Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gender Policing at its Finest

I work in a bookstore at a big, busy international airport and, thus, encounter many bizarre people. Bizarrely normal. The past two days, two irksome incidents occurred and they are more similar than may appear at the surface.

The other day, a straight, white, middle-aged, upper-middle-class man came in to the bookstore. He browsed around, then bought something by John Grisham or Vince Flynn or someone else along those lines. While I was ringing up the book, he rambled about the author; I was politely maintaining my end of the conversation "ok...yeah...uh-huh" He told me with an awed grin "you're very agreeable. That's rare in a woman." ...I'm sorry, what? I clamped my mouth shut as he left, not wanting to spew out what was on my mind. Like, maybe he's the disagreeable one!

Yesterday, a couple of the same mold as that guy fought in the bookstore. They made up by talking about their money. Yes. Then they checked out the magazines stacked next to me. Cher is on the cover of Vanity Fair, the text beside her saying "Cher on her daughter-turned-son, Chaz." The couple talked about how Chastity was turning into a man, had a sex change, etc. Not the most p.c., but not that bad. Then, they began referring to Chaz as "it." As politely as I could muster, I interrupted "excuse me, he is not an it." The husband acted like I wasn't there and the wife said "sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry" until I stopped talking. I look very androgynous myself, so they walked away muttering about me.

Had just one of these encounters occurred, it wouldn't be such a big deal. But the two in a 24-hour period are symptomatic. These three people of the same age and class, probably unknown to themselves, work as gender police. They probably had no idea that the messages they were conveying were that women should be agreeable and that transpeople are "it"s. They probably have never thought about it. Under different circumstances - the couple shut down immediately, especially - a simple discussion could have planted a seed.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Homophobia, from Glee to Uganda

In a recent episode of Glee (if you're not a fan of the show, plow on anyway, this reference is brief), a lumbering jock bullied Kurt, the only openly gay character in the show. When Kurt confronted him in private, the bully kissed him and ran off. Chances are that the message of this episode isn't new to you: most violent homophobes are afraid of their own gayness and lash out to keep others from suspecting them. We've all seen this happen in politicians, religious leaders, and probably the homophobes in your own life.

Individual homophobes are usually pretty easy to figure out, particularly if you're of the school of thought that most people are at least a little bisexual/pansexual. And when a small group of homophobes band together, they're still rather transparent. Terrifying and even more difficult to turn over to the fabulous side, but transparent. And at least two of the people in the group probably have a steamy history anyway.

But then there are entire populations. Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson is retiring, the stress of all the constant death threats on his and his family's lives has become unbearable. I can't blame him. A message or two is alerting but not hard to deal with, but thousands? Maybe all those individuals alone are lashing out because of what they fear in themselves, but they, together, have made a horrifying force. How can anyone tolerate that?

Uganda is among the countries that consider homosexuality a capitol offense and a Ugandan newspaper recently released information of a hundred gay people. Violent homophobia on a national scale, gay genocide. I had the misfortune to see a video of a Ugandan “professor of homosexuality” lecture. The basic anatomy, stuff that you can check on your own body, that he taught was way off. Students, journalists and reporters still ate it up. Hatred on a national level involves poverty, miseducation, fear and propaganda.

From an individual to an entire nation, homophobia is still strong. Many people have claimed that, due to the recent increase in violence (or it's just getting reported more), homophobia is in its death throes. There is little comfort in that thought when a bishop must wear a bulletproof best beneath his consecration vestments. I wish I could come up with some kind of solution to homophobia, on any scale, but it's beyond me. We must, above all, though, accept our differences and work together.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm too busy being FABULOUS!!

What's that? You disagree with my "lifestyle choice"? Oh and you voted for candidates who want to restrict gay and transgender rights? ...No, I won't respect your opinion!

See, queerdom doesn't actually hurt anyone. It doesn't cause harm, it doesn't restrict anyone's freedoms, and it makes the world a more fabulous place. The root of my "same-sex attraction" (which is all sorts of wrong) is none of your business, but I wouldn't change it if I had the opportunity.

Your "opinion" disrespects people who have done no ill. Oh, yeah, it's so great that you haven't ACTUALLY bullied anyone...you enable it. Anti-bullying legislation, employment and housing laws don't block your freedom to your opinion, they protect people from the destruction you allow. When you vote for candidates who want to remove that protections, you bring about more pain than anyone has just by being queer.

No, this isn't political and this isn't religious. This is cruelty.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Impact of Background

There is apparently a popular Irish joke of this guy coming to a roadblock during The Troubles. The militants at the roadblock as him his religion and he says "atheist." The militants talk amongst themselves, then ask him "Protestant atheist or Catholic atheist?" It may be a sad joke but it sums up how important one's background is. A Protestant atheist (an atheist of a Protestant background) would have different values, at least when it comes to disbelieving, than a Catholic atheist. And a Hindu atheist would be radically different! Where you come from, no matter how far away you are from it, affects how you approach things now.

The impact of background affects more than just religion, it works with fluid gender and sexual orientation. I strongly identify as genderqueer and my background of woman/lesbian affects my approach today, so I'm most accurately a female-to-queer. Had I come from the background of a man, I'd approach things differently. Coming from an intersexed or gender-free background would have been...optimal. Anyway, I'm usually most comfortable with feminine pronouns, the women's washroom, etc. because I'm used to it. Sometimes I'm frustrated that there are too few non-binary options; it's frustrating enough being perceived as a woman in the first place since this isn't exactly an egalitarian culture! A lot of transsexuals who "successfully pass" experience culture shock as they have to change how they approach things.

I'm usually comfortable functioning as a lesbian since that's my background and it's a lot easier to give the short answer "I'm a dyke" to n00bs than the long explanation "I'm genderqueer and I'm primarily attracted to fellow genderqueers...oh, you haven't heard the term before...etc." And then they get confused when I ogle Chris Colfer...I mean...what?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

All -isms are Bullying

In the second edition of her book, CUNT, Inga Muscio admits “I am most often aware that I am a woman when I feel threatened...” In the same vein, Simone de Beauvoir quipped that one is not born but, rather, becomes a woman. What unites roughly half the population is not genitals, chromosomes nor hormones and what turns a child into a woman is not menstruation, penetration nor childbirth. No, it's the shared experience of playing second banana, as it were.

Whether you're overlooked because you're a woman or you're picked because you're a pretty woman, the problem remains the same. And this problem has been rampant the world over for millennia; it unites generations of women more strongly than any reproductive function. In this harsh world of competitive and weak human beings, man* needs to make somebody #2 in order to keep himself #1. Who better than not-man? And there are many women who push someone else, a masculine woman or a feminine man or someone else entirely (or even a prettier, more feminine woman!), into #3. This is what puts the “sexism” into “heterosexism”: insecure people pushing down queer people just to ensure that they're the ones rising up. It's bullying, all the -isms are just bullying on a larger scale!

There are women who claim to never have experienced sexism. They're either extremely privileged and cloistered or blind to, well, everything. It begins when parents proclaim upon birth “that's not a penis, bring out the dolls and pink frilly dresses!” for one and “that's a penis, give him a toolbox and blue overalls!” It is a privilege, usually tied to class, to have been brought up and then to continue in adulthood otherwise: not as a #1, a #2 or as any rank at all.



* I don't mean all or even most men, nor even just men in general. Clearly, Phyllis Schlafly has done more to perpetuate heterosexism than RuPaul.

Women Leaders of the World

Countries that have had women prime ministers: Sri Lanka, India, Israel, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, Norway, Poland, Netherlands Antilles, Pakistan, France, Bangladesh, Turkey, Burundi, Rwanda, South Korea.

Countries that have had women presidents: Argentina, Bolivia, Iceland, the Philippines, Ireland, Haiti, Guyana, Latvia, Panama, Finland, Chile, Liberia.


What's keeping us behind?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Literacy

If you're female and can read this, thank feminism.
If you're nonwhite and can read this, thank civil rights activism.
If you're below the upper-middle class and can read this, thank socialism.

Literacy is extremely powerful and privileged. Tyrannical ruling classes know well to either limit the literacy of their peons or provide brainless propaganda to them. Out of the oppressed classes, the educated effectively rebel (as opposed to those with nothing left to lose, who lash out and make everyone look bad).

If you can read this, thank the minute probability that you were born into the right time period, location and culture. It is class privilege that allows you to read this now.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Second Sex Part 1

I tried to read The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir a few years ago but couldn't make it past the first 20-some pages. Crazy stuff was going down with my dad at the time and everything that I was reading seemed to refute his arguments (why didn't I just send him a copy? Because I didn't want to participate in the destructive conversation he attempted to initiate). Now that I'm in a much better place, I'm picking up The Second Sex again and can fully concentrate on it.

