Internship position: Rainbow Health Fair Coordinator

The Rainbow Health Fair offers traditional and holistic health services and education from culturally competent providers to lesbian, bisexual, and queer women and genderqueer and transgender people, especially those with limited access to care.  The Rainbow Health Fair Coordinator will support all pieces of preparation and implementation for the YWCA’s annual Rainbow Health Fair, which has been serving the LBTQ community since 1995.  The fair will take place on Saturday, June 28th, 2014, and the planning process, spearheaded by the Rainbow Health Fair Committee, begins in January.

At the YWCA of Seattle-King-Snohomish, our mission is to empower women, eliminate racism, and advance the quality of life for all women and their families. Within this broader framework, our Women’s Health Outreach (WHO) program provides peer outreach, education, and health services to a diverse community of women with limited incomes, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. By helping to plan and execute an accessible, effective Rainbow Health Fair, the Coordinator will support the Women’s Health Outreach Program in fulfilling its goal to bring health care resources to these underserved communities.

Once a month, and more frequently towards the Health Fair date, 1.5 to 2 hour planning meetings are held Tuesdays between 6.30 and 8.00pm. The Planning Committee consists of a group of enthusiastic volunteers and the Program Manager of the Women’s Health Outreach (WHO).

Overarching Rainbow Health Fair Coordinator responsibilities will include:

  • · Promote the fair in the Seattle LBTQ community through outreach and marketing
  • · Maintain and update the Rainbow Health Fair blog to create buzz and educate attendees
  • · Assist in coordinating meetings for the Rainbow Health Fair Committee, which consists of YWCA staff, volunteers, and community leaders
  • · Take notes and offer logistical support at committee meetings
  • · Recruit volunteers for the day of the fair
  • · Support event implementation on the day of the fair, and celebrate with the YWCA team!

 

The Coordinator will have the opportunity to collaborate with the YWCA’s Women’s Health Outreach staff, a diverse group of dedicated women who bring years of experience in community health and social work to the table. The WHO office environment is extremely warm and welcoming, and the Coordinator will benefit from the support, wisdom, and humor of our staff. Much of the planning and preparation for the Rainbow Health Fair will be done on-site at the YWCA, and there will be an area set aside for the Coordinator and equipped with the necessary resources. A few pieces of the project can also be completed remotely, which will offer the Coordinator some flexibility.

This position offers many professional and personal growth opportunities, including chances to learn the inner workings of a large social service organization, receive mentoring from seasoned health and social work professionals, and develop community organizing and project management skills. The Coordinator will also be able to enhance their understanding of the barriers our YWCA clients face, and carry this with them into their social work careers.  The ideal student is well-organized, enjoys engaging with community members, writes and communicates well, and is able to work independently. The Coordinator must possess a passion for health care access and/or health education and an understanding of social justice issues and barriers to health care, preferably with a lens specific to the LBTQ community.

If you are interested, please contact Ingrid Berkhout at iberkhout@ywcaworks.org or 206-461-4493.


"This is a—this is maybe stupid," said Oliver, "but, like, when I talk about you, should I say 'he' or 'her' or . . . ?" Quattlebaum grinned.

What the H*ck is Gender?

Hi Oly! I’ve been thinking about gender and identity a lot recently and I’m just really confused about my own. Like, I get that there are trans people who got sex dysphoria and that doesn’t apply to me but I also read stuff about dysphoria not being the only thing to define gender. But what is it then? Because I don’t think it’s gender roles, right? What IS gender? How do you know whether you feel female / male / something else?

Wow, ok. Big question. Well first and foremost we need to agree that gender is a culture bound concept. American culture operates with two pretty rigid genders (masculinity being more rigid, I would say… there’s always more wiggle room outside of the role that receives privilege). Other cultures use a binary system, but a lot don’t. Even those that use a binary system don’t necessarily have the same categorization that we do, nor the same strictness about people adhering to the gender they are assigned. Gender is… there’s only so many times you can say “gender is a social construct” before it sounds like nails on a chalkboard but that’s what it is. Your understandings of “male” and “female” are dependent on the fact that you grew up in this culture that have these structures for gender. It’s reinforced ad nauseum by tropes in media and weird pointless dichotomies. It is sold to us in a really simple, easily consumable but heavily flawed and skewed way that erases a lot of people and doesn’t encourage personal growth. So.

"This is a—this is maybe stupid," said Oliver, "but, like, when I talk about you, should I say 'he' or 'her' or . . . ?" Quattlebaum grinned.

