Tag Archive: LGBT


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.

I’m A Slave For You

One of the hardest things for us equality-driven feminist-ish types to wrap our heads around is the BDSM idea of the master/slave relationship.  These relationships can take on a lot of different forms, but for a lot of people (myself included for quite some time), the idea that sticks is that of a woman caged against her will by the domineering of an aggressive man.  Never mind the numerous gendered assumptions made in this model (which are equally problematic)- I always believed that you couldn’t be a slave without giving up some inherent part of yourself in the submission, that you lose WHO YOU ARE when you become a slave.

Which is why it’s always so refreshing and exciting and hot to read The Perverted Negress, a blog about being in a master/slave relationships, from the slave’s perspective.  Mollena (the blogess herself) has a great snarky, sometimes even biting way of discussing things with her master, while simultaneously writing very evocatively about the emotional and spiritual journey that being a slave puts her through.  She is very much her own person, and anyone who is interested in a master/slave relationship, but afraid of the way the dynamic might cage their own sense of identity, should read some of what she’s written.

Today I want to link to a great advice column Mollena wrote giving suggestions for dominants.  Her unique viewpoint as a (particularly articulate) slave humanizes dominants and masters in a really wonderful way.

Yeah the big tough dominant thing is a hot and sexy image. But knowing about your process and emotional state

From Mollena's site- Copyright Michele Serchuk

creates intimacy and lets us trust you with our intimate thoughts and feelings as well. When you are involved in an intimate relationship, sometimes you don’t even have to hear the emotions of another spoken aloud to know when something is amiss, or when they are simmering with joy. Regardless? Letting those in service to you or owned by you in on your emotional state is absolutely necessary.

Too often dominants/masters are looked at like giant, looming, unquestionable figures without flaws or misgivings.  And that can be part of the appeal.  Being able to give yourself over to someone you trust completely and know will unconditionally be able to handle you with strength, authority, and grace.  But that’s an incredible expectation for even the most poised of dominants, and it is worthwhile to acknowledge that they are people with weaknesses and doubts too, who may even need comfort, who aren’t afraid to say “please” and “thank you.”

Celebrating dominance is not something our society is conditioned to do.  We have culturally encoded equality as (at least the hypothetical) objective, and so master/sub relationships come across as abusive and scary.  But they don’t have to be.

The sex-positive and BDSM blog circles have done an amazing job of bringing to the fore the voices of submissives who celebrating their desire to be dominated.  A great example of this is a recent post by Alyssa Royse, who owns the women’s sexuality company, Not So Secret.  She writes:

As usual, the woman who approached me after my TEDx talk wanted me to tell her that it was demeaning to see women tied up and spanked. And as usual, I told her I didn’t feel that way at all. I told her that I am a woman who likes to be tied up, blindfolded, spanked and devoured. And that it takes an enormous amount of strength to stand up and say that. To ask for it. To  be good, giving and game sexually and get what I want. It takes courage to trust so completely that I can get what I want.

Sometimes, the strongest decision you can make is the decision to not control things. To trust.

This is one of the most eloquent arguments for the beauty, honesty, and positivity that can come out of BDSM relationships.  But there are a lot of voices still missing from this conversation.

Where are the submissive men to dominant women?

Where are the lesbian, genderqueer/fluid, trans couples- monogamous and non- engaging in BDSM?  (a nod to Sinclair of Sugarbutch for being on this train and talking about it eloquently)

Where are the gay men talking about masculinity and dominance, the contrast between being seen as a bear and liking to be submissive, being effeminate and liking to dominate?

Where are the LGBT people talking about the way suburbia, marriage, and assimilation-ism is changing how we relate to our BDSM identities?

Where are the kittens?!

Where is low-income kinky people talking about how they find BDSM relationships in a world where $30 entrance fees and expensive toys exclude them from traditional venues?

Where are the people with disabilities who are talking about making BDSM work for them in an able-bodied world?

