Spaces: County Hall meetings

This one’s for you, Edith.

Yesterday was a big day in queer life for me. Edith Windsor, a lesbian and human rights activist who was instrumental in the fight for marriage equality, passed away (may she rest in power). In a more local sense, also yesterday, in St. Joseph County, Indiana, a human rights ordinance was passed that allows people who are discriminated based on their sexual orientation or gender identity to sue locally.

I heard about Edith’s passing on Twitter, and as I read her story, I cried. I celebrated marriage equality when I learned of it years ago, but because it didn’t then affect me, I didn’t feel a personal connection to it. After reading about the way she personally fought for the rights of same sex couples for so many years and about the way she loved and lived so intensely, I was moved and inspired and so proud. She’s a hero and an icon and I’m so glad that she lived and fought so intensely. I am so grateful for her and her work.

Yesterday I was also able to be present in a County Hall meeting regarding St. Joseph’s recent policy changes which added protections to prevent discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the county previously had no way of handling any related lawsuits which meant that people would have to travel to Indianapolis, which is a burden. But, thanks in part to the hard work of some of my friends on Student Government at Notre Dame (which is located in St. Joseph county) who spoke in favor of the human rights ordinance at the county hall meeting last night, the South Bend will now handle all of the lawsuits. I was there when the measure was voted on and I am so amazed at and thankful for everyone who helped to pass it. I also wore a rainbow shirt to the county hall and I felt super welcome so that was also a win for the day.

This one’s for you Edith.

suggested listening: “Rainbow” // Kesha

Life Updates!

Yikes! It’s been about three weeks since my last blog, and honestly I don’t know what to say other than without Prides constantly, life is much less colorful. I am currently finishing up some paperwork for my internship at TREES, Inc. and have officially moved into my dorm at ND (my room is affectionately known as the Gay Cave and is mostly rainbows). I am super excited about an Instagram sponsorship that I am currently working out. Life is good, especially when you’re finally excited to be out at your Catholic university.

More soon, I promise. xx

Spaces: Fort Wayne Pride 2017

“it was empowering”

On July 22 I attended the Pride in Fort Wayne, Indiana representing TREES, Inc. I wore my uniform tee shirt with the name of the organization and rainbow everything else: including a headband, bracelets, necklaces, and a fanny pack. For extra effect, I fastened my “baby dyke” pin on my shirt just to make sure that my sexuality was clear.

I love Prides. I hope I’ve made that abundantly clear. And I especially loved this Pride because I was only hit on by ladies(!!!). It was amazing. For the first time, I felt totally free from the male gaze and so many societal gender and beauty expectations. It was incredible. For the first time, my abundance of rainbows at a Pride event (and possibly my new septum ring) actually stopped men from talking and flirting with me. I felt so affirmed and invincible.

That day, I put in a solid eight hours of set up, tabling, and take down. It was muggy and hot and miserable, but because I finally understood why it’s so important to be in spaces where your non-heteronormative identity is seen and respected, I was happier than I’d ever been. I felt officially visible and it was empowering. Even through the heat, I don’t think I ever stopped smiling.

Disney Princesses Ranked by Queerness

“Sigh.”

I grew up loving Disney princess movies and I’m also fairly certain they were my first subconscious realization of my gayness (looking at you, Jasmine). So here is the definitive ranking of queerness of the Disney princesses recognized by Disney on official princess merch. Of course you cannot tell if a person is queer from presentation alone, but this list is also based on relationship, actions, personality etc. (And it’s just for fun!) So let’s get started. First off is:

 

11. Snow White

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In my Intro to Gender Studies course, I offered my idea for queering a fairy tale by saying you could assume Snow White is a lesbian who stays with seven polyamorous gay men (until she meets Prince Ferdinand). In the movie, she seems pretty straight because she sings about being saved by a Prince before she even really knew any men. She also wears a bow in her hair, and if my one year of softball taught me anything, it’s that only girls who don’t wear bows are lesbians.

10. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)

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This girl had like, three moms for awhile, so that might be a little gay. She did end up with Prince Philip though so I’d say the gayest she gets is when she took a nap because all of the queer girls I know take naps.

9. Ariel

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Ariel also fantasizes about human men before she meets any. Maybe her movie is all about being transgender, but I doubt it as any more than a euphemism because she’s definitely a girl mermaid who falls in love with a boy human. AND she sacrifices a major part of herself to do so! That’s so not girl code, homegirl. Sigh.

8. Cinderella

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She ends up with Prince Charming, but she doesn’t dream endlessly of nameless princes. She made the best of a bad situation and I respect her for that. Cinderella also probably had some crazy muscles too so she could definitely snag a lady if she wanted, she just happened to marry a guy who was wealthy first. I respect the game.

5. Jasmine, Rapunzel, Tiana (tie)

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Listen, I want Jasmine to be more queer. I do. But she, like Rapunzel and Tiana, didn’t really want a man or need a man, but got a man anyway. They just wanted to see the world and accomplish their goals, but instead they accidentally fell in love with the men who fell in love with them. I can’t blame them. They were wooed. They get bonus points for being strong, motivated, independent women. Probably all queer women believe in being strong and independent.

4. Belle

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Ah, Belle. She does not outrank the previous because she fell in love with a beast (even though “beauty and the beast” is a really great nickname for a hard femme and hard butch in a relationship). She outranks the previous because she was brave enough to sacrifice her own life for her father’s. She’s also probably read some poems by Sapphos or something similar (#ladyloveliterature). Plus, the whole theme of her movie is that looks don’t matter when love is involved, which is definitely something I reminded my parents of when I came out. Beast totally could’ve been a lady.

 

3. Pocahontas

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You know how after you figure out you’re queer and you think about who you were as a child and what you did and suddenly everything makes sense? Well I watched Pocahontas more than once a week as a kid because I was definitely in love with her. Pocahontas is cool and athletic and pretty and has influenced my type more than any other single factor. She does confess her love for John Smith after Kocoum is killed, though, which isn’t super queer. I like to imagine that after John leaves, she and Nakoma nuture their budding friendship-turned-romance but maybe that’s just me.  Pocahontas still ranks high because she refuses to succumb to gender norms (also she’s probably a little gay or at least more open to same-sex attraction).

2. Merida

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Merida is literally such a dyke. Of-freaking-course she is. Merida is the girl you think is hot but you also sort of want to be a little. She’s a strong, independent, smart, adventurous and funny (sigh). I also don’t think she eats any red meat which scores her major lez points because like, none of the queer girls I know eat red meat (why is this, can someone please explain???). Plus, she literally rejects wearing restrictive, femme clothing. She loves animals and dressed as a guy and shot for (and won!!!) her own hand in marriage because, like some others, she didn’t want to marry a random dude. Merida wins here because she successfully doesn’t. I’m convinced Disney didn’t add any more ladies her age for her to be friends with in the movie because she so would’ve wooed them with just a little lesbian eye contact.

1. Mulan

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Mulan’s at the top of this list because duh. The movie about Mulan is pretty gay: I mean, Li Shang definitely falls in love with masculine-presenting Mulan (Ping) whom he totally thinks is a guy. That’s literally the definition of gay. Also, Mulan is pretty queer to even be masc-presenting. We can debate if she’s a transgender person or drag king, but it’s getting off of canon. She definitely rejects gender norms, doesn’t have any qualms with being masc of center or androgynous and cultivating a relationship with a man when doing so. She marches to the beat of her own drum and she’s such a badass for it. Mulan forever.

 

Come on Disney, banish the heteronormativity and throw us some lady love stories now. #GayElsaForever

Spaces: Being Queer in Nonqueer Spaces

“I’m not used to seeing queer people in spaces that aren’t specifically for us”

A few nights ago, at dinner, I was sitting with my friend’s mother at the bar of a restaurant waiting for our table to be ready. (This was a popular establishment and we had been given an hour wait time.) At some point as we chatted, the man seated next to me asked us if we would like his leftover chips and queso. Gesturing to himself and the person next to him, he said “we” didn’t double dip or do anything weird to it. I was hungry and I am a trustworthy person so I said yes and thanked him.

