Toys, Toys, Toys

June 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Sex | 5 Comments
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Yup, you heard me. Toys.

And I bet you can guess what kind of toys I mean. Yeah, those kinds. Get that mind in the gutter. Farther down. Yeah, there. ‘Atta girl.

I often get promotional emails and whatnot from a certain site where I’ve ordered some, well, necessary supplies in the past. (Don’t try telling me a vibrating egg isn’t a necessity. Keeps me from gettin’ cranky, and you won’t like it when I’m cranky. So it’s necessary.) The site is

I like them because they often offer new products completely free, just pay shipping and handling, so customers get a chance to try a new stock item and post some reviews. It’s a great way to get the occasional $30 piece for just the $6.95 shipping fee. And that’s what I use that site for: affordable new vibrating things. Sure, they don’t always last forever, but heck, I paid less than $10 for the thing, and some of them do last a while (and oh, have they lasted!) and it’s often worth a shot.

What I don’t usually use the site for: advice or reviews.

(I should mention now that many links that will follow are definitely NSFW. Wait until after 5 pm to look at them if you’re an office-desk jockey.)

Why? Because, seriously, take a look at some of the articles on the site. They’re patronizing, they’re cutesy, they’re juvenile, and they make assumptions about their readership, mainly that they’re upper-middle-class married women who are ashamed to talk about sex but are  simply looking to “spice things up” in the bedroom. There’s the occasional foray into the “for the single gals” line of thought, but they often are just… dumb. And irrelevant. They use the word “hubby” in too many reviews, use dumb stories to open up a line of thought, treat gay people like they’re trying to trick people, use CAPS FOR EMPHASIS (seriously, is the HTML for italics, bold, or underline really that hard?), or even when they do give weight to a topic that can empower women, it’s just… badly written. (You don’t need to be a grammar geek like me to realize that it’s just written like a 12-year-old girl, not a grown woman who essentially writes for a living. Though I’m sure even that is an insult to some 12-year-old girls out there who write better than that.) So, I ignore them.

But one article popped up in the newsletter this week, and while yeah, it’s also not written terribly well, I was intrigued and mildly impressed:

Sex Toys for Threesomes

Did you read it? Yeah? Good. (Before you judge me, remember I said “mildly” before “impressed.”)

I was also a little frustrated with it.

Why, you ask?

Well, let’s start with the good things. First of all, the article includes all combinations of genders (within the binary, at least) as possibilities: FFM, MMF, FFF, and MMM. Second, it recognizes that threesomes are, in fact, more “work” than coupling: you have to keep all three people engaged as much of the time as possible, and that can be difficult, since many sexual acts are simply not easy to alter to accommodate a third body. (Not impossible, mind you, and perhaps not even terribly difficult, but some are not easy.) And it even hints that keeping someone “engaged” could also mean having them watch, which is a role which several people, myself included, enjoy taking on in multi-person playtime. Third, and most importantly, it emphasizes safety! Condoms and dental dams are good, good, good things to mention. Threesomes can be sexy, they can be liberating, and they can be exciting — but it’s important not to let safety go amidst all the excitement. It’s particularly good to mention safety in the case of a third joining a couple (as opposed to three singletons coming together): the couple may have moved beyond using protection and be certified-safe with each other (tested, on birth control, etc.), but the newcomer? Who knows what his or her situation is. If the couple isn’t used to thinking about protection, then they might not think about it in the heat of the moment with this new, exciting presence in the room. So I’m very glad that the author mentioned safety — and so early on in the article, too.

But yes. Frustrations. There are frustrating elements.

First off, sure, FFM threesomes are perceived to be the most common combination, with MMF running a close second. But really? Only one paragraph for MMM and FFF combined? Come on, people. I’ve participated in all three combinations which allow a woman into the mix. With two other girls, it felt even more conducive to toys than the other two. We wimmins like our vibrating thingies. And there are some combinations of toys which work so well in an FFF situation which aren’t as exciting as in others. (Try combining a butterfly, a vibrating egg, a double dildo, and a blindfold or two… or three… and damn. That will do things that simply aren’t going to happen if there are any fewer than 3 women in the playroom.) Sure, the toys I mentioned were also mentioned earlier in the article for other combinations, but the author glosses over the same-sex threesomes so much that if someone were truly trying to figure out what to bring into the bedroom with his or her two same-sex paramours, it wouldn’t really speak to them at all. All she says is “look at the other combinations and pick and choose from there!” She could have done a much better job at making gay and lesbian triples feel like they had a place in the sex toy world. After all, she’s really just trying to sell the toys on the site, so she really should be giving equal weight to all the groups mentioned.

Second: “MMF = bondage” puts me off a bit. Sure, I can see it happening quite easily. But why so much more so than FFM or same-sex triplets? My MMF experience didn’t involve bondage at all. It was more in the “playful romp” category than the “whips and chains” sector. It’s fine, good, and great if a MMF triplet wants bondage to be a part of the experience, but why can’t thoughts of bondage also permeate into the FFM, FFF, and MMM combinations?

Third: Why separate out the groupings by gender combinations in the first place? All the toys mentioned could add to the experience regardless of the gender(s) involved. (Okay, fine, the double-dildo might not be so useful in MMF or MMM, but that’s the only exception, really.) Vibrating bullets, listed under FFM, are good for anyone: male, female, or in between. It’s essentially a catch-all toy. You’d have to be slightly messed up in the head not to enjoy the vibrations of a good ol’ basic egg. Edible body gels, mentioned in the MMF section, are just as good in FFM. Or FFF. Or MMM. Or MMFF. Or FFFM. Or MF. Or…. you get the picture. Some of these are generically useful for mixing things up; while it’s great to be offering information on threesomes, and thereby “normalize” the use of toys in such situations, it’s also good to keep in mind that toys don’t have just one purpose. Just like a paperclip can not only hold pieces of paper together, but can hit reset buttons on phones, get the gunk out from under a key in your keyboard, be clipped to a dozen other paperclips for a necklace, or be turned into a spring-toy for playing tiddly-winks, most of the toys mentioned don’t have just one purpose. I think this may be the point she’s getting across — but instead, she ends up pigeon-holing the toys even further: “When you’re in X situation, you can use Y toy!” will actually sound like “You can use Y toy in X situation, but not in any others!” And just like gender and sexuality, toys are flexible.

And there you have it. I just queered the sex toy.

Not the most cohesive post I’ve ever written, and I hope to whatever deities are out there that my parents aren’t reading this, but whatever.

What do you think? What did I miss? What do you agree with? Or disagree? Or want to smack me upside the head for?

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Dear Walton High School,

May 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Coming Out | Leave a comment
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Thank you.

I’ll expand on that. But, my dear high school, thank you.

I may not have liked you all that much when I was there, but sometimes, nowadays, I can appreciate you.

