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Category Archives: Social Justice

Like so many others, I woke up to the news about the Orlando shooting today. It is heartbreaking, shocking, gut-wrenching, awful. And I am sure in the days to come, after the deadliest mass shooting in American history (and let’s face it, we’re a world leader in mass shootings), there will be so many calls to action. We will shout at each other about gun control, about terrorism, about homosexuality, about politicians. Somebody needs to do something, we will say. What will it take? How many people have to die before someone does something?

Problem is, we can’t agree on what someone should do. Take away all the guns? Give everyone a gun? Give guns to only the good guys and ask them to protect the ‘normal’ people from the bad guys? Send away all the people who don’t look like us? Kill the people who kill people, to show that killing people is wrong? Demand that our society do more to support mental health services? Address homelessness and abuse? Abolish religious extremism? Legislate morality?

Truth is, none of that will do any good. None of our grand plans for saving the world will mean a damn thing, because there’s one thing we refuse to see and refuse to change.

We have to stop de-humanizing the people we disagree with.

But of course we do. That’s obvious. Those people, those other people, they need to stop dehumanizing LGBT people and people of color, people of size, people with disabilities, people with mental illness, people who work in the sex industry, people who want to make choices about how and when and why they reproduce. Of course, it’s obvious. The problem is hatred. If we could only eliminate those other people with the hateful world view. Get rid of them. Change their minds.

Yes, society needs to stop de-humanizing all those groups, I agree. That’s not what I’m talking about.

Look. Everyone killed or injured in the Orlando shooting today… each one of them was a human person. Each one of them had a childhood. Each one of them has family. Each one of them loved and was loved by other people.

But the same is true of the man who shot them. That man is a real human person.

The Stanford rapist is a real human person.

The San Bernadino shooter is a real human person.

The Boston marathon bombers are real human people.

The killer in Charleston is a real human person.

This is not an excuse for the harm they’ve done. This does not forgive, nor cover, nor condone, the reprehensible actions these people have taken. It does not restore the lives they’ve taken or ruined or altered irrevocably. This does not pardon the hurt they’ve caused. This does not absolve them of responsibility. We condemn those actions, and they deserve condemnation. This does not change any of that.

But these people are people. And we must remember that.

We must remember that one killer with religious views does not make a religion of killers.

We must remember that if the rape of a 23-year-old woman is unconscionable, then so is gleefully wishing rape upon a 20-year-old man.

We must remember a sexist culture wounds and oppresses all who live within it – male, female, and everything in between.

We must remember that violence and vengeance are a never-ending cycle; those who live within it may never escape it.

We must remember that it is all too easy to point the finger at other groups of people. All too easy to blame them for our misfortunes and rationalize a hatred and fear that is, at its heart, irrational.

It’s not easy. In our shock and fear and pain, our immediate reaction is to lash out. Call for blood. Point the finger. Shift the blame. Convince ourselves more than even that we are right and those who oppose us are wrong. Convince ourselves that we know the answers. That it could have been prevented, had we only woken up, had we only taken action, if only they’d listened to us and done XYZ.

There is no law we can enact or repeal that will force us to see the humanity in everyone – those who disgust us, those who insult us, those who hurt us, those who are frightening and unknown to us. Those who wound us. Those who shock us. Those who oppress us.

When those people cease to be people to us – when instead they are a monster or a monolith – that is when we most risk losing our own humanity. That is when we begin to follow the same path our shooters, our rapists, our bombers walked down. That is when we heap upon others the fear and hurt and anger that someone else heaped upon us. That is when we perpetuate the hatred that so wounded us. In putting a murderer to death we are all murderers.

I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that until all the world learns to see all the world with compassion, these horrors will continue.


http://www.upworthy.com/video-how-did-these-parents-raise-with-their-son-they-loved-him-thats-all-3?c=ufb1

I watched this on my lunch break at work. Sitting there at my desk, with my headphones on,  it was all I could do to keep a neutral face and not break down into tears.

This is what I’m talking about when I talk about acceptance. This. This talk so perfectly deconstructs a concept I’ve been struggling with since I first came out to my parents. After all, my parents love me. They’ve been very clear on this point. But knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better about their views on homosexuality. It doesn’t make me feel like they accept me as I am, that they love the whole of me.

A lot of the time people who have those conditions are very angry, because they feel that they parents don’t love them, when what has actually happened is that their parents don’t accept them… Acceptance is something that takes time. It always takes time.

Sure, my parents love me. But that love seems like lip service to the idea of love, rather than a love of me for the person I am and the identity I express. They love me because I am their child; because it is impossible for them not to love me. But that is a love by default; that’s love at its factory settings.