In the book, British poet and novelist Steve Smith is quoted as saying of de Beauvoir “She has written an enormous book about women and it was soon clear that she does not like them, nor does she like being a woman.” Granted, I haven't made it far enough in the book to have an opinion on that but it strikes me as odd that this is considered critique. In A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, the authors clearly don't like most women. Had I been a straight nursing major rather than a queer art major, I would have loathed women too! Some women aren't aware of their option to live autonomously or they're afraid to take that risk. If anything, de Beauvoir's alleged opinion on women would have supported her cause: why would you want to help people who you think are doing just fine? And sometimes, more often than not if you don't have a good network or haven, it really sucks being a woman.

De Beauvoir states “In truth, to go for a walk with one's eyes open is enough to demonstrate that humanity is divided into two classes of individuals whose clothes, faces, bodies, smiles, gaits, interests, and occupations are manifestly different.” And when the second class uses these signifiers to entice the first class, you get heterosexism. When a member of the first class chooses a member of the second class to be his, he transfers some benefits of his class unto her. And there is intense competition within the second class (see next paragraph). Walking in certain areas will reveal a third class of individuals who combine and/or reject those binary signifiers and are just fine with autonomy.

From there is the idea that most minorities (and majorities...) refer to their class as “we” but that women don't consider themselves as such. Women say “women” rather than “we” except for a few strident feminist situations. I believe that the root of our lack of solidarity is this competition. I've been there, I feared what would happen should my future husband get stolen from me; it's very scary to think that you could lose both a loved one and your elevator out of spinsterhood if a woman better than you comes along. And second-classhood is so ingrained that many women, as stated above, aren't aware of or fear the autonomy of spinsterhood (or a marriage that involves autonomy).

In some circles, women are uncomfortable with my use of “we” in reference to womanhood*. Because I've rejected heterosexism, I'm the Other's Other. It's fully understandable why queer people – including straight couples with “reversed sex roles” - are considered a third gender. If both ends of the gender binary comprise the two classes, then those who don't fit on the binary form a third class. Socially, we queer people don't fit in to their game. We can't relate to the woman who drops out of school to marry young, before she's old enough to lose her man to someone younger, and has kids to entrap him. We can't relate to the woman who picks Danielle Steele over Stephen Hawking because she fears intimidating her man, whose credit card she uses to buy the book in the first place.

What's really sad is how little has changed since 1952 when this was originally published. More posts to come as I progress through the book!


* - my gender is fluid, there are times that I identify as a woman and times that I don't. I am usually perceived as a woman by men and as something else by women, who often end up surprised how much I can relate to them as far as womanhood goes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

American History Class

I just finished Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen, the revised and updated version. Despite how much Loewen toots his own horn, it is a great book and I do recommend it to anyone interested in history and/or education.

Loewen bemoans not teachers at all, but the textbooks of American history courses. They gloss over extremely important events, focus on names and dates rather than technological advancements (few people realize how much of our culture exists today solely because of indoor heating, for example), blatantly lie about figures such as Christopher Columbus and Woodrow Wilson, and fade out optimistically after the obvious successful civil rights movement. Not to mention how huge these textbooks are, both burdening students and discouraging anything after WWII getting reached in a school year.

Up until middle school, my classmates and I loathed history class. The textbooks were outdated and were written at what was the high school level in the 70's. Lessons, homework and tests were entirely textbook-based with memorization of names and dates of only the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. This was partly because our teachers were nuts.

I was extremely lucky in getting Ms. B for middle school history. She focused very little on our updated textbooks and, instead, used a variety of effective and fun techniques. We had fantastic field trips, put on plays, made dioramas of violent events and all sorts of things deprived middle schoolers of the late 90's enjoyed. I was already an avid reader, so I researched topics covered in class (and thus converted away from Christianity...) and discovered both Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson. Ms. B was restricted from teaching even more nitty-gritty history by the corrupt and insecure administration of the school, to the point of declaring that the Holocaust killed all the Jews.

My high school American history class was awful due to a burnt-out teacher. The one thing he did right was assign us to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The next two history electives I took, one in high school and one in college, were both U.S. 20th Century History. My college art history classes focused more on art than history.

History class can be ridiculously fun! The only people I've met who don't like history are people who haven't seen how insane it is. If someone put a gun to my head and said “if you don't become a teacher, I'll kill you,” history is the only topic I would pick that wouldn't drive me nuts. American history, world history would make me chuck my desk out the window and flee into the forest. Even then, the first few months would be spent correcting previous class' mistakes!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Class

Everything is tied into class. EVERYTHING. Race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. are all ways of categorizing people into different classes = the haves and the have-nots.

There's even a theory on the classism between MySpace and facebook. Facebook began as a college alum networking tool (CLASSISM ALL OVER THE PLACE) and then gradually expanded. As facebook exploded, MySpace became, well, "ghetto"-ized. Look for yourself; there's no way Tila Tequila could have ever become the queen of facebook. There have been suggestions that Twitter is the next facebook...will the internet gentrify?!?!?

Exceptional education is what brings about class rebellion. Education proves that the system is anything but "business as usual." When African Americans learned of their history through integrated schools and post-WWII resources, the civil rights movement began. When housewives read The Feminine Mystique, they began to reach for the world beyond the kitchen. And so on. Poor schools give weak education and then stay poor because nobody knows any different. And there are lower-class subcultures that reject education on principle: what good will a degree do you in a factory or on a farm? Time and money are better spent on feeding the family.

A lot of people don't get how queers fit into classism. There are a lot of small ropes that tie the two together rather than one big, obvious thing like race or gender:
- classism involves legacies, generations see very little differences. Queers generally breed less than straight people so we don't really have a legacy to pass on.
- heterosexism, the tool of the upper/ruling class to pass on their legacies, restricts both queers (even liberated straight people) from gaining ground and straight people from breaking the mold.
- the social rules of heterosexism make the differences between their straight followers and us queers as obvious as the differences between race and gender.

American classes are separating, what was once a gradient is becoming black and white. While racial minorities, independent women and queer people might become rich, it's extremely unlikely for any of us to become wealthy or powerful (Chris Rock has already articulated this). Sarah Palin may have power over America's straight, white women but it's the power to keep them quiet rather than mobile.

Awareness of class and privilege is the first step to breaking it down. Voting is not enough.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Returning to Femininity

EDIT: you may have to click on the pictures for them to show up correctly

Several things have been coinciding lately:
- I've recovered from graduation and from a few difficult friend-break ups
- it's a year since a pretty traumatizing experience in which a boss told me that, by not being feminine, I wasn't working hard enough.
- http://kkriesel.blogspot.com/2010/08/femme-day.html happened
- it's fall
- I finally visited a wonderful friend who reminded me how awesome it is to be fabulous
- a Milwaukee butch veteran acknowledged me as a fellow. That was an honor, even though she was drunk.
- I cleaned out and re-organized all my clothes TWICE
- .....really really really awful shit. No, I won't elaborate.

Because all of these things have happened in the period of a month, this happened:

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And this:

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And this, too:

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While living on campus, I did crazy, dramatic drag all the time! Poofy skirts, swishy dresses, CORSETS, and all manner of wild femininity. And then there were days when I looked like a young Michael Cera going to his 70's-themed 8th grade graduation dance. Because I was in such a safe, cloistered environment, drag was fun and expressive and vulnerable. I tried to carry that over to post-college life but that didn't work so well, especially when that douche-boss equated uncomfortable femininity with hard work...douche. From that incident sprang a year of butchitude. Butchitude...tubular.

Now that I'm getting more comfortable with my adult life (that word isn't so scary anymore!), I'm getting more comfortable with my femininity. And since that really awful shit is happening, dramatic drag is a good distraction. I need distractions now in order to keep a grip on reality and running around looking like this is certainly distracting:

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Corps

I can't sleep!! Thoughts about AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps are running laps around my brain!!

I'm still planning on joining AmeriCorps next year and relocating anywhere west, preferably southwest. This program holds my interest: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=35106. AAHHH IT IS LOVE!!!

This program, as you may see, is all over the country. I'm torn between Utah and New Mexico for this reason: http://img829.imageshack.us/img829/7969/800pxuslgbtcivilrightsf.png

Key:
Grey = No protection against discrimination

All forms of employment covered
Purple = Sexuality and gender identity
Dark Blue = Sexuality only

State based jobs covered
Pink = Sexuality and gender identity
Light Blue = Sexuality only

I'm not sure how Americorps/SCA fits into this (not state-based, most likely), but it's a good signifier of what to expect. From what research I've done, being queer in Utah is a terrifying experience...You probably well know how much I love Utah, but I will admit that I love the uninhabited parts and have yet to experience more urban areas of the state. If I get into this program in Utah, would by queerness be a problem? Should I just play it safe in New Mexico?

