Merry Christmas, all you queer kids! Hope your holidays are full of good food, friends, warm memories, and happiness.
Tag Archive: Queer
It’s no secret that my sexual orientation has morphed over the years. I’ve taken a number of different labels, each of which meant something to me at the time I adopted it, but as I switched between them, a gnawing falseness set in—a questioning of why I couldn’t simply stick to one identity. I knew it confused people. I often still use outdated labels with people who can’t keep up with the saga. I’m bisexual to my friends and my parents back home, who’ve known me when I dated both my first girlfriend (a pan-romantic asexual, what a beautiful juxtaposition) and my two boyfriends, one of whom I loved with all my heart. Bisexual still makes sense to them.
Meanwhile, I’m pansexual to many of my freshman year college friends, as a political statement about gender as much as an explanation of attraction, and I use the mouthful bi-romantic homosexual with my best friend, although that seems no longer accurate either. Right now, I’m settled with queer, which feels hip and as close to concise and my own self-understanding can get.
And this whole timeline has the aura of something I’ve written down many times before, although I can’t remember if it was on this blog or in a journal or one of the multifarious word documents hiding on my hard drive. But this article from Autostraddle reminded me why all these labels are important in forming the person I am today.
Reise from Autostraddle writes:
“So, what am I? I identify as bisexual because my relationships with men were not lies and I think that’s what bisexuality means. I loved them/sex… “Lesbian” seems like what I am but “bisexual” honors who I was, too — it wasn’t just a filling station from there to here, it was another highway altogether. I didn’t evolve, I changed. But that girl was real, too.”
“We want sexuality to be biological because we want sexuality to be instinctual and natural and out of our control… We don’t have faith in the rest of it because we doubt the permanence of anything we are capable of changing with our minds.”
And it’s true, isn’t it? The scientific community is desperately seeking a “gay gene” that legitimizes our presence as LGBT people, because if sexuality truly is organic and predestined, it is also beyond our control and somehow…more ok.
I’ve had trouble in the past accepting that I am allowed to morph—that an identity doesn’t have to be something I stick with for the rest of my life, that I can shed layers and grow new ones, no matter what the rest of the world says. But we are still accountable to them: the old friends, the grandparents, the family newsletter, those people and circumstances that do not closely follow our personal journeys and transformations. And we have been taught to fear the idea of changing too much and returning home to find that the people who once knew you best no longer understand the person you’ve become.
And that is scary.
But sexuality, the fluidity of what attracts us to one another, embraces that fear and uncertainty. It must, because its very idea is at the edge of society already. I don’t have concrete answers for how you face that uncertainty and that fear and all the dynamism that comes with it, because goodness knows I haven’t completely. But what I can advise is that you accept, at the very least internally, every label that you have ever ascribed. You are who you allow yourself to be, and your integrated whole, which embraces your past love, your future possibilities, and your now- THAT is truly the most beautiful and authentic person you can be.
I originally started this blog as a way to provide resources for LGBT youth and to help sift through the derth of information available on the internet about the confusing issues surrounding sex and sexuality. As the scope of the blog expanded, I realized there was just as much to say about sex-positivity for people of all orientations and viewpoints, AND that I actually had a lot to say personally about some of the more “contentious” topics in the world of sexuality. Today, I’m returning to the root of my goals with this blog, and simply offering a few sites that have significant resources available regarding questions I probably haven’t answered in the course of my blogging.
A great place to start for LGBT resources is Sex, Etc.org , which boasts a very comprehensive list of organizations which work on LGBT issues. Some of them I’ve mentioned before, like PFLAG, Campus Climate, and the It Gets Better Project, but there are also many demographic-specific sites worth looking at, such as the Deaf Queer Foundation, Prism Comics (which supports LGBT comics), and Trans Youth Family Allies (I highly recommend this site- their resources for educators are OUTSTANDING). Take a look and see if anything resonates with you. Many of these organizations have centers or offices in multiple major cities, so it can be a good way to reach out to the community, and they also have brochures, newsletters, and packets which are great educational materials.