My parents, I think, didn’t really know how to nurture a child’s identity. It’s possible they didn’t realize I’d have one. I get the impression my parents decided who I would be before I was even born: she’ll be a good Catholic girl, she’ll marry a nice boy, they’ll give us grandchildren, we’ll all live happily ever after. I don’t think they ever considered questions like “What if she wants to be an astronaut?” or “What if she’s just not the marrying kind?”

What if she’s a lesbian?

What if she’s an atheist?

What if she wants to be a movie star?

What if she never wants kids?

What if the person she is doesn’t match up with the picture we’ve painted in our head?

At its heart, that’s what Andrew Solomon’s beautiful talk is about. It’s about all the unexpected things that happen as parents raise their children that shape identities and destinies. It’s about how parents handle those pivotal moments; what traits do they nurture and encourage? Which traits do they try to cure?

My parents tried to cure me of my individualism and self-reliance. Growing up, the most important thing I could do to gain their approval was to Follow The Rules. This was throughout childhood, middle school, and past high school. I had to set an example for my younger sisters. I had to be a good girl, a good daughter. I was not trusted to make my own decisions. I was not trusted to choose my own path. It is difficult to put into words, this enormous pressure to fit in to my own family. This massive weight of expectation to follow the path laid before me. My parents are not the sort of parents who spotted an inherent talent in their child at an early age and did what they could to encourage it; my parents were the ones who placed their desires for my life above my own. Because they just loved me so much, you see; they knew best and they didn’t want me to get hurt.

It makes sense. Parents want to protect their children. But I think at times parents forget that in protecting their children too much, in restricting and limiting their children ‘for their own good,’ they are sending their children a message: You can’t be trusted to do this yourself. We don’t trust you. You shouldn’t trust you.

That’s part of the reason it took me so long to embrace my sexual identity. I’d identified as bisexual since I was 18. To put that into perspective, I became sexually active at 17 – and it wasn’t until then that I thought of myself as a sexual being. So almost immediately after discovering that sexuality existed – and that it existed within me – I already knew I was attracted to women. I’ve known all along.

It took me ten years to admit to it.

That’s ten years of fear and uncertainty. Ten years of trying to squeeze myself into a mold that didn’t fit. Ten years of convincing myself it wasn’t true. Ten years of not trusting my instincts, not listening to myself, not believing in my heart and its desires. Of trying to please my parents… which, to be honest, is what I’ve been after the whole time. I just want them to be proud of me. But in doing the things that made them most proud of me, I am most ashamed of myself. I’ve let myself be hurt and abused in terrible ways, by ignorant and unworthy men, because I thought that was the price you paid to gain love. I thought of love as sacrifice – the more it hurt, the more true and real it was. I’ve made mistakes, and now I’ve broken my best friend’s heart, because I was trying so hard to be what someone else wanted me to be. They didn’t trust me to decide who I was. So neither did I. I’d learned not to.

People engage with the life they have. They don’t want to be cured, or changed, or eliminated. They want to be who it is they’ve come to be.

That’s all I want. To be who it is I’ve come to be. Isn’t that all any of us want?

Solomon talks about three forms of acceptance that need to be in place for an individual to flourish: self acceptance, family acceptance, and social acceptance. I have come to accept myself – indeed, it was the most liberating moment of my life. Society is slowly coming to accept me and people like me – the president has stepped forward in support of gay rights, the Defense Of Marriage Act has been overturned, and slowly the hearts and minds of the nation are shifting toward a wider acceptance of people like me.

And maybe, someday, my family will accept me too. It always takes time.


Alrighty. We’ve had a day to digest the news about DOMA. By now, it seems, the breathless celebrating is mostly over – although I am willing to guess the Pride parade this weekend is going to be super extra glittery and rainbowy and celebratory.

As it happens, it was my husband who first told me. He’d spent the night rather than driving home tired (at my insistence), and had left to go to work earlier that morning. I was doing my best to sleep in when I got a text from him:

Wooo! Supreme court ruled against DOMA! Ruled same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional!

I think I just stared blankly at the screen for a minute. Then I started to cry. Which is a little weird, to be honest.

After all, I am already married. And, yes, planning to get divorced somewhere down the road. At this point I have my doubts about getting married again in the future. I’ve learned a lot about what a marriage is, how it works, what really makes it function. I’ve learned how far love can take you in a marriage… and I’ve learned the places love alone can’t carry you. If love was all it took to make a marriage work, I wouldn’t be separated from my husband. So I wasn’t crying because I could finally get married.