Thank you for not making me go through what Constance McMillen had to go through. Thank you for not making me a figure in the national news, because I certainly wasn’t strong enough to have handled such at the time. Thank you for taking a hands-off approach which, while not particularly pleasant at the time, I realize now is much better than other approaches you may have taken.

Let’s start from the beginning.

I was 15 when I realized that I was attracted to girls as well as boys. I was 16 when I started telling people at school. I was 17 when I became vice-president of the Gay-Straight Alliance, and I was 18 when I decided to take my girlfriend at the time, Holly, to my senior prom.

Now, Walton High School, you did some smart things: rather than require everyone to have a paper ticket, which goodness knows a bunch of 17- and 18-year-olds can’t possibly be expected to hold onto, you created a list of everyone who had a ticket to prom, so that with a quick flash of an ID card (or enough friends to verify your identity if your purse was left in the limo), you could still get in and no one’s night was ruined because a little piece of paper fell out somewhere along the line. This means, though, that when we bought tickets for non-WHS students, we had to put their names on the list. So I went to the table outside the cafeteria, and a PTA mom was sitting there, cheerily taking checks for $50 and writing students’ dates’ names on a spreadsheet. This PTA mom was my “room mom” when I was in second grade, I think, so she’d seen me around for many years, and she smiled when I stepped up to the table. “Hi, Rae, how are you doing? Bringing someone special with you?”

“I am, indeed!” I smiled back at her.

“All right, it’ll be $50.” I handed her the check, she writes down my name and checks off the “paid” box, then asks, “What school does he go to?”

“Rome High School.”

“And his name?”

“Holly [last name].”

She paused. “Sorry?”

“Holly [last name].”

She paused again. “I’m not sure we can do that.” I just looked at her with raised eyebrows. I’d kinda expected something like this to happen. But she was my old room mom. She liked me. She thought of me as the sweet, quiet girl in the front of the classroom who squinted because I hadn’t been given glasses yet, and who never talked except when her hand was raised, and who wore her Brownie uniform to school and sold Girl Scout cookies and brought Matzah to class for a week and taught everyone what it was because this was Georgia, so a lot of people didn’t know. So she thought for a second, then said, “Hang on.” She went to the vice principal. They had a hushed whispered conference. The PTA mom came back to the table, all smiles, and said, “Well, that’s not a problem, you’re certainly welcome to bring a friend to prom. It is your senior prom after all, right?” She emphasized “friend” more than necessary. I sighed on the inside, and I’m sure my smile drooped a little, but the PTA mom wasn’t looking at me anymore, she was just writing “Holly [last name]” on the spreadsheet, and then reaching into the envelope for a paper ticket in case we wanted to have it as a keepsake. I didn’t put up a fight beyond that — all I wanted was to bring my girl with me to prom, and hey, I had a ticket for her, so whatever. One step at a time, I decided. Can’t push these East Cobb County Georgians too far at once, because then maybe I won’t be able to use the ticket at all. Baby steps. Baby steps.

Prom approached. Holly and I were excited. I had a satin purple dress, and she had a fluffy yellow dress, and they actually looked really great next to each other. It was a little like Easter, to be honest, but I didn’t care: she was beautiful, and she was my date to the prom, and I was happy. We had a group to go with: several of my friends who had stuck by me after I came out, and some other kids from the more liberal social circles on campus. We did the whole shabang: picture party, limo, fancy dinner, and then the prom itself. Holly and I presented our tickets at the table, and no one questioned it as we walked in. We held hands, walked around, said hi to people; I introduced her to my friends who she hadn’t met before, and we danced together. We drank punch and ate cheese cubes and threw off our shoes when they started pinching and we just wanted to do the Macarena (it was already hilariously out of date by then, which made it thoroughly amusing). She went to the bathroom, and I waited outside chatting with a friend. My ears perked up at a few words being whispered around me: “dyke,” “gay,” “lesbo,” “queer,” all words which I may have used to describe myself at one point or another but when said with that amount of vitriol are less than flattering. And then on the other side of the spectrum: we went to the dance floor, grinding as any good teenager would do to the type of music they play at prom, and we’d kiss, and boys would whoop and holler and make comments like “That’s hot!” “Keep going!” “Yeah, baby,” and “Can I get in on that?” To be honest, I’m not sure which was worse: being called names that showed obvious scorn, or being treated as sex objects which immature boys (not men, for sure: boys) felt weren’t worthy of the respect they would give to any of their friends kissing their dates on the dance floor.

I pretty much ignored it all. Whatever. I was at prom with a gorgeous girl, and I’m bisexual, and they can suck it if they give a damn.

Nothing remarkable happened other than that, though. The dance ended, and we all hopped back in the limo, and we went to Waffle House for some late-night food, and to a friend’s house for an overnight chill party.

Overall, it was a great senior prom.

So, thank you, Walton High School. I may not have appreciated it at the time, but you were so much nicer than you could have been. I can deal with name-calling. I can handle being unnecessarily sexualized. I can even put up with having my girlfriend being demoted to “friend” in your eyes.

What I could not have handled is being utterly shamed and denied my right to exist. I could not have dealt with being lied to and rejected from the only school community I knew at the time. I could not have put up with trickery and going to court and having a night which was supposed to be such an icon for the high school experience turned into a pawn for you to push through your agenda. You may not have treated me with the utmost respect, but you didn’t dehumanize me. You didn’t make me grow up much faster than I needed to like Itawamba High School did to Constance McMillen when they dragged her through a court case, repeated media exposure, and a fake prom which did nothing but send a message that said, “We don’t want you to exist among us. We deny your right to exist at all.” Then being forced to transfer schools because of the whole ordeal, just weeks before graduation, and then have Westboro Baptist Church (the “God Hates Fags” hate-mongering nitwits) threaten to picket at her graduation. I admire Constance so, so much. I could never have been nearly as mature about the situation as she was.

As much as I value every hardship I’ve encountered as a chance to grow and become stronger, I still thank you. Thank you, Walton High School, for allowing me to attend prom with the girl I liked. Thank you, WHS, for not ruining over 600 people’s prom experience to make a stand on my bisexuality. Thank you, WHS, for not being as bad as I thought you were.

I do have one request, though. Next time, when a girl goes up to the prom ticket table, and she wants to bring her girlfriend from another school to prom, tell the PTA mom to smile and say, “Of course! Here’s your ticket.” Maybe you’ve changed since my senior prom in 2005 and this is already the case. But teenagers are so susceptible to damage at the hands of an adult who simply doesn’t understand what that teen is going through in her journey to discover herself. She’s already made a dangerous choice to bring a date of the same sex to the prom in Georgia. She’s probably going to be called names and be treated cruelly at the hands of the other students. Be an adult. Be an example. Say, with your actions, “This is your prom, and you should be allowed to go with whomever you please, and I’m not going to get in your way.” If you’re opposed to same-sex coupling, don’t insert your politics into a teenager’s life. Let her make her own decisions. I’m glad I was able to make mine, even with some resistance.

