Monday, November 12, 2012

Reminiscing

I found this piece in a journal of mine. The person I'm writing about has been in my thoughts a lot lately. She has given me so much strength over these few years, I hope by posting this the universe will send some positive energy her way.

Incense, sweet and mellow fills the room. I sit, drinking bourbon on the rocks. I inhale the smoky sweet incense smell and my nostrils sting as it melds with the sharp wooden tones of the bourbon. Ice cubes clink as I tilt the glass idly from side to side. I murmur in contentment, my back resting against the alter. My friend reenters her bedroom- sipping her own bourbon. She smiles at me and I smile back. Strangely, I sense that she is less comfortable with me in her own bedroom that I with her in this foreign place. I think that maybe it is because this place is not so unusual to me, filled as it is with things that remind me of her. She seems to be struggling to fit my oddness into her normality.

I feel that I understand her more than she does me. I scold my ego. She comes to sit by me, invites me to the bed. I decline, thinking that this alter behind me is a grounding point that promotes my sense of security. I look fondly at the alter. I see many things that somehow comfort me. There is the incense gently smoldering on a hand-carved stand, its tendrils of smoke writing messages in a forgotten language. Coins are scattered about on a deep purple cloth, along with pictures of her ex lovers, including my current girlfriend. I'm filled with empathy and happiness for the love they once shared and the new kind of love that keeps them emotionally close even when their correspondance is strained.

My eyes settle on a thin object that is rectangular in form and covered by a dark piece of crushed velvet.  The image entices me and I feel my graze linger.

"For scrying," says my friend- observant as always.

 I blush, thinking that she must have have been watching me. Something about this brief exchange stirs my unconscious, I think I see something glimmer, bright and vibrant green out of the corner of my eye. I turn my head, but the sparkle s gone.

"Strange," I murmur.

 "What is?"

 I shrug her inquiry off. She nods in understanding and reaches into the cubby in her nightstand. I watch her fingers enviously. I admire their long, straight, strength. Eventually, she pulls out a book. It seems familiar  but not in a placeable way: The Last Poems of Planet Earth, she begins to read.

Though she stumbles over the words. I can't help but feel drawn to her voice. I've missed being read allowed to. I take a turn reading and am filled with a hunger to continue devouring the words on the page. She compliments me on my reading. I feel my cheeks redden yet again at her compliment. The hour grows late and the bourbon in my glass makes me feel fuzzy. I catch myself looking lustfully at the warm softness of her bed. She, observant as always, acknowledges my look and lies down. I snuggle in beside her and we pass the night the night that way, grounded in our mutual fondness and caressed by the the whispering smoke from the incense.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Glossary (comments welcome, as always)

For one of my classes this semester I was asked to make a glossary. It was too much work not to share it. Haha. Also, this is for an intro class, so it has a lot of holes and a few problematic points. I hope it does the job.For one of my classes this semester I was asked to make a glossary. It was too much work not to share it. Haha. Also, this is for an intro class, so it has a lot of holes and a few problematic points. I hope it does the job. Comments welcome!


