the “c word”

Mary B is a queer ninja, writer, volgger extraordinaire. She has been a queer idol and a virtual support for me during my early self-realization process. Her eloquence and down to earth humor has attracted over 8,000 subscribers with almost 100 video posts. She steals hearts (i still haven’t gotten mine back), gives advice, shares stories, answers questions, asks questions, make you wonder, and makes you laugh. If you haven’t checked her out yet, you are really missing out!

This past year she brought up the “c word”. Her friend Chazzy was diagnosed with brain cancer. It has been beautiful to watch Mary become an “ally” for Chazzy and contribute so much to her recovery process. A signature aspect of this has been the Chazzy bands that have made their way to the farthest corner to the world. They are available upon request, with a suggested donation of $5.

Here are the details:


Want a CHAZZY BAND?? Tell her to get well and say hi to Mary!
Send to:
Mary B.
4781 Felton St.
San Diego, CA 92116

Don’t forget your return address!!! Suggested donation is $5. All donations go to Chazzy’s treatment. Help beat brain cancer. Together we can! Think SHRINK!!

Happy spring break!

In honor of spring break, and because I’m too lazy to write a real post with, like, words and stuff, here are some cool things!

white privilege lolcats (found them here, and there are lots more)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joan Jett throwing it down on gender expression

 

Seattle classic, TEAM GINA

 

omg cute!

 

love love,

Maggie

stuck between a sandwich and a queer place

I was a bender from the start: letting my female playmates choose their imaginary personas first, knowing very well they would hop on the opportunity to clinch the “the girl”, “the mom”, “the damsel in distress”, just so I could subtly flex my inner masculinity. Somebody had to be “the boy”, it might was well be me: the matchbox master, the playdough prince, I knew how to be a gentleman. And looking into mirrors I saw muscles, brawn, bravery, a little superhero, as opposed to the sheepish demeanor and delicacy that my “sex” expected of me. The Clark Kent behind the Superman was a little girl who, like everyone else, grew up bound and beaten by heteronormativity. Barbies were dusty while Legos were worn, and despite my claustrophobia in the tight gender dichotomy, I pinched nerves to squeeze into the mold everyone was telling me I was supposed to fit.

Gently, I lowered trembling toes into the ice bath of femininity, hoping this would cure the natural cognitive dissonance that precedes self-actualization. And all I got was a cold: confusion and frustration. Yes, my body was female, but it wasn’t “female”. Somehow, femininity was one person: white, tall, and skinny. Any deviation from this strict model could hardly be considered “female”. So She was who I had to be and every form of interaction with the world confirmed this. Femininity was the standard I had to meet, according to the TV, according to the books, according to my peers. I quickly realized I there were things I couldn’t change about myself, physical things, no matter how “white” I acted or how tall I stood. Losing weight, on the other hand, seemed simple enough. Eat less. Exercise. Piece of cake.

As the kid who spent recess talking to trees and spiders and clouds, I was no social butterfly: making friends was a kamikaze mission. With the little self-respect I had on the line, I waxed and waned, peaking out of my shell every once in a while, only to feel like a Martian child. I saw my quirky personality and misshapen body as failed prerequisites to the normal and happy lives my peers leading. I knew they were happy, because my body kept them laughing daily, weekly, yearly. Fitting in meant the acknowledgement of my existence, even if that existence wasn’t one I identified with. I became fixated on Femininity, “being like all the other girls”, as it seemed like the only escape from the taunting, and the concurrent self-hatred.

Beginning in innocence, I took up sports in middle school. It was a great way for me to express my true gender in an acceptable way, and, as a side effect, it was way for someone who was legitimately overweight to exercise. My parents were excited for me to have an opportunity to make friends, but friends weren’t made and, given my obsessive nature, exercising became a perpetual preoccupation; it was “all in the name of the sport”. Any free time I got was dedicated to working out. The minute I got home I would make any excuse to go up to my room to pump out 3 sets of 20 push-ups. I spent the hours leading up to soccer practices sprawled out across my bedroom floor stretching muscles I didn’t know I had. And I would make sure to get to practice early and stay late after to run laps. As soon as I got home I would shower and change, only to sweat all over again. Sets had to be done in odd numbers and reps had to be done in multiples of 5 greater than 10, incomplete sets would have to be redone, and the rules were ridged and infinite. It was insanity. I would work out until I cried, and it was never enough.

