LGBTQ EDU

All posts in the LGBTQ EDU category

You Don’t Know Me, I’m a Damn Enigma

Published April 25, 2016 by auddity

Please allow me this rant: You don’t know me, so stop misidentifying me.

I have recently been misidentified as a lesbian and as bisexual. The first instance was by a friend of a friend, to whom I’d come out as queer a few weeks before. Her flub was unintentional and well-meaning; we were discussing a coworker of hers and she said, “She’s a fellow lesbian,” and continued with her story. I didn’t think it was worth it to interrupt the flow of conversation to correct her, but it stung a little. I thought, “Well, at least she remembered I wasn’t straight,” but in reality, it just goes to show that lesser-known identities are often erased by the gay-straight dichotomy. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to explain what my sexual orientation means to me, and describe where I fall under the queer umbrella. Now, I don’t dislike talking about this stuff – in most cases I love it! – but it can get old sometimes, especially when the person I’m talking to has literally no idea what I’m talking about.

That was the case with a coworker, my teaching partner, of whom I am not a fan to begin with. She used the word “gay” to mean stupid, and instead of letting it go, I took it as an opportunity to speak up against that kind of usage. I asked her politely, “Could you not use that word in that way?” She asked me why, so I told her I found it offensive (even though me asking her to stop using the word should’ve been sufficient). She quickly insisted that she and her family didn’t have anything against gay people, it was just a word they used. This woman worked with special needs kids for several years before coming to my school, so I tried a different approach; I explained, “You using ‘gay’ in that way is like if you said ‘retarded’ to mean stupid.” I could tell she still wasn’t really understanding what the issue was, so I told her that it was personal to me because I’m queer. She looked blankly at me so I elaborated, “I don’t identify as straight, but I don’t identify as gay either.” Her face lit up, “So you’re bisexual!” I shook my head and realized I was fighting a losing battle. I asked her to please not use that word around me, and just left it at that. Our three year-olds were about to arrive and I didn’t have the time or energy to give her a lesson in gender studies.

What bothers me the most, and it was there in both cases, is that assumption of knowing. It’s like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls, “I’m not a regular straight person, I’m a cool straight person.” No. Don’t assume you know anything about me just because you’ve watched the L Word or you had a gay friend in college or whatever other asinine excuse you want to throw at me. You don’t know me, so stop pretending like you’re in on it, like we’re part of some club, like you’ve got me figured out. Until you put in the work to actually educate yourself, you can shut up about all of this. Just stop.

I can only imagine what genderqueer, genderfluid, and transgender folks go through. They no doubt experience this kind of thing on a regular basis. The same with people of color, especially those who are of mixed ethnicities and/or racially ambiguous. I deal with a small fraction of this and it drives me crazy. If you don’t know, don’t assume! Find an appropriate way to ask or do some goddamn research.

Queer Litmus: Tips for Telling If Someone Is Queer

Published January 21, 2014 by auddity

Not everyone was born with a perfect gaydar (queer-dar?), so for those of you who are like me and cannot always pick up on the subtle tells of queerdom, here are some helpful tips to avoid those awkward social situations when you’re not quite sure how someone identifies.

  1. They’re not into sports, or they are really, really into sports. Either way – queer.
  1. They have a cat. It is a documented fact that exposure to kitty litter increases the urge to defy social norms, while proximity to the holier-than-thou attitude of most cats gives queers their coolness factor.

  1. They are wearing a blazer. Superqueer. This one should be obvious, I think.

  1. They have short hair – wait no, actually, they have long hair. Well, let’s just say if they have hair there’s a 99% chance they’re probably either queer or not.

  1. They are wearing a neon sign that says “QUEER HERE”. I don’t know why people say you “can’t tell by looking,” because duh, anyone with eyes can spot this particular sign. Just look around, you’ll start seeing those obnoxiously flashy babies everywhere!

  1. They like music. It doesn’t really matter what kind of music, but it’s speculated that the erratic beats of dubstep give queer people that drive to break down social conventions.

  1. They drink tea. Therefore all of the UK is queer… Well, that explains Skins, at least.

  1. They have a subscription to Queer Monthly. A quick snoop through their mail or recycle bin should reveal this telltale sign. Alternately, their wallet should contain a queer membership card. We all have one, complete with sexual orientation status and D.O.C.O. (Date of Coming Out).

