if it walks like a man, if it talks like a man, if it smells like a man…

Dear questioner of my vagina’s existence,
It was a fine snowy evening when I walked into the “women’s bathroom” on the second floor of Mary Gates Hall. I had just finished my favorite class, Bioengineering Research, and a 32 oz bottle of Rain Berry Gatorade. Hoping to avoid “spilling my lemonade” on the one hour bus ride home, I booked it “gayly forward” to the closest bathroom I could find. Relieving myself, I reflected on a wonderful week gone by, filled with cute children who like shortbread cookie crisps, an extremely loving fan club composed of the most amazing people in the universe, and no homework. Double checking my fly, I head for the sink, to do my part in the fight against disease, smiling smuggly to myself. It came as no surprise to me, a small voice from across the long, dark, room. I knew I wasn’t alone. But the words you said, caught me off guard, “Is this [the] men’s room?”

It was just you and me: Your confusion and my anger. Your discomfort and my frustration. Your ignorance and my disappointment.

I saw no “culture warrior” behind your need to reiterate the gender specificity of the bathroom we are in because of my appearance. The length of the hair on my head is not an indication of what genitalia I sport, nor does the clothing I wear correlate in any way with my biological sex. I apologize for not apologizing for the confusion; I owe you, a mere bathroom acquaintance, no apology for the way I express my beautiful self. I must have left my penis at home because all I’m carrying with me today is self-respect. Oops!

It’s a shame that public bathrooms are now being used for things other than urination, defecation, and checking oneself out in the mirror. I was unaware of the underground coalition of gender vigilantes, and had someone told me of this strict policing, I would have taken my pee elsewhere… like a bush. Mother Nature has no problem with me, and why should she? I am a human being, original and organic; I am a child of her humbling womb, regardless of what I look like, how I pee, or where I pee.

The biological process of urination is one that is essential to the sustenance of human life. That’s right; I’m a human being, with feelings, who often pees. To deny me the right to pee in “your” bathroom, is to deny my epically full bladder and my humanity. “Public” bathrooms are deemed as such because I have as much right to use it as you or the next cross-dressing, gender variant, vagina wearer. Don’t let the pictures on the signs confuse you. It is not called the “I’m wearing a skirt” bathroom or the “Triangle” bathroom. It has absolutely nothing to do with who or what you look like. It is the public women’s bathroom, meaning 1) as a “member” of the public, I’m allowed to pee there, 2) I have a vagina, a happy one at that, so I’m allowed to pee there, and 3) it’s a bathroom, if you gotta go, you gotta go, and I did, so I peed there! There is no need to guilt me out of the bathroom on the basis that I don’t fit your idea of a “female”. When Whitney said, “I’m every woman” she was talking about me. I should not have to wear a sign that says “legal and official owner of a board certified vagina”.

Regardless, I, a 5’1”, 150lb, teddy bear, pose no threat to you, in a bathroom or otherwise, so why would my genitalia matter? In an effort to create a better world, I will strongly suggest you reassess your definition of diversity and maybe even take safe zone training.

signed,
a vagina in the “vagina” designated bathroom

PS A word of advice for future bathroom encounters: piss more, talk less.


I am a hypothetical zygote-American murderer

I just read this Feministe post about Georgian state Representative Bobby Franklin’s new bill that would require Georgian women to report instances of miscarriage (since, in the words of Jill from Feministe “fetuses are Georgian citizens and their deaths are potential crimes”).

Jill issues this challenge:

“I think we should help Georgia out. Since life begins at conception, and a fertilized egg is a human being with all of the rights of any other citizen of the great state of Georgia, we need to make sure that all egg-deaths are properly accounted for, and that all zygote-Americans receive a proper burial and an investigation into whether their deaths were caused by foul play.