And then there's the Peace Corps. I'm not even close to ready for that, but it's something that I want to do. The places I'd most like to go are India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal, etc. I'd be willing to start studying Hindi NOW if it'll increase my chances of going there.

In India, a third gender is legally accepted. The Hijra are a class of eunuchs/intersexed/transgendered/transsexual women. Usually the third box to check, aside M and F, is E for "eunuch" even though, according to Wikipedia, only about 8% of Hijras are actual eunuchs. There is another class, the sidhin, who are women who dress and behave like men while maintaining female pronouns. These women usually live this lifestyle when there are no male heirs to a large estate. ...would I be able to show up and say "hey everyone, I'm a sidhin from America! Do you like my cargo shorts?!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

CHILDCARE

I might have told some of you that I was basically raised by this insane, super-Catholic family up until high school. I stayed in their home more than either of my parents' and they played a much bigger role in my schooling, religious upbringing, etc. Which still wasn't much of a role: they kept me in their basement watching tv whenever I was over. It's no mystery why I was sick all the time and why I was afraid of people as a kid. Since they had cable, I didn't mind at the time; I thought this was all normal.

A mother and a father who absolutely loathe each other, three miserable daughters – the youngest of whom is around 5 years older than me – and an adopted son who cut off all contact when he turned 18. I'd say only the oldest daughter is some semblance of sane and even that's a stretch. The family had two dogs throughout the time I was under their care, both were neglected. All families have problems, but how many scream and cry daily about how much they hate each other while their dogs sit in piss-filled cages?

Why am I writing about this?

THIS IS WHY THERE MUST BE AFFORDABLE CHILDCARE!!!!!
In order for a household to qualify as some kind of childcare facility, a certain number of children must stay there. My mom took care of 5+ kids daily for a year, so her house qualified and was routinely inspected by officials. Because this family took care of only one or two at a time, it didn't qualify. My mom couldn't afford real daycare, thus she stuck me with these terrible people.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

'04, Year of the Vag

Due to several corresponding events, I really really miss Alverno right now. It was like a year-round Red Tent. This time of the month, separatist communes make sense "AAHHH GET THESE MAN-THINGS AWAY FROM ME!!"



'04 was a crazy year: I graduated from high school, started at Alverno, and came out as bisexual. I was working in a parish as a receptionist and, to make matters even more insane, that seemed like a good place to read both whichever Harry Potter book came out then and THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES. Shortly after moving into the dorms, I read CUNT and then everything changed...

I finally read Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" today and absolutely loved it. It's heavy, like all Woolf's writings, and depressing. She noted that, in the hundred years leading up to '28, when the book was published, not much had changed for women. And...not much has changed since then. Legally, the changes have been remarkable! Nevertheless, though it's now legal for a woman to have her own money, all the women customers who have their husbands/boyfriends/daddies buy them garbage prove that custom doesn't necessarily follow law. Woolf's [wo]manifesto is still relevant and important today.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Femme Day

I decided to come in to work on Sunday all femmed out. Headband, makeup, dangly earrings, bra, skirt, hoes and heels. I even freaked myself out:

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This was partly as a social experiment...but mostly to keep my coworkers on their toes. And if I made anyone squirm, all the better!

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The last time I had dressed all up like this was for my old job, canvassing for WI Environment. As my regular, androgynous/butchy self, people were very rude and mean to me. When I was feminine, people were super-nice...and then my boss reprimanded me for not having "worked this hard" previous days. I absolutely hated the entire experiment. But this time, it was on my terms and my job didn't rely on it.

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Yes, I took one of THOSE pictures.
Anyway, normally, straight guys will give me the nod in passing and straight women (excluding the dense middle-aged trophy wives) know better than to gab with me. Sunday, the same kind of guys were giving me dopey grins and the same women tried to gush all over everything with me. In short, people were much nicer...which I appreciate but I don't want any of that crap if I haven't done anything to earn it!

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It felt so much better to be back to my abnormal self the next day. I don't get how nearly half the population manages to do that every day.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Detroit Muddy Buddy 2010

This race was my first and, due to over a month of extreme weather and longer work shifts, I was grossly unprepared in my training. I was, however, very excited. My cousins, Scott and Don, had raced together in Elgin's Muddy Buddy the previous two years and Scott had raced in Detroit's once before with his local Buddy, Mike. Scott and Mike, this year, raced together as the Grubby Hubbies while Don and I teamed up as Team Ripley. My two goals were to finish and to be coherent – having seen how wiped out Scott and Don were after their first Muddy Buddy, this was an important goal!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Muddy Buddy: there's you and then your Buddy with a bike between you. One person bikes most of the way, the other runs most of the way; you switch who has the bike at each obstacle. You start about a minute and a half apart, the bikers before the runners, and you have to finish together. Right before the finish line is a mud pit, about twenty feet long, through which you have to crawl on your belly. There are several locations of this race throughout the country, each one hosting the race once a year and it is possible to take a road trip to compete at each location in one year.
Detroit's Muddy Buddy course was roughly six miles long in a hilly park. Don and I had agreed that I would be the biker, he the runner. I was set to bike the first, third, and final legs; this meant that I would run the two longest and roughest legs. Wonderful. Having eaten an apple and a Cliff bar, I felt ready without feeling weighed down or hungry.
The men's pairs went first, then co-eds, then women's, and the Beast group – pairs with combined weights of 400+ pounds – last. Waiting to begin with Scott's bike, which had tried to maim me when I tested it out the night before, and beginning the slow and crowded trek, I was very nervous. Scott had said that a racer can lose the excitement after getting away from the cheering fans, but I actually found it to be a relief. Nobody could see me take another dive now! Quickly, all the bikers in my group split into the really hard-core racers and those of us who were trying to pace ourselves. You can guess into which I went. Most of this leg was paved road and flat grassy areas, a good way to start off.
The first obstacle was an 8ft tall rock climbing wall with a rope ladder down the other side. The wall was remarkably easy, but rather difficult for the big guy in front of me. I tried to go down the rope ladder facing out, not wanting to turn around on top of the wall, but attendants were yelling at us not to; later, I found out a guy had jumped the wall earlier and tangled up, painfully, in the ladder. Ouch!
After each obstacle were cups of water and these were much appreciated. When we had checked in at some Michigan sporting supply store the day before, we invested in Jelly Belly's Sports Beans. These jelly beans have some magical energy juice in them and nomming one with a cup of cool water at every obstacle greatly helped!
Then was my first running leg, the longest leg of the whole race. This was terrible. Had I eaten more, I would have upchucked all over. I found out just how unprepared I was and struggled to pace myself. Passing by other racers and going through changes in terrain kept me going. Finally, I reached the balance beam obstacle: easy but time-consuming.
Getting back on the bike was refreshing and I flew by! I managed to keep a good pace for the first half of this leg, then struggled to maintain it. By the time I finally made it to the third obstacle, I was dying and Don was waiting. Sorry, Don. This obstacle was a crawl under a rope net.
I paced myself much better on the next running leg and I recovered my energy. This was by far the roughest area yet with hill after hill after hill; I'm really glad that I didn't have to bike this part! After the halfway point of this leg, I was feeling good and quickening up – from there on was my best.
The fourth obstacle was “The Inflatables”: a 30ft tall, inflated slide with a rope ladder up one side. Again, the only thing that slowed me was the same big guy in front of me! After sliding down the other side, I leaped back on the bike and soared the <2 miles to the mud pit and the finish line! With more paved road and grass, I was feeling great!
Don had been waiting about five minutes for me, much better than I had been dreading and better than how long Scott had been waiting for Mike. Don was expecting me to be dragging and ready to fall over, but I insisted that we sprint to the mud pit, I was exhilarated! The pit was refreshing and pretty easy after getting into a half-crawling, half-swimming routine. Finally, we got out of the pit and passed the finish line!!
This park had a lake, which felt fantastic. Experienced racers had warned me that, no matter how much scrubbing I could do, mud would still be everywhere. They were right. Mud, mud, and more mud. Finally, when I was as clean as I was going to get, I partook in the beer garden and relaxed in the sun.
Later, Don and I found out that we took one hour and eight minutes. Sorry, Don. I met my goals, though, and had a great time!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oh Ringo...

