Day of Silence 2018

TW: Brief mention of suicide and mental health

GLSEN’s Day of Silence “is a student-led national event where folks take a vow of silence to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people at school.” The Day of Silence was created by a group of students at the University of Virginia in 1996.

“Nearly 4 in 5 LGBTQ students don’t see positive LGBTQ representation in their curriculum, nearly 9 in 10 experience verbal harassment, and almost a third miss school for feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. The Day of Silence is a national movement to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ students in school, which demands that school leaders take action to be more inclusive.”

I have never had a teacher speak about LGBTQ+ rights, or even acknowledge that someone they were talking about was a part of the LGBTQIA+ community in my entire life. I never learned about the Stonewall Riots in school, or the AIDs epidemic. I never read a history book that acknowledged our presence. Queer history is so important, and yet it is completely silenced in our education system. This is just one of many issues that leads to silencing and erasure in schools.

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“Safe Schools For All”

In my high school we had a GSA, but I never got up the nerve to go. Just a few weeks after I had come out to my family, an “advertisement” was played on the school announcements  for the GSA. Afterward, the boy who sat next to me laughed and said, “It’s so sad that we actually have one of those.” I felt gutted. Other kids laughed and they continued to make homophobic remarks. Was this a direct attack on me? No, they had no idea I was gay. Did it make me feel ashamed, outraged, and embarrassed? Absolutely.

I wish I could say that I stood up for myself and my community, but I did not. I was kind of scared and hurt, especially since it was all so new to me. Their laughter and bigotry made me feel as if I couldn’t speak up. However, I have had it so much easier than many LGBTQIA+ students; I’ve never been bullied or directly discriminated against. Hearing people say awful things, whether they realize it’s about you or not, is still hurtful.

Far too many LGBTQIA+ students suffer from mental health problems as a result of the bullying and general intolerance at their schools. We lose so many amazing kids to suicide, because of the abuse they face. Marriage equality didn’t end homophobia or transphobia, and it certainly didn’t make the United States treat LGBTQIA+ citizens as complete equals. We still have a long way to go, and we need protection of LGBTQIA+ students.

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Femme Struggles

Being a femme lesbian has it’s perks… and it’s down falls.

  1. People often tell you that you “don’t look gay”
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Me when people say “but you don’t look gay”

AKA people don’t realize you’re gay, bi, pan, queer, etc! This makes it especially hard when you’re trying to connect with other LGBTQIA+ people. When you are femme, most people will assume you’re straight, and sometimes try to invalidate your identity because of the way you look. Plus, what does “looking gay” even mean?

2. Other queer women don’t realize you’re queer too

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If you’re more introverted like me then this is a problem. I’m probably not going to make the first move, but if the other girl doesn’t realize I’m gay then she won’t either. Since society generally accepts straight women being super friendly to one another, and sees things like frequent compliments as normal (as oppose to friendships between two men), it can be hard for queer women to realize when another girl is flirting with them versus just being nice.

3. Every time you “come out” people are shocked

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This may not be the case for every femme lesbian, but it certainly is for me. I always get the, “No way! Reeeaally???” response from everyone I tell. When you don’t fit the stereotype, it doesn’t even cross peoples minds that you would be anything other than straight.

4. You have to come out all the time

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Because people never assume you’re queer, you have to tell them for them to know. Yes, generally assuming other peoples sexualities isn’t good, but it would be nice if just one time someone actually figured out I was gay without me having to explicitly say the words “I’m Gay.”

 

These are all things I’ve noticed from my experience, but other queer women may have different experiences.  If you are a femme LGBTQIA+ woman, do any of these things happen to you? What’s the most annoying thing you deal with because you’re femme?

Trans Day of Visibility 2018

Today, March 31st, is Trans Day of Visibility!

This years theme, hosted by Trans Student Educational Resources or TSER, is “surviving, thriving.” Aiming to acknowledge all of the wonderful accomplishments made by trans people in the past twelve months.

We are not only surviving the Trump regime but we are making strides to transform how people think about gender around the world. In the increasingly transphobic global political climate, we must use our newfound visibility to mobilize trans people against oppression. Speaking out, taking direct action, and educating others is critical to our safety and wellbeing. This recognizes that while visibility is important, we must take action against transphobia. (TSER)

Since I am not trans, I want to highlight some amazing trans people whose content I follow!

