things to think about


today I am thinking about: things to do better next year
September 25, 2012, 4:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

1) actually do the thing I said I'd do when trying to apologize for my own racism. stop making it too complicated and just do it already.

2) find space between “IT'S ALL ABOUT ME BITCHEZZZ” and a self-obliterating humility.

3) stop trying to hedge my bets for the best thing at all times. the things I have are amazing. may this be a year of depth, not just breadth.

4) i would like to be at least 35% less needlessly self-critical and 35% more full of integrity.

5) give more dollars to more people on the train. get the rest of my giving back in order.

6) no more settling for good enough but no more letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. If 15 seconds is the difference, do it right, but maybe it doesn't matter so much if I don't have 3 stars on all the levels of my bubble pop game.

7) continue to cultivate a politics of being a good person, not saying the right thing. maybe do this for real this year.

8) learn how to lead without being so ego-driven

9) make even MORE kickass work and focus less on quantity more on quality and what I am excited to do.

10) do better at remembering that just bc you see class, that doesn't mean you get a pass for race.

11) excitement is awesome, but doesn't have to be the ruling force. no commitments I can't follow through on. no flaking by being busy.

12) this year: more friends fewer “oh sometime let's hang out”s

13) here is to balancing more effectively being a sparkle pony and being a kind of normal, if dadly, lez. no apologies and that means no apologies for either one.

14) here is to being kinder, less judgy, less shit-talky, and more wiling to be in someone else's shoes.

 



today i am thinking about: JCPENNEY’S GAY RIGHTS RECORD
February 13, 2012, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Ok guys, now I am going to be that guy, and be obsessed with something. Namely, how much JCPenney’s does or does not love gays.

Because I get it, right, there’s this shop in, it’s awesome, JCP didn’t cave when pressured by the crazy wackadoo right wing, that’s great and how it should be. But are they really so very pro-gay?

Yes, they have basic workplace protections for gay people. How much they are enforced, though, is always hard to tell. So what better way to find out than to look at their political contributions?

(Everything that follows is from opensecrets.org, linked right above.)

So in both the House and the Senate, JCP supports Republican candidates way above Democrats. Since 2006, JCP has spent $306,850 on Republican races, and $105,000 on Democrat ones. It isn’t fair to equate being Republican to being anti-gay, but it isn’t far. Some of JCP’s all-stars include Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann during their senate and house careers, respectively. A quick google scan of this year’s crop so far includes being stupid about DADT repeal, (Peter Roskam), a Planned-Parenthood-hating politician actually referred to in the lede of an article as “anti-gay” (Dean Heller), and almost everyone else at least going so far as to make a point saying that they are “pro-family” (which is basically code for “no gays please.”) The votes are anti-DADT repeal, anti-gay marriage, et cetera, et cetera. Basically standard Republican fare.

It’s not like they’re giving a lot of money, true – the largest gift I could find scanning the records (you have to pay to download/bring into a real data analysis program) was about $3,500. And yes, they gave to Dianne Feinstein, and Patty Murray, and Kirsten Gillibrand; clearly they are not evaluating their contributions and only giving to anti-gay candidates. But the thing is, they are also giving to way more candidates who aren’t good for homosexuals.

So where is THAT boycott? Where is the demand for support for a larger gay agenda? Supporting gays enough to sell to them is different than supporting gays enough to support legislators and, by extent, legislation that is homo-friendly.

The objection I feel even in writing this, however, is that of course they aren’t going to support only gay-friendly candidates. Their litmus test isn’t about gay rights. It isn’t fair to hold them to a standard that has nothing to do with their work. They’re a store! Not a gay rights organization!

To which I can only say: EXACTLY. They’re a store, not a gay rights organization. They are making business decisions. They thought it was strategic to support gays vis a vis using Ellen, and they stuck by their convictions because it was wise at the time. It makes me sad that we are lionizing a store for thinking we are worth selling to without even requiring them to support a larger gay agenda. Is that really how far our expectations have sunk?