Glossary:
The following is a collection of terms likely to come up in our discussions this semester and beyond about gender and sexuality. The goal of this collection is to act as a starting place for our discussions. The following glossary is to be used as a guide, but not to be seen as firm definitions. Gender and sexuality vary immensely from person to person and definitions may change based on the intersectionalities of those involved. Please, keep in mind that the best way to describe someone is to find out how they self-identify and to use the terms and pronouns that they are comfortable with. Feel free to make notes on these definitions to add to their depth and also to add your own terms that did not make it on this list, which is by no means complete.
• Sex: Assigned at birth based on biological factors, such as internal and external genitalia, hormones, and chromosomes. It is important to realize that these factors are measured against socially determined standards for what it considered “male”, “female”, or “ambiguous”.
• Gender: Socially constructed bank of roles, behavioral expectations, and presentations based on a person’s levels of masculinity and femininity. Note that gender expectations vary cross-culturally.
o Gender Identity: One’s internal sense of their actual gender. This may be different that the gender they are perceived as by society and may be incongruent from the expectations of gender based on biological sex. There are many different gender identities and it is important for people to self-identify their own rather than to be categorized against their will.
o Gender Expression: How one presents their gender. This consists of clothing, behavior, patterns of speech, etc.
o Gender Identity Disorder (GID): “A controversial DSM-IV diagnosis given to transgender and other gender-variant people” (Really Awesome Trans Glossary). This diagnosis refers to the gender identity of a person being incongruent with their assigned sex and therefore assumed gender. The term is controversial because it has been used to pathologize trans* individuals and to treat their gender identity as a malady.
o Gender Dysphoria: Feelings of intense dissatisfaction and malaise towards one’s assigned sex and gender.
• Sexual Orientation: The summary of a person’s physical, emotional, spiritual, etc., attraction to others. Note that sexual orientation is separate from gender identity. A trans man may be attracted to other men and would like self-identify as gay, or could be attracted to women and may identify as straight.
o Sexual Expression: The sexual/romantic behavior of an individual. Sexual expression may or may not reflect sexual orientation. A self-identified bisexual woman may have sexual or romantic relationships with women the majority of the time, but that does not indicate that their sexual orientation has changed. Similarly, a self-identified gay man may have sexual or romantic relationships with women, but still identify as gay with complete validity.
• AMAB/AFAB: An acronym meaning assigned male/female at birth.  Often indicating that the individual had no choice in the assignment and that it may or may not reflect their actual identity.
• Intersex: “Describes a person whose natal physical sex is physically ambiguous. Parents and medical professionals usually assign intersex infants a sex and perform surgical operations to conform the infant's body to that assignment, but this practice has become increasingly controversial as intersex adults are speaking out” (Really Awesome Trans Glossary). The term, “hermaphrodite” is typically seen today as improper when referring to the intersex community as it is laced with misconceptions, discrimination, and misinformation about intersex individuals.
• Cross Dresser: Someone who dresses in the clothing typical of the gender assumed opposite of their own gender. Cross-dressing behavior or identity does not indicate sexual orientation. Many self-identified straight men engage in this behavior and it does not mean that they are homosexual. This behavior should also not be used as an indicator of a trans* identity. The term transvestite is today often seen as inappropriate or offensive. Cross dresser is the preferred term.
• Femme: Can be used to indicate an identity, presentation, or behavior relating to gender. Though often associated with lesbian communities, “femme” is not necessarily indicative of “womanhood”, rather it is used to indicate leanings towards femininity. For instance, a male-identified person may also identify as femme, or feminine.
• Butch: Similar to femme, but on the masculine end of the scale. Once again, this term is often used in the context of a lesbian community, but “butch” may be an entirely independent gender identity or may indicate feelings of masculinity. One may identify as butch in tandem with another gender identity or by itself, i.e. butch, butch trans woman, butch man, butch genderqueer, etc.
• Drag: Extravagant, dramatic, performative gender, usually as a vehicle of entertainment. Most commonly thought of in terms of cross dressing, but any combination of gender identity and sex can enact any gender in drag. For example, a female-identified person could act as a drag queen successfully, just as a male-identified person could act as a drag king.
• Trans*: An umbrella term representing a multitude of gender identities that involve identifying, outside of, in-between, and across gender binary (masculine, feminine) lines.
o Transgender: A person who identifies across from the gender assigned along with their sex at birth. Trans woman is a term indicating someone who identifies as feminine/female, but who was AMAB. Trans man indicates someone who identifies as masculine/male who was AFAB.
o Transsexual: A term that usually refers to someone identifying across from their assigned gender/sex who is seeking to transition. Note that both “transsexual” and “transgender” should be applied to individuals based on how they self-identify.
o Intergender/Genderqueer: A term of some ambiguity that can refer to a range of gender identities. Often genderqueer people identify as androgynous, or in between masculine and feminine. However, genderqueers may also identify as outside of gender norms completely.
o Genderfluid: Similar to genderqueer, but indicative of gender variation throughout an individual’s life. This may mean that they see their gender as constantly in flux, or it could be that they shift slowly from one gender identity to another.
o Bigender: Refers to someone who identifies as both masculine and feminine. This could mean that they see themselves as primarily one or the other at certain times or that they exist in a consistent combination of masculine and feminine.
o Gender fucking(er): Someone who intentionally uses their gender expression/identity to challenge cultural norms surrounding gender.
• Cis: Where “trans” means “across” in Latin, “Cis” means “the same”.
o Cisgender: Someone whose gender identity/expression is consistent with their assigned birth sex.