Second on my list is Pucker Up.com. Written by sex educator, public speaker, and blogger Tristan Taormino, most of the site is about her speaking tours and personal work in blogging, podcasting and the like. The link above, however, is a comprehensive list of resources related to everything from BDSM to Swinging to Trans Issues. If you have a question about a specific sex-positive community, this list has the appropriate source, I guarantee it.
Finally, Felice Newman (who is actually listed as in the LGB section of Pucker Up) has a great website here which talks about sex and healthy sexuality as whole, including how to be a good lover, how to negotiate sexual differences with a partner, as well as a compact list of smaller articles under the Whole Lesbian Sex header, which talk about women’s sexuality and what it means to have sex on your own terms. They’re funny, easy-to-read, and thought-provoking, so this is a brilliant place to start if you’re looking to explore what sexuality means to you personally.
Let me know what you think! And expect a heavy article sometime soon about being a sex blogger, life plans, and Africa crises.
Stay cool, queer kids.
One area of sexual orientation which I haven’t even touched on in the course of this blog is asexuality. And that, frankly, is because I know and understand little about it beyond the basic theoretical conception. For those of you unfamiliar with that, an asexuale is “someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people
choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are.” (asexuality.org- You should check this site out)
I think this is such an interesting area of human attraction to look at, but sadly I have zero connections to the asexual community, have no asexual friends or relatives (that I know of, at least), and am thus rather isolated from the sphere of people who discuss these issues. I find it most telling that my university, American, whose Queers and Allies chapter is the largest student group on campus, does not have any programing or sub-committees which focus on the needs of the asexual c0mmunity. Boo.
Which is why this article from the Guardian is so adorable and deserves your attention. Amanda and Chris are an asexual committed couple who talk about their experiences finding love and living in an overly-sexual world where they feel they don’t normally fit in.
“When we announced our engagement, our families were happy for us, and our friends in the asexual community were particularly pleased. On our wedding night, my mother-in-law insisted on booking us into a honeymoon suite, so we invited all our friends to an after party. We played Scrabble late into the night and everyone stayed over and slept on the hotel-room floor.
People always ask how our marriage is different from just being friends, but I think a lot of relationships are about that – being friends. We have built on our friendship, rather than scrapping it and moving on somewhere else. The obvious way we differ is that we don’t have sex, though we do kiss and cuddle. We like to joke that the longer we’re married the less unusual this is. By the time we’ve been married five years we’ll be just like everyone else.”
Now the thing I’d like to stress about asexuality (and which might clear up some headscratching confusion for those of you who don’t understand how asexuals form relationships) is the way it differs from romantic attraction. Most people of what I call “the monolithic sexualities”- gay/straight/bi- assume that for all people, those that we feel sexually attracted to, we also feel romantically attracted to. This just seems natural and part of an inherently intertwined social construct of intimacy.
HOWEVER, its not always true. If I were to fully explain my sexuality, I would say that I am a bi-romantic homosexual- meaning that I feel romantic attraction to both men and women (and those in between and around!), but only sexual attraction to women. This same construct can apply to asexuals. Though a person may not feel the sexual pull towards others in general, they can still be romantically attracted to men or women.
I think that the different orientations of romanticism is something that even the Gender and Sexuality Studies people don’t talk enough about, which is a shame because it is a beautiful representation of how diverse sexuality can be.
I’d love feedback and comments, especially if anyone knows/identifies as asexual or as a “romantic” that doesn’t match their sexuality (bi-romantic, homo-romantic, etc.). Talk to me!
Stay cool, queer kids.
A lot of people are confused by the term queer.
In many senses, I don’t blame them. The word queer is intensely charged, historically confusing, and means an incredible variety of different things for different people. But I think this article by graduate student and porn performer Dylan Ryan gives an excellent snapshot of what the word has come to encompass in terms of sexual identity, performance, and attitude. Take a look .