If you guys know of high-quality bloggers talking about this stuff, throw a recommendation my way.  I’ll put them on the blogroll for everyone to know about, and we can all learn.  Because there are so many viewpoints- so many ways of interpreting BDSM, master/slave, etc that we should try our hardest to hear them all.

Stay cool, queer kids, and hit me up with any questions.

 

 

Equality for Argentina

I know I’m way behind on this viral video, but these ads for LGBT equality in Argentina are inspiring and worth sharing, timely or not.

 

 

More info on the ad campaign (and even more cute videos!) is here at blabbeando.

Stay cool, queer kids.

 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, all you queer kids!  Hope your holidays are full of good food, friends, warm memories, and happiness.

And the Winner Is….

Congratulations to , who I am proud to announce is the winner (at long last) of Forever the Queerest Kids’ first sexy   contest.   She will shortly be receiving a copy of  The Guide to Getting It On, 4th Edition, by Paul Joannides.

In addition, for being super awesome and cool enough to share her thoughts on many of the entries here at FTQK, it’s only fair to point the way to her blog.  ladyxxxlazarus consistently updates http://slutlyfe.wordpress.com/, another great blog on sex, being LGBT, and poly.  She’s currently in the middle of the LGBT 30 Day Challenge, so go give her some support.

Experiments of Welcome Week

Welcome Week logoCollege welcome week has just come and gone, replaced with the responsibilities of classes and club sports, papers and calling home.  To many, the past week has become synonymous with debauchery: wild frat parties with copious amounts of alcohol, random hookups with freshman whose names you’ll never remember the next morning, and LOTS of free food.

I think welcome week was also part of the genesis of the “Lesbian Until Graduation” myth, and similar cultural tropes about sexual exploration in college.  I feel like this storyline has crossed most people’s minds:  in your sleep-deprived, overly-intoxicated freshman haze, you somehow find yourself in bed with an equally drunk senior Women’s studies major who opens you up to the incredible, life-altering world of lesbian sex, so that, the next morning, you declare to all of your friends that you are firmly and absolutely a lesbian.  You follow this Women’s studies major for half the year, when she finally confronts you about stalking her and sends you packing.  In despair, you sleep with every available woman on campus, until you finally realize, upon graduation, that you never really liked women that much to begin with, settle down with the hunky star of the swim team (with his incredibly built shoulders and pecs) and start cranking out babies like a normal heterosexual.

((Ok, maybe I’m the only who thinks about that…))  

Either way, this trope makes about as much sense as Charlie Sheen, and yet the idea of college promoting sexual experimentation persists.  (I don’t like it to begin with, because it involves alcohol, which makes consent impossible, and this is not a point I can stress enough!)

Moreover, I’m not one to use personal experience for or against this argument- I’ve never been to a frat party, never “hooked up” with anyone in college, and all the girls I know on the women’s rugby team are straight.  However, this article from the New York Times breaks down the sexual experimentation myth into both statistical reality and conjectures about the origin of the sexual experimentation myth.

“The popular stereotype of college campuses as a hive of same-sex experimentation for young women may be all wrong...according to the new study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on 13,500 responses, almost 10 percent of women ages 22 to 44 with a bachelor’s degree said they had had a same-sex experience, compared with 15 percent of those with no high school diploma. “

The most interesting question raised by their initial finding is the difference between this data (collected between 2006-2008), and the data of 2002, which showed almost no correlation between education level and same-sex sexual activity.  The article doesn’t really address why this is, but I suspect it has to do with the growth and accessibility of lesbian-friendly dating sites and the greater prominence of display in lesbian sexual identity online (think about how easily you can check someone’s facebook to see who they’re “interested in”), which makes it easier for working-class (sometimes socially isolated) lesbians to find others.  But that is just a shot in the dark on my end.