  1. They disrupt the oppressive and constrictive norms dictated by society that uphold and contribute to sexism, cis-sexism, heteronormativity, racism, patriarchy, binaristic models of gender and sex, and a whole bunch of other things.

If you really want to tell whether someone is queer, forget everything I said except for that last one. But also ask yourself this: does it really matter? Why do you want to know? If it’s to understand that person and the things they stand for, that’s great, but if it’s because you like to separate the people you meet into neat little boxes with pretty little labels on them, then you might want to re-assess that whole process altogether. Realize that all people are diverse and complex and that the habit of labeling people won’t get you far if you really want to get to know someone – especially if that person identifies as queer. Of course, the easiest and most direct  thing to do is to ask questions. But maybe don’t lead with that. “Hi, nice to meet you. Just wondering, ARE YOU QUEER?” probably won’t make for the most comfortable introduction.

The point is, there aren’t really any telltale signs a person is queer except for if they identify as such. And the only way you’re going to find out is by talking to them. You certainly can’t tell just by looking. There’s also a ton of valuable information out there if you’d like to educate yourself on queerness in general. Instead of relying on ridiculous litmus tests like the nonsense I just spouted, try reading up on what being queer actually means, not just on how to spot one. Some resources are:

PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lebians and Gays)

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network)

YouTube: check these channels out! skylarkeleven, everyoneisgay, and so many others. Seriously, if you just search you’ll find so many more first-hand accounts of lovely people willing to share their stories!

If you’re in school, your high school or college GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance)

Your local LGBT center, if you live in NYC The Center is one option.

Russia, DOMA, and Why “Same Love” Isn’t My Anthem Right Now

Published July 24, 2013 by auddity

So I was reading up on DOMA for this post because I actually didn’t know that much about it. Or, I was reading about the Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional. I wasn’t all that thrilled when DOMA was struck down. I mean, I was happy obviously, but I think people were celebrating this baby step when we have miles and miles left to go. I didn’t realize it was a state vs. federal issue, so the Supreme Court could have just said basically that the federal government couldn’t intervene in marriage laws because they are state laws. BUT they didn’t do that and it makes all the difference. What they did do is much better, they said:

“By creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State, DOMA forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect. By this dynamic DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage.”

Soooo, they totally left the door open to set a precedent of “equal protection.” Even though all that the Supreme Court really did was secure marriage recognition for same-sex couples in states that already recognize same-sex marriage, somewhere down the line someone who lived in a state that did recognize their same-sex marriage will move to a state that doesn’t recognize their same-sex marriage. And then they will sue the state. And using the Supreme Court’s logic, they will win (says my source, Sarah R. Boonin, in her piece for the Huffington Post – did you think came up with all this by myself?!). In other words, it’s only a matter of time until we have marriage equality.

Or is it? Let’s not confuse “same-sex marriage” for “marriage equality.” For example, do you know what kind of marriage laws/restrictions exist for transgender people? I didn’t, I had to look it up. The real question is why is nobody talking about this? Because marriage “equality” is an easy target. It’s a hot topic now and unfortunately it’s eclipsing everything else on the lgbtq agenda. Like let’s talk about Russia. How the Russian government is not only persecuting gays, but anyone who they might suspect of being gay, anyone who supports gay rights, and any gay couples who want to adopt Russian children. They may go so far as to remove children from their homes if their parents are gay, or suspected of being gay. Why is nobody talking about this???

And that, friends, is why DOMA is not enough. We won the battle, but we’re losing the war (that may be a Game of Thrones quote?); we can’t afford to get caught up in same-sex marriage when we’re constantly losing ground, all over the world. So excuse me if I’m not strolling down the street humming “Same Love” and sticking rainbows and equal signs all over the place.

What Makes An Ally: Because “Having Gay Friends” Just Doesn’t Cut It

Published July 16, 2013 by auddity

Let’s be real, lez be real, as a self-identified queer woman, I can say with some authority, it’s hard to find good allies. But as someone who knows and loves many members of the straight community, I know it’s even harder to be a good ally. Being an ally to a minority group means constantly checking your privilege as a non-member of that group. It’s not enough to just sympathize with people in the queer community; “having gay friends” just doesn’t cut it. In order to be a true ally you have to educate yourself. You have to do all you can to understand what it is to be other. You also have to know that you will never understand what it is like to be other, at least not in the context of being queer. You may have parts of yourself that help you empathize with the queer experience, but acknowledging your majority identity is essential to being an ally. It is a constant endeavor that requires patience, selflessness, and humility. It is an act of love. It is no small order. Although we certainly have a long way to go, it is because of our allies that we have made such strides in visibility, acceptance, and respect for queer individuals.