Before I got into high school I had moved across the country. Having thought I left my sports and obsessive exercising behind, I felt the need to compensate by controlling my food intake. I had no friends to hold me accountable for what I was doing, and I thought nothing of it. Why would skipping lunch be of any concern? I gave myself excuses to justify my behavior: I had homework to do or I needed to study. It wasn’t all bad though; all the time spent not eating was spent writing. It was as an outlet for my mental misconduct. I would spend a lot of lunch periods alone scribbling burning frustrations, angers, and sadness into overused notebooks. This regurgitation of pure emotion was keeping me grounded as I melted into a deep and long episode of depression. I spent many afternoons and evenings after school sleeping or lying in bed staring at the wall, sometimes missing dinner. I was constantly exhausted, and as it took its toll on my energy levels, I found new methods of manipulation. I would chew entire packs of gum, hoping to curb my hunger. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the main ingredient in that chewing gum was a laxative, and it secretly contributed to my obsession. I would negotiate with myself, punishing myself through self-mutilation and self-destruction whenever I broke my self-imposed discipline. My body was a slave to my mind.

When I finally decided to get back into sports, my obsessive exercising became justified again. In fear of fainting on the track, I would take my 100 calorie pack into the bathroom stall right before practice and eat as quietly as I could. I couldn’t stand to eat in front of people, as if eating was a physical projection of the mental view I had of my own body. My wounded self-image continued to lead me astray, and by the time I graduated I had failed a class, gotten caught smoking at school, experimented with drugs, and was dangerously dependent on alcohol. I had gained and lost weight continuously through high school, and no matter what I looked like or how much I weight I still wasn’t happy. My methods of coping only made matters worse.

What began as quest of self-discovery, ended up as a journey through hell. Gender and self-image became my Goliath, and the controlling nature of my lifestyle gave me comfort, falsely reassuring me that the battle could be won through pure determination. When I knew Femininity had no space for my child-like ambitions and my playground creativity, the starving didn’t stop and my self-love was obsolete. Despite my fair share of warning signs over the years, passing out, throwing up, losing and gaining massive amounts of weight, I was unaware of the severity of these issues up until a few months ago. My image of masculinity never included eating disorders, I just couldn’t see the heteronormative booby-traps that were set out on my exploration of body and gender. In this story, there are no superheroes. Reclaiming my body would be a never-ending war waged between me and myself.

Top 10 Queer Things to Do During Week 10 & Finals

10. Read the Q Center Blog People!
9.  Ribbon Dance!
8.  Search for the University of Washington and other nouns on f**k yeah nouns
6.  Watch and/or re-enact re-runs of Glee on Hulu
5.  Reminisce about the sold-out and AMAZING GBLTC Drag Show
4.   Revisit this oldie but a goodie
3.  Sign up for Queer 101 (CHID 496)
2.  Watch Re-teaching Gender and Sexuality here
1.  Watch this and know you are super-duper!

Yay for rad role models

Role models are something I think about a lot, especially when I’m thinking or talking about leadership. I’ve been in various positions of leadership throughout my life (including on various sports teams, within student governments, as a mentor, etc.), and as I’ve grown older and more reflexive I’ve started to feel more responsible as a leader to the people that I am supposed to be leading. This is why I have always striven (strove? this word is so awkward in past tense) to be a good role model to those people I am fortunate enough to be leading, especially if they are younger than me.

I have seen too many people who are looked up to betray the trust that has been given to them, either by simply being lazy/apathetic, or by behaving irresponsibly. These attitudes show both a lack of understanding about the trust and responsibility they have been given and a lack of compassion about caring for that trust and influencing others in a positive manner.