Today I am thinking about: BUYING THINGS IS NOT ACTIVISM
February 11, 2012, 3:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Look, guys, it needs to be said. Buying things is not activism.

I dig that some crackpot group on the far right decided to boycott JC Penney for having Ellen DeGeneres be the new spokesmodel. I dig that it is disrespectful to gay people everywhere, myself included, and pretty effed up given that Ellen is a) a married paragon of family values b) a national star c) about as non offensive and unthreatening as you can get on every dimension possible. And I get it: it is ridiculous to condemn Ellen as inappropriate just because she is a homo. But the way to fight this has nothing to do with buying things!

We are not being discriminated against because of where we like to shop, and we are not being somehow kept from shopping at JC Penney’s for being homos. If we were, then shopping might be a big deal or some kind of statement (see: the fierce activists challenging Jim Crow laws in the South.) But this is not what is going on – Penney’s is actually being supportive. So what is the point of any of this? Saying thank you for doing the right thing, aka continuing with their planned campaign? How is that activism?

It isn’t. The idea that I am going to thank a giant corporation for having the basic decency to not be douchey makes me sad. Penney’s already decided that they were up to have Ellen, and they are standing by her, and that is how it should be. Sure, write a letter or something, but there is no proof that Penney’s somehow is in danger from this boycott or that there are actual rights to be gained from this. Penney’s is the wrong place to be focusing our energy.

You know what would be activism? Going to the American Family Association – the sponsors and energy behind One Million Moms – and inundating them with calls asking why they are so homophobic. (hey, try 800-326-4543×206 to start – be polite but be persistent!) Ignoring crackpot right wingers who use giant political organizations to pretend to be grassroots is another good suggestion. What about protesting the AFA by taking them to court for obscenity charges – I sure find their message indecent and against the morals of our community. There are so many ways to actually fight homophobia, and counter One Million Fake Moms, rather than throw some party about buying things at a company that gave no indication they deserved any kind of special attention.

I don’t object to the idea of rewarding companies for doing the right thing. If, for example, Penney’s announced they were giving health care to all their employees, or if they endorsed the Retail Action Project’s campaign for a living retail wage, I’d be into that. The HRC indicates that they are pretty gay-friendly, so that’s something. But really? What is this actually doing for anyone who is actually a homosexual? 

As far as I can tell, this was started by two people who aren’t homos, and I assume that part of the reason it has gotten so much attention is that two of the people write for blogs that are owned in part by ABC (per the link above.) I guess makes me feel better, because I like to think our people would be more creative and interesting than this. How can we actually bring down the AFA? How do we think of ourselves as change agents rather than consumers? I suggest you start with the phone number above.* Let’s start giving them something else to deal with.

* The only phone number on the whole site that I could find was for Diane O’Neal, Director of Planned Giving. So don’t be too mean to her. Just call and ask who you can register a complaint with, or who you can ask about family appropriateness. Good questions include: is it ok to let your kids watch Ellen to help them learn what to avoid, your daughter wants to wear Kedz but Ellen wears them and does that make her gay, or the good old fashioned “I think you are homophobic and contributing to the deaths of gay teenagers. Do you feel comfortable knowing you are assisting in murder?”



today i am thinking about: THERE WAS A FARMER HAD A DOG
January 23, 2012, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So, pals, I’m hosting bingo starting this Wednesday night at Sycamore, everyone’s favorite bar on Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park. It’s going to be a once-a-month extravagaBingo flyer for event at Sycamore nza with everyone’s favorite five-letter game, and I am so excited to be partnering with them. You should come! Really! January 25th, February 29th (leap day!), March 28th, from 7-9pm.

Here’s a little learning to get you started!

Where does bingo come from?!

Like everything awesome and folky, there are a couple of different stories out there.

The main thread has it that bingo has its origins in an Italian lotto game in which you select numbers in different patterns to win. It spread across Europe, ultimately taking shape as a game in which a caller called numbers on a card and people used a bean to cover them on their card – winners yelled “beano!” when they filled a line. At some point, bingo got to America and started being played at carnivals. Edwin Lowe, a travelling toy salesman, ran across it at a carnival and brought it up to New York, where a stuttering contestant changed “beano” to “bingo” by mistake.