I’m sure there are many couples out there who have been waiting for this decision. Who have wanted legal recognition and protection of the relationship they already share. As a fledgling baby lez, a neurotic proto-queer, I don’t have that. There was not some woman for me to turn to and say, “Finally. Marry me.” If there is a wife in the cards for me, she is little more than a concept right now, a nebulous and far-off future. So I wasn’t crying because the love I felt for someone else was finally recognized by the government.

I have lived my entire life with a sense of otherness. Always on the edge, the fringe, different without really knowing why. Never really fitting neatly into any given category. Not terribly easy to define, or even to sum up. Set aside, set apart, something different, a mismatched piece of the puzzle.

But yesterday… yesterday I stepped into the bigger picture. Yesterday I was included. Along with millions of other Americans, I was recognized as fully equal and deserving of the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. It’s not really about getting married, not for me. It’s about the fact that the government has recognized that they have no right to dictate who I should want to marry. It’s about the fact that this decision is a step towards ending discrimination, a step toward erasing the attitude that anything other than straight is wrong and shameful and must be kept hidden. It’s a step toward recognizing and celebrating love in its many and myriad forms. It’s a step toward understanding, a step toward acceptance.

I cried because, yesterday, I was recognized by the United States government as a human being.


Talking about privilege is a tough thing, guys. It’s hard not to be angry at the folks who have it if you don’t, and it’s hard to understand those who don’t have it if you do. There’s a gap in lived experience that causes a gulf in communication, and it can be really difficult to even realize either the gap or the gulf even exists.

So when I see folks that are genuinely making an effort to understand an experience outside their own, I personally prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt. If there’s someone who is genuinely trying to be a good ally, I personally feel it’s important to recognize that and support it. I fully believe that it is not the responsibility of the oppressed to educate their oppressors… but can we make a distinction between oppressors, and those who are simply part of the oppressive class?

For instance, there’s this article on why the queer community doesn’t need Macklemore’s validation. And, y’know, if this was the only socio-politically conscious song the group did, I might be inclined to agree. But to me, “Same Love” isn’t patronizing. It’s not a political statement, necessarily. It’s certainly not a gimmick. The songs that I’ve heard by Macklemore (and, to be fair, I’ve only heard a few) simply point to a piece of our culture and go, “What’s that? Why is it like that?”

In “Thrift Shop,” he points out that our own drive for status fuels this ridiculous consumer economy that inflates the prices of average goods beyond the point of reason – yo, that’s $50 for a T-shirt – and the culture of excess and waste it creates. In “White Privilege” he examines the fact that hip-hop culture has been appropriated by people who have never experienced the struggles that birthed the movement, and wrestles with the question of whether or not he can, in good conscience, participate in it. And in “Same Love” he points out that we are all human, and we all deserve  the same respect, dignity, and legal standing.

Queers, this song wasn’t written to us. About us, yes – for us, sure. But we’re not the intended audience here. Macklemore is talking to the folks out there who have never had to think about what it means to be called “faggot” in any real sense of the word. He’s talking to the people who don’t see queer people as real people. He’s talking to the people who live in comfortable ignorance, unaware of the implications of their intellectual laziness. He’s challenging them to think about the people they pass judgment on, the human element behind the political decisions. He is using his voice to amplify the message that others have put forth. Are we really doing so well on our own in the fight for equal rights that we don’t need celebrities and people in positions of power to stand beside us?

Maybe it’s all in how you read it. The author states,

“…Ben’s gay (mis)identification is constructed as the source of his own preconceived notions—his stereotypical views—about what constitutes gayness: an aptitude for art (“‘cause I could draw”), a genetic predisposition (“my uncle was”), and a precocious anality (“I kept my room straight”). Just as his mama corrects him and draws attention to the stereotypes animating the proclivities that might lead him astray to being gay, he is corralled back to fulfill his destiny of becoming a straight-but-not-narrow male ally for people like his gay uncle who are targets of the religious right’s scrutiny and hypocrisy”

Ok, sure. If you’re assuming that this Ben is just a character (Macklemore’s actual name is Ben Haggerty), then I could see where this looks like an oversimplification of the equal-rights struggle through the lens of heteronormativity. But if you instead take it as one man telling a story that is actually true, and did actually happen, then it takes on a different meaning.

My interpretation of the above verses is “When I was young, I thought I was gay because these things were true of me, and also of gay people. It took my mom to remind me that I was forgetting the crucial piece: who I was attracted to.” I don’t see it as “a white dude who phobically disavows his own fleeting homosexual identification as just another instance of “buying into stereotypes”’… I see it as someone saying, “Hey, I’ve questioned my sexuality a time or two. Turns out I’m straight. But it shouldn’t matter if I am or not. It shouldn’t matter if anyone is or not.”

