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Like I promised, here’s a collection of sexy, thought-provoking articles that I never had a chance to write full articles on.

Thomas at Yes Means Yes breaks down a fascinating study at University of Michigan that compares men and women’s attitudes towards casual sex.  It’s some pretty intense reading.  Jury is still out on how gender non-conforming folk react to the same proposals…naked woman holding pornography sign

http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/gender-differences-and-casual-sex-the-new-research/

A great breakdown by Melissa at Melissa Gira Grant about how the DNA foundation– championed by Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher to fight sex trafficking– was such a terrible failure.  It’s unfortunate that well-meaning philanthropists and advocates so often fail to get to the systemic roots of an issue and instead through money and publicity at a symptom.  Demi and Ashton did just that by campaigning to get men to stop buying sex from the industry.  As a student of International Development, this article speaks volumes to me about how our culture gets caught up in very superficial attempts to deal with incredibly complex human rights and economic social welfare issues.

http://melissa.tumblr.com/post/7159022814/hype-hustle-harm-why-ashton-kutcher-demi

A fantastic writeup by The Humanist on why sex addiction just doesn’t exist.  Marty Kline takes a hacksaw to the DSM and our societal and cultural standards regarding addiction, and the impossibility of creating therapy for a made-up disease.  Great reading for those of you that appreciated the lambasting I did of the medical pharmaceutical-industrial complex after watching Orgasm Inc.  Sometimes the medical community really does just MAKE STUFF UP.

http://thehumanist.org/july-august-2012/you%E2%80%99re-addicted-to-what/
Fuck the Disabled is a fabulous resources for not only “working with” by truly loving and embracing disabled sex.  The approach is humanistic, down-to-earth, and full or real talk.  It’s also neatly divided by the variety of disability the person is dealing with.

http://fuckthedisabled.tumblr.com/post/15231507135/my-pleasure-sex-disability-guide

We Consent is a project started by sex workers and their allies that focuses on bringing awareness and information about the sex work industries to the foreground of our culture.  I haven’t decided if I like the ethos around the venture, although I believe the goal is admirable and important for our society.  Some of their write-ups come across a little self-indulgent, and more than a little biased.  Tell me what you think!

http://www.weconsent.org/

 

That’s it for today.  I’ll be back with more interesting reading soon!

Stay cool, queer kids.

 

 

 

Hey ya’ll,

 

It’s Bianca again, and my life has been going through some changes which have me evaluating this blog and how it relates to my life.  So let me tell you a little story.  When I started Forever the Queerest Kids, it was my lifeblood.  I had just finished my first year at American and I was working 2 (soon to be 3) part-time jobs to recover the money I desperately needed to finance my semester abroad the coming year.  My girlfriend, Beth, had just left for a nine-week Russian intensive program which only allowed us to speak once a week for about 20 minutes.  I was lonely and exhausted and needed something to feel like I was contributing to the world in a meaningful way.

Since then, I have studied abroad in Kenya, graduated from American, gotten engaged, took my first full-time job, and lost that job.  During all of this, I tried to keep up my writing because I really felt that the world needed what I was talking about and that I would eventually be able to really commit myself to this project again.  I love writing and I love sexuality education, and Forever the Queerest Kids was a place to give voice to that,

To date, Forever the Queerest Kids has over 150 articles.  Unfortunately, writing here lost some of the joy that it originally had.  I’m so glad to have created a forum for important sex-positive ideas to be spread, but I don’t think I have the energy to continue.

At the same time, I really don’t want to see this project die.  For now, Forever the Queerest Kids is going into hibernation.  I’m going to post a few link dumps with articles I’ve found curious or insightful or thought provoking, which I just haven’t had time or energy for a full blog post.

I will also be searching for anyone that is interested in “inheriting” the blog.  I’d be more than happy to share stats on readership and publishing for those who might be interested in the project.  I’d really like to see this taken over by someone with a passion for sex-positivity, rather than seeing it fade into a relic of the blogosphere.

If you are interested, please leave a comment here or contact me at bonkiep@gmail.com

Until then, stay cool, queer kids.

50 Shades of WTF

50 Shades of Grey book jacketI know I’m only a million years too late on this, and every blogger worth his/her/hir salt has already said their piece on 50 Shades of Grey, so I’ll try to make my thoughts brief.