Devery Doleman, an Actual Woman, writes a letter to Rep. Franklin requesting that he investigate the potential murders going on in her pants. I think she’s on to something. I suggest, based on Devery’s idea, that we send Rep. Franklin the evidence of the potential murders committed in our uteri. Now, we can’t actually send used tampons through the mail — sending bio-hazardous material to an elected official can get you in BAD TROUBLE, so don’t do it — but we can certainly send photos. So! Next time you’re on the rag, photo-document the results. Why? Because somewhere around 50% of fertilized eggs naturally don’t implant, and are flushed out of the body. It’s an act of God, sure, but still — that’s a 50% prenatal death rate for Georgia’s smallest citizens. Your womb, basically, is a serial killer. And Rep. Franklin is very, very interested in using the Georgia state police to investigate any possible death of a Georgia citizen.

“So! I recommend you photograph your period paraphernalia, and attach it to a letter thanking Rep. Franklin for his good work in standing up for human life. Here’s a form letter you are welcome to use.”

While this is a great idea, it leaves me with unanswered questions. How do I, as a “Gay” “Lady” fit in to this picture? I wrote my own letter to Rep. Franklin urging him to also take on the Georgian Gay Lady population, because they are potential zygote-American killers too! Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Rep. Franklin,
Your new bill requiring Georgian women to report any instance of potential zygote-American murder makes me feel seriously guilty. You see, as a “Gay” “Lady”, I don’t even allow potential zygote-Americans to come to glorious, beautiful, tear-fucking-jerking fruition inside that hateful, useless thing which I have made my uterus by being a Gay Lady. I am very concerned about this, and I’m sure you would tell me that by not even passingly attempting to procreate I am not doing my best to protect the possible zygote-Americans that I could make. All of my eggs are just lying there useless! Ultimately some leave my body each month without ever having the chance to become true zygote-Americans. I’m depriving them of their hypothetical future! I am, again, very concerned about this. Perhaps your next piece of legislation can require all Georgian Gay Ladies to report every instance of sex wherein it is biologically impossible to produce a zygote-American so that they can be investigated for the murder of potential zygote-Americans. Because they are clearly being murdered, these hypothetical zygote-Americans!

Best Regards,
“Gay Lady”

In love, solidarity, and snarkiness,

Maggie


Obama on DOMA – thanks for the gesture?

I don’t mean to come off super pessimistic about this, so first of all I want to unequivocally state that I think Obama’s reversing the administration’s position on defending DOMA is awesome, and a great step in the right direction for gay rights.* Among other things, it states their legal opinion that “‘classifications based on sexual orientation’ should be subjected to a strict legal test intended to block unfair discrimination.” (NYT article, quoting Attorney General Eric Holder)

This is a big step because it expresses the idea that people of non-hetero sexual orientations should be considered a marginalized group that needs extra special legal protections against discrimination (such as hate crimes, getting arbitrarily fired, getting arbitrarily evicted, etc). The reason why this argument is being made now is because of two recent lawsuits against DOMA that were brought in districts with different rules than districts where previous lawsuits had been filed. If it sticks, this precedent could potentially lead to lots of changes in laws and policies that benefit queer people.

However, I don’t really share in all the excitement and hype that this move has gotten in the past day or so, for the following reasons -

1. The president doesn’t have the authority to repeal DOMA because it’s an act of congress, so the administration saying that it doesn’t support DOMA won’t have any immediate practical outcome.

2. Any repeal of DOMA that tries to go through congress right now would likely fail to get through the republican-controlled House.

3. Even if the federal government were to completely repeal DOMA and begin recognizing same-sex marriages, that still wouldn’t mean that the country has same-sex marriage all over. It would still be up to the individual states to decide what rights to marriage, if any, queer couples receive.

4. If this goes to the Supreme Court in its current iteration (5 conservatives, 4 liberals) they will probably uphold DOMA. The Supreme Court is the ultimate authority on legal issues in this country with little oversight of any kind, and if they don’t want to take the Administration’s opinion on this then they don’t have to.

5. A pessimist could see this as Obama throwing a bone to the mainstream liberal gay organizations, since it doesn’t change anything and might make them back down from criticizing him as much as they have been.

6. The president’s views on same-sex marriage are “still evolving” – meaning that he either doesn’t believe that same-sex marriage should be allowed or that he can’t say that for political reasons (cough, 2012, cough). Also, even though this change in position won’t lead to any immediate change it could be a rallying point for conservatives in the next election, putting his chances at reelection in more jeopardy than they already are.