“This is a—this is maybe stupid,” said Oliver, “but, like, when I talk about you, should I say ‘he’ or ‘her’ or . . . ?” Quattlebaum grinned. (really great article here)

 

So, how do you know what you feel like. That’s really complicated! I mean, I don’t think it’s too oversimplifying for me to say that generally, trans people discover their identification as trans because something feels wrong about the way they are being gendered. And that can include physical issues, but it doesn’t have to. Bodies are incredibly gendered, but so are actions, affects, aesthetics, etc. Maybe you are assigned female but something in your core screams male. Maybe you were assigned male but you feel out of place in the gender category you’ve been dumped in, and the “other side” doesn’t look too hot either. It’s a feeling of discomfort that permeates your experience as a person in a gendered society. I think something that’s also happening more with the increased visibility of trans narratives is cis people who are relatively apathetic about their identification taking a step back and thinking, “Do I actually identify this way? Why do I identify this way? What informed this? Would I be more comfortable being seen as something else?” It’s something that absolutely deserves experimentation, and if you’re feeling so… vague about it, I 100% encourage you to explore that. I hope it’s something that you play around with and find something productive in! Gender is weird and a pretty paper-thin structure that I am all for poking holes in.

Good luck!!


Femininity and Genderqueerness

Hi there! I was a born female who now identifies as genderqueer, and I dress very feminine. However, when I tell people I’m genderqueer, they tell me I’m just using the title to “fit in” and that I’m “just a chick”. I do feel 100% genderqueer, and completely identify myself as so, but I feel this pressure that I must look 100% androgynous in order to fit my gender role, and that if I don’t, people will continuously misgender me and I’ll never be “accepted” as genderqueer. I really don’t know what to do? I don’t want to conform to other people’s standards of what my gender should look like, but I feel as if I never will be completely genderqueer if I don’t. I was thinking of taking testosterone to feel more at ease in physical terms of being genderqueer, but I’m not entirely sure. What should I do?

Anyone who tells you that is seriously such an asshole. I tried to think of a better way to say this but nah, nothing works as well as asshole. First and foremost, nobody IDs as trans to “fit in”. That is an incredibly ridiculous, harmful claim and the people who hide behind that logic in order to invalidate the way people identify and express themselves are just being obstinate. To ID as trans to “fit in” would imply that being trans is in any way a norm, that it is in any way accepted, that it is in any way a cultural standard. It’s not. You know it’s not, I know it’s not, and no matter how much visibility trans people get in certain circles, that does not change on any larger scale. A friend of mine said this like three years ago and I’ll never forget it: “Pretending you’re a gender you’re not isn’t fun. That’s why people come out as trans in the first place.” So just. The people who tell you otherwise are wrong. And assholes.

This relates back to my last response in a really big way. You are completely genderqueer by the merit of you identifying yourself as such. I’m gonna go ahead and assume that you put some thought into using that word. You know it feels right, you know it is right. You are genderqueer. Nothing can change that except you and how you move forward, and that’s not to say it will change. “Presenting” as androgyny is complicated and fallible and has very privileged roots. Androgyny as we conceive it as a society is incredibly male-biased. Embrace a feminine aesthetic, force people to stop identifying masculinity as the default, because honestly that’s a bit tired, yeah?

Do you want to take testosterone for yourself? Not for others, for you? Do you think that the results of testosterone would satisfy you on your own terms? Because that’s An Ordeal. Not permanent, but expensive and stressful, and if you’re doing it for anyone besides yourself, I don’t think it will make you feel any better. You shouldn’t need to conform to a gender binary in order to exist outside of it, that… doesn’t make sense. You need to use what you’re presented with to your advantage, and if you like dressing feminine I would say you’ve found it. Assholes, seriously. Don’t listen to them. I know that’s easier said than done, and misgendering isn’t a thing that’s going to stop happening for as long as we live in a transphobic, cissexist culture, but you do you. You’re so much stronger than they want you to be.

Good luck to everything! I’m here if you need me.


Doing Gender Neutrality Right

hi! i’m dfab & agender. in the process of becoming aware of and exploring my gender identity over the past two years, i tried to express myself in more masculine ways to achieve what i believed was androgyny — the most visible one was having most of my hair cut off about a year ago. now i’m trying to grow it back out, because in the year since, i’ve realized that masculine “androgyny” doesn’t appeal to me. even so, up until then it seemed like the only Real Way to do gender neutrality, and because of this feminine parts of my gender expression (nail painting, wearing my hair long, wearing dresses) always feel like they are in conflict with the masculine ones (don’t usually wear makeup, don’t shave my legs, masculine body build). i don’t know if there is a right or wrong way to go about being agender and i’m pretty lost as to where to go at this point!

