Posts Tagged ‘ queries ’

Word Search: He/She/Ze, Boyfriend/Girlfriend/???

One of my friends, Lo, is dating someone who prefers gender neutral pronouns. That is simple enough. She will say, “Ze called me this morning” or “I need to call zir back.”

Lo was talking about her relationship and I noted that she kept using the term “my boyfriend.” I asked her why, and she admitted that she didn’t know what else to use.

We discovered a language problem.

In a relationship where one person identifies as something other than male or female, “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” do not work. We decided that the terms “partner” and “significant other” seem too formal and imply a degree of longevity or commitment that might not be there. Omitting the gender and simply referring to them as “friend” denies the shared relationship. “Special friend” sounds ridiculous.

And so, we are posing a question. What terminology exists to acknowledge a relationship with someone who identifies as genderqueer or otherwise outside of the binary? Is there a good word to say “Ze is my ____”? If not, let’s make one up. What would you suggest?

I Don’t Know What To Title This

First, I apologize for the absence. Between dealing with major life changes and preparing for more major life changes, blogging has taken a back seat. Coupled with thoughts about things I don’t even know how to begin thinking about, I’ve been reluctant to write and share.

But here I am.

We’ve all heard the statistics:

In the United States, a woman is raped every six minutes.

One in six American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Globally, one in three women and girls has been beaten or sexually abused.

One in every four or five college aged women will experience attempted or completed rape during their college years.

The depressing statistics could go on and on, with only minor variations according to who is reporting in what year.

Until recently, none of this had ever hit close to home. Sure, I had an acquaintance in my 9th grade American History class that divulged that she had been raped. She was just a classmate though, and “it was a long time ago.”

Clearly there is a lot that could be said here about society and the culture of rape. I want to place that all aside. My question for you is: What someone reveals that they were sexually assaulted, what can you do as a supportive friend or lover? What if it was recent? What if it was in the distant past? What helps? What hurts? Personal anecdotes as well as scientific research are equally appreciated.

Let’s Talk About Books

I love books. I love the feel of thin pages between my fingers. I love how the spine creaks when you open a brand new edition. I love sharing books. I love giving them as presents. I love rummaging through piles of books at garage sales or thrift stores. I love getting lost in a story.

And of course, I love reading books.

I recently speed through Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The introduction was a little bit slow, but once I got into the body of the text, I couldn’t put it down. It combined the excitement and mountaineering adventures of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air with the boldness and unconventionality of Dr. Paul Farmer as profiled in Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains. Couple that with stories of female education and empowerment (a la Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran), and you have a book that everyone should read. It’s one of those stories that proves that vision and determination can lead to social change, and that something small can turn into something much bigger. Three Cups of Tea certainly has its share of hard facts, but it provides the dream of an uplifting future, even in regions where the Taliban sometimes control civilization.

[NOTE: Apparently, a sequel entitled “Stones into Schools” was released in December 2009. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan on it.]

And this brings me to my next item of discussion. I need book recommendations. As you may or may not have gathered, I will soon be starting a graduate program in Women’s/Gender/Sexuality Studies. Since,  beginning in August, I’ll be reading and writing nonstop for the next two, five, six, or twelve years, I figure I might as well get started now.

  • While my undergraduate work allowed me to explore a variety of women’s and gender issues both national and internationally, theory was largely absent. I need both feminist theory and queer theory. What are those works you consider essential reading?
  • More specifically, one of my primary research interests concerns gender and athletics, particurally gender in what has historically been considered “feminine sport.” (I’m thinking figure skating, gymnastics, beach volleyball…) I’ve found some work on men (and to a lesser extent, women) in boxing and wrestling, as well as a bit of work on “the body in sport.” However, if anyone has interesting suggestions concerning gender (especially femininity) in sport, I’d love to hear.
  • My second research interest considers how non-binary gender identities are presented in the media. While I plan to explore the academic writing in this area, I’d love to be pointed towards any books/magazine articles that present transgendered, genderqueer, or otherwise gender-variating individuals. I’d be especially interested in this portrayal in young adult lit, although I haven’t searched out if such books even exist.
  • The last request is the most personal. I have this complicated and uncomfortable relationship with the term “femme” and even I can’t quite figure out quite where my discomfort is coming from. What are your favorite books on queer femininity and butch/femme identities?

My friends, followers, and random passerbyers, please share. Let’s talk about books, baby.

Kissing Girls at Age Four

One of my adorable little gymnasts, “Becca,” can’t keep her hands to herself. She also can’t keep her lips to herself.

All she wants to do is stand next to her friend “Lindsey.” When Lindsey isn’t expecting it, Becca leans in and gently kisses her cheek, whispering, “I love you.”

They are both four years old.

We have been working on the “keep your hands to yourself” thing. As Becca pointed out, “my lips aren’t my hands.” Now we have to work on the “respect your teammate’s personal space” thing.

So, Becca is four. She’s learning that it isn’t okay to kiss her friends. Truth be told, it really isn’t appropriate behavior for the middle of gymnastics class, but I still like to kiss my friends. I’d much rather see preschoolers kissing than see them fighting. I’d rather hear them saying “I love you” than calling each other “meanies.”

I suppose it’s a balance between letting kids be kids and teaching them how to behave appropriately in society. I know that by kindergarten, I had figured out I wasn’t allowed to kiss my friends at school. Away from school, however, many smooches were shared, along with showers and sleeping bags.

Aged three, my brother proudly declared that he loved both Natalie and Caleb. “We aren’t going to get married,” he said, “That’s too much. The three of us are just going to live together.” That, and kiss under the stairs at preschool.