Without much ado…

Things which are troublesome about 50 Shades of Grey:

  • The implication that dominant people are dominant both in and out of the bedroom:

Christian Grey is the consummate 24/7 Dom.  There is no ON/OFF button– he is controlling, manipulative, dark, and masterful every moment of the day.  In his business, his family life, his love life, Christian is in the driver’s seat.  Now there’s nothing wrong with this mode of dominance, persay, but being that 50 Shades is one of the first books to bring BDSM into the limelight for the general public, I take the view that its cultural responsibility is to show as much discretion towards its subject matter as possible.  There is no other D/s couple in 50 Shades (at least not the first book– I really couldn’t stomach the whole series), so Christian’s portrayal of dominance holds a lot of weight.  By putting him at the farthest end of the spectrum, as a dominant who sublimates his own hardships, remains isolated, and controls situations inside and out of the bedroom, 50 Shades simplifies the complex varieties of dominance that exist in the BDSM community.  There are highly insecure, shy, and vulnerable people who take on dominance in the bedroom.  There are also very strong, confident doms that relinquish their controlling persona outside of the bedroom.  We don’t see any of this in 50 Shades- only a very clearly delineated dichotomy of Strong, Successful and Dominant vs. Naive, Clumsy, and Submissive.

  • Christian’s possessive, jealous regard for other men in Ana’s life

Regardless of who the love interest is, the way Christian reacts to men he sees as a threat to his monopoly on Ana’s affection (and he sees ALL

Also, You Killed My Father…

men as a threat) is totally out of line.  By idolizing him, 50 Shades reinforces the idea that men should be possessive towards women, viewing them almost as property.  It also erases the potential for homosexuality’s existence, for either Ana or Christian, as this jealous possessiveness is fiercely heterosexual. For instance, Ana’s male best friend Jose is instantly marked as a threat by Christian, and is the subject of constant tension during the book. But Kate, Ana’s roommate and female best, who exhibits a much greater degree of closeness to Ana, is never even mentioned as a concern, specifically because she’s a woman (and therefore not a sexual threat.)

  • Ana’s obsession with “storybook-like” men

Ana has a yen for (in my opinion, rather maudlin, uninteresting) 19th century English literature.  She idolizes men who have bizarre mood swings, who speak in cryptic quotes, and who frankly, cause a lot of drama.  It reminds me of Thought Catalog’s “You Should Date an Illiterate Girl”

She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life that I told of at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied.

Like in Thought Catalog, Ana cannot possibly be content with a mere mortal boyfriend– she needs the dramatic, sweeping climax of a storybook plot twist and the anguish of true love shunned by society that comes back at the last moment to save the day.  While it makes for a great book, it’s pretty unhealthy in terms of a real relationship, which is, unfortunately, what draws her more and more to dark, brooding, difficult, enrapturing Christian Grey.  ((also, an interesting metacommentary on realistic fiction…but we’ll save that for a literary blog, yes?))

  • Further stigmatizing edge play like knife play, fire play, scat/urine play

Conspiracy Keanu says, "What if "50 Shades of Grey" is a good story and we just don't get it???"I’m sorry, but why the fuck is it necessary to hate on edge play in a book about BDSM?  Whatever, it’s not your kink, fine.  But 50 Shades grabbed at such low hanging fruit with Christian’s “hard limits.” When the pair are going through Christian’s hard limits (including fire play, scat/piss play, etc), Ana self-narrates “Why would a sane person do those things?”  This comment in particular struck me as unnecessarily hurtful.  Especially when scat and piss play are already so stigmatized inside and outside the BDSM community, it seems just cruel and unnecessary to make them the subject of acrimony within the book, since they have absolutely no plot purpose.

  • Perpetuates the idea that women bleed when they lose their virginity

This is pretty simple.  It’s just not a thing 99% of the time.  Especially when women in the Middle East are scared to death that their husbands will question their virginity because this myth hasn’t be eradicated, why do we need to perpetuate it?

Not familiar?  I’ll break it down.  *ahem* When a person with a vagina has sex for the first time, the understanding is that the penis “breaks” the seal of the hymen and a small amount of blood issues forth.  Not so.  First of all, the hymen is not a seal across the opening of the vagina, but a bit of tissue that covers a portion of the vaginal opening. This tissue is often pushed to the side by tampons, masturbation, or even general physical activity like swimming long before the person owning the vagina has sex.  Therefore, most women do not bleed their first time because this tissue has already been pushed aside and the blood discharged.  Again, there are women who lose their lives, their livelihoods, their marriages, and their social standing because people still believe this myth.  Perpetuating the “all women bleed their first time” myth is one of my biggest pet peeves.