This is why I try to do a lot of self-inquiry about how I am caring for the space that I inhabit (most frequently this space being the Q Center or someplace that I would like to have the Q Center’s values) and about how I am caring for the people around me. I think of this less as self-policing, although there is some internal censorship involved when something that is definitely not ok tries to escape out my mouth anyway, and more as caring for others, and through that caring for myself. Because, for me at least, there is a lot of self-care involved in how I think about/try to change how I affect others. How can I love myself if I am unconsciously or through ignorance (or, with the same effect but worse to my thinking, consciously) contributing to someone else’s oppression and marginalization? Too few people, in my opinion, have this internal responsibility.

Which brings me back to role models. I had a lack of role models growing up who were like me (read: queer). Even before I was consciously queer I sort of had the feeling that no one who I knew who was grown up was very much like me. This isn’t to say that I had no role models (shout out to my very awesome mom!), but that I didn’t see myself in many of my relationships with adults. I think this is why I latched onto one of the first adults that I found who I related to and saw a little bit of myself in, as a role model. She started teaching at my high school during my junior year, and I got to know her a bit although she was never one of my teachers. Looking back, she is not someone who I want to model myself after partly due to the fact that I know something she did that very few other people know, and which I consider to be a very serious breach of professional ethics (though she’s a great teacher and very nice, just to be clear, but that doesn’t excuse her behavior). But I latched onto the idea of her as a role model for a long time because she was pretty much all I had.

Not so anymore! I’ve been fortunate enough to meet/learn of lots and lots of amazing peeps who not only are “like” me (a category that I have now extended beyond the basic qualification of being queer to include people who are strong allies to me) but who also do some awesome work! The idea for this post, by the way, was inspired by this article from Colorlines called People I Love: South Asian Women Who Make Change, which features Pramila Jayapal, local Seattle activist and founder/director of OneAmerica, where I currently am an intern.

So in the spirit of celebrating rad role models, here are some of mine! Some of them I’ve met, some I haven’t, but they’re all real people* and they’re all super awesome.

Jen Self. Because she’s the raddest of them all.

Rebecca Aanerud. Because she’s my favorite professor, and she does really awesome and thoughtful work and she is just as awesome and thoughtful in her personal interactions with her students.

Rachel Maddow. Because I not-so-secretly want to be her. Also, to be her friend.

Estefanía Yanci, Julie Severson, Gloria Anzaldúabell hooksHaunani-Kay TraskLeslie FeinbergEllisAudre Lorde, Hannah Volkman, Hala Dillsi, Tyson Johnson, Sabrina Fields, Archita Taylor, Teo Popescu, Cassie Hoeprich, Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo.

Of course there are many more, but seeing as it’s nearly finals week they’re going to have to go unnamed (but not unloved) for now.

In love and solidarity,

Maggie

*although I realize having an asterisk next to ‘they’re all real people’ seems kind of silly, what I mean to say here by ‘real people’ is that they’re not superstar athletes or famous rock stars or huge celebrities of some kind (I exempt Rachel Maddow from this statement, since I wouldn’t call her a huge celebrity) who are famous for being famous. They’re real people who do real things and who you can (or could, if they’ve died) really talk to or see evidence of their work. Thinking back, I’d modify my original statement about lacking role models when I was younger to say that I was lacking role models who were ‘real people’ – everyday people with real, tangible relationships.

Loretta Ross on ‘Women of Color’

This video of well-known activist Loretta Ross talking about the origin and the political nature of the phrase ‘women of color’ made the rounds through our staff emails lately and I thought it would be particularly relevant in light of the fact that the UW Women of Color Reception just happened last week. Also, because March is “Women’s History Month” (how about Women’s FUTURE Month? because for some of us Women’s History/Future Month is every month).

“… and it was in those negotiations in Houston the term ‘women of color’ was created, ok? And they didn’t see it as a biological designation – you’re born Asian, you’re born Black, you’re born African-American, whatever – it is a solidarity definition, a commitment to work in collaboration with other oppressed women of color who have been minoritized… We self-named ourselves. This is a term that has a lot of power for us.” –Loretta Ross

In love, solidarity and respect,

Maggie

Take Queer 101!

