why then, are we not continuing the work that these brave people did? Sure, there are a few people involved in social justice organizing for the queer community, if you're reading this then it's likely that you are. But the LGBT community at large is complacent. Are we happy to just get drunk and ignore the fact that we still do not have equal rights. We still face discrimination and police brutality. We still can't marry the people we love.

So what are we doing about it? What are you doing about it? Celebrate, yes, but then do something. We need to make changes, and fast. If you think the people who want to take our rights away from us are getting drunk and not organizing, then you'll be taken by surprise when we don't have any rights anymore.

The LGBT community is facing more backlash than we have in a long while, it's time to fight back and get all the rights we deserve.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why My Mom is a Super Hero: Barbie Dolls, Disney Princesses, and Mainstream Beauty Ideals

My mom is my hero.

To most people who know me, this might be a surprising statement. She often gets lumped into the generalized statement, "my conservative parents who I almost always disagree with." When ranting, I often over simplify, my mom is actually really awesome. Here's why:

My mom was really intentional in the way that she raised me. She put a lot of work into making sure that I grew up to be a confident, strong, passionate, and independent woman. I mean, she named me after Jo Marie Pounecheck on the TV sitcom The Facts of Life, a very independent ans strong woman. Was I supposed to grow up to be any different? I doubt it.

My mom was, and is, super supportive. She always encouraged me to experiment with new things and gave me the opportunity to do so. Whether it was paying for dance classes and attending every recital or letting me get finger paint everywhere (and I mean everywhere, there is still paint on our coffee table from it). Even into middle and high school, my mom (and dad) spent massive amounts of money to encourage me in my artistic endeavors. When I did Theater, she picked me up from my rehearsals, listened to me complain about the backstage drama, and sat through every performance, no matter how bad. And we had some really bad shows. They bought me my first and second camera, and paid for the materials I needed in my film photography classes. They helped me pay for my guitar, and payed for the guitar lessons.

This is all pretty no-brainer parenting, at least from my privileged perspective. Support your kid, be a good parent. Makes sense, right? But my mom did some other things that really shaped who I am today. Because, whether she'll admit it or not, my mom is a feminist.

Barbie Dolls:
When I was little, I was not allowed to have Barbie Dolls. Every time someone would give me a Barbie Doll for my birthday or Christmas, we would take it back and get something else. Something I usually thought was cooler anyways. It wasn't until I was given a Barbie Doll that had a tube of glitter for her hair at my sixth birthday party that I got to keep the doll. I really wanted the glitter, so I opened the doll to get at it. We couldn't return the doll, so I got my first Barbie. I honestly thought it was pretty lame until I was ten or eleven and my Barbie Dolls started experimenting with their sexuality, no Ken Doll needed.

The reason my mom was so against Barbie Dolls was because she didn't want me to grow up thinking that I had to look just like Barbie. After I was allowed to play with them, she talked to me about how I would be beautiful no matter what. And for a really long time, I believed her.

Disney Princesses:
My mom did not forbid me to watch Disney Princess movies, the way that many mothers who lived through second wave feminism did, but she did talk to me about them. We always had very constructive conversations about how I did not need to wait for "prince charming" to save me. She made it very clear that I was my own person and I never needed to be dependent on a man, which is a pretty prevalent theme in Disney movies, especially the older ones that I grew up with.

From Snow White to Sleeping Beauty, the princesses were always saved by a man. Even strong, brainy, and brave women, like Belle and Mulan, ended up with a man at the end of the movie. My mom always emphasized the other strengths of these women, and the other characters in the movies.

My mom also made sure that the Disney Princess movies were not the only representations of women I grew up with. My parents watched shows that portrayed their women characters as strong and independent leaders. We watched shows like Star Trek, and Xena: Warrior Princess. The series of Star Trek showing at the time was Star Trek: Voyager, with Captain Janeway, the first ever female commanding officer who did a damn good job. And, Xena, of course was a strong, intelligent, and passionate woman who kicked some serious ass, too bad my parents stopped watching it when I was about twelve, something about too many lesbian themes. Regardless, I got the point. Women are more than weak princesses waiting for a prince to save them. Brilliant!

As I grew up in a Christian home, the Bible was often used as a bedtime story book. My mom's favorite character in the Bible is Queen Esther. Queen Esther was an incredibly brave woman who stood up for what she believed in, even though doing so could have cost her her life. Regardless of the dangers, Esther stood up to her King, and saved her people. The story is not about Esther falling in love or being saved from a bad situation by a man. The story is about how she was strong and did what she had to do. This is what my mom made sure I grew up with. Esther was one of my main role models growing up.

Mainstream Beauty Ideals:
Once, when I was little, I asked my mom why she was fat. See, my mom isn't, and has never been a small person. She is totally cool with this. When I asked her, she replied "because God made me this way." This moment has stuck with me my whole life. I always remember this moment as defining in who I grew up to be. I grew up with a mom that did not conform to anyone else's idea of what she should look like, and my dad still thought she was sexy.

I took this a step further than body image, because my mom has never been afraid to be exactly who she is, regardless of what others would say. I followed suite as I grew up, refusing to be somebody I didn't want to be. Of course the bullshit the media and my peers shoved down my throat effected me, it effects everyone in one way or another. But I have always had a strong sense of self to stand on when it comes to this pressure, and I fully believe that my mom has had a huge impact on that.

This is the part where my mom is going to start to disagree with me. I think that my strong sense of self that my mom helped me build growing up had a huge impact on how I experienced and explored my sexual orientation.

I am not saying that the way my parents raised me made me mostly attracted to women. That was always there, I was born with it. I am saying that the way they raised me has had an impact on how I identify that attraction to women. It has an impact on how I identify as "Queer," and what I do with that identity. I grew up to be a queer feminist activist, and an outspoken one at that, because of how my parents raised me. I fight for what I believe is right, I fight for my people, because that is what I was raised to do.

With "Queer" sometimes being a political identity in ways that "Gay" or "Lesbian" are not, I think that the way I was raised has a lot to do with my identity. And a lot of that identity and the actions that follow come from the way that my parents raised me. I was raised to live out my beliefs through my actions. I was raised to always speak my mind. I was raised to always be who I am, and never who someone else tells me to be. I was raised by a super hero mom, and I grew up to be exactly who she raised me to be.

And, even though we disagree, I'm pretty sure my super hero mom is damn proud of me. And if I'm right, then that is the highest honor I could ever receive.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, and Terrorism

Last night, May 1, 2011, it was announced that Osama Bin Laden, leader of the militant, extremist religious movement Al-Quaeda, was killed (along with two men and one woman) by a small team of U.S. soldiers during a covert mission under direct orders of President Obama. Yesterday was also the anniversary of the day that Hitler's death was announced.

Today, I am sitting at an event on the Auraria Campus for Holocaust Remembrance Day. I'm finding it to be an interesting space to contemplate the announcement that President Obama made last night.

Everyone is talking about this announcement, the death of Osama Bin Laden. Most of America is celebrating this act of violence. People are suggesting that there be a federal holiday to celebrate. There are Osama's Dead! drink specials at my local pub. This is what we call patriotism?

So call me unpatriotic, but I don't want to celebrate acts of violence. I don't want to celebrate the fact that after ten years, 1.283 trillion dollars, and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, we killed one man. Whoo Hoo! That's the way we do it in the good old United States of America.

When Hitler was found dead, it was not his death, specifically, that we celebrated. It was the end of the war and the release of the individuals held in the concentration camps. We celebrated that the jews, gay men, lesbians, feminists, physically and mentally disabled individuals, gypsies, polish citizens, and many others were allowed to rejoin their friends and families.

The thing is, this war is far from over. Terrorism will still exist tomorrow, next week, and next year. We have not gained anything due to this blood on our hands. Tomorrow,our country will still be at war with an abstract concept.