Isn’t it just completely not fair how the gender binary completely permeates our understanding of neutrality EVEN WITHIN the queer community? You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re agender, yeah? This culture didn’t grow up with queer people mind. There’s not a section in a clothing store for nonbinary people. You have to take what you have it make it yours. Our concepts of androgyny are unsettlingly male-influenced, and I’m glad you made a note that it didn’t work out for you. I’m glad that you are in a place where you can reject the standard of androgyny because you know it isn’t right for you. I think a lot of people – by no fault of their own! – force themselves into ideas of popular (masculinized) androgyny because that’s… the only other option given. But two options expanded to a heavily gendered third isn’t a satisfying compromise! There’s only so much you can do to avoid being gendered in a gendered culture. The “feminine” and “masculine” parts of your gender expression aren’t in opposition to each other, they’re in harmony with each other. Know that they’re yours, that you’re cheating the system that wasn’t made to consider people like us part of the picture. There’s not a right way or a wrong way, just your way. I think you’ve found it, now you just need a bit of confidence in it.

Good luck!


If you can pull off a not awkward fistbump, that would be ideal.

Showing Support & Coming Out

What is the best way to show support for a friend or family member that comes out with their sexuality or gender identity? For example, I don’t want to be overwhelming in showering them with love or blowing my reaction out of proportion (ex. “OH MY GOD I KNEW IT AND I’M SO PROUD OF YOU), but I also do not want to sweep it under the rug as a no big deal because I do understand it is a huge step in their life.

I think that generally, the best way to respond to someone coming out is to say, very earnestly, “thank you for sharing this with me, it means a lot and I’m here for you.” Because that’s 1) what they’re doing, 2) a recognition that this is significant, and 3) an expression of the solidarity you’re wanting to convey! They’re sharing something with you that is potentially and big deal, and that they would feel comfortable telling you without, I assume, feeling pressured to for any secondary reason besides wanting you to know, is a huge testament to how much you matter to them. So respect that, don’t make it a spectacle, don’t respond with nothing more than “okay cool”, just share a nice, small moment with them and then be there for them as they need you to be. I definitely think that’d be a best case scenario. If you and whoever is coming out are physically comfortable with each other, minor physical contact is immensely comforting.

If you can pull off a not awkward fistbump, that would be ideal.

If you can pull off a not awkward fistbump, that would be ideal.

Not everyone needs the same things, obviously. Some people are going to want more support in the moment, some people are going to want to move on pretty quickly. I can’t give you one definitive answer because there isn’t one. Read them, provide them a confidence boost if they need it, let them elaborate if they want to. Keep it about them and their needs and just make sure they know you’re there for them in whatever capacity that might be! Good luck to both you and the potentially queer people in your life.

 

Hey there! I’m a bisexual/biromantic girl, and I’m “out” to my friends but not to my family. I know my family will be supportive, but it’s just so weird thinking about Coming Out to them. I just hate that it has to be such a big deal. I came out to my friends by casually talking about girls I had crushes on, so it was never an event or anything. The problem is, I don’t talk to my family about crushes. I don’t even like expressing interest in cute actors around my family. I was thinking about coming out to my (older) sister, then my parents, but I don’t know how to do it without them making it a big deal. I want it to be as low-key as possible. Any advice?

So there’s a huge possibility that I just have horrific luck, but coming out to family is historically awkward, regardless of how supportive you know they’ll be. I do think that using your sister as a stepping stone would be super conducive to what you’re tryin’ to go for here, because she’s not going to treat it… like a parent would, for lack of a better comparison. Honestly, just from my own experiences, your parents might want to Talk About It. A whole hand-on-your-knee, soulful eyes ordeal. Which is kind of painful. You might need to indulge it a little bit for the sake of your parents feeling like they’re being good parents, I really can’t guarantee you anything in that respect. Even with super supportive parents, it’s a shift! And they’re going to respond to it. And that response might be a weepy “I’m so proud of you!” that you’ll cringe at for want of causality and it might be a grunt and a fistbump, I don’t know! If your relationship with your older sister is anything like my relationship with my younger sister, just telling her “Hey, I’m not straight” apropos of nothing with result in a nod of understanding and solidarity and then a different topic will come up. I don’t know the relationship you have with your family, but if you know they’ll be supportive that’s half the battle right there! Having your sister in the know will be helpful, and I know a lot of other queer people who came out to their siblings before they came out to their parents. Utilize your sister in trying to find a good time to come out to your parents. Let her know that you need it to be as calm as possible. She can help facilitate that.