So the real question is, how can allies check their majority privilege? RESEARCH. Find out everything you can about your queer friends’ experiences. The more you educate yourself, the more you will come to see all the privileges you have that you might take for granted, and in turn all the rights and considerations your queer counterparts are denied. Take a gender studies class – read the theories and literature that started a revolution. Watch queer movies and TV; they are not always the best quality-wise, but they’re great if you want to learn some gay and lesbian slang, get our perspective on our own history, gain a little insight on how queer sex works, etc. (You might also notice the amount of gay and lesbian representation versus all other queer identities – hierarchies of acceptance/representation/validity!!) Watch YouTube channels of queer individuals; they are becoming such a valuable resource – a wealth of free, mostly reliable, first-hand information. Where else can you get that?? There is such a great community available on YouTube, it really is a cultural phenomenon. READ BLOGS LIKE THESE! Hopefully my own writing can serve as a resource, but if not, then I recommend everyoneisgay.com. They are awesome and super down to earth, and they will answer your questions! BLAM! Research done. (Of course I would also be happy to answer anyone’s questions, they just have a much wider reach.) Lastly, TALK TO YOUR QUEER FRIENDS! Nine times out of ten when someone asks me a question about being queer I am flattered and absolutely willing to answer as best I can.

Once you have done all that SHARE WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED, share whenever possible – especially in all-straight situations. Do you have any idea what kind of impact a straight person speaking up for queers can have on other straight people? You know what else would make a splash? If you as a straight person made yourself visible as an ally. Go to pride events, go to your local gay-straight alliance meetings, make yourself known in queer community. That way you’ll not only be known and respected as a queer ally in the straight community, but more importantly in the queer community.

Although I identify as queer, that doesn’t mean I automatically possess an infinite database of all things queer. I went through my own journey becoming a trans* ally, in which I had to consciously educate myself. A lot of what I know now I learned by talking with my friends who were trans*; I was fortunate in that I had a fairly accessible community of trans* people to whom I could go with questions, and they were comfortable enough to share their experiences with me. However, there is only so much they were willing to share, so some of my research had to be done independently. The key to doing this kind of research is sensitivity. You have to remember, it is not your queer friends’ job to educate you. You have to find that balance between what’s respectful curiosity/genuine interest and what is just too personal. My friend has a really awesome YouTube channel, which I know has been an amazing resource for not only me but a lot of other people, where he really puts his experiences out there in a wonderfully personal way. Something like that is great because you’re still getting that personal connection that a class or a book maybe can’t give you, but it’s all information that he is willing and happy to share.

My last question is, should allies be included in the LGBT community? They are sometimes included as an add-on to the acronym: LGBTQQA… but do queer people accept allies enough to consider them queer? Well this queer person does. Being an ally actively aligns oneself to the queer community, takes a stand against heteronormativity, and effectively queers what it is to be straight. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a super-queer duck.

Disrupting Gender: A Cisgender Experience

Published November 23, 2012 by auddity

Let me paint a scene for you. It was April or maybe even May, but the night was still a little cold so my friend and I were walking rather briskly from one engagement to another. It was dark and the city was coming to life around us and we were headed to a drag party. She’d gone all out, her recently shaved head completing her exquisitely dapper look.  I was dressed in a friend’s button-down, jeans, and tie, all of which were too big on me. I was literally playing dress up. Much of what we talked about escapes me now, but we started talking about gender fluidity and I finally expressed to her what had been floating around in my subconscious for months:

“I have explored my sexual orientation and feel like I really know who I am in that respect; I have begun to explore my sexuality and even though it’s definitely still a work in progress, I’m feeling more and more comfortable. But how can I really know myself if I have never dared to question my gender as a woman? I know I am a woman, but how can I disrupt and analyze that part of myself if I stay within the confines of that label?”