A good friend of mine, Kristin Ziegler, posted this as her Facebook status last night:

"Osama Bin Laden was but a fraction of the whole. His ideas were the product of nationalism, religious extremism, and hatred. Ideas that our country has sold to us as "values." And until such "values" cease to exist world over, we will continue to see terrorist acts, violence, oppression, and other atrocities committed. While Bin Laden has caused great distress, celebration is certainly not an appropriate response."

A sigh of relief might be appropriate, but celebration is not.

Don't think it's over, don't get cocky, America. The war is not over, it's still pretty hazy as to what we're fighting for, or if we're the "good guys" in this situation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Revoulution is so Punk Rock: Music and Social Justice Movements

Music has long been a part of social justice activism. From The use of Jazz and Blues by African American slaves, to rock and roll during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Music is such a good tool in social justice movements because it gets people fired up, it gets people moving, and it gets people listening without knowing it. Let's take punk rock, it can have lyrics that have nothing to do with anything meaningful, but it still gets people moving due to the great beats and hardcore feel. People want to listen to it because they feel they connect to the sound of the music. Now, take that same music and add some lyrics about something like... How the artist hates former presidend George W. Bush. You now have Green Day's  song "American Idiot," an activist song that got people pissed off.

Green Day was not the first, or the last, band to write punk music (and I use the term "punk" loosely for the purposes of this argument).  There have been many bands in the past who have gotten political with their lyrics, and much more radical too. 

Starting as a response to a lot of anti-choice backlash in the 1990s, and ruled by the girl power of musical artists such as Pat Benetar, Joan Jett, and Patti Smith, feminists in Olympia, Washington started a convergence. Many of these feminists were musicians and began writing politically fueled songs about sexual assault, domestic violence, reproductive rights, and revolution, girl style. This convergence, and many like it across the pacific northwest, started a new genre of punk rock called "riot grrl." Many believe that the Riot Grrl movement is what started third wave feminism.

Riot grrl bands include Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear, Sleater Kinney, The Butchies, Heaven's to Betsy, Bratmobile, and Le Tigre. These band are not radical because their lyrics are all about girl power, revolution, and feminism. They are radical because they do not merely point out problems, but they demand changes. They actively work to inspire their listeners to go out and start their own revolution in their communities, to take back the power from the patriarchy and break down the systems of oppression. They are intentionally using their music to inspire change. 

There is nothing left to chance with these artists. They do their research and they know what's going on in the world. They are using punk rock as a tool for activism. And, as I've said in previous posts, the music can also be used to keep the movement alive by getting those involved in the movement out of their heads and dancing to the music. 

I don't know many people who don't like music. I don't know any hearing person who does not hear music at least once a day. Music is a huge part of the way our culture functions, and a lot of the mainstream music we hear today is total crap. The lyrics of mainstream music are rarely positive, especially in regards to women. But people, myself included, listen to this stuff whether they want to or not. And it effects our culture, because music is powerful. 

Music is power. This is why it is so useful in social justice movements. Music is inspiring, it gets stuck in your head, it makes you listen in ways that speeches and flyers, posters and demonstrations do not. Music is a tool, use it wisely. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter, Jesus, and Radical Activism

So, today is Easter. Today is the day that families go to church and eat candy and look for colored eggs, and celebrate this guy, Jesus, who claimed he was the messiah.

Now, I don't really subscribe to the Christian mythology around Jesus being the sun of God and rising from the dead three days after he was killed by the Romans. You know, the whole point of Easter. But, I did grow up in a Christian home, so I have been inundated with these the teachings of the Christian Church my entire life, and you know what? It's not all bad.

In fact, if you really read the Bible, specifically the actions and teachings of Jesus, you might think that this Jesus guy is pretty cool. He was a radical activist who fought for what he thought was right. And, yeah, he claimed he was the Jewish messiah, but that wasn't entirely out of the blue at the time. I think it was a way for him to get a good following, and hey, it worked.

So, when you boil it down, Jesus was a radical activist who went around talking about and getting people fired up and angry about the things in society that he believed needed to change (hypocrisy of the church, poverty, prejudice, racism, etc.). Sound familiar?

So, let's take a look at his teachings, and why they were so damn radical.

Respect for all, including women:
In the time that Jesus lived, women had no rights to speak of. Seriously, none. They were not even allowed in the church. Jesus taught about respect and rights for EVERYONE. Women included. Jesus was a feminist.

Hypocrisy of the Church:
Jesus felt strongly that the leaders of the church were not doing their job. He used vandalism as a way to make a point about it by turning over the tables in the temple, claiming that the Pharisees of the temple were a disgrace to God. Jesus questioned authority, no one did that back then. He was a radical.

Turn the other cheek:
When Jesus said to turn the other cheek, he did not mean that we should lay down and take it or be complacent. The thing about the way that a person in power would hit a subservient, culturally, is with the back of their right hand. If you were to turn the other cheek, they would have to punch you, which is not culturally acceptable. This would enrage the person who hit you. The point was to enrage the oppressor, in the same way that boycotts during the civil rights movement did. Piss them off, make a point.

Go the extra mile:
Same principle as turning the other cheek, make the rules work for you. The law said that a servant was only allowed to carry a soldier's bag for one mile, so going an extra mile would get the soldier in trouble. It's a pretty goood way to call someone on their shit.

All of this, plus Jesus had Community Organizing down to a science. I mean, look at where the Christian Church is now. Yes, many of his teachings are taken out of context, but at one time the church operated much like a civil rights movement. At one time, it was illegal to be a Christian, so they had a sort of underground highway of information. What they were doing worked.

So, were the techniques used within the original Christian Movement? Things that we can take and apply to our own community organizing in social justice movements.

Community Building: Jesus's disciples were not just there because they had big 'ole man crushes on Jesus. They were there because they were his community and support system. And this support system was not just the disciples, but their families and friends as well. Support systems are so so so important in social justice work, partly because they keep everyone involved sane, and partly because they are there to do the work. Nobody changed the world on their own, change takes people power. People to support, people to spread the word and recruit new people, people to cook, people to house protesters right before a big demonstration, people to do whatever needs to be done. People and community are important. This is why we're called the "queer/LGBT community." It's not just a convenient term for sociology classes.

Training: Jesus was smart when he chose 12 people to be his core group of followers, save for maybe Judas who screwed him over. He chose these people because he knew that they had the passion and drive to lead the movement after he was gone. He trained them, and then they trained other people. They built churches, or small movements in other parts of the country, creating a national movement.

Large Demonstrations: Jesus made a huge ruckus with his activism. He tossed tables around and gathered large groups of people and talked to them. He got a lot of attention, and he got the word out. Without social media, or media at all. No newspaper was writing about the sermon on the mount, there was no facebook event for it, but people still showed up. Word of mouth had a lot to do with this, but also, he was a loud guy who talked a lot, about revolutionary ideas that no one had heard before. Of course people wanted to listen to him, it was refreshing. And the more people he got, the more the word got spread, until his following was massive. Radical ideas that make sense, that's how you get a following.

So, Jesus, maybe not the messiah, but he did know his activism 101, and there's a lot to learn from him, regardless of your religious affiliation. I would encourage you to read the Bible, not because I want you to convert, but because there is a whole lot of good stuff in there that we can learn and apply to this social justice movement. Because, it's always good to learn new tecniques.

Queer Fatigue, Part 2: What Now?

It occurs to me that I am most definitely not the only person in the queer movement to become tired due to the reasons I talked about in my last post. I can't be, because if I'm so passionate about these things, like other people, then wouldn't those other people also get tired or angry over the same things? We're frustrated because nobody is listening. Nobody seems to get our point of view. 