This is going to sound like a really dramatic option, so I apologize, but I also think it will help you to minimize the intensity of the reaction you’ll get: write them a letter. Something short and sweet that you can leave them that just says something like “Howdy, I’m queer and I don’t want it to be an ordeal, it’s not something I want to dominate the conversations you have with me, I just wanted you to know for the sake of you knowing.” Obviously I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so that is 100% just an example. Also my coworkers laughed at me for suggesting this, so maybe not. I’m suggesting it because it’ll give your parents to process it away from you so that you can come back and handle it with them the way you need to. But regardless of how you start, I think that stressing your needs from the get-go is important. Again, I’m not going to lie, your parents are probably going to talk to you about it! But make sure it’s on your terms. Tell them when you’d  be okay with talking about it, figure out what you want to talk to them about and what you don’t necessarily want on the table. I don’t know how your parents will react, so I want you to have options and be ready to control the conversation if it becomes more than what you want.

Make your needs clear, and ask your sister to run defense. I wish I could guarantee you a casual experience, but I can’t! I can only try to help you minimize it. Good luck, I hope things go well!


hdf

Complications of Gender Neutrality & Laci Green

Hi! I think that I might be gender neutral, but I’m very confused! I still sometimes identify as female, and I don’t mind female pronouns at all. Would I have to “commit” to being neutral at all times? What kind of voice would I have in feminism/women’s rights issues? Would I have to out myself to potential partners who are interested in females?

Hi! The short and sweet set of answers is: no, a valid one, and that’s up to you. To elaborate:

1) When I first started allowing myself to be genderqueer, I felt like I was required to “present” that way at all times. I felt like if I looked feminine in any way, my identification outside of the binary wouldn’t be perceived as valid. And maybe it wasn’t, maybe it isn’t, and maybe people still look at me and my consistently polished fingernails and decidedly fantastic eye makeup and refuse to reconcile that image with my rejection of the gender people project onto me. Not everyone’s gonna treat you the way you want and deserve to be treated as someone who dissociates with the gender binary, but the people who do are the ones that matter the most anyway! Besides, the concept of neutrality when it comes to gender presentation is like, laughably gendered. It’s not an easy thing to “commit” to in the first place, so why do so when you don’t always want to? That’s not to say that playing around with gender presentation and how you think of it isn’t worthwhile and interesting and rewarding, but it’s not something you should ever feel forced to do. That totally counteracts the emotional liberation of coming to terms with queering your identity.

hdf

One of my favorite articles complicates our concepts of androgyny. Pat was a joke character on SNL whose entire persona was a joke about gender from a very binary mindset, but what makes Pat gender neutral? If their personality gave nothing about their gender away, does that change if they would wear a dress or a suit? Does presentation change who they are?

2) Nonbinary people aren’t protected from misogyny and the repercussions of living in a patriarchal society. Feminism is most productive when it’s intersectional, meaning when it gives voice to trans people, women of color, [dis]abled folks, and so on. When it recognizes overlap and celebrates it. When its being used as a tool to fight systems of power, when it doesn’t rely on removing agency from those of less privilege, when it rejects the very popular mindset that “feminism is, and to an extent always has been, a white, middle class movement,” in the words of Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Cosslett of the Vagenda. You have a voice, you have your own set of experiences, and you have a place in feminism. Anyway, that women’s rights issues are referred to specifically as “women’s rights issues” is a product of gender binarism in America, not a conscious focus on only people who are women regardless of assigned sex.

3) Depends on you and depends on the circumstances! Depends on how much you want out of your partner, what you need from them. Would you want them to refer to you with gender neutral pronouns, would you want them to refrain from using gendered words like “girlfriend”, would you want them to begin to identify themselves as queer for you to feel supported and affirmed? I think it really depends on two different axes, the person and their understanding of queer issues and the seriousness of your relationship with them. If I were to casually date someone, I doubt it would come up. But, if I were to casually date someone from the queer community, I would expect them to be able to affirm my gender stuff properly.  If I was in a committed, romantic relationship with someone or someones, I would want them to know that part of myself and know how I needed to be treated because of it. There’s no one answer, I think it’s something that you can put on the table when you feel like it needs to be.

I really hope this helps!

I read your blog a lot and I love the advice you give but I saw the other day that you said Laci Green was problematic. I’ve watched a few of her videos and I really liked what she had to say but I was wondering what she did that was problematic so I can know what to watch out for when watching her videos?