Book: Adventures of a Lesbian College School GirlThe rest of the article is a little scatter-brained, dabbling in questions of sexual fluidity, white middle-class stereotypes, and the gender gap in homosexuality, but it’s essence boils down to this: far from being exclusively a phenomenon of the crazed experimentation of college students finally liberated from their parents’ watchful eye, lesbian sex happens in the real world, where working class people, ethnic minorities, professionals, day laborers, and everyone in between coexist.

And as for welcome week?  I guess there aren’t that many hot girls hooking up with each other after all.  You should probably go fix that.  But keep it safe, keep it sober, and keep it consensual.

Welcome back to college everyone.

One More Gay Kenya Post

The great thing about the summer after my abroad semester is the slow pace, which has allowed me some time to process my feelings about living in Kenya and to confront a lot of the difficult realizations I came to during my time there.  And many of those realizations are intertwined very tightly with my identity as a queer person.

Being queer abroad wasn’t as repressive as I was expecting (because frankly, my standards were pretty low), but it was hard.  I didn’t have the freedom for self-expression that I was used to, and I had to continuously deny the most positive relationship in my life- that of my loving girlfriend of almost two years.  I felt stifled and cut off from my activism and my identity.

I think the pressure I felt most acutely, however, was the pressure to make the homophobia I felt around me into “not a big deal.”  Because I was in Kenya and because all of the students of the trip were dealing with difficult issues of color, race, wealth, and especially gender, my concerns became relatively less important. It’s fairly obvious that I still have trouble talking about my time in Kenya, though, and about the things I did think and feel.  I tend to skirt around details, get caught in self-referential circles to nowhere, only alluding to the things that have really hurt me.      But I think it’s because I can never entitle myself to the pain, when we all went through so much there.  My whole group faced a lot of hard decisions, a lot of frustration, a lot of doubt in our work and the future of our host country, and the goodness of its people.   I could never hone the hurt down to just homophobia, to just being closeted, because it was so many things more than that.  And it was more than that for everyone else- so I haven’t accepted that my load was just a little heavier than some of my classmates.  Even writing the fact seems wrong. I still won’t believe it as true.

Why?  Homophobia in Kenya is not blatant: it is not Prime Ministers getting up on podiums to denounce the homosexual menace.  It is not men screaming and spitting on effeminate boys walking through the Central Business District.  It is not even, generally, underhanded allusions to prostitution or moral decay.  Homophobia in Kenya is rarely offered outright- it has to be drawn from people with the right questions.  Thus, if you DO ask those questions, and you DO get offended, well, who is to blame but you, right?

And that’s the most poisonous part.  That the men and women you genuinely try to befriend- the coworkers and classmates and even the guards and maids who inhabit your daily routine- are all seeping with that ignorance and hate underneath.  There’s such a beautiful gloss over homophobia in Kenya, and yet, knowing that it’s just a gloss makes it all the more painful.

Part of me wishes that someone could have told me.  Part of me believes it would have made me better prepared.  And yet, mostly, I realize that it wouldn’t have made a lot of difference.  Indiana University, long known as one of the most friendly LGBT campuses in the US, created a whole website for LGBT students studying abroad (as well as for international educators and staff welcoming international students to the US), and there are a few useful documents- notably their checklists of What Can An International Student Orientation Program Do? and What Can a Study Abroad Office Do? which help college staff in charge of study abroad and international students to better incorporate LGBT concerns into their programming- but for the most part, the   advice on the site rings hollow.  It has little to do with my actual experiences in Kenya.  It offers little insight, and no therapy.

Because how can any website give me permission to feel betrayed by homophobia, when the people who hold it in their hearts suffer so many injustices that I can’t even fathom?  How can any essay tell me it’s ok to say I had it harder than my friend who was harassed almost daily walking through Nairobi, who was denied exit from public transportation one day and driven into some remote part of the city against her will?  How can I grieve when my weakness feels oppressive to those who have suffered and continue to suffer more than me?

