26 December 2010

My Identity Is Not About Gender Liberation

It’s not about smashing binaries.
It’s not about eliminating oppression.
It’s not about politics.
It’s not about feminism.
It’s not about anarchy.
It’s not about activism.
It’s not about you.
It’s about me.

My gender is non-binary, because that’s what it is.

My gender is not all that unique or special. My gender is not all that queer or all that different. My gender is not rebellious. My gender is not something you should be jealous of. It’s really not all that cool to be genderqueer.  You get ungendered all time, erased in language (“brothers and sisters”, “he or she”), no one knows your gender exists. Coming out requires a bit of a lecture, and everyone starts conflating all sorts of things when you do tell them you are genderqueer.  You really don’t wish you were genderqueer, I promise.  And you really don’t think it’s all that cool, I guarantee you, any more than your binary gender is cool.  Oh, but don’t feel sorry for me. It sucks to be a woman, too, and in some ways it even sucks to be a man, and it sucks to be black or disabled or neuroatypical or lower class or any number of things that you might be that I am not. It really just sucks to be in this world, and I don’t want to play oppression olympics here, but I sure as hell don’t want you to feel sorry for my gender. Get over it, and make it better. Perhaps start by not telling me how cool you think my gender is.

My gender is not about hating binaries. Really, the binaries are hating my gender. My gender is not about how limiting the binary is, and it’s not about liberating myself or anyone else from any binary.  Nor is it about taking anything away from men or women. Men and women can present however they want, relate to their bodies however they want, do to their bodies whatever they want, describe their identities however they want. Really, I don’t care. My identity is not about men or women. It’s about me, about how I understand myself, how I live my life, how others understand me, and what makes sense. Have I ever wondered if I am actually binary-gendered? Yes, all the time. Maybe I am just a binary-gendered guy way pre-transition, who chooses to present in a very femme female way for the time being? Maybe. Maybe I am just a binary-gendered girl with a unique relationship to my body? Maybe. But you know what really makes sense? That I am genderqueer. Not binary-gendered.
and that’s not about you.

(x-posted on Tumblr and FetLife)

18 December 2010

Last night, at the hookah bar, i ran into an old acquaintance.

George
from Georgia.

In middle school, one of my friends was the only oboe in the band.
(I haven't spoken her since middle school, but I still remember her name: Noel.)
Then, George came
from Georgia.
and George played oboe, so my friend was bumped to second oboe.
Every time i see George
from Georgia.
i think of this story.

We're all growing up.

29 November 2010

Home, Revisited

The title has two meanings.
"who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes" - Allen Ginsberg, Howl
I came home for Thanksgiving break. Home. Funny how I can now say that word, and know what it means. It's a bizarre feeling, really, to have a hometown. To miss one place more than any other, to look over the city and know it's where I belong. To rediscover it each time I return, but each time to feel like it's the place I left my heart. Denver is my city, my home.

I walked the streets each day, smiling.  I wandered down sidewalks, through bookstores and coffee shops, looking up and West to remind me I'm just where I belong.  On Thanksgiving, the streets were deserted, and I could stand in the middle of roads.  I met a kind homeless man, spoke to him about Autumn and life.  I visited a community space with Denver's Zine Library. I visited a radical pizza shop, and I had a sandwich at Paris on the Platte.  The Platte passed beneath me, caught my tears like a lover, and reminded me that I'm alive.  I spoke of philosophy and history at Stella's, cigarette smoke like a cloud on my lips, and I never wanted to leave.

Still, I couldn't live in Denver today.  I love the streets, the coffee shops, the people, the places, but the place where my parents live is not my home.  In the months after I moved out, my bedroom was turned into a nursery, its red and black walls were repainted in baby green.  It wasn't a huge loss: I'd only lived in this bedroom two years; but it was a big symbol.  One day, I fell asleep in front of the TV. I woke up, went up stairs, opened my bedroom door - and remembered that I don't live there anymore.  My mother laughed at me as I stumbled downstairs into the guest bedroom.

DC is an interesting place. There really isn't anyone from DC. You meet people that are from San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Pullman, New York City, London, Tokyo; you don't meet many who are from DC.  Everyone here is in passing, coming through for a few years, then leaving.  Oh, and there are those who call DC home.  Young folk who find life and hope in the city.  In the end, they, too, move along.  I watch autumn fall over DC, the trees turn red, then brown, then fall.  The sun turned to rain and clouds.  I know DC as a local.  I know it well as I wander the streets each weekend, my heart beats quicker because I know I love it, but I can't call it "home".  Not in the same way I call Denver home, and not in the same way I call Khabarovsk, Pullman, Chicagoland, Palo Alto, and Boulder home.  Everything's in passing.

I hope Chicagoland can be my home.  I'm afraid because I'll be living fairly far from the city, and because the ChiTown just isn't the friendliest place to live.  But I know there are so many amazing people there, I know the culture and the places are phenomenal, and I believe I'll find my place there.

But, when someone asks me where I am from, I can now confidently answer:

Denver.

19 November 2010

Are you afriad?

A month from now, I will be twenty years old, unemployed, unenrolled, and residing in Chicagoland, where I haven't lived since I was ten years old.  I am so afraid.  I don't know what I am doing with my life, or why.  I am terrified I'll never get a degree, that I'll lose my way and never have a home, but I have nothing to lose.  I have no choice.

It's going to be a long, cold winter in Chicago, with mounds of snow that I'll make into a slide like I did when I was a child.  There will be clouds in the sky each day, and I know I'll be sad, I know I'll cry a lot, I know I'll be alone and lonely, but I'll make it through the winter alive.

There's a genderqueer support group in the Chicagoland area that I'll visit. I'll try to get involved with Food not Bombs, find some friends to dumpster dive with, so I can free myself from the confines of store shelves, and maybe I'll find my way at last.  I'll get involved with activism in the city, learn how to do activism outside a college campus, perhaps make some change in the world, perhaps I'll find a community, reach out, hold hands, perhaps, at last, I will be brave. Perhaps I'll transition, and maybe my stepdad will support me, because he's the only hope I have.  I can't wait to get to know him again.  I'll learn how to cook, how to sew, how to live.  It'll all work out.

I'll find a job, save up some money, maybe I'll travel in non-standard ways, and I dream of the places I'll go someday, but I know there are places I cannot stay today.  I will find a place I belong, someday.  Today, I have a month to find the courage I need to grow up at last.



Yesterday, I went on Omegle just so I could ask a friend if they were afraid. They were seventeen, graduating highschool in June, and they told me they weren't afraid.  I said they were very brave.  They were probably telling the truth, but I think they were lying.


The day before, I sent a text to a stranger just to tell them I love them.  It took me six tries not to get a landline.  They said their name was Mat, and they said it was their birthday.  They were probably lying, but I think they were telling the truth.

04 November 2010

Help with what?

I am writing suicide notes.

I don't want to die.  I will not kill myself.  It's just a cry for help.

But help with what?  My life is not in danger.  Nor is my physical health.  I don't need help with school, I get things done, my grades are good.

I need help making friends.  I don't have any friends.  I follow the rules.  I messaged people on facebook casually, I say hi to people in the hallways, start conversations in class.  I text people when I have free times, and sometimes grab lunch with friends.  In the end they all leave.  Every day I'm alone.  I want someone to talk to.  I want someone to think with.  I want someone to get drunk with.

Sounds like a personal problem.

On Saturday of Halloweekend, I found myself someone else's dorm room.  I followed all the rules.  Talked to the kids hanging out in my hallway, walked into the room when everyone else did.  There were maybe six of us in there, and they were all going out for the night.  I asked them where they were going, told them I really want to go out tonight.  They named some greek letters, they mean nothing to me.  They weren't excited about me asking, they didn't want me to come with.  Why?  It was just a frat party, it was nothing personal.  I was still alone.  Still so alone.

Sounds like a personal problem.

Really, who's fault is it that I can't make friends?  And writing suicide letters won't convince someone to invite me to a party.

But I am writing suicide letters again.  Not because I want to die, but because, if I die, I want you to read them and know I was crying for help.

I am crying for help, but help with what?

Last night, I had dreams that I made friends.  Again and again and again.  I was so happy.  I said something about fat shaming, and a girl asked me if I was single.  I do think I have something good to say, I just have no one to say it to.  I don't "like" that girl, but I want to be her friend.  I want to be her friends' friend.  Her friend was in my dream.  I've seen her facebook, her twitter, her tumblr.  I see her smoking cigarettes.  I want to come up to her and say hi.  She is a feminist.

Sounds like a personal problem.

This isn't a real cry for help.  I can spend the nights crying all I want.  Because I do have friends, and they've all reached out to me, and I never responded.  I have friends who told me they don't want to be friends anymore, friends who asked me if I was mad at them.  I don't hate you.  But it's so hard for me to care.  I want a friend here.  I am so alone here.  It doesn't help when I have friends far away.  They can't get drunk with me, or hear my daily thoughts.  Why is this not enough?

Sounds like a personal problem.

Sounds like a problem I should stop whining about, stop writing suicide letters about.  Because I won't kill myself, I won't hurt myself.

I will cry.  But it's no ones fault other than my own that I am lonely.

02 November 2010

This time of the year, I become a smoker again.