So thank you, WHS. You made my life easier than Constance’s life. And I do appreciate that. You have some work to do before you’re a safe haven for teens of all orientations. But you’re one step ahead of some in the pack, and I want to thank you for that.

My five-year class reunion is coming up on August. I won’t be able to attend, since I’ll be in graduate school in Israel by that time. However, I wouldn’t be ashamed to attend if I were able to go. Because as much as I may have disliked the school at the time I was there, I realize that you weren’t all bad. I learned a lot from you. Perhaps not in the easiest way — but I did learn, and I thank you for the opportunity to do that learning.


Walton High School Class of ’05

PS: Thank you to Senators Franken and Gilibrand for introducing legislation to defend LGBT youth from bullying four days ago. I’m sure I’ll write more on this later, but this deserves mention in this context as well. So thank you, Senators, and thank you, Walton High school, in advance, for supporting this legislation. I hope you will, because there should never have to be another Constance McMillen in our midst: only people as strong as her.

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“Dirty Girl” Culture: Good, Bad or Indifferent?

May 7, 2010 at 10:02 am | Posted in Sex | 1 Comment
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A friend of mine posts plenty of interesting article on Facebook all day, which results not only in distracting me from work more often than necessary (oops), but also plenty of good reads that I’m glad I came across.

One of those came up the other day: “In Defense of ‘Dirty Girl’ Culture” by Jaclyn Friedman.

You may have noticed from my previous post (or you may not have, whatever) that Jaclyn Friedman is one of my all-time heroes. She came and spoke on UMD’s campus and was the first one to truly affirming of how I was feeling when she flat-out and unequivocally said that revoked consent is just as imperative for a man to respect as non-consent in the first place.

In this article, in case you’re too lazy to read it (don’t be, though — it’s good!), she discusses “dirty girl” culture, such as Ke$ha and the like who promote (or at least display) a lifestyle of the “bad girl” in some manner. This has long been looked down on for many reasons, most of which are based in the Puritanical backdrop upon which American culture rests. (Remember, our first colonists weren’t escaping from England for religious pluralism — they were going for freedom to be Puritans, which were more restrictive than the predominantly Anglican society.) By the “proper” narrative, a girl should be friendly, but not overbearing; attractive, but not flaunting; sexually appealing, but not sexual. Anyone outside of these bounds risks being dubbed “dirty” in one way or another.

However, if a boy goes outside of those boundaries… well, boys will be boys, amiright? *nudge nudge*

So Ke$ha and the other “dirty girls” out there, from the Pussycat Dolls to Spice Girls to Britney Spears to that girl who sang at the coffee bar I went to last week with all the profane lyrics… what are they doing? Are they straying from the path of good and following the yellow brick road to evil ways? Or are they standing up for their right to be just as sexual, just as loud, and just as foul-mouthed as their brothers?

Or perhaps it’s a little bit of both — because sometimes, their lyrics are degrading to women. But sometimes, their lyrics can be empowering, too. Britney’s “Womanizer” sticks out in my mind. The video is sexy as all hell. And in some ways, it shows good ol’ Brit in some roles which extremist feminists would decry as “degrading”: she’s cooking in the kitchen for her boy, she’s naked and on display, she’s thrusting her body at the guy.

On the other hand, look at the lyrics, and the overall message.

Lollipop, you must mistake me for a sucker
To think that I would be a victim of another
Say it, play it, how you want it
But no way I’m never gonna fall for you, never you, baby.

She’s directly confronting the guy who treats women as sexual objects. She’s saying, “Hell yeah, I’m sexy. And hell no, I’m not gonna fall for your trap… unless I want to. But you can’t trick me: I’m no victim.” Britney isn’t a passive sex doll. She’s a woman with plenty of leg to stand on. She may have no problem opening up those legs when she wants to… but don’t you for one second think you’ve played her, because she may very well be playing you.

She’s saying that she likes sex just as much as the boys. But that doesn’t make her weak: in fact, it makes her stronger. She asserts that sex can be a woman’s domain, too. She’s saying that the men who think sex is a goal to be sought, and a woman’s body an object to be conquered, are “womanizers” and therefore not worthy of her attention. She’ll tease them, she’ll flaunt herself for them, but h-e-l-l no she’s not about to let that bastard touch her unless she makes the first move. She’s a dirty girl. But he’s a dirtier boy. And she wins this round, ding ding.

Sex is dirty. And sex is for girls. So what’s so wrong with a “dirty girl”? Why is a “dirty girl” so much worse than her male equivalent? Britney and Ke$ha both put up a blockade. Ke$ha will “smack him if he gettin’ too drunk, drunk” and starts “tryin’ to touch my junk, junk.” She can be dirty, but she can stand up for herself when a boy starts acting like an idiot. Britney has no problem calling out the guy for what he is: a womanizer who ain’t gettin’ none tonight from her, no matter how many tight-fitting costumes she drops in front of him.

So what are these “dirty girls”? Are they morally reprehensible figures who ought only be shown on TV after the youngsters have gone to bed? Or are they role models for how a girl can be sexual and strong? Or is there a happy medium?

What do you think?

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Religious Homophobic Speech: Incendiary or Protected?

May 4, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Posted in Religion | 2 Comments
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I came across an article today while browsing the Telegraph’s website:

Christian preacher arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin

I’m torn, but I think, ultimately, I have to agree with Voltaire:

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

Now, I’m a religious person myself. I have studied Jewish texts for years, and starting next year, I will be going to graduate school at the same institution that trains Reform rabbis. I was a Jewish studies major in undergrad, and my mother has a PhD in Jewish Education. I have taught in synagogues for almost 10 years now, and I plan on becoming a Jewish professional. I’m conversant, if not fluent, in Bible Talk. (Okay, yes, I’m much better at the Torah/”Old Testament” than the Christian Bible/”New Testament,” but I have learned enough to hold my own in either language.)

I firmly believe that religion can coincide very nicely with a queer lifestyle. I believe that God created this world, and its inhabitants, for the purposes of love and creation rather than hatred and destruction. I believe that, in context, the injunctions against homosexuality are there for the purposes of admonishing (a) non-consensual relations and (b) homosexual acts used as a form of “induction” or subjugation, as in the Greek army, in which older “mentors” had sex with the young boys when they first started. (In this theory, which I’m not the only one to hold, this stems from the “separatism” in the Torah: many laws are in place to separate the Jews from other peoples, such that we may be different as the “chosen ones,” rather than for any particular moral reason. It’s the difference between not eating shrimp and not murdering: one is a law to protect our fellow man and to behave in a moral manner, while the other is in place so we’re not “like them,” with the “them” being groups such as pagans and polytheists, primarily.) I believe that if we are all made in God’s image (b’tzelem Elohim), then that includes all of us: straight people, gay people, bisexuals, transgender people, intersex people, the works. And if we find happiness and love in queer expressions and relationships, then we are permitted, nay, obligated, to find happiness and love in that way.