Youtubers:

Ash Hardell: Ash is a non-binary, pansexual youtuber who creates educational LGBTQIA+ content. They also wrote a book called the ABC’s of LGBT, and are a fierce ally for the whole LGBTQIA+ community.

Jackson Bird: Jackson is a bisexual, trans man, who creates youtube videos covering a wide variety of topics, including books and being LGBTQIA+. He also has a very successful series called “Will it Waffle?” where he puts different foods on a waffle iron to see what happens, and his reactions are always priceless.

Stef Sanjati: Stef is a trans woman who makes videos about style and beauty, as well as documenting her journey transitioning. She has also recently become vocal about her eating disorder, and is an advocate for those with mental illnesses.

Podcasts:

You’re so Brave: You’re so Brave is hosted by Chase Ross and Aaron Ansuini, both of which are tans men. Their podcast talks about tans issues and the trans experience in general. Chase also identifies as pansexual and Aaron identifies as asexual.

How to Not: How to Not is a podcast where Kaitlyn Alexander and Rob Moden read Wikihow articles and discuss the nonsense that comes along with them. Kaitlyn identifies as non-binary and queer. This is one of my favorite podcasts, because it always makes me laugh and puts me in a good mood. Kaitlyn also makes youtube videos, including a web-series that they wrote and starred in, and they starred in the web-series Carmilla.

WordPress Bloggers:

Color it Queer: I had the honor of having Jess from Color it queer guest post on my blog a couple of weeks ago. She is both queer and disabled like myself, and blogs about a plethora of things including being LGBTQIA+, disability, and activism.

Almost, Almost: I really love the blog Almost, Almost! They are non-binary and post about LGBTQIA+ representation in books. They are the reason I read Dress Codes for Small Towns, which is now one of my favorite books, and they always inspire me to read more Queer YA fiction.

I hope you all check out some of these amazing trans people! Leave some of your favorite trans content creators below, so we can all support even more talented trans folks!

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The Intersection of Queerness and Disability: Guest Post- Color it Queer

I’m excited to share a guest post with y’all from the wonderful Color it Queer! She is a blogger who, like myself, is both queer and disabled. The intersection of our identities is not spoken about enough, and is very underrepresented. Sharing stories, like Jess’, is so important in order to bring awareness about our experiences. Jess has a great blog where she talks about being queer and disabled, and she also works with marginalized queer youth, which is super cool. Be sure to check out her blog, and post below!

I’m Jess, and my gender pronouns are she, her, hers. I’m queer and nonbinary and not afraid to be super open about it. You can probably tell from all the stereotypes I fall into, but my disability is invisible. However, you can kind of see it from the scar I have on my head.

I have epilepsy, making me a minority within a minority, a queer person with a disability.

Here’s my story:

It all started in third grade the day after Christmas when my grandma came in to check on me since it was late in the morning. I wasn’t sleeping in though, I had been having a seizure. My seizures were bad when I was young, where I’d have to go to the hospital to get them to stop. We eventually had my seizures under control with medication, but around the time I hit puberty, they started getting bad. By high school and into college I was averaging at about a seizure a month. These seizures were not “as bad,” where I’d literally be able to just go to class after. I had become “the sick child” where I’d constantly be getting more attention than my sister because my mom, who is a single parent, was always worried about me. For example, I couldn’t take a shower with her being home.

I graduated high school in 2013 and that summer, I started looking into brain surgery. It was always an option but something I think I saw as really risky and not worth it. My seizures were hard to deal with, but I was a “trooper.” I never wanted to miss a day of school or go home from a headache. I had been trying other things like tons of medication changes over the years, going gluten free, and even a diet that’s similar to the South Beach Diet. But eventually, I decided to look into surgery with my mom. After a bunch of tests to see if I’m a candidate (aka will I lose senses in my left-hand that I write with since my seizures are on my right side and the ride side controls the left?)