Hopefully more real posts soon, guys. I’m a little exhausted by life at the moment. Also, let me know if there’s something you want to hear about. I know you people read this, but sometimes it feels like I’m talking to no one.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this one…
The Learning Channel has just launched a new series called “Strange Sex,” which is an attempt to chronicle alternative sexual experiences and bring light to the diversity that is American sexuality. Or…something like that.
TLC’s official press release explains: “Throughout the series, Strange Sex highlights some of the most atypical sexual encounters, including a man who has a balloon fetish, a woman who tries to have an orgasm during childbirth for the second time, and a couple who welcomes another man into their relationship, sex life, and home.”
I find the concept of Strange Sex to be at once intriguing and frustrating. On the one hand, THANK GOD our media is finally acknowledging that there’s more to sex than Hollywood’s Jennifer-Anniston-and-Matthew-Mcconaughey-fuck-missionary-style-in-the-pristine-white-bed-of-his-bachelor-pad model. Strange Sex covers REAL sexuality: the fetishes, generation gaps, polyamory, and sexual disorders. On the other hand, I feel like Strange Sex is making a terrible spectacle of non-“traditional” sex practices.
Take a look at this trailer about mental orgasms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=421LxxUOfSY. Strange Sex is trying to dissect our most personal relation- that between our bodies and our minds- with a kind of sensationalist skepticism that pisses me off. Why is it necessary to scientifically PROVE that people are able to have mental orgasms? Why is a cross-generational or polyamorous relationship viewed as strange to begin with? I think more than anything else, Strange Sex speaks to all the ways our society still doesn’t know how to deal with sex. We are only capable of looking at things in terms of the normal-abnormal dichotomy, of saying, “This is right, but this is wrong” when really what we need to understand is “This is what we’re shown all the time and this is what we never hear about,” even though both sides of the equation are very, very common.
I feel like this plays into the way that LGBT people have and still sometimes are treated in society. We are seen as strange, alien creatures- people with such different habits and outlooks on life that we aren’t even of the same species: we become something that is unrelate-able. Which is ridiculous, of course. Yet the idea of a man sleeping with another man (or a woman with a woman, or a woman with two men…) is still so completely incomprehensible, so odd and misplaced to the general psyche, that it becomes the central focus of that person’s entire identity and inevitably a source of conflict and misunderstanding. Sadly, in a society that can’t see past their own perceptions of “normal” behavior, we as LGBT people will always be known for a sex practices as opposed to our individual lives and personalities.
Maybe I shouldn’t speak before I actually WATCH the show, but Strange Sex seems (from the trailers) to be doing us- us as LGBT, kinky, queer, poly, allied, or otherwise non-normative awesome people- a disservice.
ALAS THE LONG AWAITED COLLEGE ARTICLE AND BIANCA HAS TO WRITE IN ALL CAPS SHE’S SO EXCITED!!!
I’ve pretty much been waiting to write this article ever since I borrowed the book “The Gay and Lesbian Guide to College Life” from the library in the spring of senior year (ohhh, it’s Princeton Review- spiffy, right?). http://www.amazon.com/Lesbian-Guide-College-Admissions-Guides/dp/0375766235 Seriously, the link is here- you can get it used for $4. Just do it. Do keep in mind though that since it was published in 2007, some of the info is a little outdated.
Let’s start with the most obvious decision- which school do I want to go to?
If you are looking to find a school with a LGBT-friendly atmosphere, consider what kind of school you are looking for: religious, private, secular, and/or public school?
Not to generalize, but private, secular schools are often have the most LGBT-friendly populations. There are many exceptions to this rule however.