o Cissexual: Someone who does not seek to transition physically due to having a body that is socially congruent with their gender identity.
• Chaser: A person who eroticizes or fetishizes someone based on their gender or sexual identity. Often this term is used to describe cis individuals who dehumanize trans* individuals, often in a sexual context.
• Passing: The notion that a person’s identity is able to go unnoticed when they wish. In a gender context, a person who is passing may be a trans woman who is seen as having an outwardly appearance and or behavior that renders her able to disappear among other women, unless she chooses to out herself as trans. Passing is complicated by the fact that who passes as what is socially determined and out of the hands of the individual. Rather, it is society who decides if a person passes. “Passing” in some ways cannot be defined because the nuances of what qualifies vary widely. Passing may refer to things outside of gender or sexual orientation including race, social class, etc.
o Passing Privilege: The idea that a person able to “pass” as their identified self is able to avoid some challenges that those with less passing privileges may face. This may include not being seen as a target for violence or discrimination, or may come down to whether or not someone is interpreted as “other” by society.
• Transphobia: Fear, distrust, hatred, etc. of Trans individuals and Transconcepts that can lead to violence, “othering”, and discrimination.
• Homophobia: Fear, distrust, hatred, etc. of homosexuals and homosexual concepts that can lead to violence, “othering”, and discrimination.
• Heteronormativity: The assumption that heterosexuality is unnatural, normal, expected, or mandatory. This concept can be enacted through non-inclusion of non-heterosexual identities or non-cis identities. Contributes to the “othering” of identities that fall outside of heterosexual and cissexual expectations.
• Transition: The process of physically and mentally becoming congruent with one’s gender identity and physicality. The terms below are often used to describe various aspects of transition. Note that no one should have to be reduced to their body parts and that each of these terms is not a stage or a step, but a part of transition for some people.
o Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Gradually taking hormones to become physically and mentally congruent with one’s gender identity and physicality.
o Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS): The act of undergoing a surgery or combination of surgeries to alter one’s physicality into a state congruent with one’s gender identity.
o Non-op: A trans* individual not seeking surgical procedures in transition.
o Pre-op: A trans* individual who is seeking surgical procedures in transition, but who has not yet undergone said procedures.
o Post-op: A trans* individual who has undergone surgical procedures in transition.
o Top Surgery: Refers to surgical procedures to remove the breasts of a trans* individual.
o Bottom Surgery: Refers to surgical procedures to remove/alter/construct the genitalia of a trans* individual to help them physically align with their gender identity.
• Queer: Can be used as an umbrella term for the GLBTQQIIAAP community (that’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, intergender, ally, asexual, pansexual.) Or can be a separate identity. Queer can mean different things to different people. For this definition, queer is a term that refers to an individual who identifies under the trans umbrella and also identifies within the homosexual umbrella, often as bisexual or pansexual.
• Monosexual: A sexual orientation based around one gender.
o Lesbian: A woman who has a sexual orientation geared towards romantic, sexual, or spiritual relationships with other women.
o Gay: A man who has a sexual orientation geared towards romantic, sexual, or spiritual relationships with other men.
o Straight (heterosexual): A man or a women who has a sexual orientation geared towards romantic, sexual, or spiritual relationships with genders opposite from their own.
• Multisexual: A sexual orientation based around multiple genders.
o Pansexual: An individual who has a sexual orientation geared towards romantic, sexual, or spiritual relationships with other individuals without stipulations of gender identity.
o Bisexual: An individual who has a sexual orientation geared towards romantic, sexual, or spiritual relationships with other individuals who are male or female identified.
o Heteroflexible: An individual who is primarily heterosexually identified, but has a sexual orientation that is open to romantic, sexual, or spiritual relationships with same gender partners.
o Homoflexible: An individual who is primarily homosexually identified, but has a sexual orientation that is open to romantic, sexual, or spiritual relationships with opposite gender partners.
• Asexual: An individual who has little to no interest in sexual partners. However, this individual may still seek out romantic partners and may consider themselves gay, lesbian, pansexual, straight, etc. based on their preferences toward genders of their romantic partners.
• Aromantic: An individual who has little to no interest in romantic partners. Often aromantic individuals identify as asexual as well, but this is not necessarily the case.
• Monogamy: A relationship style wherein the individuals involved have only one sexual and or romantic partner.
• Polyamory/nonmonagamy: A relationship style where the individuals may have more than one romantic or sexual partner with the knowledge and consent of all parties involved.
• Ally: An individual who acts in support of marginalized communities. In the case of the GLBTQQIIAAP community, an ally acts in support of those who are marginalized specifically for their gender or sexual identities.
Terminology to avoid/pejorative terms:
The communities of which they apply see most of the following terms as highly offensive. However, in some cases, individuals may self-identify as these terms, in which case identities should be respected, though it is important to understand the history of such terms and to look at their influences on communities most affected. There are many other terms not on this list, which is a brief sampling of words out of an ocean of defamatory language. Use common sense and be respectful if you have a question about whether or not how you are referring to an individual or a community is appropriate or offensive.
Bio male/female or genetic male/female, she-male, trap, reverse trap, he-she, it, tgirl, tboy, tranny, dick girl, lady-boy, chicks with dicks, runts with cunts, hermaphrodite, transvestite, faggot, fag-hag, fruit fly, dyke, etc.
Sources:
“A Really Awesome Trans Glossary” by erinhoudini 
https://docs.google.com/document/edit?id=1YKAAZgij2… (used with permission)
Transgender Warriors by Leslie Feinberg (1997)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dating my Dysphoria