Starr* Pictures, Images and Photos

7/7 is Ringo's SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY AAAHHHH OH GOD!!!!!!!!

Ringo Starr Pictures, Images and Photos

He's pretty much the most adorable thing to ever happen. Sorry to all the kittens, puppies and bunnies of the world, but it's true.

Pompador Pictures, Images and Photos

Hahahaha for Brandie:

Hallo Ringo! Pictures, Images and Photos

Ringo Starr Pictures, Images and Photos

Ringo Pictures, Images and Photos

ringo Starr Pictures, Images and Photos
RINGO STARR Pictures, Images and Photos

AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MONICA!!!!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Beatles Love Refreshed

Now that I've been out of school for a year and living this "adult" life, my perspective on a lot of things has changed.

The Beatles Pictures, Images and Photos

For a long time, I thought that I obsessed with the Beatles because they provided the first positive messages in my life and because, up until discovering them, plastic surgery = salvation. Those reasons are still true. Now I see how unstable my family life was at the time in addition to those things. My dad went completely insane on me and don't get me started on my mom. And then there were puberty and changing schools and converting and death threats at school, etc. The Beatles, because they had already passed as a band and because they're so universal, were the only stable, positive thing I could grasp onto.

The Beatles -- EMI House London Pictures, Images and Photos

In October/November of '99, my music teacher (hi Mr. Deweese!) brought the Yellow Submarine album to school and showed us the psychedelic liner notes. We wanted him to show us the movie, he couldn't so I convinced my mom to rent it for me. I dropped N SYNC and the Backstreet Boys (my mom hid my Alanis albums '98-'03) and began to try to figure out these Beatles. My mom had Abbey Road, which I didn't really understand because it was unlike anything I had heard before. Like Alanis, my mom worried that the "anger" in the album would...I don't know what.

the beatles blackandwhite Pictures, Images and Photos

I bought Rubber Soul and Revolver and that was when things really got going. Christmas came along and I was so disappointed that nobody knew yet how much I loved the Beatles! All the money that I had saved up for plastic surgery went to Beatles albums and memorabilia. I identified with them so fiercely that anyone who didn't adore them was clearly insulting me

beatles Pictures, Images and Photos

My obsession bordered on insanity. Now, though, I see how much I needed something stable and positive with which to identify. It's by coincidence that the Beatles came along and really did save me, otherwise I could have become more self-destructive than I already was. Teenagers need stability and it's unfortunate that the only place I could find it was in a band; at least that band was THE BEATLES with "all you need is love" rather than "AAHHH die muthafucka die!"

the beatles Pictures, Images and Photos

Clearly, there doesn't need to be a crisis in order for someone to be a Beatles fan. And I'd like to think that I would be if my life hadn't been falling apart at the time. I've adored them for over TEN YEARS now!

with a lion cub =3 Pictures, Images and Photos
not too happy Pictures, Images and Photos
Paul McCartney Pictures, Images and Photos

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dyke March

Yesterday was Dyke March Chicago, the second one I've attended - the first in 2006. Since I have to work during THE Pride Parade, I went to this.

The march itself was fantastic. A few hundred people enthusiastically chanting in political, semi-hipster gear. The '06 march was rather different: whiter, younger, wealthier, more exclusive/separatist, more academic. Trans was not a part of it at all. This year's march was much more trans-centric and diverse (although it was still predominantly white and young). So that was great!!

A lot of things went wrong, though, with my experience, and a couple of these things were on behalf of the march organizers...

- it took me nearly 2 hours to get there. Not only did the march happen in a very inconvenient place for car-free north-siders, but the CTA fails at everything. The organizers obviously can't help that. The south side was chosen because it's "untraditional", and that particular area was chosen because it's busy and a great public space...that doesn't ameliorate that the site was miles away from the L and the bus service is shit.
- the march was very late. I was over a half hour late because of the shitty transportation and the march still had not started by the time I got there.
- I've had a falling-out with one of the groups involved in the march. Nothing big, just personality clashes that could have been avoided had the leaders been inclusive in practice, not just in theory. It was just unpleasant to be with those people again, only one of whom acknowledged that I was there (one of the people who was always super-nice to everyone).
- the post-march rally was...cliquey. This issue ties in with the one above.

Moral of the story: I spent 4 hours traveling today to participate in a late, great march and then be reminded that my company isn't wanted. Fantastic

Thursday, June 24, 2010

We Need a Hero

I've been paying more attention to non-queer news lately. The oil spill has been all up in everyone's face 24/7 for many weeks with no end in sight. And now there's the McCrystal issue. It's not pretty. Obama's approval rating was already low, neither of these situations have helped. Nobody's saying that he's handled the oil spill as poorly as Bush "handled" Katrina (ok maybe Glenn Beck, but his bile doesn't count), but he isn't a hero about it either. Two messes on top of broken promises aren't making the 2012 election hopeful.

A lot of people are calling for a Teddy Roosevelt president, not this current Calvin Coolidge. Most people don't realize that Teddy Roosevelt was a horrible bigot, but their point is clear: we need an active hero. Obama was that hero for unprivileged people the world over up until shortly after Inauguration Day when NOTHING HAPPENED.

It seems to me that Obama knows what's at risk through his presidency and that he's so afraid of making a mistake that he just won't do anything.

Women's Place: Kitchen, Boardroom and D-cup

I apologize for having been gone, my computer and my internet have been fussy for the past many weeks.

The Atlantic Magazine, Bloomburg Businesweek and Newsweek have all had major articles about Western women in the past couple weeks. The first that I read was Newsweek and it was about Sarah Palin *VOMIT*, mostly that she's gaining a huge following of upper-middle class, Christian, straight, white women. These women are a formidable political, religious and economic force. The second I read was Bloomburg Businessweek's article on La Barbe, France's political Guerrilla Girls. Finally, The Atlantic has a looooooonnnnnnnnnnggggggg article about women outperforming men in school, workplace, and the changing economy.

These three major magazines claim that Western women are gaining more power than we ever have before.

In Enlightened Sexism by Susan J. Douglas, American women's current status as a media audience, social group, etc. is mulled over. Plastic surgery is at an all-time high, reality shows and the general media depict women as catty bimboes, and the sex double standard is both more powerful and reaching younger girls.

According to all of this, women are a force to be reckoned with...as long as we're white, at least middle class, heterosexist, able-bodied, Christian, and hot.

As women become more powerful, the only way we can battle these ridiculous standards is through sisterhood. For those of you who don't like such a lovey-dovey word, think of SOLIDARITY

Friday, June 4, 2010

Living with Catholicism

A few months ago, I read "Catholicism in America" and, subsequently, most of the pieces of my Catholic childhood came together. Now that so much makes sense (the teachers/clergy/administrators discouraged questions and encouraged blind obedience because they thought that Vatican II never should have happened...knowing the long history, this is a logical conclusion), a lot of my anger and bitterness is gone. I pity Catholicism more and it's easier to understand wtf they're doing...except that the sex scandal will never make sense.

I've come to accept that, having spent 18 years in Catholic/Jesuit schools and coming from a very Catholic family, I'll probably always have a soft spot - or at least a few scars - for Catholicism. Sometimes, I translate catechism, the hierarchy of the Church, what they do and why to those without this long background. I'll probably never understand why Catholicism seems so alien to others (it doesn't make any logical sense to me either and it makes me uncomfortable, but it has a semblance of home)...but now I can say "Protestantism is very alien to me because it's so different from Catholicism. I expect certain things to be there and done in a certain way; without those things, Protestantism seems empty and bland...which is really ridiculous because Protestantism makes MORE SENSE to me!!"

With the current sex scandal and this shitty pope, the Church itself isn't changing THAT much but the way people (in the developed world. Don't even get me started on how successful the Church has been in brainwashing third world countries) approach Catholicism. When I read articles, particularly the recent Time magazine article, I wonder if people without 2 decades of Catholicism can read between the lines like I do.