Months later, when I started college, I found out I was a good candidate and planned to have it the following summer so I could recover. Fast forward to the following May 29th of 2014 when I go into surgery that is two parts. The first part was the surgeon cutting open my skull to attach wires to provoke seizures and clarify exactly where the seizures were coming from. Luckily, they were only coming from one place and the second part was the surgeon taking that piece out. As for recovery, by the end of August, I was at an Ingrid Michaelson concert in Central Park and didn’t spend much time recovering, that I can remember.

Since I’ve had my surgery, I’ve only had one seizure, unfortunately, on a bus. That was 2016 I think. I have a horrible memory.

But you said you’re queer, right?

Yes! I didn’t come out until after my surgery. I had been questioning my sexuality, but didn’t come out and seek more professional resources (other than people saying you’ll figure it out, no worries) until my sophomore year of college. Well, actually, I came out to my mom as questioning and then that Spring semester started seeking support from my school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Center. Then I came out as lesbian.

The following year of college, I moved onto campus into Stonewall Suites, my school’s LGBTQ/Gender Inclusive living community. This was awesome because even though my school was literally a 7 minute drive from my house, and my sister went there, I was there super often and didn’t drive, so it made sense that I lived there. I was finding so much community among other queer folks and got my first kiss ever that year. IT was very exciting time that included lots of new experiences at in my junior year, including starting my blog. Then my senior year, I really found my passion for activism when I became a peer educator at the LGBTQ Center. This connects back to the disability piece because along with outreach work, I facilitated a group called QBility, looking at the intersection of being queer and having a disability.

What now?

Glad you asked! Now, I’m still on medication and still deal with side affects that are a huge bummer, but I’m overall in pretty good health. And I also live across the country in Portland, OR. I moved here after graduating with a degree in Journalism with a minor in LGBTQ Studies for an AmeriCorps VISTA program with Veterans Services. I don’t recommend it (that’s another story–email me). I might be bias because my project closed after 4 months. Luckily, I have a rad job working at a youth home of LGBTQ Youth who are on probation/parole. I love it here in Portland, and the disability piece comes into play again with my lover. Portland has given me lots of firsts as a queer person, and it’s also where I came out as nonbinary. My lover and I have a rad connection around being sick. She taught me that some folks look at being sick as an “inconvenience” when she was diagnosed with mono and celiacs disease and worried that it’d change how I felt about her. But that’s far from the truth. It’s quite the opposite, as we bond over conversations of not feeling bad for being sick or just wanting to cuddle because I know where she’s coming from, and can still relate.

If you want to learn more about me or about the queer community you can check out my blog Color it Queer, here.

No I Don’t Care That You Know Other Queer People

“By the way my coworker’s best friend’s sister is gay.”

“… oh, um that’s cool.”

This is a conversation that takes place constantly. If someone knows I’m gay, they always love to tell me when they meet other queer people; as if we’re unicorns. Don’t get me wrong, there are nothing but good intentions behind it, it’s just a little weird. Would you tell me if you met another woman, or some else who had blue eyes? Probably not.

This is different from the typical, “oh you’re gay, do you know my friend Sam, he’s gay too?” situation. People don’t think you know them, they just want to let you know they know other queer people. My older sister is the main culprit of this in my life. She lives in a major city, so of course she knows/is friends with/ runs into a lot of queer people, and she lets me know. Every. Single. Time. Maybe I’m a huge jerk for not caring, but honestly it’s just not that interesting to me. I consume a lot of queer media, so I constantly see other LGBTQIA+ people. Plus, I’m in college, so I see a decent amount of visibly queer people in my day to day life.

Being able to see visibly queer people is so so important, and I do get excited when I see other people people just living their normal lives. I feel a sense of familiarity and kinship with other people in the LGBTQIA+ community. Someone telling me about how their barista is gay though, isn’t really something I care to know. What is the correct response to “Oh! I was meaning to tell you my waiter the other day is gay.” ? Do you want me to jump up and down and beg you for more details? I usually go with, “that’s cool” or “oh wow” which both come out sounding incredibly unenthusiastic, no matter how much I try and pretend to care.

I never confront anyone about this, because I know they are just trying to be nice. It in no way makes me mad, or even annoyed, I just find it incredibly odd and kinda funny. Does this happen to you? If so, how do you respond? I feel like this definitely isn’t just something I deal with!