I’m trying to keep this short, so I’ll move on.

Now, is it okay for a street preacher to spew out bits of the Bible, including injunctions against homosexuality, in public? I obviously strongly disagree with him. If I came across him on the street, I very well might start a conversation with him and debate him on parts of his speech if not all of it.

However,  arresting him for such is flat-out wrong, so long as he stays within certain boundaries.

If he started calling individual people sinners and decrying “the sinful homosexuals” who are “destroying this planet,” then that may be basis for a charge of inciting violence or riots. That’s not okay.

But off-handedly mentioning the Bible’s supposed admonishment of homosexuality, along with a long list of other sins like “blasphemy, fornication, adultery and drunkenness,” is different. If he’s disturbing passers-by and upsetting people, perhaps it would be better to ask him to move to an area that is slightly less busy… but arresting him? That goes a bit far.

And in this situation, he wasn’t even spewing homophobic religious tidbits. He was handing out leaflets on the Ten Commandments and a woman started talking to him, and the point came up in the conversation. Perhaps it was a loud conversation, but nonetheless, was it really enough to warrant police action?

In a free and democratic society, such as the UK claims to be, religious speech is protected. I’m glad that the British police find anti-homosexuality speech offensive and incendiary, but there must be a limit here. And that limit was reached in this situation.

What are your thoughts?

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Mother’s Day and Chosen Families

May 3, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Chosen Families | Leave a comment
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Ah, Mother’s Day.

The flowers, the jewelry, the spa gift certificates, the Hallmark cards… really, it’s not much different from Valentine’s Day in some ways, I suppose.

And yet it is… because taking a day to put moms everywhere on a pedestal is beautiful. Even though this holiday was essentially created by Hallmark to sell more cards, it’s taken on a deeper meaning in our modern culture. And it’s not just for our “direct” mothers nowadays, either: we also call our grandmothers… and our female friends who have children… and our aunts… and any woman who has ever taken the time to help in our upbringing.

Mother’s Day takes on a whole different meaning when you consider the rapidly increasing different types of families out there. Parents of the same sex; children being raised by grandparents or other extended family members; adopted families; multi-parent households; step-parents; polyamorous families; multi-family homes; co-op communities in which all the adults share responsibility for all the children; and chosen families.

In the queer community, there has been much analysis of our “chosen families.” We may have chosen to bring non-biological relatives into the circle of what we call “family” for many different reasons. Maybe our parents rejected us when we came out, so we had to find comfort elsewhere. Maybe we simply moved far from home and found a circle of friends who became family in a strange city. Maybe we were estranged from our families and then chose to bring them back into our lives after the wounds had healed. Maybe we opened up our biological families to include  others around us who needed a helping hand. Maybe shared grief brought us together. Maybe it was shared joy. Perhaps it was need; perhaps it was desire. Maybe it was circumstance, or maybe it was planned. For whatever reasons, many of us have brought into our lives those who “traditional” society may not call “family,” especially not in the nuclear sense, but who are just as dear to us and who have had just as much impact on our lives as those who birthed us or share our genetic code. (And yet, even in that sense, the DNA of all of humanity varies by less than 1% all across the world — so we’re not as different as we sometimes like to think we are.)

The “coming out” narrative in the queer community has been told and re-told more times than would be possible to count. We’ve all had to grow in some way or another. “Coming out” means stepping outside of the mainstream and that takes a lot of courage, strength — and often a lot of help from others who have been off the beaten path before us.

Mother’s Day is a beautiful time to recognize those who have helped nurture us as we grew. To me, Mother’s Day is all-inclusive of all the women who have helped me grow as a person, who offered comfort when I needed it, who pushed me to do better, who knew when to let me cry, who knew when to push me into the water and force me to learn how to swim. It’s about the women who have chosen to enter my life and be a positive force within it.

It’s about my mother. It’s also about my little sister. And my English teacher in middle school who pushed me to create my first published story. It’s about the therapist at the UMD counseling center who reaffirmed me and comforted me and helped me to heal after I was attacked. It’s about my friend growing up who helped me get out of a very unhealthy relationship in high school. And it’s about the young women who held my hand through the confusion when I had my first crush on a girl. It’s about the writers who have changed my life philosophy and inspired me to do better. It’s about the songleader in NFTY who inspired me to pick up guitar when I was thirteen. It’s about the women who have coached me in ballroom dancing and pushed me to do better. It’s about the girlfriends who have been supportive in my effort to lose weight and achieve a healthier lifestyle. It’s about the women who showed that yes, a girl can grow up to be whoever she wants to be and that the glass ceiling is only put there to be shattered. It’s about the coworker who came into the bathroom when I had a breakdown in the middle of a shift and didn’t judge me at all while she comforted me then covered my tables until I was ready to face the world again. It’s about my boss who has offered me nothing but encouragement and enthusiasm about my goals to attend HUC and become an educator and community organizer in the Jewish community.

It’s about all the women who have entered my life, either by choice or by chance, and who I have chosen to embrace as family, even if only for a short period of time.

Thank you, women everywhere who have nurtured others in some way or another.

Who will have you chosen to be in your family? And who will you be thinking of this Mother’s Day?

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Boobquake: One Step Forward in Overcoming Shame

May 1, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Posted in Shame | 1 Comment
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Okay, so it’s a new month, and therefore, I should try to update a bit.

So last Monday, a bunch of us on the Internets celebrated the much-renowned “Boobquake.” I wore a somewhat low-cut shirt to celebrate myself, but I had work all day, so the low-cut-ness had to be curbed a bit compared to what it would be had I not been in my office all day.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? How about checking it out, as well as some responses:

Original Post/ProposalFacebook EventA Clarification on BoobquakeThe Results Are InA Feminist Defense of Boobquake – Why Boobquake Isn’t Destroying Feminism

Now that I’ve given you a not-so-small novel to read (and that’s not even all I’d recommend reading on it, but I figured I’d get on with my rant), let me put this out there: I fully support the Boobquake event.

I agree with all of the feminist reasoning behind the event; feminism is about choice, and therefore, we ought to have the freedom to choose whether we show off our tits or cover ’em up, and regardless of our choice, we have the right not to encounter sexism, objectification, anger, suppression, oppression….

Or shame.