I honestly don’t know, and I fear that if I cannot accept these contradictions in my experience, I won’t be able to move on with my life.  But there’s no one that can help me with it.  It has to come from inside.

As for those of you who are looking to study abroad, especially in Middle Eastern or African programs, let this be a warning for what you’ll have to face, but not one meant to dissuade.  Being in Kenya was the most meaningful experience of my life to date, and despite all the pain, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  The best thing I can suggest is that you look through IU’s list of weblinks to regional organizations that deal with LGBT issues abroad.  There is some comfort in knowing that there are groups fighting stigma and homophobia/transphobia everywhere, however small and often isolated their influence is.  Because when it comes down to it- when you’re finally there, confronting a whole new world- there’s nothing left to be done but to go on living.

A friend and blog follower asked me the other day if I could write about the unique and slightly controversial identity of demisexuality.  I hesitated, however, because upon zer suggestion, I had NO IDEA what demisexuality was.

After some internet research, I found that demisexuality is a rather newly-coined (relatively) identity that falls within the asexuality spectrum, also known as the “Gray-A.”  It’s difficult to talk about, much in the same way that the identity “queer” is difficult to talk about, because it has multiple meanings for different people.

The best summation I’ve found of what constitutes a demisexual is from the A-positive forums:

  1. Someone who, in Rabger’s model, only experiences secondary sexual attraction, not primary sexual attraction (ie attraction which is not based on instantly available information)
  2. Someone who only experiences sexual attraction to people who are emotionally close.
  3. Someone who only experiences sexual attraction following romantic attraction.
  4. Someone who only experiences sexual attraction only to one particular person.

One of the tricky things about definition number one, though, is this:  if you try to look up Rabger’s model on the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) or anywhere else online, you won’t find it.  The post most people reference it by was deleted by Rabger zimself, due to incorrect content.

My understanding of the model is that primary sexual attraction is referential to visible characteristics i.e. nice pecs, beautiful eyes, or a great smile, which allow sexual people to determine attraction to others without necessarily knowing them.  Conversely, secondary sexual attraction refers to attraction based on personality, charm, shared interests, friendship, etc. – aspects that must be learnt by spending time and knowing a person more intimately.  I cannot, however, say if this is entirely accurate, since the model is no longer available online.

Regardless of whether or not the definitions are accurately sources, demisexuality presents an interesting conundrum, and one that the LGB(T? I have no idea where the trans people are in this conversation)people are having a hard time coming to terms with.

There’s actually a LOT of very negative writing out there on the interwebs about the asexual community, and demisexuality has only increased the ire with which LGB people write because it infringes on the “sexualness” of their community.  While enough people spew hatred and stupidity at asexuals for NOT liking sex, even more hate gets spewed at demisexuals, because they are perceived to be straddling that line between sexual and not-sexual, which, much like with biphobia of the 90’s, is a hard pill for hardliners in the community to accept.

Which is terrible.  Specifically, it’s terrible because detractors of demisexuality approach their critiques from precisely the wrong direction: that is, the sexual direction.

Critics of demisexuality love to talk about the identity as if it was actually normative- that “regular” people often wait to become intimate with partners until they feel emotionally connected to them and need that romantic framework in order to make sex good and worthwhile.  But, as I said, this is approaching demisexuality from the “sexual” direction.  It presumes that sex is a natural product of a relationship, and that the instinctive urge for sex is always there, but needs to be coaxed into a comfortable operating space by romantic closeness.

However, for people identifying within the Gray-A/demisexual community, sex is not a foregone conclusion.  In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.  Sex will not happen, nor is there innate desire for it to happen.  Sexual desire is rather an anomaly borne of a particularly strong or special emotional connection, and not the other way around.

