Being Queer at UW

Do you feel comfortable being queer at UW? I’m just wondering because I visited this fall and I would love to go to an accepting college and escape what seems like the only homophobic area in California. Also, thanks so much for this blog, it really helps.

Honestly, I really do. It’s hard for me to tell if this is a product of luck or if this is the overall climate of the campus, but I have had an almost exclusively amazing experience being queer. At the beginning of my time here, I went to two different events hosted by the Q Center: an open house and a welcome luncheon. I’m a really shy person so it’s not like I necessarily thrived and immediately made a ton of friends BUT some of the first faces I saw on campus outside of my dorm were queer faces, and there were a lot of them. If you do come here, I really recommend hitting up the things we put on during Dawg Daze (a week long string of stuff on campus for newcomers to get used to the place and have fun and etc). We did some info sessions this year and within the space of three different hour long get-togethers we had organized new clubs, people had found common interests (there were a LOT of people into roller derby at the first one), etc., and it was really cool to watch everyone mesh and figure their stuff out.

I took advantage of natl. coming out day last year to make a big ol’ heartfelt post on Facebook about my queer identity, and though I was by no means “in the closet” it was the first time I was really articulating it to EVERYONE in my life, not just the people I’m very close to. I lived in the Honors community housing, which was really amazing for a lot of reasons, and even though I hadn’t really made any deep connections at that point, over thirty people from my floor liked the post and affirmed my identities and were so unbelievably supportive in the way that I needed it most: casually.

My worst experience was, ironically enough, in a class focused on oppressed groups and their representation in Hollywood. I had to do a group final project on heteronormativity and about half of my group was so overwhelmingly homophobic and transphobic it was a real challenge to get through the class. I regret not talking to my teacher about it because I know they would have done something (which I’m about to follow up on), but I did at least find solace in the other half of the group, who were incredibly supportive and kind. The group was really heavily polarized and it’s not something I want to experience again.

That said, one of the best experiences I’ve had here was this past quarter, in my Psych 101 class with Kevin King. I was definitely not the most committed person to the class; for the first half of the quarter I sat in the near back and texted my friends instead of actually paying attention to what he was teaching and what I could learn from it. There came a point where he did an activity where students would first click in that they were male or female and then participate in an onscreen poll. It made me incredibly uncomfortable, and I emailed him about it the second I had a chance. Not only did he respond immediately, empathetically,  and graciously, but he then worked with me over the course of a few emails to figure out how he could change the way he talked about certain things to make them more queer friendly.

In the end I got him to start using phrases like “assigned sex” and the like, and it significantly improved my experience in the class. I started sitting about four rows from the front, my grades shot up, I was getting more out of the class, etc. I later introduced myself to him in person and I began to make a point of it to approach him after class to talk about a few of the issues he touched on in a more intersectional lens, which doesn’t really get to happen in the context of a 101 class. It was a really incredible experience for me! From this all I can say is I highly recommend talking to a professor if something rubs you the wrong way, even if it’s a professor with 400+ students per lecture. It’s worth your time, and there’s a lot of support to be found on campus; luckily the support isn’t hard to find.

I’m glad that this blog has provided something for you, and I’m happy to help! Thank you for keeping up with it. If you end up choosing the UW, we’ll be lucky to have you.


Femme Lesbian

I’m a femme lesbian and I don’t know how to express that I’m gay, and don’t know how to figure out if another girl is gay. I feel like this is a very basic problem and I’m the only one in the entire gay community who has never had a girlfriend because of it. It’s a vicious cycle, you know? Can you give me any tips on how to better present my sexuality or recognize it in another girl?

This is a really hard question for me to answer, because I think there’s a problem in the queer community at large in identifying other queer people only through tropes and stereotypes of queerness and that’s a huge discussion that would completely derail a concise answer to this. However. I don’t know if it’s crossed your mind at all, but I want to scream from the top of a mountain: DON’T TRY TO DE-FEMME YOURSELF. Again, I don’t know if it’s something you’ve considered but I know so many people, myself included, who did things like chop their hair off or completely change their sense in fashion to fit their understanding of queerness and in all cases they wound up being completely dissatisfied and uncomfortable. If being femme makes you happy, stay femme. I just really want that on the table because I think it’s important and a lot of people forget it!!