7. I’m tired of seeing the gay/queer movement as singularly defined by the issue of marriage. There are so many more issues, so many more important issues, that are desperately in need of attention and advocacy that this tunnel-vision focus on marriage seems sadly inefficient. I could go on and on about this, but I’ve done that in other forums before so I won’t get into it here.

What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear others’ opinions.

In love and solidarity,

Maggie

*I’m consciously using the word ‘gay’ here instead of queer.


Just Because I’m Brown…

A few weeks ago, at a place in downtown Seattle where I volunteer, a man walked in the door and asked where he could set up his prayer mat. He was wearing a traditional Muslim cap and a long white dress with pants underneath, similar to some traditional clothes often seen worn by Muslim men. Upon hearing his question, I immediately understood what he meant. Having grown up in a majority Muslim country and having been brought up learning about Islam, I knew what he was looking for. I told him that he could pray right there in the room. I even took out a compass I had with me to tell him where East was. He thanked me and proceeded to pray. After he had finished, I announced to the office that I was going to the coffeeshop downstairs to get coffee. The walk-in man offered to go with me. He was fascinated by my strange name and my apparently not-exactly-white-looking features and asked me where I was from. I replied that I was originally Iranian. He then asked if I was Muslim and I replied that even though I was born Muslim, I no longer believed in god, so no I was not Muslim per se. I usually don’t engage people I don’t know well in conversations about their background but since he had begun the questioning, I allowed myself to return the questions, so I asked, “What about you? What’s your ethnic background?” He looked a bit surprised by the question and said, “African-American.” It probably took me a second, but I quickly responded, “Oh, so you converted to Islam?” And he affirmed that indeed he had. We got our coffee and returned to the office upstairs.

I have to admit that I was extremely embarrassed by this entire exchange. I had made so many assumptions about this man that I normally did not allow myself to make about people. So I chided myself: just because he’s black, doesn’t mean he’s not American! Just because he’s Muslim, doesn’t mean he’s from some North African country! The point is I had truly expected him to reply that he was FROM a certain African country BECAUSE he was Muslim, even though he was just an African-American who had converted to Islam. How could I, who so often gets angry about people who make these assumptions about my background, make the exact same assumption about somebody else? The implication is: if you’re Muslim, you’re not American. If you’re brown/black, you’re not American. If you’re a brown/black Muslim, you COME FROM some place else; you’re an immigrant.

I am often confronted by a variety of assumptions about my identity, my positionality, my beliefs, my values, my social roles, and my relationships due to the color of my skin. So I thought that if I was able to perhaps list the myriad of assumptions that I’ve experienced in the United States regarding who I am, perhaps I might be able to prevent myself from acting on my own prejudices, assumptions, and privileges, and to liberate myself from my own internalized racism and whiteness.

So here is a list of assumptions made about me because I am Iranian/Middle Eastern/Brown/Person of Color. People assume:

1. That I’m Muslim.
2. That I’m straight.
3. That I don’t speak English well.
4. That I don’t understand American idioms and expressions.
5. That I’m filthy rich.
6. That I’m dirt poor.
7. That I know how to bellydance.
8. That I’m gender-conforming.
9. That I speak Spanish.
10. That I speak Arabic.
11. That I come from an impoverished country.
12. That I come from a war-torn country.
13. That I’m not American.
14. That I’m not a US citizen.
15. That I’m religious.
16. That I’m a FOB.
17. That I’m privy to secret information about the “situation” in the Middle East that no one else has access to.
18. That I always feel oppressed or discriminated against.
19. That I benefit from Affirmative Action.
20. That life is easy because I benefit from Affirmative Action.
21. That because I’m a brown female, I’ve been “oppressed” by brown males and am waiting for white males and white female feminists to “liberate” me.
22. That I hate America.
23. That I am Arab.
24. That I would only date within my own ethnicity.
25. That I know every other Iranian in this area.
26. That I know everything about the history, culture and politics of Iran.
27. That I’m exotic.
28. That I’m not familiar with American pop culture.
29. That I’m the spokesperson for everything Iran or Middle East.
30. That I know everything about the history and all sects of Islam.
31. That as a female living in Iran, life was difficult and horrible.
32. That I grew up without any concept of and access to technology.
33. That as a female in Iran, I’ve never done any sports.
34. That I’m a terrorist.
35. That I support the Iranian nuclear program.
36. That I don’t like people from other ethnicities.
37. That “my people” are backward.
38. That “my people” are homophobic.
39. That “my people” are sexist.
40. That I have a people.
41. That I will always defend Iranian politics no matter the policy or the situation.
42. That I’m anti-Semitic.
43. That I hate Israel and want it seen “wiped off the map”.
44. That I “should go home”.
45. That I automatically have a sense of identification with all Muslims, Middle Easterners and other brown folks.
And last but not least…
46. That I’ve ridden camels…everyday…to school. :)