Querishquery explains:

“… in my case, [demisexuality] means that I have no interest in having sex with people I am not in love with. This is different from celibacy or “waiting for marriage” because it’s not that I want sex and I’m choosing not to do it; it’s more that sexual attraction for me is secondary to love. First I need to love you, then I will want to make love as an expression of that. The idea of showing my junk to someone I don’t have a bond with is frankly a bit weird. I don’t really identify as ace (asexual) because once I am in love, I have a lot of desire for sex with that person”

So let’s review.  Demisexuality = Relationship –> Love –> Sex Drive –> Sex

It is NOT               Sex drive –> Relationship –> Love –> Sex

Secondarily, critics of demisexuality like to talk about sex without talking about attraction, which is a huge pitfall when it comes to asexual/Gray-A/demisexual people in general.  For instance, a sexual person may feel attraction for a hunky celebrity or a stranger walking down the street without bringing any of their fantasies to fruition and actually bedding them, or even knowing them.  HOWEVER, when we talk about Gray-A people, attraction cannot precede some kind of relationship between the Gray-A person and the object of their affection.

Again:  Knowing –> Loving –> Desire for Sex

But besides all this negativity about demisexuality critics, I really like this identity because it actually affirms the way that I talk about my own sexuality, by distinctively separating, but still acknowledging both romantic attraction and sexual attraction.  As I’ve said before, I am sexually and romantically attracted to women, but ONLY romantically attracted to men.  While this certainly doesn’t qualify me as demisexual, it does beautifully deconstruct the difference between romance and sex, without excluding either one.  Yeah demisexuals!

PS: My first toy from Babeland is coming next week!  Be on the lookout for a review, and if you haven’t already, check out their site here.

Transgender Kenya

My time in Kenya has forced me to confront a lot of things, and ironically, many of them had nothing to do with Kenya itself, nothing to do with Africa even- but with issues closer to home.  Today’s story has to do with one such incident, where I had to reconcile the misunderstandings and hurt on both sides of an acronym that I very strongly associate myself with: LGBT.

In the US, there’s been a rich history of transphobia within the LGBT community- the 1960’s women’s movement saw the exclusion of transwomen as “not woman enough” for their women-identified spaces, the 1980’s AIDS movement unearthed the ignorance that most LGB people didn’t know they had about trans health issues, and the 1990’s and 2000’s struggle for LGBT rights most often allowed the “silent T” to drop away into the background as the HRC focused on bigger ticket items like gay marriage, the Employee Non-discrimination Act (which now has a clause about transgender employees, although it didn’t for quite a while), and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

I haven’t been terribly active in trans-activism back in the states, but I never associated myself with the transphobia of the LGB community either.  I felt, having been around the Queers and Allies group and the LGBT resource center where the “silent T” has been recognized and embraced much more than in other spaces,  that the worst of transphobia was over.  I recognized, of course, the struggles that trans people faced in the medical community, in relationships with their families and the general ignorance of much of the population, but at least within the LGBT community, I believed there was a unity that had grown to re-encompass trans and intersex individuals.

Then I came to Kenya.  And I met a representative from Transgender Education and Advocacy (TEA), a non-profit in Nairobi that I wanted to get involved with during my study abroad.  Now I won’t turn this into a sob story, but I felt safe enough in our shared marginality to tell the TEA rep that I was a lesbian (a crude rendering of my sexuality, but it would do for the time), assuming that it would bring me some legitimacy in wanting to work with the group.

Instead, I was treated to an hour-long monologue about LGB discrimination of the transgender community.  The tropes were all there: that all gay people think trans people are closeted gays trying to escape their sexuality by transitioning, or that they’re just confused.  But most crucially, ze emphasized the necessity of allying with “straight” people (cis or trans), over any LGB-identified people.

I was crushed, not only because of the hurtful way ze portrayed all LGB people as ignorant and prejudice, but for my own “blindness.”  I blamed myself for my classmates, my friends, my teachers- anyone who I had ever explained anything to about trans issues, I took their “ignorance” on my shoulders.  I hated the fact that no one understood, that people hated, and I accepted the stigma that the TEA rep attached to me.