- American University- my school; full of awesome; private and considered secular, although it was founded by Methodists whose community is still very active on the campus (they are also incredibly LGBT friendly). American is the prime example of a super gay-friendly private school. We have an active, loud community, a well-staffed LGBT resource center, a bunch of queer programming from our student group Queers and Allies, and so on…
- St. Vincent’s Academy- private, religious university (Catholic); St. Vincent’s is an example of a religious school that has embraced tolerance. They have a loud and active LGBT and ally population (my friend once told me that when a speaker began spouting homophobic remarks at a St. Vincent’s event, ¼ of the audience actually stood up and left. The monks at the school are very supportive of LGBT students, and I believe there is a GSA or similar group
- Penn State- a huge, public, secular university. Penn State is big enough that any minority is bound to find a niche for themselves. Penn State has a huge resource center, lots of queer programming, and a generally accepting population.
So yes, there are some of every kind, but you have to look closely. A good research tool is campusclimateindex.org, which has a “Gay checklist” for LGBT-related policies and resources of many major universities. The Advocate published a similar guide a few years back, but I take issue with their nomination process and research methods. Nonetheless, I can confirm a few of the schools on their “20 Best-of-the-Best” as having legitimately good LGBT climates. My approval noted with an asterisk.
- American University****** (YAY!!)
- Duke University
- Indiana University***** (ALSO YAY!)
- New York University*****
- Oberlin College
- Ohio State University
- Pennsylvania State University******
- Princeton University * (with some hesitation- their resource center is fabulous, but upon my visit, info about the student population was ambiguous)
- Stanford University
- Tufts University
- University of California-Berkeley
- University of California-Los Angeles
- University of California-Santa Cruz
- University of Massachusetts-Amherst
- University of Michigan
- University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
- University of Oregon
- University of Pennsylvania****** (Bisexual communities have noted some discrimination, however)
- University of Puget Sound
- University of Southern California
Whether or not your potential school is LGBT friendly, consider the implications of the surrounding city. Bigger cities are more likely to have a resources and pro-LGBT populations, but they are also bigger hubs for hate crimes and extremism. THERE ARE 2 SIDES TO EVERY COIN. While Washington, DC is considered one of the most gay-friendly places in the country (next to NY and San Francisco), there was a violent LGBT student beating on the Georgetown campus only 10 minutes from where I live. Keep this in mind.
On the positive side, big cities like LA, DC, New Orleans, Miami, San Fran, NY, etc. almost always have HUGE, beautiful PFLAG chapters (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays-http://community.pflag.org/Page.aspx?pid=194&srcid=-2), Gay and Lesbian Community Centers, and counseling, health, and aid organizations designed specifically for your needs.
So once you’ve decided on a school, the real research begins. One of the best things you can do is find out what program and resources are available for you at your school.
Like high school GSA’s, colleges have support programs too. At American, we have the Rainbow Speakers Bureau, which allows LGBT students to give presentations in classrooms at dorm floor meetings about LGBT identity and issues. We also have a group called Queers and Allies, although many schools have a similar student groups known as Spectrum or Pride. This site, http://www.glbtstudentpride.com/United%20States%20Colleges/unitedstates.htm has a GREAT database of student associates for most US colleges. If you are going to a college that is known to be less LGBT friendly, I would highly recommend checking if there is a safe-space program, which trains students and faculty to be mediators and host “safe spaces” for students who are being bullied or harassed on campus. http://www.equal.org/safespace.html This website explains the program in more detail.
The next big decision is How Out Do You Want To Be?
Are you telling your roommate, your friends, your teachers, your academic advisors? Are you comfortable with getting into a relationship, with having a random hookup, with casually dating, with walking down the street holding hands and BEING GAY? Are you ok going to LGBT events, and if so, will you need to pose as an ally, or will you be comfortable with the tacit assumption by attendees that you “might be gay?” These are questions you DEFINITELY need to answer before heading off.
Part and parcel with this question is Where Do You Want To Live?