It starts each day at 5, right after I get out of my last class.  My days are always far from over, always more tests to study for, or papers to write, or co-sponsorships to fill out.  Still, that first breath of relief quickly turns into loneliness.  I always walk a lap around the quad, desperate for someone to share a moment with, because I am alone.  I want to walk this lap with a cigarette.

Maybe it's the cold, the way I see my breath in the air.  Last year, I craved cigars the day that first chill came along.  Or maybe it's the way I've always connected around stacks of smoke, around campfires or waterpipes.  (I resurrected an old lighter from highschool this afternoon, there are three stickers on it: a green, a brown, and a pink; three letters spelling out the word "pot", reminders of a better time.)  Maybe I am just hoping someone will stop by and ask me for a cigarette, I'd give them one, and I'd hope for a quick exchange of words, maybe we'd exchange names, maybe we'd exchange feelings, maybe we'd become friends.

Maybe it's because I've been thinking about drugs recently.  I wish I could still smoke weed like I used to.  I want to escape.  I want to spend a Saturday on acid lying alone on the grass, and maybe I wouldn't feel so alone.  I didn't get drunk this Halloween.  I tried, but I had no one to spend Saturday night with.  Maybe I just want an addiction, maybe it would be something to hold on to.  I know it won't help.  I still feel lonely when I am surrounded by stacks of philosophy and poetry, it doesn't help when I finish a paper four days ahead of time, I just want a friend.

It's been so long since I bought a pack that I forgot what kind of cigarettes I smoke.  I stumbled over my words.  I took out my ID so far ahead of time, I must have looked like an 18-year old buying my second or third pack ever.  This pack will last me a week or two, depending on how many I give away.  At the end of those weeks, I'll no longer be a smoker; but, at the end of those weeks, I'll still be lonely.

29 October 2010

Autism Quotient

Floating around the internet recently has been the Autism Quotient test, a series of questions quantifying experiences and placing individuals on the autism spectrum.  Although never intended to be criteria for diagnosis, the quotient has become a tool for self-diagnosing Aspergers and high-functioning autism.  It was originally popularized by Wired magazine alongside an article titled "The Geek Syndrome".

While the 90s was a time where children were excessively diagnosed with (and medicated for) ADHD, the 2000s saw an explosion of youth on the autism spectrum.  Any social difficulty, exceptional passion, or mathematical talent was instantly blamed on autistic tendencies.  Over-diagnosis is a complicated issue.  Neuroatypical conditions are not and either-or, but rather, they lie on a spectrum, so a diagnosis means deciding where the line between "normal" and "disorder" lies.  In medical terms, this line is usually defined as "clinically significant", or significant enough to impact the patient's life.  Unfortunately, even this line is never clear.

As diagnosis of autism-spectrum conditions expanded, so did their popularity.  The publishing of the quotient a magazine like Wired represents this perfectly.  On the one hand, there is no doubt that people with autism-spectrum conditions would be naturally drawn to certain communities, such as "geek culture".  Mathematical and scientific knowledge and understanding of complex formulas and numbers would be appealing to someone with these conditions, and things like programing are consequently likely to be both interesting and easier (compared to neurotypical folk) for someone with autistic tendencies.  Additionally, social interaction via computers is significantly easier for folk with Autism-spectrum conditions, because it bypasses the difficult non-verbal and implicit emotional elements of face-to-face communication.  Still, the popularity of having these (and other) conditions in geek (and other) communities is unwarranted and dangerous.

Turning an important medical finding into a facebook quiz or a survey in a geek magazine delegitimizes the experiences of folk with autism-spectrum disorders.  Although I do not currently have Aspergers, I did when I was a child, and it has had a huge influence on my life since then.  However, when I mention my experiences, I am typically met with a proclamation of self-diagnosed Aspergers, and how tough life is for us poor weird folk.  I am always insulted by these comments: I am not weird, not do I think it's fair for me to appropriate the experiences adults with autism-spectrum conditions have.  Instead, I am someone who had difficulties with normal social interaction as a child as a result of being a neuroatypical child.

Such an appropriation, as well as other appropriative comments such as "I'm having music ADD!" are rampant in our society.  Constantly, people are appropriating conditions such as autism-spectrum disorders, ADD and ADHD, dyslexia, bipolar disorder, and even more severe conditions like dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia.  This is not ok.  While it's easy to adopt a label of having neuroatypical characteristics for someone who is neurotypical, you don't actually know anything about the experiences of neuroatypical folk.  It is wrong to appropriate such conditions while in no way supporting neurodiversity in society and continuing to marginalize neuroatypical folk.

19 October 2010

There is always a way...

I found salvation in a well-lit hookah bar in Adam's Morgan,
Practiced the art of sacrificing my loneliness into smoke rings,
Escaped a night of staking facebook profiles of acquaintances that will never be part of my life,
In search of a stranger who might change my life,
Like the man playing guitar by the entrance to the Metro:
The great minds of my generation,
I hear their voices in the poetry of past generations,
Escaping the curse of all generations

And I wasn't alone.
Not with a bag full of volumes from used book stores and libraries crossed over my heart,
Not with the words of Ginsberg and Bradbury open on my lap.
Not with the lyrical romance of rhythm in my mind,
There's a mosaic on the roof of my skull,
There is a community in the scribbles of my notebook.

Though the news spoke of murder and institutionalized racism,
Though the art on the walls was probably illegal, and definitely unsigned,
And a one-line poem in black ink on the bridge
Waged peace on the violent: "Shoot cops, not dogs".
I felt hope,
Not the kind that manifests itself in lonely tears,
But the kind that screams.

No one has veto power over my life,
There is always a way to look in their eyes and change their minds.
There is always a way to dodge their barrels and act directly,
There's always a way to build love from tragedy,
You are never alone, there's always someone else in the crowd
Fighting.

(First draft, and I'm not even sure this is a poem, but it's worth sharing.)

15 October 2010

What if I dropped out of school?

What if I took off a year, or two, or three, or five?

What if I spent some time growing up? What if I learned how to cook and how to look for jobs? What if I learned how to make friends in the real world, how to reach out to communities and people, how to interact as an adult, how to not be alone?  What if I dedicated myself to real-world activism?  What if I learned how to make change happen outside of college campuses, and what if I developed skill in the areas of direct action, mobilization, and making change happen?

What if I took some time to find myself?  What if I read all the books I never had a chance to read?  What if I transitioned to a place I'm comfortable in? What if I changed my gendered last name to my stepdad's gender-neutral Nagai, and started going by Cale? Doesn't mean I want to live male full-time, but maybe dress androgynous more often than I do feminine?  What if I figured out what my political beliefs really are?  What if I decided if I'm a radical anarchist or a libertarian conservative, or, more importantly, what if I discovered how to do radical anarchist activism even though I have fiscally conservative beliefs?  What if I advocated for the well-being of marginalized groups I don't belong to, and what if I made some change?

What if I moved in with my step dad in Chicago?  What if I grew closer to him and opened my life up to him?  What if I made up for all of those years growing up without a father in my household?  What if I discovered my place in Chicago, fell in love with the city?  What if I worked there, advocated there, dreamed there? What if I went to the Art Institute every weekend?  What if I traveled?  What if I found a job abroad, maybe in England?  What if I came back to DC after a while and worked here, lived my life here?  I really don't want to leave this city...

What if I came back to school later, after I learned who I am and figured out why college is going wrong?  I remember my first month in school, feeling thrilled with my classes, thrilled with my homework, growing intellectually every day.  I remember telling someone how happy I was, how I can't imagine a place I'd be happier than a college campus.  Then why is it still going wrong?  Why don't I like it here, even though I was sure I would?  Why is there something missing in my life, and I can't tell what it is?  I can't find what I'm looking for if I don't know what it is, if I don't know who I am.  I can't find what I'm looking for here.

What if I still got my PhD someday?  What if I came back to finish my undergrad at the perfect school, in the perfect place?

What if?

09 October 2010

Left-leaning quasi-social libertarian.

aka My Political Identity, Part II.  Here is my original post on the topic.  I've changed since then, so here's another post on politics.

It's impossible for me to talk about my political identity without discussing my political background.  Doing so would probably lend me to more criticism and misunderstanding then I think I deserve, especially from the far-left folk I care most about.

My family is primarily Libertarian, though they vote Republican because they prioritize economic issues over most social issues.  Their perspective is such for really good reason.  My family is from the Soviet Union.  I've been taught the horrors of a Communism and Socialism since I was a young child.  One story particularly sticks out.  My mom recalls sitting in a classroom as her teacher spoke of the merits of Communism.  The teacher told her of how, when the country is Communist, she would be able to enter a store and pick up anything she needs without worrying about money.  My mom glanced at her worn shoes, thinking of how she could use a new pair, and how great Communism would be, because then she'd be able to do so.  Later, she realized that, if she was shown this store, she'd grab more than just the one pair of shoes that she needs, because that's human nature.  Another story that has always shocked me was an anecdote about how med-school required students to talk a semester off to work on a farm due to government policies.  Such tales have made me very critical of leftist thought.