Yet I tried to prove zir wrong.  I sent zir my trans-related blog posts and the videos I’d been using to illustrate the way false dichotomies apply to misunderstanding sexuality AND gender.  But I was met with silence.

After about a month of waiting, I realized something: it wasn’t me.  I can’t be held responsible for anyone’s actions but my own, and I had clearly illustrated in every action I had taken to this point- the initial contact, going out of my way to verify my identity, to meet with TEA, the email correspondence- that I wasn’t a representative of the prejudiced aggregate that TEA had in mind.  I was just Bianca, and I had done nothing wrong.  At this point, I will admit, yes, I got a little tactless.  I sent a rather nasty email to TEA about how frustrated I was with the organization, and with the rep in particular, for making me feel like a bad person about the community I belong to, and for abusing the trust I put in zir when I came out (to date, I’ve only come out to two other Kenyans).

“… If this is how you treat the most accommodating of allies, you will never be able to expand and make your cause visible.  I approached TEA because I believed that you understood the commonalities between trans* and LGB people- not that our desires are the same, or even our legal rights, but that we both know what it’s like to be villanized by society, thought of as confused at best and sinful at worst.  We both know what it’s like to be afraid to ‘come out’ to our friends and family, to worry who knows and how that will affect our careers and our personal lives.

It is therefore INSULTING that A—-  would treat me with so little respect, and then on top of that, to ignore my emails.  Anger and isolation fixes none of your problems.  It alienates those friendly to your cause and leaves you alone and impotent.  You can write as many fiery articles and submit them to all the newspapers you want- but if you can’t appreciate and network with the allies you have, you will get nowhere.”

And I got an equally nasty email in response:

I sincerely hope you have learn’t (sic) something about how best to work with trans people. Don’t impose your ideas on them, listen to them and do what is necessary. I assume you would never want to be seen as a bad one. I mean I am not that popular with gays and lesbians because of my work in challenging their oppression against trans people – and I don’t need them to like me. You mentioned that we have been bad in getting allies; I do
spend sleepless nights wondering about that, and do know what happens after that? I fall asleep. There are allies and there fake allies. I would rather we get 2 allies than 100 fake people whose only preoccupation is undermining our autonomy and pitying us against heterosexuals.

And its not just a problem with you or those people am alluding to. I see it in most donors. They just don’t understand who transgender people are. They all assume LGBTI people are homosexuals and project on homosexuality are what they need. And some people there get neglected and marginalized. And you [are] here insulting them.

You don’t know how bad it is. The very people who talk about human rights can insult (not once) trans people knowingly. That a homosexual man can call a trans woman a sick homo male. That a pack of lesbians will be busy calling a trans woman a man stabbing her back and posing security threats against her. But, you think that’s okay and nothing needs to be done because trans people need “allies”.

Its okay since am used to that kind of hostility.

From all of this, I figured out a few things:

  1. I need to do my homework about the trans/intersex situation in the US- I want to be part of the conversation there, but I don’t have the contacts or the experience to do that yet.  Being queer doesn’t automatically make me an expert on trans issues
  2. But being queer also doesn’t make me the enemy.  TEA was going to hate me whether or not my blogs were good, whether or not I had experience working with trans populations.  Zir prejudice is the same blatant over-generalization that ze zirself suffers from on a daily basis.  Turning it around on me doesn’t make me a bad person, it just makes zir a hypocrite.
  3. We aren’t all the way there in regards to trans issues, but we are making progress.  And I honestly believe that a strong partnership between LGB and trans/intersex people is and will continue to help.
  4. Moreover, ANYONE who has a good heart- cis or trans, gay or straight, educated or honest but ignorant- and truly wants to help is a real ally, and someone worth partnering with.  Even if it means taking a few steps back from your own position and figuring out how to make that partner better, more informed, less prejudiced, more effective, it’s worth it.  Let people help you.  Real allies are the ones who love unconditionally, even if they express that love in crude ways.  If you are one of those people who feels like they need a little more information to understand and support the Trans and Intersex community, start by going over Midnight Philosophy and Gender Identity from way back at the beginning of this blog, then look here for more resources.