This list is not meant to be comprehensive or to encompass the experiences of all Iranian/Middle Eastern/Brown/People of Color, but quite the contrary, it’s meant to show how often experiences of people of color are homogenized, uniformed, and marginalized.

Just for interest, indicate the ones you’ve personally experienced and please feel free to add your own in the comments section below. :)

SH


In Defense of My Countries, My Identities

I have always been in search of words to describe myself. Usually I’ve found the words to be too limiting, too uniform. It has been only the past few years or so that I have had to confront my social identity, my relation to others, my past and eventually my future.

Born and raised in Iran, I could never deny my Iranian-ness. But even in Iran I didn’t completely fit in with everyone. I knew I was different. I did not act like other girls and did not hold exactly the same thoughts and values. When I went to college in the US, I became more engaged with my sexual and gender identity. I ascribed my difference in relation to other girls as a difference in gender. I refused to ascribe to a violently limiting binary system of genders. I began to view gender as a spectrum. But little by little, I disposed of the spectrum idea, founding even that to be limiting. Thus, I came to the conclusion that each individual person has their own gender, which is an ensemble of a variety of things such as their biological sex, their gender expression, their culture, their own self-identification, the identification by others, their class, their race, their religion and so many other factors that affect our notions of gender. But I have to wonder now: this could not possibly be all that differentiated me from other Iranians? Even as mere children in Iran, we knew deep down inside how the world functioned, even if we didn’t have the words to describe it. And sometimes the words were too painfully precise. Yes, I was too American, a remark that many of my Iranian friends did not fail to point out at times. I accepted their haphazard observation and even took pride in it. But for the most part it was a source of play and joking. When I moved to the US at the age of 15, I did not fail to mention to my newly found American friends that I was Iranian – a fact in which I took great pride. At first, this phrase was pronounced with much nuance, with almost a sense of provocation. Were they going to be mean to me? Were they going to make fun of me? Were they going to be surprised? Or simply indifferent? The response most often consisted of an initial surprise, a series of questions posed out of curiosity and ignorance and eventual indifference.

Despite holding official citizenships of both countries, I never felt myself overly American.[1] Throughout high school and even the first few years in college, I insisted that I was not American, regardless of my social status. Never until now had I ever questioned why I was so vehemently opposed to being American. Furthermore, what does being American even mean? I posed this question to a few of my American and foreign friends but none of whom could provide a satisfactory answer. But one thing was clear: you do not need to be born on American soil to be considered American. In fact it was not until I was doing a study abroad in France that I accepted and made my own the American identity.

During my three months in France, I met and interacted with many different people from all over the world. One of the first things that was always asked in class from professors and fellow classmates was national origin. My initial response was immediately: the United States. If I somehow felt as if I was going to have a longer relationship with this individual I always added: “But I was born and raised in Iran before moving to the US.” However, throughout my stay, my response, even to people with whom I knew I would have no major or very little contact, slowly became: I was born in Iran but I come from the United States. Finally it turned into what I had been feeling for a while but had never pronounced out loud: Iranian-American.