 

Books I Read in 2017

Reading was always one of my favorite things to do as a child. My mom is an avid reader, and when I was little I always wanted to be able to read as much and as fast as she did. When I started getting migraines, I stopped reading for fun because it was no longer fun. I’ve been very fortunate to have a relatively small number of migraines this year, and I was able to get back to reading. In 2017, I read 17 books, which was a humorous coincidence. I know many people read 17 books in one month, but I feel like for someone getting back into reading after taking a few years off, it’s pretty good. Here’s what I read in 2017 in the order I read them:

  1. Scrappy Little Nobody By: Anna Kendrick
  2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings By: Maya Angelou
  3. The Difference Between You and Me By: Madeleine George
  4. A Tree Grows in Brooklynn By: Betty Smith
  5. Been Here All Along By: Sandy Hall
  6. More Happy Than Not By: Adam Silvera
  7. Lies My Girlfriend Told Me By: Julie Anne Peters
  8. The Summer I Wasn’t Me By: Jessica Verdi
  9. Vanished By: E.E. Cooper
  10. Pretend You Love Me By: Julie Anne Peters
  11. Our Own Private Universe By: Robin Talley
  12. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit By: Jaye Robbin Brown
  13. History is All You Left Me By: Adam Silvera
  14. Take This Man By: Brando Skyhorse
  15. Bad Feminist By: Roxane Gay
  16. They Both Die At The End By: Adam Silvera
  17. Dress Codes For Small Towns By: Courtney Stevens

 

I feel in love with queer YA fiction, and have made it my mission to read as many as I possibly can in 2018. The discovery of Adam Silvera, has also been amazing. Both History is All You Left Me and They Both Die at the End quickly became some of my favorite books of all time. The Difference Between You and Me, will always have a special place in my heart, as it is the first queer book I had ever read. My personal goal for this year was to read 12 books, one a month, but I never wanted it to feel like a chore. Luckily, it didn’t, and I was even able to surpass that goal. In 2018, my goal is to read AT LEAST 24 books, or two a month.

What was your favorite book you read this year / What is your favorite book in general?

I’d love to hear any recommendations!

Should Non-Queer People Play Queer Characters?

There’s nothing more disappointing to me than enjoying a queer character in a show, looking up the actor, and finding out they aren’t a part of the LGBTQIA+ community at all. It’s not like there’s a shortage of talented queer actors; Hollywood just doesn’t cast them. With over 10% of the population being LGBTQIA+ in some capacity, there’s definitely a plethora of talented queer actors, probably even some that identify the same way as their character does.

Representation is incredibly important for every minority group. While there’s been more LGBTQIA+ representation in the media in 2017 than ever before, we still have a lot of progress that needs to be made. It would be ridiculous and wrong for someone to play a black character if they weren’t black, so why do we treat sexuality and gender that way? Sure, some non-queer actors do a pretty damn good job playing queer characters, but they just don’t have the experience. They don’t know the struggle, and it really shows when they do interviews about their show/movie. As much as I think we really need to support queer media as a whole, I would rather support queer artists making LGBTQIA+ content.

As a young queer person, I often find myself finding other LGBTQIA+ identifying people, mainly queer women, to look up to. I really needed solid representation when I was figuring everything out, and straight women playing lesbians on TV just wasn’t what I wanted or needed. I also have a problem with the specific type of cis-straight-heteroromantic people that are casted. They are almost always white, able-bodied, and financially privileged. The real LGBTQIA+ community is diverse in every sense of the word. Hot white gays are not the majority, and their stories are not the most important ones to be told. Queer people of color, and disabled queer people’s stories and accomplishments are constantly being erased.

The history behind the character is important. People who are figuring out their gender and/or sexuality need to see queer people living “normal” lives. Straight-Cis-Heteroromantic actors just can’t possibly convey that, or be that representation off the show. Recently, Stephanie Beatriz’s Character Rosa, on the TV show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, came out as bisexual. The only thing that’s cooler than Hollywood actually letting someone say the word “bisexual” on TV, is that Stephanie is bisexual. She is a perfect example of good queer representation. I wish we saw this more often.

Do you think non-queer people should play queer characters? Who are some of your favorite LGBTQIA+ actors?