Anywa, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything at all on here, so here’s a quick review of some trans-related things that have happened since I up, up, up and flew away to Kenya

  1. Transgender Women Featured on a Popular Nepali Magazine

    Nepal is counting its transpeople!

More than just including transgender individuals in the census statistics, Nepal has made  incredible strides in all areas of inclusiveness in an amazing 180 degree turn-around for a country that only 3 years ago still jailed people for engaging in “unnatural sex acts.”  A court case in 2007 began this momentum towards LGBT-friendly policy by proclaiming that:

“The government of Nepal should formulate new laws and amend existing laws in order to safeguard the rights of these people. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex are natural persons irrespective of their masculine and feminine gender and they have the right to exercise their rights and life an independent life in society.”

Now, equal rights are guaranteed under the constitution, same-sex marriage is legal, and Pink Mountain, a Nepalanese travel agency started by the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights organization, is planning to hold gay wedding ceremonies on Mount Everest.

Although these new measures are definitely still met with controversy (Nepal is a heavily Hindu country, and homosexuality and transgenderism are not viewed incredibly favorably), the push for more recognition of the LGBT community is a huge step in the right direction.  Read the rest of the article to see how it relates to the tourism industry, which is fascinating.  But take it all with a grain of salt: of the 200,000 people in Nepal who identify as transgender, only 5 of them (yes, FIVE) have citizenship papers, which allow them to receive medical treatment for transitioning, as well as normal basic services like access to education and jobs.

2. A new report was released by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force detailing the struggles of trans youth in school and home life, including bullying, hate crimes, youth suicide, and homelessness.

It’s truly terrible that this has become old news for me- that I’m no longer shocked to hear that being transgender increases the likelihood that a teen will commit suicide by 2500% (in other words, trans kids attempt suicide at a rate 25 times higher than cis-gendered teens) or that 78% of trans or genderqueer students face harassment, physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%) at school- to the point where  one-sixth (15%) opted to leave school.

The report is entitled “Injustice at Every Turn,” which is an apt title, and an indicator of just how ridiculously far we still have to come as a nation.  Yet despite the bad news, there are some bright spots to the report:

Although the survey identified major structural barriers to obtaining health care, 76% of transgender respondents have been able to receive hormone therapy, indicating a determination to endure the abuse or search out sensitive medical providers.

Over three-fourths (78%) reported feeling more comfortable at work and their performance improving after transitioning, despite reporting nearly the same rates of harassment at work as the overall sample.

Of the 26% who reported losing a job due to bias, 58% reported being currently employed and of the 19% who reported facing housing discrimination in the form of a denial of a home/apartment, 94% reported being currently housed.”

But let’s try to end on a positive note.  I’ve learned a lot through my interactions with TEA and my individual research on trans/intersex/genderqueer issues, and though I’m no expert, this I do know: it is never too late to educate yourself.  It’s never too late to add your voice to the chorus of those fighting for trans and intersex rights.  And no matter what A——- and TEA say, there is room for you in the fight, be you gay, straight, trans, cis, Democrat, Republican, or something in between.  If you are willing to speak your mind and stand up for what is right, then you’re an ally.  And to those people who suffer these terrible injustices, let us say- We’re with you.

The Only Sex Blog in Kenya

One of things study abroad does quite bluntly is to put your life into perspective: living in another country, playing by other people’s rules, figuring out a system for dealing with a whole new way of life. And studying abroad in Kenya is no picnic.

I’m very happy for my experiences here and the assumptions about poverty, development, and Africa in general that I’m being forced to confront. But there are aspects of my life at home which are very difficult to reconcile with the life I’m living here- and most of them converge around this blog.