That said, the only real way to figure out whether someone is interested in girls is to kind of test the waters on that yourself. Try to start conversations with people you’re attracted to, try to exude flirty vibes (it’s a learned skill, but it’s not as hard as it seems!), and read their reactions. Watch body language, listen to what they say, keep your intentions on the table. That’s honestly the only advice on that I can give! On better presenting your own sexuality, look into gay symbolism if you want to stay subtle. There’s rainbow jewelry that isn’t horrifically tacky, you can find pins with signifiers, even something like a sticker on your laptop (I have a ton). I like that kind of stuff because it lets people around you get used to the idea that you’re not straight without you needing to start a conversation about it, and it’s not super over-the top. That said, there’s also a lot of super over-the-top lesbian paraphernalia that you can find on etsy and whatnot. Also, I don’t know how out you are/ are willing to be and I have no interest in pushing you into something you’re uncomfortable doing, but whenever I see “Interested in: Women” on someone’s Facebook info, that sticks with me! Also, queer people are going to be around queer spaces, so I guess refer to the last question I responded to as well because it all applies.

I hope some of this helped, and good luck!

Oly


Where are the Gay Guys?

Where do I meet other gay guys on campus? College is supposed to be about experimentation and yet all I see are legions of straight couples.

While I can assure you that you’re not alone in this frustration, there are definitely ways to find what you’re looking for! That said, it depends on what exactly you’re looking for. There’s a fraternity here called Delta Lambda Phi that exists solely for gay/bisexual/etc men if you’re interested in community building. And while I’m not here to show the Q Center off, that’s why we exist in the first place; to have a space for queer people to be queer where they otherwise don’t feel safe doing so. And there’s always Grindr and OKCupid. Don’t knock ‘em till you try ‘em. I’m not in on that scene but advice from a friend on Grindr (which, if you don’t know, is a location-based hook up, and I want to stress that, app for gay men, essentially) is “it’s not craigslist, don’t be creepy, use full sentences, don’t put something like ‘masc4masc’ in your profile”. I do, however, have experience using OKCupid and I honestly really recommend it. One of the options you can take advantage of is, if you sign up as a gay/bi member (it’s free, by the way), is to check off “I don’t want to see or be seen by straight people”. Also on OKCupid you can specify interest in long term relationships, casual relationship/hook-ups, or even just making new friends, I’ve made a few queer friends in the area by starting to talk to them through OKC so I’m all about it. Also it’s super easy to block creepy people and make it a nice experience for yourself! Capitol Hill is really close (just take the 49 bus from 15th up to Broadway) and it’s kind of the center of gay/counterculture communities in Seattle, though not at all what it used to be.

That’s all I can really think off off the top of my head, but remember that it’s the beginning of the year. People definitely use college to reinvent themselves, explore new aspects of themselves, etc., but it’s a major adjustment to make and it’s going to take most longer to be out and open. Your patience will pay off!!

Good luck dude!


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Lavender Graduation

Have you heard about this big party that the Q Center, Student Life, and OMAD are throwing for all of our supremely quirky, talented, brilliant, awkward, out-of-this-world-talented, creative, graceful, bright & shiny, critically thinking, self-doubting, wondering-what-to-do-next, FIERCE queer and allied graduates?

Really? Haven’t heard about it? Not in in the 10 weekly countdown emails? Or in the evite? Or in the Facebook event? Or in the sky writing? What about the bathroom graffiti? My tweets? Well, the Q Center is hosting a huge party for YOU and you closest communities on June 5th in the UW Panopticon Tower on the Mezzanine Level Cafeteria. 6-8 p.m. People absolutely love this event.

Here are some of the things people have to say about Lavender Graduation: Vice President of Student Life Eric Godfrey: “It is just a great event. I mean, where else are you going to get a micro brew and a cupcake. It is just awesome.”

“I didn’t go to my high school or college graduation because I was gay, so I want to graduate here tonight because I really feel accepted by this audience.” Anonymous

Well…honestly, I wanted to tell you all how important this graduation ceremony is to me and to the mission of the Q Center. One of the primary ways that humans learn to understand ourselves as loved, loving, and loveable, as connected and as human is through mirroring. And part of mirroring is the celebration of who we are from the people who raise us, the friends around us, the stories we hear and see, and the way in which we then understand ourselves to be human, loved, worthy, whole, you know, fierce.