And honestly, this isn't unique to the LGBT or feminist movements, or unique to this time period. First wave feminists had a lot more to risk by fighting for their right to vote. In many cases, these women were going against the will of their husbands, in a time when his word was gospel and you followed it. No matter what. The women at the forefront of this fight went as far as to be put in jail because they were protesting in front of the white house. They gave up their children, their husbands, their reputations, and their legal rights, all for something they cared a whole lot about. And guess what? They won. Women now have the legal right to vote. It took them from the convention at Seneca Falls in 1848, up until 1920 to get it done. That is a long time, did they get tired? yes. Frustrated? yes. But did they give up? Absolutely not. 

Back in the 1950's and 1960s, it was illegal to be gay. The common belief was that homosexuals could be "forcefully assimilated" into heterosexuality. Not only were the gays of that time ignored, they were silenced. And jailed, and beaten, and killed. Did they get tired of fighting? Of course they did. But I would bet that it further motivated them to keep working on their cause. 

And I am further motivated to continue that cause. Because I don't want to be tired and frustrated anymore. I want to move on from this, and the only way to do that is to fight harder. Work harder, and make change happen. 

Sure, it's hard sometimes and we need to take a little break to refresh. Self care is super important to avoid queer fatigue, or burnout. But then it's time to get back at it, more aggressively. Otherwise, nothing will get done, and we'll always be tired. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Queer Fatigue

I am so tired of being queer. I am so tired of being a feminist.

I am so tired of having to fight for rights that I should always have. I'm tired of doing trainings on LGBT bullying and oppression. I'm tired.

And I'm angry. I'm angry that threre is a need for me to be a queer feminist activist. What exactly am I fighting for that isn't a basic human right? The right to not have the shit beat out of me based on my sexual orientation? Or the right to be treated as an equal regardless of my gender identity? The right to date, fall in love with, and marry whoever I happen to date, fall in love with, and want to marry? The right to make decisions about my own body and my own life, without legal interference.

Wh are these things so difficult for everyone else to understand. Why is it that people of color, LGBT folk, women, and people with disabilities STILL do not have the same rights and privileges as a very narrow group of people included under the white-cisgender-male-able bodied group of people.

What am I missing here? Are we all human, or were we born into some other hierarchy? Please fil me in, because I'm confused as to why I have to fight against this...

And I'm tired of fighting it. I'm tired of not having the rights that all people deserve. I'm tired, and I'm fed up.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Always Wear a Belt to The Punk Rock Show, Always Remember to Dance

Emma Goldman said "If there's no dancing at the revolution, I'm not coming"

Revolution is so punk rock, right? And who has ever gone to a punk rock show where no one danced. I haven't.

I love dancing. I've been dancing since I could walk, at one point I thought I wanted to pursue dancing as a career. I place high value on going out on the weekends to dance, because it helps me get out of my head. And that's really important.

The best thing about dancing at a punk rock show is that it's not about being sexy or talented or looking good at all. It's about having a blast and not giving a fuck. Make a fool out of yourself, flail around like an idiot, move, dance, be in the moment. Don't give a fuck.

I feel like in activism, we sometimes get so wrapped up in all of the shit that's making us angry; the things that the other side is doing, the rights we still don't have, the politics and politicians getting in the way of those rights and the general societal bullshit that stops anyone from making any changes because we're stuck. Or we're tired, or too frustrated to think straight.

Sometimes it's all too much. How do you deal?

Dance! Or something. Whatever, just get yourself out of your head and away from the stress of being an activist. Because it's a lot to deal with sometimes. It's overwhelming, and sometimes you just need to reset in order to come back and deal with it.

And don't forget your belt, no one wants to be pulling their pants up all night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We Can't be Silent Anymore: Bringing attention to Bullying

Tomorrow, on the Auraria Campus, we will be having an event called "The Day of Noise." We will be making a lot of noise against LGBTQ bullying. Why?

Because we can't be silent anymore.

The idea for the event came when we were talking about GLSEN's National Day of Silence ( and what event could we hold for it. The National Day of Silence is an event that many high school and college GSAs will take part in. The point is to be silent for a whole day in order to bring attention to the fact that many people on our campuses cannot be open about who they are, for whatever reason. At the end of the day, everyone meets and breaks the silence by making as much noise as possible and being in community with each other. Every time I have participated in this event, it has been an incredibly powerful event, and I would encourage everyone to participate on friday by being silent at all times possible.

However, I am tired of being silent. I'm tired of being silenced. Things are happening to my community and I'm angry.

I want to make some noise!

See, bullying isn't just something that happened in elementary school. It happens in middle and high school too. It even happens in college. And, if it goes unchecked, bullying can turn into harassment and violence.

Last semester the news reported that at least 6 LGBT college and high school students committed suicide because they were bullied about their sexual orientation. This number does not include the hundreds of LGBT suicides that have not been reported in the news.

LGBT youth are 6 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. This is not because they are LGBT, but because of the social pressures and bullying that they can experience due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. And it's not just other students who do it. Teachers, faculty and staff can add to the pressure and bully students just as much. Last year at least two gay students made the news because they were not allowed to bring a same sex date with them to the Prom. Try and tell me that's not a form of bullying.

This shit is not okay with me. It's time to shout about it, make it loud. It's time to really be proud of who we are as a community. It's time to come together as a community and support each other.

And, we need to stand up and make some noise. Call people out, make them stop and think, make them as angry about this as we are. Make them change.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pro-Life or Anti-Freedom?

Today on my campus, there was a huge anti-choice display. We're talking a 20ft tall, 30ft long, big disgusting display of what they would like to tell you abortion looks like, and how it is not humane. This thing was right in the middle of campus, in a place where you could not avoid it, at all. There was a sign that said "warning: graphic pictures ahead" which most people saw AFTER seeing the actual display. The thing took up the entire grassy area where people normally relax during their day, especially on such a beautiful sunny day such as today. I am disgusted.

Beyond my opinions about their opinion, I find this display highly inappropriate. I get free speech, but people have the right to not listen to the bullshit you have the right to spout. No one could avoid this display, it was as big as a ride at an amusement park.

And the thing that really pisses me off is that they say that they're doing this for the women. They're saving the women from the emotional trauma of having an abortion, because women can't be trusted to appropriately deal with the consequences of their choices. Especially the emotional consequences. They need to be protected from the consequences of freedom, so let's take their rights away. (I call bullshit)

What about the women who have had an abortion? How is this disgusting display protecting them from further emotional trauma. Or how about the emotional trauma of having to go through a pregnancy you do not want, and having a child you do not want? What about the emotional trauma the child will go through when they grow up knowing they were not wanted, either because the mother makes it clear or they are adopted. What about that?

It's not like abortion is an easy decision or process. I've been there, I know.

When I was fifteen, I found out I was pregnant with the potential child of the man who was abusing me. Of course I had an abortion, it was my only choice. If I were to tell him, he would have beaten me, blamed me for getting pregnant, for not being on birth control, whatever. I would have probably lost the baby anyways.

And then there was the whole issue of telling my parents. "hey mom and dad, you know how I'm not allowed to date and I'm supposed to wait until I'm married to have sex... well, I'm pregnant." This was not going to happen, I would have been kicked out.

Add the fact that I was totally fucked up on drugs to the whole equation and abortion was the right choice for me to make. It was the hardest decision I've ever made. It was also the best decision I've ever made. For me and the potential life that then inhabited my uterus.

Regardless of that, it was not a fun process, and I would do almost anything to never have to go through it again. It was physically painful, really dangerous (because I couldn't go to a decent clinic without telling my parents), really expensive, and emotionally traumatic. And seeing those signs on campus today was a lot more than I could handle.

What I think they should do, if they really care about women, is to put all that money and energy into education. Fund some comprehensive sex-education programs that teach about protection (barrier and hormonal), sexuality, peer pressure, interpersonal violence, and how to say no until you're ready. Keeping in mind that kids will have sex, it's fun, we were built for it, and abstinence is not the only option. To think otherwise is unrealistic.

