queer

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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.

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Hello Friend,

Published April 22, 2014 by auddity

I am writing to you as if we are old friends because it’s much easier that way. An old friend knows your history, so you don’t get bogged down by all the backstory, and you can focus on the present. Not that there is anything wrong with reliving the past. We all have stories to tell and we should tell them often. A good dose of nostalgia is healthy every once in a while. But sometimes you just want to live in the now. Of course, all this will be history one day. I’ll look back and think how silly I was thinking I could start in the middle.

As you know, I live in New York City. I’ve been here for…nine months? Ten months. Wow, almost a year. The time has flown by. I definitely still feel green here. But I get the feeling it takes years to be a true “New Yorker.” I’ve been scraping by for a while now, but I think I’ve finally got my foot in the door. I hope that once I’m more stable financially I’ll be able to really take advantage of everything the city has to offer. Take more trips. See more sights. Order more food. But I also realize that may be something I just tell myself. Maybe that’s just my excuse not to branch out as much as I could. There are inexpensive things that I could be doing that I don’t. Like thrifting and eating at food trucks. Things I want to do, but are foreign to me. I didn’t grow up doing them so they are unfamiliar and as stupid as it sounds there is a certain level of anxiety surrounding those things. I’m familiar with garage sales and diners. And even though I may want to venture into a small no-name coffee shop, I will sooner go to a Starbucks because it is familiar. (But even then I will usually order something simple because the variety of drinks is daunting – talk about anxiety!) Am I missing out on opportunities because I am afraid to take risks? This, coming from the girl who came out as gay, then as pansexual, then as queer, and then as nothing. You may laugh Friend, but you do indeed have to come out as “nothing.” Not identifying as anything is not a concept most people are comfortable with. I am fearless in some situations, but timid in others, and the latter are usually very trivial. I suppose everyone experiences anxiety about things, but some of the things I worry about are laughable. Ordering food is a big one. Starting a new job is always tough. I always want to skip ahead to when I am done with training and am skilled at least to the point of competency if not proficiency. Actually, that’s how I felt when I moved here, but I doubt I will ever truly know this city. I have to constantly remind myself not to wish away any of my experiences, even if they are awkward adjustment periods because time has a tendency to run away from us.

Speaking of which, I’m starting a new job! It is a summer job teaching art classes once a week starting in May and summer camp three days a week starting in June. I’ll still be working at Barnes & Noble, so I feel like the summer is going to fly by and I’ll be starting my second fall in New York before I know it. Fall in New York always seemed so romantic to me — like that line from You’ve Got Mail about freshly sharpened pencils — but I feel like it was somewhat unremarkable last year. In fact, I can’t really remember much about it at all. I was definitely still getting settled here, so hopefully this year will be more memorable. I’m going to try and live each repeated experience better than the previous, or at least live it fuller.

Well Friend, it’s been lovely. Thanks for listening to my babbling. Or reading it, that is, assuming you made it this far! Take care and be well.

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.

Single By Choice?

Published January 6, 2014 by auddity

Happy New Year! I took an unintentional hiatus, but one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to get back into this blog. I love writing it and I hope some people out there still enjoy reading it! Anyway, here’s to 2014. I’m coming back with a vengeance!

You know what’s a really stupid question? I mean, besides that one. When I tell someone I’m single and they ask me if it’s by choice. What the hell kind of question is that?! Oh yes, I get marriage proposals all the time, but I shrug them off because I’m single by choice. I understand where the question comes from, but it really puts a lot of pressure on me to answer positively. Because who wants to admit that they are single not by choice? If I absolutely must dignify that question with an answer, I usually go with “Kind of,” or “Yes and no,” but it’s really a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation. If I say yes, then while I may come off as being independent or content in my singledom, I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth. Because the truth is that it would certainly be nice to have a sig oth. If I say no, well then I’m sad and lonely and pathetic, aren’t I?

But it’s not even that. I can handle being seen as independent or lonely, respectively, because I am certainly a little bit of both. What bothers me about the “by choice” question, is that it very subtly takes the idea of “choice” away from me. It implies that it is so damn easy to find a person you want to be with that if you don’t already have one, you must not want one. Surprise! We can’t all just walk out the door and bump into the love of our life like they do in the movies. I really wish people would stop talking about relationships like they happen that way. The idea of single by choice forces my hand; either I am unhappily single and my fulfillment is dependent on another (albeit absent) person, or I am happily single and not interested in the human connection that comes from being in a relationship. Neither of these is a completely damnable condition. However, neither of them describes me, not completely anyway. I do thrive on human connections, but I am also pretty content. Yes, I am single and while I’d really prefer not to be, finding someone to date is also not the focus of my life right now.