He laughed and told me not to worry about him hitting on me or anything because he was gay. He leaned back and introduced me to his partner. I laughed and said I was gay too. We wished each other a happy belated Pride month and swapped a few stories. It was great.

I’m not used to seeing queer people in spaces that aren’t specifically for us. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing others at Prides because basically everyone is queer, but I still become giddy when I see two girls holding hands while walking on the quad at Notre Dame, a same-sex couple buying groceries, or even just when I see pride flags displayed. I am constantly (and pleasantly) surprised to see the normalization of the LGBTQ+ community. This visibility is a clear sign of our acceptance. It also causes us to be more accepted because the world becomes more used to it as a normalcy instead of a quirk. (#RepresentationIsImportant)

Yesterday, I spent about six hours at the South Bend farmer’s market tabling for TREES, Inc. Unlike the Prides I have worked before, it was not a specifically queer event. I didn’t just talk to young kids wearing pride flags like capes and their parents and others who were in and loved my community. I talked to older millenials on health kicks, baby boomers from agricultural backgrounds, families with little babies, etc. No one was outwardly presenting in a million rainbows, but everyone was accepting. People thanked us for the work we do and donated to the organization. It was incredible. I wore a button that said “Pretty, Gay, and Pretty gay” and it was the first time I was in a nonqueer space that I felt totally safe in. Granted, South Bend is pretty liberal (we have a gay mayor!) but this was still huge for me.

I’m not saying that these experiences have changed the world for me, but it is really inspiring to see that you can be safe while being out. Of course, I am a white, straight-passing lesbian and I can only speak to that experience, but hopefully in my being out and outspoken, I can help normalize queerness and make the world a safer place for others.

I’ve learned a lot about being queer in the two and a half months since I’ve been out. I’ve gone on dates, started a blog, and worn more rainbows in a month than most people wear in their lives. I’ve learned that coming out and being out is liberating but can also be exhausting. I’ve struggled with unlearning internalized homophobia. I’m making a lot of headway, but I’m still learning that at the end of the day, we shouldn’t be forced to confine our queerness to Prides.

Thoughts on my First Pride Month

“Rainbows give me so much hope”

Now that my first June being out is over, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on the month as a whole. Sadly, I had to live my first Pride Month in an America under the Trump administration, from which the LGBTQ+ community has been given significantly less love than from the former administration. I’m not complaining, (because America is still a very safe place for white lesbians compared to other countries and demographics) but rather pointing out that this is one of the biggest reasons why every Pride event I went to in June had an air of resilience instead of joy.

In all of the “spaces” pieces I’ve written so far (here, here, here, and here) I’ve tried to emphasize the ways that hate still invades these safe places and how we fight and reconcile that. We cannot exist without protest when our very existence is protest and resistance. As we gather in queer-positive spaces, we strengthen this resolve in each other. We’re a community. As my boss loves to say, we’re a family. We’re here for each other. When one of us comes out, we celebrate. When one of us dies, we mourn. We support whomever we can however we can. It’s beautiful.

I love the bond between queer people more than anything. If you read articles about lesbian dating, one of the things that is always recommended is “gay eye contact.” Supposedly, this is when you look at someone the right way and both of you just *know* that you want to hit on the other. I don’t know if it works because I’m a single baby dyke, but everyone recommends it for dating. However, I do know that in queer spaces, every act of body language means more. Every smile and hug and kiss and hand hold and high-five is more special because it expresses the phenomenal solidarity and love in the queer community. Touch is incredibly powerful.

In this month, it was also just really amazing to see the support from and the history of the queer community. I love happy, older queer couples. I love learning about the riots that began pride and the queer civil rights movement. I love people congratulating me on coming out. I love little ones at their first pride. I love rainbows! Rainbows give me so much hope.