“Turns out I’m straight” is not a homophobic statement. Just because you’ve questioned your sexuality doesn’t mean you’re gay. Hell, just because you’ve slept with someone of the same sex doesn’t mean you’re gay. Sexuality is a continuum, a spectrum, and there are a myriad ways of expressing it. It changes from person to person, day to day, minute to minute. And it seems a bit gauche to look so disdainfully and distrustfully at a hand extended in friendship and solidarity, just because there happens to be a straight white dude behind it. (Some of my best friends are straight white dudes.)

At the end of the day, the equal rights campaign is not about marriage. Putting marriage on a pedestal as the be-all end-all of human relationships and experience is deeply problematic, and adding queers to the mix won’t change that. But recognizing that love is love, no matter who it’s between, is vital to the progress of free society. So at the end of the day, the equal rights campaign is about recognition. It’s about lifting the taboo. It’s about realizing that, yes, it is all the same love.

And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start.

 


So right now I work the customer service line for an online retailer. I like my job most of the time. Most of the customers I talk to are pretty nice. But the other day I took what was probably the worst call I’ve ever had.

This woman called in wanting to return some clothes that didn’t fit. They were too small because she’d gained weight, you see. And that would have been fine, returns are a thing we do, no problem. Except…

This poor woman was in tears. She was brokenhearted that the outfit was too small. She was convinced that it was because she had gained weight, and not that (as I pointed out) that designer likely runs small. She kept saying things like, “I’m so disgusting, I’m such a monster, I’m so fat, I’m so ugly…”

I’m not going to say “She wasn’t even that big.” Only because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what size she was. It would be the same story whether she was a 2 or a 2X. This woman was in tears over clothing that didn’t fit because she’d bought so completely into the belief that there is a right size to be, and she wasn’t it. I could hear her sobbing as she hung up the phone, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to help her.

This shouldn’t be normal. No one should ever feel like a monster because her clothes don’t fit. No one should ever feel so bad about their size that a too-tight shirt makes them feel worthless.

So Penny’s request for the day, guys? Value yourself as you are. Even if it’s just for a day. Spend a day shutting down the voice that lists your flaws, that tells you you’re ugly and worthless, that makes you feel gross and ashamed. Spend just one day focusing on the amazing parts of yourself. Remind yourself that you are, indeed, amazing.

Maybe we can’t always fight this horrible culture that tries to devalue us and force us to confirm to unrealistic ideals. Maybe those damaging messages about what a woman “should” look like aren’t going to go away, now or possibly ever.

But we don’t have to listen. Please, just spend a day not listening.


Hullo.

I am Sullivan. Penny’s husband, for the time being. I asked her if I could write a guest post because well… it felt right.

I have loved Penny for a very long time, in the beginning it was a story book romance. I won’t say it was love at first sight, but from the moment I first saw her I knew she was going to be someone very important and I was right. She has been the single most influential force in my life.

I have watched her slowly process and heal from deep wounds, I have held her through long nights of terrors and through crippling sexual anxiety. I have done my best to encourage her growth and self discovery, even though I am often slow in these areas myself. We have had a strong relationship for the last six years.

We have definitely had our rough spots and there have been recurring issues. Through it all our love for one another has always won out.

Six months ago she approached me about looking into the local kink scene and exploring her sexuality. I happily encouraged her to do so, I was tentative as well. I was aware that this could highlight problems in our relationship or possibly create new ones. But what she was looking for was not something that I was capable of giving her. I, after all, do not have a vagina or the ‘feminine experience’ for that matter. It was a part of herself that she needed to learn about. Had I denied her then, it would at best only have postponed what we are going through now. It would certainly have lead to harder times in the future.

For my part, as her partner, all I have wanted was to see her happy. That isn’t entirely true, I wanted to make her happy. That however, isn’t always possible. The best I could do in this was to give her the space to figure herself out, for herself.

Was I afraid of what might come? Of course. I was aroused by the fact that she was bisexual. I was happy that she was exploring her sexuality and finding a sex drive again. I was afraid that she might find someone to replace me, or discover she was in fact not interested in men at all.
But what could I do about it? If she did meet someone to replace me then our relationship wasn’t what I thought it was in the first place. If she discovered she was only interested in women sexually then why try and trap her in a straight marriage?

Little did I know… or did I?

I told her months before she came out to me that “I would always love you, even if you realize that you are gay.”