Here: the reason why the Church has been so slow to respond - and to not really respond anyway - is because, without millions of semi-obedient people the world over, it won't exist. If things continue in this direction set by the sex scandal, the Church will have only its history and the poorest people in the world to support it...and why would they want them?! Once Catholicism came to the Americas, it shifted to rely more on foreign laymen than on clergy alone. Now, they may have to shift back in a world that doesn't have the same respect for clergy.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gender Graph

Found this graph at http://xyxrebellion.tumblr.com/ and added my question mark

Photobucket

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Year Since Undergrad Part 2, Conservatism

Firstly, I'm feeling better about being out of school now; I really needed to rant. There are some noticeable benefits of being out of school:

- NO HOMEWORK!!! No reading assignments, no papers, no assessments, no poopy group work!
- I didn't want to believe it but, once I got my narrative transcript, there's no denying the homophobia of at least two art therapy instructors. I know another semi-out art therapy major who was adored by these same instructors, but she was inactive rather than militant and never made anyone squirm through gender-neutral pronouns (yes. This happened.).
- The art therapy internship programs altogether. I know you guys had mostly great experiences and I'm glad for you...but mine went from bad to terrible very quickly. "Jeanne Zilske" - need I say more?
- LESS BULLSHIT!! I have to bullshit customers, but that never lasts more than ten minutes.
- Less drama. It's ALVERNO
- Alverno's in denial of how it's a lesbian school. Either you're queer (Lauren, you're an honorary lesbian) or you're pregnant there, but everyone is in denial that that's how it is. Don't have to put up with that anymore!
- CHICAGO!!!
- The majority of my weekends were spent traveling...the majority of my time in school was defined by long-distance relationships. NO MORE!!!


Secondly:

At work, we're getting more and more conservative books. The tea-baggers are getting louder - greater in numbers and power perhaps. In one of our most popular stores at the airport, I counted a dozen books:
1) "Voices of the True Woman Movement" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
2) "Radical" by David Platt
3) "To Save America" by Newt Gingrich (TAKE A HISTORY LESSON, YOU DUMBNUT!!)
4) "Conservative Victory" by Sean Hannity
5) "2010 Take Back America" by Dick Morris & Eileen McGann (AMERICA HAS BEEN SECULAR WITH SOCIALIST LEANINGS FOR A LONG TIME, IDIOTS!!)
6) Glenn Beck...vomit
7) Ann Coulter...double vomit
8) "Losing Our Religion" by S.E. Cupp
9) "Defining Conservatism" by Jonathan Krohn
10) "Liberty and Tyranny" by Mark R. Levin
11) "Obama Zombies" by Jason Mattera
12) "Catastrohpe" by our stupid friends Dick Morris & Eileen McGann

To summarize all these books: True Christians have to choose between Jesus and the corrupt American ways because Americans, lead by Obama, are waging a crusade against True Christians. Up until Obama, secularism, science and socialism* didn't exist in America, just Christianity. Some of these authors even cry that Obama is COERCING WORKERS INTO UNIONS!! GOD HELP US!! Anyway, the majority of these books were written and published after Obama was elected and some of them are selling very well. I'm worried that the tea-baggers will succeed with whatever fart-hole they present at the primaries. It's not that far away!! Obama hasn't lived up to his promises to the LGBTQ community and, if tea-baggers do regain power in '12, we're doomed.



*Public schools, public libraries, free clinics, food pantries, collectives, co-ops, Red/Yellow Bike programs, etc. are all fruits of socialism.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A year

A year has passed since I graduated from Alverno College.

...this is it?

I have managed to accomplish a few goals in the year:

1) I moved to Chicago
2) I had an art show
3) I got a kitty
4) I got a fulltime job with benefits
5) I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do within the next 5-10 years (travel to do artist-in-residency programs in State and National Parks, get my masters at the School of the Art Institute)
6) I set boundaries with my mother regarding our difficult relationship

I've also managed to get into a great relationship with Captain Awesome, make two very necessary (but still painful) friend-breakups, start volunteering at a kitty shelter, and move TWICE within a year.

Now that I write this all down, it does seem like a lot... But when I was in school, especially the last three semesters that were so difficult, I thought and felt that the only thing that kept me from tackling the world was school. I could have been taking road trips, wrestling bears and punching capitalism in the face were it not for class, assessments and the tyranny of Burnie, Zilske, Lamers and the financial aid office. In my post-undergrad life, my insane amount of debt is holding me back. Were it not for all this bullshit, I'd be in southern Utah right now!!

The first six months were blissful...especially after I finally moved back to Chicago. And then everything came crashing down while I was waging a desperate job search. Now I'm stuck working retail, have lost most of my friends after a failure of a housewarming party (yes, that still hurts. A lot), and have basically lost hope in catching the eye of art galleries.

A message to everyone who's graduation right now: LOWER YOUR STANDARDS

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Word

I'm currently reading Looking For Alaska by John Green http://www.amazon.com/Looking-Alaska-Paperback-Green-John/dp/B00144R62Q/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273553488&sr=8-3 and it, like his other FANTASTIC books, is about a geeky high schooler. He's taking a World Religions course and the fossil of a teacher assigns the class to write its final paper on what the post important question is.

Up until reading Lamb by Christopher Moore http://www.amazon.com/Lamb-Gospel-According-Christs-Childhood/dp/0380813815/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1273553596&sr=1-1 I dunno what I would have considered to be the most important question.

Growing up super-Catholic, "The Word of God," "The Word made flesh" and other references to "The Word" were frequently said in mass, class, prayer, educational films, etc. I understood nothing in kindergarten, "The Word" didn't stand out. I paid little attention as I grew up since thinking about things over which you have no authority is sinful. When I finally rebelled, I didn't think about anything except for emptying my head of that brainwashing. Years later, when I returned to the pile of brain-guck I had scooped out, I didn't understand "The Word" any more than as a child.

In Lamb, Jesus is told that what the Hebrew people needed was the Word of God. They were poor, struggling, had no control over their own lives, and their political activists were getting publicly slain. Moses, Elijah and other prophets had heard and delivered the Word of God in bad times before. Jesus needed to BE the Word for them now. He needed to be the manifestation of the Word of God in order to lead them.

In this way, human beings ARE our most important question. We are the question of time, will, adaptation, creativity, destruction, society, etc. manifest and we are also the answer.



Sometimes I miss school (certain classes) because you don't often encounter questions like these with the will to answer them otherwise...except for blog geeks like me. Thanks, John and Christopher!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Attraction Terms

The terms "homosexuality," "heterosexuality," and "bisexuality" really don't apply to reality. A vast amount of people have some kind of "same-sex" sexual experience - whether it be actual sex or a crush or a fantasy - and still function as "straight." These terms really only work for the people who use them to malign people. A "same-sex" experience works like the "one-drop rule" of race: just once is enough to change how you're treated.

Apart from the Kinsey-esque proportioning of sexual experience in humans is the difference between genitalia and functioning. When you pass people on the street, you probably have no idea what genitals they have, what chromosomes they have, etc. You probably don't even know your own chromosomes! And you don't know with whom they have sex, about whom they're thinking when they have sex, etc. Biology and actual sex have nothing to do with anything...until you're caught at it.

What really matters, more than biology and more than one's sexual experiences, is how one functions in reality. A masculine, woman-identified female functions very differently from a feminine intersexed person who passes as a woman. And how could you possibly ascribe "homo-", "hetero-" or "bisexual" to either of those people? "Man" and "woman", "male" and "female" not only leave out people who don't fit into those two categories, but they also exclude more finite ways of being that affect people in more significant ways.

Just three terms aren't enough to cover everyone...but the government, military, religious institutions, advertising agencies, and many others in positions of power use those three terms - if we're lucky - and two terms of sex/gender. In reality, these terms mean very little. Hell, the handkerchief-flagging system is more efficient than check-boxes!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gay Identity

I've been thinking a lot lately about gay/bi identity. In growing circles, especially upper-middle, post-mainline-Protestant/liberal-Catholic, semi-liberal ones, there is no gay identity. There's no need to come out, you can bring home anyone (provided they're in somewhat the same parameters as you) and there won't be an issue. In these safe, white-bread circles, there's no need for queer activism because homophobia is not known...except for the state/federal level.

The safety and acceptance is wonderful, but there is no gay/bi identity. I've known a small handful of people in situations like these - one of them took me a few months to wrap my mind around - and they have a really ard time relating to the queer community because they lack or even decline the identity. The thing with these social groups is that everyone is so "straight-acting"; gender variance is Other.

These groups are a lot like the HRC: the safety and acceptance are exclusive no matter how much they pretty it up. They don't see homosexuality and bisexuality as gender-related issues (Riki Wilchins says the exact opposite. I think it depends on the situation) so, if you step outside the liberal-by-comparison gender roles, that welcome is withdrawn. Queerness is held at arm's length or further, nonconfrontational gayness and bi-ness are fine. This is where the gay and bi identities wear away to no identity and leave gender-variant people out in the cold.

The thing is, the government, powerful religious groups, renters, employers, schools, etc. and violent people in general equate all non-breeders with each other no matter how "straight-acting you are." They care about the doing, not the being. The less gender-variant you are, granted, the less likely you'll experience discrimination and harassment. On a government level, though, we're all fucked.