  • The domineering, controlling aspect of casual conversation; the sense that Grey already owns and directs the people he interacts with and the conversations he participates in

The interesting thing about this observation is that I only find this behavior troubling specifically because Grey is a white, heterosexual, Privilege Denying Dude said, "Have you tried not being in a vulnerable population?"cis-gendered man.  Coming from a place of incredible societal privilege, this nonchalant control and dominance over everyone he interacts with is a sinister reminder of the oppression that minorities of all varieties face.  Christian has the ability to be confident, cocky, and domineering without a second thought because of the social cache he earns as a socially legitimate member of society.  Were he a transgendered man, a black woman, a disabled queer man, a poor Hispanic lesbian—any combination of unprivileged identities, then perhaps his attitude could be re-contextualized and seen as a kind of strength coming out where it is warranted and should be celebrated.

But Grey is… The unspoken.  The default. White. Able-bodied. Male.  Straight.  Cis-gendered. And that he is THE MOST POWERFUL CHARACTER in the book, the most cocky, the most admired character, is frustrating as fuck to anyone who has ever felt less than because of their identity.

That’s all for now, queer kids.  Share your thoughts on the book in comments!

High Heels and Rape Culture

The other night I went out clubbing with some of the girls from my pole dance studio, and I had an interesting revelation.  Walking through Farragut North, a relatively safe area of DC—well-lit, with lots of people around—I realized that I felt incredibly vulnerable. In my high heels and fancy club-wear (albeit fairly modest by the standards of those around me), I felt unnaturally like a target.  Moreover, I felt that I lacked the ability to defend myself.

Gange rape shirt

Rape culture

Perhaps in this regard I am actually luckier than most.  I walk through dangerous neighborhoods as a matter of course for my work, sometimes quite obviously lost, and have never feared for my safety.  I have been able to trust in my wits, my strength, and the goodness inherent in people around me to keep me safe. For many women, the vulnerability I felt walking around in my high-heels is a daily occurrence.  They dread catcalls and leering strangers, men in large groups, and unfamiliar streets.  They feel unsure of their ability to fend off the manifestations of rape culture which surround them.

I’ve written about rape culture before: the behaviors and attitudes that perpetuate a society in which rape, harassment, and belittlement of women (and non-cisgendered people) exist and thrive.

In many cases, rape culture’s most insidious aspect is how it is insulated by people who have become accustomed to its effects.  Cliff at The Pervocracy writes excellently on this phenomenon, which she calls “The Missing Stair:”

Have you ever been in a house that had something just egregiously wrong with it?  Something massively unsafe and uncomfortable and against code, but everyone in the house had been there a long time and was used to it?  “Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you, there’s a missing step on the unlit staircase with no railings.  But it’s okay because we all just remember to jump over it.”

Some people are like that missing stair….

passed out chick meme

Again

Everyone who says “I don’t want to be a victim-blamer, but girls should know frat parties aren’t safe places” is treating rape culture like a missing stair.  Everyone who says “it’s an ugly fact, but only women who don’t make trouble make it in this business” is treating sexual harassment like a missing stair.  Everyone who says “I don’t like it either, but that’s the way things are,” and makes no move to question the way things are, is jumping over a missing stair somewhere. http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/06/missing-stair.html

In this way, the missing stair (ie: rape culture) is not the only problem.  The people who continually ignore or apologize for rape culture begin to perpetuate, and in some instances worsen the problem.  And it usually takes drastic measures to shake that kind of apathy.  If someone fails to jump over the missing stair, falls and breaks zir ankle, zir friends will suddenly be up in arms and protesting that the stair must be fixed.  Similarly, people who know family or friends who have suffered sexual assault at its most violent are quick to take up the cause and fight for justice.

But those that just barely graze the edge?  Whose feet are beginning to slip, but caught their balance at just the last moment?  Who endure catcalls and uncomfortable advances in bars?  Whose breasts are grazed in the subway, but convince themselves that it was just an accident?  Those people don’t often recognize rape culture.  They don’t fight the injustices that they deal with bodily on a daily basis.