It would be too narrow-sighted and utterly false to claim that going to France was the ultimate experience that pushed me into this brilliant new identity that I had forged for myself. So I retreat. Before traveling to France, I had become relatively active with the Seattle community organization of Iranian-Americans. It was there that I met a lot of Iranians from all walks of life and from very diverse backgrounds. I talked to people who clearly felt one side of their identity weighed more than the other, and then there were individuals who easily described themselves as Iranian-Americans and found no irony or contention in saying so. I knew I was one of them but I felt that I first needed to define being American. But can I even define being Iranian? I would be lying if I said Iran was a homogenous country with very little diversity, hence the question is never posed like it is in the United States. As an atheist upper-middle class Persian born and raised in the city, who am I to ignore or worse – assimilate the experiences of millions who are lower-class, religious, Kurd, Turk, Azeri, Arab, Lur, Afghani, Turkmen, Baluchi, and the multitude of other ethnicities that make up this beautiful country, into my own narrow experience as an Iranian? And I have to wonder: do other ethnicities and classes in Iran make the Iranian identity their own as I do?

It had been some time that I had completely washed my hands off of Iranian politics, even if I followed the news regarding the nuclear program and the 2009 elections very closely over the past few years but I never commented or even allowed myself much thought. Even when talking to friends genuinely interested in international politics, I refrained from getting myself too involved. I could not because it was too painful. I could not be emotionally invested in an issue that was tearing me from within. What I didn’t realize until the last six months was that only by confronting my fears, my prejudices and privileges, and by actively engaging with my Iranian and American identities and communities could I truly heal my wounds. I cannot move forward without confronting my past. And if I am to call myself a true activist and continue on the route of anti-oppression work, how can I simply disregard the political realities of US-Iran relations, the consequences of which affects my identity and my relations to the people around me at every level?

And even yet, my overly active and critical brain does not permit me to read back upon these words and not reproach myself for throwing myself under the ugly and violent grasp of nationalism. Many terrible things have been done under the name of nationalism and it is precisely nationalism to which I am subjecting myself by defining my identities as a haphazard mix of a multitude of cultures, histories, and politics from two different countries I call home. But when I am faced with the threat of the destruction of everything that I hold dear in Iran and in the United States, I cannot help but feel a deepening desperation of clinging onto what little I feel is left of my past for a morsel of stability at present, and hopes of a brighter future. As much as I would like to join hands in the common fight against racism, imperialism, and oppression, without regard to nationalism, I cannot raise myself above the unfortunate realities of borders. My experience of the world is deeply rooted in histories. Thus, I can never own the Iranian-American identity without fully engaging in its politics and the consequences it entails.


[1] The usage of the word “American” here is meant to refer to the United States. I fully understand the white/north amero-centrism of the usage of this term. With my deepest regards to my fellow Latin/South Americans, the term is used out of ease and to differentiate it from being a “US citizen.”

SH


Q Center Birthday Blog: We Need Technology!

The Q Center turns seven years old today, and a lot has changed since our doors opened in 2005. We now have Jennifer Self as our full time director, more students across the campus are accessing the center as a safe space, and Lavender Graduation, which started as three graduating seniors, now averages over fifty graduates.

One thing that has not changed, however, is the technology that we utilize in the center. The space purchased four brand new Dell desktops in 2005 when the center opened, and those are the computers that we have been working with ever since. Two of these computers crashed in 2009, and last week we said farewell to another of our desktop computers. We’re now working with one temperamental Dell desktop from 2005 for all the students accessing the center. This presents a huge challenge for the folks who access this space. Students often come in to use the computers and are unable to because the one we have is already taken. Many people ask to print out an essay or assignment and we have to deny them because the computer doesn’t have access to our printer.

We try to make due with what we have, but it has become more and more difficult. While it seems like many other facilities in UW are keeping up to date with technology, we are struggling to function with our vastly outdated equipment. The staff has to share one problematic laptop between themselves for work purposes, so many student staff members are dependent upon their personal laptops for getting work done. Our very small TV is also extremely outdated. The wonderful individuals who access our space should not be limited to using a single seven year old computer to fulfill all of their tech needs.