Unfortunately, for a lot ofp eople and institutions, gay/bi identity exists because we are oppressed. Without oppression, our actions and behavior would be considered "normal" so the safety, symbols, empowerment, etc. would not be considered necessary. I honestly don't believe that I would have Pride or even the identity had I come into an accepting environment - it just wouldn't occur to me. I do love my Pride and queer identity!! Not because I'm oppressed but because I love the community, culture, freedom, etc.

Take away the oppression, discrimination, harassment, raised eyebrows, closet, etc. and gayness/bi-ness becomes normal. When it's normal, there's no identity. This is a long loooonnnng way away...but it may happen. I hope that Pride won't wear away with it.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sexist Customers

I'm working in a bookstore in a big, popular airport. As the weather has warmed up, a certain kind of customer has increased in frequency and insanity. He's always a masculine straight man, usually between 35 and 60 and upper-middle to upper class. Usually a businessman, white or European.

Most of my men coworkers are either flaming, laid-back or both. The more macho my coworker, the more often this happens: I ask a customer if he needs help finding anything, if he's looking for anything, how he's doing, etc. and the customer ignores me to ask my coworker his question. The first few times this happened, I thought I was just imagining things or noticing only when this happened. But then it became a regular occurrence and one customer even said "I'm going to go ask the computer guy my question" when my coworker was not at the computer!! This is insulting, apparently I'm less capable than my macho coworker despite my initiative.

And no matter with whom I'm working, if anyone, this same kind of customer (sometimes the very same person) flirts with me. Usually this is a leery smirk with a wink, calling me "honey" or "dear" or "sweetheart." Sometimes I get a pat on the shoulder... and one guy even said "you're too young to be a 'ma'am'!" WTF?!? Whenever any of this behavior happens, I basically withdraw and just perform the basic necessities of my work. What makes these guys think I - no matter how flaming I am that day - would want this attention is beyond me. Sometimes this flirting happens while another customer is trying to figure out what gender I am!

Many times, I want to say something and confront the asshole. This is customer service, though, and it would reflect terribly on me if a complaint was made to management or corporate. You can't really kill a lecher with kindness, the policy of dealing with angry people, and I've managed to show up some of the customers who assume I don't know anything to help them. I really don't know what to do about either of these habits.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Approach

There is a true joke that, in the recent history of the Catholic-vs-Protestant struggles in Ireland, an atheist was stopped at a street blockade. He was asked to identify himself as either a Catholic or a Protestant. He said he was an atheist. After a pause, the guard asked "a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"
While being amusing (and sad...really...Ireland's history is so fucked up) and a true incident, there is an interesting aspect to this joke. Where we come from contributes so much to who we are today and where we're going. An atheist who was raised Catholic would emphasize different thing than a Protest-atheist or a Hindu-atheist.

I believe that thinking in this same way in relation to gender should be discussed more. So far, the only time I've heard/read this line of thinking in relation to gender happen only at the Womyn's Music Festival "you're transgendered, I knew that I felt MALE ENERGY emanating from you!" The politics of that bullshit aside, there is something to that "male energy" that hasn't been explored (to my knowledge) probably because it reeks of stupidity so much.
One's gender, expression, etc. says a lot about one's background. An Earth Mother-type feminine person probably has a different history than a dominatrix-type feminine person and so on. It's not an "energy" but more of a way a person emphasizes different aspects. And that says a lot about one's background.
I've noticed that, maybe 70% of the time, I'm attracted to androgynous people with a feminine (imposed by oneself, by others, or just natural) background; this is probably because it lines up with my imposed-feminine background that leads to my androgynous exploration today. In some ways, the approach is more significant than the effect.

I hope to see/hear/read this kind of discussion sometime in the future in queer circles...even if I'm the one to instigate it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

FLORIDA!!

Yes I know it's been a couple weeks since I was in Florida...

Kelly and I flew to Sarasota and there were crying babies everywhere. Moral: if your kids are old enough to be entertained, bring stuff to keep them entertained! If they aren't old enough...they probably shouldn't be flying without drugs. Anyway, we arrived at Sarasota Wednesday night, rented a PT Cruiser and drove south to Englewood. The Florida air was so refreshing, we kept the windows down during most of the 45 minute drive so we could soak it up. The place where we stayed was pretty much perfect, too.

Thursday, we went to Manasota Beach and the water was COLD!! We did a lot of combing for seashells and we found these weird little bug-like things living among them. They were like pill-bugs, only lived in the water and had smooth exoskeletons. Finally getting to a beach, particularly a tropical beach, was so relaxing. While exploring a nearby river-dock, we saw HUGE pelicans and a tiny little lizard.

Friday morning was rainy and grey; the locals said "oh it's too bad you had to be here during such nasty weather." We just replied "a bad day in Florida is a good day in Chicago!!" And it was true! We drove to the Mote Aquarium, on a key off Sarasota, and the weather cleared up by the time we got there. That aquarium was really cool with an area for petting stingrays and everything! We checked out the bird sanctuary nextdoor and the area for larger sea life (dolphins, sea turtles, MANATEES which I had never seen before).

On our way back to Englewood, we stopped at a rookery. I'm fascinated by ciconiiformes so I absolutely loved getting to watch herons, egrets, etc. Two wild great herons got really close to us at the bird sanctuary while stealing the food of their caged counterparts. Sneaky birdies!!

That night, we had FANTASTIC seafood! OMNOMNOMNOM shrimp and crab legs!! I hadn't had crab legs in 14+ years and I didn't like them then; I'm so glad I waited for here to try them again SO GOOD!!

Saturday, we went to another beach - Blind Pass? It was warmer with bigger waves here, so I got some bodysurfing done. Bodysurfing: all the benefits of swimming with half the work. There weren't little bug-things here, it was probably too busy/warm/wavey. While driving around after the beach, I saw a wild alligator sunning itself on someone's front lawn!!

We returned on Sunday, a rainy and dreary day, which helped. On the drive to the airport, I saw a whooping crane! Those things are soooo rare, it was awesome!

There were comparatively few tourists where we were and almost no drunk frat guys, so that was fantastic. While driving to/from/around the city of Sarasota, I noticed something I wasn't expecting. Here in the Midwest, especially in Milwaukee and Chicago, there's a strong German influence with some Scandinavian, Celtic and Eastern European. Sarasota and the surrounding area is much more Venetian and Spanish; it wasn't until being in such an area that I realized how much I took for granted as far as cultural background - particularly because I'm German + Celtic + Scandinavian. That was a fascinating change...proving yet again what a nerd I am.

A big thank-you to Kelly's grandparents for everything!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"A House Homo"

Before I post about Florida...

Yesterday, Ricky Martin came out. DUH! Some argue that this isn't a "brave" move for him since he's no longer relevant and it's somewhat safer for celebrities (particularly pop starts) to come out now. I see where they're coming from and the queer community ten years ago sure could have used him. But I'm not him, I don't know his situation and, obviously, I'm not Latino - I can't fully relate. This situation reminds me of Lance Bass' outing and led me to wonder...in future books that mention N SYNC, Ricky Martin and other late 90's pop music, will they mention that/when they came out? There are some queers who argue that it would be irrelevant and gayness should be taken as normal and, thus shouldn't be mentioned and then there are some queers who think that it shouldn't be "covered up" and should be boasted with Pride. I think that it depends on the book, frankly.

As Don't Ask Don't Tell grows as a social/political hot topic, the rift between [HRC + Barney Frank] and [everyone else] expands. HRC, particularly President Joe Solmonese, is separating itself from Lt. Dan Choi...a.k.a. Captain Planet Gay (wow, redundant). A lot of people said that the March on Washington this past fall, hosted by Cleve Jones, split the gay activist community. DADT definitely is proof of that and splits it even more. Equality IL co-founder Rick Garcia, recently, called HRC "a house homo" (if you don't get it, it's a play on "a house slave" or "a house n*gger") in reference to how it panders to Obama's administration. ........REALLY?? Did he REALLY just go there? It's not an inaccurate metaphor, but there must be a less INSANE way of phrasing that. That just doesn't help anyone.

This inter-community fighting is a waste of time, resources, and...everything.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Option 3

I use ChaCha, a text program in which you text a question and you receive a brief answer after some advertisements. I've been using it for a couple months and give it 4/5 stars, the ads don't bother me since I just delete them.

Today, though, I texted a question and my reply was not an ad or an answer. Apparently I had to fill out a survey via text in order to continue receiving service. Ok, that was fine. Question number one was "what is your gender? Txt MALE or FEMALE back to us." Uhhh.....what? So many things are wrong with that question, but I just replied "both".

