Archive for January, 2010

In Loving Memory

This time a week ago, I was at the hospital, saying goodbye to Grandma C.

As you may imagine, this last week has been full of ups and downs. I’m not sure it has fully sunk it, but I’m reassured by the fact that she is no longer in pain.

Needless to say, I have been thinking about her a lot this last week. She was the most unconditionally loving person I have ever known.

Grandma C and her husband fostered many a troubled teenager, both officially and unofficially, even adopting a few. Each and everyone of those people remain a part of the family.

My father, my grandmother’s son, passed away when I was 6. A year or so later, my mom started dating my eventual step dad. My mother didn’t want Grandma C to know. She didn’t want her to think she was dishonoring her husband’s memory. One day, Grandma C, in her famous honesty, said, “You know, I know you are dating and you should go ahead and marry that man. You deserve a husband and those kids need a father.” From that day on, she loved my step dad as her son.

She loved me through each one of my teenage rebellions. Though famous for her sarcastic comments, Grandma C put up with my purple hair, goth eyeliner, homemade fashion nightmares, and fishnet phases. She loved me through it all, tolerating it far better than my mother.

I was reluctant to “come out” to Grandma C. She taught Sunday school and bible study, her bookshelves were crammed with Christian literature, she was 80-something and raised in the South. Homosexuality had to be a sin in her book. To top that off, I’d noticed a pattern of hidden racism in my grandparents. A gay granddaughter, dating a little half Mexican, half Filipino, who wore boys button-up shirts and ties- it would surely be too much!  I figured I’d just keep it vague, let her wonder. As it turns out, I didn’t have to come out.

One weekend, my girlfriend and I went to my aunt’s beach house. It was the two of us, my aunt, and my grandmother, in a beautiful three bedroom beach house. After bringing up our luggage, I went to introduce my girlfriend to my grandmother.

Grandma looked up from her Kindle. I said, “Grandma C, this is Dora. Dora, this is Grandma C.”

Nothing more, nothing less. No mention of “girlfriend” or “lover.”

Grandma C lit up, “It’s so nice to meet you,” she said. “I’m just glad someone can love my granddaughter,” she laughed, as she stood up to embrace Dora in a big bear hug.

“It’s not easy,” Dora retorted, “but I certainly try.”

So, there they were, making fun of me. That didn’t matter. What mattered was that my grandmother loved me, she loved my girlfriend, and she had it all figured out. Dora was always welcome at family dinners, holiday get-togethers, and even Grandma C’s death bed. Despite our breakup, to Grandma C, Dora was still part of the family.

A lot of people preach that Christianity is ultimately about love. Grandma C was one of the rare few who truly practiced what she preached. Though she will be sorely missed, I’m comforted by the fact that her legacy of love lives on. And I pray, in my nonreligious way, that more people will offer the world that same spirit of unconditional love.

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Spreading The Love

Cancer sucks. I learned this when my dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. I was five years old. Furthermore, cancer not only affects the individual, but whole families and communities.

The good thing is that some cancers can be detected early.

Danger S.

Stephanie (aka Disaster S.) of the Tallahassee Roller Girls was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. Despite quick treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer has spread. She is now receiving Hospice care, according to the event’s Facebook page. (You can read more about Stephanie’s story here.)

The derby community has rallied around her, founding Spread the Love, “a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to fund-raising in order to support those like Stephanie who are fighting cervical cancer and promoting awareness of the importance of early detection through regular testing.” Currently, the money being raised is going to Stephanie cover her daily expenses, although in the future, they hope to expand to help others fight cervical cancer and provide assistance in the prevention and detection of cervical cancer. Unfortunately, we live in a country where many do not get preventative care or simple screenings until it is too late.

Today, I attended a fundraiser where many of the derby girls shaved their heads, as the result of having met their fund-raising goals. It was a powerful testament to the power of friendships, sisterhood, and teammates. (NOTE TO SELF: Possibly way to expand research on women in athletics. Beyond gendered bodies, sisterhood and bonding?)

Low Maim getting her head shaved, having exceeded her fund-raising goal of $500.

It was moving, and I wanted to share.

And for women and all cervix possessing folks, get your pap smears. Yes, it sucks, but really, it only takes a few seconds out of your year.

Current Obsession: Andrea Gibson

Andrea Gibson. I can’t get enough of her.

I’ve always loved slam poetry. I love the lyricism, the rhythm,  the word play. I love the brutal honestly, the hard truths. Now, I love Andrea Gibson.

I was lucky enough to see her perform the other night. I was even more lucky to be sitting all of about five feet away. I was also the lucky one to give her a piece of honey candy when her throat was scratchy.  And lucky enough to get a hug and be told that my “adorable smile made performing more fun” and that she likes my candy. (I may or may not have a huge crush…)

Anyways, back to the topic at hand. Her delivery was amazing. Despite touring over half the year, her performance seemed fresh. She is anti-war, dubious of organized religion, and supportive of all things queer- and unapologetic about all of it. That boldness is refreshing.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough cash to buy her CDs and book, but I will be ordering them online. I encourage you to do the same.  At the very least, at least check out her videos on Youtube.

And now I will leave you with a couple of my favorites: for anyone who has ever worked with children, for anyone who has ever been in love, and for those of us who dream of a more just world.

Why I’ve Been a Bad Blogger

The last few weeks have been intense.

My beloved grandmother passed away this evening.

I’ve been struggling with some “what do I want” and “how do I get it” issues, coupled with some further thoughts on labeling my identity.

I’ve had some interesting conversations with my parents and the ex.

All of these are things I plan to explore more fully.