It seems that UW tries to present itself as cutting edge and sophisticated, and in many ways, it is. Places like the Law School or Business School have very new, nice equipment. Unfortunately, many students who identify as queer have trouble accessing these spaces out of discomfort and due to the very present oppressive, homophobic and transphobic attitudes that prevail in many parts of campus.

We’re not asking for a lot. We just want enough updated technology to FUNCTION effectively. Queer identities are not often valued or visible in institutional spaces. That we are forced to deal with inadequate technology might come across as UW not acknowledging the importance of accessing technology in a space that values queer identities.

We are requesting four Dell desktop computers, speech recognition software to provide accessibility to individuals with physical and learning disabilities, a screen reader for individuals with visual impairment, a DVORAK right handed keyboard, and a 46″ TV.

There is a way that YOU can help us get updated technology at the Q Center! Give us the invaluable birthday present of support in our quest to get updated equipment in our center. Follow this link and leave a comment on the page about why you think the Q Center should have new equipment.

http://techfee.washington.edu/proposals/view/2011-096-1/

Jessica Warmbo
Q Center Staff and School of Social Work Student


Utopian visioning: let’s queer it up!

So, I’m taking this class called Utopian Visions for Social Change. Kind of a mouthful, right? Well,  the topics we talk about in class is even bigger and more complicated to sort through, but it’s fantastic to vision as a group. We work towards learning how we will act to create social change in our communities to get closer to our ideas of what utopian society we would like to be a part of.  At first when I started this class I thought the objective was in envision  a world where we took on all the social/cultural/political injustices we didn’t like and figure out how to elminiate them with one ultimate plan. However, I quickly learned that for me, creating “my” utopia would be about reconnecting with all the communties I see my self a part of and using those connections I have to create utopian spaces.

For me, the Q Center is a major hub for my utopian visioning. I am surrounded by a team of people committed to creating a safe space for all humans. The Q Center gives me access to resources (and all students/staff) to make my visions come to life and be actively involved in reshaping the world I live in.

What does it take to vision? The simple answer is imagination, but there are countless ways to express thoughts and ideas. In class we’ve looked at different modes of expression like artwork, writing fiction, theater, music, and creating ethical spectacles. While the visioning end is one part of what is done the other big part is engaging others in the goals you have and collectively transforming visions into actions (utopian praxis).

Our final assignment for this class is to create the framework for a workshop we could potentially hold in the future that would be a puzzle piece in creating our utopian society. I know exactly what I want: A learning community where we actively break down the role that gender, gender expression, orientation and heteronomativitly plays in our education, while also providing a space where educational standards that marginalize students do not exist. How will I get there? I guess we’ll see over the decades to come.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people who have made this kind of vision ( an educational/learning utopia)  their life’s work, and I have also chatted with high school teachers who could not conceptualize not having grading. I found it upsetting to hear that some of these former teachers who I find wildly inspirational do not believe the utopia I want is attainable. However, I feel like my positionality puts me in the right place to keep me believing in such a world.

Like most of my thoughts, I am not 100% sure why I started blogging about this and will likely have more half complete thoughts to follow this up at some point. I suppose the purpose of this is so that I can hear about ways other people are visioning or creating utopias in their own communities.

Cheers,

Rukie


culturally queer

My parents never forget to remind of their good intentions: “We say this because we love you.” But with so much of my life hidden from their peripheries, I wonder if they can fathom the thought of their little girl standing up on her own two feet and taking charge of her own life. When did the hand holding and spoon feeding stop and the independent social justice queer superhero persona begin? When did I make the transition from their daughter to my self? Somewhere between my gender and sexuality, I started fighting for myself rather than fighting against them. Nonetheless, it is always a fight to be who I am because it’s hard for them to understand the butch behind the babe.