This summer, I am enrolled in a creative writing class. A lot of what I'm writing is gender/sexuality related. I thought I would share a couple of experimental pieces with you all.

 Dating My Dysphoria (Draft 2)

            I met him online. He was intriguing and mysterious and all those wonderful things that everybody thinks they want in a partner, but which never play out in the end. Early on I felt an intense connection with him, something that I could not quite put my finger on. In all honesty, he wasn’t very nice and he was arrogant. I liked him more for it. He was often cold and always distant. He rarely talked about himself. Each tidbit about who he was only made me more curious. As time went on I became aware of how similar we were to each other. In some ways I felt like being with him was like watching myself. Every move he made seemed perfectly in sync with my own movements.
            I began to notice physical similarities between myself and him. The way his eyes shone green with flecks of gold, the way his hair curled around his shoulders. When we were apart I would state at myself in the mirror and pick my features apart comparing the two of us. I realized that it was sort of creepy how obsessed with him I had become, but I could not get enough of him.
            Over time, his distance began to fade and he became softer, warmer. He would lie in bed next to me and talk about his insecurities and he would pull me close and whisper in my ear that he needed me. I pushed back at him, I demanded to know what had changed in him, constantly questioning what was wrong. I had grown comfortable with our relationship and its oddness. I appreciated the awkward barriers that I no longer felt as such, but rather truths that strengthened our connection. He was hurt by my suspicion, I could feel that, but I could not bear to let him relax- to become too close to me.
            I became afraid of the bond we had formed. It was too strong, too familiar. It seemed dangerous. He dominated my personality and I submitted, but not with my affection. I kept my emotions away from him even as he became more vulnerable. Part of me was worried that beign so physically and mentally similar that if I shared my emotions with him that we would meld and that my identity would be lost. I realized later how na├»ve I was for this anxiety. The relationship couldn’t last. Where his initially distant attitude had drawn me to him, my behavior drove him away. My obsession grew as his desire flickered. Eventually, he stopped returning my calls. I felt lost. It was a peculiar feeling, not like the heartbreak I had faced in the past. This was new, and I could not describe the feelings welling up inside me. My identity seemed lost. I wondered if we had melded after all. It took a long time for me to start to understand what had happened in that relationship. I began to realize that physically we had nothing in common, something I should have known after all that time looking in the mirror, I guess I hadn’t really been seeing.
            One day it clicked into place. It was not that we actually looked alike, but rather that he looked like I feel I would look as a boy. It was a complicated idea, which may not translate well onto paper. With this understanding came a wealth of pain. Every day it became more apparent that my attraction to him had been less about my interest in dating him and more about my interest in being him…or being like him. It is all confusing, as I am sure the readers of this might feel right now. It is not that I feel transgender exactly, but maybe it is similar.
            The reality is that I have always thought of myself as foundationally male with a female outer layer. Maybe that makes me genderqueer. Maybe it just makes me weird. I admit that I am not sure. I do know that through this experience I have found that I am often attracted to similar kinds of men who are arrogant and distant and sad, but who I see myself in and therefore cannot rest their company. Despite this, I feel especially delicate around them. The connection formed is immediate, strong, and dangerous.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pools


I know better than to be here
stretched out on the grass
Cool moonlight pooling around he and I,
Habitat for mosquitoes.