Of course, these organizations do not really care about women, or fetuses. They care about keeping women from having rights. They always have, always will. That's why we need to continue fighting for reproductive freedom. It's not just about the right to an abortion, it's about the right to do what you will with your body. From sexual activity to sexual reassignment surgery, it all comes down to freedom of choice. If they take one right away, what else will they take?

Monday, April 4, 2011

It Comes with Privilege: on being Cissexual

Yesterday, I wrote about how women are disconnected with their vaginas, and sometimes hate them based on societal cues about what is acceptable and not acceptable. While this is completely valid for many women, there are other women who do not have the privilege of having a vagina to hate. And many men who have vaginas that they hate more than words can express, and not for the same reasons that women hate their vaginas.

Time for a little trans 101:

Transsexual: For the purposes of this post, we're going to say that someone who is transsexual feels as though they were born in the wrong body and they are either in the process of, planning on, or already have taken action to change those body parts in order to match their gender identity. Trans means change, sex means biological.

*note, not everyone agrees with this definition, and that is ok. This is just the one I'm using for the purposes of this post.

Cissexual: Cis meaning same, sex meaning biological. Someone who is cissexual (or cisgender in some uses of the term) feels as though they were born in the correct body and feels no need to change their genitalia due to gender identity.

And while we're at it, let's quickly go over the difference between biological sex and gender identity. Just so we're all on the same page.

Biological Sex is what's in your pants, or skirt, or whatever. You can be Female, Male, or Intersex. And there are a couple different types of intersex, but I don't know too much about that so I'm not going to try to explain it, just in-case I fuck it up.

Gender Identity is who you feel like in your head. I see it as a spectrum from feminine to masculine, but sort of a scatter-plot of a spectrum. Most people identify somewhere in between masculine and feminine, but some people identify outside of that spectrum altogether. That, however, is another blog post.

Sometimes gender identity coincides with biological sex, but sometimes it does not. Society says that it does, and when it does then female bodied people are expected to be feminine, male bodied people are expected to be masculine. There is not supposed to be a grey area, and intersex people don't really exist. Super black and white.

So, cissexual people often fall into the category of genetalia-matches-gender-identity and they have very few problems navigating within society with regards to their bodies. A cissexual woman may have a distant relationship with her vagina, she may hate how it looks, and she may never touch it, but she does not feel as though it is the wrong part.

A transsexual woman, however, is sickened by her "down there" everyday until she gets surgery to change it. Same with a transsexual man. This dysphoria is something that I will never fully understand.

I am cissexual. I do not hate my cunt, at all. And regardless of how I may feel about my chest, stomach, hips or thighs (and how they all need to be smaller), I will never know what it feels like to be born in the wrong body. I will never go through sexual reassignment surgery, because I do not feel as though I need to reassign my sex. This makes me part of the majority, and that comes with privilege.

I have cissexual privilege. I have it, and I need to be aware of it. At some point I will need to use it to help those who don't have the same privilege. See, just because I can't quite identify with the feelings that others have does not mean that I can't help.

Think of it as a spiderweb. These things are so amazingly engineered, it's awesome. The inside of the spiderweb takes all of the impact, and therefore is the strongest part of the web. The outside is where resources like food and water are gathered. People with privilege are on the outside of the web. They have more access to resources, but are so far apart sometimes that they don't see the inside of the web, where all the people without privilege are. The people on the inside of the web are those with less privilege, and less access to resources. These are also the people who have more shit to deal with. They take the beating.

So, me and my privilege have access to resources that can help break down transphobia and cissexism. But I cannot do it alone. If I break down my little piece of the web, that spider will come right back and fix it. No real damage done to the web, or transphobia. But if the people on the inside of the web break down their piece of the web, that's a whole other story. This does some real damage to the web.

So, my privilege and I come in by helping those on the inside break down the web, because they need the resources to do damage. We all need to work together.

Bottom line: use your privilege wisely.

My Vagina, My Vagina, Me

also published in the community blog. see it at

This weekend, I performed in The Vagina Monologues. I would love to go on and on about how amazing the entire experience was and how great our cast was, and how it was a great bonding experience that will bring our feminist community on campus together. Or even how we raised a whole lot of money for a really necessary office on campus. But, this post is not about that.

No, this post is for a woman whose name I never learned. A woman who probably does not realize that it is her, and not the performance, that inspired me. I met her after the Friday night performance, and I may never be the same.

This woman was an older woman, maybe in her fifties or sixties. She was short and quiet, and had a limp. She did not seem very sure of herself, but she needed to tell me something. She waited quietly as I socialized with other members of the audience, my conservative parents included, she waited as the crowd died down, she waited as we cleaned up for the night. She waited, and she mustered, and she glowed.

Finally, she came up to me. She told me that she has a mirror at home, and that she would, finally, after all these years, look at her vagina for the first time, and she expected that she would be in awe. She was inspired by our performance. She was inspired by what we did. She was inspired to do something that is not socially acceptable, or even spoken of. She said she was inspired by us.

Wow. I can't begin to explain how amazing this makes me feel. And also, how sad. How sad is it that we live in a culture where a woman can go her entire life without looking at her vagina, or having an orgasm? How did we become so disconnected from our own body part? It's as normal to have as an arm, or a toe, yet far more integral.

Tampons even have applicators so that we don't have to touch it.

Something went drastically wrong here. See, a man would never go that long without looking at his penis, or pleasuring himself. It is expected and even celebrated when a man is proud of his penis, whereas even saying vagina makes a woman uneasy.

It was not always like this. At one time, the vagina, or cunt as i like to call it, was revered as the center of creative power. Women were revered because of the amazing things our bodies can do. We bleed with the moon, we create life, and we have earth shattering orgasms, sometimes many in a night. When did this stop being awe inspiring? When did vaginas become dirty?

I don't know those answers. Maybe I will someday. What I do know is that this lack of respect for women, and their vaginas needs to end. Just think what could happen is we all started loving ourselves. Women and men, and everyone on between. When our bodies stopped being the enemy and we weren't trying to either adhere to, tear down, or enforce these crazy ideals and boxes and roles. If we could all just... be. How great would that feel?

How many stress related disorders would no longer exist?

Just a thought to leave you with for now.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why is my Body Under Attack?

Has anyone else noticed the amount of CRAZY coming out of the government lately? It's all getting fucked up, there are state and federal bills being proposed and passed that target women and our uteruses.

In Colorado last election, we had to deal with Amendment 62 which would have defined life as starting at conception. This would have made abortion, the morning after pill, and some other forms of hormonal birth control (including IUDs and The Pill) illegal. This was absolutely crazy pants, but we defeated it. *big sigh*

However, in that same election, we wound up with a republican majority in congress, and they have gone off the deep end with federal cuts that target women. There was a bill to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, another that redefined rape as only forcible, and another that would have cut funding from the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). And that's only the ones that made the news.

At the state level, things are just as crazy. In Georgia, there were a few bills proposed by representative Bobby Franklin. First, he wants women who have miscarriages to be investigated for murder, by uterus police. Really? Then, in that same week, he proposed another bill that would change the language in judicial proceedings to calling a victim of sexual assault who chooses to report the "accuser" and the perpetrator the "accused." So, you get your house broken into and you're a victim, you get your cunt broken into and you're an "accuser" sorry, but shit don't work like that.

Other states have passed bills that would make cases such as Dr.Tiller's murder legal because they were defending their personal beliefs. Again, shit don't work like that. You can't murder someone and have it be OK, under ANY circumstance other than self defense. And even then, the lines are blurry.

So, there are all these bills out there. People have gone crazy in the government, and somehow this bullshit is passing in congress. What are we going to do about it? Aside from slamming our heads on the table in frustration, of course.