In the mean time, here are some gender related things that I have been meaning to blog about, but haven’t had the time or energy:

  • International Olympic Committee recommends gender testing centers, via AP. There are so many things that could be said about this.
  • According to a post on Genderfork, H&M’s Spring 2010 collection includes skirts for men. Yahoo is not so impressed. Personally, I like the look.
  • Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin teams up with Supergirl, of DC Comics, to create the “Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup.” Empowering experience for young female gymnast or disgusting corporate tie-in?

Sexualizing Collegiate Gymnastics

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m a big gymnastics fan. I’ve recently come to love college gymnastics for the publicity it gives the sport, as well as the opportunity it allows for athletes to continue competing beyond their teen years.

When the gymnastics word starting applauding University of Utah’s new wesbsite, I was pretty excited. That is, until I looked at the actual website.

Utah Gymnastics: opening page

The opening page features the gymnasts. However, it features them all made-up, displaying their asses to the camera. Wouldn’t it be more fitting for them to be engaged in their actual sport? Maybe they should be pictured with their hair they way they might actually wear it. Those cute side bangs are a  total safety nightmare. [Added 1/7/09: This picture is not awful by any means. It’s even sorta cute. I’m pretty sure my friends and I took a similar picture before our senior prom. It just isn’t the best depiction available. Why cute?] It’s not new, we like to glam up female athletes. But honestly, I’m pretty sure gymnastics already has enough glam.

It only gets worse.

Utah Gymnastics: Tradition

I’ll give credit when credit is due: at least this gymnast is engaged in activity. However, we never see her face. The primary focus of this photo is her butt and her legs. (That funky looking rash under her left cheek might suggest a doctor’s visit is in order). The individual’s feat of athleticism and flexibility is unimportant. It’s all about the body.

This one is my favorite. I get the feeling the photographer shoots porn for his other job. Arched back as though mid-orgasm, check! Bedroom eyes, check! Airbrushed legs, check! Asian woman to fulfill the hyper-sexual and submissive stereotype, check and check!

Utah, as the #2 ranked team, I’m disappointed. Gymnastics is already struggling with its reputation. Gymnastics is already sexualized enough, as are college aged women. Why not show your gymnasts for the athletes they really are?

Now this is impressive!

[Added 1/7/09: The “Attendance picture” has been replaced by a montage of the stadium and this still shot:

It might not be as exciting, but I am pretty sure this better demonstrates Utah’s high rates of attendance than the back-arched photo.

I’m still surprised when internet uproar leads to change.]

Sharing: Ghetto Ballet

I’m not a big television person, but when I do laundry at the ‘rents, I enjoy flipping on their flat screen TV and checking out what is “On Demand.”

Today, I came across the HBO documentary Ghetto Ballet. The documentary profiles several young dancers enrolled at Dance for All, South Africa’s first ballet-training program for youth from Cape Town’s poorest townships. The film offers a glimpse into the escape, dreams, and opportunities that ballet offers these young students. As a former dancer myself, I was fascinated. Moreover, I was impressed that the film explored issues of body ideals and poverty (This once again struck a personal chord, as I quit ballet largely because I tired of being told how my body was “wrong.”).

At 33 minutes in length, a lot was left out. However, it’s still an interesting documentary for anyone interested in the arts, Africa, dance, or youth in developing countries. It’s worth half an hour of your time.

The Personal and the Internet

My initial idea was for this blog to be an exploration of feminism and queerness. There is so much to say on both topics. There is so much in the media, and there is so much left out of the media. But, right now, I am struggling with how to approach these topics in a public forum.

As soon as I start examining queerness (and to a lesser extent, feminism), I relate it to the personal. Now don’t get me wrong, this is one of things I love about blogs. They meld facts with experiences, news with anecdotes. In blogs I can read about an individual’s journeys, while also exploring theories. Mr. Sexsmith’s Sugarbutch Chronicles does this amazingly.

I want to be that amazing. However, there are three things holding me back.

First, I’m not convinced that I can do this effectively. Back in the day, I had a Live Journal, a Dead Journal, and a Free Open Diary. Even when my entries started off intelligently, they devolved into the self-absorbed ramblings of an emotional teenager. I’d like to think I’m a bit more level-headed these days, but I can’t be too sure.

On the next level, I’m apprehensive because the things that are most on my mind are the hardest for me to talk about. As I explore queerness, it inevitable leads to sexual orientation, and sexual desire, and what I want and need and desire (and then back to how this is queer). It’s exciting as I become more aware of my desires, but it’s also scary. There is this underlying fear of being judged, and I know I will be by some people. I can talk about things with certain friends, but not others. And this realm is only the second thing I absolutely cannot discuss with my mother. I know I need to talk and write and explore, and this could be a good place to do that. But, it’s still scary.

Finally, I am worried about privacy. In this day and age, most privacy is dead. I know I can protect the identities of friends and acquaintances through pseudonyms or fictionalized accounts. Of course, I’d ask before I posted anything too revealing about anyone else. I’m more concerned about managing my online identities. The simple fact is, I work with children. Anything I do or say could be used against me. I feel like it’s one thing if I blog about feminism in the news, but it’s another to explore issues with my own queer identity. I’m about to edit my “101” and provide less identifying details. Maybe change my “author” name to something even less identifiable. But other than that, the more personal I get, the more theoretical risk I’m taking. (It’s better than it used to be, sexual orientation and gender expression just became protected statuses in my workplace, although I’m not sure when these changes take effect.)

In case you can’t tell, I’m still working on my conclusion to this. Supportive comments or suggestion on how you meld the personal into your blogging would be appreciated.