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

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 this blog

“maybe falling completely in love with yourself is the secret to happiness”

Hot take: a lot of what we do as humans is so that we can feel like or convince ourselves and others that we matter. We tell people we’re named after celebrities or saints, we read classic literature to feel connected and important, we make art, we go to school, we travel. Of course I’m not immune to that, as even this blog is my scream into the abyss that I am an important human.

And maybe that’s just a part of the human experience! Like maybe there’s something to the idea that we do things because we recognize that we’re only here for a short time and we want our stay to be meaningful and beautiful! Maybe that’s poetic!

What I’ve been trying to do in my daily life (especially post-the-beginning-of-Cheeky Femme) is try to recognize that the only person whom I should worry about is me. Yes, it’s a super-cheesy-high-school-assembly line, but maybe falling completely in love with yourself is the secret to happiness. It can’t hurt to try!

So I’ve been trying to be more honest and open with myself. I’ve stopped trying to drown out my thoughts when I’m alone. I tweet things that I think are funny and important and I post pictures on Instagram that I think I look cute in. I’ve tried to stop being so hard on myself. It’s so refreshing to think that the only person you have to please is yourself, especially if you can convince yourself that you love yourself, because you’re so easy to please! (Confusing? Only in sentence form. Abridged version: if you love yourself and live an authentic life you’ll love everything about yourself! It’s like if you were totally in love with someone else except it’s better because it’s you.)

So step one on how to fall in love with your self: do something special for yourself. Go walk in a park or out to dinner or paint something, alone. Don’t cheat by listening to loud music or checking social media the whole time. Learn how to live in your own headspace. Be comfortable by yourself.

Peace and love y’all. Good luck.

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.

Spaces: Lexington Pride Festival 2017

“the queer community made a powerful statement about the overwhelming love we have”

When I traveled to Kentucky with my boss, I wasn’t sure that the south would be the most accepting place. I am happy to say that, as far as Lexington is concerned, I was very wrong. We had the booth set up for about twelve hours that day so I was on my feet for about ten and it happened to be our busiest day ever so I was able to interact with a lot of people.

At Lexington’s Pride Festival, I was able to witness something I had never seen before in real life: Christian extremists protesting. They had the classic “HOMO SEX IS SIN” sign, some other ones about how we were all going to hell, and even an anti-Islam sign (for good measure I guess? I don’t know how they think. It was not super pertinent to the day’s events other than they fact that they had intersectional hatred.) They gathered around the entrance and for at least seven hours in the blazing heat held these signs and said horrible, hateful things at the crowd through bullhorns.

What I also witnessed that day for the first time was how much love the LGBTQ+ community has. Our table was fairly near to these protestors so we overheard them all day. I was not super bothered by it after awhile (apparently after being told you’re going to hell repeatedly eventually the edge wears off) but some people, especially young kids, were. Throughout the day, people stood in front of the protestors and made noise to drown them out. From students for the rights of trans students with pride flag capes and signs of their own, drag queens, a big gay marching band, and large groups with noisemakers, there was constantly a group who refused to let the message of hate from the protestors be heard. It was comforting to know that we (specifically here I mean queer youth and others who were bothered by it) were so loved by this community that people would sacrifice their time and energy to make us feel safe. It was powerful stuff.

I know this might not be the best way to try to get protestors to leave, but it wasn’t necessarily about that. We knew they wouldn’t leave. Instead, the community took it upon themselves to make sure that everyone who was there knew that we had each other’s backs. It was beautiful. To be around such a tangible symbol of how much love we have and how dead-set we are on combating hate was amazing. While I wish there had not been protestors, I am glad that the day progressed the way it did. At LexPride, the queer community made a powerful statement about the overwhelming love we have and how we believe that can and should be first and foremost in combating this type of hatred. Not necessarily fighting back or retaliation, but love and support for the rest of us.

Stay proud.

Being an Ally to the Queer Community 101

On Wednesday I was blessed to help and watch Meghan (my boss) give a presentation on some basics of how to respect and communicate with transgender people. She spoke for about four hours on issues specific to transgender people. She touched on the importance of being an ally and thus inspired me to write this little guide on the parts of allyship which I think should be more emphasized.

