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.


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

17 April 2010

Where I've Been Map

Red is lived in.
Blue is been to.
Green is want to go.
I'm still working on my cities map - you can't really expect me to name all the cities I visited!
Also, my AAA US road map is coming in the mail, I want to mark every road I've traveled, every town I've visited.

10 April 2010

What is sex?

I've been asking this question, and variations of it, a lot lately. Ever since getting involved in everything queer, my entire concept of sex and sexuality has completely been turned upside down, and I'm not even entirely sure how to put it back in order. What is sex? What is virginity? What is intimacy? And how is all of this impacted by patriarchy, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, ableism, and various other forms of oppressive thought?

Up until recently, I considered sex to be penal-vaginal intercourse (PVI), lesbian sex to be cunnilingus, and gay sex to be penal-anal intercourse. That seems to be the standard construction of sexuality in today's society. This construction, I believe, is very problematic in many ways, and, thus, I've begun to deconstruct it and examine it deeper.

I definitely think everyone's personal definition of sex should be different. However, even if this is true, there's still going to be a concept of sex as defined by society, and the whole PVI=sex thing is highly problematic. As a society, it's time to get over the systems of oppression that impact our personal sexualities, especially as we grow up, discovering ourselves, our bodies, love, and pleasure, all within a greater social context. Perhaps the best definition of sex is none at all, and it's time that we abandon the question all together.

On the personal level, I'm still trying to figure out what sex is to me. In general, I seem to be content with the idea that sex is any sort of genital contact: genital-genital, mouth-genital, hand-genital, toy-genital, etc. However, there really is a lot more to this...
  • Is orgasm and/or sexual pleasure important? What about all those times I engaged in sex and got no sexual pleasure out of it, but was satisfied in other ways? What about sex where not all the partners are receiving stimulation? What if none of the partners orgasm?
  • Is physical contact an important part of sex? What about people who can reach orgasm and/or get sexual pleasure without physical stimulus?
  • How about physical stimulus that does not include the genitals? What about people who can reach orgasm with their nipples or other parts of their body? What about disabled people who do not have sensation in their genitals or are incapable of using their genitals for sex?
  • Is intimacy an integral part of sex? What is intimacy? Are one-night stands intimate?
  • Is it sex if it's not consensual? Is rape really sex?
  • Is masturbation sex?  I refuse to make a value judgment on masturbation, and I hate the construction of sex as greater than masturbation. Still, I am uncertain if masturbation is a type of sex or not sex at all.
  • Is it sex of your partners have a different definition of sex than you? Are you having sex if the people you're with don't think it's sex?
  • What's the relationship between sex and virginity? Can you have sex and still be a virgin? Can you lose your virginity without having sex? Are there multiple virginities?  (Is the concept of virginity an inherently sexist ideal?)
So tell me, dear friends. What is sex to you?