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Corrections and Confrontations

Hi, I’m an afab agender junior in high school using they/them/their pronouns! I started coming out part-way through sophomore year, and am pretty open about my gender now but haven’t necessarily up-front told everyone??? Its just not a thing I hide at all anymore and I reference now and then. My school is actually super accepting and queer-friendly, which is amazing, and some of my friends are really good with pronouns. My mom’s making an effort that I really appreciate, but she still messes up a lot. Do you have any advice on how to correct people on pronouns and gender? When it comes to speaking up for other people I have no trouble, but when people use she/her/hers pronouns on me or refer to me in very female-exclusive ways I never know what to say and always just end up staying silent. I know most of these people mean really well and when people mess up I don’t think they ever mean it maliciously, so I don’t want to be confrontational, but it can get pretty uncomfortable. Thank you!!!

I’m so glad that you have a pretty good environment! I’m not so glad that you don’t feel like you can call people out when they screw up with you! I totally understand not wanting to be confrontational, I really do, but I don’t think that what you want requires confrontation, so I hope I can help you stop thinking of it that way. You know that you have their support, they just need a little bit more help at expressing it properly and seamlessly. The back-and-forth in the intent versus impact discussion could go on for days and you wouldn’t get anywhere, so let’s get away from that a bit! Yes, the people misgendering you probably don’t mean anything by it, but does that make it suck less? If it did, you wouldn’t be sending me this message.

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Kermit understands. Kermit always understands.

 Treat yourself the way you treat others! Usually the way I go about corrections is waiting until the person is done speaking (nobody really responds well to being interrupted, I always try to prevent potential conflict) and say something like “could you use they instead of she, please?” or “could you use a word that isn’t gendered?” If they already know that’s what you need from them and they’re just having a hard time keeping it in mind while talking about you, their response should be along the lines of a quick apology and correction. If they make it into a big deal about how it wasn’t on purpose and how “you know I would never!!” and how they aren’t bad people then… they’re being selfish. It’s about you! And in my experience, it’s never a huge thing. Just a little reminder that, hey, I’m not a girl and I would like you to remember that for me and bring that into our interactions. At this point, I just give people a Look when they mess up and they typically self-correct pretty quickly. The most I can give YOU is just the knowledge that you are as deserving of having your gender be affirmed as everyone else in your life, but that’s easier to read than to consume and accept and believe to your core. So I have a suggestion to take some of the weight off you! I’m sure you have friends who are better at affirming your identity than others. Grab a few of those people and ask them to spot you. I’m sure some of them already call out people who misgender you at least a little bit, but just pull them aside and tell them that you’re having a hard time with correcting people and that you need their support! You said you don’t have a problem speaking up for others, and you’re not the only one who feels that way! It doesn’t have to be your responsibility entirely, and I’m sure your friends will be happy to ease your burden a bit.

Good luck!! You definitely don’t need to handle this entirely on your own.

Oly


feb 21 fri

Coffee Shop Crush

So I’m pretty new to the queer community and I’m still adjusting that I could be gay or bisexual. (Still figuring that out!) I go to this coffee shop all the time and there’s a barista that works there and I have the BIGGEST crush on her. I really want to get to know her and maybe even ask her out. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve romanticized her so much, that I’m almost too shy to talk to her. And I’m not a shy person! I’m so scared because what if she’s taken or absolutely not interested in me? I really want to do something with this relationship but I have NO idea where to start. Suggestions?

Man, queer people and coffee shop crushes. There is absolutely no way for me to avoid thinking about Mary Lambert’s video for She Keeps Me Warm.

feb 21 fri

Cute. Cute cute cute. Anyway, what I think you need to do before anything else is take a step back and turn down the tint on those rose colored glasses. I have no doubt that this barista is cute as all get out, and I think that once you get out of your own head you guys could hit it off! But. Even you recognize that you’ve romanticized them too much, and I think that’s a dangerous place to be! I once dated someone who had a similar pedestal-y crush on me (and had for like… a year) and it didn’t go well. Their constructed idea of me was way better than the reality, and it lead to disappointment on their part, discomfort on my part, and just not a really fun relationship. It fizzled out within like, a month. I don’t want you to experience that! While I (and really, most people) totally understand having a sticky-sweet, anxiety-inducing, world-encompassing crush, building someone up to such a high place just makes it easier for them to fall. So! Toning that down a little bit will, I think, really help you come back to a place where you can be comfortable and confident around her. You said you’re not shy, yeah? How do you talk to other new people in your life? This is about to sound so new-agey but like… send out vibes. Smile and make eye contact (but don’t like, gawk) and laugh and play with your hair a little bit. Read how she responds to you!