Come with me into this scene beneath the willows
The spring sugar smell
Playing like a lute-
Lifting he and I up
Laughing.

The song is deceptive,
Juxtaposed against a canvas bought with unearned money
Painted upon by another’s hand
And stolen-
 touted as my own.

I forget that I should not be here,
Stretched out on the grass
Cool moonlight pooling around he and I,
A lamb for the slaughter.




His eyes tell another story,
They reassure me,
The hour is late,
Salty, grey light pierces the black veil

I forget myself-
there beneath the willows.
My caution turned to wanderlust in the wind
And lost.

I know that I should not be
Stretched out on the grass,
Cool moonlight pooling around he and I,
Creeping morning reminds me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Riding the Fourth Wave


 I recently asked one of my professors how they thought that a second wave perspective on feminism might see a fourth wave perspective. My professor responded disappointingly saying that to even answer my question I would have to prove to her that there is a fourth wave. I should have raised my hand and said that I was all the proof I had immediately accessible. However instead, I was shocked into silence. I could not believe that in a women’s studies class that seems on the surface interested in promoting inclusive ideas and recognizing the varying identity of her students a professor would dismiss an entire movement built on those principles. In that moment I felt erased as I often feel in women’s studies class set in a second wave mind frame.  I believe that it is important for a new academic understanding of feminism that is reflective of feminism practiced in the real world. Within our halls of higher learning it often seems that our views are outdated, wrapped in uninclusive ideas and built on a resolve to reject new developments in the feminist movement. I believe that as our discussions on feminism stand now, we are leaving out people of color, queer and trans individuals, and we often continue to teach texts that promote ethnocentrism, classism, ableism, heteronormativity, and white supremacy.
            bell hooks writes that “feminism is for everybody,” but I argue that in acadamia that is rarely the case. Too often queer people, people of color, trans people, disabled people, etc are brought up as a unit within a curriculum rather than as an integrated part of the curriculum. As a queer identified genderqueer I often feel like my identity is left out entirely in my courses. More concerning still I that if genderqueers or pansexual queers are mentioned it is often allocated to myself or other students of those identities to provide the definition to our peers of what those identities mean. Rarely are the complications of a marginalized identity fleshed out even in my upper division classes. Rather it is felt that the mention of these identities existence is more than adequate. The result is an introduction of marginalized identities that either under represents or misrepresents them. I often watch as people of color are put into the same uncomfortable position wherein they are required to speak for their entire community and explain to a curious class how it is for “insert identity here” people in “insert situation here”.
            Instead of students being put into the position of sole educator in matters of their own identities, professors need to be more conscious and informed so that they can be the ones to provide the information. Otherwise, these discussions are spotlighting, and likely to result in the student feeling put on the spot and the subsequent information may not be the most beneficial to a class’ understanding. This is not to say that students should not be welcomed into the dialogue to discuss their personal perspectives and add their own identities into the discussion. However, students should not be held as primarily responsible for the education of their peers. Otherwise what could have been a productive class discussion around inclusivity turn into a sideshow with those of marginalized identities under the gaze of a class of spectators? No one should feel like a freak on display in a classroom. 
            In discussing the lack of welcoming and inclusivity of people of color in feminist movements, bell hooks discusses women of color being invited to discussions, but only for show. The women of color were not asked to contribute to the discussion unless asked to provide a tokenist response now and again to give the meetings the flavor of inclusivity. This self-satisfying approach of bourgeois white women from second wave feminism is echoed today with the continued exclusion of women of color and queer individuals. It is not uncommon for my courses to include a unit on people of color, or on homosexuals. These discussions rarely go deeper than to define certain terms or to relate the status of people of color in American society to class issues. The danger here is that if these identities are not given a proper voice in the classroom students either neglect to consider them or find themselves making false assumptions about those who claim these identities.
            In my experience, when suggestions are made about ways to create more inclusive and comfortable classroom environments these suggestions are largely ignored. The argument is often that there is not enough time, or that a course is only meant to cover the basics. If this is the excuse at a 4000 level course, I ask you, when is feminism 201 which will make space for these identities to be explored? Currently, I feel the impression one is left with after taking many of these courses is that marginalized identities are interesting side note which have no place in the larger movement of feminism. Queer people, disabled people, people of color, intersex people, trans people, etc, are too minority to be worth spending valuable class time considering. I believe this mentality translates into research, presentations, and conversations outside of the classroom. The other category I overflowing with unrepresented identities begging for a voice, but the same curriculum, focusing on the same middle and upper class white women and men is regurgitated in the classroom. Second wave feminism reigns supreme, unless third wave temporarily takes the spotlight largely in order to be degraded as raunch culture, female chauvinism, and the death of feminism. Only in a handful of my courses have I heard mention of fourth wave feminism and in even fewer has it actually been discussed.