A huge part of my identity stems from my sexuality, my sexual expression, and the way I express my academic and personal interest in a sex-positive life. That encompasses a lot. Everything from my relationship, to my blogging, to the way I talk and relate to others. In the US, it’s not unusual for me to interject into a conversation about how mine or another person’s viewpoint reflects gender or sexual privilege. I wave the flag of my queer sexuality proudly as an explanation of how I view the world and the way people interact with one another. I bring up gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues and relate them to my own experiences, hash out political developments and the significance behind court rulings and newspaper articles. And finally, I bring my observations here, for feedback and debate with you.

In Kenya, this part of my life doesn’t exist. I am not queer, I’m not a sex blogger, I’m not…anything. I have been told time and again by my program director, a Nairobi resident of 9 years, that Kenya does not have the climate for a gay rights movement, that this is not my battle to fight, and that it’s best not to make waves. This is hard advice to swallow. Why? Not simply because I love being queer and talking about it, but because this is the silencing I’ve heard so many times before- all through the history of the LGBT movement and into today.

Why should gay marriage be an issue? We need to fix the economy first, win the war first, end poverty and homelessness first. One injustice is not an excuse to ignore another (in fact, this is a true logical fallacy, which I’m going to refer to as the “more pressing issue” fallacy, because I don’t have my high school Honors Argument notes with me in Kenya).
This is a problem for me, as person who is at the crossroads of deciding where her life will go and where her true passions lie. In Kenya, my identity as a queer blog writer is not valued. I dare say it isn’t valued anywhere in Africa. In the US, I have opportunities to express my identity, affirm my loving relationship, and do what I feel I’m actually good at: talk about sex! But is that reason enough to give up on the academic and social endeavors of development work which I have devoted myself to for the last 3 years?

I don’t honestly know. I haven’t made up my mind, and perhaps it’s not my decision to make. But this I do know- if I do work in development work, there are elements of my identity that I know must be part of the conversation:

• Sexual citizenship
If you aren’t familiar with sexual citizenship, there’s a brilliant article here from the now sadly defunct site, Carnal Nation. Sexual citizenship is crucial to the way I conduct my life- it is about acknowledging myself and others as sexual people and refusing to judge others by their sexual decisions, however unusual. It is also about helping to disseminate information, much in the way I do through this blog: in conversation, through workshops, and writing. Even if it is not in person, I want to continue to be a part of the discussion of sexual rights and sexual affirmation.

• My queer identity
I need to have a community around me with whom I can disclose my queerness- it may be a group of three or four fellow aid workers, it may be other LGBT activists in the area I work, or it may be with fellow “othered” populations in the world- people like BDSM enthusiasts, feminists, sex workers, and polyamorous couples who have been excluded from the world of sexual privilege and can welcome another stranger.

• This blog
I make a dedication here and now that as long as I have fingers to type with and something to say about sexuality (and I trust it will be a long time before the world runs out of things for me to comment on), I will continue to write this blog. It is the culmination of my identity as a sex-positive person, and I feel its importance reverberate in my bones. It has grounded me during my time here in Kenya, given me something to retain perspective through, and to help me remember what I value. I don’t want it to fade away.

And for those of you starved for reading material, this paper by my Sex, Gender, and Culture professor Harjant Gill, which talks about the queer diaspora community and his interpretation of their struggles through film, is a great read. Yes, it looks like something you’d get for class, which makes sense, because he’s a PhD student. But it’s also an incredibly well-written insight into the part of the queer community I can’t even touch with my experience; queer diaspora members suffer alienation from their home communities and often the juggling of two separate identities which are very difficult to reconcile with one another. While I can’t speak to those struggles, I feel their relevance to my own life as I navigate my own small version of diaspora here in Kenya. I understand the reverse of these feelings, trying to find my place in a new culture while maintaining both my queerness and my identity as an American. If you have time, I highly recommend you read his article, if not for the parallels to your life, then for an appreciation of what many queer individuals go through trying to find their own space in our community.

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