From a queer perspective, Boobquake is fantastic. As a community, LGBTQ people have been battling with shame for as long as our communal memory can remember. From Oscar Wilde with the “open secret” (i.e. those who knew to look for homosexuality in his works saw it, but those who didn’t know wouldn’t see it, and no one talked about it because then they’d be admitting to being “in on the secret,” and no “good” person even considered homosexuality in the world, so you don’t talk about it lest you be accused of sodomy) to transpeople who get arrested while using the restroom to young lesbians told they can’t go to prom in a tux because that’s a boy thing to do, shame has been a big part of the queer experience.  Shame regarding our orientations, our gender identities, our masculine or feminine external styling, our lifestyles, our proclivities, our politics, our relationships, our families… and our bodies.

As a person in Western culture, I have been taught to be ashamed of my body. Especially as a woman in American culture, I have been commanded to be ashamed of my body. I’m too short, I’m too fat, I’m too curvy, I’m too pale, I’m too freckle-y, I’m too imperfect.

And if I’m the only one who’d been made to feel this way, I’ll eat the wire plugged into my laptop.

Many of us respond to this shaming by shrinking away, trying to fit in to what would be less shameful: trying to lose or gain weight, wearing push-up or minimizing bras, getting plastic surgery, wearing makeup, or if we can’t make our bodies better, we cover them up with clothing.

You know what I say to that?

Fuck. That.

I’m not going to let them shame me about my body, and neither should you. Those so-called “feminists” who oppose Boobquake on the “men are pigs, and you’re just feeding the wolf-whistling machine” reasoning don’t get it. Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, the prayer leader in Iran who said,

Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes

What was he doing with that statement? Not only saying something hilarious for us to make fun of online (Increases earthquakes? I mean, really?), but he was shaming women who are comfortable showing their bodies in public. He was shaming women for having body parts which men find attractive. He was also shaming men who are attracted to women’s bodies.

These men and women who call themselves “feminists” and yet believe that Boobquake is a backwards step for feminism–they’re doing the exact same thing. They’re shaming women who want to show off their assets. They’re shaming those of us who appreciate the aesthetic value of boobs. They’re shaming boobs themselves.

Let’s get this straight: Boobs are awesome.

You know what’s not awesome?

Here’s what’s not awesome: Shame. A one-size-fits-all view for how women should show their bodies. Urging suppression of choice. Treating women as objects which happen to carry some tits on them. Treating men as animals who can’t control their actions when faced with the sight of some cleavage.

And I’ll say it again: Shame. Shame is not awesome. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of awesome. It does no one any good any any level. Those who are ashamed of their bodies are more likely to harm them. (Whether by crash-dieting which causes more harm than good, by binge-eating comfort foods, by going under the knife unnecessarily only to wake up from the anesthesia to realize the lipo didn’t suck away their self-doubt, by self-injury, by committing suicide… the list goes on.) People who are proud of and comfortable in their bodies are more likely to live healthy lifestyles. In my own struggle to lose weight, the pounds only started slipping away after I became comfortable in the skin I was in; when I was ashamed of my body, I’d “cheat” on my diet more and more and only ended up gaining weight. However, as soon as I started loving myself and realizing that I can feel beautiful even 40 pounds overweight, hey! Look at that! Six weeks later, I’m down 10 pounds. I loved myself, and instead of reaching for the chocolate to make myself feel better for a minute only to have that feeling slip away as soon as I swallowed, I wanted to eat a salad and take the long way to work so I could walk more. Instead of beating myself up because I didn’t look like the magazines told me I should look like, I gave myself a hug and a smile and a little bit of self-love which, in turn, made me healthier.

Telling me to hide my tits because oh noes, the big bad men could enjoy the sight and do something awful (*Gasp!*)… that’s only going to harm me. Don’t tell me to hide my body. Tell those who objectify women to get their heads out of their asses and treat women like human beings rather than walking pairs of tits. Tell whose who refuse to accept transpeople to wake up and enter the 21st century, where we recognize a person’s right to dress and identify however he/she/ze wants. Tell those who can’t get past the need to shame others for their bodies to grow up, because we’re not on the kindergarten playground anymore. Though even on the kindergarten playground, my teacher would have put me in time-out if I’d made fun of someone for dressing a certain way.

Don’t want to see my tits? Don’t look at them. If you do, I’m not ashamed of them, and here they are.

I'm not ashamed of my cleavage. And no Muslim cleric or anti-feminist blog-commenter will change that.

The queer community has a long way to go before we overcome the centuries of shame placed upon us. But light-hearted events which poke fun at those who put that shame on us can only help. And that, my friends, is why I support Boobquake.

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Sex and Entitlement

April 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Let's Get Personal, Sexual Assault | 5 Comments
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Oh man. I’ve been such a delinquent about updating. And there’s so much I want to write on. But with this new job… (apparently, on Capitol Hill, “40 hours a week” really means “well, 40, plus coming in early to prep for meetings, and staying late to wait for the UPS delivery guy who’s stuck in traffic, plus a weekend here and there, and waiting around for Congress to vote so you can update the Twitter feed in real-time, so uh, maybe 55? 60? Yeah, that’s more like it.” Don’t get me wrong; I love my job, and it’s giving me fantastic experience in what I want to go into (outreach & nonprofit management), but man. Free time is hard to come by.)

There is so much going on and I have so much to say about it. It’s ridonculous.

But let’s get to one thing that’s got me riled up at this very moment. Perhaps this is getting too much attention as it is. And perhaps I’ll have trouble relating it directly to the supposed topic of this blog. But it’s a bit personal for me.

The Alex Knepper Debacle.

(Don’t know what I’m talking about? Look at the original article in AU’s newspaper, the Eagle; the first article I happened to come across about it; and the Letters to the Editor written to the Eagle that have been posted online. If you want more, The Huffington Post has posted a bit more on it as well, including video.)

I’m not going to resort to calling Knepper names and bitching about as him as a person, but only because that has been done so much and so well already, so I’m going to move on to the more elemental problem at hand.

I’ll give you a hint: It’s not Knepper. He’s just one product of a trend on college campuses in particular, but also everywhere else across the country. This trend has many names and has been discussed at much length, but even those often don’t seem to get to the deeper problem at hand.

It’s been called Rape Culture, Predator Theory, the Commodity Model, among dozens of others. But at the root of all of these, there’s a little nugget of a belief that the rest grows out of.

A false sense of entitlement.

It all stems from an aggressor’s belief that that person “deserves” sex. I say aggressor, and not a gender-specific term, because men, women, and all those in between can, and have, both perpetrated and been victims of rape, sexual assault, molestation, and abuse of all kinds. If I believe that I deserve sex, then I will have few, if any, qualms about trying my darnedest to get it by any means necessary. If I see a girl drunk at a party, and lure her into my room, and start groping her even though she’s slurring her words… it’s not because I think she wants it. It’s because I think I want it and I think that I should have it, if for no other reason than the fact that I was slick enough to get her alone in a room where no one else could hear her if she protested.