There are rallies being held by pro-choice organizations such as NARAL Pro choice and Planned Parenthood. If you're close to a city where one of those is being held, please try to make it. If not, maybe hold your own rally? Especially if you're a student on a college campus it really doesn't take that much work to hold a rally. I empower you to do it, if it's in Colorado, I'll be there. If you don't want to hold your own rally, attend whatever is happening near you. Any support is helpful.

Other things you can do: Support organizations in your community that support women. Attend The Vagina Monologues, I'm sure there's a performance near anyone in the United States. All of the proceeds from any production of The Vagina Monologues go to organizations that serve women, specifically survivors of interpersonal violence.

You can also volunteer at organizations that support women. These organizations are always looking for people to help with phone banks or putting together literature. Maybe go canvassing closer to election time.

Or, call your representative. If they know that we care about these things, they will be more likely to vote against all this crazy bullshit, and more likely to vote for the few good things that come up.

So, small steps can make a difference. Don't worry, you can make a difference even when things seem overwhelming. For more tips, check out Shelby Knox's article on Abortion Gang on how to deal with this bullshit.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vote With Your Money, Honey

So, most monday nights I go to a local gay night club for their weekly Ru Paul's Drag Race viewing party. These viewing parties and the show itself are sponsored by Absolut Vodka, we watch the show with all of the commercials cut except for the ones advertising Absolut, and the drag queen who hosts the viewing party is constantly telling us to drink some Absolut. They even give away a bottle of Absolut each night.

One would think that Absolut, or any other company that advertises on LGBT oriented television is gay friendly, right? But are they? Do they love the gays, or our wallets?

This is not a discussion that hasn't been had before, this idea of whether my generation is the gay movement, or the gay market. We talked about it when Absolut (yes, the same vodka) came out with a special edition pride bottle that was decorated with a rainbow. We've discussed it when it comes to Coors supporting ANYTHING gay.

Most people think that Coors is apologizing for being anti-gay back around stonewall. Back then, we really were a movement, and we boycotted Coors for their anti-gay policies. And they listened. That, is voting with your dollar.

However, somewhere between boycotting Coors and now, we went from boycotting anti-gay companies to supporting gay friendly looking companies. This comes from a good place, that is, supporting LGBTQ and ally owned businesses. But, the companies caught on and, though they may have anti-LGBT policies, advertise during shows geared to LGBT individuals or on LGBT channels (like LOGO and Bravo). Because many individuals are too busy or lazy to do any research on the actual policies the company operates under, we just assume that these companies are LGBTQ friendly.

It used to be mostly alcohol companies that used this marketing plan, but now it's everyone from travel companies to electronics stores. This is not to say that all of these companies have anti-LGBTQ policies, although some do *ahem... Best Buy and Target...* but think about this for a second, we as a market have a lot of power. We as a movement have a lot to achieve.

Why the fuck are we not doing our research? We could, with just our choices of where to shop and what to buy, create some serious change. It's not the only thing we as a movement need to be doing, but it helps, because every small step helps.

Be a movement, not a market. Support companies that actually support LGBTQ rights. Don't support those who don't. See what happens, it might just change some things.

Remember, we are powerful.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

'Aint gonna tie me down: Thoughts on Polyamory and Non-monagamy

Polyamory: the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

Non-monogamy: a blanket term which covers several types of interpersonal relationships in which an individual forms multiple and simultaneous sexual and/or romantic bonds.

Thank you, Wikipedia, for the definitions. Note, that this has nothing to do with The Mormon church.

These alternative relationship models have been on my mind lately. I've never been in a polyamorous relationship, but I have tried an open relationship. That didn't work, but that had to do with other issues within the relationship to start with. So, I'm curious.

I have some friends who are poly and it works really well for them. I also have monogamous friends and that works for them too. I don't know what works for me yet.

A good friend described her form of polyamory to me as a way to meet all of her needs without putting unreasonable expectations on one person. So she can be in romantically attracted to one person, sexually attracted to another, or many others, and have a make-out buddy and a cuddle buddy, etc. Each of us has a unique set of needs, and in this situation one person is not expected to fulfill them all.

This piece, I think is brilliant. I've had so many relationships fail because my partner was not meeting all of my needs, or I was not meeting theirs. Or we had different expectations for the relationship. I know I'm not the only one who has had these problems. Problems that can't always be solved by more effective communication.

However, I also think, that polyamorous relationships could get very complicated. People get jealous, they get angry, and things are miscommunicated. Maybe the initial rules of the relationship were not exactly what one person had in mind, or the communication piece got totally screwed up. Hearts got broken, relationships ended.

But, this is something that happens in monogamous relationships, right? Maybe, because the rules and expectations necessarily need to be negotiated in the beginning of the relationship, this could foster better communication within the relationship. If all parties involved are good at that sort of thing.

I don't have any answers about how poly and non-monogamous relationships work, or if they do. It's different for everyone, because everything is different for everyone. And that's beautiful, it would be boring if everything were as black and white as a "one-size-fits-all" relationship model, or way of living.

Anyways, I think that everyone operates differently and some of us haven't figured out how we operate yet. That's ok too. When I figure out how I operate, I'll let you know, but right now I think I might experiment. That's what these years are for, figuring out who we are.

Identity is constantly changing, and the road to figuring out who you are is an adventure. Sometimes you have to take risks. This is how we grow, by challenging the norm and experimenting with the unknown. If we stop growing, we die. I'm not ready to stop growing, are you?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Queering Anorexia Nervosa and Domestic Violence: Lasting Impact

Experiences with interpersonal violence impact the survivor for the rest of their life.

Eating Disorders (not to be confused with disordered eating) are a lot like alcoholism, the individual with the disorder may be functional but they will always struggle with the disorder. It's an addiction to control.

This being said, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I have been having issues with my body lately. Even when you factor in that since going vegan 7is months ago I've lost 30 pounds. But still, it's tough.

I have this idea of what I think I should look like, and I'm not sure where it comes from. Granted, as my identity grows and evolves, so does this ideal me. But, the ideal me is always smaller and "more attractive" than I am. Catch me on a bad day and I can't eat because I am so far away from this ideal, I am so grossed out by my body on these bad days that I can't stand it. These days don't happen that often anymore.

Catch me on a good day and though I find myself attractive on these days, I'm still not comfortable with the difference between the ideal me and the real me. Some days we are very similar, but I still wish some things were different. I still wish some things were smaller, some things were bigger, more radiant, clearer, prettier. Me on a good day is probably no different than anyone else raised in this culture on a normal day.

And that's a huge problem, isn't it? We've been told, men, women, and everyone in between, that there is a way to be. We're told this from the moment we can understand images and television. So, that's part of the problem, and definitely part of what adds to my body dysphoria. Everyone deals with it.

And then, part of my personal dysphoria comes from the experiences I've had with domestic violence. He called me things related to my weight and image, that hurts, for a long time. See, words have a lasting effect, and those were words coming from somebody who said he loved me. I wasn't the only girl at my treatment center who had been in a domestic violence situation at some point before getting to that rock bottom place where we met.

All of this is common sense, yeah? But where does being queer come in, because that's what this is about. My current reality as a queer individual who happens to immerse hirself in queer culture, just due to the fact that I am a really social being and my friends also happen to be a part of the LGBT community.

So, how does my being queer affect who I am now and how I relate to this thing that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life?

Well, being queer complicates everything. It's tough because everything is so interlaced that I can never really figure out if some things are due to my eating disorder, or my experiences with domestic violence, or my queer identity or any number of things I have experienced in my life.