Or maybe it is that Edwin Lowe brought it over from Germany, where he was travelling. At any rate, everyone agrees that it happened in or around 1929.

But there’s also the story of Hugh J. Ward, a Pittsburgh native son who came up with the game around 1924 (note this is mostly mentioned on lists of Pittsburgh accomplishments.) He took it around to travelling carnivals, evidently held a copyright (if only copyright research prior to 1978 didn’t require being in DC or paying!) and published a book on the rules in 1933. Maybe. Wikipedia supports this point of view, but citation-free = who knows.

At any rate, bingo made Lowe’s business. He made his fortune selling bingo and it took off around the US and then the rest of the world.

How does it work?

I will be calling numbers. When I call a number you have, you punch out the little number on your card. When you have the right pattern punched out, you yell — well, hopefully you know this part.

The fun comes in trying to make different patterns. Sure, everyone knows the five-in-a-row, but with bingo the sky’s the limit. Some of the patterns we will be playing:

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Eff that, dude, I want some music videos.

Okay.



today i am thinking about: I was a teenage lesbian internet sex fiend
January 20, 2012, 10:25 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

Yes, friends, it’s true.

When I came out, in the late 1990s, the internet was just starting to enter the mainstream. Nerds had been running around IRC – that’s internet relay chat – and Usenet – the first message board. The internet didn’t have pictures, at least not very easily, but people are people and people like porn and where there’s a will, there’s a way. (NSFW if your W doesn’t like ASCII pictures of breasts!)

Any chat room dedicated to teens was essentially everything the religious right made it out to be. We briefly mentioned other things – bands, or maybe how much we hated school – but ultimately they were about one thing: S-E-X. If you entered a room with a feminine-sounding name, or if you answered the obligatory a/s/l (age, sex, location) with anything f, you would have your pick of teenage boys who wanted to internet bang “ur hot pussy.” I still remember feeling like that, down there, on a BBS chat room in 1995 with some boy whose name I only knew as “dirtysock.” It was the first time I ever remember being aroused.

But it wasn’t until I came out as a lez that I really discovered what it was to have sex on the internet. Teenage lesbians on the internet were craaaazy – they wanted to do it constantly. Internet fingerbanging! Internet simultaneous oral sex! Internet fisting! In a world where bodies were infinitely adaptable and sex was constrained only by desire, everyone could do everything all the time. All of us teenage lez got to try on these new identities, play with ourselves and each other, and even get off, or at least get hot, in real life.

But what’s funny, of course – what you’re thinking right now – is that they probably weren’t lez teens. No! They were probably men, gross old men, gross old lech men trying to woo us unsuspecting real teenage lez into having sex with them. They were posing! Masquerading! Conning us!

Bullshit they were. Obviously, they might not all have been who they said they were. I wasn’t either – I didn’t live where I said I lived or look the way I wanted to look. They weren’t coming near me in real life, I wasn’t coming near them in real life. We all got off, and we all got to experiment, and did it even matter who was behind the keyboard? Really? I mean, really?

It feels sacrilegious to talk about teenagers having sex on the internet, let alone with pervy old men, as if it is no big deal. But guess what: it was no big deal. No harm was done to me aside from perhaps some wear on my carpal tunnels.  Most of the teenagers who get abducted are not being tricked; they know they are meeting an adult and they consent to the meetings (PDF; study from the APA.) We can argue about how much consent is really possible, but that story of the tricked teenager is mostly myth. We can assume that most of the teenagers on the internet are safely banging away, and yes, they’re looking at porn and yes, they’re probably sexy texting and no, this does not make the internet a bad thing.

There has been so much tension on the internet this past year about whether or not people should be who they are in real life all the time. This was the first year of the nymwars – the wars between people (who control major internet services) who insist on fidelity to your real life experience vs. the people (who use major internet services) who understand that even in real life, there IS no one real life experience.