            It is interesting to me that there is an extreme rejection of conversations around the fourth wave in many of my classes. As a self-identified fourth wave-feminist, I see this dismissal as a further example of ways in which certain topics are left out or defamed in my courses. I see fourth wave feminism as a movement that is queer inclusive as well as oppression and discrimination aware. It focuses around discussions of privilege and ethnocentrism, seeks to revalue femininity and to allow space for gender expressions that do not meet the standards of hegemony. In many ways, I see the fourth wave as inclusive of second wave ideals. Rather than a kind of female chauvinism, the fourth wave seeks for individuals to become informed about systems of patriarchy and to become empowered to make choices about their identity. Fourth wave is not wholly individualistic, but recognizes that different communities have different needs and goals and perspectives and therefore each need their own agency. Fourth wave works as a network of allied communities who work in tandem to buoy each other up while maintaining personal dignity and control over their own movements.
            When my professors tell me that this movement does not exist I feel out casted by people who I thought were my allies. Reading Betty Friedan and thinking about how she believes that the key to ending the problem with no name is for women to go back to school and get work hard to get jobs that fulfill them reminds me of this situation. Friedan’s idea sounds amazing on the surface, but if you read what she has to say you see that she is suggesting that women achieve this not by asking their husbands (heterosexism,) to aid in the housework, but by hiring another woman to do it. This completely overlooks the situation that the housekeeper finds herself in by how it privileges the suburban housewife’s problems and dismisses the maid’s. One woman is receiving attention, is being elevated. Her problems are being discussed and analyzed and a solution is found. For women of color, queer women, women with disabilities the conversation is not to be had. These women are still women are they not? Where is their movement? “Feminism is for everyone,” that’ what bell hooks said. However she knows that feminism with its amorphous definition left all sorts of loopholes for women to oppress other women unchecked.
            We must all be careful that we do not repeat this history. We need to be as progressive a movement as we claim to be. A movement that recognizes our different communities sees that we may have different needs and does not gallop in on our white horse to save the day. Instead, sometimes the best kind of activism is staying home, educating yourself, helping to educate others, letting communities have their own voice and agency, but not perpetuating the idea that marginalized means unworthy of class time. Rather than a unit on homosexuality, people of color, trans people, people with disabilities, etc, we need to be incorporating those perspectives as much as possible into our established curriculum.  
            In order to create more inclusive classrooms, I suggest starting with the material. Choosing authors from a multitude of backgrounds, while making a conscious effort to avoid tokenism is a great way to get voices in the classroom from marginalizes identities. Reading the text will add to student comprehension of concepts and will provide a subtle way of getting often silenced voices heard. Talking about the backgrounds of the authors a professor chooses to include helps students understand where those authors are coming from, helps reveal bias, and can make the text seem more credible. Another good step to a non-spotlighting, inclusive classroom is to invite diverse speakers. Having students do some background on the subject to prepare will help students stay engaged the day of the speaker and productive questions that increase the depth of comprehension are likely to come up. Allowing a speaker to talk about terminology and marginalized identities can have twofold benefit in that students will learn the material from someone who has lived the experiences discussed and no one from within the class will be forced to make themselves vulnerable as they disclose themselves to their peers. Also, it would be beneficial for students who share some of the experiences to feel like they have a voice even if they are not the one speaking. It helps build a sense of community and acceptance as well to see someone who shares part of your identity welcomed into the space as a respected authority. In fact, having a speaker that an otherwise quiet student has similarities with may help to open up that student and increase their participation as they become more comfortable after watching how the classroom receives the things discussed. Students often have something to say if they feel comfortable enough to say it and this is a good opportunity to make that space.
            There are more ways than those I have suggested to make a more inclusive classroom. Ultimately the classroom climate has a lot to do with a professor’s willingness to have difficult discussions at the possible risk of scheduled content being briefly delayed. These conversations are important.  Educators are instructing new and experienced faces of feminism, but there is much we can all learn from each other. It is a disservice to let those opportunities go unclaimed. We need to see over the top of our second wave lenses and realize that the movement did not die. It carries on in the real world and more people are joining all the time. They are welcome, we are welcome, we can make the space out there in the real world. It is time that we made an effort to make that space in the classroom.