For instance, my ideal self right now is a thin, androgynous, flat chested individual. You can't tell if they are a boy or a girl. My current self is curvy like a river, or the goddess, and sometimes I'm fine with that. But sometimes, I just want to be that ideal, androgynous, version of myself. And I don't know how much of this ideal self has to do with my eating disorder, and how much has to do with my experimental identity as gender queer. Maybe it's both, maybe it's neither, and maybe it's not worth thinking about. And maybe part of it is an internal need to not meet the standard that men find attractive because I don't want to attract attention from men like the one who abused me.

It's all so intertwined that I can't find where one begins and another ends. And that, I think is the way all of our lives are. Our experiences make us who we are, and are constantly influencing the way we think and relate to the world.

So, I may be experiencing something from the perspective of a survivor of domestic violence, but I'm also experiencing it from all these other angles of my identity and experience. As a queer person, as someone with an eating disorder, as a feminist, as a photographer and artist, as someone who loves music, as a vegan, etc. It's all balled into one, and it's always complicated.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Queering Annorexia Nervosa and Domestic Violence: My Coming Out Story

*trigger warning for Domestic Violence*

So, I've known that I was "different" since I was ten. And by different, I mean that I knew I was queer, but I didn't have a word for it. I knew I had a crush on Belle in Beauty and The Beast, I was always into the smart girls. Still am. I also knew, when I was ten, that I was supposed to have a crush on The Beast, after true love changed him back into a handsome man, of course. At some point, I figured that there was something wrong.

This idea comes from the very christian home I grew up in. For the longest time, my parents would preach that either you're straight or you're going to hell. Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. All that stuff, so when I figured out that the closest word I had for my crush on Belle was GAY, I freaked out. There was really something wrong with me, and that something would send me to hell.

So, I did everything in my power to change it. In middle school, I would flirt with the boys my friends found attractive. I even dated a few of them, just to prove that I wasn't that horrible thing my parents told me about. To prove that I wasn't gay. I was one of the popular girls of our middle school, I worked hard for that. Nobody asked the popular girls too many questions.

Then came High School. Naive, 14 year old, me got herself a boyfriend who was a senior. He was drum major and a drug dealer, and it was perfect. He was the guy that all the girls wanted, so of course I was happy. Nobody would even think to question my sexuality as long as I played along.

At some point, playing along stopped being worth it. He was jealous, he thought I spent too much time with my friends, he told me I was fat and ugly, he told me I was stupid, he told me I was worthless, he told me he was the only person who would ever love me. He broke me down to less than human. And by then, I was stuck. I was addicted to the drugs he was selling me. And I believed him.

Who would love me? I'm worthless, and I'm a lesbian. Even God can't love me.

It seems unbelievable now, but so many victims go through such similar thought processes when they're in situations like this. The abuse was so normal by the time he started hitting me, it was almost as if I expected it. I believed that I deserved it. And I couldn't do anything to stop it. I couldn't do anything at all.

That was the worst part for me. I needed to find something to control. I had been obsessively dieting and trying to lose weight since the third grade. I became even more obsessive about it, as a way to gain some semblance of control. It consumed my life, at least when I wasn't trying to make him happy.

He left after he graduated, went into the army. But that didn't stop me from feeling out of control. My drug use got worse, I tuned out, and I lost it. I went into a state of being incredibly promiscuous, still trying to prove to everyone and myself that I was straight but also trying to find some self worth in the arms of a one night stand. Nothing mattered, and nothing changed anything. Still no control.

As I continued to starve myself, I became emaciated to the point where I could not hide it. People who cared about me started to really start to question if something was wrong. My parents finally intervened and took me to the hospital. I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and sent to an inpatient facility specific to eating disorders. I was in treatment for 3 months.

In treatment, I learned so much about loving myself and putting myself first. It wasn't all about my eating disorder, a lot of it had to do with the things that he had convinced me of, and the things I had convinced myself. I started to come to terms with being queer, and decided to stop putting up with my own bullshit.

When I got out of treatment, I transferred schools. Everyone thought that would be a good idea, and it was. I found myself in a group of supportive friends who didn't give a shit about my sexual orientation. So I came out to my friends at school. And everybody already knew.

It wasn't until my senior year that I fell out of the closet to my parents... but that is a whole other story.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Forget the Bullshit for a Seccond

So, I'm pretty pro-responsible use of drugs. This can include anything from alcohol/marijuana to more illicit drugs like LSD and MDMA. And what I really appreciate about these drugs is the ability to put the user in a state of living in the moment.

This is so important because we get so involved in our plans to break down the systems of oppression, our personal drama, and even studies and work that we never get the chance to experience that we are in an amazing community. This statement for me comes from my unique position as a member of the LGBTQ community as well as the Feminist community but it goes for both.

We have these amazing support systems in both of these communities who are there to support us when things get shitty and I think I, at least, take it for granted way too often. I have some of the most amazing friends who are always there for me, and always put up with my bullshit.

So, what I'm trying to say is that we need to enjoy the moment. Drugs or not, there are amazing things happening around us and it would be such a shame for us to miss it while waiting for our rights to come in. They will come in time, and keep working towards them... but take a breath and dance with the energy of the universe. If we don't take a second to enjoy it, we'll get burned out. And then we'll get nowhere.

You're homework for the week is to take some time to enjoy life. Don't worry about anything, just be in the moment. I promise you won't regret it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Some gender neutral pronouns to consider

So, as I've mentioned in earlier posts, gender neutral pronouns are tough to implement and use. This is partially because they are clunky and not well explained and partially because the queer community cannot agree on one set of gender neutral pronouns to use. Everyone likes a different set for different reasons.

For a while, I was liking "co" as a gender neutral pronoun because it's pretty user friendly and it works easily. However, as I continue to ruminate over the problems with pronouns I was made aware of the fact that "co" is a secondary term. Co-worker, co-president, co-operation, blank and co. There is no personhood with this term. Just a thought.

The other night at the pub, my friends and I were talking about this problem. My friend Jason is basically fluent in Latin, and he conjugated ze for us. It has become user friendly. We did it with some variation from the traditional ze/hir pronoun set but it would work both ways. I'll explain it with ze/hir.

pronoun usage 101:

If you would use she/he, use ze
If you would use her/him, use hir
If you would use hers/his, use either ze's or hir's

Easy, right? The variation we used at the pub goes like this:

If you would use she/he, use ze
If you would use hers/his, use zir
If you would use her/him, use zim or zer.

What I like about this is that zir does not sound like any other words in the English language the way the that hir when pronounced the way I know how sounds like "here". What I don't like is that for him/her the pronouns still follow the gendered pronouns, just with a z instead of an h. I can see using zir for this instance, just like in the example with ze/hir.

It still needs some work, and let's be honest, not everyone will agree with me but it's beginning to make more sense to me. What do you think?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lesbians on TV: Transphobia on The L Word

This is another one of those cases where the first couple seasons of the show did an alright job of doing the story lines of diverse characters justice, and then it all went to shit.

Ivan is a recurring character in season 2. He is portrayed as a drag king at first, performing with a drag king group, but also presenting as a man full time. My understanding of the character is that he is either trans or genderqueer.

Ivan and Kit find themselves attracted to each other, even though Kit is "straight" and, according to other characters, Ivan is a lesbian. This doesn't stop the two of them until Kit goes over to Ivan's apartment earlier than expected and see's Ivan's strap-on and then his naked, female, body. Ivan is so distraught and infuriated by this experience that he flees the city. I think, in this instance, the writers of The L Word did a good job of portraying real trans* experiences. At least from my limited experience. Yay writers!

But then, they really screwed up. Let me introduce Moira, a new main character starting in season 3, when she (at the time) has an affair with Jenny. Jenny went to crazy camp after having a breakdown, and met Moira in her hometown. They road tripped back to L.A. And Moira lives in the garage turned apartment behind jenny's house.