Of course I didn’t ‘know’ but it wasn’t really out of the blue. I mean I hoped that wouldn’t be the case, I didn’t want to ‘lose her’.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, things have been difficult but my feelings for her haven’t changed much. I still love her, I always will. Ironically we talk more about the things we should have talked about earlier in our relationship. We have cried a lot more lately, this shit ain’t easy. Neither is maintaining the living situation we have but we can’t afford to up and leave.

It has been easier to look back at the relationship without the rosy shades. It is easier to see the little things we overlooked or told ourselves didn’t matter, for the sake of one another’s happiness. It is also easier to see the trend in her sexuality now.

Now that we are on this end of the relationship we are learning what it is like to be friends who used to be lovers. She is still one of the most important people in my life and I love her deeply.
She will always be a close friend, a compatriot, a loved one. She will continue to have my support and encouragement. I believe she will find her place, now, here. I believe she will find a truer and deeper happiness now and that makes it all worthwhile.


I was chatting with a friend the other day about the situation my husband and I suddenly find ourselves in and how we’re dealing with it. I mentioned that I’m stressed about finding a place to live on my own, and that I’m even more stressed about moving day and splitting up all our stuff. He said, “Oh, so you’re getting divorced?” and I said, “Well, not right away. In fact, it’s possible we’ll just stay legally married until one of us finds someone we’d like to settle down with.” This surprised him. Why wouldn’t we get divorced and just get it over with?

Well, for one thing, divorce seems to be a costly and difficult thing. It’s something I know almost nothing about – for instance, do we file for divorce in the state where we got married, or where we’re currently living? Do we have to hire a lawyer or is it possible to do without, assuming the split is amicable enough? How does one get started? How much does it cost? Are there laws that require us to, say, separate for a certain amount of time before filing or jump through other legal hoops? These are all big scary questions that I know I’ll have to answer someday… but I don’t want to answer them right now.

There’s also the issue of lost benefits once we split. We enjoy a better tax rate because we’re married. We share car and health insurance. We are currently able to care for each other and act on each other’s behalf if catastrophe strikes. I hope it doesn’t – but it is reassuring to know that, in this new city where I have no family and only a few close friends, there is someone who is willing and legally able to handle my affairs if something terrible should happen. It’s a safety net that, frankly, makes this transition less terrifying. I don’t want to give up that safety net – and I don’t want him to have to give it up, either.

In my case, there’s also the very real possibility that once I give up these benefits I won’t get them back – whether or not I ever meet someone else I’d like to marry. We are making great strides toward equal marriage opportunities, but we are not nearly there yet. Even if I live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, it’s still unrecognized at the federal level and is likely to stay that way for some time. So as soon as the divorce goes through, I am at the mercy of institutionalized discrimination. I find myself wanting to delay that inevitability as long as possible. Is that a selfish line of thinking? Not really. It would be selfish if my husband wanted a divorce, and I was refusing him one based on those reasons. As long as he’s ok with staying married on paper, so am I; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. 

I still love my husband. I always will. In fact, it’s because I love him that I think it’s best for us to separate. We have discussed the option of staying in an open marriage, where we still treat each other like spouses and keep our legal benefits but are free to date and find certain kinds of fulfillment in other people. But I know he wants children. I know he dreams of having a wife who loves him and wants him, who wants to build a family and a future with him. He deserves that dream. He deserves to be married to a woman who desires him. He deserves the children he’s always wanted. I can’t give him that, and it would be cruel to trap him in a relationship where those things were either impossible or complicated to achieve. Eventually, I will be in the way. I don’t want that for him or for me.

But there’s no reason to send ourselves through that difficult and costly journey just yet. There’s no reason to take this leap alone, without the safety net a marriage implies. For now, we care about each other and have the means to take care of each other. Our marriage is – and always has been – what we make it.


My brilliant friend Caitlyn posted this on her blog last week. It essentially posits the question, “Would more people be open to feminism if we simply called it something else?”

And I think… maybe? But is that really a good thing? Or more to the point, does that really mean we should call it something else?

Maybe this is a tinfoil-hat moment for me, but I think the hesitance to identify with feminism as a movement is an indicator of oppression. Think about it. Much in the way that a Muslim fears to identify as such in our society, for fear of being lumped in with terrorists and extremists by the average ignorant ass, so too do women fear identifying as feminists to avoid being lumped in with “a bunch of angry, unshaven man-haters.”  I can almost hear the patriarchy going, “But you’re cool, right? You’re not one of those angry women, right? You’re not, like, one of those feminists who has a stick up her ass about rape jokes, are you?”