Second text from ChaCha: "Chick flick or wrestling? We need 2 know ur gender so we can send you offers you care about! Txt MALE or FEMALE." EXCUSE ME?!?!?! This is just stereotyping. Obviously they're trying to classify which ads would be most effective and using binary gender stereotyping (not to mention that "male" and "female" are biological sexes, not necessarily genders). I replied "transgender," using the umbrella term and figuring they must have received that answer before.

Third text from ChaCha: "Oops! Only 4 little Qs stand between u and a satisfying relationship with ChaCha! Here's the 1st one: Txt MALE or FEMALE." Ok if they had sent this text rather than that second one, I probably would have replied "FEMALE" and shrugged it off. But that "chick flick or wresting?" irritated me so I send the same reply. The fourth and fifth texts from ChaCha was basically the same and I continued texting "transgender."

Sixth text from ChaCha: "Dude/Dudette! We can't answer your Q until you help us out. Txt MALE or FEMALE." I don't even know at this point. The seventh and final text from them was an email address to which I can complain. AND I WILL!!

Pandora has a similar advertising program and I've checked the "female" and "male" boxes at different times. The "male" advertisements are almost always androgynous and the "female" ads are insulting. I'll edit my ChaCha email and send it to Pandora as well...but I enjoy Pandora too much to stop using it lol.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bathroom surprise!

Friday, I was over in Gold Coast/River North (for you non-Chicagoans, that's the area directly north of downtown. It's REALLY ritzy and full of hipster-yuppies) and used a Starbucks bathroom. Yes, I still use the women's. When I came out of the stall, the two young yuppie-housewives jumped in shock and almost yelped! They exchanged a confused glance and gulped down their words. I was thrilled, I love confusing people...especially yuppies.

At work, there are unisex, single-stall bathrooms...that are also the family and handicap bathrooms. I really don't want to use those when someone with a sick kid or a wheelchair actually needs it more than I do. So I continue to use the women's; because it's O'Hare and, thus, full of weirdoes, I get odd looks only once a week or so.

It would still take a lot for me to use a men's multi-stall bathroom.

A lot of customers say "ma'am" and "lady" in reference to me. I like the respect (as opposed to saying "that bitch over there") and I shouldn't expect them to know to use gender-neutral terms like "rabbi," "doctor" and "captain"...especially since I'm not actually any of those social ranks. "Sir" and "bud" make me giggle, especially since the two people who have called me that didn't realize afterward that I'm neither of those. Maybe I should just make a new nametag for my uniform, "Officer K," and bug people to salute me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

So much time has gone by :P

10 years ago: I first became a Beatlemaniac. It was actually right before Christmas '99 that I discovered and fell in love with them; it was so soon before Christmas that people had already gotten me N*SYNC and Backstreet Boys crap and I didn't even want it anymore! At this point, the only albums I had were Abbey Road - my mom's copy - and an orchestra cover album. The first Beatles albums I bought were Rubber Soul and Revolver together, June '00, and they really do go together.

10 years ago: I rejected Confirmation at my Catholic school. Bullying had been bad before this, but now all hell broke loose and only one faculty member stood up for me...subtly since she didn't want to lose her job.

10 years ago: I finally got out of that terrible K-8 school and began high school at my beloved Loyola Academy! There was still bullying, of course, but I had friends who were my friends because they WANTED to be rather than stuck as outcasts and the faculty was on our side. High school was really when my life began and that's why I care so much about what happens to Loyola now.

10 years ago: I rejected bullshit. This was really complex and the symptoms of the bullshit were that I wanted rhinoplasty, I wanted to be popular, I followed trends mindlessly, I said that I had a crush on the most popular guy as a last desperate attempt for acceptance, etc. Because of The Beatles, I quit all that. They, more than anyone or anything else, taught me that it's ok to be myself and fuck anyone who doesn't like it.

10 years ago: my birthday this year will be the 10 year mark of no contact with my dad. He's turning 79 in June and I really just want him to DIE ALREADY so I can finally forgive him and move on with my life! I need to wait until he can't come back again (he's periodically sent angry emails) before I can make myself that vulnerable to him.

10 years ago: I came out to myself as bisexual and, over time, that gradually wore down to full-on queer.

5 years ago: I came out as a lesbian! Lol I was such a lipstick lesbian back then...it was ridiculous. My family was so awesome about it and, later, I found out that some people at Alverno had thought before then that I was flaming! I was exuding queer without even trying!

5 years ago: I cut off my looooooooonnnngggg hair. It went down past my waist! At the time, I honestly considered growing it back out...but then I noticed the attention I got from girls and how much easier it was just to make it through the day without this THING I was carrying around.

5 years ago: I got my first tattoo: the red female/Venus symbol on my right hip. Then, especially since I was such a high femme, I considered it a feminist symbol. Which it still is...but now I want a blue male/Mars symbol on my left hip. Feminism isn't solely about femininity, it's about everyone. I might even get a purple question mark in the middle someday lol

5 years ago: I had my first girlfriend, Jackie. God, that was an awkward situation...I'm so glad it's OVER! I'm grateful it happened, though, and that she was my first rather than...another person (if you knew me back then, you know what I'm talking about).

5 years ago: Last but not least, I became friends with Katy and Lauren!! YEAH!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

K.......-ay (no)

So I've been working at my full-time job, an airport bookstore, for nearly two months now. Earlier this week, a random guy referred to me in the masculine and I was greatly amused :) that was the second time in around six months. in addition to that, kids stare at me and women in the bathroom give a start when I walk in; I love it!

The uniform is a burgundy button-down and the worker must provide black shoes and nice pants. My shoes are from the boys' section of Payless and about half of my pants from from the boys' section of Target (I don't fit into men's sizes) so I manage to look pretty androgynous.

Due to all the hard work when I applied and began the job, I am known far and wide as "K" rather than the pre-adult-life "Katie" (blegh). Some people write it as "Kay" and I even had to white out the "-ay" on my printed nametag...no biggie.

I'd still really really like to take Androgel or something similar, but the money issue keeps it from happening. Having a fulltime job does not mean you get to live! And, although I hate to admit it, there are times when I will take advantage of "feminine wiles." If a guy lets me get on the crowded bus before him, hell yeah I will! Provided there are no pregnant or elderly people waiting behind me, of course.

And if I ever get to live out the hobo lifestyle, traveling from farm to farm and seeing the world...I think it would probably be safer to be taken as a woman than as ambiguous.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Identity Continuum

Photobucket

0, 7, 12...the last one baffles me. I like androgynous/masculine females/intersexed/transpeople.

Being Grateful

I'm currently reading "A Year of Living Bibically" by A.J. Jacobs. It is very interesting, especially since I just finished "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver. Among the remarkable contrasts between the two books is one point that illustrates Jacobs very well: a character in "The Poisonwood Bible" says that growing up is when you realize that you can't just sit and wait for someone else to take care of something (cleaning, cooking, food-gathering, mending, etc.), you need to do it or else it probably won't get done. Jacobs, at least when it comes to raising his young son, seems to have missed this lesson. "A Year of Living Bibically" so great because he interviewed and collaborated with so many brilliant people!

"The Poisonwood Bible" is historical fiction (and it's fantastic!) about the history of the Congo in the 60's-80's, mostly about the extreme poverty. People were happy to get a hubcab in which to cook what little food they could get. And then to read Jacobs pining over a Jaguar in NYC...coveting was one of his greatest struggles. We all want things, of course, and that's a habit almost impossible to lessen, let alone break. Wanting isn't necessarily bad, but wanting to the point of ignoring what you already have and those who have less than you is...capitalism.

There are a lot of things that I want, of course - the primary one being to have no debts. But appreciating what I have (health, food, clean water, heating, electricity, indoor plumbing, shelter, medicine, soap, clothes, the internet, cell phones, public transportation, friends, family, an awesome girlfriend, a nice assortment of rights and privileges, etc.) and even what I don't have (a car, slaves, a house, a pimp) is very humbling. And it helps me connect to others in a way that no things can and, even if they aren't, I can be grateful for what they have and don't have as well. It's like intercessory prayer, only intercessory thanks!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Belief isn't necessarily a bad thing

One thing I've noticed while working at a busy Midwestern airport bookstore is that a huge amount of books - fiction and nonfiction - deals with or mentions religion in some way. It's a huge part of the human experience whether you're in it, outside of it, or dallying right down that fine line (where I am right about now). The religion/spiritual section in each of the 6 stores is rather small, monotonous, and unpopular; the only religious text available is the Bible, of course (one store has two versions). Then there are a ton of Karen Armstrongs, Deepak Chopras, Chodrons, that super-popular pastor guy with the huge teeth, C.S. Lewis, the Dalai Lama, etc. Two of the biggest and most popular stores also carry Dawkins, A.J. Jacobs, and Hitchens. And, of course, The Shack is everywhere - I have yet to read this.