Single by choice also implies responsibility – like it’s “my fault” that I’m single. I obviously wasn’t trying hard enough to rope myself a partner. My bad! I jest, but every time someone asks me this question I do start to doubt myself a bit. Should I go out more? Am I too timid? Am I wasting time not intentionally looking for someone? Why don’t I go to more gay clubs? What if I missed my chance at happiness and now it’s all downhill from here?? It sounds crazy, right? That’s because it is. We put so much pressure on ourselves and on each other with the way we talk about love and relationships. What’s so wrong with just being single? It’s like how people used to ask me if I was a virgin by choice. Every time I had that conversation with someone it made me feel ashamed – it highlighted the fact that it wasn’t my decision to remain a virgin. It left me feeling out of control. And if I took ownership for it, if I told them it was a conscious decision to wait, then I was praised for being “strong-willed,” or “moral,” or even “lucky” – when all I really felt was young. So, so young and inexperienced and left out of a club that one by one everyone around me was joining. Since finishing college I don’t get asked that question so much anymore. People aren’t so forward out in the real world. They just ask me about my dating life and make their own inferences from that.

I didn’t mention that the most recent “single by choice?” was prefaced by the always interesting “do you have a boyfriend?” question. People are not as forward post-college, but they are also not as forward-thinking. And I don’t feel as safe coming out as I used to. That could’ve been a prime coming-out opportunity. Impromptu New Year’s Resolution: I will do my best to take advantage of those opportunities in the future. There was a time where I would’ve seized that opportunity without hesitation; this time I saw it and watched it float by. But it could have been a really good teaching moment, or even a bonding moment if that person was queer! Part of my personal brand of queer is to be an ambassador as well as an ally, regardless of whether I am single or virginal or neither or both.

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.

The Woes of a Queer Virgin

Published May 20, 2013 by auddity

I’m not sure if I’m asexual or if I’m just a virgin.

Since I’ve never had sex, it’s difficult for me to determine whether I experience sexual attraction at all. How does one distinguish sexual attraction from plain old regular attraction? Or maybe you’re not supposed to be able to distinguish them? In that case, I’m almost certain I’ve rarely experienced sexual attraction. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t know what I’m missing. Maybe once I’ve had it once I’ll all of a sudden want to jump everyone’s bones, you know to make up for lost time. I’ll be a maniac! …Because I’m sure that happens. In all seriousness, I doubt it’ll happen that way for me. I’ve never been a sexual person (obviously), and I don’t see that changing if and when I actually do have sex, but does that make me asexual?

I have only just barely exposed myself to the concept of asexuality, but in my understanding it is the lack of sexual attraction. You can be physically, emotionally, romantically attracted to someone, but generally you’re not interested in sex, at least not as the ultimate act of intimacy. Sometimes that attraction may manifest in the act of having sex, and sometimes not. Some asexual folks may have sex on a semi-regular basis; some may not have it at all. Like everything in this big queer world, asexuality lies on a spectrum. Anyway, for a few months I’ve been wondering if the term applies to me. My sister wisely advised me not to get too “bogged down with ontological worries of but now who/what am I? just let it happen.” Words to live by, for sure, but it is so hard to do in practice. She also asked me, when I expressed my doubts, if I had ever been sexually attracted to someone. She is also a virgin, and so I chuckled, “Well, have YOU?” She said yes, of course she had. That made me really think, had I ever been sexually attracted to someone? The fact that I couldn’t immediately give a definitive answer speaks volumes, I think.

Had I ever really been sexually attracted to someone? I thought back to all the crushes I’d had in the past. None of them were really sexually driven. And the few hookups I’d had were even less so. That alone doesn’t necessarily make me asexual, but I guess I’m thinking more of asexuality as a lack of sexual attraction, not a lack of the actual act of having sex. So for me, I may end up having sex and it may be great, but until that happens, my interactions with people I am potentially attracted to are generally not sexually driven. But again, is that just because I am a virgin who, by society’s standards, is older than is typical? The bottom line is that I’ve been wondering if maybe the whole time I thought I was just a prude or inexperienced, I really was just asexual.

I also feel a bit ridiculous because for a while before this I identified as pansexual. To go from pansexual to being asexual seems a little silly, almost like a 180. “Pan-” means “all” and “a-”means “non” or “lack of,” so linguistically I went from being attracted to all people, to being attracted to no one. That is not totally accurate, but it doesn’t make me feel any less foolish. The way I understand it, pansexuality is more about attraction, be it sexual, romantic, emotional, while asexuality is specifically about sexual attraction. Using those definitions, it’s possible to be both pansexual and asexual, even though it sounds impossible.

How I Lost Faith In Religion But Not God

Published April 7, 2013 by auddity

I went to my Great Aunt’s funeral a few days ago; it was the second time I found myself at a mass in a week. The other time was last Sunday, when I went to Easter mass with my mom at the nursing home where my dad lives. Both masses were held on days when I normally would have been working, both were a little painful, but they also reminded me why I chose to leave the church and explore my faith outside the confines of religion.