They have yet to be acquainted with the world I have come to call my own. How could I expect them to know what I, as a gay genderqueer individual, need? They grew up in irony. Post-colonial India, the mysterious subcontinent, the womb of the karma sutra, shies away from its roots and boasts a hush-hush attitude toward any thought of sex, sexuality, and gender nonconformity, as if somehow it makes them more chaste. What is morally pure about perpetuating the cycle of oppression? How is it that a culture that worships an androgynous god, who is represented by an abstract sculpture of a lingam and yoni (male and female sex organs, respectively), can’t talk about sexuality?! This symbolism for oneness is not a promotion of heteronormativity but a union of male and female energies, an embrace of sexual dualism. The true nature of this culture, based on the idea of natural balance and fluidity, has been drowned out by colonialism, insecurity, and ignorance. I can still feel the effects, generations later, continents apart. These human experiences, sexuality and gender, were never discussed in my house, as I was growing up and even now. And I never dared to ask. I only dared to learn.

Imprisoned within their mental models, they remind me: “We’ve been through it, we were your age once, and we know what it’s like,” without realizing that they are not me. Do they really know what I’m going through? Have they really gone through the questioning, acknowledging, and coming out process? Do they really know what it is like to live in dissonance trying to balance who you know you are and who you know they want you to be? They live life from their perspective, like everyone else, but they can’t seem to see beyond it. They are the “experts” of their lives, but without being me, how could they be the experts of mine? I don’t doubt their intentions but I certainly doubt their knowledge.

At first, I didn’t know what I needed as a queer person. Since knowledge is power, I turned to the knower of all knowledge: google. Researching myself was beautiful, but things got tricky when I went for the “giant leap for queer kind;” from the inter-webs to the real world. I can still remember the fear I experienced the first time I visited the Q Center. I hardly felt like I could walk in the building, let alone the center, I was so afraid of being seen by someone I knew. What would I say about where I was going and why? Do they know what the Q Center is? Are they judging me for going there? At that point I had experience with avoiding the rapture, as many fresh-out-of-high-school students had, but this was bigger than “oh, I wasn’t smoking, my friends were, I just watched” or “yeah, their parents were home and no, we didn’t drink.” No amount of air freshener and no amount of spearmint gum can mask the fact that I am gay. Intimate and powerful, my sexuality and gender expression needed to be acknowledged, nurtured, and celebrated, even if it meant judgment. I had to remind myself that the truth is the truth, and the truth was that I needed to put myself out there in order to seek guidance, despite my paranoia. I am worth the fight. I deserve to find peace.

As a shy person, I was literally shaking as I walked in. I had never been in a room with more than one or two queer people, other than myself. But it felt right. My experiences were shared by many (even my experiences as queer Indian), and it wasn’t long before I found a community of people who don’t look at me funny for dressing like a lumberjack or performing drag or expressing my attraction to that grad student, who is WAY out of my league. They liked me for me, in all my queerness. And I liked them. Being gay was one less thing we judged each other on and one more thing we unified to celebrate. To say I am a different person, a better person, a happier person, after finding this community is an understatement. I am finally able to say “I am ok” and believe it. And for once, I have hope that I am to make it through to another day and love it. Having found my niche, I know that if I ever lost that hope, I have people holding it for me. My parents may not understand who I am yet, but with “Team Sasha” backing me up, I feel like I am where I should be: happy and whole.


My mom rocks

My mom was recently (and is generally always) awesome and I’m really proud of her! So naturally I’m sharing the news. We were on the phone last night discussing a mutual friend who had recently made some weird comments/jokes to the effect of finding the idea of Queer 101, which I am helping to facilitate this quarter, amusing. Apparently this friend had speculated to my mom about what a “straight 101″ might look like.

And my mom went all anti-oppression on her! Even hearing my mom retell it to me nearly made me cry with pride. She raised some seriously awesome points about heterosexism and systems of oppression (not exactly in those words but those were the concepts she was getting at, and she was able to do it in a way that the friend would get). Evidently my mom was able to change the friend’s thinking about the need for something like Queer 101.

I’m super proud of this because I know that my mom’s anti-oppression views have a lot to do with me and how I have changed since coming to the UW. This whole event makes me extremely happy, and optimistic that I can create positive change on a personal level. Next up, I’m going to work on the friend :)

In love and solidarity,

Maggie