Instead they have set ups like the safe call.  A safecall is an arrangement that you make to check in with a trustworthy person when you’re meeting with an acquaintance or someone new with whom you haven’t yet developed trust. Your trustworthy person should know where you’re going to be (specific addresses), who you’re going to be with (real names), and what time(s) you will be checking in. If you don’t check in, they’ll assume something has gone wrong and will contact the local authorities.

I don’t want to dissect the safe call here, because I think it is an incredibly valuable tool to protect yourself in potentially dangerous situationsNo More Rape Culture (and I urge all of you to read this article).  However, I think it’s poignant that such a practice is both necessary and widely practiced as a way of ensuring an individual’s safety.  It brings to light the extent to which many individuals acknowledge the bodily dangers of rape culture (and the necessity of precaution), without examining the structures which make these situations dangerous.

Thus, I return to Friday night, walking to the club in Farragut North.  I felt at once absurd and humbled by my realization of vulnerability.  I felt vulnerable because I was dressed up, drawing attention to myself, and I was hobbled by heals.  Why did I feel like a target because of this?  Did I expect sexual assault from these behaviors?  The answers aren’t so simple, but it made me realize how frightening it must be for people who feel vulnerable like this all the time.  It reminded me that there is so much work to be done in dismantling rape culture, and that I have not even begun to scratch the surface.

I have written previously about my “long” and tumultuous relationship with orgasms.  I’m revisiting the subject now because it looks like I’ll be

This is what orgasm always looks like, right?

teaching a mini-workshop on them—in particular, looking at what orgasms feel like to different people, and how we’ve been tricked by friends, peers, the media, and the majority of our culture into believing that we don’t know our bodies.

There are a surprising number of purportedly sex-positive articles written about women struggling with orgasm.  Unfortunately, a lot of them come to pretty unenlightening conclusions.

For instance:

I knew, in pretty non-negotiable terms, what orgasm was supposed to look and sound like; When Harry Met Sally taught me the basics of that vernacular long before anything more pornographic entered the equation. The telltale orgasm signs, that crescendo of gasping and thrashing, informed nothing about my own physical experiences, however. Like Sally, I could fake it in bed or over a turkey sandwich. I had the culmination memorized, but none of the process.

From the moment I started masturbating, I tried to figure out what orgasm was.  How it was supposed to feel, look, sound.  I was trying to match my experience of masturbation with the overzealous renderings of romantic comedies (and these articles!), where women writhed in pleasure, felt their toes curl, and moaned in a moment of ecstasy.   And I knew that was NOT happening for me.

Everything I’d heard about orgasm to that point in my life was that I would “know it when it happened.”  And when, even after this “sound advice,” I was still questioning, I decided I must not be orgasming.  I was frustrated and angry with my body for years.  I questioned myself, my technique, my internal structure, and my hormones; I talked to a sex therapist on the phone; I stole my mother’s vibrator to see if it made a difference (yes, mom, I admit it—she always knew).  But nothing helped because my problem was neither physical nor mental, per say.

Dangerous Lily sums it up perfectly here:

I faked orgasms because I didn’t know how to have one.

In fact, I don’t think I would have recognized an orgasm if it bit me in the face. And when I compare sensations and those little after-shock contractions now vs then….um yeah I actually did have orgasms. The contractions, and especially the twitchy minutes-long aftershock contractions, are never present for me if I didn’t orgasm…I don’t think though that I faked it modeling after what I saw on porn. I think I was mimicking him. His pleasure built and built and built and it was obvious and then….crescendo! angels! choirs! He was exhausted and delirious and right there was the proof positive of his orgasm, filling up the reservoir tip of our condom.

I was having orgasms.  But it wasn’t an orgasm like a man’s.  And it wasn’t like the ones I saw in movies or porn, the ones I’d come to expect as standard.  They were instead strange, slightly off orgasms that my body didn’t recognize or embrace.  They were a body learning what it liked and what it meant to move and feel in that way.  I still cum like this now when I’m extremely tired or if I’m on antibiotics that sap my sex drive.  But they were orgasms all the same.  I was just having a different type of orgasm– one I didn’t understand or feel coherently, because I had been brainwashed into thinking there is only one way to cum, and I would “know it when it happened.” But because I had never had orgasms explained in language that I could associate with my own experience, I didn’t understand them.  I assumed they just weren’t there.