She might not be receptive, she might not be queer! It’s not the end of the world! (This is where de-romanticizing her will be very helpful to your emotional health) But just give her some attention and see how she responds. Nothing major, I’m 100% positive you can do it. I know, at least from my own experience, that it’s really easy to turn into this awkward person with nothing to say when you’re interacting with someone especially cute. So. Just take a deep breath and, as long as she isn’t swamped with work, maybe ask her how she’s doing, or compliment her the way you’d want to be complimented. The first hurdle is, without a doubt, the highest.

Good luck!!


Ins and Outs of Dysphoria

What are some of the symptoms of dysphoria? I’m trying to figure things out…

Medically, it’s basically just “being trans”. The DSM-IV lists gender dysphoria as a condition, however they do stress that “gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.” That second part is what really matters, because at least I think of dysphoria as a very physical sensation (and I know a few other trans people who also think about it in that context).

Dysphoria is a lot of different things, and I will never be able to describe it as eloquently and make it as relateable as Kate does in this article:

If you’ve never had body dysphoria, let me explain a little bit about how it makes me feel and why I have it. Body dysphoria feels like the worst-fitting outfit you’ve ever put together, but you can never take it off. Or sometimes it’s more like a pebble in your shoe, or a belt that digs into your side, or a tiny thing that is just noticeable enough to throw your day off. Some days I wake up and it’s just there. Some days it’s because I tried to fit my not-so-masculine body into my masculine clothes, and the parts that didn’t fit made me want to scream and disappear and puke up all my guts at the same time. It can grow into a scary place where I don’t know if my body belongs to me, and I feel like I’ve been detached from something essential and am about to wash out to sea. Maybe a picture makes me hate and fear the body I don’t have because it’s not the body I wish I had. Maybe I think that the someone I desire won’t desire me because I don’t look like all the handsome cisgendered men they probably grew up loving. Maybe it doesn’t make sense why I feel these things, but I still feel them and they still hurt, darn it.

Not all trans people experience bodily dysphoria (and I do want to validate this), but every conversation I’ve been a part of has lead me to believe that it is a trans specific experience, and it’s not limited to binary trans people. I browsed through a few articles before responding to this, and I saw a bit of conflation with body dysmorphia. The latter is related more to body image, the former being a feeling that something isn’t right with the body you have, and that is tied to your sense of gender identity and experience. It can be focused on the genitalia, it can be a sense of dread over the fact that your body isn’t as curvy as smooth as you need it to be, it can just be a vague consciousness that physically you do not have what you mentally and emotionally need.

I hope this helped, and I wish you luck in figuring stuff out!


Being Queer Offline

Because I am not out as mtf, I only talk about gender related stuff online, and I sometimes feel like my identity only exists online, like I live two separate lives. I’m not quite sure what my problem is, but I just can’t integrate my gender into my daily life. I feel like I’m on auto-pilot until I get online again. How do I bring identities I can only express online into my “real” life?

Well, I think there are a number of ways that you can do this, and they all depend on what you think matters in terms of you expressing your identity. First of all, I don’t know if it’s something you’d be interested in, but on Facebook you can now “customize” your gender; while you don’t actually need to put in “I am Trans” or anything (though you can), you can make the site use either he/him, she/her, or they/them for you. This might just be my skewed perception, but in a lot of ways I think of Facebook as a bridge between my online life and my offline life, so I’m really excited about their new options re: gender.

Is there any overlap with the friends you have online and the friends you have offline? I obviously don’t know if you go to UW or not, but is there a center like the Q Center at your school or in your area where you could establish queer connections? Something like Queer Youth Space? I think having ties to queer life in your world is immensely helpful for a lot of reasons, one of which being the comfort of having a concrete place of support and acceptance. For classes, email or contact your professors/teachers before terms start and tell them if you have a preferred name and what pronouns you need them to use for you.

Are there small physical things you can do/are interested in doing/feel comfortable doing? Painting your nails is obviously not something restricted to or required of any one gender, but it’s definitely perceived as a very feminine display. I always like having my toenails painted, because it’s fun and creative and pretty, but it’s just for me. Are there things that you’ve wanted to do in the past, but avoided in fear of outing yourself? Can you build up to them, find loopholes, make them more possible, more subtle? I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but anything I could outright tell you to do would be loaded with assumptions of knowledge that I don’t have on your life and your preferences. I want to make sure you do this on your own terms. I also don’t want you to just dive in headfirst; your safety and comfort is as important as your expression of self, so sacrificing one for the other is going to leave you in a good place. I’m glad that you at least have an online outlet for this expression and experience, that’s really great! I hope you’re able to bring more of yourself into your world offline. Good luck!


How Do I “Do” Bisexual?