Both of my parents are immigrants who built their lives from nothing, and are now upper-middle class.  My mom is a doctor who immigrated as a single mother of two children, lived for a while with an income of zero and on welfare, but succeeded in passing the necessary exams and pursuing a career as a neurologist in the United States.  Although she was lucky that she had already completed med-school in Russia, become an MD in the US was not an easy process: she spent months reading medial texts and looking up every other word in the dictionary because she had never used English medical vocab before.  My stepdad started his first enterprise when he was sixteen years old and an international student in Detroit.  Although he never earned a college degree, he now owns a very successful small business that he started.  Thus, the spirit of enterprise and praise of fiscal independence has always been important in my family, and fiscally conservative views were always viewed in a positive light.

Thus, I am primarily libertarian.  With a few exceptions, I have liberal social views and conservative political views.  My exceptions are as follows:
  1. I am uncertain about my views on abortion, except in cases where the life of the mother (or the infant?) is in significant danger.  PLZDONTKILLME, I just have yet to find a convincing argument for the morality of terminating a pregnancy that doesn't also imply the morality of infanticide, the killing of certain mentally disabled folk, or the killing of other living people.  I am fairly certain, though, that abortion should be legal, even if it is immoral, because of the right to property.
  2. I am not a proponent of an open-border immigration policy.  I am an immigrant from overseas, and my family is very anti-illegal immigrant.  I don't share their views, either, and I believe I am rather independent when it comes to my views on immigration, although I agree with Democrat perspectives rather than Republican ones.  I completely disagree withe Republican techniques, such as the patrolling of borders and the deportation of individuals.  Patrolling the borders really doesn't do anything other than prevent the endanger the lives of people and destroy border communities.  Similarly, deporting undocumented individuals does nothing to solve the overall problem, especially when explicitly racist systems like the one in Arizona are created.  I think there's no doubt that the government and business are at fault for the existence and the persistence of undocumented immigration form Mexico.  In the past, businesses would bus Mexican folk to the US because they needed cheap labor.  These businesses continue to hire undocumented immigrants very low wages.  Unfortunately, our government discriminates way more against immigrants than it does against businesses, and there are no systems in place to prevent businesses from hiring undocumented folk.  If these systems were put in place, undocumented immigration would become impractical, and the demand for labor would become obvious, and legal systems of temporary and permanent immigration from Mexico would be set up.  These systems would also assure that immigrants will be paid legal wages, and the whole system will be better for everyone on both sides of the argument.  (All this being said, I do approve of the Dream Act.)
  3. While the former two represent my exceptions to socially liberal views, this one is my exceptions to fiscally conservative views (although this does border on a social issue, as there's no clear line between social and economic questions).  I think the government, ideally state and federal, rather than local governments, should do everything they can to fix racial segregation in education and improve schools for poor folk, especially poor people of color.  This is a huge problem that cannot be addressed at local levels, and there's no excuse that such horrifying differences in education continue to exist today!
I say I am left-leaning not because my views stray that far from a libertarian perspective, but because I am very radically left-leaning on my political views, while I am more moderate, although still right-leaning, on my economic views.  Also, social views typically matter to me more than conservative views, so I tend to vote Democrat.

By quasi-social I hope to indicate the distinction between social- and individuals- libertarianism (and, as a result, social- and individual- anarchy).  While individual libertarianism is based on individualistic, objectivist philosophies, primarily that of Ayn Rand, social libertarianism (and anarchy) is about communal, supportive environments with limited government.  Although I definitely prefer social libertarianism to individual libertarianism, I hesitate to say I am a social libertarian, because this often implies libertarian socialism, which often implies social anarchy.  Although I think social anarchy is awesome, although I sympathize with socially anarchist perspectives, although I think social anarchists are doing more today to help oppressed people than anyone else in today's society, I am not a social anarchist.  Rather, I believe a socially anarchist society can be best achieved or approached not through leftist practices, but through libertarian and fiscally conservative measures.  I do, though, envy the community anarchists tend to have. -sigh-
To the radical anarchist asking a Republican to dance - Andrea Gibson, Say Yes (I think).

07 October 2010

Lessons of a Canvasser

I spent the last few weeks working as a canvasser on the streets of DC, primarily around Dupont Circle.  After a few weeks of work, I quit.  Although I was really good at it and got paid really well, canvassing proved to be more emotionally exhausting than I was able to handle, and as the cold, rainy days of fall came about, I simply could no longer subject myself to the stress and the rejection.  In those weeks, I learned some real-life lessons that I never expected to learn. Here they are:

1. Sexism is real.  Being someone who is perceived as a female and working on the streets put me in a position where I had a lot of sexism directed at me.  It was frustrating.  The mildest form was when people would call me "cute" when I came up to them.  It was totally infanticizing and disrespectful.  Worse were comment from men asking me to look at them or to pay attention to them: not because they were interested in what I was doing, but because they felt entitled to my attention.  The company I was working for is an environmentalist group, and one of the worst incidents was when a man asked me to look him in the eyes because "all green people have green eyes".  When I ignored him, he shouted after me, insisting that I should give him my name so he could call my boss, because he'd signed up for the e-mail list yesterday.  It was disgusting.  Another awful incident was when two men who I approached stopped to listen to what I was saying, and then began asked me about my accent and started asking me to speak Russian, commenting on how cute and hot it is.  Feeling insulted, I asked them if they want to sign up or not in a rather aggressive tone, and they commented on how "bossy" I am.  This double standard made me really upset.  When will there come a day when people perceived as women don't experience misogyny on the streets?

2. On being overlooked.  A canvasser is overlooked.  The reactions of the folk I approached quickly began to eat away at my heart.  People looked right through me, or they didn't look at me at all.  Some people wouldn't react at all when I approached, pretending that I didn't exist.  Some people gave me those facetious smiles.  Some people would straight up make rude comments about wanting to be left alone as I approached them.  Being overlooked hurt, yet I am privileged.  I am white, I am visibly middle-class, I was visibly employed, I speak Standard English (be it with an accent).  I felt entitled to the attention of the people I approached, not consciously, but because I've always felt entitled to attention before.  What about people who don't have my privileges?  What about poor people of color on the streets? How about homeless people asking for some money just to buy lunch?  What about the folk selling things like Street Sense in DC or Voice in Denver?  I've never experienced such rejection before, but there are people who experience it every day, people who live in rejection, who are perpetually overlooked by passerby's and politicians.  Like Andrea Gibson said in the poem For Eli: "One third of the homeless men in this country are veterans, and we have the nerve to support our troops with pretty yellow ribbons, while giving nothing but dirty looks to their outstretched hands".

3. Environmentalism for the elites.  I was canvassing for an organization that partnered with sustainable businesses in the area, creating a network of local, eco-friendly business.  I collected e-mail addresses for people to receive discounts similar to Groupons in their inbox.  Everyone working for this business was so passionate about what the were doing.  They wanted to truly make change happen, they wanted to expand nationwide, they wanted to do something great.  They were truly great people with great intentions.  The "rap" I would say when I came up to people started out with "we want to make green living affordable for everyone".  Every time I said it, I felt like a liar and a traitor.  Here I am, walking the parks, intentionally avoiding people I knew don't have e-mail: the poor, the homeless.  Yet here I am, saying we want to make green living affordable for everyone.  Who is everyone?  Why does everyone never include poor folk?  Environmental issues disproportionately impact poor people of color, such as communities in developing countries threatened by climate change and pollution or residents of neighborhoods like East St. Louis that are built in the gutters of industrial waste.  Poor folk of color cannot access green food, much less any healthy, affordable food due to the lack of supermarkets in their neighborhoods and the lack of public transportation to access supermarkets elsewhere.  We never hear about those people when we discuss the environment.  Mainstream environmentalist movements ignore and erase the lives of poor folk of color.  So these young, passionate, optimistic, well-meaning entrepreneurs like the people I worked for simply don't know about these issues.  These things don't ever cross their mind, so no one ever bothers to help the people that truly need help.  Environmentalism is environmentalism for the elites.

4. What now? I fell in love with the streets during those weeks working as a canvasser.  I grew close to the sidewalks I walked and the parks I frequented.  I became attached to the faces I saw and the people I passed by.  But my heart grew weary and weak.  What does it mean to think these thoughts? What does it mean to write them down? Here I am, flaunting my command of "big" words, sharing my knowledge of academic studies on marginalized and oppressed folk, listing all these -isms I've never experienced, yet I'm not doing anything to help anyone.  Sure, I do trans advocacy on campus, but what does that really mean?  I'm not saying I shouldn't be helping the trans folk on campus, but what bout poor trans women of color, who are most likely to be attacked and murdered?  What does it mean to read about their murders but to do nothing?  What does it really mean to care? What does it mean to ask these questions?  I want to do something, but I really don't know where to start.  I think I'm going to start reading about and learning about direct action again.  I was really inspired by the Food not Bombs people that I saw at Dupont every Sunday serving food to anyone who wanted it, and I know that's a prime example of an anarchist direct action organization.  But reading won't do much, either.  Direct Action is about acting, not reading, and, well, I don't know where to begin.  But maybe I did begin.  Maybe step one is learning, and maybe this is a process I'm working towards.

03 September 2010

Update

I barely posted at all this summer, and I haven't posted anything since moving to DC and starting school at a new institution, so it's time for an update.