By 4th grade, my classmates had suddenly taken an interest in the opposite sex. To combat the rampant “dating” going on during recess, the teachers banned hand-holding. My friend Meagan and I, always rebellions, proudly proclaimed, “We are just kids. We can skip across the playground hand in hand if we want!” And we did. That is, until later in they year when one of my classmates decided Ginger Spice was a lesbian (Really? Ginger Spice? Even young gaydar should have suspected Sporty or Scary). Meagan and I didn’t want to be lesbians. We stopped holding hands. Our protest was over.

My best friend and I bathed and cuddled together well through elementary school and perhaps into middle school. Then, one day, it changed. At one of our many sleepovers she announced, “I’m going to go take my shower now.” It was a fact, not an invitation.

I’ll admit that I kiss friends now. With a few, it’s a greeting. We’ve lived in Europe, we’re so cosmopolitan, we’re affectionate my nature, whatever. With others, it’s sexual in nature. We might be friends first, but sometimes we are also sexual adults who decide to act on that.

Excluding the final example, when did we learn that we shouldn’t kiss our friends? Do you remember? Who said what? How old were you? I only have a female perspective on this, so I’d love to hear from men as well.

Defining Sex

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I like to talk about sex. Inevitably, while talking about sex, the question, “How many people have you had sex with?” comes up. I never know what answer to give.

It’s not that I don’t know how many people I’ve been intimate with. I’m pretty sure I can rattle off a list of everyone I’ve kissed in chronological order. It’s just that I am still figuring out what I define as sex.

As of now, I’ve come to a few conclusions:
I think fucking is sex. Penis in vagina is sex. Dildo in vagina is sex. Anal sex is sex.
I think oral sex is sex. I don’t care if teenagers say they are saving themselves for marriage and a blow job doesn’t count. For me, oral sex is the most intimate of sex acts. That intimacy, to me, is sex.

Other than that, I haven’t decided. One of my friends says it’s sex if you orgasm, but that would mean a lot of married women with children aren’t having sex. Is it sex if it feels good? Where do you draw the line between “fooling around” and having sex? Where do you draw the line between touching and fucking?

I want to know what you think. What do you consider “sex?” I’ll add more later, but I want to hear what other people have to say because my opinions might sway your comments.

Or did whoever say “If you think you’re having sex, you’re having sex” have it all figured out? (Also who was that? I thought it was Alix Olsen, but I can’t seem to find it in any of her lyrics. Was it the Athens Boys Choir?)

On Serving As a Role Model

On Facebook today, I send a friend request to a young woman I believed was my almost-cousin. We had played together as children and I thought it would be nice to reconnect. As it turns out, I did not friend the girl I remembered, but instead, I friended her little sister. [I’ m using “friended” as a verb. Deal.]

Now, I have never met the little sister. I was only vaguely aware that there was a younger sibling out there somewhere. As it turns out, the little sister is a freshman in high school. She still has her braces. By the time she starts college, I may well be working on my dissertation.

As it also turns out, she knows a little about me. When I checked my Facebook inbox this evening, I had an unread message that said, “I don’t want to be too forward but I heard through the grapevine that you just came out of the closet. I just recently came out as well and I was wondering if you had any tips for relationships and whatnot.” [I took the liberty of correcting her grammar and spelling.]

Of course, I am wondering what she was told and by which member of the family. I did not just come out, as I have been out to some people for as long as eight years now, and to my parents for three and half years or so. Still, I have a little baby dyke turning to me for advice.

This isn’t new. During middle school, I attended a school that was kindergarten through eighth grade. When I entered highschool, some of my former schoolmates kept in touch with me and used me for guidance as they entered their teenage years. As part of my job, I work with young women every day. While I am not “out” at work for a variety of reasons, I do my fair share of mentoring- and occasionally, lecturing- in addition to my required coaching . I even co-facilitate a youth group for LGBTQ teenagers. Mostly the participants just want free food, but sometimes we have important conversations. Despite all this, when someone comes to me for advice and my experiences, I can’t help but wonder, “Why me?” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m honored that people look up to me. Still, it always forces me to step back and ask, “How did I get here?”  To be horribly cliche, it seems like just yesterday that I was that lost freshman in high school.

So what do I do? Mostly I listen. When asked, I share my experiences, while reinforcing that I’m just one person with one story.  I often suggest community resources, as well as website or films. I tend to loan out too many books. Then, I listen some more.

What about you? Do you see yourself as a role model? For who? What responsibilities do you feel with this position? Did you want to be a role model or was it thrust upon you? [Added 12/2: How do you reconcile being percieved as an expert, when you know that you are still figuring it all out?] While the above example focuses on being a role model in the queer community, the conversation need not be limited. I want to hear everybody’s thoughts.

A Queer Aesthetic?

Whoever says that feminists are ugly and prudish have never seen the fashion at the National Women Studies Association. When discussing the remarkable style of some of the participants, my former professor (let’s call her Dr.P) asked me, “Do you think those with the great style are lesbians?”

Given my remarkable gaydar, I answered that some seem heterosexual while others do not. The women we were admiring at the moment- a younger Angela Davis in tight jeans, printed tights, a black blazer, chunky heeled boots, topped off with a wild Afro; and her partner, dressed in an understated pinstripe blazer, baggy but tailored jeans, and simple black shoes, complimented by a Monroe piercing- were undoubtedly lesbians. They were kissing.

More generally, however, Dr.P raised a question that has been puzzling me since. Is there a uniquely queer aesthetic? If we focus on women, which we could call my specialty, what is it that sets queer women apart from their ”normative” counterparts? It’s more than a masculinization of femininity, because there seems to be something that also distinguishes queer femme women from their hetero counterparts. What is this aesthetic? Is it just thumb rings and pinstriped vests? Is there something deeper, a certain idea of beauty, art, and attractiveness?

I’m thinking the answer is “yes.” I’m also thinking that “yes” is hardly an answer.

Your thoughts, please.