I know now how many different ways our bodies can feel and interpret things.  I know that some women cum all the time, and for others, it’s a rare but earth-shattering occurrence.  I know that some women just feel giddy warmth, while others feel contractions all up their bodies.  Some feel electricity emanating from their core.  It’s this variety of experience and sensation that I love and find so exciting.  I want so much more conversation on what orgasms feel like to different women, so that people can realize that they’re not disfunctional/broken/anorgasmic, they just feel and process those sensations differently.

Side note: for those of you who don’t know, I’ve started working with the organization The Garden (thegardendc.com) and we’re going to start hosting sex toy and educational workshop parties at homes around DC.  If you are interested in hosting one, please comment here, or email me at Bianca@thegardendc.com to talk about setting it up!

barbie tiny waistA couple of months ago I did an interview with a German television station as a part of my pole dancing studio to support Lulu Browne, a plus size pole dancer who rose to fame after her appearance on America’s Got Talent.  The interviewer asked me if I thought I would have the strength and courage to put myself out there if I were in Lulu’s shoes (weight-wise).  Though I told the interviewer that I could only hope so, looking back, I realized that I knew my real answer was very different.

Like so many other men and women in this crazy, media-hyped, perfect-body driven world, I suffered (and still do suffer) from serious self-doubt about my body. In a family of dancers, bodybuilders, and gym teachers, I was the brainy, but chubby couch potato.  I was not graceful or lithe or flexible or beautiful.  I had zits and wore stretch pants and no bra whenever I could get away with it.  Things have changed a lot since then—I’ve lost weight and gained muscle mass, my face has cleared up somewhat, and I’ve ditched the stretch pants for fitted shirts (although I still ditch the bra probably too often…).  And even though I’m closer than I ever was to our culture’s idea of the “perfect body”, I still have moments of self-loathing and frustration, when my thighs jiggle too much, or my stomach bunches up when I sit.

That’s why I have complicated feelings about this article from Bitch Media (wow is it hard to make that sentence sound serious…) about I am Ugly mirrorself-image and weight.

Author Tasha Fierce writes: I’m sure we all know a fat girl who feels like crap about her size until she receives some positive sexual attention from someone. Unfortunately, healthy self-esteem is not built on the slippery slope that is random affection from potential partners. If you only feel good about yourself when you’re with a partner to validate your attractiveness, once that partner has moved on (and they most certainly will when they figure out your feelings about yourself are inextricably tied to them), you’re back in the same, leaky, no-self-esteem boat.

She makes a strong point: Feeling good about yourself starts with feeling good about yourself, it doesn’t start when someone else starts feeling good about you. Your self-image should never be built on the approval of another person, no matter how important that person is in your life.

However, the reality may not be so simple.   I have done the work, internally, to get myself to a much more stable place with embracing my body.  I purposefully do one activity naked every day to feel more comfortable in my skin (plus, clothes suck!).  I look at myself in the mirror and find things I like.  But some days it’s still a struggle.  And moreover, I don’t think I could have ever gotten over that initial hump of disapproval without the help of my first boyfriend, who decided I was sexy enough to desire. His approval gave me the power to love myself, even after he was gone.

body_is campaignMy journey has shown me how unfair it is to expect people to self-motivate that journey toward acceptance from the very beginning. It is really hard living in a world where everyone and everything in media, society, culture, even family, is telling you to look a certain way, and you DON’T. The tiniest bit of sexual interest from someone else can “flip that switch” inside that gives you the power to start approving of yourself.

It also reinforces the things you already know about yourself when you lose sight of them.  My girlfriend kisses my back and says she loves the graceful arch it carries.  She nods approvingly and notes that my legs have strength and definition to them.  And she loves my butt (!!), which has always been my greatest insecurity.

Case in point, yes, acceptance of your body should come from within, but there’s a place for others—to push us, to light a fire, to remind us— to bring us closer to that inner sense of balance and bodily love.

 

A Trans Sex Guide

I’ve been sitting back on Forever the Queerest Kids these past few months as my life has undergone some transitions—graduation from college, the start of a new job (that I tolerate), an internship with an organization that makes me excited for the next 10 years of my life, and the move to a new apartment (to come next month).  But I haven’t forgotten about you guys!  I’ve also been slowly collecting material to talk about, important things that I hadn’t gathered my thoughts on yet.