I always struggle in a new place. Within a day of moving here, I felt like I was always alone, while others were already spending time with friends, going out, and having fun.  It was the same feeling I had a year ago when starting CU: I spent at least two months crying almost daily and resisting a depressive relapse.  It was the same feeling I had four years ago, my sophomore year of highschool, when I moved to Colorado and struggled with the most severe and longest-lasting episode of adjustment depression of my life. It was the same feeling of loneliness, helplessness, incompetence.  I began to wonder how many times I'd have to feel this way, whether there would ever come a day when I'd be comfortable talking to someone I don't yet know. I began to wonder: "why me?"; what can I do differently, and why does it never work?; no matter how much I try, I'm still alone, and other are not.  I began to get jealous. I felt bitter towards everyone around me. I began to hate humanity, and I began to hate God.

Then, slowly, things began to clear up. I still feel like I don't have quite as many acquaintances as others, I still have nothing to do on weekend nights, and I still eat most of my meals alone, but things are better. My floor is amazing, and I've begun hanging out with the people on my floor. I've met people at the dining hall and in my classes. I've even spent time with people I met on the internet. I initiated conversations with people I don't know and approached people I've already met. I still have a long way to go, I have a long way to go even to catch up to where 90% of people around me are, but I've made a much better start than I did last year, and I feel much better.

I love this school. I couldn't have possibly made a better decision in transferring. There is much more of a sense of community. Half my floor, for example, are people who lived on this floor last year! Everyone on my floor is so nice, and we spend a lot of time together. We have meals together, we study together, we have floor-soccer and other floor events, and not only do people actually come, but almost everyone comes!  The school is smaller, so the sense of community goes beyond just the floor. At lunch today, I ran into someone on the way to the dining hall, I ran into two kids from my floor and two people from my philosophy class while getting food, I ran into three people I know on the way out of the dining room.

The people here are really, really cool.  Everyone has awesome dreams and goals, and it's really inspirational to live in an environment with such amazing people.  Everyone here cares about the world and what's going on.  The lobby has free newspapers which run out because so many people read them.  In the floor lobby, our TV is usually turned to CNN.  We discuss politics, passionately, arguing into the middle of the night.  For fun, we go out to "the mall" and see the monuments.

The classes are much smaller and the professors are very accessible. I'm also thinking of changing my major. Although I love philosophy, without the linguistics minor, it doesn't quiet mean as much to me.  I am going to try to get an interdisciplinary studies major, in which I write my own curriculum. I want to major in oppression, combining women's studies, sociology, international relations, and government.  This will give me an amazing opportunity to learn about everything I care about. By expanding outside women's studies, I will be able to learn about oppression other than sexism(s), and I will be able to take many classes with some of AUs best departments!

Washington DC is so cool. It's such a fun, progressive city. I've found some really cool bookstores and coffee shops, and I've yet to go out clubbing, but when I do, I know it will be great.

Although I know this is perfect, I miss CU.  I miss Gather, I miss QI, I miss my friends, I miss discussing kink in RL, I miss Alex writing sweet things on my whiteboard, I miss the flatirons, I miss the good weather and lack of mosquitoes, I miss Tracks, I miss the parties, I miss so much.

<3

10 August 2010

Annual Farewells

At the end of every summer, sitting around the campfire in the middle of the night, with tears either in our eyes or near our hearts, comes the time for annual farewells.  I loved what I said this year, so here it is, edited and expanded, so I can share it with others and always remember it for myself.

Every day I wonder how I got here. I'll be waking up in a tent, or walking from the Dining Hall to Arrowhead, or holding a chicken on the farm, and I'll think - how did I get here? It was never my dream to be a counselor when I grow up, it was never my calling to work with children.  Sometimes, I think I got here by accident - one day, I tripped, and next thing I knew, I was at Tomahawk Ranch.  Well, it was definitely the best trip of my life.

I've learned so much at camp. I learned how to care for myself and others; I learned how to make new friends, but keep the old; I learned how to clean the bathrooms; I learned how to stay in touch through distance, how friends really can be forever; I learned what matters to me in the world, what I care about, what makes me happy; and, most of all, I learned how to call a place home. Before I came to Tomahawk, there was no place I could ever call home.  The concept confused me, completely eluded me. But now I know what home is. Home is right here, in the mountains of Bailey, Colorado. There is no other home for me in this world.

13 July 2010

First Memories

My frist memory takes place on the day I turned three years old.  My family got me candy-covered gum, which I was very excitedly enjoying. Then, for a reason unclear outside a three-year-olds mind, I didn't want it anymore: I wanted it back in the package, exactly thesame as it was before I took it. I cried as my father molded it back into the shape it once used to be, but I'd eaten the candy, and the gum was a different texture and color than it was before.  It was then I realized that change is irreverseable, and once something happens, you can't always undo it. And so I cried.

My second memory takes place that same year. I learned tying shoelaces by tying strings around chairs, so I was working on it in my dream (in sepia tones, for some reason). I woke up that morning and realized that in my dreams, I don't see from my own eyes, but rather, I see myself doing things from the outside.

My third memory is not too long after the other two. I woke up one morning, crawled out of bed, and walked down my hallway. At the end of the hallway, the bathroom door was open, and my mom stood there in her nightgown, brushing her teeth. At that moment I realized how special morning are, how different they feel from any other time in the day.

06 July 2010

Adult Friendships

In January, I travelled for a short weekend to Chicagoland for my mother's baby shower.  There, I met up with a friend I hadn't seen in years.  I attended Palo Alto High with her, and we were rather close that year.  I'd seen her once since, when I returned to visit California in Spring 08.  Now, she was going to college at Northwestern, and so she showed me the way around beautiful Evanston and introduced me to her University.  It was wonderful to finally see someone I hadn't seen in so long, in a place so different than anywhere we've seen each other before.  It struck a chord inside me.  I can travel wherever I want now, I thought, and there will be someone there for me to say hello to.  You see, those are the perks of adult friendships.

Adult friendships aren't based on daily attachments, on the gossip of everyday life, on weekend parties. They're based on love.  On nightly cuddles, or bimonthly dinners, or that occasional trip to the hookah bar to discuss the world's inevitable collapse.  Adult friendships can overcome anything. They stay strong through struggles and challenges, always there to pick you up when you're ready.  They overcome distance, both the literal kind, where stretches of road lie between one friend and the next, and the kind brought on by too many slots filled in a schedule, so few hours free that you may as well be lightyears away. Adult friendships wait at the end of the phoneline and at the end of the week, with patient understanding.  Adult friendships mean that if we haven't spoken in years, I can call you this morning, and we'd fall into each other's arms as if we were lovers just the day before.

My highschool friendhips have faded away and fallen apart.  My adult friendships have remained, and new ones formed from the dust.  I've reached a new phase in my life, I've found a new path in the world, and I've discovered a new kind of friendship

and a new kind of romance.

24 May 2010

In Transition

I've suddenly and very unexpectedly found myself in transition.  My whole life is in flux, and I'm not entirely sure just where I am headed.  I'm leaving it up to faith, praying nightly, and I'm prepared to never give up, despite the challenges that I see burning just over the horizon, their heat already burning my skin.

After recently coming out as genderqueer, I've begun a genderqueer transition (what does that even mean?).  I've come out as genderqueer to all my closest friends, and I'm beginning to do so more publicly and openly; I've adopted the genderqueer pronouns ze/zan, and I'm starting to ask people to use them in most situations; I made myself a binder and purchased men's clothes in hopes of experimenting with a male and/or androgynous gender presentation and perhaps living part-time in a male gender role (is that even possible?).  I am very uncertain about where this transition already went, where it's now going, or how "far" it will go in the future. In fact, I am scared this whole thing will be a huge failure. However, at this time, I don't know, and I am leaving it all up to fate, ready to see where it does and doesn't go as I embark on an amazing journey.

I am transitioning spatially - ie moving.  I'm not quiet sure where or when, but I know I am ready to find a place of my own and to call it home.  Within the next year, I will pack up my life and go somewhere else.  This also means transitioning to a new level of independence, as the distance will mean that the place I call home will no longer be in the same state as the place my family currently calls home.  I am scared, but I am ready.  Much of this, too, is left up to destiny, also known as the admissions counselors at the universities to which I am applying to transfer.

I am transitioning out of two romantic relationships, one of which recently pummeled into heartbreak, and the other is disintegrating due to distance.  Both of these have been very important, and they've had a huge influence on my life.  They've also been filled with new experiences, especially sexually, that taught me a lot about myself, my identity (especially asexuality), and my relationships.  I am unsure where my love life will take me from here, if anywhere, so it's all up to chance.

I am transitioning out of a very interesting time of self-exploration, self-discovery, and coming-out to a place where I am comfortable living with a queer sexual and romantic orientation that I've come to understand really well.  Alongside my gender identity, I've realized that I reached a point where none of my future relationships will be as hetero-normative as those in the past: until recently, I identified primarily as a woman and partnered primarily (almost exclusively) with men.  I am also transitioning out of a very life-changing year that opened up my mind to many new perspectives and completely changed my view of much of the world.  I am learning how to live my life as the person I've become and the person I am becoming.  This transitioning out of a period of transition really goes to show how transition never really begins, and never ends. So, here I am, in transition.
You want something that's constant,
And I only wanted to be me.
But. Watch.
Even the stars above,
Things that seem still
Are still changing.
-- Still, Ben Folds

12 May 2010

Sometimes I forget life itself isn't just a phase.