Let’s get a few points out there.

  • It doesn’t matter what a person wears. If a girl is wearing a micro-mini and a halter top, that doesn’t mean she wants sex. It just means she’s comfortable showing off some skin. I’ve been to certain parties where more skin was showing than I would even dare show on a public beach, and yet no one there would have been brazen enough to assume that I wanted sex for it. I simply was comfortable being mostly nude in a group situation where such is acceptable. I could be wearing jeans, a loose sweater, and a scarf, and yet want sex more than I did during that clothing-optional party.
  • It doesn’t matter where you are. Showing up to a certain bar or party doesn’t mean a person signed a contract saying they agree to have sex with whomever approaches them. Or even with whomever they decide to make out with. It might mean they’re looking around to see who’s available. But it doesn’t mean they’re inherently going to decide to have sex with someone.
  • If a person is too drunk to say no, that doesn’t mean that person says yes.
  • Consent can be revoked at any time, and once it is, proceeding any further is assault. Period.
  • If someone asks for their partner to use protection, and that partner “pretends” to agree and removes protection partway through, that is also a form of assault.
  • Men, who are the perpetrators in the vast majority of sexual assault, do, in fact, have brains and are, in fact, capable of making moral decisions. In fact, they are even capable of doing so while drunk. Therefore, we can’t belittle men by saying they “can’t help it,” when that is such a gross underestimation of the capabilities of half of our species.
  • The relationship between two people makes no difference regarding the need for consent. A husband can rape a wife, a girlfriend can assault her boyfriend, and a person can molest their best friend… just as much as strangers are capable of such.
  • One night stands are not inherently bad, and drunken hookups aren’t necessarily going to lead to assault. I’ve had men I brought home for a drunken one-night stand ask me if I liked something, or if it was okay to proceed to something else. And no, it wasn’t awkward. Just whisper it riiiight next to my ear… and it could be sexy no matter what you’re saying. Even if it’s something like, “You want me inside you?” “Do you have protection?” “Do you like [insert sexual act you want to do next here]?” All of these are very simple ways of obtaining verbal consent from someone whose body language you don’t necessarily know well enough to read straight-out. Or of making someone even more hot and bothered. I know I get more worked up when someone teases me with a suggestion before proceeding. It’s hot.
  • Sex which respects women, often called “feminist sex,” is not boring. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite. I’ve had very liberating sexual experiences which involved ropes, leather, more than two people, voyeurism, exhibitionism, power play, feathers, whips, toys, and non-bedroom locations which allowed for respect of both myself and my partner(s). And I don’t even consider myself into kink. I just like sex… a lot. And I enjoy exploring new things with someone who I find myself being comfortable with. Not all of the aforementioned situations are ones which I have much interest in repeating (some I very much would–I’ll keep you guessing as to which are which), but I was free to explore such possibilities with a partner or two (or more) while being respected for what I did and didn’t like/want. And that, my friends, is “feminist sex.” Or, as I prefer to call it, “real sex.” Any sex that doesn’t respect all partners involved stops being sex and starts being assault.
  • Most importantly: sex is a joint venture and should be approached as such. And this is where we get to the entitlement bit.

Right vs. Privilege

Now, sex is both a right and a privilege. But the differentiation between the two is very important. I’m creating a theorem which goes as follows:

Part I:
You have the right to have sex without the interference from others outside of the participants in the sex.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have sex in X, Y, or Z ways and feel the need to listen to them unless you want to. Nobody can tell you that sleeping with someone of a certain gender is wrong, or that sex using toys is disgusting, or that consensual power play doesn’t belong in sex. Well, okay, they can tell you… but they don’t have the right to enforce that unless you’re breaking laws (i.e. someone underage) or conflicting with Part II, which is…

Part II:
However, having sex with your partner(s) is a privilege, not a right.

You don’t have a right to anyone else’s body. You have the right to your own. But access to another’s body is a privilege that only that person can grant you.

The problem of which Knepper is only one point of evidence is a faulty misconception of Part II; mainly, that it doesn’t exist. He, along with many others in our culture, have the misconception that if they “get” a partner to Point A, then they “deserve” to get to Point B with them.

This leads to various displays in faulty logic:

  • If I make out with you, I deserve to go farther with you.
  • If I get you alone in a room, I deserve to grope you.
  • If I get you naked in bed, I deserve to have sex with you.
  • If I buy you dinner, I deserve to have sex with you.
  • If I start having sex with you, I deserve to finish having sex with you.

All of the above are blatantly untrue. Better statements follow:

  • If I make out with you, I would like to go farther with you.
  • If I get you alone in a room, I would like to grope you.
  • If I get you naked in bed, I would like to have sex with you.
  • If I buy you dinner, I would like to have sex with you.
  • If I start having sex with you, I would like to finish having sex with you.

Why are these so, so much better? Because they place the responsibility for giving permission to proceed the next step not on some amorphous concept of what a person “deserves,” but rather they place that responsibility on the partner(s) to grant or withhold. (I emphasize again: or withhold.)

I believe I am entitled to enjoy sex. Just not necessarily with a specific person at a specific time. I am entitled to not being treated as an object or with disrespect by anyone whom I choose to hook up with, and I am entitled to say no to anyone whom I choose not to hook up with. However, any potential partners? They all have the exact same entitlement. And no more.

That ends my argument for now. I’d love your feedback, positive or negative, agreeable or not. I only ask a few things: respect, no name-calling, and no victim-blaming, please.

Want more on the topic? Head to one of my favorite blogs, “Yes Means Yes!” kept by the authors of a book by the same name:

(PS: I said this was personal. I have just recently begun the process of “coming out” as a survival of sexual assault. I would like to share my story, but feel it’s not the best forum to do so in this context. Why? Since I’m just beginning to find myself and come into my own and rebuild my personal strength after my ordeal, I would prefer not to experience attacks on my personal experience quite yet. I was diagnosed with PTSD a few months after the attack, and while I can handle attacks on my arguments above, I’m not quite ready to handle criticism of my personal experience. I’m still a bit emotionally fragile. I have dealt with intellectual debate for long enough to be able to discuss the topics I’ve posted thus far, even with intense opposition… but I’m not quite prepared to stave off the hurt that would come from degradations on my personal experience, which was relatively recent. Therefore, I will share my story in a different post.)

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Hate Crimes Legislation: Why It Matters

October 30, 2009 at 11:25 am | Posted in American Politics, Legislation | 1 Comment
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Recently, the Hate Crimes bill was passed.

It was stuck inside a much bigger defense bill.

But, nonetheless, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed Congress on October 22, 2009, and President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on October 28, 2009.