            

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Poem


"At the bar, dykes smile and nod my way, connecting butch to butch. Gay men cruise me hard, then look away. The bouncer cards me, surprised when I'm not a 15-year-old boy. The bartender calls me “cripple” and “girl” in a single glance.

In another world at another time, I would have grown up neither boy nor girl, but something entirely different. In English there are no words. All the language we have created – transgender, transsexual, drag queen, drag king, stone butch, high femme, nellie, fairy, bulldyke, he-she, FTM, MTF – places us in relationship to masculine or feminine, between the two, combining the two, moving from one to the other. I yearn for an image to describe my gendered self, not the shadow land of neither boy nor girl, a suspension bridge tethered between negatives. Rather I want a solid ground with bedrock of its own, wish for language to take me to a brand new place neither masculine nor feminine, day nor night, muscle nor bone, stone nor wing."
  
-From the essay “Neither Stone Nor Wing” by Eli Clare, as published in From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond, edited by Morty Diamond © 2004, Manic D Press.

I posted this once before, nearly a year ago if not longer. I find myself coming back to these words as I reflect on my own struggle to find the language for myself. We are all a work in progress, but I'm happy with the stages in the construction. I wrote this poem in Environmental Science during a lecture on policy. If my words are a bit off, I blame the uninspiring atmosphere. Oh and please try not to laugh, I haven't written a poem in a couple year.

Am I a butch star or a femme spiral?
Can I call myself in between without people seeing my identity as viral?
I feel like a fraud in this skirt,
I look at my fingernails and see not polish, but dirt.
Words in my ears bleed me dry,
I look up into the faces of my peers,
Begging them to hear my outcry.
I may force rhymes, but it speaks of the times,
When up the ladder zi climbs,
Only to fall.
Do you hear the call?

Some strange reaction,
Don't get caught up-
 stumble over the sudden attraction.
Maturity is hard to define.
Too much. 
Too little.
Caught trying to find an all too fine a line,
Seeking a space that is mine,
Unable to see the message for the sign.
I zoom out, 
Pan left and am left
bereft,
Searching for a word that speaks,
Honestly,
Fumbling through convoluted language that cannot articulate 
The reality of my locality.

And then, there's this phrase,
Am I genderqueer?
I find comfort in the syllables,
am immediately attached,
I'm protective,
Anxious that it may be taken away
From me by people who see
Labels only as boxes
To be done away with,
Forgetting the embrace:
A cool welcoming,
Without a trace of rejection,
And at last I found a place 
Where my identity isn't rife with infection,
A space I find malleable enough to add my unique inflection
in how I say three syllables which resonate firm and stable and familiar,
Like the drum in my heart,
Repeating,
Three times:
Bum,
Bum,
Bum.

So while some may say the words are thick like tree sap,
They roll off my tongue,
Sweet as syrup,
Lifting me up
And from the word I branch the tree
Of my body
Out
And find a community
Who doesn't look at me
Like I'm crazy
When I explain that my gender is rain
Or at least
How I interact with it-
How rain 
Assuages my pain
And melds with my tears
As over the years
I've seen myself alone
As unknown
To me
A community
Lived through their own rain storms
articulated their laughs
Negotiated their paths
With a three syllable word
That echoes the thunder of their hearts
Wording, titling, connecting,
But never defining-
How could one speak a heartbeat
That goes so much more than
Bum,
Bum
Bum?