I'm still trying to figure out how to tie in my personal beliefs (ambiguity defines them best, not agnosticism) to the rest of life, that is my main issue right now. Although I'm a long way from forgiving all the teachers, administrators, clergy and laypeople who used religion-spirituality to chisel away at me, I'm making peace with religion in general...trust is still a big issue.

I've read "God is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens and C.S. Lewis' Christian non-fiction. I don't see any difference between declaring that God doesn't exist because of church corruption and declaring that God exists because the North Star exists - both miss the point entirely! Figuring out how to relate my spirituality to the rest of life is such a delicate process because I don't want to slip into either of these habits.

In short: there is nothing inherently wrong or harmful about believing in something or not. What really matters is how it affects the rest of your life.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review of Roman Catholicism in America by Chester Gillis

I read this to gain a better understanding of my strict Catholic upbringing; Gillis went above and beyond my expectations! Because I can now understand the empty traditions, hostility, and control exerted by the staff, administration and clergy, I'm one step closer to forgiving them.

The fact that this was written before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who, as recanted in this book, is a destructive slimbebal) became Pope Benedict and before the pedophilic scandals came to their worst point is actually a strength. It's easy to read the book from this point and see how the Catholic church does change drastically over time whether it wants to or not.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0231108710/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Back!

I'm finally back from the land of no internet!! And I'm . . . in rather the same place as before. But I've come to realize that most of this want for something more stems from a need for community. Since graduating and losing most of my friends, I haven't really had a community.

A sense of community is not that easy to come by. June is fantastic with its Pride, but the other 11 months out of the year...I dunno. At least I'm working with mostly cool people. Now that I'm finally settling into my new schedule, maybe I'll even have energy/time to volunteer or something.

So...yeah

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fulfillment

Before I started my new job, I was very stressed/depressed over my financial situation. I felt like I had little control over my situation and my fears over what could happen snowballed into terrible worries. I had difficulties sleeping, concentrating and enjoying anything. Starting my new, full time job has greatly helped because I'm making steady money now, I'll get benefits in 90 days, and it's distracting. It makes me too tired to worry; I want to use my energy toward activities more fun/leisurely/productive than worrying now.

Before I got the job, I finally began to understand one of the reasons why so many poverty-stricken people are very religious. Religion is a constant, it's distracting, it gives you hope that something better awaits you and it feels better to surrender control to a higher power than to collectors.

my girlfriend thinks i am an awesome sexy pants

Thank you, Kelly. <3

ANYWAY! I was reading "Self-Made Man" by Norah Vincent at the time and, while she masqueraded as a man, she spent a few weeks in a monastery. I was disappointed at how little of her report included, you know, SPIRITUALITY, but it was very interesting. I looked up monasteries and convents online to learn more. The websites focused on spiritual journeys, the "Call," and doing manual labor as meditation.

Honestly, giving up on the material life and focusing on something higher is appealing. The dogma and utter obedience, however, are unappetizing. And the accounts of read of monks and nuns have so little to do with actual spirituality and focus, instead, on rules. THAT IS NOT THE POINT!!

My material possessions and obligations feel shackling. I knew the whole time I lived in WI that I wanted to come home to Chicago and that, as soon as I would, I'd want to travel everywhere else. I'm so happy to be back here, but all I want to do is to go to new places. The feeling of being trapped is there, but I'm ignoring it because there's nothing I can do about it except to work towards ending my debts.

Related to the want to see and experience new things is a need for spiritual fulfillment. In Dogma, it's stated that spirituality is like a cup of water that constantly needs to be refilled; when you're little, the cup is small and it grows as you do. During that tough, financially stressful period, I did turn to spirituality a little; now that the intense worries are subdued, that need for spiritual fulfillment stands out more.

I don't quite know where to turn for it. I'm too wary of communities, rituals and most clergy because of past experiences. I went to my first Sunday Mass in years a few months ago and I knew the Jesuit; it was wonderful and he said things that need to be said (service, compassion, love, peace). He has since soured in my eyes, though, as a school administrator who has strayed from that message.

And I'm well aware that this need for spiritual fulfillment is probably an aspect of this need to see/experience new things. How to fill those glasses in my obligated situation, I don't know.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Self-Made Man" by Norah Vincent

I just finished "Self-Made Man" by Norah Vincent. This book has been on my reading list for a long long time.

I was expecting a lot more queer/feminist/etc theory, but was refreshed to discover that this isn't the case. Vincent is much more blunt and honest about her experiences as a man. It is clear, from her report, that nobody benefits from the current gender norms. The "men's movement" and other efforts to "reclaim masculinity" aren't at all like the "White Power" movement: they focus on becoming more whole persons rather than masks of hypermasculinity.

The one downside was that Vincent went into this project with a lot of bias, particularly about working-class, straight white men. The year and a half she spent posing as a man nearly tore her apart because her concept of reality and her place in it was so dramatically altered.

More evidence that nobody benefits from privilege.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"shoes make the man"

I'm starting a new job that requires simple, all-black shoes as part of the dress code. The only all-black shoes I had were heeled and I'll never wear those again, so I made a trip to Payless. Fortunately, I fit into children's shoes, which are far cheaper. I bought http://www.payless.com/store/product/detail.jsp?skuId=072507020&productId=66480&subCatId=cat310012&catId=cat10091&lotId=072507&category=&catdisplayName=Boys+

I already own some "men's" shoes but they look androgynous. I wore these news ones to soon-to-be-old-job today and, for the first time, really paid attention to what people wear. I was feeling pretty spiffy, physically and socially comfortable. Then I got into an elevator with a bunch of men who . . . how shall I put it . . . have a very intimidating masculinity? A lot of trans/genderqueer people report feeling like imposters or discomfort-bordering-on-fear in such situations, but I had a hard time empathizing until the elevator experience. Having just finished reading "Nobody Passes" which had essays on this kind of experience, I was reassured that this wasn't unusual. I'm most comfortable in queer/mixed spaces, comfortable in some men's spaces, comfortable in almost all women's spaces, and not comfortable at all in the intimidating men's spaces. I just can't navigate there.

Another topic in "Nobody Passes" was the near-revulsion a lot of trans/genderqueer people experience when they realize that they're read as straight/bi/gay men/women. The idea of being read as a straight/bi/gay man seems so . . . WRONG. As incorrect as being read as a straight woman, but much more foreign. The bi/gay woman appearance is most familiar and the time spent there was healthiest and happiest until I outgrew it.

Being read as just an odd individual with a love for the Beatles is perfect.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Take Control!

Today, the federal court begins going over Prop 8. New Jersey and NY voted down gay marriage, New South Wales in Australia refused to pass gay adoption, and a guy on the train just a few blocks away from me was recently beaten while being called gay and a slew of other slurs. Obama kept one promise by passing the Matthew Shephard Act and one of my coworkers has admitted that he is "extremely homophobic, but only about men" with no reason (but we all know what the reason really is, it's not difficult to figure out).

Apparently, though, saying "that's gay" is more likely to get you called out on and it's cool to have a gay relative/friend/etc. Individual acceptance of individual gay people is on the uprise . . . but it's still a long way up from in the negatives.

As a group, we are still not respected as complete humans. What defines us as a community is what makes us second-class. For the past 6+ years, that has been our strength as well in keeping us together. Those of us in the community can see how diverse we all are, but outsiders, those who don't want us as equals, either can't/won't see that or will use that to divide us.

It's difficult to see where to go from here. Eugene Debs, socialist extraordinaire, said “I cannot do it for you, and I want to be frank enough to say that I would not if I could. For if I could do it for you, somebody else could undo it for you.” We must take our rights, we must take control.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Holidays are OVER

PICASSO Pictures, Images and Photos

I'm actually pretty relieved that the holidays are over. They were a lot of fun, I really enjoyed them (particularly because they were the first ones spent out of school, independently in Chicago, and away from insanity), but I'm ready to go back to regular life now.

Klimt Pictures, Images and Photos

My creative energy was thrown into the holidays during December, meaning almost no "professional" artmaking was achieved. Now that all of that has passed, I can return to painting! My wonderful half-sisters gave me membership to the Art Institute, which will greatly add to my motivation, creativity, and drive to go to grad school there; not to mention will be AMAZING!! If my career/life/etc. ends up revolving around the Art Institute, I would be ecstatic.

William Victor Higgins