Why is it a bad thing for a woman to be angry? For that matter, why is it a bad thing for a woman to be unshaven? Or to have a stick up her ass, provided it’s her stick and she wants it there? Feminism, among many other things, is about a person’s right to not conform to stereotypes and expectations. And yet that nonconformity is used against us somehow, as proof of the invalidity of our stance. An angry, unshaven woman simply cannot be taken seriously.

So women who want to be taken seriously distance themselves from that image. And if the word “feminist” conjures up that image, then she’s not a feminist. Oh, no. That would wreck her credibility.

This is bullshit. Not because there are “I’m not a feminist – but” women out there; they are entitled to their choices, and frankly I can fully understand why they wouldn’t want to identify as a feminist if, for instance, it means she won’t be taken seriously in a professional setting or that she’ll catch hell from her male friends. The bullshit part is that there’s even a possibility she won’t be taken seriously, or that she’ll catch hell from her friends.

I mean, really. A majority of the population believes that there is an all-powerful man in the sky who personally created the universe and can’t wait to invite us to his really awesome party once we die; but it’s the folks who believe women and men should be treated equally that get the side-eye. Seriously?

As the article points out, we are “bending to the societal pressure that feminism is gauche.” Why? Why is feminism gauche? Why does it make so many people so uncomfortable? Is it because the word “feminist” conjures up images of angry, unshaven women, waving picket signs and shouting slogans? Is it because a feminist woman, by definition, will almost certainly not conform to your expectations of her? Is it maybe because a feminist woman breaks the rules, and we’ve been told that’s bad?

All this doesn’t even take into account the problems with being a feminist man. Is it really any wonder that society sees a feminist man as weak, effeminate, somehow lesser than his fellow man? Take a good look at the systematic way patriarchal society oppresses women, and tell me it’s a coincidence that those who speak out for the rights of women also get oppressed, laughed at, degraded, dismissed, made fun of. It’s all part of a system designed to keep the oppressed under the heel of the oppressor.

Right now, I am reading what I’ve just written and thinking to myself, “I sound like a loony conspiracy theorist nutbag.” And I think that’s part of the problem.

It’s like gaslighting, on a widespread societal scale. We’ve been conditioned not to trust ourselves; conditioned to question our anger, to mistrust our emotions. We abuse ourselves to save our abusers the trouble. We tiptoe around those in power, afraid to upset the status quo; afraid of the backlash bound to come our way if we stand up for ourselves. And when others point out how fucked up the situation is, we defend it. Oh, it’s not that bad, we say. Society’s just having a bad day.

Or year.

Or century, maybe.

No, I don’t think we need to change the label. I think it’s more important than ever that we stick with feminism. I think it’s more important than ever that we stand up, have our say, make our voices heard – in the name of feminism. The more we fear to be connected with it, the more power we give to those who wish this whole feminism thing would just blow over. The more we hesitate to join ranks, the more power we give to those who believe women should “know their place.” Maybe they won’t take us seriously now… but if we don’t fight for equality, they won’t take us seriously ever.


Dad:

I’ve had some time to think about the things you said to me, the day I told you I was bisexual. I’ve thought about what it means, and what you believe, and where I fit into that picture. I’ve come to a decision.

I assume by now you’ve shared the news with Mom, if not my sisters. (One already knows, I talked to her privately.) I don’t mind if you have, or if you choose to in the future. It’s not something I particularly need kept secret. In fact, that’s kind of the point.

I’m not writing this to disprove your religious beliefs, nor to tell you you’re wrong for believing them. My intent is not to break your faith in any way. However, in order to state my message clearly, there is something I need you to understand: I do not believe in your God. I do not share your faith.

Because of this, I cannot agree with statements made on the basis of faith alone. Telling me “It’s wrong because God says so” is not a valid argument to me, any more than “It’s wrong because I say so” – which, to be honest, is all I’m hearing in those statements. I am a grown adult, and I have the freedom and the right to make my own life choices.

I am choosing to live my life out of the closet. I am not ashamed of my sexuality.

I am choosing to explore my sexuality. I am not ashamed of my desires.

I do this with the full consent and blessing of my current partner, who understands there are certain things in life he simply cannot provide for me. He and I are communicating better than we ever have before, we are more respectful of each other than we ever have been, and embarking on this journey has done wonderful things to strengthen our marital bond. I do this not to escape my marriage, but to enrich it. I do this not to tear down our bond, but to build it up.

Ultimately, who I build relationships with and how my husband and I manage our marriage is none of your business. I am not interested in hearing how you think I am Doing Marriage Wrong.