So here we go.

Looking through my bookmarked FTQK pages, I found that I suddenly had a lot of material on trans issues, and trans sex particularly, which is awesome, because I spent so much of last year trying to integrate more trans-friendly programming into my college campus.  I’m always on the lookout for intelligent responses to the incredibly difficult issues trans people face daily.  Here are a few.

My girlfriend recently alerted me to a really cool PDF Brazen: Trans Safer Sex Guide written by Morgan M. Page and published by The 519 last year.  The PDF is pretty groundbreaking just by the fact that it specifically deals with Trans issues AND sex specifically, but I thought the particular subtopics covered were even more interesting.  There’s a lot of stuff in Brazen that you just wouldn’t find in a safer sex guide aimed at cis-women.

For instance, Brazen devotes sections of each topic to dealing with people who engage in sex work.  Because the PDF is aimed at people in Canada, where sex work is technically legal (although there are a lot of restrictions around the trade), Brazen deals speaks to sex workers on amicable terms. There are concrete, specific tips for keeping yourself safe in the trade (don’t wear scarves or necklaces, as they can be used to choke you if a date goes wrong) and a no-nonsense approach to keeping yourself safe.  While it’s frustrating and sad that trans women are pulled into sex work out of necessity in inordinate proportions, I’m happy to see Brazen deal with that reality directly.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen sex work dealt with in a publication of this nature as anything other than among a laundry list of threats and potential missteps to a healthy sexuality.

Brazen also directly confronts the reality that many trans people are also recreational drug users.  Again, a sad and frustrating reality, and one that is NEVER dealt with in safe-sex guides for women.  Drugs and sex are very purposefully kept away from each other, in an effort to elevate the status of sex (by demoting drugs and distancing their combination in real life) at the expense of information.  Brazen makes very important points about mistakes people can make with drugs that are particular to trans situations.  EX: needles used for hormone injections are a different gauge than needs used for drug injections.

And on top of all that, Brazen does an incredible job of dealing with the nitty gritty of safety, like which activities put you at risk for which diseases, and how you can adapt condoms and other forms of protection to a trans or transitioning body.

Aside from safe sex, A Queer Chick, one of the columnists over at TheHairpin, had a great column back in march about navigating sex with a partner who has transitioned when you have never had sex/been attracted to that gender before.  She has great suggestions, like hanging out with dykes and watching queer porn, but the crux of her advice is strong for anyone, LGB, T or partnered with someone T, straight, queer, etc.

Don’t think about “how to have sex with a woman.” Think about how to have sex with your partner, your special beautiful sweet unique partner you’re crazy about. You don’t have to be a good lesbian, or any kind of lesbian at all. You just have to be with her.

And isn’t that how we need to think about trans issues in general?  That people are not their identity, but a unique individual who has come to their place in their own specific way?

But alas, it isn’t always that simple, especially for people who identify as lesbian or gay and fall for a partner who transitions to a gender that allows them to present as a straight couple.  Aja Worthy-Davis,who guestposted this article on Racialicious, writes eloquently on the subject.  She shows how complicated the intersections between race, gender, sexuality, and transition can be in a world where we wear our labels not only through our own actions and presentations, but through those of our partner.

I’m a queer Black femme prone to dating middle-aged divorced hippie White guys due in equal parts to my upbringing, my personality, and my personal baggage. He’s a Black man who has dated more than his share of middle-aged divorced hippie White lesbians. And (I guess this is the kicker) when we met in our staunchly Catholic high school over a decade ago, he was a girl.

…[When he transitioned] My personal life sped up to where I thought it would slowly lead, and my mind was so wrapped-up in the practical questions (Where will we live? When will we go to graduate school? Who will do the cooking?), that it totally bypassed the more personal introspective question about how it would change my personal and relationship identity to be perceived as straight and be with a Black man.

While it’s easy, in theory, to acknowledge that the transition has not changed anything of substance in their identities, the way that a trans man and cis woman are seen is very different than the way two cis women are seen.  And I think it’s legitimate for there to be an element of mourning for the cis woman—the way she expresses her sexual identity has been changed.  She will, to most strangers, be forever read as a straight woman, and there’s not a whole lot to be done about it.