So remember that pride shouldn’t end in June. Keep being out. Keep voting for queer politicians and lobbying for queer-positive laws. Keep advocating. Keep being you.

I Don’t Know How to be a Lesbian!

“I am a baby dyke!”

So far, I have had limited experience acting openly gay. I (foolishly) assumed that coming out would be the beginning and end of it and suddenly life would be sunshine and rainbows and everyone would compliment me on my apparent homosexuality and I would be swimming in ladies. This was honestly just very wrong and I should have realized it sooner.

I had a fairly straightforward self-discovery and coming out process. I knew I liked girls for a long time but was confused as to why I wasn’t attracted to guys and didn’t want to date them and then I kissed a guy and a girl in one night and then EVERYTHING MADE SENSE. Really. I went from thinking I was broken to being just ridiculously excited about finally figuring myself out and being a lesbian. Because I was so happy about it, immediately after coming out I had what I can only describe as a “post coming out high.” I was elated and I joyfully told everyone I knew. I figured that I had already gone through the most difficult part and it would be easy from then on.

Of course, I was incorrect. I still get hit on by boys and I am rarely hit on by girls. I find myself constantly wishing I “looked like a lesbian” even though like, that’s not a thing? Like lesbians are very diverse? And I am a lesbian so like no matter what, I can’t not look like a lesbian? I just want to be out of the baby dyke phase (watch the video it’s hilarious).  And I am a baby dyke! I jam to Tegan and Sara all of the time. I love all things related to the comedy of Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito (and their relationship!!!). Ellen rocks. I read Autostraddle daily. I salivate over button up shirts. I get overly excited at Prides. I smile so hard when I see girls holding hands. I love being gay! I am so gay!

I’m not where I want to be but I’m getting there. I still am fighting internalized homophobia, but I’m also the most free I’ve ever been. Basically, I’m trying to keep reminding myself that there’s no lesbian manual, and as such there’s no wrong way to be gay.

 

(super cute pic is a mural at Eastern Kentucky University by @botanical_bedroom on Instagram)

Spaces: Lansing Pride

“I’m just me”

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Yesterday I spent about eight hours under a tent in Lansing, Michigan doing everything from folding brochures, instagramming, and talking to people for TREES, Inc. The life of an intern is pretty great.

Recently, a person came out to me privately via social media. They explained the difficulties they faced in potentially coming out and asked what it was like for me. I read their message and cried. For someone to come to me in confidence and trust me simply because I was out and proud for a month was so moving. I responded by telling my abridged coming out story and giving them a little advice on how to stay safe in homophobic areas. I am not an expert though, I’m just me.

At Pride this weekend, I found myself constantly connecting with queer youths as well. We shared stories and favorite things–Tegan and Sara, Laverne Cox, Tumblr, etc.–and I found myself constantly being asked for advice. I repeated all that I know, which is come out as soon as it’s safe, be proud, and it eventually gets better because middle school and high school will end and one day you’ll wake up and realize that you and everyone you have surrounded yourself with loves who you are.

We aren’t that far removed from when Ellen coming out publicly was a big deal. Queer people are still constantly subjected to violence because of who they are. Pride month is a relatively new thing. The idea of being proud to be queer is a new thing! Using the term queer as a positive, reclaimed term is a new thing!!! The world is a difficult place to learn to maneuver, and this is even more true if you’re queer. We have so few role models that seeing someone online who wears rainbows, comes out, or be openly queer is big deal.

I am so thankful that queer kids are able to grow up and see and read of queer characters and follow actual queer people online. Hopefully this teaches them that who they are is okay and creates a more inclusive and safer society for them to grow up in. (Obviously, we have a long way to go before equality and we always need more representation, but I am so hopeful and optimistic and proud of the ground we’ve covered.) I am so thankful that in my being out, I can be a lighthouse to safety for others like me. I am honored that other queer people feel comfortable around me.

As always: stay out, stay proud, and stay loud. Happy Pride Month y’all.