Moira is an FTM trans* man, and has known this since before he was on the show. Being in L.A. Gives him the blank slate he needs to start transition, and so he announces that he will be going by the name Max from now on. This is good, for a little while I thought they would do a good job with his transition. The problem is that the writers didn't do their research.

So Max starts taking testosterone, without a prescription or doctor supervision. He's taking too high of a dosage and becomes super aggressive and angry. He is physically violent and hurts Jenny. Ok, this is something that can happen with testosterone, it's also a stereotype about men. Max then goes to a trans* support group, is told that he's taking too high of a dosage, lowers his dosage, and everything is better. He's calm and rational and everything is alright. Because that's oh so realistic. Really? Things like that are not so easy.

When a trans* person transitions, especially at later ages, they have to undo and then redo puberty. Even on a correct dosage, that shit's tough, and emotions can get out of hand. Think about 12-15 year olds going through puberty, are they sane? At all? No, and many of them are not dealing with the same type of dysphoria that a trans* individual is.

Moving on, when Max starts to have feelings for a gay man, because said man treats him "like a man." Cool, now Max identifies as gay. Um... really? Part of this comes from a good place. A lot of trans* men can get hurt over lesbians who date/have sex with them for all the wrong reasons, like the lack of a penis. Some of these lesbians see the trans* men as really butch lesbians. This is not OK. BUT not all trans* men turn out to be gay men, and if they do turn out to be gay men, it's because they are attracted to men, not because they don't like the way lesbians treat them.

So, Max, who was attracted to women pre-transition, is now attracted to only men. He gets pregnant. Yeah, it happens but this turn in the story came right after the media blitz about the "pregnant man." Same story, but in real life. And because this real life story was so sensationalized, it became a stereotype for trans men.

So they took this sensationalized story and gave it to Max so he could deal with his upcoming "motherhood" (yeah, they all called it that. Not fatherhood, motherhood.) instead of focusing on showing a normal guy who just happens to be trans*, or, god forbid, show an accurate representation of his transition.

The thing is, the writers of shows like The L Word and Queer as Folk have the responsibility to show something relatable because many young LGBT folk who are just figuring out their identities don't have access to resources like an LGBT center or gay bars and these shows are their first experience with anything LGBT other than themselves, and maybe a few peers. And I don't think the writers of The L Word did a very good job.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bathroom Just Got Educational

*Originally published in MetroState's Institute For Women's Studies and Services Newsletter, written by me.*

Have you gone to the restroom on campus lately? If you have, you might have noticed that The Phoenix Center at Auraria has a new way to get information about resources out, called The Bathroom Campaign. Over winter break, staff and volunteers from The Phoenix Center at Auraria and The Institute for Women’s Studies and Services installed frames in approximately 145 bathroom stalls across campus, with at least one set of restrooms in each building. The frames hold flyers with information about upcoming events, facts and statistics about interpersonal violence (Relationship Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking) and resources offered at The Phoenix Center at Auraria, such as the 24/7 helpline.

The process to gain special permission for this project began last summer when staff from The Institute and The Phoenix Center approached The Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) about receiving special permission to place the frames in bathroom stalls. The rationale is based upon the fact that there is very little privacy on the campus, which limits a survivor’s access to critical support information. The bathroom stall is the one place where an individual may be apt to read pertinent information about interpersonal violence services. Access to this crucial information, in a confidential way, may prompt a survivor to take a bigger step by writing down the phone number for the helpline and reaching out. Placing the signage on a bathroom stall door is significantly more effective and desirable than placing a sign in the bathroom itself by the sinks. In this case, a survivor would be seen reading the information or taking down a number and this lack of privacy will inhibit their choice to take the information. Similar bathroom marketing campaigns exist in a number of institutions across the country and they all report great success. Additionally, the campus bathrooms serve individuals (faculty, staff and students) from all three institutions, as well as AHEC, and thus this approach fulfills the Four-Institutional mission of The PCA and reach a wide audience.

As far as marketing goes, bathroom signs are wonderful because people will read them, what else would they do on the toilet? The average person uses the restroom at least 2-5 times per day; chances are that a good amount of those times will happen on campus. The signs will be seen and read, and the information will get out. And because there is at least one set of bathrooms in each building with these signs, we’re reaching the entire diverse campus community. And they can’t easily avoid it.

The most important aspect of The Bathroom Campaign though, is the confidentiality. A bathroom stall is one of the most private places on campus, therefore, the risk that somebody might see a survivor taking down information, the way they might if the signs were in a common area of the bathroom, is non-existent. This puts the survivor in a safe situation where they can consider The Phoenix Center at Auraria as an option for support either through the helpline or in-office advocacy. This privacy is especially important considering the rampant cultural norms of victim blaming and shame around interpersonal violence in our current society.

There is a list of departments we need to thank for this innovative way to get information to our campus community. The offices who sponsor The Phoenix Center at Auraria for The Bathroom Campaign are: The Institute for Women’s Studies and Services, Campus Recreation @ Auraria, UCD Student Life, UCD Community Standards and Wellness, and CCD Student Life and The Auraria Higher Education Center.

Lesbians on TV: Biphobia in The L Word

The first couple seasons of The L Word had a lot of promise, at least when it came to being inclusive of diverse identities. One of the main characters I mentioned in the last post, Alice, started out as a proud bisexual character. And she got a lot of shit for it from her friends. If I remember correctly, in the pilot episode, Alice is asked when she is going to "pick a side." she says that she is looking for the same things in a man as she is in a woman, and that is a legit statement for many people who identify as bisexual. However, after Alice makes this statement, her friends make a joke about it.

Even so, at least at this point, Alice is proud to be bi and she sticks to the identity. And then it changes. But first, let's visit another storyline where a character experiments with bisexuality.

Tina, who at the beginning of the show, has been with her partner Bette for a very long time. In, about season 3 or 4, Tina starts having feelings for a man and leaves Bette for this possibility. She is ostracized within her community for having taken "heterosexual privilege" and being with a man.

Even Alice, the former proud bisexual, admits that she thinks bisexuality is gross, and she doesn't know how she ever identified as such.

Can we all agree that this sucks? Biphobia sucks a whole lot, and completely undermines the whole point of fighting for LGBT rights. You know, the right to love whoever you love, and be attracted to whoever you're attracted to? Unless you're bisexual or otherwise sexually fluid. Then you need to choose a side.

This instance is more than just a television show being stupid, as television shows often are, it is a television show perpetuating a very real problem that exists within the LGBT community.

Many members of the lesbian and gay communities have the same rigid idea of sexuality being black or white, gay or straight, as many heterosexual individuals have. Many see bisexuality as a stepping stone to "really coming out." Maybe there's some jealousy because someone who identifies as bisexual can sometimes have heteronormative relationships. I don't know, and quite honestly, I don't care.

As a movement, we are going to get nowhere if we keep denying the legitimacy of those who exist within our community.

I don't think it matters how you identify, that's your identity and your business, but that should go for everyone. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, fluid, or straight, it's just a sexual orientation. Get over it and move on.

We're fighting with society to have the right to be with whoever we want, without the constraints of social constructs. That's the "gay agenda"," right? So, we shouldn't have to fight within our own community to have the same thing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lesbians on TV: Media Representation in The L Word

Like any good dyke, I have seen every episode of the popular Showtime show, The L Word, at least once and I admit, I like the show. However, liking a show does not mean it is without fault. The L Word follows the lives of a group of lesbians in West Hollywood. There are a lot of problems with the way that issues such as trans* issues, class, bisexuality, drug use, etc. are portrayed in the show. That being said, this will be the first entry in a series of posts about the show.

Let's start with the representation of the lesbian community. In the land of The L Word, lesbians are almost all white, thin, femme, wealthy, and fit within the media's standard of beauty. They all live within this cloistered community where everyone knows everyone's business and they have the money and time to go out every night.