So at the end of the day, it’s a little stickier than just, “Well, this is the person I fell in love with, not the gender I fell in love with.”  Transition will affect many aspects of your life, and embracing that takes a lot of thought and work personally.  From the outside, it’s very easy to sing Love Makes the World Go Round, but inside a relationship, it’s more difficult.  But I would argue, inside that relationship is a complexity and strength that is a lot richer.

Kink-Aware Professionals

Even in the healthiest, most supportive, wonderful environments, kinky people are eventually going to have to interact with the medical community.  Some are going to need help from psychologists, psychiatrists, or life coaches.  Most of us (unless you happen to be one of those incredible people who knows how to do their own taxes and make deductions for your mortgage and whatnot) will need assistance from accountants and personal finance professionals.  Many will look for spiritual guidance.

Sometimes we like to think that these areas of our life remain delineated and separate from our kink lives.  And in many instances, it can be true.  But when your general physician asks you why you have what looks like rope burns on your arms and thighs or when you need to talk to a councilor about issues arising within your consensual D/s relationship, you realize that sometimes this very private area of your life has bled out into new territory.

There’s a lot of stigma that comes from that.  One of the strongest stereotypes about kinky individuals is that they have problems with physical or emotional abuse that leads them to this kind of behavior.  Of course this stereotype is unfounded, but if you find yourself meeting with a doctor of therapist who subscribes to this notion, you’re in for a lot of trouble from people who are meant to provide you support.   In faith communities, stigma abounds against people for all kinds of sexual practices, and you can quickly find yourself ostracized when you may need guidance and faith the most.

For situations like this and probably a million more that I can’t even think of, the Kink-Aware Professionals (KAP) directory exists.  I’m not trying to plug this directory for any kind of personal benefit.  I believe it is truly crucial that others know where to turn when they need professional advice or services without fear of being judged, stigmatized, or ostracized.  While I can’t vouch for their professional qualifications, the people listed in this directory are either familiar with or specialize in managing the everyday details of kinky people’s lives.  If you’re ever in a situation where you need to come to someone for help, I strongly suggest you look to these professionals as a first line of recourse.  Sometimes the parts of our lives we most want to keep separate can be the parts that require the most care from the rest of the world.

Sex-Positive DC

Spare a moment for sex-positivity in my new and beloved town of DC?  I recently met up with an awesome woman named Jessica Vondyke, who sex toyis the owner of The Garden, an up-and-coming sex positive community center and toy shop in DC.  Basically, she believes (and I affirm!) that there is not enough space for people to love and learn about sex in a healthy, positive manner.

Her brainchild, The Garden, is going to be two floors of awesome devoted to just that.  On the bottom floor, Jessica will stock woman-friendly, queer-friendly, well-made sex toys to enhance your sex life.  There will also be classes hosted a couple times a week by awesome sex-positive, LGBTQ, fat-positive, polyamorous and kinky presenters to engage on all kinds of sexy subjects.  On the top floor, Jessica is opening her doors to an array of bodyworkers, therapists, and other specialists to offer private services to Garden customers.

The Garden will be the place to engage with sexuality on all levels, and Jessica want every to feel at home there.  The best way to do that is to play a part in helping The Garden open its doors.  There is an Indigogo campaign that is almost over, but you can still donate here:  http://www.indiegogo.com/thegardendc

If you are in DC, you should also check out Red Palace on Saturday, June 30th for a night of burlesque, bellydancing, and sexy talk.  Tickets are $15, so you can help raise money for The Garden and have a fun Saturday night!  What’s not to love?  RSVP here http://www.facebook.com/events/238600402918389/

and show your love for The Garden on their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/TheGardenDC 

boy in blue and girl in pink standing back to backI firmly believe that we do not give kids enough credit for their ability to navigate, question and deconstruct concepts that adults find incredibly confusing.  No, I’m not saying that it’s time to start teaching your four year old theoretical physics (although my dad loved to do that—unfortunately, I never really appreciated it…), but it does mean that we should question some of the basic assumptions about how we teach and interact with young children.

Case in point: gender.

I’ve been sitting on this article for several months, and every time I re-read it, I get giggly and smiley all over again.

“Hi I’m Alec are you the babysitter mommy said that we can go to the park if you want to and feed the ducks do you like legos?”

“Yep, hi, my name is Andy.” I said, kneeling down, “Let me talk to one of your parents first, ok?”

While I was saying this Alec was looking me up and down.