I am scared. Absolutely terrified, really. Sometimes, I forget to breathe, because I am petrified of going on, frightened of continuing. This is real. That's the hardest thing to believe, the hardest concept to swallow. This isn't some tale in a fantasy novel, this isn't a daydream I will soon wake up from. This is my life, my one and only reality. And the things I am doing now will stay with me for ever.

Sometimes, I feel I've gone too deep. I've learned too much about the world, and I've learned too much about myself. I'm declaring absolutes now.  I mean, I am always open to fluidity and to change, but certain things just won't change. Or, at least, I can't go back.  I know my body, my mind, my heart too well now.  Everything has been restructured.  I know this is right, but I wish it just wasn't... forever.

I'm hiding in a bubble. I feel safe in that bubble, safe to share myself with others, safe to change and evolve, safe to believe in the world. Oh, and we know pain in this bubble, we know difficulty. We know just what we're facing. Or do we? We look outside in disbelief. We know too much.

I go home, and my mother cries because she's scared for me. I tell her not to cry, I tell her there's nothing to be scared of. I beg her to just love me. She tells me I don't understand. My sister throws around transphobic and homophobic slurs and makes sexist and racist remarks that, to me, are inherently wrong, why would anyone ever say that, isn't it common sense? But to her, it's no big deal. She laughs at me when I tell her it's wrong. She ignores me when I beg her to rethink. I'm the only one asking her to think a little differently. To the rest of the world, she's right on.

To the rest of the world, We're mutants. We are queer, We are trans, We are feminist, We are liberal, We are young. Some of these things, We'll outgrow. Some of these things are forever. I don't want this bubble to pop, I don't want to grow up. I don't want these things to be forever. I want to be what my mother calls "normal", and I want the same for all my friends. But it's too late. It was too late from the day We were born, destined to, one day, look in Our souls and see something deviant.

I am afraid of loneliness, that We'll never find our place. I am afraid of apathy, of people judging and othering Us, laughing at Our struggles, erasing Our efforts, ignoring Our successes. I am afraid of hate, which, with apathy around, can never die. I am afraid of slurs and fists, of knives and weapons, I am afraid that We will suffer and hurt and die. I am afraid of murder.

05 May 2010

No Self

Buddhism has been on my mind a lot lately. I'd been curious about it for a long time, and finally studied it in my East Asia Religions class. Two Buddhist concepts that have been on my mind a lot are transience and no-self.  Transience is the concept of impermanence, that nothing ever stays the way it is now.  No-self is the concept that there is no single thing that makes you yourself.  Imagine, for instance, a chair. A chair is made of many smaller parts, so what makes it a chair? There is no single part that makes it a chair. Rather, we recognize this combination of parts (none of which are a chair on their own) as a chair.
"He knows no one shines forever. They change with the weather." - On The Arrow, AFI
One Buddhist meditation is to imagine oneself at five years old, now, and at sixty years old. Is there anything in common between these three people?  The three have completely different thoughts, perspectives, priorities, ideas, voice, appearance, and they are not even made up of the same physical matter. There's no single thread tying the three together.   Thus, there's nothing that makes us us. There is no self.
"You want something that's constant, and I only wanted to be me. But watch, even the stars above, things that seem still are still changing." - Still, Ben Folds
I have always been a terribly nostalgic person. I've always missed moments of the past, missed the people I used to be close to and the places I got to know. What I miss more than anything else is the way I felt in those moments. Looking back, you can never feel that way again. Especially love.  I like to say that once you've loved someone, you will love them forever. That's a complete and utter lie. While some people from my past still bring up feelings within me, I've forgotten many of them. Even the very important ones, such as my first kiss, my first love, my first boyfriend no longer make me swoon. It's amazing that someone who changed my life so much and made me feel so many emotions has now disappeared completely into the fog of my memories. I know that someday this will happen with the present. Perhaps that's even scarier than the thought of this moment never happening again or the prospect of missing someone. It's terrifying to think that there might be a time when I will no longer miss today, when this moment will be so far off, that I won't even know how to miss it. I will literally be a different person than I am today.
"And the waves crashing around me, the sand slips out to see.  And the winds that blow remind me of what has been and what can never be." - The Lighthouse's Tale, Nickel Creek
As I pack up, I think about how this has been the most life-changing year since freshman year of highschool.  This year, I also had the most significant romantic encounter since I was fourteen.  I am grateful for the ways I've changed, and I know the things I've learned will stay with me for the rest of my life.  Still, it sometimes shocks me to look back a year and think about how different I was then.  This really hit me on 420; a year ago, that would have been all that I ever wanted: marijuana was a huge part of my life, and pot culture was filled with hope and community. I've grown distant from this, and it was strange to walk through Norlin Quad, knowing how happy I should be, how happy I would have been, but, really, I didn't care. I am a completely different person than I once was, and the things that fill me with joy now are not the same as the things that filled me with joy then.  Looking around was like looking at the person I used to be from the outside. I am someone else now.
 Rate of Change
 I'm running out of Fridays.
Of course, they'll never be gone
Completely. But Fridays now
Are the Fridays of my life.

Recycle bins fill with beer cans
Flattened by the perpendicular force
Of name-brand sneakers
On the feet of drunk friends.

Gutters collect the butts and filters
Of Newports, Blacks, Camels, and PTs.
Puffs of smoke dissintegrate
And disappear into memories.

My memory is overflowing
With today. The present
Will soon be left behind
And I'll be searching again.

Soon I will scream and laugh
Making more memories to share
And to lose. Soon this and that
Will be the past and time will be fresh.

But I am scared. Not of vodka
Or of ashes, but that I'll sit
Someday alone and I will miss
The rum and chronic of today.

-- from my journal, 04.24.09
I've completely rethought my political perspective.  I've gone 180 on issues such as undocumented immigrants, affirmative action, racism, and colorblind ideology. I've begun identifying strongly as a feminist, and this has become a major part of myself and my identity.  I've also began exploring other forms of marginalization, oppression, and privilege that exist in our society.  I read Peggy McIntosh's "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" - like, really read it - and began to acknowledge my own privilege. I've also become familiar with standpoint theory, which is such a simple, common-sense concept, but it has completely altered how I perceive academic literature, and changed how I participate in discussions about marginalized groups that I am not a part of, especially if members of that group are present in the discussion.  Most significantly, I've completely restructured my perspective on what gender and sex is.  I've become sensitive to the gendering of children, biological essentialism, gendered spaces, cissexism, cissupremacy, and how fucking transphobic this fucking world is, and I've overcome more internalized cissexism that I ever thought was possible or necessary (it is very very necessary).  I can't seem to go ten minutes without thinking how patriarchy and sexism pervade our society by creating hetero- and cis-normativity and homophobia and transphobia.  My priorities have also changed significantly, with marijuana dropping off the radar completely, replaced with a dedication to combat oppression, specifically sexism and cissexism.  I've also become even more passionate about and involved in things that concerned me a year ago, such as gay rights.  I've come out three times as three different identities, and begun actively exploring myself, labels, and the way society impacts how I see myself.


So that's where I am at the moment. I'll be somebody else tomorrow, and in an hour. As scary as change is, I have no choice but to embrace it. And embrace it, I will.

D:

I would like to tell the world that I am less than happy by googling "heartbreak" and blogging the first image I find pretty.

First Kiss

I still remember the place where I had my very first kiss. I remember it exactly. I could go there today and sit right there, I could point out where he sat and where I sat.  I could tell you just what the March weather was like, I can remember the very texture of the California air. I could describe just how I felt, how nervous I was and how happy. I could trace my steps to the bus afterward, spreading my arms as if to hug the sky.  I could trace my emotions for the next few days, the memory still burning fresh in my heart. I used to come back to that place all the time, I would sit and think, and time and space would bend, filling me with that very sensation, that freedom, that magic. It's amazing how powerful a place can be.

Then time passed. There was a space between me and him, I was miles and roads and states from that place.  I moved on, and so did my heart.  I grew up, I changed, I became someone I never imagined I'd ever become.  There probably isn't a cell left in my body that was there the day we kissed.  I came back to that spot once, years later.  I knew what I should feel and I knew what I wanted to feel, but I didn't feel it. It's as if the memory belonged to someone else, to someone that wasn't me. I could have sat anywhere else in the world, any other town would have been just as strange.  I miss you. I miss that moment.

Everything is transitory. There is no self.

but I will always love you

04 May 2010

Multisexual Identities

An updated version of this entry is found here. However, this version addresses some things that I don't discuss in the other post.

This is another post summarizing my conclusions from following discussions on FetLife.com.  For this post, I am drawing from a discussion titled "Bisexual, Queer, identities. Is it fair to posit a group as bisexual if you want to include all people who are not "hetero" or "homo"?" from the group "Rethinking Trans" and a discussion titled "Umbrella Term for Non-Monosexual Identities" that I started in response to the former discussion in the group "Kinky gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered". I'm breaking this post into several parts, because I have a lot to say on the topic.