What does it say, exactly? Why does it matter? What can it actually do? And does it affect the non-LGT queer community?

The text of the bill itself can be found on the Library of Congress website.

Oh, and by the way I found yet another Washington Post journalist who is a complete douchebag when it comes to community inclusiveness: he doesn’t even include lesbians, this time. It’s all about “the gays.” May as well make it “teh gayz” and show your real intelligence level, bud. Because, after all, this piece of legislation is actually all-inclusive of everyone in the queer community on some level. This “Perry Bacon, Jr.” character is so obviously on the anti-LGBT side it’s ridiculous, so even with the benefit of the doubt that maybe he’s the usually-somewhat-liberal WPost’s attempt at being balanced, there’s no need to be THAT ignorant. Even if you think we’re immoral, we’re still human. The text of the bill (maybe you need to read it yourself, Mr. Not-Kosher-Food, Jr.?) was worded very specifically so as to include the entire spectrum of identities — sexual, gender, and otherwise.

First thing in the bill, Congress states what its “findings” are in regard to hate crimes.

And I quote:

    Congress makes the following findings:


  • (1) The incidence of violence motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim poses a serious national problem. (Source)

I will reiterate from my last post: this post includes the words “actual or perceived” and “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity” are the keys here as it relates to “teh gayz,” as you would say, Perry. (We’re on a first name basis now, so I hope that’s okay. You can call me Rae.)

With “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity,” this can relate to pretty much everyone on the planet: male, female, transgender, transexual, intersex, gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, pansexual, ambisexual, omnisexual, gender-queer, asexual, agendered, poly-gendered, androgynous, and what-have-you. (For your information, I have actually met at least one person who identifies as each of the above list–I really wasn’t making a single one up. Except for the “male” one. I don’t believe in males.)                          (*giggle*)

Second point: it doesn’t even matter if someone identifies as one of these or any other protected category. Because the legislature found that crime can often be perpetrated on the basis of “perceived” identity status. Meaning: you might not be gay, Perry, but if some thug thinks you are and slugs you for it, Ta Da! That’s a hate crime, and your attacker would receive a stricter punishment for it. So really, this bill protects you, too.

So if you’re wondering why this bill matters, I’ll tell you.

Everyone is at risk of a hate crime.

I’ll say it again:

Everyone is at risk of a hate crime.

You don’t have to be queer of any sort to be a potential target. You just have to have someone think you are. (Or even if you encounter the queer mafia and get beaten up for being too straight. That, by the way, would be a hate crime, too, since heterosexuals are included the term “sexual orientation” as well.)

At any rate, back to the serious issue at hand: Perry, Mr. Douchebag Reporter Sir, you could at least try to hint at the broad scope which this legislation has. You don’t need to include every term out there. I didn’t even include every identity out there, just ones I’ve encountered, and I’m sure there are dozens more in this wonderfully diverse country. But even if you use the perfunctory term “LGBT,” you’ll get the majority of queer people covered. Maybe you can get your editor off your back long enough to slip a “Q” at the end of it or even (*gasp!*) the full word “queer.” Just, you know, recognize that the community that this legislation affects isn’t just “gay.” Because it affects me, and I’m bisexual. It affects my friend who lives down the street who is gender-queer. It affects my other friend’s ex who is transgender. It affects my former classmate who is asexual. It affects my little sister who is a proud straight ally (shout out: love you, L.!) and has received harassment for her support of LGBTQ rights. It can have an impact on anybody.

Broaden your horizons. I dare you.

Now, the question many seem to ask about this type of legislation: What the hell can it actually do?

It’s called the “Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” Does it really act to prevent?

Meh, not really, I say.

What it does is make punishments harsher. Let’s read the actual text where it talks about punishments:


  • (A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person–
    • (i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
    • (ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if–
      • (I) death results from the offense; or
      • (II) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

So, while that may be a bunch of gobbledy-gook to some level, it basically says that people who cause harm to someone because of the victim’s membership or perceived membership in the listed protected classes get quite a harsh punishment. While your basic random beating might get a thug a year or three, a hate crime beating will get that person ten years in the lock-up. And while your basic random shooting or kidnapping might get you 25 to life (depending on the state), if it’s a hate crime, it’ll land you a life sentence for certain, and a fee besides.

Does that prevent hate crimes?

Uhm, I dunno. If you think about a bigot’s thought process before possibly committing one, I can’t imagine part of it being, “Well, hm, let me think about this: is this illegal? Probably… how much jail time will I get? Ten if they can prove a hate crime, two if they can’t… better not do it!”

(That’s another thing: proving that something is a hate crime. It’s basically a thought thing. Some situations are obviously hate crimes: Matthew Shepard. A drag queen being beaten in an alley. A kid who constantly gets teased at school for being a “homo” who is then found dead in a river with “fag” carved into his skin. Those scream “hate crime.” But some can be more shades of gray, especially without witnesses.)

At any rate, I don’t think this will make a concerted effort to prevent hate crimes anytime soon, although education is getting better on these issues and if all goes well, hate crimes will dissipate for other reasons.

What this does do is give closure to the victims and the entire community to which the victim belongs or was perceived to belong.

If my friend gets attacked for being lesbian or androgynous, and her attacker walks away, I will feel significantly less safe and my friend will be traumatized and live in fear for quite some time. PTSD after an attack may occur after any crime. A hate crime, though, affects not only the victim, but everyone who can ever relate to the victim. After all, the attacker doesn’t care about hating my friend in particular. He cares about hating the entire LGBTQ community. And it could have been any one of us walking by at that point in time when he struck out. And it will be any one of us walking by the next time an attack could occur. If all goes to plan, though, he’ll be in jail for ten years. If he assaults her sexually, for life. I feel a bit safer that way, as does much of the rest of the queer community.

This legislation protects every one of us in this country from repeat attacks from released hate crime committers. Maybe it doesn’t prevent the first hate crime from occurring–a widespread education effort is needed for that — but it’s a step in the right direction. It does have a statute of limitations imposed for offenses not resulting in death– 7 years, which is still longer that the statute of limitations on rape, by the way — but there’s no such statute for offenses resulting in death. So now we have the tools to prosecute those who commit hate crimes.

Kudos to Obama and our Congress.

We still need more education, though, if we’re going to truly prevent hate crimes from happening the first time–not just prevent repeat offenders.

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Ambiqueerious, The Blog.

October 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Posted in American Politics, Legislation, Let's Get Personal | Leave a comment
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Bisexuality: the third letter in the oft-cited acronym “LGBT” intended to be inclusive of all people with non-mainstream sexual orientations or gender identities.

Two problems:

  1. “LGBT” doesn’t even come close to describing every single sexual or gender identity out there which doesn’t fit into the heteronormative mainstream view of how people should look/act/be with/sleep with/fuck/love/whatever with other people.
  2. “Bisexual” is 95% of the time merely a perfunctory inclusion. No one actually intends to discuss or consider bisexual identities, politics, relationships, or existences.