Queer 101 is awesome! If you’re looking for a class full of cool people and interesting discussion that doesn’t come with a whole lot of work you should definitely consider taking it. The official description reads: “Queer 101 is a 2 credit discussion style class focusing on the analysis of Queer/ LGBTQ histories, contemporary issues and experiences. The class will be taught from a liberatory perspective and will encourage critical analysis and understanding of the intersections of queerness, race, class, gender, ability, age, and other social identities.”

The class is peer facilitated, and topics that are focused vary from quarter to quarter, depending on the facilitators. Past themes have included Decolonizing Queer Narratives, the “Gay Agenda” in America, the Social Construction of Gender, and more.

Queer 101 is more formally known as CHID 496 K. Find us when you register! For Spring Quarter 2011, Queer 101 will meet on Tuesdays at 3:30PM in Savery Hall 157. For an add code please contact Cynthia Anderson at chid@uw.edu, the Academic Counselor at Comparative History of Ideas Department (Padelford Hall B102).

Spread the Word to End the Word

I recently came across this Facebook event, titled “Spread the Word to End the Word,” and decided to do exactly that: spread the word.

Spread the Word to End the Word is a campaign all over the world meant to eliminate the wrong and offensive use of the word “retard” or “retarded” so often utilized when we find something annoying, frustrating, outrageous, backward or stupid. The r-word has behind it a long history of medicalization of people with developmental/intellectual disabilities, “retard” being for a long time (and even still) a medical term for people with developmental/intellectual disabilities. It is a hateful word used out of ignorance to hurt and disenfranchise people with disabilities. A lot of people claim that when they say “that’s retarded” they are not actually referring to people with disabilities. However, the use of this word even when we’re referring to too much homework or a test we just failed, only reinforces the stereotypes associated with people with developmental/intellectual disabilities as being less valued members of our communities who have very little to contribute to society, and who are thus, disposable. You never know who around you has a relative, family member or friend with a disability, who may be hurt by this offensive word.

So please join the movement on Wednesday March 2, 2011 on Facebook and/or take the pledge here, and Spread the Word to End the Word.

SH

if it walks like a man, if it talks like a man, if it smells like a man…

Dear questioner of my vagina’s existence,
It was a fine snowy evening when I walked into the “women’s bathroom” on the second floor of Mary Gates Hall. I had just finished my favorite class, Bioengineering Research, and a 32 oz bottle of Rain Berry Gatorade. Hoping to avoid “spilling my lemonade” on the one hour bus ride home, I booked it “gayly forward” to the closest bathroom I could find. Relieving myself, I reflected on a wonderful week gone by, filled with cute children who like shortbread cookie crisps, an extremely loving fan club composed of the most amazing people in the universe, and no homework. Double checking my fly, I head for the sink, to do my part in the fight against disease, smiling smuggly to myself. It came as no surprise to me, a small voice from across the long, dark, room. I knew I wasn’t alone. But the words you said, caught me off guard, “Is this [the] men’s room?”

It was just you and me: Your confusion and my anger. Your discomfort and my frustration. Your ignorance and my disappointment.

I saw no “culture warrior” behind your need to reiterate the gender specificity of the bathroom we are in because of my appearance. The length of the hair on my head is not an indication of what genitalia I sport, nor does the clothing I wear correlate in any way with my biological sex. I apologize for not apologizing for the confusion; I owe you, a mere bathroom acquaintance, no apology for the way I express my beautiful self. I must have left my penis at home because all I’m carrying with me today is self-respect. Oops!

It’s a shame that public bathrooms are now being used for things other than urination, defecation, and checking oneself out in the mirror. I was unaware of the underground coalition of gender vigilantes, and had someone told me of this strict policing, I would have taken my pee elsewhere… like a bush. Mother Nature has no problem with me, and why should she? I am a human being, original and organic; I am a child of her humbling womb, regardless of what I look like, how I pee, or where I pee.