I am a feminine female and recently came to identify as bisexual. I am in an open relationship with my boyfriend, so I have been able to have experiences with women as well. My question is now… I don’t know how to “do” bisexual. I have been raised all my life to flirt with guys, appeal to guys, etc. As a feminine woman, I find it hard to know if other women are interested in me, simply because I’ve been told that I “don’t look bisexual”. I feel like I’m in middle school all over again! Will all this just happen naturally over time? Where’s a good place to start so I can get more comfortable talking/flirting with girls in that way?

I think more than anything this is something that will happen naturally for you, but I think what would be really helpful for you would be to take a step back and think about your history of interacting with men under a sexual context and how it could translate. Outside of societal expectations, I really don’t think there’s that much of a difference. What nonverbal signals did you send out to let a dude know you were interested? Lots of eye contact? Laughter regardless of whether or not they said something funny? Playing with your hair or lips? Subtle physical contact when it’s totally not required? Those are all pretty universal flirting signs, regardless of who it’s coming from. Flirt with someone the way you’d want to be flirted with, if that makes sense. Have confidence and be earnest, I don’t think there’s really a trick to it. I feel weird writing this because I am embarrassingly bad at flirting, but this is definitely what I believe! Also, I think I’ve mentioned this once in an entry before, but I honestly think that like, OKCupid is really effective here? You can list yourself as bisexual, check the box for “I don’t want to see or be seen by straight people,” and just get some practice talking to girls under that context. And as much as you can, ignore the whole “you don’t look bisexual” thing. I think I’ve voiced my thoughts on how I feel about that kind of mindset enough that doing so again would be redundant, but the people who say that are terribly misguided and I just don’t want that to affect your sense of self! This entry might be somewhat useful to you in that regard, though. I hope this helps! Again, I really think that it won’t be a big leap for you, but I wish you all of the luck in the world.


API Sexuality and the Media

Have you ever thought about how media impacts the way you view your sexuality?

How does being API in the United States influence the way you think about gender roles and relationships?

Join API Chaya in collaboration with FASA sa UW as we explore these questions together on Wednesday, February 12 at the Ethnic Cultural Center in the Native Room from 4-6pm!

API Chaya is a 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to end systemic violence in our communities.

We envision a community free from violence. The mission of the API Chaya is to organize communities; to educate, train, and offer technical assistance; and to provide comprehensive culturally relevant services on domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking to Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander community members, service providers, survivors, and their families. We are one of the few organizations in the country that serves Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander community members, survivors, and their families. We also assist mainstream service providers who serve API refugees and immigrants.

Visit API Chaya‘s website for more information!
http://www.chayaseattle.org/


HRT and Invalidation

Dear Queer, I am an amab trans woman. For much of my life I identified as a woman, but had to (and still have to) keep it secret from much of my family and friends in fear that they might disown me or worse. I have considered HRT but am currently very incapable of affording it. Not only that, but I’m not 100% sure I want to undergo HRT. I feel as though my identity is constantly being dismissed and erased, even among my queer friends, simply because I haven’t undergone -or don’t fully plan to undergo- HRT. There isn’t much I know regarding the procedure, and there aren’t many resources available in my area. Do you have any general advice for my predicament?

First and foremost I want to apologize for the way people have treated your hesitance with HRT. That’s really not cool, and I’m sorry that you have felt invalidated for this, because that should not happen. The fascination and borderline objectification of the trans body is unfortunately not limited to those outside of queer communities. You are a woman, your body belongs to a woman, and that does not become more or less true just because of what it looks like. Having access to hormone therapy is a privilege that many do not have, for reasons similar to your own. It’s expensive, it requires support, and it’s a process.

Here are some great resources RE: trans health that will be immensely helpful for you to look into:

http://www.icath.org/default.html
http://transhealth.ucsf.edu/
http://www.amsa.org/AMSA/Homepage/About/Committees/GenderandSexuality/TransgenderHealthCare.aspx
http://thefenwayinstitute.org/

Two things to keep in mind, that these websites will confirm to some degree: you do not need to “live as ___” for a certain amount of time before you qualify for HRT. Also: not everything estrogen will do to you is permanent, and stopping treatment is always a possibility. I know you’re kind of on the border about whether or not to even consider it an option, but I want to make sure your ambivalence is not only a result of the permanence or ease of access. I’m giving you these resources not because I want to back any of the pressure you’ve felt towards it, but because I want you to have as much information as possible in case it becomes something you want and a possibility in your life. A lot of things go into what most people consider a “full transition” – but what parts actually matter to you? Don’t wrap your life and your decisions around what people perceive to be The Trans Experience, I don’t think that will ever really fulfill you emotionally.