When mirroring is disrupted or warped through the multiple systems of marginalization and oppression at interpersonal, cultural, and systemic levels…then…well…we often fail to see ourselves without great struggle and reinvention. Lavender Graduation to me…is a celebration of all those ways we have reinvented, claimed, reclaimed, brought into being, whatever we have done to make ourselves legible to us, to you, to each other; to become human, loved, worthy, whole, you know, fierce. Oh yeah, and it is about a lot of really hard academic work too! See you on Tuesday!


Resurrecting Bayard Rustin

Happy 100th birthday to a man whose expansive justice work across multiple sites of oppression, earned him a marginal place in history, Bayard Rustin, our “Lost Prophet.”

While we are on the topic of birthdays of awesome queer folk who have facilitated the arc of the moral universe in bending toward justice…Audre Lorde would have turned 78 on February 18th! Ellen had a birthday in January, so did Michael Stipe (R.E.M. anyone? anyone?)…eh hem.

Hey, I’ve got a birthday coming up in April and my partner’s was in March! We are all part of this bending the arc of the moral universe thing. So, shout out some names of people who you know are ok with having their names shouted out and celebrate them and their presence on this planet!

Happy birthday to us Two-Spirit people and trans* folks and queers and questioners and same-gender lovers and bois and queens and kings and everybody else who has other words that I do not know because I just do not know everything. Our very existence is resistance!

“When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” Bayard Rustin


the “c word”

Mary B is a queer ninja, writer, volgger extraordinaire. She has been a queer idol and a virtual support for me during my early self-realization process. Her eloquence and down to earth humor has attracted over 8,000 subscribers with almost 100 video posts. She steals hearts (i still haven’t gotten mine back), gives advice, shares stories, answers questions, asks questions, make you wonder, and makes you laugh. If you haven’t checked her out yet, you are really missing out!

This past year she brought up the “c word”. Her friend Chazzy was diagnosed with brain cancer. It has been beautiful to watch Mary become an “ally” for Chazzy and contribute so much to her recovery process. A signature aspect of this has been the Chazzy bands that have made their way to the farthest corner to the world. They are available upon request, with a suggested donation of $5.

Here are the details:


Want a CHAZZY BAND?? Tell her to get well and say hi to Mary!
Send to:
Mary B.
4781 Felton St.
San Diego, CA 92116

Don’t forget your return address!!! Suggested donation is $5. All donations go to Chazzy’s treatment. Help beat brain cancer. Together we can! Think SHRINK!!


stuck between a sandwich and a queer place

I was a bender from the start: letting my female playmates choose their imaginary personas first, knowing very well they would hop on the opportunity to clinch the “the girl”, “the mom”, “the damsel in distress”, just so I could subtly flex my inner masculinity. Somebody had to be “the boy”, it might was well be me: the matchbox master, the playdough prince, I knew how to be a gentleman. And looking into mirrors I saw muscles, brawn, bravery, a little superhero, as opposed to the sheepish demeanor and delicacy that my “sex” expected of me. The Clark Kent behind the Superman was a little girl who, like everyone else, grew up bound and beaten by heteronormativity. Barbies were dusty while Legos were worn, and despite my claustrophobia in the tight gender dichotomy, I pinched nerves to squeeze into the mold everyone was telling me I was supposed to fit.

Gently, I lowered trembling toes into the ice bath of femininity, hoping this would cure the natural cognitive dissonance that precedes self-actualization. And all I got was a cold: confusion and frustration. Yes, my body was female, but it wasn’t “female”. Somehow, femininity was one person: white, tall, and skinny. Any deviation from this strict model could hardly be considered “female”. So She was who I had to be and every form of interaction with the world confirmed this. Femininity was the standard I had to meet, according to the TV, according to the books, according to my peers. I quickly realized I there were things I couldn’t change about myself, physical things, no matter how “white” I acted or how tall I stood. Losing weight, on the other hand, seemed simple enough. Eat less. Exercise. Piece of cake.