It’s hard to imagine my teenage lesbian internet sex fiend years without the nymwars, obviously. But this is really just the first inkling of a larger tension: how free is the internet, really? Who will control it, and how?

There is a lot of talk right now, via SOPA and PIPA, about the possibility for broad-based internet censorship in the United States. These two bills would allow for incredibly broad censorship via levelling claims of copyright violations against websites. Don’t like something? Take it down. It frightens you? Take it down. Even the US senators supporting the bill are violating its terms. This isn’t going to be fairly applied. It’s an internet version of stop-and-frisk laws: an easy way to get people in trouble who you want to get in trouble anyways.

​ The stuff I was doing on the internet is the kind of thing that makes people uncomfortable about the internet. It is also the kind of thing that almost everyone does at some point (don’t even tell me you haven’t ever looked at porn online.) It is ALSO also the kind of thing that a lot of people would love to shut down, but they can’t – at least not easily. SOPA and PIPA provide those kinds of rules – easy, without due process or any kind of accountability. Copyright claim and poof! That’s it.

I would argue, actually, that all that exploration was good for me. It taught me how to think about sex and how to describe it. It taught me what made me hot. It taught me to have fun, to perform about it, and even how to say no or disengage when something wasn’t fun. I want to say “sometimes a little misbehaving isn’t so bad” but the thing is, I wasn’t misbehaving – I was just doing something that makes a lot of people a little uncomfortable that didn’t hurt anyone. Here is to an internet free enough for all of us to have that opportunity.

(ps xo to Eliza Ridgeway for the assistance!)



Today I am thinking about: my vag***
December 24, 2011, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

BIG CAVEAT TO LEAD: This is going to talk a lot about non-trans vaginas, by which I mean my vagina, by which I mean the vagina of a non-trans woman. There are a lot of other vaginas out there – both trans man’s vaginas and trans women’s vaginas. Since this is personal, I am focusing on my own vagina and its particular experience, but these other kinds of vaginas get erased and that feels wrong. Also, especially for trans women, gynecological care information is incredibly hard to find (on Google? Everywhere?), which is its own whole topic. Which I will probably write about at some point. I tried writing this with “non-trans” in front of every “vagina” but it became unreadable. So every time I say “vagina” remember that I am just talking about one kind. END CAVEAT.

I am a professional well woman exam getter. I help med students learn to give gyn exams as a patient instructor. I did it in college and I’m getting back to it now. I have received approximately 15 speculum exams since September. I have a really reassuring voice when faced with a speculum and I can tell you exactly where my cervix is.

People are really surprised when I tell them this. I think they expect that, because I look like a man, I am supposed to be profoundly uncomfortable with the existence of my vagina. I feel weird sometimes about my vagina professionally for a ton of reasons that can be boiled down to “I grew up a woman in America.” I am a weirdo even in this work – hairy, fat, and I look like a man with my clothes on. I try to push past that out of a sense of righteous nobility – that no matter how fat, or hairy, or unexpected, practitioners are obliged to treat every patient with respect, and there are a lot of people that look like me who have a vagina and who deserve good care.

Given my funny job, I am something of a connoisseur in the vagina exam department. When I go for my annual exam, I am paying attention to the skill of the provider. Steady touch? Good with a speculum? Reassuring? Empowering? We take students through a script that is incredibly demanding in its level of detail and its ritualized patient interaction moments, but it is all to help future providers approach their patients with grace, dignity, and in a way that empowers and involves the patient. This knowledge – the gold standard in vagina exams – is knowledge that I wish everyone had because everyone should know the kind of care that they deserve.

I have never — never — had an exam that is nearly as empowering as the exam I teach students to give. I had my annual exam yesterday – make that 16 specula – and it was a textbook example of what not to do. She walked in on me while I was still changing! Suddenly there her finger was in my vagina! She would not have passed the exam I grade.