If you would feel comfortable, I would really encourage you to talk to your queer friends especially about the way they treat your identification as a woman. I can’t stress enough that I want you to reject those who say that you need to undergo this MASSIVE physical transition in order to be validated in what you already know and have known for a long time now. I specify the queer friends because you do have the common ground of belonging to a gender/sexual minority with them, there’s less ground to cover and they will undoubtedly have more empathy than those who aren’t queer. Honestly, a good conversation starter is the recent Janet Mock and Piers Morgan debacle; Janet Mock is incredibly articulate in the fact that, though a physical transition was something she wanted and benefited from, that’s not what made her the person she is.

I hope I said something constructive, please feel free to write back for clarification or whatever else you might need. Good luck!

Oly


Starting a GSA

I’m starting a GSA at my school and I want to have meetings with different topics each week. I want the topics to focus more on less well-known issues like the biphobia, etc. Do you have any ideas of what I could talk about?

Oh awesome, this is awesome. This is really cool of you to take upon yourself! Two huge tips I have from the get-go: 1) stress intersectionality! Put a spotlight on overlapping groups of marginalized people, don’t let the people in your future GSA associate queer issues with only white, thin, able-bodied, wealthy people! 2) Make it interactive, and not only in the context of having an open discussion. One thing I think is really helpful is asking people what they know and what they want to know more about and what they just simply don’t understand, at the very beginning and as you move throughout the topics. This will definitely require ice breakers first, though. Ok I’m gonna list out some potential topics of conversation (in no particular order!) and add some resources and whatnot that I think you could find useful.

  1. Concepts of power, privilege, and oppression on a very basic and translatable level to work with. It’s really important for there to be a level of understand with these issues before moving into the complication of them in practice.
  2. Transgenderism (this is specific to a trans woman’s experience but http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/591565 it’s also very flashy), transmisogyny (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9I8euP4mEE&noredirect=1), non-binarism, gender as a social construct, androgyny (and complications: http://boldlygo.co/36/ this article is amazing in my opinion BUT there is a danger of people reading this and taking from it “androgyny is bad” and that’s not what I think you should be trying to get across; instead just stress that these issues are complicated and are deserving of critical thinking), body dysphoria, etc.
  3. Biphobia! Is really important to talk about! (I love this article: http://thoughtcatalog.com/gaby-dunn/2013/01/girls-dont-count/) An interesting conversation would be the difference between bisexual and pansexual. There’s a ton of media depiction of biphobia, especially in Glee w/r/t Brittany and Santana’s relationship, Blaine’s soiree with Rachel (if I remember correctly), etc. Something that plays a big key in both of those examples as well as the article is the assumption that in the end, any given person wants a man at the end of the day if queerness is even on the table, which is sexist as all hell.
  4. Asexuality (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKJ_MZNv2GY I like this video because it’s not a sexual person telling you what asexuality is, it’s a sexual person looking at the concept with care and grace and complicating it in a productive way… and she’s right, there’s a LOAD of resources out there, especially asexuality.org), asexual erasure, the possible dangers of growing up asexual when you don’t know that’s even an option
  5. Poverty and homelessness amongst queer youths, systems of criminalization against queer people http://srlp.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/disproport-incarc.pdf, http://srlp.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/disprop-poverty.pdf, http://srlp.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/disprop-deportation.pdf this can tie into the objectification of trans women and the accessibility of transition and why such a large focus on the physical change is counter-productive in trans discussions
  6. Queer sex ed! Non hetero-normative sex ed! I need better resources for this but Joseph Birdsong has done some gay sex ed on the answerly YouTube channel and Laci Green (though problematic) and Dr. Doe (sexplanations) both delve into queer sex.
  7. Polyamory and non-normative relationships is also interesting though it’s important to make a distinction that polyamory =/= queer! And that making those equivalent is problematic in some aspects. Same goes for other types of non-normative relationships, they do not necessarily blend into queerness.
  8. Allyship and why using ally as a label is problematic, white knights and white saviors, White Feminism (that is, feminism that refuses to acknowledges of trans feminine people and women of color and women in countries that are not America as relevant to the feminist cause), Macklemore’s Same Love and ACLU card and the concept of “tacit whiteness” (I think this phrase is interesting and helpful) and the act of making a marginalized group acceptable by incorporating them into the norm INSTEAD OF recognizing and respecting intrinsic differences as valid, etc. Also: http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/2012/04/23/making-movement-mistakes-what-to-do-when-you-fk-up/
  9. Talk about queer figures in history! I am not good with this so I’ll list a few people who are up on the wall of the Q Center: Audre Lorde, Bayard Rustin, Leslie Cheung, George Washington Carver, Frida Kahlo, Yukio Mishima, etc. Maybe why it is that queer historical figures kind of begin and end with white cis people, specifically white cis men (I’m thinking about Harvey Milk).

I think… that’s a good starting point. This is so exciting, I hope everything goes well for you. Please feel free to send me a message if/when you get this started up! I’m really interested in how it turns out for you.

Good luck!