“Yeah ok, hey, Andy, do you use boy words or girl words, or the other words but I can’t really ‘amember them?”

I looked curiously at his mom, Amelia, who was busy tiding up the table.

“Oh,” she said, “he can’t remember the word pronouns.”

“Ah,” it clicked, “I use boy words. What about you?”

“I use boy words, too. Do you like legos?”

“Of course I do!”symbols for male and female

Alec, the star of this adorable article was raised not to equate gender presentation with gender identity.  Granted he probably doesn’t have the vocabulary to express these ideas, but at the heart of it, his behavior towards others reflects a nuanced and tolerant, thoughtful way of looking at gender.

At one point he asked his mom and she said, “Honey, do you remember what Aunt Sarah said to do if you can’t tell if somebody’s a boy or a girl?” he didn’t respond. “You ask.”

You. Ask.

You don’t guess or dance around the subject or hope somebody else clues you in or wait for another person to use a pronoun so you can use the same one. You ASK.

 

There’s an element of common courtesy to living your life this way—no frills, no guesswork, no assumptions or hurt feelings.  You just ask.  I can only imagine that Alec will grow up feeling much less constrained by the idea of gender himself, and feel free to experiment and explore his own identity, his likes and dislikes, and to define himself as a person, not as a boy or a girl.

pregnant woman holding blocks that say "boy"Unfortunately, most kids aren’t brought up this way.  Gender policing and gender messaging starts from birth and becomes so engrained into our psyches that it’s sometimes hard to disentangle our own feelings about gender from the messages we’ve been fed since we were born.  In this sense, it’s both easier and way harder for young kids to have meaningful conversations about gender.

On one hand, they are not authorities on the matter.  To a large extent, children rely on the structure and conditioning of their parents, teachers, family members, and other authority figures in their lives.  If those people are saying “Boys do this; girls wear that,” then it is incredibly hard for them to separate their own feelings from the opinions and conditioning of the important people in their lives.

On the other hand, children have had decades less of gender policing than their adult counterparts.  They may have experienced discrimination, but rarely do they fear for their lives or their livelihoods based on the way they perceive and present gender.  They are still malleable with their opinions, and open to the idea of contradiction.

So while it can be difficult to combat the harmful way gender is explained in our society, I think the work of Melissa Bollow Temple, of Jackson County, Wisconsin shows how important, and sometimes how simple breaking down those messages can be.

I taped up two large pieces of paper and wrote “Boys” on one and “Girls” on the other. …When we had two extensive lists, I read both lists out loud to the class and then studied them carefully.

“Hmm,” I said. “Here it says that Legos are for boys. Can girls play with Legos?”unisex bathroom sign

“Yes!” most of them replied without hesitation.

“I wonder if any of the girls in our class like to play with Hot Wheels?”

“I do! I do!” blurted out some of the girls. We continued with the rest of the items on our “Boys” list, making a check mark next to each one as it was declared acceptable for girls.

Then we went on to the “Girls” list. We started with baby dolls. Because we had just read and discussed William’s Doll, the children were OK with boys playing with dolls. “It’s great practice for boys who want to be daddies when they grow up,” I mentioned.

But when we got to nail polish and makeup the children were unsure. “There are some very famous rock ’n’ roll bands,” I said, “and the men in those bands wear a lot of makeup.” Some of the children gasped.

Then Isabela raised her hand: “Sometimes my uncle wears black nail polish.” The students took a moment to think about this.

“My cousin wears nail polish, too!” said another student. Soon many students were eager to share examples of how people pushed the limits on gender. Our school engineer, Ms. Joan, drove a motorcycle. Jeremy liked to dance. I could see the gears turning in their brains as the gender lines started to blur.

Conversations like these might be the most crucial to ensure that the children we raise grow up to be caring, compassionate, and empathetic men and women (and those who identify otherwise).  Working to blur the lines of gender early gives students critical thinking skills to challenge the messaging of media, consumerism, peers, and authority figures.  This generation can grow up to understand gender so much better than most of us do now.   And that will benefit more than just gender non-conforming and trans* people.  Because acceptance and critical thinking lends itself to a deeper understanding of people with all types of differences: disability, ethnicity, race, sexuality, and yes, of course, gender.

Stay cool, queer kids, and keep pushing for acceptance and dialogue in all areas of your life.

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