Standing in the pew I was struck, as I was on Easter, by the tendency of Catholics to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. Why is that, when a lot of the faith is based on selfless love and sacrifice? Not all Catholics fall prey to this short-coming, I’m sure, but I certainly did. I thought being involved in the church made me better. Not a better person necessarily, but better than others. I think for me that was the danger in worshipping in a community – there was automatically pressure to compete. Who could be the most devote, the purest, the most selfless? But that kind of thinking is poisonous. My Aunt was not like that. My father certainly isn’t. And neither am I, after having removed myself from the church.

It wasn’t all bad however, growing up Catholic gave me a deep-rooted compassion for others and I would not give that up for anything. In fact, most of my moral decisions are influenced by lessons that I learned while staring up at a man on a cross. But Catholics, is it really necessary to change the call and response so often? I know I’ve been gone for a while, but when I do come back, it is extremely frustrating to be going about the mass, answering with the same words I’ve known by heart since childhood, and all of a sudden I’m fumbling over “And also with you,” when everyone else is saying “And with your spirit.” That doesn’t even make sense. Way to welcome your prodigal daughter. On Easter the priest went so far as to “fulfill his duty as a priest” by reminding us that those who have not attended church regularly or have fallen out with the faith should not receive communion unless they have confessed their sins to a priest. How about sheparding your sheep, buddy?! That is a bad example because he’s a joyless man who is obviously just going through the motions of the Catholic faith. He does it because he has to, and that has got to be such a wasted life. If he doesn’t love his congregation or his faith, what else does that man have to live for? And that brings me back to the holier-than-thou thing. To me it seems his priesthood is based solely on self glorification; when he says things like “when I was at the Vatican…” or “my Cardinal friend says…” to NURSING HOME residents, you know he is not doing it out of love and compassion. This is just one isolated example, but I mistrust a religion where that man can somehow wind up the mentor of souls that are sadly not too far from Heaven. That’s not what it’s about; it should never be a competition, because – newsflash – Jesus would win every time.

Before this week, I had not set foot in a place of worship in a long time. Since I came out a few years ago, I only go to church on special occasions – Easter Sunday, funerals, weddings, Christmas, etc. Growing up though religion was a big part of my life; I loved the feel of community, the singing, the way the light streamed through the stained glass windows early in the morning. My first crush went to my church. My dad sang in the choir. Everyone knew and loved him, and us. I went to Sunday school, I joined the choir, I administered communion, we were involved. I thought that all of that was in glorification of God, that being an active member of my church at such a young age would make me closer to Him, but it turned out that I was only promoting myself, my supposed holiness, and not God.

During the few years before I started college, my whole family had stopped regularly attending church; I think we had all fallen out with Catholicism, and maybe even with God at that point. My dad was sick and a lot of the people that loved and knew us and who called themselves Christians had turned their backs and passed judgment on us. And that was before I came out. If they had found out I was queer! Forget it. Anyway we stopped going so I was saved the pain of coming out to my fellow Catholics and finding out who among them would love their neighbor once she started spouting queer theory.

I came into college having already stopped regularly attending mass, so once I set foot on campus there seemed little reason to go at all. It wasn’t until my second semester when I was in the throngs of self-denial/acceptance that I found myself in the snow, alone, standing outside the chapel on campus. At the time I thought it was a need belong – which I later found through the queer community, not through the Catholic one – so I started attending mass every Saturday night. Looking back now, I realize it wasn’t a church I was seeking, or the community that comes with it, it was God. I was looking for guidance in a time when I had no clue who I was or what my future looked like. I was searching for some constant, and I returned to the church because it had been a source of comfort as a kid. By my sophomore year I became the vice president of the Catholic club. This coincided with the time I was trying to be out and visible on campus, so I am sad to say my involvement did not outlast that semester. The president was going abroad and they wanted me to step up, but I could not in good faith –ha! – represent a religion with which I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. So I emailed president of the club, who was also my friend, and explained to her that I was in the process of coming out, and even though the general attitude on campus and in the club was very liberal, I was going to leave the club and figure out my relationship with God on my own terms. As I grow older and am looking farther down the line, I am so torn because while I no longer practice the dogmatic side of the religion, I want my children to understand the compassion and the sacrifice that are so essential to the faith. How can I give my children the experience I had without also exposing them to a religion in which I no longer believe?

It was alienating, turning my back on the religion in which I had been raised because it no longer wanted me. Whether real or imagined it felt like all of a sudden I was tainted; something was fundamentally wrong with me, yet it had happened overnight. I don’t mean to imply that all Catholics are intolerant of queers, or that I couldn’t have found a more accepting church to join. I could have. And maybe no one would have batted an eye if I chose to come out while continuing in the church. But the threat of being rejected from a community I had been part of since birth (well, since baptism technically) was enough to make me lose faith in religion as an institution. It is too easily swayed by politics because religion is politics. But faith is love. Faith is guidance and acceptance and absolute certainty that there is nothing I can do to make God hate me. And that is how I lost faith in religion but not God. And I am so much happier for it.

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