If I was not a professional vagina haver, I would have been freaked out, embarassed, and unsure what was happening. I was still these things, although as much out of a sense of professional rage as personal discomfort. I like to think she was like this because there was a note in my file saying “this person is chill and comes in annually” so she figured I didn’t need much care. But I have no proof of that. All she had to do was say “do you mind if we work quickly” and it wouldn’t have been so bad. Instead there I was, on the table, trying to decide how much of a fight I wanted to pick.

We have to learn to fight with doctors when we need to. We have to get over the idea that healthcare should be disempowering or that we ought to feel alienated and out of sorts Kelli Dunham and Jessica Halem talk about this as just one resource – there are tons more – but I just want to say it. I am a professional and I still felt bad fighting back, knowing I was getting treated poorly. The doctor/patient relationship is intense and power-laden and we have to find ways to force our own empowerment and understanding.

I am mad about the exam I got yesterday for everyone who has to push themselves to go to the gyn at all. I am mad that I wasn’t paid more consideration or engaged in the exam. I am mad for everyone who doesn’t know they deserve better, who expects it to hurt, who is embarassed and afraid and who has no idea why there is a finger in there or why the doctor didn’t ask before putting it in.



today i am thinking about: ACTIVIST FASHION
November 3, 2011, 12:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

A few days ago I was heading down to occupy Wall Street for a little while before Simchat Torah. I had had a shleppy, run-around day – 8:30-12 work in the city that kept me late until 12:30, run to the PATH train, go to Newark, training for 3 hours, back to the city, you get the gist. I looked it, too – wrinkled all over the place. I looked the worst kind of busted.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a vain person. I am a horribly vain person, and more than that, I am vain in a Capricorn way – which is to say, I obsess over fashion rules and then feel guilty I am not doing it right. Light shoes after Labor Day? Oh god! No! Brown shoes black bag? I’d rather die. God forbid I wear a bow tie out of proportion to my shirt collar. I know these rules are completely made up and yet I cannot help myself. I am forgiving (well, mostly) forgiving of other people’s lapses but I? Must remain above the fray. God forbid I should end up in public undone.

So I did what any reasonable person would do before going to a giant anti-capitalism protest: I stopped in at the department store to get a little something to wear.

I spent probably 45 minutes there in the men’s furnishings department, worrying about which socks were most appropriate given the color of my pants. Is there any finer illustration of the contradictions of our times?

I talk a lot about fashion as a weapon and a way to navigate all the complexities of how we walk through the world.  I feel nervous about being judged – for being a fat person, for having an ambiguous gender (well, ambiguous to other people). Fashion is my way to try to control how people see me. I think at best I go for a “well, that one’s clearly making choices” response. I look good, and I know it, and I know that the way I look good probably doesn’t resonate for a lot of people, but at least they cannot pretend I’m being unintentional.

But blah blah motherfucking blah, fashion is revolutionary, my gender is precious and excuses my consumption, that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is what it means to really, actually, in the moment fail to live up to your own ideals.

Why did I feel a need to go buy a motherfucking bow tie? What would really have happened if I showed up all wrinkled? Wasn’t my presence at the radical protest synagogue more important than whether my socks were too dark for my pants?

I bought that bow tie because I thought it would make me feel better. And it *did* make me feel better. But that’s because I’ve been trained to feel good about myself when I fit certain tropes of capitalism, like looking done a certain way and having nicely maintained things. By looking a certain kind of good, I am exerting a certain kind of control: sure, I might be a fat gender weirdo, but at least I am participating fully in the capitalist tropes of spending money to look appropriate! See! I’m not so bad!

Again, I believe in people doing the work to be themselves for whatever that means for them. And I also really want to honor the ways in which people around the world get killed — actually — for their fashion choices, especially when they’re rolled up with non-normative gender. But for me, here, in NYC, those aren’t the stakes for me, and I need to be more critical of the ways in which I let myself off the hook in the name of my own revolution.

Sometimes, I’m a capitalist, and always, it’s better to own our flaws than pretend it isn’t the case.

And the bow tie? It was too short anyways.




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