The biological process of urination is one that is essential to the sustenance of human life. That’s right; I’m a human being, with feelings, who often pees. To deny me the right to pee in “your” bathroom, is to deny my epically full bladder and my humanity. “Public” bathrooms are deemed as such because I have as much right to use it as you or the next cross-dressing, gender variant, vagina wearer. Don’t let the pictures on the signs confuse you. It is not called the “I’m wearing a skirt” bathroom or the “Triangle” bathroom. It has absolutely nothing to do with who or what you look like. It is the public women’s bathroom, meaning 1) as a “member” of the public, I’m allowed to pee there, 2) I have a vagina, a happy one at that, so I’m allowed to pee there, and 3) it’s a bathroom, if you gotta go, you gotta go, and I did, so I peed there! There is no need to guilt me out of the bathroom on the basis that I don’t fit your idea of a “female”. When Whitney said, “I’m every woman” she was talking about me. I should not have to wear a sign that says “legal and official owner of a board certified vagina”.

Regardless, I, a 5’1”, 150lb, teddy bear, pose no threat to you, in a bathroom or otherwise, so why would my genitalia matter? In an effort to create a better world, I will strongly suggest you reassess your definition of diversity and maybe even take safe zone training.

signed,
a vagina in the “vagina” designated bathroom

PS A word of advice for future bathroom encounters: piss more, talk less.

I am a hypothetical zygote-American murderer

I just read this Feministe post about Georgian state Representative Bobby Franklin’s new bill that would require Georgian women to report instances of miscarriage (since, in the words of Jill from Feministe “fetuses are Georgian citizens and their deaths are potential crimes”).

Jill issues this challenge:

“I think we should help Georgia out. Since life begins at conception, and a fertilized egg is a human being with all of the rights of any other citizen of the great state of Georgia, we need to make sure that all egg-deaths are properly accounted for, and that all zygote-Americans receive a proper burial and an investigation into whether their deaths were caused by foul play.

Devery Doleman, an Actual Woman, writes a letter to Rep. Franklin requesting that he investigate the potential murders going on in her pants. I think she’s on to something. I suggest, based on Devery’s idea, that we send Rep. Franklin the evidence of the potential murders committed in our uteri. Now, we can’t actually send used tampons through the mail — sending bio-hazardous material to an elected official can get you in BAD TROUBLE, so don’t do it — but we can certainly send photos. So! Next time you’re on the rag, photo-document the results. Why? Because somewhere around 50% of fertilized eggs naturally don’t implant, and are flushed out of the body. It’s an act of God, sure, but still — that’s a 50% prenatal death rate for Georgia’s smallest citizens. Your womb, basically, is a serial killer. And Rep. Franklin is very, very interested in using the Georgia state police to investigate any possible death of a Georgia citizen.

“So! I recommend you photograph your period paraphernalia, and attach it to a letter thanking Rep. Franklin for his good work in standing up for human life. Here’s a form letter you are welcome to use.”

While this is a great idea, it leaves me with unanswered questions. How do I, as a “Gay” “Lady” fit in to this picture? I wrote my own letter to Rep. Franklin urging him to also take on the Georgian Gay Lady population, because they are potential zygote-American killers too! Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Rep. Franklin,
Your new bill requiring Georgian women to report any instance of potential zygote-American murder makes me feel seriously guilty. You see, as a “Gay” “Lady”, I don’t even allow potential zygote-Americans to come to glorious, beautiful, tear-fucking-jerking fruition inside that hateful, useless thing which I have made my uterus by being a Gay Lady. I am very concerned about this, and I’m sure you would tell me that by not even passingly attempting to procreate I am not doing my best to protect the possible zygote-Americans that I could make. All of my eggs are just lying there useless! Ultimately some leave my body each month without ever having the chance to become true zygote-Americans. I’m depriving them of their hypothetical future! I am, again, very concerned about this. Perhaps your next piece of legislation can require all Georgian Gay Ladies to report every instance of sex wherein it is biologically impossible to produce a zygote-American so that they can be investigated for the murder of potential zygote-Americans. Because they are clearly being murdered, these hypothetical zygote-Americans!

Best Regards,
“Gay Lady”

In love, solidarity, and snarkiness,

Maggie