Sexual orientation was (relatively) easy to disrupt. When I felt a shift in my orientation, I went with it. I followed my own internal tide and let it take me where it would – from straight to gay to pansexual to queer and beyond. Each new chapter brought new growth and self-awareness that could not have been achieved with a static orientation.

Sexuality was harder. Becoming a sexual being required shedding my wallflower tendencies and putting my money where my mouth was, so to speak. I have a long way to go for sure, but this bird’s got to fly eventually and all the false starts in the world won’t stop me from trying.

But gender identity, man that’s a hard one. I was fortunate enough to witness several of my friends’ transitions from female to male, and the way they blossomed into happier, more confident, truer versions of themselves is truly inspirational. I feel almost blasphemous for saying this, but I am a little jealous. I remember walking home one night and looking at the stars (I do that a lot when I am contemplating something big), and I thought, What if I am trans? How do I know I am a woman and it’s not just something I do out of habit because that’s what I’ve always been told I am? It was just a passing thought which I immediately dismissed and didn’t speak of out loud until that conversation just before a drag party. But really, how can I achieve that transition into a happier, truer version of myself without the actual act of transitioning my gender?

Let me tell you how.

I didn’t think of this as applying to my gender identity crisis until much later, but I secretly had already begun to push the boundaries of my gender identity. I used to wear B-cup bras with a little padding in high school, but I switched to A-cups with zero padding around the same time I came out as gay, so around freshman/ sophomore year of college. I initially considered this a side effect of my changing orientation, but I think it can also be viewed through a gender lens. As I’ve already said somewhere in another post, sometimes queers want to express their queerness by appearing more androgynous. I specifically remember explaining to a friend once that, “No I do not need a bra with this top because it’s different when you’re queer and sometimes you want to look more flat-chested.”

But it wasn’t just that one time when I was going out, I made a choice to diminish the size of my boobs because I was no longer comfortable with the way they looked, felt, and what they communicated in a B-cup. While previously the fact that I had the biggest boobs in my family with a B-cup (I’m serious) was a source of pride and envy amongst my mother and sisters, I slowly began to hate the way they protruded grotesquely from my body, like flashing neon lights saying, LOOK AT ME I AM A WOMAN AND I HAVE BOOBS AND THEY ARE ON DISPLAY FOR ALL OF YOU TO LOOK AT. Breast size may be a superficial judge of femininity and this may not seem as significant to anyone as it does to me, but I intentionally changed the definition of my own femininity. I followed the shift in my gender identity and it led me to an unpadded A-cup and subsequently a more androgynous figure. I am 100% okay with that, but do you know how difficult it is to find an unpadded A-cup bra these days?? #queer problems

6 Things People Don’t Want To Hear…

Published November 8, 2012 by auddity

When They’re Coming Out As Gay

  1. I Always Knew You Were Gay
  2. You Don’t Look/Sound/Act Gay
  3. Are You Sure You Just Haven’t Found the Right Person of the Opposite Gender Yet?
  4. Oh Great, Now You Can… Be My Personal Stylist, Fix My Toilet, Be My Sassy Gay Friend, Take Me To Gay Bars, Etc.
  5. I Understand You Because I… Took This Gender Studies Class This One Time, Watched The L Word/Queer As Folk/Will And Grace, Have A Gay Aunt, Etc.
  6. Does This Mean You’re Going To Hit On Me All The Time Now?

When They’re Coming Out As Bi/Pansexual

  1. You Just Want… Attention, To Sleep Around, To Jump On The Bandwagon, Etc.
  2. Yeah, But Which Are You Really, Gay or Straight?
  3. Your New-found Sexual Orientation Doesn’t Actually Count
  4. Don’t Give In To Societal Pressure To Conform To The Heteronormative!
  5. I Understand You Because I’m Gay
  6. Does This Mean You’re Going To Hit On Me All The Time Now?

When They’re Coming Out As Transgender

  1. I Always Knew You Were A Boy/Girl
  2. You Look Better As A Boy/Girl
  3. Are You Sure? Because This Decision Will Affect The Rest Of Your Life.
  4. Does That Mean You’re Going To… Have “The Surgery,” Cut Off Your Junk, Dress In Drag, Shoot Up Hormones In Front Of Me, Etc.
  5. I Understand You Because I’m Gay/Bi/Pansexual
  6. Does This Mean You’re Going To Hit On Me All The Time Now?
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