The main characters are archetypes of the way lesbians supposedly are. Here's a list of the character you need to know for the purposes of this blog.
Alice: the gossip. She has a chart of who has slept with who.
Shane: the heartbreaker/slut.
Bette and Tina: the couple that has been together for years.
Dana: the closeted athlete
Jenny: the straight girl who turns gay
Moira/Max: the show's failed attempt at having a trans* character. More on this later.

So, all these characters represent the basic stereotypes that permeate the way the less informed public sees lesbians. Yes, some of it is correct. Many lesbians are heartbreakers, or gossips, or end up in very long term committed relationships. Many lesbians are athletes, many are in the closet, and most lesbians identified as straight once. I even had a chart similar to the one Alice has at one point.

The problem is that not all lesbians fit into these boxes, and, at least in my experience, the LGBTQ community does not function in quite that way. I don't know anyone who hangs out with almost entirely lesbians, nor do I know anyone who lives a life that completely revolves around gossip. Yes, gays gossip, but that's not all we do.

Same goes for sex. Sex is great, it's wonderful, but my life does not revolve around it. If your only experience with lesbians was watching The L Word, you wouldn't know it. Sometimes I feel like the show is soft core porn with a slight storyline. My life is not like that, at all.

To an extent, I get it. Sex sells, and without it the producers lose their straight man audience if they tone down the sex, but for once I would really like to see a show that represents who I am, in a relatable way.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Importance of Being Out

A good friend called me yesterday to tell me about an amazing experience she had with her father. They were talking about being out and she told him that being gay is not the only part of her identity, but it is important to be out. He asked why, and she said that it's important in order to give people like him perspective, because then it's not just this other group of people who can't get married or join the military, or this other group of people who get bullied at school for being who they are. It's your kid, friend, neighbor, or coworker.

Her dad said he never thought about it that way. And, truth be told, I hadn't really either. Not in depth. It's important to be out.

This is not to say that EVERYONE should be out. There are some situations where it is unsafe for someone to come out as LGB or T, but in those situations where it is safe, it's important to be out.

Out and Active.

When people have no perspective on "this other group" that does not have these rights, it's easily othered and forgotten, even for those with the best intentions. However, when this "other group" becomes a group that includes your friend, family member, neighbor, co-worker, or classmate, they are no longer that forgotten group of people.

Because being LGBT is not readily identifiable, as say being a person of color is, anyone could know someone in the LGBT community and not realize it. That's why it's important for those of us with the privilege of being able to be out should be out, and active, and loud. How can you fight for your rights when no one knows what you're fighting for, or why?

This goes for Allies as well. It can be hard to come out as an ally, but it's equally as, if not more, important to be out and loud as an ally. (More on this in later posts.)

It's that easy, just come out if you are in a safe situation to do so. Look at all the changes that can make.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Transgender (Topless) Pool Party

Something amazing happened while I was in Minneapolis for The Creating Change Conference.

There was a transgender pool party, they have it every year. That, in and of itself, is really awesome and empowering. But, then we, students from the Auraria Campus, started a topless pool party at this transgender pool party.

I have to say that it was the most empowering experience that I have ever had. I felt free and comfortable, and the best part was how encouraging everyone was to each other. When someone would take their swim top off to join, we would cheer. Not in a pervy way, but in a supportive way.

There were many trans* women there who were probably already feeling uncomfortable in their swim wear, but also enjoying the chance to be who they want to be with no judgement. Some of those beautiful women joined our topless party, and started to appear more comfortable with the situation. By the end of the night, there were at least 40 topless people who had not been previously topless.

Simply put, it was an amazing experience. The energy that night was amazing, and I don't know that I will ever experience something so profound again in my life and I feel so honored to have experienced it at all.

Sue Hyde, the exectutive director of the conference, said that this was the best session of the conference.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A moment of appreciation

for the word, Cunt.

yeah. I said it. Cunt. I love the word. It's not politically correct, and it seems to piss people off but I love that. It's blunt, and it's powerful. The word "Vagina" is not nearly as powerful, and that's why it's politically correct.

But think about it, Vagina comes from the latin for sheath of a sword... so they're just for "swords" or penises to inhabit? Well, I don't have one of those.

I have a cunt. I claim it. It's mine, the word and the beautiful body part.

Eve Ensler wrote it best, check out this performance of "Reclaiming Cunt" from The Vagina Monologues

And if you liked this, come see MetroState Feminist Alliance perform the Vagina Monologues on March 31 in the Tivoli Turnhalle or April 1 and 2 at Hamburger Mary's.

Words don't work so well: Pronoun problems

The English language has more that 2x more word than the next language, yet the words we do have are inadequate when someone with an unconventional identity. This is not a problem for those who identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It's not even a problem right now for people who identify as transgender men or women. But it's not always that simple. Sexuality and gender are both spectrums, and there are not labels for all of those degrees of difference.

So, what do you call someone who identifies as neither man or woman? Or both man and woman? Or somewhere in-between?

Some identity words for the individuals who identify outside of the gender binary are; queer, genderqueer, intergender, androgyne/androgynous, third gender, genderless, or, in first nations traditions, two-spirit.

The problem comes when the individuals who use these identities are referred to. Pronouns, ugh. Even if someone is being considerate and asks, "what pronouns do you prefer?" what would they say?

The pronouns used for people in conventional society are he/him/his, she/her/hers and they/them/their. Until recently, they/them/their was used to refer to multiple people. Now, it is grammatically correct to call an individual person "they" but, would you agree that it sounds weird?

So, not everybody likes they/them/their, what now? There are some lesser known gender neutral pronouns out there such as ze/hir or co/co's.

Ze/hir is used within some trans* communities, but many people find it clunky and hard to use. Co is a gender neutral pronoun coined by feminist writer Mary Orovan in 1970, and is used by intentional egalitarian communities that strive to create a genderless society, such as Twin Oaks in Virginia.

I like co as a pronoun, but not everybody does. The problem is that there is no real gender neutral pronoun that works for everybody, or works in mainstream society.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I wish everyone wore name tags: pronoun problems

I am in Minneapolis right now, at the Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual conference on Creating Change ( and everyone has name tags, as you would expect at a conference. The cool part is that many individuals I've met have written their preferred pronouns on their name tags. This is really cool, since many people here, especially in the transcended hospitality suite where I've spent the majority of my free time, are somewhat androgynous and nobody wants to get pronouns wrong.

The thing is, people outside of the queer bubble are not nearly as aware of the importance of correct pronouns and gender identity. See, if your body matches your brain it doesn't matter as much when someone assumes that you're the gender you are but for people who identify as trans*, gender queer, or other it can hurt or at least be uncomfortable to be misgendered based on someone's perception of who they are.

So, how do you know? Well, without asking or looking at someone's name tag at a lgbt conference, you don't. Never assume anything when it comes to gender, even people who present themselves one way may identify differently. Think about it, you wouldn't want someone to assume that you're a different gender than you are, right?

What pronouns do you prefer?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The gay grapevine

News travels fast in the LGBT community. Sometimes, this is a good thing. We can make plans for a protest, flash mob, or party and everyone hears about it. Other times, it makes the community feel like a small town. Everyone knows everyone's business.

Why is this bad? It's bad because it causes drama. Drama that an equal rights movement does not have the time to deal with. How, exactly are we supposed to fight homophobia and violence if we're too busy fighting with each other?

Gossip, is not always a bad thing, but is it ever really beneficial?

The thing about any sort of equal rights movement, is that we need solidarity. The only way people will want to support our rights, and the only way we'll be able to even make them aware of the rights we don't have, is to be a solid support group. Not a bunch of constantly fighting animals with no regard for the feelings of those in our own communities.

Just think before you go to tell someone a fact or rumor about someone else. Is it beneficial? Probably not. Will it hurt someone? Maybe.

Just think, that's all I'm asking.