 

  • Remember that your number one job as an ally is to offer support for the LGBTQ+ community.

As an ally, you have to remember that your voice is only as important as it amplifies the voices of those who you are allied with. Constantly educate yourself on issues important to this community. Don’t depend on queer people to educate you, but always listen to the voices in this community because they know more about their experiences than you do.

  • Understand the impact of your vote and use it correctly.

This means voting for people who support the rights of queer people and sometimes queer politicians themselves. The LGBTQ+ community is a significant voting bloc, but we by no means make up enough of the population to elect the officials and vote for the issues we need by ourselves. As an ally, you have to support us both in word and action.

  • Understand your place.

Allyship does not align you with the struggles or discrimination we face. Don’t make this about you. Know that we appreciate the support, but also know that you’re here to offer that support by listening to us, advocating for us, voting in ways to help us, and so forth. Being an ally is an important part of being a good person and doing good for your fellow man. Don’t expect a gold star for doing your duty.

  • Accept that you will make mistakes.

Sometimes you’ll flub up pronouns or say the wrong thing. Don’t freak out about it. Apologize, correct it, thank someone if they corrected you, and move on. Don’t argue with a queer person about whether or not you meant to make a mistake, and don’t make this about you by over-apologizing and giving a million reasons as to why you would never mess up on purpose ever (“I have a gay friend!” “I love Modern Family!” “I voted for Hillary!”) That’s all super cool, but again, this isn’t about you. Apologize, understand that you may have offended someone deeply and they may need time or space to deal with it, and then continue with your life and try not to make the mistake again.

  • Support us when we can’t speak up for ourselves.

Here’s where being an ally really is tested. Much like voting for our interests, you have to remember that queer people are people too at all times. This means not making insensitive jokes, not laughing about them, and even correcting your friends if they make them. This is saying “Hey Tom, it’s not cool how you use (insert offensive term here) as an insult” even when no one who is queer is around. This is not watching shows or films which use homophobic, transphobic, or biphobic schticks to be funny or edgy. This one is difficult, but it is also of one of the most important, as change must happen in communities dominated by non-queer persons for equality to truly be reached.

  • Learn the importance of intersectionality.

I am a white gay woman and as such I only understand my struggles. I cannot speak on the journey of queer POC, transpersons, bisexuals, etc. I do consider myself an ally of and the family of people in these communities! Good allyship necessitates the understanding that the LGBTQ+ community is diverse and that just considering yourself an ally of queer persons neglects this diversity. You should consider yourself an ally of all persons less privileged and differently privileged than yourself.

 

Stay out and proud and loud y’all. Good luck navigating allyship. You can do it!

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)

Some Thoughts on Internalized Homophobia

“I think it will be a long process before I’m truly comfortable and happy in myself”

Something I’ve been fighting recently is internalized homophobia. Much like internalized misogyny, my conservative, Catholic upbringing has instilled in me the sense that being and acting gay is inherently dirty, shameful, and should be hidden. This makes it really difficult to do anything that could publicly show I’m queer.
Of course I don’t believe in any way that being and acting queer is wrong or dirty, but the idea of the “sinful” nature of homosexuality has been so ingrained in my subconscious that I still feel like I should be ashamed of who I am. Last week, I went on the perfect first date with an wonderful, beautiful girl and the whole time I was just terrified that what I was doing was “bad.” We watched the sunset over Lake Michigan and it was amazing and I was so happy, but I still felt overwhelmingly guilty. I still haven’t come out to my extended family or the world at large (other than several casual hints) because I know the majority of the people I was raised around would see who I am as inherently sinful. Even at my conservative university, one of my assignments for a course was to read an official stance on the unnaturalness and sinfulness of homosexuality on Notre Dame’s website. (Here’s the link, in case you’re curious what they have to say.)
I know that the world, especially under the current administration, is still not a great place for queer people. With the recent passage of some anti-discrimination laws it seems like we have come so far, but we didn’t come from that great of a place to begin with. I’m trying to combat the homophobia in the world and myself by being more out and open and free, but I think it will be a long process before I’m truly comfortable and happy in myself. I am so grateful for the rest of the queer community for continuing to fight for equity and justice and representation so that I feel I’m never alone.