Bisexuality and the Erasure of Non-Binary Gender Identities

Many advocate for the use of "bisexual" as an umbrella term for non-monosexual identities, thus describing anyone attracted to more than one gender.  However, this is problematic in that it erases non-binary individuals.  Some have argued that "bisexual" does not actually erase non-binary individuals because it describes people who are attracted to both of the two sexes.  However, such a justification is problematic on several fronts: (1) it denies the existence of bodies that do not conform to the constructed concepts of "male" and "female" either because of an intersex condition or medical intervention; (2) it denies the existence of people with a non-binary sex identity; and (3) it is cissexist because it promotes a focus on the appearance of someone's genitals, thus promoting biological essentialism.  Others say that "bisexual" is not problematic as an umbrella term because it expresses an interest in men, women, and anyone in between. However, many non-binary individuals don't see themselves as on this continuum, and are thus erased by this definition. Clearly, "bisexual" is always problematic and gender-binarist when used as an umbrella term for non-monosexual identities.

One reason people may identify as "bisexual" is because it's the most convenient and/or the only available identity to use.  For example, I am listed as "bisexual" on several social-networking websites, although I identify very strongly as "panromantic*", because I have no other option.  Also, I occasionally tell people that I am "bi" (or, more often, it's something along the lines of "yeah, sorta" in response to their inquiry).  I am not sure how I feel about those situations. On one hand, I don't feel comfortable talking about the details of my identity with people who are unlikely to understand anything beyond gay, straight, or bi; at times, I worry that the people I am speaking to may be (unintentionally) cissexist, and thus may misunderstand what I am saying about myself and my partners when I explain that I am attracted to people other than men and women without going into extended discussions (in particular, I worry that they may not understand the concept of identifying as a gender other than man and woman, and may instead misinterpret me as third-gendering binary trans individuals).  On the other hand, it's completely a binary-gender privilege for me to casually identify as bisexual without it erasing my very own existence, and I fear that by telling others that I am "bisexual" rather than explaining the existence of non-binary genders, I am contributing to the erasure of people with non-binary genders in our society.  Thus, I insist on identifying as panromantic* to people who I know will understand, even if it takes some additional explaining.  It frustrates me when people identify as "bisexual" simply out of convenience, or when people continue to identify as "bisexual" even after being made aware of non-binary identities because they are unwilling to take the time to reconsider  their identity.

I must clarify that "bisexual" is not inherently gender-binarist.  Many people are, in reality, bisexual if they are attracted to binary-identified men and women, and not non-binary individuals. This is perfectly acceptable for those people that have thought it over and determined that this truly is their sexuality. There is nothing wrong with preferring binary to non-binary individuals (just as there is nothing wrong with preferring non-binary to binary individuals) as long as the existence and legitimacy of non-binary gender identities is not ignored or questioned by the bisexual person, and as long as this person does not discriminate against binary trans people as potential partners.  Another reason someone may identify as "bisexual" is because they are unfamiliar with the existence of gender identities other than "man" and "woman".  Although it's highly concerning that the existence of non-binary individuals is invisible in our society, it's impossible to criticize the bisexual individual in question, because they never had any reason to rethink their identity.  "Bisexual" is only problematic when it is used as an umbrella term for non-monosexual identities, and when it's adopted by non-monosexual binary-identified people that are not actually bisexual.

Umbrella Term for Non-Monosexual Identities

In popular discourse, we seldom see past a trinary of sexualities - homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual.  Although this is significantly better than a mononormative binary (the belief that all people are attracted to only one gender, and are thus either homosexual and heterosexual) and heteronormativity (the belief that all people are attracted only to people of the opposite gender), it's still highly problematic in that it erases non-monosexual people who are not bisexual.

There is a strong need for an umbrella term for non-monosexual identities.  Bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, anthrosexual, pomosexual, queer, fluid, etc. people often face similar forms of discrimination both from the mainstream heterosexual culture and from within the queer community.  Monosexism is the belief that monosexual orientations are superior to non-monosexual identities.  Monosexism promotes the view that people with non-monosexual identities are confused or undecided, that their identity is invalid or "just a trend", that non-monosexual orientations don't really exist, and that non-monosexual people are promiscuous, and it leads to the refusal or hesitance of gay and lesbian folk (or straight folk) from partnering with non-monosexual people.  Many people call these forms of discrimination "biphobia".  However, I feel like the term "biphobia" erases the existence of non-monosexual folk who are not bisexual and thus ignores the oppression and marginalization these people might face.

I must clarify that, just as bisexuality exists, so does biphobia. However, biphobia is a very specific form of discrimination faced by bisexual people (not other monosexual people).  For example, someone recently told a friend of mine, who identifies very strongly as bisexual, "Don't you mean pansexual? Isn't that more politically correct?" This statement specifically discriminated against people who are bisexual, erasing the possibility that these people exist and putting into question the validity of their identity.  It is also an example of subversivism.  Another situation in which "biphobia" may be an appropriate term (or perhaps it's not, I am uncertain) is when non-monosexual people face discrimination from the greater society, which may be unaware of non-monosexual identities other than "bisexual", and thus the discrimination is based on misconceptions specifically about bisexuality.

An umbrella term would bring together all people who face monosexism. If such a term were to become more mainstream, it would help combat the erasure of non-binary gender identities.  It's been suggested that the terms "queer" and/or "pansexual" be used as umbrella terms for non-monosexual identities. However, I find this problematic for several reasons. "Queer" has been used as a term to describe all individuals who are not straight, as well as to name the entire LGBTetc community.  "'Queer" would thus be unsuccessful as an umbrella term for non-monosexual identities.  "Pansexual" would be problematic because not all non-monosexual people are attracted to all or any genders, as is implied by the term "pansexual".  Some are bisexual, and others may prefer a certain end of the spectrum (or ends of the spectra).  Still other people who are attracted to all or any genders may distance themselves from the term "pansexual" for other reasons.

Some possible umbrella terms are multisexual and polysexual.  From what I've heard (and I may be mistaken), polysexual had already been used by some communities for this very purpose. However, it was eventually rejected, because many confused this term with "polyamorous".  Thus, I think "multisexual" is the best umbrella term for non-monosexual identities.  I encourage all multisexual people to embrace this term: identify as "multisexual" to others, express solidarity with other multisexual folk by acknowledging that you're both multisexual, and use the term "multisexual" and "monosexism" in place of "bisexual" and "biphobia" (except in discussions pertaining specifically to bisexuality).

Misconceptions about Pansexuality and other Multisexual Identities

As a multisexual person, I am often frustrated with misconceptions about multisexual identities.  Many of these misconceptions are a result of monosexism, and can be addressed by combating monosexism. Others include misconceptions about bisexuality (the belief that bisexuality is inherently gender-binarist and politically incorrect), which I already addressed at several points throughout this post.  In this section, I will specifically focus on misconceptions about pansexuality because I did not address these misconceptions elsewhere in the post, and because, as a panromantic* person, these misconceptions are personally very important for me to address.  Many multisexual people distance themselves from identities like "pansexual" and "omnisexual" for some or all of the reasons I will discuss below. I was once one of those people, but, for me, identifying as "panromantic*" is, in some ways, reclaiming the term.  Although I am not passing judgment on the identities of other people, I do encourage all people interested in all genders to identify as "pansexual" (or "panromantic*"), because I feel it could be beneficial to unite people with a similar sexuality.

Pansexual and omnisexual people, as all multisexual people, are often accused of being promiscuous. I've heard this go a step further specifically with pan- and omni-sexuality, in which people are turned-off by the apparent implication that these people are sexually interested to all objects, not just people.  This is obviously not the case, as this is a sexual orientation describing someone's interest in people of different genders, not inanimate objects.

Another problem I've noticed is that many people are turned off by what I like to call "the pansexual superiority complex".  This happens when pan-, omni-, anthro-, and pomo-sexual people (perhaps among others) patronize people with more restrictive sexualities, constructing their apparent lack of sexuality and ability to not discriminate based on gender as superior to other people's preference. This is a ridiculous perspective, as people cannot choose their sexuality.  Additionally, many pansexual people (including myself) feel that they don't lack a sexuality, but instead have a very specific orientation that includes an interest in all genders.  While the "pansexual superiority complex" does exist, it's unfair to generalize this complex to all or most pan-, omni-, anthro-, and pomo-sexual people. This is the main reason I did not identify as panromantic* until recently.

Another concept that I think not always holds true is the idea that pan-, omni-, anthro-, and pomo-sexual people are, in some way "gender-blind" in their desire. When someone first explained pansexuality to me, I was still in high school, and unfamiliar with non-binary genders.  I was told that the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality is that pansexual people don't see a difference between men and women, and instead only see what's in their head.  This definition initially deterred me from this identity.  Although it may be true for some people who identify as pan-, omni-, anthro-, and pomo-sexual, it is not true for many, including myself.  I most definitely "see" and care about the gender of the people I am with, as I believe it's a huge and important part of their identity and who they are.  Additionally, the reason I am attracted to someone may be different based on their gender.  Although I don't restrict myself to people of a certain gender identity(ies) or presentation(s), I very much so am not blind to these.

There are a couple more conceptions about pansexuality that I disagree with, but I am uncertain whether they are actually misconceptions.  The definition of pansexuality (like so many other definitions pertaining to gender identities and sexualities) is fluid, and may differ from person-to-person.