But there is something I need you to understand: I will not accept mere tolerance. I am tired of hearing the message “Well, it’s not what we would choose for you, but it’s your life to live.” That statement tells me that you’re not going to stop me if you think I’m making a mistake, and you won’t try to have an open and honest conversation about it, but in your heart of hearts you will always carry condemnation and judgment toward me. You will always be waiting to say “I told you so.”

I have yearned my whole life for approval from you. I have yearned my whole life for acceptance. I have made myself miserable to the point of desperation, trying to squeeze myself into the rigid role of model child, trying to be this mysterious perfect daughter that you could love without reservation. But I have always failed – maybe not in your eyes, but certainly in mine. I feel I have not gained your acceptance or your understanding. I do not have your support in being myself and following my heart: merely your tolerance.

The time has come for me to ask for your acceptance. I realize, given your faith, what a monumental thing it is I ask of you. I am asking you to consider that the Church may have it wrong on this one. I am asking you to re-examine your beliefs.

I would not ask this of you if it did not matter. If I was comfortable believing that my feelings were wrong, I would not ask it. If I was comfortable lying to you about this part of my life, I would not ask it. If I was comfortable with discrimination dressed up as loving tolerance, I would not ask it.

But I am not comfortable with those things.

You were right when you said it was not wrong to be attracted to members of the same sex. I believe that. But I cannot accept that it is wrong to be in a relationship with someone of the same sex. To accept that would be to turn my back on a wide community of wonderful, loving people; a community of which I am a part. I cannot accept that falling in love can ever be a sin – and I cannot accept that expressing that love, exploring that love, could ever be sinful, either. There may be times when it can hurt, yes – people are imperfect and as such can hurt each other – but that does not make it morally wrong. The full experience of love, in its myriad of forms, is an inalienable human right.

So here it is: the crucial decision.

I respect your right to religious freedom. I respect your faith and your beliefs, though I do not agree with all of them. Because of this respect, I will not demand your acceptance – even if I could demand such a thing.

However, I also respect myself. I respect my right to choose how I live my life, and with whom. Because of this respect, I will not subject myself to the pain of discrimination and intolerance, even from those who love me. Because of this respect, I will choose to lead a life that brings me joy and fulfillment, and choose the friends and lovers and partners that support me on this path.

I would like to share my life of joy with you. In order to share it fully, I need to know that you accept the life I live, without judgment. Tolerance (“It’s ok to feel that way, but not to act on it”) is not acceptance. If you cannot offer acceptance, then I cannot continue to share my life with you. I will not edit and hide parts of my life to show you a face you approve of.

You must either love all of me, or none.


I absolutely love Jamie Noguchi’s webcomic Yellow Peril. It’s smart, funny, damn good art, and unlike nearly every other webcomic I follow, doesn’t ever make me go “Oh. Ick. That’s not really funny if you’re a girl.” (Looking at you, LICD.) Seriously, go into the archives and start this one from the beginning. You won’t regret it.

I love this February’s story arc especially much because, well, girls. Kissing. What’s not to love?

I really should know better than to read the comments. I don’t know how this happens, but every time Noguchi posts a strip that I am particularly happy about, some asshole in the comments shits all over it. For instance, this strip about telling your boss to fuck off drew out a particularly creepy dude who figured it was totally okay to stalk your boss, learn where he (obviously he, no women ever run companies or oversee employees) lives and works, and then subtly drop threatening hints about his wife and family. I’m not kidding.

So why, then, should I be surprised that a commenter on the girls-kissing story arc had this to say?

I’ll be annoyed if she cheats + becomes bisexual because of this incident. If she’s not happy she should break up and I’ve already been through a few webcomics where a character becomes gay/bisexual almost out of nowhere enough times to be nervous about how this will play out. Hoping the next comic is a rebuff.

Right. Sooo annoying when characters that have clearly had a thing for each other for quite some time end up being the same gender. Or, uh, wait. I guess it’s more annoying when you miss the clues and are blindsided by this development because you’re hell-bent on assuming everyone’s straight?

(And, yes, she may be cheating on her boyfriend – does that make her a completely bad and unsalvageable character who we now must hate? Or would you rather the comic just be cleansed of everything that makes you uncomfortable?)

… It is not unreasonable to assume, until stated otherwise, that characters are straight. It’s not Disregarding bisexuals or homosexuals, it’s simply that typically characters are straight until it’s said so in a story. If she was bisexual the whole time and it was stated at some point before hand and was just monogamous and dating a man I wouldn’t have had any problem with this scene at all…

Actually, yes, it is unreasonable. The reasons here are twofold:

1) It is unreasonable to assume that everybody is just like you. That is, in fact, disregarding everybody who is not like you. It is assuming that there is a “default state” to being a human being, and that it is safe to expect that everybody, real or fictional, adheres to the default unless they specifically tell you they do not.