What are the solutions?

I don’t know. That’s why I’m writing. Maybe you can help me out.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is RaeAn. (All right, it’s a pen name, but it’s one I use for everything — I’m not hiding anything.) I’m in my early twenties. I went to the University of Maryland, where I got a degree in Jewish Studies, a certificate in LGBT Studies, and a notation in Creative Writing. I figured out I was bisexual when I was 15 or 16; I was very lucky to figure this out in an extremely open and welcoming environment, a summer camp in NY, where people supported me and helped me grow into my newfound identity throughout the summer, as opposed to back home in Georgia where I encountered quite a bit of animosity and needed to be confident in my identity before I could defend it as much as I had to. I alternate between describing myself as bisexual, queer, and “I-don’t-care-what-you-are-as-long-as-you’re-pretty”-sexual. I identify as polyamorous, but have no issue with monogamy and have had monogamous relationships in the past which have been equally as fulfilling as my poly relationships in the past. I’m currently in no relationships. I’m content with that for the moment.

I find queer theory and discourse to be fascinating, and I wanted to maintain my participation in such discussions past graduation from my LGBT Studies program. I started a Twitter account, @ambiqueerious, since I already maintained a personal Twitter and a Twitter for my internship in DC. I figured I may as well tack another one onto my TweetDeck app that might be relevant to people I don’t necessarily know personally, but to whom I may be connected via my frustrations with the “LGBT” community and the way the world treats and views queer people of all stripes and colors.

Then I came across an article in the Washington Post that had me ranting to a friend on Google Chat for quite some time. I posted it to the Twitter, but I so did not want to be limited to 140 characters for this one.

And thus it was born: Ambiqueerious, The Blog.

I don’t know how often I’ll post. To be honest, I’m working full-time in a very frustrating and dead-end restaurant job to pay the bills, interning with a Jewish LGBT organization in DC for free to get work experience in my desired field, and on a dance team, so free time is limited. But I’ll devote some of it to this blog whenever I can. I get frustrated often enough to need to vent. But I also see some awesome, great stuff going on that I need to point out. There are some people doing great work out there for bi visibility. I’ll shout out to those people as I go along.

Also, happy LGBT History Month!

Speaking of history: let’s get into the issue that started this need for a blog.

Matthew Shepard. We all know his story. (If you don’t: go here to catch up.) His mother, Judy Shepard, has done wonders for the community in promoting and defending hate crimes legislation. We sort of had it, then we didn’t, then it only included some people and not others, and… etc.

Hate crimes legislation has finally made it to Congress! And it’s all-inclusive of both “sexual orientation” AND “gender identity!” Yay! Big high-five for all of us who want people to pay for bias-related crimes more than random-victim crimes! (Maybe I’ll get into why I support this later — it’s complicated, but I have a different issue at the moment.)

It passes the Senate! And it even makes it into the Washington Post! Hey, look, Mr. Reporter Sir, tell us the good news! We have a bill that’s going to protect all of us, right?

The Senate cleared a historic hate crimes bill Thursday for President Obama’s signature, approving new federal penalties for attacks on gay men and lesbians.

Oh. Right. Gay men and lesbians. I love me some of them, but uh, you do realize what the wording of the bill is, right?

Allow me a quote from the text of the legislation. This is the part where the punishments are delineated for perpetrators of hate crimes who are defined as *Ahem*:

    Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person
    (Source: Library of Congress, emphasis added)

Let’s pick this apart as it relates to queer people. (Not knocking the impact this has on people with disabilities or of minority national origins or religions, but those parts have been on the books for quite some time, and this is a queer blog, after all.)

  • “Actual or perceived.” This is the BEST part of this legislation! It made me so giddy when I read this. That means that if you get beaten up because someone thinks you’re in a protected class, such as those listed after these three words, even if you’re not, hate crimes legislation can still apply. Remember Jaheem Hererra? He committed suicide in my home town in Georgia after being bullied at school because other students perceived him to be gay and labeled him as such. He was never out and nobody knows if he was gay or not. It doesn’t matter. He was bullied because of his perceived sexuality–and that would fall under this hate crimes legislation if these bullies caused, or attempted to cause, bodily harm to Jaheem.
  • “Gender” and “gender identity.” These two work best in combination with each other. Transpeople are finally going to be protected in hate crimes. Now, if someone is attacked for their “actual or perceived” gender or gender identity, it carried the same penalty as a crime perpetrated based on race. This means biological females who identify as women, male-to-female transgender people, female-to-male transgender people, drag queens, cross-dressers, pre- and post-op transpeople, transpeople with no intention of having surgery, gender-queer people, intersex people, agendered people, whatever you want to be and whoever you are: hate crimes legislation can apply to a crime based on these, and many more, identities, people, and situations.
  • “Sexual orientation.” Here’s my biggie. Listen up, Mr. Reporter Sir (whose name is actually Ben Pershing–I hope he Googles his name and gets this at some point), and read those two words again: “sexual orientation.” It does not say “gay and lesbian orientation.” It’s more general and all-encompassing than that. It includes bisexuals. Pansexuals. Asexuals. People who don’t fit into any category and yet don’t fit into your heteronormative category either. Or people perceived to be in any of these categories or non-categories. Which means, Mr. Reporter Sir, you, too, are included in this. I don’t know what your sexual identity is. But it doesn’t matter. This covers straight people and queer people alike. Because if you walked into the wrong neighborhood wearing something that someone thought made you look queer and you got attacked for it–this legislation covers you.

This is my beef with common perceptions of gender and sexuality. It’s such a dichotomy: you’re either black or white, male or female, gay or straight. Well, some of us are in between.

This legislation could be a life-saver. Or perhaps just make victims feel safer in their conviction that their attacker(s) get what they deserve. Let’s take a situation: A man goes out among gay men. He identifies as bisexual. One of the gay men starts making cracks about fence-sitters, about how he’ll come all the way out of the closet eventually, he’s just too scared to make the leap to being gay. Another guy chimes in with more vicious comments about bisexual men spreading diseases more quickly than gay men, and another says he finds bisexuals to be disgusting. It escalates. The bisexual man doesn’t know how to respond; he starts walking away, but one of the other guys grabs him, another grabs him but harder, and the bisexual man panics. He struggles trying to get away, but this only eggs on the other men. One of the guys throws the first punch, and soon enough, our bisexual man is lying next to a building with a cracked rib, swollen black eyes, and no way to call for help.

It could happen.

God forbid it ever does. But it could.

And the legislation which just passed the Senate protects against that, too, Mr. Pershing.

I thank whatever deity there is that someone more aware of the world than you wrote this legislation.


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