Does pansexuality (specifically) restrict people to a certain continuum?  For me, pansexuality has always meant that I am interested to people of all and any genders, including man, woman, combinations of the two, genders somewhere between the two, genders off this spectrum entirely, neutrois and/or agender people, people with multiple genders, and people who's gender is fluid.  Thus, I don't see pansexuality as restricting myself to any specific gender(s), but instead as acknowledging my interest in all genders. However, some people see pansexuality as more restrictive than other identities (for instance, pomosexuality).

Does pansexuality indicate a lack of preference?  I identify as panromantic* although my sexuality is fluid, and, most of the time, I have a preference for a certain gender(s).  I also have an overall preference, and lean in a certain direction more often than any other way.  However, despite my fluidity, I never restrict myself to any gender(s); thus, I consider myself panromantic*, despite having a preference.  However, some people see pansexuality as indicating a lack of preference for any particular gender(s), thus rejecting it as a self-identity for themselves.

*Note: In this post, several times, I switch between saying "pansexual" and "panromantic".  I personally don't identify as "pansexual" because I lie on the asexual spectrum, and thus prefer to remove references to "sexuality" in my identity. However, my sexual and romantic orientations match in every way except that I experience sexual attraction less often than romantic attraction. Thus, I think my perspective as a panromantic is just as valid in discussing pansexuality as the perspective of someone who identifies as "pansexual".

02 May 2010

Intersexuality as Identity.

This past year, I have had many fantastic conversations about all sorts of identities on the website FetLife.com, a BDSM social networking website.  At the time that I participated and followed many of these discussions, I was not armed with the vocabulary to discuss sex, gender, gender expression, sexuality, oppression, and marginalization the way I am now.  Thus, having sat on many of these questions for several months, I think I am finally ready to discuss my thoughts on these often complex and controversial issues in my blog.

One of the first discussions I ever had on FetLife (in the group "Kinky gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered") was on "Intersexuality as Identity".  I started this discussion five months ago, long before I had the knowledge or vocabulary to discuss concepts such as subconscious sex, gender dissonance, or sex identity (several of which are terms used and defined by Julia Serano, whose book The Whipping Girl I am currently reading).  Initially, I phrased the question as follows:

What do we think about intersex as an identity? Can intersex be an identity? Can a non-intersex person identify as such? Should intersex people identify as either man or woman?
The discussion was very exciting and featured some interesting perspectives, such as the perspective of an intersex activist, who insisted that people without an intersex condition should never identify as intersex; the perspectives of a person who identified as "emotionally and mentally intersex" and described "wishing to have been born intersex" and a person whose ex-partner identified this way, both of whom argued that people not born intersex can identify as such in the same way people assigned male at birth can identify as female and vise versa; and a person whose body neither resembled that typical for a female nor that typical for a male due to medical transition, and who was searching for a term to describe his sex.

One major problem I came upon in this discussion was that people conflated sex with gender and gender presentation.  Some of the individuals in the discussion often described feeling intersex because they saw themselves as both masculine and feminine and/or as both man and woman.  This is highly problematic, as intersex is a sex (or is it a category containing several different sexes?), not a gender identity or expression, like bigender or androgynous.  Using the term "intersex" to describe gender identity and expression is appropriative, and it creates misconceptions about the gender identity and expression of people with intersex conditions.

However, some of the people in the discussion expressed the desire to have non-binary sex characteristics, such as both male and female primary sex characteristics or ambiguous genetalia.  Just as someone's subconscious sex does not have to match their physical sex, someone's subconscious sex can also be non-binary.  However, using the term "intersex" to describe a non-binary sex identity is inappropriate, because intersex people face very specific medical needs, and they are often stigmatized and pathologized by society, so it's important to have a singular word to describe their experiences.

Alternative terms could be developed to describe people with non-binary sex identities, such as bisexed, multisexed, ambigusexed, etc.  Additionally, it might be beneficial if a term was developed to describe bodies that are neither traditionally male nor traditionally female, but are that way due to medical transition rather than from birth.
more and more trans folks are advocating for separate concepts of gender identity and sex identity. sex identity (also called 'brain sex' among other things) being equivalent to the mental map of your body as exists in your brain. given that, it's totally reasonable to assume that some people have intersex sex identities. however, intersex as a set of physiological condition is so stigmatized and pathologized that people with those conditions really need access to a singular word to describe their experience without also including people who do not possess those physical conditions but do have a sex identity that includes both male and female parts (which is really really not the same as a transexual who happens to end up with what seems to you as both male and female parts due to lack of access or lack of medical technology). this is necessary because, intersex babies are being mutilated non-consensually every day and intersex people have particular ongoing medical needs as adults, and so a clear, bounded identity category is needed for purposes of solidarity, support, and advocacy. including people with non-binary 'brain sex' would unacceptably muddy that up. what will probably happen is that those people will coin a new term to refer to sex identities that don't fit into the 'male' 'female' or neither (sometimes called neutrois) categories. -- FetLife user ephraim, quote from the original discussion

Regrets.

For a long time, I honestly believed I had no regrets.  However, recently, I began to realize that this really is not true, it just took me a little growing up before I realized that I should have done some things differently. Here are my regrets.

1. Not participating in theater in high school.  If I could re-live high school, I would do tech, because the theater community is not only intelligent, hard working, mature, and dedicated, but they are also very close and fun.

2. Taking French rather than Spanish.  Although I am very glad I can speak limited French, I wish I took Spanish, instead, because I find it to be the most beautiful language, and I feel like knowing Spanish would be more beneficial than French.

3. Living in a single this year (freshman year of college).  I'm missing out on a very important experience, and the single makes me lonely.

29 April 2010

Olive the Other Reindeer...

... had a very shiny nose...

Off topic: Olive the Other Reindeer was my favorite Christmas movie as a child. All because of the pun. It's the first play-on-words that I ever remember understanding, and I could never stop laughing. Unfortunately, none of this has anything to do with the rest of this blog. I just happen to mention olives in this story, which, of course, made me think of Olive.

I was recently having a wonderful discussion on FetLife on that fabulous topic that's been on my mind so much recently: What is sex? mmmm, sex. Well, one of the things that came up was foreplay. I absolutely despise the concept of foreplay. It implies that anything other than penal-vaginal intercourse (PVI) is less-than sex, which I personally find very patriarchal, as many women, including myself, are unable to reach orgasm through PVI and/or don't enjoy it as much as other sex acts.  I am on the very extreme end of that spectrum, and I often find PVI not only not pleasurable but un-pleasant and anti-pleasurable (and my vagina is really short, so I can't top in PVI because the feeling of a penis pounding on my cervix resembles the sensation of a stick of dynamite going off by your ear and rupturing your eardrum, and it's unfortunately more difficult to dominate on bottom).  Besides the sexism inherent in that concept, it's also obviously very hetero- and cis-normative, and devalues any relationship that's not between two opposite-sex cissexual people.  Which is bullshit.

Actually, none of this has anything to do with this post, either.  I guess I just wanted to tell you all about my sex life.  Just kidding, what I actually wanted to do was make you read this, which the whole foreplay-issue made me think off.  The first time I was introduced to this article was through AVEN, because the metaphor presented in it is a very asexuality-positive metaphor.  Which actually does have to do with this post, for a change.  See, wandering around today (more specifically, going to Barnes and Noble to get The Whipping Girl, of which I read four chapters so far, and I'm already contriving ways to propose to Julia Serano, because it's just so brilliant and well-written), I came up with my own metaphor involving pizza for my own (a)sexuality and sexual experiences.  Unrelated to the metaphor in that article, only in that it happens to involve pizza. And olives, God knows why, which is how the reindeer ever came in the picture.  Anyways, here's my story.

Pizza shop - A non-platonic or not-only platonic partner.
Pizza - A non-platonic or not-only platonic encounter. Every pizza/slice of pizza/crumb of pizza/etc. from the same pizza shop is another encounter with the same person.
Olives - Sex. We'll just assume there's only one essential "sex", with no such thing as different types of sex or foreplay. Deal?


I reaaaally like pizza. In fact, almost everyone in all the world reaaaaally likes pizza.  Pizza is delicious, and there are pizza shops on every street, and each one of them is unique and different. Pizza chains don't exist in this world, though I suppose delivery still might... I really didn't think my world that much through...  Well, anyways, pizza is amazing, and most people - like 99% of people really love olives.  Like, a lot. Some people eat olive pizza whenever they get the chance, while others prefer to try non-olive pizza or a few slices of pizza with no olives from a pizza shop before they order it with olives. But everyone loves olives.


Only I never much cared for olives.  I tried them, but they just didn't taste so great.  So I went to another pizza shop, tried the olive pizza there, didn't much like them still. I went to a few, tried a few, tried different kinds of pizza, seasoning, different ingredients to go with my olives, I tried a lot. But I still didn't much care for the olives.  Sometimes, I even found them gross, and had to pick them off my pizza.  One pizza shop was absolutely amazing.  It was a beautiful place with a wonderful atmosphere, so I kept coming back.  I know chefs love to cook pizza with olives, so I kept ordering pizza with olives, although I didn't really enjoy them.  Besides, the olives looked beautiful, they really added something to the aesthetic of the pizza.  After a while, though, I got bored of eating pizza with olives that I didn't enjoy, so I stopped having olive pizza for a while.