2) It is unreasonable to expect an artist or storyteller to hold your hand and gently lead you through exactly what her or his intentions are for his or her artwork. In this case, you are asking the artist to explicitly state to the audience, at some point, “Hey, folks! This here character is bisexual, and even though she’s dating a guy she could just as easily be dating a girl! In fact, I plan to do a story arc that covers exactly that scenario. Stay tuned!” That would make for some really shitty art. It is up to you, as the reader, to pick up on what the artist is putting down. And, as I pointed out with the linkspam above, it wasn’t exactly a subtle story thread. If you missed the fact that this girl was into that girl, it’s because you’re overlaying your own heteronormative narrative on top of the one the artist has actually written.

Why are characters “typically straight until it’s said so” in any media? What gives you the right to make that statement? How do you look at any given character and know 100% for sure that they’re straight, and not just currently in a hetero relationship?

Also, why the hell isn’t there more queerness in the media? (Because, Penny, it gets attacked the way Yellow Peril did. Oh, right. Good point, Anonymous Imaginary Reader.)

Unless it’s a “special interests” movie like Kissing Jessica Stein or Brokeback Mountain, LGBTQIA people barely get a nod in mainstream media; I was thrilled when the tech girl who was onscreen for five minutes in Mr. And Mrs. Smith mentioned her girlfriend. Media enforces heteronormativity in society, and in return society enforces it in the media. It’s this ridiculous self-supporting cycle that totally erases the experience of “non-normative” people in every quarter.

If am reading Harry Potter would it be considered odd for me to assume that Harry won’t be asking out Ron or Seamus or that Hermione won’t be asking Luna Lovegood out until something in the novels indicates it’s a possibility? I am taking the stance of assuming, until proven otherwise, that a person is the most common sexual preference (straight).

Um, yes, to me that’s odd. Maybe not from the standpoint that, I assume, many artists default to heteronormativity because they know what’ll happen to their sales if they don’t… but I still think it’s odd, yes. It’s the same weird “default state” assumption that leads people to thinking that being straight is normal, but being gay is a choice. And since when is “the most common sexual preference” straight? And if it really is the most common preference, why did you have to immediately qualify that statement with “(straight)” ? Why wouldn’t Hermione be interested in Luna? What’s stopping Harry from being into Ron? Did you know Dumbledore’s gay?

I’ve lived in Chicago all my life and met many gay people, but I’ve met a lot more straight people. That and most films and novels and games having a majority of straight people makes me expect to see more straight people in a story. Is this also odd?

Ye – oh, no. Actually no, that’s not odd at all. Of course you see heteronormative stories in the heteronormative media of a heteronormative society. What’s odd is that you look at those stories and assume that they’re all real and true to life.

I see superheroes all the time in the movies. Does that mean I can expect to move to Gotham and meet Batman? Should I try to get a job as a writer at The Daily Planet? Or maybe apply to work at Stark Industries so I can sue Tony for sexual harassment and comfortably retire on my millions?

Oh, and hey – have you actually met a lot more straight people? Or did you meet a lot of people you assumed were straight because they didn’t explicitly tell you they weren’t?

Obviously, this is just one commenter – who has already been roundly debunked by several others – but I am tired of this circular-logic merry-go-round. “This is normal because the media depicts it this way” + “The media depicts it this way because that’s what’s normal” is bullshit. So is “I’m annoyed with this story line because it doesn’t reinforce my narrow view of the world! The artist should change it!”

And the worst part of it all is that artists with integrity and vision, like Jamie Noguchi, are not only caught in the crossfire but are actively discouraged from making art. Actively shamed for not reinforcing the kyriarchy. Dude, he’s not making them gay AT you; he’s writing the storyline he wants to write. One that’s clearly been planned for several months, and is not an “ass-pull” or a “sexual deus ex machina.”

(Although, good job on the use of “deus ex machina.” Seriously. You even spelled it right.)

We need Yellow Peril. We need Annie kissing Ally, precisely because it surprises us out of the “everybody is straight” narrative. (Well, some of us.) Let the dude make some friggin’ art already.

 

As an afterthought: Who cares if she is a spontaneous bisexual? Does discovering your sexuality post-puberty somehow make it less valid? Because if so, I’m a big ol’ spontaneous queer, myself. Shame on me for… uh… stuff.



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