If you google “Laci Green problematic” you will find lists upon lists of instances and evidence and whatnot, so if you’re interested in that, look that up. The tldr version is that she makes a lot of comments and does a lot of things that are fatphobic, transphobic, cissexist, Islamphobic, etc. and then responds incredibly poorly to people calling her out for it. She doesn’t take responsibility, she puts the blame on the people who call her out, and just generally mirrors a kid having a tantrum. I used to really love her videos, and she’s definitely taught me things that still matter to me and that I’m grateful for learning, but I just have no interest in actively supporting her.


dsda

How Do I Talk To My Partner About Demisexuality?

For as long as I can remember I’ve thought of myself as being strictly asexual but still seeking romantic relationships. Recently I’ve started to think that maybe I may be fazing out of asexual into more demi-sexual. It feels like such a weird middle place because dating someone strictly asexual feels weird but dating someone who might be uncomfortable with me not wanting to go there hasn’t gone well either. I’m afraid that if I decide to try it and conclude that I never want to do it again I could end up getting hurt. Do you have any advice about how to talk to potential partners about this in a way that helps them understand?

I hope it’s not too forward for me to say that this is something I can actually come at from a very personal place, because everything that you’ve said pretty much mirrors how I’m feeling right now. So, I’m going to talk about this from a personal place and from very personal experience, but I don’t want to make this NOT about you, and I hope I succeed in that. I’ve never dated anyone asexual, but this has never been a problem for me. My asexuality has always been on the table; I’ve had two significant relationships, and both of my partners knew that I was asexual before we starting dating. However, the fact that this was understood from the beginning only really helped us break that initial barrier of talking about it. If we hadn’t continued to talk about it after the fact, these relationships would have been far less healthy than they actually turned out to be. Both of my serious partners read through a lot of stuff on AVEN (two great subsections of the forums that I think you might find useful are the ones on relationships and “the gray area“), which I think really helped them get a more flexible understanding of what it meant that I was asexual, but more than anything, the question of “is this okay?” and “are you comfortable with this?” was always on the table – and not just in regards to me! I mean, that’s a huge part of being in a healthy relationship to begin with. Whether it’s romantic or not, casual or committed, you and your partner should be doin’ whatever you’re doin’ in a way that’s mutually beneficial. I know I keep linking to stuff, but Dr. Doe’s video Sex Is Not Black & White really rings true to me and I think is especially relevant just with the concerns you’re having. Regardless of whether or not a member of a relationship is asexual, everyone’s wants and needs are different. Some differences are smaller and less pressing, but they’re still there and your relationship will be all the better for recognizing that and addressing it.

dsda

Another video (I’M SORRY!) that I think is super vital is Dr. Doe’s How to Get the Sex You Want. Being able to talk about you interests and how they shift and change is totally relevant to this discussion. Dr. Doe is better at talking about sexy things than I am.

My biggest piece of advice would be to set the pace for communication of any potential relationship you have. If you start dating someone you like, take some time to tell them your reservations. I don’t think the word “asexual” even needs to be a part of this conversation, but that’s completely and totally up to you and how you want to talk about it. Honesty is important when it comes to something as potentially uncomfortable as sex, so maybe say something like this: “I have historically not been interested in sex. I think I might be interested in having sex in the future, but it’s something that makes me nervous and I want to be able to talk about it openly and honestly with you. I still don’t know if that’s something that I want, how do you feel about this?” Asking for their response is what will make the communication healthy. You are 100% entitled to have a healthy sexual relationship on your terms, and believe me when I say there are literal boatloads of sexual people who won’t be too bothered about moving at a glacial pace when it comes to sex. That said, there are also sexual people who want something more their speed, as I can infer you have a bit of experience with. It’s okay if a relationship doesn’t take off because of this disconnect. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and wouldn’t you rather come to the mutual understanding of “maybe this isn’t the best idea for us” rather than stumble through a relationship where both parties are uncomfortable and frustrated? Keep a stress of consent (I’m seriously so sorry for all the links, also that one has nudity) on the table where it belongs, because that’s also a huge part of healthy relationships that is criminally overlooked. Be open about the fact that yeah, sex is kind of a big deal for you! That’s okay, dude. It’s a big deal to a lot of people.

I hope this helped some. I know that it wasn’t super asexual focused, but this is a conversation that I think exists in its own right. Starting a conversation about something that can be so serious is very difficult, and it will probably take a bit of pumping yourself up, but it’s so worth it. Both you and your potential partner will be better for it if you work with each other to break down the assumptions you both have about relationships and sex and build up something that is best for you both.

Good luck!

Oly