Then, I passed by a pizza shop I never passed by before.  It was beautiful and the pizza smelled delicious.  Somehow, I just knew this pizza shop was right for me.  I passed by it again and again and again, but things never seemed to work out.  Sometimes, they were reserved. Sometimes, they were closed.  Sometimes, they had a conference inside.  Sometimes, I didn't have time.  A few times, I would get a slice or a couple slices of pizza, and I really liked it and couldn't wait to come back for more.  At last, I got a seat inside.  I ordered a full pizza - with olives.  The pizza was amazing! I hadn't eaten anything so good in a long time.  For seven months I'd been waiting to eat this pizza, and I'd never been happier! But, what was really amazing, was I loved the olives.  I ate the ones that fell off the pizza and onto the plate and finished each and every one.  The pizza I wanted for so long was so good, even the olives tasted great. In fact, they were (almost) my favorite part.

26 April 2010

Appropriation of Genderqueer Identities in My Community

Before you read this post, you're required to read this article from Questioning Transphobia.  This post is, in some ways, my own response to that article, which perfectly describes the phenomenon of appropriation of genderqueer identities; I'm going to look specifically at its presence and influence in my community(ies).  Like that article says, "none of this, however, should be an excuse for binary gendered people (especially cis people) to decide who is and isn’t genderqueer enough".  I am not questioning or criticizing the identities or the pronoun preferences of any individual in my community, and neither should you.  Instead, I'm simply discussing a trend I've noticed, and I'm explaining why I find it problematic.
Subversivism: Sexism that is rooted in the presumption that genders and sexualities that are deemed subversive, radical, or transgressive are inherently superior to those that are more conventional. While this form of sexism is not prevalent in mainstream culture, it does proliferate in queer, feminist and radical circles. - Julia Serano

At a recent student group meeting, we went around and introduced ourselves with our name and preferred pronoun.  Nearly everyone said that "they don't care" about pronouns.  This left strongly binary identified people, especially strongly binary identified cis people, feeling inferior.  They came up to me after the meeting, frustrated by how it turned out, and grateful for the few other people in the room that stated a binary pronoun preference.  It also infuriated myself: as someone who is questioning my gender identity and may be non-binary, I felt that my identity was completely invalidated, and I am sure other non-binary individuals (would have) felt the same way.  Nearly everyone at the meeting was cisgender, and I suspect many of them really do have a pronoun preference and would not actually be comfortable going by any pronouns; as a good friend of mine recently put it, their stated pronoun preference is equivalent to saying "I'm not sick, but I just don't want to say that I'm well."  In many ways, I felt that meeting was an example of subversivism in my community.  Some people, perhaps some of the people at the meeting, do not have a pronoun preference.  I am in no position to accuse any individuals of appropriation or dishonesty, and this discussion is about the greater trend, rather than the individuals at the meeting.

When I was in highschool, there was a lot of appropriation of bisexuality by girls.  In the crowd I hung out with, bisexuality was non-conformist, rebellious, sexy, and punk.  That's not to say that every girl who identified at bisexual at that time did so to be radical, and many of my bisexual female friends truly were queer and even ran Spectrum, the GSA at my highschool.  I will never accuse any individual girl of not really being bi, because it's not my place to make that decision; nor will I ever say that bisexuality itself is a trend, as many polysexual people continue to be oppressed by monosexism and biphobia.  However, I have no doubt that, at that place and time, the trend existed, and that a lot of appropriation did occur.  In highschool, although I experienced attraction towards girls and was active in the queer community and the gay-straight alliance, I identified as straight; in many ways, this was because I feared being associated with the bisexual trend and felt that my identity would not be considered valid in such a culture.  It wasn't until I got out of that community that I began embracing my queer identity.  Recently, I'm beginning to notice many similarities between bisexual identity in my former highschool community and genderqueer identity in my college community today, as well as my own relationship with  these identities within the greater social context.

The gender binary hurts us all by instilling gender expectations and promoting sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.  Thus, it's completely acceptable for anyone to be frustrated with the binary and to want to smash it (I know I do!), it's completely acceptable to experience anxiety and discomfort with hegemonic gender expectations and scripts, and it's completely acceptable for people to dislike pronouns and labels.  In fact, I think all of us should actively pursue a post-gender world.  However, appropriating genderqueer identities is not the way to do so. Appropriation is harmful to all people, cis and trans, binary and non-binary.

I've feel like I've covered some sketchy ground, and it's important to once again clarify that no one should ever accuse anyone of not really being genderqueer, bisexual, or any other identity, and a person's pronoun preferences should always be respected.  However, I also think it's important for individuals to consider the things they say and why they say.  As the article I linked at the beginning explained (and if you haven't read it yet, go do it immediately), appropriation of genderqueer identities is harmful to everyone, and should be avoided. In my community, I've seen first-hand how such appropriation hurts many different people.

Edit: I edited the fourth paragraph because, upon rereading it, I found some of the things I wrote problematic and inconsistent with my actual opinion.

22 April 2010

Name my God.

I've begun incorporating elements of Shin Buddhism into my religious practice. Unfortunately, I really know very little about Shin Buddhism or Buddhism in general, and everything I do know I learned in my Religions of East Asia class. However, from what I know, I think Shin will suit me exceptionally well.

Shin is a type of Pure Land Buddhism. One of the major concepts of Pure Land is faith, and the belief that other-help is better than self-help.  Whenever I pray, I often focus on the (Christian) concept of surrender and giving everything up to God.  Thus, I rely not on self-help and the things I can do, but on other-help, and trusting God to guide me wherever it is that I should go.  A major element of Shin and Pure Land practice is nembutsu (Chinese: nianfo), or the repetition of Buddha Amitabha's name. The concept of nembutsu is slightly different in Shin Buddhism than in other Pure Land schools. Instead of calling upon Amitabha for help, nembutsu is a form of gratitude, a way of saying "thank you" to the Buddha.  I absolutely adore this concept, because asking God for help has always seemed anti-faith and anti-surrender to me.  By asking for help, I am assuming that God otherwise wouldn't help me and taking it upon myself to find assistance. Often in prayer, I find myself saying thank you to God as I come to realize how much I have ignored when lost in my own mind of worry. I especially adore the concept of nembutsu because it's a tangible action that I can put my finger on, something I can actually hear. Rules have always helped me with my practice (which is why, when I initially decided to be Taoist, I incorporated what I understood to be Christian practices), so speaking God's name seems like a fantastic idea.

The only problem is: what is God's name? I can't even figure out what pronoun to use with God, much less God's name. (For a while, by default, I used He. That made me angry, though, so I began using gender neutral Pronouns. However, those don't seem to suit God either, so I started switching them up. More recently, I've given up using Pronouns all together, as God is a short enough word that it can be God's own pronoun. Perhaps the royal We would be a more appropriate way to express my relationship with God, as I do very much experience religion in an Existential Christian way.) I tried saying "Amitabha" and "Namu Amida Butsu", but neither of those felt quiet right to me. They refer to a specific Buddha, a concept that I don't quiet embrace, as I am a strong believer in the single God. Saying "God" doesn't work either, because, although I incorporate a lot of Christianity in my practice and in my beliefs, I do not obey solely or even primarily by Western religious beliefs, so I use God more as a title or a description of what I am talking about rather than Our actual name. I tried saying "thank you", but it sounded and felt more like a desperate plea than actual gratitude.

So, I need your advise, or at least your thoughts. Can/Should God have a name? How should I refer to God? And, if not, what should I say to God to tangibly, verbally express my gratitude?

21 April 2010

I ran in the rain.

I took off my shoes and my sweater, I wanted to take off my shirt because it's legal here in Boulder, but I chickened out and didn't. I ran with a smile, feeling free and liberated, because Colorado is thirsty, and I'm thirsty here in Colorado. Although I love our sunny days, I love our beautiful mountains, I've never felt so at home, but I've never felt so thirsty. And I remember skinny dipping in the summer, a mountain lake, a real lake, and how I drank it with my mind so I wouldn't be thirsty. And I ran in the rain, quenching my thirst, each item of cloth on my body wet as the blood in my veins.  It's never enough here. Then, I remembered that first winter back from California. That first snowflake, and how I ran outside and stood there, in love.

Love. That's really what it's all about. That's why I wanted to cry today, but couldn't until the drops landed in my eyes and I was getting a little bit scared because of the lightning, and I was walking faster, but I couldn't see, couldn't open my eyes because of the raindrops hiding there but it felt so right, like I was finally crying. It's strange, I never once cried without first smiling, never once smiled without first shedding a tear, a cause and effect that happens so instantly it all blurs into one until it's all the same thing. Joy and sorrow, is there even a difference? A mountain lake, a snow flake, I miss here while I stand on this soil, I miss California, and I miss New York although I've never even been there. It's never right, it's never enough. But Colorado, I love you.

Why do I love? I know, in the end, it's a conscious decision to turn a spark into wildfire, to let go and to fall. So much I sacrifice, so many chances I take just for a kiss from somebody I love only to feel empty until I kiss them again.  Yet I still do, always, thinking ahead to when it will all end, a forest, deceased. It took so long for it to grow, and now it's gone. Have you ever seen a burned down forest? Don't tell me to look at the positive - to think of the plants that only grow in ashes and the future that will eventually come - until you've seen a burned down forest with your own eyes, a burned down forest you once used to love. I have.

And I forgot that rain makes me depressed.