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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.

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.

I Will Never Not Be Scared

Published March 24, 2013 by auddity

A while back I had an argument with a coworker about politics. Bad idea, I know, and from now on I will avoid talking politics with people I work with like the plague. But he was asking for it, truly. This person, whom I normally like and respect, was posting DAILY on Facebook about how fucked our country was now that Obama was officially president for four more years. I’m not sure how long his posts lasted, but for at least a week my newsfeed was clogged with this guy whining about he was afraid for the future of his children with Obama at the helm. Finally I messaged him saying that I understood he was disappointed, but his posts had to stop. The country had spoken and like it or not Obama was our president again. He shot back with something snippy and immature about the economy and the deficit and what had Obama really done in the last four years so I responded by posting a link to all the positive things Obama had done and how he’d actually reduced our country’s debt. He blew it off and then his wife got involved in the conversation and they pulled the concerned parents card again, asking what kind of a leader Obama was for their children. I told them that he had no doubt inspired countless non-White youths, as evidenced by the high youth vote. I also asked how he thought I felt as a queer woman when my rights to my body and my right to get married were endangered by a Republican win. (They’re still endangered up I feel a lot safer with Obama than I would have with Romney.) I told him that people in other countries were being locked up or worse for being queer and with the way Republicans were headed I feared for my safety. He told me in this day and age, in this country it could never get to that point.

Maybe he’s right. But my mom voted Democrat for the first time in her life because of the way women were being treated by the Republican Party. And ever since I read Margaret Atwood’s Hand Maid’s Tale I have never fully believed that something like that couldn’t happen. I wished I could’ve said this to his face, but he deleted the conversation and when I saw him at work I decided it was better to just drop it and try to maintain a workplace friendship:

I will never not be scared for my safety. Not when my brothers and sisters across the world (including THIS COUNTRY) are being vilified, jailed, beaten, and killed because they are gay, lesbian, trans, queer, intersex, or allies. Can you imagine? Being threatened because you are the way you are? You know me, we work together and I consider you my friend. Do you look at me differently now that you know I’m queer? Would you deny me my rights? Would you deny your daughter her right to an abortion if she needed one? Would you reject your son if he came out as gay to you? Wouldn’t you do everything in your power to protect your children? We are all someone’s children, but even more importantly, we are all people who deserve to feel safe. You fear for your children’s economic stability, I fear for my trans friend’s life if down the road he finds himself outed in an unfriendly environment. Don’t think that happens here? Google it. I fear I will never be able to be a mother because all my options are too expensive and even if I manage to have a child there is no guarantee my partner will be considered her parent as well, and the safety of my family will always be threatened by bigots like you. The economy is important. But in my book it will NEVER trump human rights. Don’t tell me it could never get to that point because you don’t know. You don’t know what is to be unsafe simply by being, simply by walking around in this world. Try that out for a while and let me know if you still think your taxes are too high.

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