Some colleges offer gender neutral housing or queer-themed learning community floors. These can be especially useful for transgender or transitioning college kids, who need the privacy of an independent bathroom or appreciate the lack of pressure in gender-neutral showers and rooms. Keep in mind that in religious institutions, this may not be an option. A special note****- if you attend a school that segregates dorm floors or buildings by gender, find out if you will be allowed to house in a dorm that matches your gender identity- this will definitely require a special call (probably several) to the school.
Also, make sure that the gender on your ID does not cause problems. Because most colleges (even progressive ones like Indiana and American U.) still identity students using a gender binary, it is important that the school knows if you are currently transitioning and what that means for your life on campus, including housing, advisor placement, and health center plans. I wish I had resources for this and I HATE that I don’t, but I will keep you posted. The Guide I recommended at the beginning of this post has a few fabulous chapters on trans issues and several websites- so CHECK IT OUT.
If you are living in a double or triple (as most 1st year students will), think about how you will negotiate questions of guest policies and girlfriends/boyfriends. Hopefully, the issue of sexuality will not affect these, but its better to come in with EYES OPEN and make allowances for what makes your new roommate comfortable.
Like other students, you must consider What Will I Do About Medical Care?
For LGB students, this is less of an issue. In addition to a student health center that will usually meet all your needs (including requests for a same or opposite-gender physician or nurse), there are lots of city clinics that offer sliding-scale payment options for LGB people and specific health issues. For transgender and especially transitioning transsexuals, health questions are a lot more complex and tricky. If you are getting hormone therapy, you absolutely need to figure out how those treatments will continue in your new city. I highly recommend extending your college visits and looking for a primary care provider before committing to any university. Even if you aren’t getting therapy, but are living transgendered, make sure to find a provider who understands your medical and psychological needs, because the last thing you want during the stress of finals week is a doctor telling you that “if you just dressed like a normal girl, this wouldn’t be a problem.”
And once you’re finally settled into your life, got your stuff unpacked, and start LIVING, you have to figure this one out: What Do I Want To Learn?
Well, obviously, if you’re reading this, you’re either a really good friend of mine, or you are already curious about sexuality studies. If you play your cards right at university, you can often find classes that mesh with that interest. A few select universities (but growing numbers!) offer a Queer Studies or Women and Gender Studies Major, which
focuses on the intersections of gender identity, sexuality, sexual development, and attraction across history and cultures. It’s pretty cool. But even if you don’t want to commit to this major, there are usually classes (mostly in anthropology and psychology disciplines) which have queer focuses. And if you get lucky enough to have a gay
teacher, they’ll often slip some queer material into their lesson plans as applicable. ((I had an amazing Lit. teacher,
Prof. Brideoake, who did a fantastic unit on Nella Larsen’s Passing while focusing some discussions on the sexual tension between the main characters Irene and Claire. These references are very subtle and nuanced, and I would highly recommend the book!))
Finally, you have to ask yourself, How Politically-Active Do I Want To Be?
College campuses are often intensely political affairs. There are organizations for every political agenda in the world, and you, as a student, have the opportunity to play a large part in them. So do you want to be visibly involved in politics? Want to march in the National Equality March? Want to volunteer for phone banks to help fight anti-gay legislation? These opportunities will probably be available to you, and if they aren’t, you have the opportunity (and often, if you look in the right places, the college funding) to create them!
TO SUM UP:
- Find a college environment that fits you: city/rural, religious/secular
- Check campusclimateindex.org to see the policies and resources available to you
- Make medical and housing arrangements that suit your needs as an LGBT student
- Take advantage of queer course offerings and political involvement opportunities
- Get in on student groups and activities
- American University recently hosted an S&M 101 workshop, which is great for LGBT teens and their straight friends alike! Also, dialogue groups like the SpeakOUT program are amazing for discussing problems and ideas related to the LGBT community
- Go out into the city! Take advantage of the health clinics, clubs, social organizations, etc. that your new city offers
- GET A NEW START. New city, new friends, new staff, new life. If you want it, you can try it here.
Good luck, queer kids!