As the kid who spent recess talking to trees and spiders and clouds, I was no social butterfly: making friends was a kamikaze mission. With the little self-respect I had on the line, I waxed and waned, peaking out of my shell every once in a while, only to feel like a Martian child. I saw my quirky personality and misshapen body as failed prerequisites to the normal and happy lives my peers leading. I knew they were happy, because my body kept them laughing daily, weekly, yearly. Fitting in meant the acknowledgement of my existence, even if that existence wasn’t one I identified with. I became fixated on Femininity, “being like all the other girls”, as it seemed like the only escape from the taunting, and the concurrent self-hatred.

Beginning in innocence, I took up sports in middle school. It was a great way for me to express my true gender in an acceptable way, and, as a side effect, it was way for someone who was legitimately overweight to exercise. My parents were excited for me to have an opportunity to make friends, but friends weren’t made and, given my obsessive nature, exercising became a perpetual preoccupation; it was “all in the name of the sport”. Any free time I got was dedicated to working out. The minute I got home I would make any excuse to go up to my room to pump out 3 sets of 20 push-ups. I spent the hours leading up to soccer practices sprawled out across my bedroom floor stretching muscles I didn’t know I had. And I would make sure to get to practice early and stay late after to run laps. As soon as I got home I would shower and change, only to sweat all over again. Sets had to be done in odd numbers and reps had to be done in multiples of 5 greater than 10, incomplete sets would have to be redone, and the rules were ridged and infinite. It was insanity. I would work out until I cried, and it was never enough.

Before I got into high school I had moved across the country. Having thought I left my sports and obsessive exercising behind, I felt the need to compensate by controlling my food intake. I had no friends to hold me accountable for what I was doing, and I thought nothing of it. Why would skipping lunch be of any concern? I gave myself excuses to justify my behavior: I had homework to do or I needed to study. It wasn’t all bad though; all the time spent not eating was spent writing. It was as an outlet for my mental misconduct. I would spend a lot of lunch periods alone scribbling burning frustrations, angers, and sadness into overused notebooks. This regurgitation of pure emotion was keeping me grounded as I melted into a deep and long episode of depression. I spent many afternoons and evenings after school sleeping or lying in bed staring at the wall, sometimes missing dinner. I was constantly exhausted, and as it took its toll on my energy levels, I found new methods of manipulation. I would chew entire packs of gum, hoping to curb my hunger. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the main ingredient in that chewing gum was a laxative, and it secretly contributed to my obsession. I would negotiate with myself, punishing myself through self-mutilation and self-destruction whenever I broke my self-imposed discipline. My body was a slave to my mind.

When I finally decided to get back into sports, my obsessive exercising became justified again. In fear of fainting on the track, I would take my 100 calorie pack into the bathroom stall right before practice and eat as quietly as I could. I couldn’t stand to eat in front of people, as if eating was a physical projection of the mental view I had of my own body. My wounded self-image continued to lead me astray, and by the time I graduated I had failed a class, gotten caught smoking at school, experimented with drugs, and was dangerously dependent on alcohol. I had gained and lost weight continuously through high school, and no matter what I looked like or how much I weight I still wasn’t happy. My methods of coping only made matters worse.

What began as quest of self-discovery, ended up as a journey through hell. Gender and self-image became my Goliath, and the controlling nature of my lifestyle gave me comfort, falsely reassuring me that the battle could be won through pure determination. When I knew Femininity had no space for my child-like ambitions and my playground creativity, the starving didn’t stop and my self-love was obsolete. Despite my fair share of warning signs over the years, passing out, throwing up, losing and gaining massive amounts of weight, I was unaware of the severity of these issues up until a few months ago. My image of masculinity never included eating disorders, I just couldn’t see the heteronormative booby-traps that were set out on my exploration of body and gender. In this story, there are no superheroes. Reclaiming my body would be a never-ending war waged between me and myself.


Top 10 Queer Things to Do During Week 10 & Finals

10. Read the Q Center Blog People!
9.  Ribbon Dance!
8.  Search for the University of Washington and other nouns on f**k yeah nouns
6.  Watch and/or re-enact re-runs of Glee on Hulu
5.  Reminisce about the sold-out and AMAZING GBLTC Drag Show
4.   Revisit this oldie but a goodie
3.  Sign up for Queer 101 (CHID 496)
2.  Watch Re-teaching Gender and Sexuality here
1.  Watch this and know you are super-duper!